Monday, January 26, 2015

Wallace Bajjali audit target in Joplin - Special council meeting there tonight - UPDATE

By Sarah Okeson
For The Amarillo Independent

The state auditor for Missouri is examining the relationship between Joplin, the Missouri city devastated by a 2011 tornado, and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners,  the firm both Joplin and Amarillo have turned to as master developer. Contracts between the Sugar Land, Texas-based firm and each city came despite the firm’s history of legal problems.
“I can confirm that we are conducting an audit of the city of Joplin and that we have looked at the relationship between the city and Wallace Bajjali,” Spence Jackson, a spokesman for the Missouri state auditor said in an email to The Amarillo Independent.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Has Wallace Bajjali abandoned Joplin?

The Amarillo Independent has learned that Wallace Bajjali Development Partners may have abandoned its role as master developer in Joplin, Mo., according to the Turner Report and the Joplin Globe.

The newspaper in Joplin posted late Friday night that the Sugar Land-based development firm “is no longer operating out of office space” in that city and has left no forwarding address. The story also noted that the firm’s phone “does not connect.” The Amarillo Independent has independently confirmed the main number doesn’t ring, but the fax number answers with a carrier.

The city of Amarillo contracted with Wallace Bajjali to serve as master developer for downtown revitalization in 2011 after the Independent warned of the firm's checkered past.

The Amarillo Independent is investigating further.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Red LIghts Redux - It's About the Money

There is a long-standing rule in journalism: Follow the money. In this case, the Dallas Morning News notes that the Denton Record-Chronicle and Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported problems with red light cameras in several cities, including findings from Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute. The bottom-line is that these Orwellian enforcement tools don’t necessarily make roads safer. They change the type of accidents and make cities richer.

In other words, the selling point that closes the sale is greed, for both the companies selling the technology and the cities buying it. Safety, like “national security,” is just one more shibboleth for the governing class to find a way to raise money. Amarillo’ City Council has been adept at this during the last few years. The five-member walk-in-lock-step cabal approved the red light cameras and then expanded the use despite the Texas A&M University Transportation Institute findings. And, they accepted misrepresentations of hearings by the chairwoman of the city’s Transportation Commission on the cell phone ordinance.

Arlington is facing a petition drive that may be successful in killing off the cameras. Other cities, Houston, Lubbock and College Station have already banned them. The odds aren’t good in Amarillo for such action because the City Council made it more difficult to place things on a ballot. Of course, the council did so with the predictable help from those who didn’t bother to understand and voted their own interests.

It is one more case of getting the government we deserve.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Connect the dots, people.

I have waited all day for someone to point out how unethical the Globe-News can be by not fully disclosing information. In today's editorial, the fifth-rate media outlet takes the city of Amarillo to task to failing to replace lights at the Interstate 27-Interstate 40 interchange.

The editorial fails to make clear that the city has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Department of Transportation in which the city maintains the lights within the city. And, further, the city has a contract with Xcel Energy for the privately owned utility to carry out that work. And, that utility has also garnered extensive profits from the downtown development and will continue to suckle at the Amarillo taxpayer teat when — it’s a foregone conclusion, folks — the company’s new building gets favorable treatment from the TIRZ and AEDC.

Connect the dots, people.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015

New Year wishes for good fortune, prosperity and happiness are cascading down my Facebook newsfeed this morning. And, so, I return those sentiments as I muse about the year past and the upcoming one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Honor the veterans today

I know today is Veterans Day and, as many of you, I am grateful for the service and sacrifices these people made to protect our freedoms.

One of the most important freedom is the First Amendment, which guarantees our right to speak freely, publish freely and petition our government. While many on the national level rightly complain that the corporate oligarchy has captured the federal government, we sometimes overlook that local government can be a runaway train. Such is the case in Amarillo as the City Council is slated to vote on contracts related to downtown development. Chelsea Goss, my friend at ProNews 7, noted this upcoming vote on Daybreak. And if you look further back in this blog, you’ll find “Downtown Misdirection,” which also exposes the flaws in the City Council’s current approach to revitalizing downtown.

The link to Veterans Day? Many sacrificed for your right to tell the City Council your desires, even if it contradicts its misguided efforts. The City Council meets today at 1:30 p.m. in a work session in the council conference room in the city manager’s office suite. It is an open meeting and where the substantive discussion is undertake. It is also an open meeting and, despite the close quarter, the public can attend. Unless, of course, the council skulks off into an executive session charade under the guise of consulting with its attorney over the downtown development contracts. The City Council will then meet at 3 p.m. in its big chambers for the Kabuki dance of voting on that which they have already decided.

If your ministry today is to honor veteran by speaking up — pro or con — on this important issue, you now know where to go.