Amarillo’s governing council long has prided itself on speaking with one voice, moving in unison toward common goals.
It’s been rather, um, boring at times to watch the city endorse this program or that with nary a negative voice being heard. Oh, I’ve heard some dissent, from the likes of the late commissioners Dianne Bosch and Jim Simms. But generally when the city voted, it marched off in unison.
That era may have ended, if only temporarily, with the election in May of three newcomers. They have vowed to enact serious change in the way things get done. How that change manifests itself fully remains a bit of a mystery.
It all reminds a bit of how Randall and Potter counties’ commissioners courts have run at times over the years.
Randall County elected Ted Wood as its county judge in 1994 and he proceeded to open the floor up to residents who could gripe until they went hoarse. Wood’s philosophy was that the county was there to serve them, and the Commissioners Court was obligated to listen to every word that residents had to say.
This incessant complaining from residents led to frayed tempers at times as commissioners occasionally lost patience with residents’ long-winded tirades.
After Wood left office, the new county judge, Ernie Houdashell, restored some order in the court and it’s been relatively smooth sailing ever since.
Across the 29th Avenue county line, in Potter County, there was another dynamic taking place. The late Commissioner Manny Perez was fond of gumming things up with occasionally intemperate remarks about individuals or projects. Then came fellow Commissioner Joe Kirkwood, who’d chime in with dissent that at times didn’t make much sense.
Then-County Judge Arthur Ware tried his best to keep the peace. He had limited success.
The Potter County Commissioners Court has a new county judge. It’s running smoothly these days … so far.
What’s in store for the Amarillo City Council as it moves forward?
I’ve never been shy about dissent. I prefer healthy debate and discussion over one-note sambas being played out.
My main concern as the new City Council starts to get its legs under it is the seeming headlong rush to make critical changes at the top of the administrative chain of command. It began with that startling announcement from newly minted Councilman Mark Nair’s request that City Manager Jarrett Atkinson resign; Nair’s comment came on the very same day he took the oath of office.
Does the young man really and truly want to toss out the city’s top administrator now, just as the city is beginning to implement a remarkably creative and forward-thinking strategy for reshaping its downtown business district? And the other two new councilmen — Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett — are on the hunt as well for the city manager’s resignation?
Dissent and constructive criticism are good things to embrace.
Bulldozing a well-established government infrastructure right off the top? Let’s take a breath and talk this through.