Velvet ropes at City Hall need to go.
Over the last several years, the debate on velvet ropes in the Amarillo City Council Chambers has been raging. For those who have never been to a meeting of the City Council, a few blue velvet ropes sit on silver poles in front of the audience seating in the Chamber. The polls separate the public from the City Council, as the Council's dais sits about seven feet back from the ropes and the public comment podium. However, while the ropes have been in place for a long time, many citizens have despised them as a symbol of elitism in City Council meetings.
Councilmember Randy Burkett spoke out against the ropes shortly after being elected in 2015, while then-Mayor Paul Harpole and others backed the ropes remaining in the room. After the current City Council was elected, even though all five ran on a platform of respecting citizens and encouraging engagement, the ropes remain strong.
I have always been an opponent of the velvet ropes. I am not sure that there is a real purpose for the ropes being in place. However, I was surprised to find today that the ropes exist in other municipal departments in Amarillo. When citizens visit the building safety department at the Simms Municipal Building, you will find not only a locked door where those hoping to enter must request approval, but also blue velvet ropes separating the public from the employees.
Blaming the velvet ropes on this City Council would not be fair, as it is just poor governance that started many years ago. Regardless, this City Council, if it was truly committed to respecting the public, would have taken down the ropes as soon as they were elected.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief