It is no secret that I oppose the City Council on many ideological issues. However, a forum held yesterday made me question the City Councilmembers, not only on their ideology, but on their value as public servants.
On Wednesday night, Animal Management & Welfare held a public forum for the community to express opinions and concerns on proposed ordinance changes to animal laws in Amarillo. While this was the main topic of the forum, it was no surprise when many attendees wanted to discuss a recent incident at the Amarillo animal shelter, which saw a pregnant dog and her puppies euthanized. The incident brought national news to Amarillo, with outlets like the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, People magazine and other newspapers and television stations nationwide picking up the story. Thus far, citizens really have not gotten a straight answer on what exactly transpired, with conflicting facts coming from department director Richard Havens, city manager Jared Miller and others.
Prior to the meeting, it was posted that a quorum of the City Council planned to attend. However, when the meeting started, only Councilman Eddy Sauer attended. The rest of the City Council was AWOL.
I don't exactly love the ideology of Dr. Sauer, as it seems that he is more in touch with the wants and wishes of special interest groups, rather than the everyday Amarilloan. However, he has to get credit for coming to this meeting. The fact that Dr. Sauer was actually there and appeared to be taking notes should earn him a few points with Amarillo residents. But, where was the rest of the City Council?
Like usual, the majority of the City Council was nowhere to be found. This is absolutely shameful. Many people have voiced concerns on what took place at Animal Management & Welfare, and while I am not weighing in one way or the other, this is something that Councilmembers need to note. The vast majority of comments at the City Council's meeting on Tuesday were about what took place at Animal Management & Welfare, and it seems that the City Council still did not care enough to even show up to hear the concerns of others who weren't part of the thirty minute public comment period on Tuesday.
Back when Mayor Ginger Nelson was running for her first term, I seem to remember hearing her speaking about community engagement. In fact, since Mayor Nelson's campaign website has not been updated since the election, we can still get a glimpse into her platform. One point sticks out like a sore thumb considering the forum:
"As leaders of the city, city council members have a duty to listen to citizens about issues, concerns and solutions for the city," Nelson's campaign said. "No one person has all the good ideas, and I believe we need to hear every citizen’s ideas."
Apparently, Mayor Nelson wants to hear your thoughts, unless it's a topic that she just isn't interested in. I guess Animal Management issues aren't sexy enough to draw the Mayor's interest. Perhaps we should tie baseball to Animal Management in some way and maybe then she would be interested.
Under this City Council, Amarillo has made national news several times and it has never been for anything extremely positive dealing with the City. So far in 2018, the City sued someone to shut down a tent city, someone was arrested for clapping in a City Council meeting, the Mayor had a feud with a State Representative from Arlington and now the City euthanized a pregnant dog and nobody wants to take responsibility. I can't wait to see what else 2018 has in store!
The simple fact is, the lack of communication with this City Council has been just completely baffling. Whenever the City makes national news for some terrible thing, nobody wants to take responsibility and all of the City leadership plays the blame game. Then, if the Council expects a serious backlash from the community on something, they have seemed to use three strategies: either cancel public comment for the week, move the meeting time up or just skip the meeting. Mayor Nelson opted for the latter during this week's meeting.
Most all of the incumbents on the current City Council promised to increase engagement and hold monthly town hall meetings. So far, neither of these things have happened. But, rest assured, if town halls are held, they will be right before election season.
So, what does all of this mean? We can't force the City Council to make good on campaign promises. But, we can hold them accountable in a different way. To paraphrase a recent statement by Claudette Smith to the City Council, if the City Council won't take care of business now, then they will be facing me or another "frequent flyer" come election time.
It's time for this City Council to actually take care of business. The time for talk is over. This City Council needs to step up and actually deliver on some campaign promises. If they won't, I bet I can find five good people to take their spots come election time.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief