City Parks for Sale

I’ve had more than a tiny group of people contact me with a simple question about the city parks in Amarillo. So far, as some of you know, I’ve been quiet on these kinds of things, preferring to do Other Things that are interesting and fulfilling and, generally, much more compassionate than local politics.

All of us have a breaking point, and this one is it for me. There’s been quite a bit of talk, speculation, inane chatter, and straight-up deceit smothering my dear and sunny community, and since I’m not running for any office, or buying any property, and burying any bodies, I thought, instead, I’d like to understand a few of these claims and talk about facts, while, simultaneously, using run-on sentences to make my point.

Is the city of Amarillo selling its parks to companies?

No. This is silly and nonsensical.

On September 1, 2020, the head of the Amarillo Parks Department pitched an idea to the city council. (You can watch it here - I wish the city would index the videos of these meetings.) Overall, the idea was to lease some unused space at John Stiff Park to bring in some revenue to support all the city parks around town.

So far so good. I get it. Having areas for food trucks or other amenities people have been asking for isn’t bad at all.

But would the city lease to, say, some giant chemical plant in the middle of the park? Nope. These leases are for projects that would enhance the park, not destroy it.

And with it the city could (FINALLY) build a safe pedestrian path across 45th street so people could get to the park and library without driving. That’s something I had tried to get built for years.

Since the city’s budget is so tight (I’ll talk about taxes and where the money goes in a different post later), this pitch was actually just about applying for a grant that would pay for the infrastructure costs (you know, sewer, water, power) to make this whole idea attractive to interested people.

SO: on September 1, 2020, the request was to ask for a resolution to file for a grant.

That’s it.

No selling land. No spending tax money. No commitment to anyone.

Here’s the rub: the city didn’t get the grant after all. All this is moot. That means there’s no money for the infrastructure. That means there’s no leasing the land. That means there’s no extra revenue to fix up, say, Bones Hooks park in North Heights.

There’s a certain vacuousness about the argument about the city selling our property to “companies who are importing employees from blue states with failed policies.” (I believe I have that quote right - I don’t wade into the mire of Facebook.) I don’t know what ‘importing employees’ means or what ‘blue states with failed policies’ means either, although I did see Blue Man Group off-Broadway in 2005 and it was amazing.

What I do know is more people are asking me about the truth of this, and all I can do is go through the published record, look at the votes, and understand the resolutions or ordinances the city council evaluates and passes. So the truth is what I’ll go for. Every time.

The mayor did state:

“”— Mayor Ginger Nelson

This is accurate, and I find nothing wrong at all about trying to generate more revenue to make our parks better, as long as the leasing plan is consistent with building a terrific park system. Quality of life drives economic growth, and people who argue that are boneheads.

It’s egregious we cannot have engaging and reasonable policy debates and, instead, resort to lies. Hey, I know it. They all came at me too when I was on the city council.

I just don’t want to be quiet anymore.