Four of the five members of the Amarillo City Council were in attendance at a forum held by the Potter-Randall Democratic Club this week, making a pitch regarding why they should be elected.
On Monday night, Mayor Ginger Nelson and Councilmembers Elaine Hays, Eddy Sauer, and Howard Smith spoke to Democrats, asking for another term in office. Each incumbent was given several minutes to speak and then answered questions submitted by the audience during a period toward the end of the meeting. Councilwoman Freda Powell did appear right before the meeting’s closure, but did not speak.
During the question and answer period, the City Council was given several questions regarding controversial issues in Amarillo. The questions kicked off with a bang, asking the incumbents if they would support single-member districts for Amarillo’s City Council. On that issue, the City Council would not declare opposition to the plan, but spoke mostly negatively on a change, saying it would create “competition” between areas of Amarillo. Instead, Councilmembers made an appeal about the quality of representatives rather than their residency.
“I think it has to do more with the people who sit in the seats than the system,” Councilwoman Elaine Hays said.
Councilmembers were also asked about the confederate statue in Ellwood Park, which generated controversy last year. Councilman Howard Smith took the most hardline approach on the statue, saying removing the piece would be wrong for the community.
“The statue has been there for sixty years or more,” Smith said. “That’s history and we can’t destroy history.”
The City Council was also asked about a no-kill animal shelter, with most of the City Council saying they would not be in favor of such a change.
“It’s just not financially feasible at that level to operate a shelter with no euthanization,” Mayor Ginger Nelson said.
Councilwoman Hays echoed Nelson’s statement, saying she would not be in favor of the change to a no-kill animal shelter, citing budget concerns.
“It’s just not economically feasible for a no kill shelter to be a solution in our community,” Hays said.
In one of the more interesting moments of the meeting, Nelson also called for extending the term of the Amarillo City Council to four years each, and staggering the elections, saying voters should not have the opportunity to “flip the whole boat again.”
“It would be wise for us to move to four year terms,” Nelson said, adding that the four year terms would create “stability” when new members of the City Council are elected.
Along with the incumbents, challengers Kip Billups, Claudette Smith, Tom Warren, and Steven Rosas were in attendance. Amarillo ISD trustee John Betancourt, who is running for re-election to his seat, was also in attendance. The challengers were not offered a chance to speak on Monday night, with a future event coming up for those candidates.