This week has seen quite a bit of controversy, but very few words of wisdom. However, one speaker was able to provide this rarity during Tuesday's meeting of the Amarillo City Council.
On Tuesday, it was announced that the Tri-State Fair Parade would be cancelled this year after the City of Amarillo pulled financial support that paid for security during the parade. The City of Amarillo ended up deflecting the blame and claiming that it would pull financial support for all parades, in order not to discriminate. However, the City of Amarillo said that it still planned to support a handful of parades.
While city manager Jared Miller managed to put his foot in his mouth and no member of the City Council was willing to take responsibility for their actions, one person in the City Council Chambers finally said what everyone was thinking. And it came during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Noah Dawson, an Amarillo student who has recently been speaking at City Council meetings, hit the City Council on budget issues and managed to demand accountability in a way that truly does deserve a response from the City.
"It just seems so disingenuous that all of a sudden, this is the issue that y'all care about the budget," Dawson said. "When y'all are spending millions of dollars on this and that, with no concern, but all of a sudden, $7,000 can't be found in the budget."
Noah Dawson deserves major praise for this point. And the people of Amarillo deserve an explanation.
I understand that Fiesta Foods stepped in to save the parade, and they justly should get major kudos for this. I am proud to see a local business stepping up to take care of business and it is a testament to the ability of the private sector to solve problems that government cannot. Mike Fisher also offered money to save the parade, and he should additionally be commended. But, even with these great community partners stepping up to the plate, why did the City choose this moment to talk about fiscal responsibility?
Take a look back at the past few years and you will see that the City of Amarillo has not ever been concerned with fiscal responsibility. Once again, this isn't something that has just started under this City Council, but this Council's actions have been magnified by the Tri-State Fair Parade debacle.
During the last budget session, the City Council attempted to cut as much as possible. Important services like the Amarillo Police Department received budget cuts, while the city manager's office actually received a budget increase. Plus, more tax revenue is being brought in to the City because of increasing property evaluations. That means that at this point in time, there is more money rolling in to the City than during the previous fiscal year. However, the City claims that it cannot find between $7,000 and $15,000 to support the parade? Explain that.
Now, earlier this week, I mentioned that the City of Amarillo has a revenue fund marked "Special Revenues" that has been called a "petty cash fund" for the City of Amarillo. That fund holds about $22.8 million, according to the budget. And, keep in mind, this is about a $700,000 increase for this fund over the previous fiscal year. Couldn't the City use money from this fund to help subsidize services that have been ongoing for almost 100 years, like the Tri-State Fair Parade? I guess not.
When the City Council is willing to give the city manager's office a big budget increase, but they aren't willing to find a few thousand dollars to pay for security for the parade (which is provided by the tax-funded Amarillo Police Department, whose budget was also cut), there is a big problem.
Amarillo deserves better fiscal stewardship.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief