Councilman Howard Smith is looking for another term on the City Council. It may be a surprise to some to see Smith making his second bid for the body after winning his first term in 2017, but there is a lot to be learned from Smith’s campaign kickoff and a chance to speculate on what this means for the rest of the City Council.
Now, Howard Smith has managed to remain pretty uncontroversial during his first term. Aside from the fact that he has been, in the words of activist Kip Billups, a “yes boy” for all of the City Council’s initiatives, Smith has managed to avoid most of the criticisms leveled at other Councilmembers. Sure, Smith has made missteps, such as saying homeless people would be fine with more exposure to the cold because they are “used to” it. But, compare Smith’s gaffes with Mayor Ginger Nelson’s and you will see a big gap.
So, Smith likely won’t be running as the target of all the City Council’s controversy. But, this is not to say he played no part in some of the Council’s worst actions of the past two years. Smith said nothing to stop Nelson when Billups was arrested during a Council meeting, even though he didn’t sound totally on board with her actions a week later. Smith has sat on the dais week after week as City officials have misled citizens on issues related to Animal Management & Welfare. There are many other things that could be listed, but we don’t want to be here all day.
Smith is one of the oldest Councilmembers on the dais, and might actually be older than any of the previous Council’s members. Still, he’s running for re-election. This should tell everyone watching that it is highly likely all five incumbents will run for re-election.
But, still, looking forward to 2019, what does this tell us? Maybe not a whole lot, but at the same time, it could tell us everything.
As a candidate and Councilman, Smith has shown himself to be owned by Amarillo Matters and realtors groups. His race was one of the most expensive on the ballot, even though his opponent raised nothing. Smith has spent two years as a lame duck Councilman, failing to promote any items of significance, and has not had any crowning achievements.
Now, this may sound like I am just picking on Smith, but if you think about it, everything I just said about Smith could in some way be applied to at least one of the other Councilmembers. None of the Councilmembers have been influential in passing anything positive for the citizens, all five were benefactors of insane amounts of money, while their opponents, for the most part, spent very little, and each are owned by Amarillo Matters.
So, with what little Smith has to show for his two years of being on the City Council, he still is running for a second term. Why should we expect any of the other incumbents to be any different?
I like Howard personally, but I don’t like his record. He won’t be getting my vote, but I think it’s important to look beyond his race, as well. We, as voters, need to watch every Council race to understand the importance of the votes we will cast.
As of today, not one of the five incumbent members of the City Council can point to any achievement which impacted the lives of the citizens in a positive way. This year, voters need to hold the City Council incumbents accountable when they are seeking re-election and force them to answer questions on their records. My guess is there won’t be any good answers to explain the state of the city nearly two years after they were elected.
Amarillo deserves better. Let’s make sure we get better and go vote on election day.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief