Tag Archives: downtown Amarillo

City ponders rail depot purchase

As a big supporter of Amarillo’s effort to revive its downtown district, I am intrigued by the city’s consideration of purchasing the Santa Fe Depot across the street from the Civic Center.

The City Commission will consider this purchase at its next meeting, on Tuesday. The city might plunk down $2.6 million for the deal.

Then what? That’s the big question.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2013-09-20/city-considers-buying-santa-fe-depot

I was most intrigued by the quotes attributed to City Commissioner Lilia Escajeda, who seems to be suggesting something different from her colleagues. Commissioner Ellen Green noted the building’s historical significance and said that Amtrak might want to use the depot to bring passenger train service back to Amarillo.

Escajeda, though, said the depot’s purchase would make it easier for the city expand its Civic Center in the future. Is she suggesting the city could, um, knock down the depot — since it might own the property — to make room for a Civic Center expansion? I hope that’s not what she’s saying.

My own sense is that the city purchasing the depot has the potential for contributing to a successful downtown revival. My hope would be for the city to pull out all the stops to find a suitable — and successful — tenant who could put the building to the kind of use that would attract visitors to the downtown district.

Who or what would that entail? Well, I’m not a commercial real estate marketing genius, so I’ll leave that discussion to the experts. What’s more, the city has no shortage of resources to find someone who knows something about marketing buildings such as the Santa Fe Depot.

The building is beautiful and has at least as much potential as the “other” Santa Fe Building downtown, the one that Potter County transformed from a rotting hulk into a glorious office structure.

Go for it, City Hall.

Call it a career, Judge Ware

It’s time for me to get something off my chest.

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware needs to do one of two things: Either resign his office or declare that he will not seek re-election to the job he’s had for the past two decades. Of course, the first option precludes the second one. Either way, it’s time for the judge — who I admire greatly for all he has done for the county and the country — to end his career.

Ware cannot do his job. He suffered a devastating stroke in 2010 that left him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak coherently. He manages to force a word or two out at a time, but he is unable to articulate county policy, or argue a budget point, or converse with anyone who stands before him in a probate hearing. I saw him about two years ago at a downtown Amarillo restaurant. I sought to engage him in conversation. He answered with single words. “Yes” and “no” had to suffice. It was a sad encounter.

Earlier this week, the judge was shot down by his four Commissioners Court colleagues on his request for a pay increase. Every one of the commissioners opposed the increase. At least two of them spoke quite harshly about the judge, one of them saying he should take a pay “decrease” and other saying the county would be “negligent” by approving the proposed pay raise.

And after taking the verbal battering from his colleagues, Ware had no response. Why? He couldn’t verbalize the thoughts that no doubt were running through his head.

I’m not privy to all the ins and outs of county politics and policy these days. I do know a couple of key points. One is that a number of qualified individuals are considering a run for county judge in 2014, when Ware’s term is up. Another key point is that candidates for county office must be able to articulate a policy. They must make public appearances at, say, church picnics, candidate forums, televised debates, the Tri-State Fair, grange halls, feed stores and … well, you get the idea.

I say all this with deep affection for the man. I remember meeting Ware when I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995. He wasn’t that many years removed from his active-duty deployment as a Marine called to fight during the Persian Gulf War. His office is adorned with Marine Corps banners, flags and assorted photos and other paraphernalia. Semper fi, Judge Ware.

He scored a huge coup in 1995 when the county purchased the Santa Fe Building for 400 grand. He took a colleague and me on a tour of the then-vacant building and talked effusively of the grand plans he had to turn it into a county office complex. After a few hiccups along the way, the county got it done.

He fought for the county’s inclusion in a tax increment reinvestment zone to help fund downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment, acknowledging forcefully that the county courthouse indeed, sits in the middle of the downtown district.

But all that is in the past. The here and now has produced a sad spectacle.

Arthur Ware cannot possibly campaign for an office the functions of which he no longer is able to perform. Tell the public, judge, what you plan to do. My best advice is to quit now and spare yourself further humiliation at the hands of your colleagues.