By Trent Rosser
County star Aaron Tippin said it best when he sang a song called “ You Got to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything.” A lot of that has been happening lately at the Amarillo City Council meetings. For the last few months, the meetings and the aftermath on social media has had more drama than all the daytime soaps combined. There has been yelling, screaming, tears, frustration and even an arrest. It has all started with an ordinance prohibiting camping for more than 72 hours on private property.
A few years ago, the City of Amarillo passed an ordinance prohibiting sleeping on public property. A “tent city” was erected and many homeless were staying there. The city found an ordinance that dated back to the 1980's about the 72 hour camping. They camp disbanded and the homeless were scattered amount the streets again. Kip Billups protested this by erecting a tent on the steps of City Hall. He was arrested, made bail and right back to camp on City Hall grounds. Eventually he did stop camping on the City Hall, but he made sure that he, and others, were at the City meetings and spoke against criminalizing the homeless. Week after week he and others spoke out against the ordinance. They were told that they must enforce the ordinance. At the same time, another couple of people, Claudette Smith and Michael Fisher were having issues with a sign on a business next to their home. They received a letter from the now resigned city attorney stating that it is an ordinance that they choose not to enforce. To me, that sounds like a double standard. Mr. Fisher and Mrs. Smith are now in a lawsuit against the City Council for violations of the open meetings.
Recently at one of the City Council meeting, the Mayor told everyone to clap after recognizing an awareness group. Then when the public meeting started people clapped after the first speaker. The Mayor chastised everyone and said no clapping. The third speaker stood up and talked about taking all the city council to court for violating the 1st amendment. We all know how this ended: Kip Billups was arrested. I, personally do not agree with the Mayor, nor do I agree with Mr. Billups. Mayor Nelson asked him to stand, he should have stood up, let her say her peace and move on. Then again, if she was going to kick him out of the meeting, she should have kicked everyone that clapped out of the meeting. Mayor Nelson claims that clapping in a meeting is intimidating for some one that speaks and not many people agree to that speaker, so someone might not want to speak. I understand that, but what a lot of people don’t understand is that you need to feel uncomfortable in life. When you believe in something and fight for it, the taste of success is so much sweeter. Believe it or not, I am grateful for bad days and bad times. If it wasn't for the bad days, how could we possibly appreciate the good days. If City Hall wants every single person to feel comfortable, then how about passing out participation trophies after the meeting?
Now, after the meetings I see on social media all the backlash towards the City Council and the homeless advocates. The thing that bothers me the most is that the homeless advocates are fighting among themselves. I even witnessed it myself when Mr. Billups was being arrested during the city hall meeting. It’s disgusting. You are to help the homeless, not to try to prove who is better. Here is an idea, try working together, put you ego's aside and maybe you could help more people instead of trying to show off.
Now I will give credit, where credit is due, the City of Amarillo has helped some homeless groups. But, unfortunately, it has shunned others. I have a solution. Form a committee that will be a middle man between the City and homeless advocates. If the City needs something from the homeless advocates they must go to the committee, and same thing with the homeless advocates. If they need something from city hall, they too must go to the committee. Here is the kicker, for it to be an unbiased committee, no one associated with the city could be on the committee. If your brother-in-law works for the street department, you cannot be on the committee. Same thing with the homeless groups, if a family member works with any homeless advocate, you too will be ineligible to be on the committee. This knocks me out due to me being homeless many years ago. This way it would be fair to all and the homeless would benefit more. Don’t know if it will work or not, but it is an idea.
I also became aware that a couple of City Council members want to drop the speaking time from 3 minutes to 2 minutes. This would be a big no no! I believe that 3 minutes is the perfect time. No more, no less. Most of the time the speaker gets to say his or her peace within the 3 minutes. If they run short, they say 'thank you' and sit down. The full 3 minutes are not used. If they run over, the Mayor cuts them off, and explains that their time is up. As of right now the public has 30 minutes total to speak. That’s 10 people a meeting. There used to be no time limit. If 30 people wanted to speak, they all had a chance. Instead of giving the public less time to speak, they should give the public more time. Keep the 3 minute time limit per person, but give everyone a chance to speak. Let’s do some math. Mayor Nelson keeps saying that there are over 190,000 people in Amarillo. So, as of now, 10 people speak during each meeting, that’s 40 people a month, which in turn is 480 people a year. So, out of 190,000 people, only 0.25% are allowed to speak per year. This is not listening to the citizens.
The City Council needs to make some changes pretty quick. Citizens are getting upset with the drama at city hall. Amarillo has not been in a good light in many years. Amarillo was criticized for being the home of a lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey, then we were criticized about the trial and death of Brian Deneke. Now we are being criticized for clapping at City Hall meetings. We need to realize that standing up for something is what freedom is about. This is what Americans do. We might not like what they are standing for, but we must respect the opinion of everyone. Remember what Aaron Tippin said, “Got to stand for something or we will fall for anything, we got to be our own man, not a puppet on a string.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m no puppet.
Time to stop criticizing people for standing for what they believe in. It's time to stand together and show the world how it should be done. How a city divided comes together. Show the world that there is give and take in all things. I actually heard it on Facebook and will use it here as well. It’s time to “Make Amarillo great again."
Now that I said my opinion, where do I pick up my participation trophy?