AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – A group of Amarillo citizens has come together, beginning the petition process to overturn the ordinance approved by the Amarillo City Council in May which approved the issuance of $260 million in tax notes to fund the expansion and renovation to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex.
What does the petition consist of?
According to a copy of the petition confirmed by some signees, filed Wednesday with the city of Amarillo’s secretary, the group of citizens is asking to conduct a petition under section 23 of article two of the Amarillo City Charter. The outright goal of the petition is to repeal Ordinance 7985, “revoking the authorization for the issuance of the (tax) notes,” and bring it back to the voters as an election.
According to previous reports, Ordinance No. 7985 adopted by a 4-1 vote by the Amarillo City Council on May 24 for the use of tax notes to fund the Amarillo Civic Center project. This comes after 61% of Amarillo residents voted against the initial Civic Center bond issue in the November 2020 election.
MyHighPlains.com has confirmed that community members, including Potter County GOP Chairman Dan Rogers, Randall County GOP Chairman Tim Revell and Amarillo City Councilmember Cole Stanley, have signed the petition.
According to the Amarillo City Charter, community members have 120 days to participate in this petition. In this case, the deadline for the petition’s deadline is Thursday, Dec. 1, 120 days after Aug. 3, the day in which the petition was delivered to the city secretary’s office.
During that time period, the charter states that organizers are required to collect signatures from “not less than five percent of the registered voters within the City of Amarillo.” Those signing the petition must sign their own name and provide their address along with other information required by state law.
After the signatures are collected, the city has 21 days to verify that the minimum required number of citizens signed the document. According to the city charter, the City Council then will consider the measure proposed by the petition, saying that the “hearing and consideration shall be open to the public and the public shall be permitted to present arguments for or against such proposed Ordinance or resolution.”
After that presentation and hearing from the public, the City Council has 30 days to take final action, in this case repealing or refunding to repeal the ordinance. If the council refuses to repeal the ordinance in that final action, the referring committee has the right to call an election on the matter.
What are community members saying about this petition?
In a video posted to his Inspire Amarillo Facebook page, Amarillo Businessman Alex Fairly expressed his support for the petition, coming as Fairly continues his litigation in Potter County District Court surrounding the same ordinance the petition is covering.
According to previous reports, Fairly filed a lawsuit in Potter County, questioning the legality of the use of the tax notes under Ordinance 7985. The city of Amarillo since responded with its own lawsuit, asking a Potter County Judge to verify the use of the tax notes in this case. Those two lawsuits have since been combined and legal teams for both Fairly and the city of Amarillo are awaiting an official trial on the matter in October.
While Fairly stressed that this petition process is not involved at all with the ongoing litigation in Potter County, Fairly did say that this gives Amarillo residents who support his cause the chance to be involved.
“I think the most surprising thing to me in this whole process has been, you know, the overwhelming volume of support,” Fairly said on Wednesday after the petition was officially filed. “So many times people have asked, how can we help? You know, how can we help? What can we do to support you? This petition drive is just the perfect way for Amarilloians to put their name down on a petition that may ultimately force this issue back to the voters.”
However, even with this petition, Fairly said the litigation in Potter County will continue.
“We are thrilled and inspired and will be absolutely supporting and behind it. We’ve been aware for a couple of weeks that (it was) in the works,” Fairly said in Thursday’s video. “The lawsuit will continue. We think it’s important principally, no matter what, but we think this petition drive, it’s simply another front to open up in this fight.”
As a representative of the interests of Republican voters in Potter County, Rogers said it was important for him to sign this petition, stressing that an “overwhelmingly” amount of the population voted against the initial measure to fund the renovations to the Civic Center Complex.
“(The Amarillo City Council is) trying to use an emergency mechanism to get a convention center built in spite of what the voters want, and that’s wrong,” Rogers said. “…I believe it’s incumbent upon me as a party official to become involved. When we see wrongdoing by our local elected officials, we need to hold them accountable.”
Revell, who was the individual who delivered the petition request to City Hall on Wednesday, said he supports this petition effort, along with Fairly’s effort, because while his taxes are not expected to go up, because he is over the age of 65, he worries about the taxes for other Amarillo residents.
“If in fact, the city cannot resell the bonds that they are that they are buying now, or planning on buying to foot the bill, the city will have to pay those bonds off in seven years,” Revell said. “…It will bankrupt the city…. It just seems like they’re spending money that they don’t have.”
In a statement provided to MyHighPlains.com, Stanley said that this petition continues to bring awareness to this ongoing conversation.
“I signed that petition as a citizen and as a taxpayer, because I feel that it’s important that the full voice of the citizen and taxpayer gets heard on this issue,” Stanley said.
Officials with the city of Amarillo’s city secretary’s office confirmed with MyHighPlains.com that the petition was submitted and that the office is working to verify the signatures on the list. MyHighPlains.com has requested the official documents from the city of Amarillo and the story will be updated once those documents are obtained.
Officials with the city of Amarillo’s communications team said that the city has no comment on this matter.
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
Download the KAMR Local 4 News app on the App Store or Google Play for updates on the go.
Sign up for MyHighPlains.com email updates to see top stories, every day.
Check with MyHighPlains.com to see the latest updates for local news, weather, and events.