Monday, August 31, 2015

Politics makes strange bedfellows

Often quoted, but rarely attributed to 19th Century journalist Charles Dudley Warner, the notion is that people with otherwise strongly different and disparate views can cooperate on a common goal.

So it seems that I am now allied with some Amarillo folks over downtown development — specifically advocating a vote opposing the baseball stadium so-called multi-purpose event venue. But on other issues, these people hold personal and political views so opposite to mine that I am a little flabbergasted I am working with them. These people are far more conservative, perhaps even right-wing, more religiously fundamentalist and overt about it. Their ways with words are also different, reflecting more of their more salt-of-the-earth characteristics than my university-educated and 20-year journalism career approach to thinking and writing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The more we know, the worse it gets

The Joplin, Mo.-based Turner Report posted two items of note Monday, both giving us more insight
into the post-tornado debacle with Wallace Bajjali.

As I noted, the parallels between Joplin and Amarillo are uncanny. Even more to the point, however, are the behaviors of the Joplin city manager and some of its council members.

In a most important post, Turner calls attention to Amarillo's city attorney report, who used the then-Strasberger Law Firm (now Strasberger & Price) findings and other sources, to determine whether the city should use Wallace Bajjali. The Amarillo City Council ignored warnings from the Independent and the law firm to engage Wallace Bajjali. And, in reading Turner’s posting, Joplin officials were made aware of the Amarillo’s information and ignored the risks as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities: An Open Letter to the Amarillo City Council

An Open Letter to the Amarillo City Council:

I am sending this letter to you and posting it to The Amarillo Independent blog for a specific reason. I
had thought about coming before the council during its session in the Council Chambers to read this. But I chose not to for a few reasons. First, what I have to convey, even if read very quickly, will likely take longer than the three minutes. Second, after watching the former commission and now council, I am quite aware how Mayor Harpole treats those with whom he disagrees. I thus choose to not subject myself to the highly likely interruptions, verbal abuse and boorish behavior that characterizes the way he runs these meetings.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a week-long camping trip. I only followed the news alerts about Wallace Bajjali sporadically. Now I’ve caught up about Wallace Bajjali’s situation in Joplin, where the now-defunct firm was also a master developer. If anyone wishes to get caught up on that situation, all they need do is Google “Wallace Bajjali” and Joplin or go to The Turner Report. Turner provides a pathway to the media coverage and the damning Missouri State Auditor report. In fact, the findings in Joplin are so bad they have been turned over to a prosecutor for possible criminal action. If you and other leadership haven’t studied the information you best do so.

Friday, August 14, 2015

TIRZ action on Herring Hotel tip of iceberg

It’s been about 10 months since the FBI served the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. with a
grand jury subpoena, launching a probe into some of the activities associated with the so-called downtown revitalization project. Since then, we have heard nothing about the investigation into the deal involving Alan Rhodes, a shareholder in the Underwood Law Firm, and the AEDC. The deal at issue is a transaction involving the Commerce Building, West Texas A&M University and local property owners.

Secrecy is a common characteristic of this type of scrutiny. But in addition to learning about the probe, we have learned much about the tentacles gripping downtown development:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More theocratic and magical thinking driving propaganda and public policy

It had to happen sooner or later. The Amarillo Globe-News has jumped on the ill-informed bandwagon, accusing, by implication, Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue and calling for a Congressional investigation of the organization and the practice.

Here is the full paragraph in the Wednesday editorial that implies the profit while it also insults everyone following this right-wing witch-hunt:

Unless you suffer from a vision and/or hearing impairment (or honesty impairment) and cannot comprehend what is happening in the many related videos out there, it is obvious Planned Parenthood is selling parts of aborted babies. This is not necessarily against the law, but it is against federal law for Planned Parenthood to profit from such sales.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Did a Wallace Bajjali plan derail another approach to downtown revitalization?

My friend, John Kanelis, works part-time for KFDA-Newschannel 10. He has posted a story about
Santa Fe Railway's Madame Queen at
the city-owned mini-park downtown
Walter Wolfram, an Amarillo attorney who has tried for years to establish a railroad museum here. After all, Amarillo was a huge railroad town and remains an important part of BNSF’s Transcon route.

Wolfram has proposed to the city of Amarillo using the old Santa Fe Railway depot for such a nonprofit enterprise. You remember the Santa Fe depot that the city bought for $2.3 million from Bob Goree, the auctioneer, in September 2013. At the time, ABC7 News/KVII reported that now-former Commissioner “Lilia Escajeda said even though the city has no use for it right now, there are definite plans for the future.”

Spread the word

To those of you who like my blog, I am looking for ways to get more circulation. You can share those with your friends in any number of ways, including your own Facebook pages and your Twitter accounts. Please do so.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Double standards for Wallace Bajjali supporters

From what I can tell by seeing reactions to the Amarillo Globe-News stories posted to Facebook as well as other Facebook posts, the allies of the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan for a ballpark are in panic mode. These people are running scared because the voters dared to turn out in the past municipal election to vote against the entrenched “leaders” of the city. Those are the same leaders who gave us an insider’s plan for making money on a downtown development plan flawed from the start. And, if it succeeds, is sure to put money in the pockets of prominent lawyers, a former mayor’s husband and others who have insider and advance knowledge.

It’s my observation that all this social media activity is an attempt to mischaracterize this recent election and nullify the results by insulting the new councilors, Randy Burkett, Mark Nair and Elisha Demerson. I noted the most recent attacks in a previous blog post. The direct attack came in the story attacking Burkett and Nair on their interactions with the group of some 20 or so millennials who claim to represent the 43,000 millennials in Amarillo.

Here is how Laura Street tried to discount the results of the recent election, according to a Globe-News quote, “They feel they have the mandate of the public, but only 15 percent of registered voters voted.”

Enough said

Amarillo's media schizophrenia

The Republican debate and Donald Trump have dominated so much of the news over the past few days that Amarilloans may have been sidetracked from the escalation in the schizophrenic propaganda war about Amarillo’s downtown development. Or lack thereof ager eight years of wheel-spinning, word-spinning, elections and massive tax money spending.

A war of words is now unfolding on social media, especially Facebook, a shift away from the Amarillo Globe-News website since the AGN disabled comments a couple of weeks ago. In disabling public dialogue, the out-of-town-owned media outlet has also made more evident than ever that it’s not a news outlet any more. Of course, those of us who consider ourselves real journalists stopped calling the AGN a newspaper a long time ago.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What did we get for our eight years of work?

Tuesday evening’s Amarillo City Council meeting gave voters that which they’ve been begging for
these past eight or so years — hearing the voice of those with a vested interest in the overall health of the city instead of those vested in the health of their and their friends’ pocketbooks. On a 3-2 vote, Councilors Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair fulfilled their campaign promise to place the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc. plan for a ballpark on a November ballot.

Bill Gilliland’s and Laura Street’s last-minute attempt to keep the question of building a ballpark away from people who are now seeing through the charade this entire downtown development fell short — as short as the fund-raising they did for the Globe-News Center a decade ago. What is illustrative of how failed this downtown development effort came in the report by the Amarillo Globe-News, the Wallace Bajjali-DAI public relations arm. The paper’s website showed that these two local high rollers and their allies pushing the ballpark couldn’t tell us what we’re getting for the public and private money; but that isn’t different from what we’ve heard from all of the leadership on the ballpark.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wallace Bajjali-DAI ballpark plan goes to November vote

The people of Amarillo will now have their chance to directly express their opinion on whether the
downtown development should include the Wallace Bajjali-Downtown Amarillo Inc.-inspired ballpark. The non-binding referendum is scheduled for November will give the people of Amarillo what they’ve been asking of City Hall and the City Council for years — to be heard.

ABC 7 News/KVII made the meeting available over the Internet with a live stream, with far better quality than the city feed to Suddenlink.

The measure passed on a 3-2, with newly elected Councilors Mark Nair, Elisha Demerson and Randy Burkett prevailing after also defeating Councilor Brian Eades’ attempt to move the election to May 2016. The three new members lived up to their campaign promises to be more responsive to the voters while Eades and Mayor Paul Harpole continued to fight for the status quo.