Like usual, the Amarillo City Council displayed a disappointing show of complete and total disrespect for taxpayers and citizens last night.
On Thursday, a meeting was held at the United Citizens Forum on North Hayden Street. The topic of the meeting was the closure of the Thompson Park pool. City staff announced the closing last week, citing structural issues. A large group of citizens came out to ask questions and listen to a brief presentation by a senior member of the City staff.
Also, in attendance, were City Councilwoman Freda Powell, Councilman Eddy Sauer, and Councilman Howard Smith. Mayor Ginger Nelson, keeping to her usual ways, was absent, as was Councilwoman Elaine Hays. I would note, however, that as the conversation turned to the audience, Sauer quickly and quietly departed. So, I’m not sure how much credit he should receive for attending.
Once the conversation turned to the audience, it seems we learned a lot about how the City Council feels about Amarillo. Howard Smith and Freda Powell, both refused to answer questions from the audience, both claiming they were bound by the Texas Open Meetings Act from doing so. As someone who has completed Texas Open Meetings Act training, it is my opinion that Smith and Powell misled the people at this meeting last night. As there was a posted agenda allowing Councilmembers to talk about issues incidental to questions or comments, they had the chance to speak to citizens. This is no different than incumbents speaking at candidate forums or at the State of the City address earlier this year, which all five members of the City Council were happy to attend.
My biggest takeaway from the event was how indifferent the City Council and city manager Jared Miller seemed to the concerns of the public. Several concerned and informed citizens asked questions and demanded answers. For the majority of the evening, the City Council let a staff member take the beating for their irresponsible actions. City manager Jared Miller finally stepped up to the plate to answer questions at some point in the evening, but even then, he mainly used the art of doublespeak, which led many citizens to be confused as to what exactly the City’s purpose was for participating in the meeting.
Several times during the evening, I heard the topic of voting brought up. I think this is the most important thing to remember when assessing this City Council’s actions. When our elected officials ignore or misunderstand the law, based on whatever is convenient, while others refuse to even show up to face their constituents there is a real problem. Even Amarillo ISD trustee John Betancourt made the meeting, and he’s not even part of the City Council. That makes me wonder, what were Ginger Nelson and Elaine Hays’ excuses?
Voters need to show up in May and make a difference. Based on the contempt shown by the City Council toward the citizens of Amarillo, it’s time to make changes at City Hall. Whether you want to run for office, be part of a campaign, or just vote in May, please get involved and make your voice count. Amarillo needs you, now more than ever.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief