Tag Archives: Randy Burkett

The message? We don’t need your money!

I’m trying to put myself inside the skull of my friends at the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce or the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council.

They no doubt know about that moronic sign west of Amarillo, the one that tells liberals to keep on going.

Don’t bother stopping in Amarillo, or in Vega (where the sign is planted) or in Wildorado, Adrian or in any of the cities and towns along the length of Interstate 40 that crosses the Texas Panhandle.

While you’re at it, the sign implies, don’t bother spending any of your money here if you’re one of them damn liberal thinkers. Don’t even think about eating here. Or booking a night or two of lodging here. Or buying groceries.

Just keep on going.

That’s what the sign suggests y’all just do. Pronto, man!

The sign is the product, apparently, of a former Amarillo City Council member who by all rights should know better than to dissuade people from spending their money in the Panhandle.

But … Randy Burkett is so damn ideologically rigid — or so it appears — that he he has tossed the needs of the greater community into the crapper just so he can demonstrate a silly penchant for political grandstanding.

Nice going, Mr. Burkett. This is how you show your “love” for the Texas Panhandle and the “great state of Texas”?

That’s the spirit … of a closed mind

Oh, this is such a great country. It enables anyone to speak for what passes as their “mind,” no matter how moronic, idiotic or hateful his message might be.

This sign has gone viral throughout the vast social media network. It sits along Interstate 40 near Vega, Texas, a nice town just west of Amarillo. I used to live in Amarillo. This sign has given me my first pangs of relief that I no longer live in a community where this kind of closed-minded thinking is so damn pervasive.

Randy Burkett owns the sign. He runs an outdoor advertising company. He served for two years on the Amarillo City Council. Then, in 2017, he decided against running for a second term. I am one voter who is glad he took a hike and removed himself from elected public office; my hope is that he never returns to the elected public arena — ever again!

There once was a time when this country represented inclusiveness. It welcomed all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, points of view. Sadly, the message displayed on this billboard offers a grim reminder of a thought that used to be expressed openly throughout the Texas Panhandle.

Do you recall the John Birch Society, one of the forebears of what’s been referred to these days as the “alt-right”? Birchers were — and still are — supreme isolationists. They want the United States to pull out of the United Nations. They were the godfathers (and godmothers) of the “America First” movement now espoused by the likes of Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump Sr. They wanted no part of any internationalism in our country. They used to plant signs in Amarillo that demanded that we “Get U.S. out of the United Nations.”

Now we see this kind of message springing up?

It is shameful in the extreme to telegraph this kind of closed-mindedness to the thousands of travelers who blow through the Texas Panhandle daily along I-40.

Yes, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants individuals such as Randy Burkett the right to spew this message. It also gives folks such as me the same right to call it what it is.


Council to lose its loudest mouth

I do not know this person, only witnessed his antics from some distance. Still, I feel the need to offer a brief critique of someone who is going to exit the Amarillo political scene.

I hope his departure is permanent … unless he learns to change his way of doing things and learns how to act in a moreĀ collegial manner.

Randy Burkett has served one occasionally tumultuous term as an Amarillo city councilman. He has chosen not to seek re-election to a second term. I won’t miss him or his occasional outbursts and fits of petulance.

Burkett was one of three newbies elected to the council in May 2015. He promised to change things. He did — in his own sort of way.

You see, I’ve always viewed Amarillo City Hall politics to be a fairly genteel endeavor. I have watched it up close — as a journalist — for more than two decades and have grown fairly familiar with the rhythm of the place and of the governing body once known as the City Commission and now known as the City Council.

There’s always been a sort of unwritten code among City Council members: You are welcome to disagree with policy matters, but once we make a decision, we prefer to lock arms and speak with one voice. The city has had a couple of notable contrarians who have served during the years I have watched its governing body. I can think of the late Commissioners Dianne Bosch and Jim Simms. They generally, though, lived by the terms of that unwritten code.

Burkett didn’t seem to adhere to that code. He would mouth off publicly when he disagreed with a city policy, or if he had differences with the way Mayor Paul Harpole conducted City Council proceedings.

Burkett seemed quite willing to call attention to himself.

He recently talked out loud about a so-called pending deal to lock up a minor league baseball franchise relocating to Amarillo. He drew a sharp rebuke from the head of the Local Government Corp., which is negotiating the deal. The deal is far from done, said LGC chairman Jerry Hodge, who said he was “ashamed” of Burkett for speaking out of turn.

Burkett loves to use the social medium known as Facebook. He has posted some pretty, um, controversial messages. Some critics have complained about what they consider to be some xenophobic comments regarding Muslims.

A TV reporter just recently broadcast a story that questioned whether Burkett — the owner of an outdoor advertising company — had profited from a City Council vote he had cast that benefited the firm he owns. Burkett denied it — vigorously andĀ vociferously on social media.

Burkett makes no apologies for the manner in which he helped govern the city. I don’t expect any from him. And I do wish him well as he departs from the public arena after the May 6 municipal election.

My expectation would be for the city to return to a more civil public demeanor among its governing council members.

And, no, I don’t want a pack of “yes” men and women. However, it’s not unreasonable toĀ hope they can return to the credo that has helped keep this wonderful city moving forward smoothly for the past several decades.

Councilman thrusts himself into spotlight yet again

Amarillo has a City Council memberĀ who appears to enjoy thrusting himself into the spotlight.

Randy Burkett, though, finds curious methods of doing so. He uses social media to sound off on this or that issue. Then, when he takes some heat from residents and even from local media, he tends to lash back at the critics.

I’ll stipulate that I do not know Burkett personally. I have ready plenty about him since he ran for the City Council in 2015 and have been following him at times during his occasionally tumultuous tenure on the council.

He has battled with other council members, namely Mayor Paul Harpole. He has been accused of leaking confidential information from executive council sessions. He has popped off in public.

This latest social media incident, though, seems a bit different. He got into a public fight on Facebook by criticizing a Muslim woman who was wearing a red-white-and-blue head band. Now he’s gone quiet and isn’t speaking to the media.

A silly aspect of this latest dust-up is the criticism leveled at Burkett by the Amarillo Globe-News, which endorsed him for election to the council in 2015. I am beginning to think the G-N might regret its decision to back the councilman’s candidacy.

The Globe-News editorialized today about Burkett’s latest social media tempest. It has scolded him for failing to provide proof that “‘law enforcement authorities’ are investigating threats related to the aforementioned social media exchange.”

I just want to offer this admonishment to Councilman Burkett.

Don’t use social media to spout off in this manner. It is unbecoming of an elected municipal official, someone who represents an entire city of nearly 200,000 residents. All five of these council members serve as de facto ambassadors for the city. Thus, the things they post on social media outlets carries a certain imprimatur that other folks — like, say, yours truly — don’t have.

I realize in this peculiar political climate — exemplified by the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States — has emboldened politicians at all levels to “tell it like it is” using social media. The president himself has used Twitter with devastating — and sometimes embarrassing — effect.

Just because POTUS can act like a buffoon at times on social media doesn’t give other politicians license to do the same thing.

Amarillo: Dysfunction capital of America?


I like to think I’m careful when I read critiques aboutĀ places from folks who don’t live in or near the communities they’re critiquing.

When something comes across my radar, it’s good to check the background of the author. I did that when I saw a pretty scathing critique on a website called Route Fifty. The author is a fellow named Michael Grass.

His background? His “about” page says he’s a formerĀ copy editorĀ for Roll Call, a reputable political journal that covers Capitol Hill; he also has experience working with the Washington Post and the New York Observer.

Grass has posted a pretty sizzling analysis of Amarillo. The bottom line? If you’re looking for a local government job and you want to move to Amarillo to fill one of the many openings posted at City Hall … think long and hard before you take the plunge.

Amarillo, he says, might be the “most dysfunctional city” in the country.

The city manager’s exitĀ has caught Grass’s attention.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson is soon to be out the door. The City Council has to find another person to fill the job. Grass opines that the council is going to have a hard time finding a competent candidate willing to step into what he describes as “a municipal circus.”

He’s done some homework. Three new city council members — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair — took office this spring. Nair then took the unusual step in calling for Atkinson’s resignation right away. Burkett demanded that the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corp. board be fired.

Nair and Burkett backed off their initial demands.

Still, City Attorney Marcus Norris quit; Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey retired.

The new three-member majority then engineered a citywide referendum on a project that’s been in the works for years. The multipurpose event venue will be on the ballot next Tuesday and voters will get to decide whether the $32 million project should include a ballpark.

Grass writes: “While Atkinsonā€™s resignation, which is to take effect later in November, may have surprised some on the City Councilā€”Nair said he ‘didn’t see it coming’ā€”Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole said that conflict among councilmembers made it very difficult for the city manager to do his job, citing a handful of problems.”

The city is seeking to fill a number of senior administrative positions. The city attorney still needs to be hired. Same with an assistant city manager. The city charter gives the city manager the authority to make those decisions — but hey, we soon won’t have a city manager, either!

The council has been bickering over budget matters, the future of downtown redevelopment, the status of non-profit organizations set up to help the city proceed with its downtown growth.

You nameĀ it, the council has been fighting about it.

Grass’s article wonders: Who in their right mind is going to step into that maelstrom?

It’s a question many of us who live here have been asking.


Amarillo City Council gets its own gadfly

When you mention the word “gadfly,” you ought to think of someone who annoys the daylights out of you.

I’m beginning to see a trend developing among the five members of the Amarillo City Council. It is that a gadfly has sprouted wings among them.

Randy Burkett got blood pumping apparently at a city budget meeting this week when he challenged a 3.5-percent budget increase for the Downtown Amarillo Inc., the non-profit organization with which the city contracts to promote our downtown district.

Burkett is one of the three new guys elected to the council in May. I guess he dislikes DAI Inc. He told fellow council members DAI should get a decrease in its budget or perhaps be eliminated.

That got Mayor Paul Harpole excited and the two men exchanged tense words, with Harpole accusing Burkett of “electioneering.”

OK, folks. Change has arrived at the City Council.

That ol’ trick knee of mine is throbbing once again and it’s telling me that we’re going to hear a good more from this new fellow as he seeks to get under the skin of his fellow council members.

I guess at this point I ought to mention the Facebook exchange he had with a member of a group called Amarillo Millennial Movement, a groupĀ of young residents who want the city to proceed with its downtown revitalization plans, which include the multipurpose event venue that the council voted 3-1 this week to refer to the voters for their decision on whether to build the MPEV.

I’ve lived in Amarillo for more than 20 years. I’ve spent most of that time commenting on policy decisions from City Hall, attending city government meetings, interacting with municipal officials. I’ve seen my share of contrarians holding elective office at City Hall. The late commissioners Dianne Bosch andĀ Jim Simms come to mind.

But something is beginning to gnaw at me about the chemistry — or the lack thereof — that’s developing among the five men who set municipal policy. It’s palpably different than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

If this budget meeting exchange between Harpole and Burkett is an indicator of what’s to come over the course of the next two years, you are welcome to count me as someone who dislikes the change that has plopped itself down at City Hall.

And it’s fair to ask: Is this really and truly what Amarillo voters wanted when they elected this new majority, which includes an individual who seeks to become the City Council’s chief gadfly?

Keep hoping for best in upcoming city MPEV vote debate

A young woman stood before the Amarillo City Council the other evening and began to challenge one of the newly elected council members.

The video of that exchange is attached here:


It appears quite possible that we might have been seen a precursor to what we can expect as the debate over whether to build a multipurpose event venue downtown gets underway.

The councilman, Randy Burkett, ended up telling the young woman that he didn’t intend to get into a “shouting match with a teenager.” He was more than a tad condescending to the individual, one of his “bosses,” if you will.

It might be that the most curious response to something the young woman asked was that Burkett said it isn’t his job to come up with ideas regarding the planned renovation of downtown Amarillo. He doesn’t like the MPEV and I’d bet real American money he’ll vote “no” on the project when it comes to a vote in November.

But the woman asked him if he had any alternatives to the MPEV. He said, essentially, “It’s not my job.”

Uh, councilman? Yes it is, sir.

Burkett’s job isn’t quite as simple as he seemed to portray it Tuesday evening in that rather peculiar exchange.


You’ve heard the saying, I’m sure, that it’s good to “Hope for the best but expect the worst” when important events are about to occur. Amarillo is going to engage in an important community debate in the next few weeks involving the future of its downtown revitalization effort.

A group of young people, calling themselves the Amarillo Millennial Movement, has formed to become engaged in that debate. These young individuals say they support the downtown project and want their voices to be heard. With all the grousing and grumbling we hear from old folks about their concern that younger individuals don’t care about their community, it’s refreshing to watch a group of young Amarillo residents care enough to form a political wing dedicated to improving their city.

So, let’s have that debate.

While we’re at it, let’s respect everyone willing to engage in that debate. Or, as the Millennial Movement said on its Facebook page: “We want to be able to go to City Council meetings without being insulted. We want people to recognize that we are a serious force in Amarillo.”

Well, I’ll be; cooler heads win out … at least for now

My dear ol’ dad had a number of favorite sayings.

Dad would use one of them when something surprised him pleasantly.

“Well,” Dad would say, “I’ll be dipped in sesame seeds.”

Pass the seeds, will ya? I’ve just been surprised — along with quite a few other folks around Amarillo — by the actions today of the Amarillo City Council.

Council members voted 5-0 to take two items off their agenda; they dealt with the “status” of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson and the potential fate of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board of directors.

As I write this post, I don’t know what Atkinson has decided to do. Does he stay or does he go? City Councilman Mark Nair wants him to go. At least two of his colleagues, Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades, want him to stay.

The tumult, tempest and turmoil all have contributed to considerable unrest at City Hall.

The city’s downtown revival effort has begun. Atkinson has been helping steer it forward. Councilman Nair, the newest of the five men who serve on the body, wants to replace him.

As for the AEDC board, they’ve drawn fire from another new council member, Randy Burkett.

This entire exercise over the course of the past few weeks has been unsettling in the extreme.

My sincere hope now is that all the principals can reflect on the changes they want and whether the man who’s running City Hall is the one to implement them.

At least for now, it’s good to know that the City Council isn’t populated by men with itchy trigger fingers.


Mayor goes to battle with councilman


This video isn’t very long. It didn’t need to be to get Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole’s point across.

He ripped into Place 3 City Councilman Randy Burkett for contending falsely that Assistant City Manager Vicki Covey quit her job at his request … or, more to the point, at his demand.

Harpole said Covey “retired” from her post. He said the city had a letter in its possession that pre-dated Burkett’s assertion that he had sought her resignation.

What’s most compelling about the video is the strong language that the mayor is using to describe the conduct of one of his City Council colleagues. It’s the kind thing we haven’t heard from City Council members — or mayors — at least in the more than 20 years that I’ve been watching City Hall politics and government.

Harpole’s remarks came Monday at the joint City Council-Amarillo Economic Development Corporation meeting.

Burkett was absent from the meeting.

This, it seems to be, is likely to become the new normal at Amarillo City Hall at least for the next two years.

Voters wanted “change”? Well, there you have it.

Stay tuned.


One down at City Hall … how many more to go?

Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris has quit.

He’ll be gone in two weeks, leaving the city with either zero legal counsel or a new lawyer who’s got to learn the ropes the way Norris did when he became the city’s legal eagle.

There’s really no sugarcoating this resignation. Norris is a casualty of the new regime on the City Council. One of the new guys, Mark Nair, took the oath of office and barely put his hand down before calling City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s resignation. Another new guy, Randy Burkett, called for the resignation of the entire Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board.

Oh, and today’s joint City Council-AEDC meeting? Neither Nair or Burkett were present.

That’s leadership, yes? Well, no.

That is the kind of chaos facing the senior City Hall staff. Norris would have none of it.


So, he’s out.

As for Atkinson, the council is set to meet Tuesday to discuss his status. I have no clue what the smart money on the street thinks will happen. My own hope is that Atkinson stays on the job.

And as for Norris, he’s had his fill already of the recklessness exhibited by at least a couple members of the city’s governing board.

There’s a lot more at stake than justĀ a handful of public service careers. The city’s forward movement as it relates to its downtown revival effort might be in jeopardy if the “agents of change” seek to do too much too quickly.

Let’s not pussyfoot around this matter, either.

If Atkinson quits or is fired, the city’s top administration is left without a leader at a time when it needs leadership. The city is on the cusp of starting a bold effort that it’s never considered before. Yet the naysayers have gotten cold feet, their hands have gone clammy, they’ve hurled accusations out and about over alleged nefarious motives and a so-called “lack of public input” into this multi-faceted project.

And now some folks dislike the way the city runs?

One key city staffer is heading for the exit. Today was not a good a day at City Hall. I fear more bad days are coming.