Tag Archives: Ginger Nelson

Amarillo mayor is talkin’ baseball

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson is sounding mighty pleased these days, with good reason.

The city scored a big win this past week with an announcement that a minor league baseball franchise is pulling up stakes and relocating to the city she has helped govern for the past few weeks.

The San Antonio Missions will play ball at the new ballpark/multipurpose event venue to be built in downtown Amarillo. They’ll start their 2019 season in April of that year and the plan is for them to stay possibly for decades, depending on the number of contract extensions they sign.

OK, we don’t yet know the name of the new team, but a couple of things jumped out at me as I watched Nelson’s TV interview this past weekend.

* She credits the weather as being a big selling point for the Elmore Group deciding to move the Missions to Amarillo. That’s a bit of a surprise. Nelson said the weather from “April to September” is ideal for evening baseball. Low humidity, “downtown wind,” placid temperatures after the sun goes down all worked in Amarillo’s favor to luring the team here.

But … but … but what about those infamous spring winds, Mme. Mayor? Isn’t there a standing joke here about how, if you don’t like the weather, “just wait 10 minutes”? Let’s hope for the best on that one.

* Nelson also answered a valid question about the cost of the multipurpose event venue and how it’s going to cost more than that what the non-binding referendum in November 2015 called for. That measure pegged the price at $32 million; the current price tag is $45.5 million. “That’s an apples and oranges” comparison, Nelson told KAMR’s Jackie Kingston.

The referendum presumed an “independent baseball team” would be playing at the MPEV. The Missions are a major league-affiliated minor league AA team, which she said will provide a much better entertainment product for fans to enjoy.

See the interview here.

I am in the mayor’s corner in celebrating the pending arrival of this new entertainment feature to Amarillo. I’ve noted before, but I believe it bears repeating: I see no downside in the city’s effort to its downtown district.

About the aesthetics, Amarillo

We’re home.

It’s a good place to be. We love Amarillo, our city of choice for more than 22 years. My wife and I carved out a nice life here and whenever we leave the city for any length of time, we are happy to return. Our life is in flux as we prepare to resettle elsewhere — hopefully sooner rather than later.

Now that I’ve gotten the positive vibe out of the way, I want to register a minor quibble.

We returned home today via Interstate 40 westbound from points east and a little bit north. We logged 3,760 miles on our Dodge pickup and the fifth wheel RV we hauled behind it over the course of the past 17 days.

I was struck as we approached Amarillo’s eastern border, though, by something that troubles me. The community’s physical appearance looks, shall we say, seedy. It looks tacky. It’s unkempt and unattractive.

Is it the city’s fault? Frankly, I cannot remember if I’d seen the city limit sign prior to making our approach. If the abandoned rail cars near the airport sit in Potter County territory, then perhaps these remarks ought to be directed as well to the county. We noticed a few old vehicles as well.

Then we entered interchange where I-40 merges with U.S. Highway 287. What greeted us there? A non-descript sign that reads “Amarillo.” No mention of the big skies, endless opportunities, Palo Duro Canyon (one of the state’s true treasures) or that it’s the home of some notable native sons and daughters; the late astronaut Rick Husband came immediately to my wife’s mind; perhaps the reminder of another notable astronaut Gen. Tom Stafford’s roots in Weatherford, Okla., where we had passed through earlier in the morning brought Husband to my wife’s attention.

Mayor Ginger Nelson ran for office this spring on an extensive platform of ideas, issues and initiatives. One of them dealt with gussying up the I-40/27 interchange, about which I’ve written already on this blog. No need to belabor that point.

Perhaps Her Honor can expand her beautification vision to include some effort to make the westbound approach to our city more appealing to those who are laying eyes on The Big A for the first — or perhaps only — time.

Let’s get real. The Good Lord didn’t bless this region with purple mountain majesty, although we do have some mighty pretty sky. As we cast our eyes downward, toward the terra firma, we see that humankind has to do his and her part to tidy up the place.

We have some work to do.

Here’s an idea: How about sprucing up AMA?

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson rode into office partly on the strength of an ambitious six-point campaign platform.

It pays a lot of attention to economic development, fiscal responsibility, accountability to taxpayers and even makes a nod toward improving the appearance of public rights-of-way along our interstate highways.

I didn’t see any mention of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. Indeed, I am keeping my copy of an Amarillo Globe-News story that profiled Nelson’s campaign platform; my intent is to remind myself of issues she is addressing and which of them she needs to devote more attention.

About the airport.

I just returned this evening from a quick trip to AMA and noticed a couple of things about the site.

One is that the grounds immediately around the covered parking structures look better than they have looked in recent months. The grass is cut and trimmed. I did notice a number of weeds sprouting through the pavement in the parking lot. Tsk, tsk.

The other thing I continually notice as I drive along Airport Drive is that it, um, is so non-descript. I didn’t notice a “Welcome to Amarillo” sign, or any roadside artwork that depicts the personality of the community travelers are visiting … many for the first time, or perhaps for the only time.

I make the point about AMA for this reason: In the 1990s, the city spent a lot of tax money to subsidize jet traffic provided by American Airlines. The idea of spending Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sales tax revenue on these jet aircraft was to make air travel more comfortable for business travelers. The AEDC subsidy was intended to lure business to Amarillo. It drew its share of criticism from other communities. Frankly, it sounded like so much sour grapes.

I found the strategy to be innovative, aggressive and ambitious. The city ended the subsidy. American Airlines pulled the jets out of its Amarillo-to-D/FW route — for a time. Then the airline brought jet traffic back to AMA, as did United Airlines and Continental; Southwest always flew jets in and out of AMA.

The city once staked a lot of public money on air service at its airport. What’s more, in recent years the city has renovated and remodeled AMA, modernizing the terminal, turning it into an attractive site.

We have a new mayor and an entirely new City Council making policy at City Hall. Our new city manager, Jared Miller, came here from San Marcos with a reputation as someone who emphasized economic development.

I’ll throw this idea out to them all for consideration: How about developing some sort of strategy to make Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport a good bit more inviting to those who come here from the Metroplex, from Houston, Denver, from Las Vegas or from Phoenix?

There might be a business opportunity to be gained for the city if the traveler gets a first-glimpse look at what the city has to offer on his or her way out of the airport.

Just some food for thought, folks.

A new City Council takes charge

It’s done.

Five new Amarillo City Council members have taken their oath of office and have settled in behind the dais at the City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

A new era has begun. Right? Maybe.

I fielded an interesting question today from a friend who asked: Do you think the city will get turned around now? My answer: I am happy with the outcome of the election.

My friend’s question, though, seemed to suggest something with which I disagree. Although I was unhappy with much of the bickering, backbiting and backstabbing that occurred at City Hall during the past two years, I am not going to subscribe to a notion that the city had backslid dramatically since the 2015 municipal election.

Mayor Ginger Nelson declared her intention to ensure that Amarillo is a better place when she leaves office — eventually. “I see two ways to do that,” she said, according to the Amarillo Globe-News. “Everyone works and we work together.”

It  sounds almost cliché, I suppose, for the new mayor to pledge political teamwork. Nelson does present a vigorous image as the new mayor. She spoke often during her campaign about the need for the council to move ahead as a single unit once it makes a policy decision.

I do not want that message to suggest a stifling of differences of opinion among council members. I am quite sure the mayor would resist any such implication.

What I do want, though, is for the council to unite behind a policy decision to ensure consensus and to let those who work in the trenches — and those of us who pay the freight while watching from a distance — that the council is moving forward with a unity of purpose.

The previous council didn’t always project that image. The sense of open dissent perhaps sent a message beyond the city that could be interpreted that Amarillo’s government wasn’t functioning as efficiently as it should.

To the extent that such perceptions turned the city in the “wrong direction,” I’ll accept my friend’s question about the need to turn the city around.

City Hall, though, has¬†functioned well¬†with professional senior staffers who continue to do their job with competence and dedication. I don’t sense that those qualities diminished — even as the city struggled to steady its administrative ship while it sought a new permanent city manager.

A new City Council has taken over. All five of them represent the same at-large citywide constituency. They all earn a whopping $10 per public meeting. They have taken this job on, I am going to presume, because they believe in public service.

I wish them well, good luck and patience as they strive to keep the city moving forward.

Streets becoming major municipal campaign issue

If I could take aim at a single issue for our municipal candidates to ponder, it would our streets.

Getting from Point A to Point B has¬†become a bit of a struggle at times, even in Amarillo, the city I used to joke had its “rush minute” daily at 8 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. It’s not so funny these days.

I am hearing from one of the candidates for City Council speaking in general terms about street maintenance and — in a related matter — traffic control.

Ginger Nelson is running for mayor along with two other candidates. I’ve already commented on her pledge to work with state transportation officials to negotiate a maintenance agreement to improve and maintain the appearance of the public rights-of-way along Interstate 40 and 27. I’m all for it!

She is speaking also about “considering all transit options like buses and bicycles to meet the needs of citizens.” Good deal. She can start that effort by talking to Parks and Recreation officials about how they can complete a citywide bicycle network that is supposed to enable residents to get anywhere in the city on a bicycle.

I have been patient for many years now as I have sought to navigate my way through the city. Streets get repaved regularly. Crews tear up asphalt on major thoroughfares and put fresh surfaces down. They remain in pristine condition far too briefly before patching crews show up.

Nelson wants to spend “street improvement bond money wisely.” I hope she articulates her definition of “wisely.” I’m all ears.

Finally, she hopes to develop “a plan for long-term maintenance of our streets.”¬† Good. I’ll await that plan, too.

Street repair and maintenance — along with developing routes for alternative transportation modes — is important at many levels.

We remain tied to automobiles in Amarillo. There’s little emphasis placed on using mass transit methods, such as the buses run by Amarillo City Transit. Maybe we can get more residents into our buses and out of their own motor vehicles. The fewer cars and pickups tooling down our streets, the less wear and tear on the pavement. Isn’t that a sensible outcome?

This election, I need to stipulate once again, is going to be a major event in the history of Amarillo. We’re getting a new City Council majority.

I want all the candidates to talk openly to residents about what they intend to do about our streets, upon which we depend to get from place to place.

One candidate for mayor at least is starting the conversation. For that I am grateful. Let’s develop it further.

Xeriscaping … that’s the answer

EL PASO, Texas — I am in the mood to follow up on an earlier blog post relating to the terrible appearance of Amarillo’s freeway interchange.

I have a one-word potential solution: xeriscaping.

My wife and I have seen it in this city, where water is even rarer than it is in the Texas Panhandle. Interstate 10 and U.S. 54 come together in the middle of the city. We proceeded north on U.S. 54 and noticed that the xeriscape technique used to beautify the highway continued to the edge of the city.

Amarillo mayoral candidate Ginger Nelson has declared highway right-of-way appearance to be among her signature issues. She said she plans to¬†“develop a plan for annual and long-term repairs and maintenance of streets, as well as the construction of new streets as the city grows.”

This isn’t rocket science. We ain’t reinventing the wheel. There’s not much genius required to provide Amarillo a better appearance to passersby who motor through the city en route to points hither and yon.

My wife were two of those passengers who blew through El Paso. We noticed right away the attractiveness of the right-of-way. We took that first impression with us, and we plan to remember it every single time we drive through Amarillo’s Interstate 40/27 interchange, which contains festering weeds and little else.

Xeriscaping can be done with virtually zero water use.

We live in a semi-arid climate, yes? If it’s too costly to maintain a right-of-way with greenery, then use tons of gravel and some sparse vegetation to dress it up.

It works in El Paso. It can work in Amarillo.

Fix the interstate ‘curb appeal’ … please!

 

Fix the interstate ‘curb appeal’ … please!

Ginger Nelson’s campaign for Amarillo mayor sent us an item we received in the mail today.

It was¬†a mailer containing a¬†list of some of her top priorities if she wins the mayor’s race on May 6. One of them jumped right off the page; it stuck out like an orange “Road Work Ahead”¬†sign — if you get my drift and I am sure you do.

Nelson pledges to “negotiate an enforceable maintenance agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to clean up and improve curb appeal along I-40 andI-27.”

Can I hear an “Amen!”?

Interstate right-of-way curb appeal has been a recurring theme of this blog.

My take on it? The freeway interchange stinks! It looks like hell. TxDOT did a lousy job of landscaping it and there’s been next to zero¬† upkeep on it since the highway department rebuilt the interchange more than a decade ago. I-40 in either direction from the interchange looks shabby as well, as does I-27 southbound toward Loop 335/Hollywood Road.

Thousands of motorists pass through the interchange daily and many of them are passing through, perhaps never to see Amarillo ever again. I’ve long believed that it is important to at least present something of an attractive appearance to those passing through.

That’s not what pass-through motorists are getting when they zip through our city.

How does the mayor “negotiate an enforceable maintenance agreement” with TxDOT? Surely the mayor can find some common ground that somehow splits the cost between the city and the state agency. How about placing a phone call to our neighbors in, say, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City? Have you seen the interchanges in those cities?

I get that improved curb appeal doesn’t necessarily provide for better service to our city. We still have to pay for cops, firefighters, water and sewer service and trash pickup; we still need street lights that work properly and we need parks where we and our children and grandchildren can relax safely.

Interstate highway appearance, though, does matter at some level.

It matters to me, at least. I’d bet real money it matters to other Amarillo residents, too.

The rest of Nelson’s campaign mailer today contained routine boiler plate stuff: creating jobs and cutting red tape. Who doesn’t support all of that?

Improving the looks of this city to those who blast through ought to take a little higher place on the city’s political pecking order.

To that end, I wish Ginger Nelson well in that effort if she becomes our next mayor.

No predictions coming for this year’s mayoral contest

You can’t miss them. They’re sprouting up everywhere, kind of like that spring clover you see on the High Plains of Texas.

Lawn signs touting the candidacy of Ginger Nelson have shown up all over our neighborhood. I expect more of them.

Nelson is running for mayor of Amarillo. She’s already earned my vote. I make no apologies for deciding this early.

Now comes the question, which I received today: Do I think she’s going to win?

I am not predicting nothin’. No way. No how. No never mind.

She should win. She’s got a detailed campaign platform. She has a lengthy to-do list of items she wants accomplished during her time as mayor … if she wins, of course.

If you haven’t seen her platform, take a look right here.

Why won’t I predict her victory? Because my record at such things is terrible! That’s why.

* I once wrote that Hillary Rodham Clinton was set¬†to roll to a potentially historic landslide victory for president of the United States in the 2016 election. Umm, she didn’t.

* I also wrote that there was no way on God’s Earth that Donald “Smart Person” Trump ever would be nominated for — let alone elected — president of the United States. Hah! Silly me.

* I once¬†wrote that¬†Hillary never would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 because, after all, many of those senators voted to convict her husband of the “impeachable offense” of lying about his affair with what’s-her-name. She did run — and she won.

* I also once said Army Gen. Colin Powell would run for president in 1996 against Hillary’s husband. He opted out.

So, you see, I am terrible at these parlor games.

Nelson should win. She has the backing of some influential folks in Amarillo. She’s got the experience from her time on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. She has the smarts and the professional background as a lawyer and businesswoman to move the city forward. She has the speaking skill and public presence required to use her office as a bully pulpit.

Am I going to predict such a thing?

No way, man! I’ll just hope for the best.

That is some platform, Mayoral Candidate Nelson

I have just examined the platform on which Ginger Nelson is running for Amarillo mayor.

Three words come to mind: W. O. W!

My sense is that Nelson either possesses the greatest memory known to humankind or she is going to keep this position paper with her 24/7 if she get elected on May 6.

The Amarillo lawyer has presented an impressive array of issues, policies and strategies to implement them.

She is focusing, quite naturally, on economic development. No surprise, given that she once served on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board and is invested heavily in some commercial property downtown.

She breaks down her platform into six essential planks: job creation and economic development; neighborhood safety; street and highway improvement; communication and participation; customer service; and fiscal responsibility.

At the surface level, it’s impossible to disagree with any of the policies she has targeted for enhancement and/or improvement. I mean, who doesn’t want more jobs, better streets, better communication, better customer service, safe neighborhoods and sound fiscal management?

To be honest, Nelson’s platform is the most detailed and expansive¬†I’ve seen from any Amarillo mayoral candidate in the 22 years I’ve lived here. Most of that time — when I was working for a living — my job as a journalist was to keep tabs on what candidates for public office were pledging to do.

I noticed a holdover from one of Mayor Paul Harpole’s priorities: graffiti abatement. Harpole took aim at the defacing of private property by assorted juvenile delinquents or gang members. He claims progress in that effort and I’m glad to see Nelson pledging to continue that effort.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of¬†Nelson’s platform is that she’s pledging to do all this while earning virtually nothing to serve as mayor. The job pays a whopping $10 per public meeting; oh, yes, there are some assorted expense reimbursements along the way. But this is basically a volunteer job, a labor of love.

She’s talking about better outreach to the community, cutting red tape, business recruitment, working with local colleges and our university on various partnerships, making utility billing more efficient and — I¬†presume — more accurate, working to improve emergency response times … and on it goes.

She has two opponents in this race for mayor. I’ve already declared my preference for who I think should succeed Harpole, who’s not running for re-election. It happens to be Nelson.

I will await the platforms to be crafted by candidates Renea Dauntes and Jim Lowder II. Dauntes told the Amarillo Globe-News she wants to “improve civic pride”; Lowder plans to deal with conflicts of interest. I am confident their full platform statements¬†won’t be as detailed as the one Nelson has presented. But, hey, if they prove me wrong, I’ll welcome their contributions to the public discussion.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, that Nelson has gone into great detail, check it out here.

If Nelson becomes our next mayor — and I hope she does —¬†I strongly suggest she keep the platform document handy.

Getting to know a possible mayor

I shook the hand of a most engaging young woman today.

She is a candidate for Amarillo mayor. I had heard from friends of mine around the city that she’s the real article: smart, articulate, dedicated to the city’s well-being.

I am a believer.

Ginger Nelson spoke to the Rotary Club of Amarillo today at noon. She wasn’t there to talk about her mayoral candidacy. She spoke to us about her ownership of the Amarillo Building, which she and her husband Kevin have owned for the past several years.

A mutual friend of ours introduced me to her when I arrived at our meeting venue.

I believe she would do a marvelous job as the city mayor. The first impression I got was, well, impressive.

Welcome to the fray, mayoral candidate Nelson

I was impressed by the passion with which she spoke about the Amarillo Building, which has a remarkable history. Nelson — a lawyer and a former member of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation — offers a vision of how our past shapes our future. She seems to believe the Amarillo Building’s past is just a prologue to whatever comes along.

To hear her deliver the message and to hear the love she has in that piece of downtown Amarillo property is to get a brief preview of how this person could use the mayor’s office as the bulliest of pulpits.

My strongest sense, given her commitment to economic development and the need for the city to pull together as one, is that she will use that pulpit with great wisdom.

Ginger Nelson looks — at first glance — like the real deal.