Tag Archives: Downtown redevelopment

Here comes that ‘change’ at City Hall

Mark Nair took his oath of office as the Amarillo City Council’s newest member and then asked for the resignations of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson, Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey and the five Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board members.

Isn’t there a “getting acquainted period” involved here?



So, here’s the change voters seemingly said they wanted when they elected Nair and two other new guys to the City Council. Randy Burkett joined the newest guy in calling for the resignations.

Haven’t heard yet if the third newbie, Elisha Demerson, feels the same way. I’ll assume for the moment he does.

The $113 million question is this: What would changes at the top of the Amarillo administrative municipal chain of command mean for its downtown redevelopment efforts?

I hope that rumble I’m hearing isn’t the sound of a train wreck about to occur.


City Hall ‘change’ beginning to take shape


Mark Nair may becoming a sort of “swing vote” on the Amarillo City Council.

Just as Justice Anthony Kennedy helps determine which direction the Supreme Court tilts on key rulings, so might City Councilman-elect Nair be — in the words of a former president of the United States — a “decider.”

He’s one of three new guys to join the five-member council. He won a runoff election this past Saturday to win his spot on Place 4.

And he’s sounding like someone intent on changing the way business has been done at City Hall.

I remain a bit confused, though, regarding his intentions.

A lengthy newspaper interview published Monday noted a couple of things.

Nair said he doesn’t want to “undo” downtown redevelopments that already are under “contractual obligation.” He does, though, want to rethink the multipurpose event venue and plans to argue that it go before the voters for their approval.

Suppose, then, that voters say “no” to the MPEV. What happens next? Nair referenced the “catalyst projects” that already are under contract: the convention hotel and the parking garage. If the MPEV is torpedoed, does the hotel get built anyway? It’s always been my understanding that the hotel developer’s plans for the Embassy Suites complex is predicated on the MPEV and without the event venue, there’s no need for a parking garage.

It’s all tied together, correct?

Nair deserves congratulations for winning his initial elected office. He presents himself as a thoughtful young man. He said he wants to talk with City Manager Jarrett Atkinson — who he said he doesn’t know — about the problems that have beset the city. Things have to change, Nair said. The water bill SNAFU cannot go uncorrected, he said and he asserts that the manager, as the city’s CEO, is responsible for ensuring the place runs smoothly.

But the folks in charge of it all — the policy team — sit on the City Council. They have to operate as a team, along with the senior city administration. That was the mantra prior to the election.

We now shall see if the new guys can play well with each other — and those who do their bidding.

Mark Nair, the newest of the new fellows, vows to “work for the common good.”

Get busy, gentlemen.


Early votes are in: Turnout looks so-so

The early votes have been tabulated for the upcoming Amarillo City Council election.

The numbers do not bode well for a barn-burning turnout. Officials say 7,992 votes were cast early.

Let’s do some math here.

The city is home to roughly 90,000 people who are eligible to vote, give or take. That means about 8 percent of the total voting population has cast ballots. The question now becomes: How many more will do their civic duty on Saturday, aka Election Day?

My experience with early voting — and I don’t believe in voting early if I don’t have to — I that it means only that more people vote early. Fewer of them vote on the actual Election Day. It hasn’t boosted turnout by itself.

My friend Chris Hays, general manager of Panhandle PBS, put together a great video promoting the need to vote. I’ve posted it once already on this blog. Here it is again:


The election has been contentious at times. It has featured some serious accusations of poor prior public service performance. Challengers to the incumbents have said the city is too secretive about its plans for downtown’s revival; incumbents have answered that the city has made downtown redevelopment plans available for public review.

There’s an element of folks in the city who want to see a wholesale rejection of the incumbents who are seeking re-election; four of the five are on the ballot.

Local media have published plenty of letters and guest columns hyping candidates and causes.

I hope for a big turnout on Saturday, right along with everyone else.

That ol’ trick knee of mine, though, tells me it’s going to fall a good bit short of what we all should want: greater — if not full — participation in representative democracy.

Will they ever start busting up some cement?

Potter County is on board, finally, with a plan that is supposed to get downtown Amarillo’s rebirth started. Maybe. Eventually. Or will it ever get done?


County commissioners voted 3-2 Monday to grant a 10-year tax abatement for the Coca-Cola distribution plant, which will relocate to a business park near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

Now construction can begin — one should hope — on a new ballpark downtown that will go where the current Coke distribution plant is located.

Given the closeness of the vote on the commission, one understands the contentiousness of this issue.

City planners had hoped, I’m guessing, to be a lot farther along on this project than they have gotten.

The County Courthouse project is done; the city has rebuilt some curbs at intersections; it has knocked down the old jail; it has welcomed a downtown business hotel in the old Fisk Building; a new convenience store has opened up across the street from a new bank complex.

But the Big Three of the downtown redevelopment effort — the stadium, parking garage and a new convention hotel — haven’t yet begun. It’s been more than three years since the city signed the deal with the Wallace-Bajjali development firm to spearhead a $113 million project that is supposed to occur with a single dime of public tax money being spent.

Officials connected to the project keep saying they have a lot i’s to dot and t’s to cross. It’s complicated, we’re told.

I’m as anxious as anyone else to see the downtown project move forward. However, I’m getting a little nervous about the time it’s taken to line up all the elements.

I’m ready to start seeing some pavement being busted up downtown.