Mayor Ginger Nelson and the Amarillo City Council made a horrible choice by voting to raise fees at the Warford Activity Center on Tuesday. The decision is bad for all of Amarillo, but seems to be yet another blow to North Amarillo taxpayers specifically.
Late last year, the City of Amarillo shut down the Thompson Park pool with little notice. Councilmembers chose not to answer questions at public meetings about the pool and misleadingly hid behind the Texas Open Meetings Act. When pressed about the pool during election time, the incumbents had little to say and even fewer promises to make. One survey has been launched, but here we are again in Summer 2019 with no operational pool in the area of Thompson Park.
Then, just yesterday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a fee increase for after-school programs at the Warford Center. The two-part fee increase is a terrible one, as it was mentioned that many of the program’s patrons attend from a school nearby the community center. Now the parents of children attending this program will be forced to pay higher rates because the City Council believes it can see “writing on the wall” about cost recovery, to use Nelson’s words.
I use these particular events as an example of this City Council’s lack of commitment to North Amarillo. The vote on the Warford Center fees was just a cherry on top of the already terrible lack of commitment by the City Council to areas of Amarillo other than downtown. Remember, it was also about two years ago when this very same City Council proposed slashing funding for libraries in North Amarillo and East Amarillo on weekends. Luckily, that proposal was eventually withdrawn, but it is worth noting that Council considered that idea, while the idea of doing the same hourly cuts to libraries in Southwest and downtown Amarillo was never floated to the public.
If this City Council leaves behind one legacy, it will likely be one of being just another City Council who ignored North Amarillo. Taxpayers in all neighborhoods deserve to receive the tax-funded services for which they pay. I know “cost recovery” is certainly necessary, but there doesn’t ever seem to be this big of a concern for breaking even when discussing handing out tax incentive deals.
Let’s hope that eventually the City Council sees the error in its actions and begins to prioritize all neighborhoods…although, I certainly won’t be holding my breath.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief