The following are the unedited responses from Kip Billups, candidate for Amarillo mayor. Billups is facing incumbent Ginger Nelson and challenger Claudette Smith in the May 4th general election.
What is your educational background? Please list any degrees earned, and institutions attended. You may also list any professional certifications.
Attended Borger High School and WT
What is your occupation?
Minister; Former small business owner; Non-profit founder
What is your age?
How many years have you lived in Amarillo?
Would you support raising taxes to pay for basic infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
If those things are absolutely essential, then yes. Otherwise, we must stop the unnecessary tax increases and effective tax increases.
Do you support repairing or rebuilding the Thompson Park pool, and if so, how do you plan to pay for the project? If not, why?
Yes, I do support repairing the Thompson Park pool. The money has always been there, but has continued to be redistributed to other projects. We must stop moving money around to pay for the City Council's wish list, and instead take care of the things that need to be taken care of.
Do you support the current City Council's decision to change the regular meeting times to 1PM? If so, why? If not, what would be a better time to hold the meetings?
I am one of the main reasons they changed the time. Every citizen who spoke at City Council meetings is also a reason they changed the time. It was specifically targeted so the Mayor could attend football games, and also to limit the number of people who could attend. This also goes into the issue of the City Council choosing not to air public comment on television or online, which may be a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. In order to allow more citizens to attend the meetings, I would support a meeting time of between 5:30 and 6PM each Tuesday.
Do you believe current petitioning requirements are too strict for citizens looking to place an item on the ballot? If so, what would be a better threshold?
I am a co-founder of Responsible Amarillo, which pushed petitions for seven items to be placed on the ballot. One petition, to put a no-kill shelter on the ballot, was signed by nearly every person we met, and we still came up short, with thousands of signatures on our petition. So, yes, based on my experience, I find the current threshold to be too high for regular citizens to have an item placed on the ballot. I would support a threshold of 1 percent of the total registered voters of Amarillo, which would significantly eliminate several barriers for civic minded citizens.
Do you believe more City Council oversight is needed for municipal departments? Why or why not?
Yes. Because based on City Hall's recent record, we cannot trust it to manage itself in an accountable way.
What should the future be for the Civic Center complex?
The Civic Center complex needs to be renovated. This project should have happened well before the ballpark was even part of the conversation. Our plan must be defined and directed so that we make our facility a jewel of downtown without bankrupting our city.
Since 2017, major musical acts like Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Metallica, Thomas Rhett, and Chris Young have played concerts in Lubbock. Meanwhile, multiple artists have passed Amarillo to perform at venues in other cities. How can Amarillo attract major concerts, such as these, as well as conventions, and other major events? *
Amarillo needs to expand the Civic Center and look at the prospect of creating a large scale indoor arena. This arena would need to be part of the Civic Center renovation plan.
In 2017, the Amarillo City Council voted to increase fees for citizens seeking to obtain public information. Would you have supported this vote? If you were a member of the Council at the time of the vote, how did you vote on this item and why?
Absolutely not. Freedom of information and the right for the public to be informed is essential to a healthy, functioning democracy.
Would you support moving Amarillo's City Council election dates to November of even-numbered years? Please explain.
Yes, we need to secure election integrity and I can think of no better method than to hold our elections at the same time as the state and federal elections in Texas.
The Amarillo City Council made national headlines in 2018, when a citizen was arrested after clapping in a public meeting. What are your thoughts on this incident, and do you believe the ensuing events were an overreach of the City Council's authority?
I think I know about this situation pretty well!
For those who don't know, I was the citizen arrested. I clapped during the meeting, just moments after Ginger Nelson told people to clap for her presentation. I was not the only person clapping during public comment. In fact, I was not the only person clapping at that very moment. However, I was the only one arrested.
City Hall maintains that I was arrested for resisting or not obeying the officers, when in fact, the charge was disturbing a meeting. This is yet another example of why we cannot count on our local government to tell the truth and inform its citizens, even though they claim to have all the information.
When I'm elected, we will treat ALL citizens with respect and you will know this because I'm bringing cameras back to public comment.
How would you ensure all citizens have an equal chance to serve on a municipal board, regardless of their political connections?
Some boards would likely do well to be amended in the city charter to transition from an appointed position to an elected position. On boards that do not explicitly call for a council member to serve, we should appoint only citizens, and not members of the governing body.
Would you support establishing a "no-kill" animal shelter in Amarillo? Why or why not?
I protested on the steps of City Hall over the killing of a pregnant dog and her pups, and for the establishment of a no-kill shelter. Immediately after being elected, I will push for establishing a no-kill shelter.
Do you support the City of Amarillo's curbside cart program? Why or why not?
Absolutely not. I feel this program was a scam forced on taxpayers who explicitly said they did not support the program. The program would not have been such a problem if it were voluntary in small areas that do not have dumpsters. However, we are the windiest city in the United States, and a program to push the carts for a large number of neighborhoods was ill conceived and any idiot could see that.
What should the City of Amarillo's role be in preventing homelessness in Amarillo? How do you plan to implement that role?
We have excellent organizations in our community who do this work every day (I'm not listing everyone, because it would take too many pages!) These private organizations do incredible work and should be commended.
As far as the government's role, we need to abolish our ordinance criminalizing homelessness. We also need to work with these private organizations to ensure they receive the assistance needed to make their programs successful.
The City Council recently voted to purchase a warehouse on Johnson Street for storage of Civic Center items. The purchase attracted controversy due to an alleged conflict of interest in the deal. Do you believe this purchase was a wise investment by the City of Amarillo? Please explain.
Amarillo taxpayers were once again put on the hook to benefit political supporters to the tune of approximately $500,000. Typically, real estate is a good investment, but not when you are paying over twice the appraised value for the property. I would not have voted to purchase this property at the price offered.
Would you support reforming the Amarillo municipal court?
I would be interested in strengthening our community service programs and transitioning the municipal court judge position to an elected office. Show me a large city in Texas that has an appointed judge. At this time, this is a change that must happen.
In what cases would you support the issue of certificates of obligation to incur debt for municipal projects? Please explain.
I would support capping the amount of certificates able to be issued in order to save this debt source only for emergencies. Otherwise, I think voters should have a say on major debt projects.
Should any future municipally owned parking garages be constructed in the vicinity of City Hall and the Civic Center? Why or why not?
We're going to have to see what kind of effect the ballpark will have on parking. Unless there is an obvious need, I would not support constructing any future parking garages in the area, especially judging by the questionable track record of the municipal garage down there now (see the vacant retail space).
How would you ensure public meetings allow maximum public engagement? Please explain.
Take the total cap off the amount of time given to citizens for public comment, while retraining the three minute per person cap. Resume recording of public comments. Eliminate pre-registration for public comment.
And by the way, I'm going to get rid of the velvet ropes and send them back to the Cinemark, where they belong.
In your view, if a tax bill for a single piece of property increases from the previous year, while the tax rate remains the same, does this constitute a tax increase? Please explain.
In my view, "effective" tax increases are still tax increases, and it's a scam. This is an example of smoke and mirrors offered by recent city councils to raise taxes while claiming they didn't.
In 2017, the City Council discussed cutting budgets for three libraries in Amarillo, while leaving the budget intact for the Downtown Library and the Southwest Library. Would you support cutting the budget for the local library system to allocate those funds for other projects? Please explain.
Absolutely not. It would be wrong for us to rob communities like North Amarillo of their libraries.
In 2018, the Amarillo City Council voted to add more red light cameras to Amarillo streets. At a time when Governor Abbott is pledging to ban the use of the cameras in the state, do you believe this contract was a wise investment? Why or why not?
Once again, this is a method of bilking citizens out of their money. Red light cameras are unconstitutional, cause accidents, and should be removed immediately. If I ever go to Austin to lobby, you better believe I'm going to be talking to the Governor about these cameras, and not about raising your taxes.
Do you believe the City of Amarillo has neglected certain areas of Amarillo? Please explain.
I don't even know where to start. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is the majority of our tax money is being funneled to benefit the City Council's pet projects. We need to work for ALL neighborhoods, regardless of where you live, we need to make sure you have a voice at City Hall.
How would you propose attracting new business to Amarillo, if elected?
We need to create an environment where outside businesses are interested in moving their operations in Amarillo. We need to work with our educational institutions and the AEDC to continue to develop a skilled workforce, a fertile economic climate, and a community where skilled workers and businesses want to be located.
Would you support the establishment of single-member districts for Amarillo City Council elections? Please explain.
This is one of my top priorities. I absolutely support single-member districts, because our communities need to be represented by people who live in those communities. Other large cities in Texas have single-member districts, and it just makes sense for Amarillo.
In 2017, several current members of the Amarillo City Council promised to increase civility and "change the tone" at City Hall. Do you believe City Council meetings are more civil today than prior to this City Council's time in office? Please explain.
Personally, I have attended numerous meetings. By the removal of cameras and by invoking vague conduct rules that are forced citizens, we have an authoritarian climate that should never be found in the proceedings of a representative body. We must scale back these ridiculous rules created by our local government and allow citizens to be free at public meetings again. This is America, and City Council should start acting like it.
What letter grade would you give the Amarillo City Council for its job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
Is there a grade lower than F?
What letter grade would you give city manager Jared Miller for his job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
A+ for serving the City Council, F for serving the citizens.
Are you supported by Amarillo Matters or any other special interest groups? *
No. One of the proudest moments of my budding political career was finding out that Amarillo Matters had endorsed my opponent...again. I must be a good candidate then.
Why should voters choose you on election day?
Voters should pick me because I'm not a politician. I don't wear $5,000 suits, I don't eat at the country clubs, I don't drive a fancy car, and I'm not part of the good ol' boy system, nor do I want to be.
I want to give Amarillo back to Amarillo. I will work for you and not Amarillo Matters or any of its future incarnations.
When I'm mayor, we might not always see eye to eye, but we will always treat each other with respect, compassion, and dignity. We might disagree, but at the end of the day, we can do so in a way that doesn't see citizens shouted down or arrested in meetings.
I will be your mayor and only your mayor. I won't treat citizens like my children, but, instead as my employer. As mayor, I am your servant and will represent you in a way that puts your interests first every time.
Please vote Kip Billups for mayor on May 4th. I promise, I will make Amarillo proud.