By Brad Torch, former Amarillo City Council candidate
In light of the recent re-election of Mayor Ginger Nelson and the Amarillo City Council, I feel that it is appropriate to address transparency or the lack thereof, within our city administration. Over the past two years, many questionable transactions have taken place leaving serious questions for many of the residents of Amarillo. Many others are oblivious to the actions of the administration, cheering on poor decisions such as the baseball stadium, not knowing the “behind the scenes” transactions that brought it to them. The absence of transparency has brought us into the situation we are in today. Many Amarillo citizens don't realize, or refuse to believe that our Mayor took the time to travel to Austin on taxpayer money, to lobby against the tax-cap bill that would protect the very citizens she is elected to represent. These are not isolated instances and seem to occur time and time again.
Recently, the city council made a number of appointments to a few of the city boards. One of these board appointments was to the Animal Management & Welfare board. The Animal Management & Welfare board has extreme importance to our city, as the current state of our animal welfare is in dire need of reform. Since its inception, the AM&W board has lacked consistent board members, and the board, which was created as a means to solve our animal welfare issues, has little to show for it's mediocre efforts. To add insult to injury, the council, who had a plethora of options from a pool of known and experienced animal advocates in our community, voted to appoint an individual who, in my opinion, has had no real experience serving in the role for which he was selected. I'm afraid the AM&W board will continue to be ignominious until relevant board members are selected.
Why do these poor decisions continue to be made? There seems to be an extreme lack of transparency within our city government. If our city officials were transparent, they would not have selected the appointment process for which they did on the AAM&W board. Transparency would require them to provide the public with information on the other individuals who applied for the board, as well as their experience and qualifications. The general public would then hold them accountable for the abysmal policy decisions that continue to be made. Sadly, it is a cycle that continues, as the belief that our government is doing an outstanding job is falsely presented because the public never sees the whole story. Even more disappointing, is that the local media refuses to investigate and provide the whole story, and what we are left with is a powerful city administration, who is able to continue to hold the throne based on false pretenses.
What is the solution? How do we, the people, take our power back? These are not easy questions to answer, however the power does lie within the people. It is our responsibility as citizens to question every action our administration takes. To create the transparency that will unveil the truth. To force our Mayor and City Council to make the right decisions. We together have the power, but we must build an army of overseers who will hold our officials accountable. It is up to us to attend city council meetings, to seek out the answers they are not willing to provide, and to make sure our friends and neighbors understand the brevity of the situation we are in. I hope you will join me in my fight.