Every election season, at least one candidate promises positive change if they’re elected. It’s a promise that helped not one, not two but three first time council members claim their new positions.
The question now is if they held up their ends of the bargain. That all depends on who is answering the question.
“Well, I think we’ve done quite a bit,” Place Four Councilman Mark Nair said.
Place One Councilman Elisha Demerson agreed and said the change provided is for the better.
But if you ask Mayor Paul Harpole, he will tell you he hasn’t seen the promised change heard of during when the council members were campaigning in 2015.
These are clearly different answers, but for different reasons.
Councilman Nair said the change he’s seen comes in the form of more transparency.
“Everything is wide open,” Nair said. “I would rather mess up in the public — and everyone can understand it — than mess up in the back room and no one sees us doing it because we can’t learn how to be better if we do it that way.”
For him, it included creating a neighborhood plan for North Amarillo — a community he said has been ignored for half a century. It also consisted of changing the city budget and creating an open government, or Nair’s shorthand term for new technology.
“If you have a pothole and you need to get it fixed, take a picture with the app on your phone and send it in,” Nair said. It’s geotagged, we know where to go, and then you can see where you are in the status. It’s always there, always open.”
Councilman Demerson’s election was a historic moment for Amarillo. The first African-American to serve on the City Council told us he used his position to better neighborhoods he describes as deteriorating.
“As a result, there is a template now that is a part of Amarillo’s strategic plan,” Demerson said. “It will be able to be used throughout as we march through the various neighborhoods to ensure the long-term viability of these neighborhoods.”
As for Mayor Harpole, the only incumbent who served more than one term — first as a council member, then as vice chairman of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Board and three terms as mayor — it is a bit of a different story.
“I’ve served for about 12 years total and I would say that this last two years has been the least productive,” Harpole said.
He said the current City Council didn’t work well together.
“I don’t think we have as much a unified vision,” Harpole said. “Some of the people serving campaigned to stop what was happening downtown.”
If you ask the newest member, Place Two Councilwoman Lisa Blake — who replaced Dr. Brian Eades — there may be a problem, but it’s nothing the Council can’t work through.
“We don’t always agree, but we have agreed professionally,” Councilwoman Blake said. It has gone really, really well. I’ve enjoyed it.”
But not all of them will enjoy another term.
Calls and e-mails to Councilman Randy Burkett were not returned.
Of the incumbents, only Demerson and Nair are seeking re-election.