Mayor Harpole is hamstrung by state law

I had the distinct pleasure today of watching Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole pull his punches so tightly he almost hit himself in the face.

He stood before the Rotary Club of Amarillo and talked about all the projects that are on-going throughout the city that have nothing to do with downtown redevelopment. But then he would remind Rotary Club members that, yes, there’s this thing called downtown revitalization that’s got him all fired up.

Indeed, he seemed wired tighter than a cheap watch today as he blazed through his luncheon program talking about highway improvements, Loop 335 expansion, utility installations, drainage excavation, improvements to interstate access.

But you see, state law is kind of quirky. As mayor, he is not allowed to advocate for issues that are set to be voted on in an election. He presented himself today as mayor, which meant only that he could give us information about downtown revitalization.

You could tell — heck, it’s been all over the media — that he’s solidly behind the effort to revive downtown Amarillo. The package that’s been presented will proceed with a downtown convention hotel and a parking garage. During his presentation today at the Rotary Club meeting, Harpole showed slides of what the downtown district will look like when it’s done. He believes a key component to the city’s effort remains the multipurpose event venue — in its proposed configuration, which includes a ballpark.

But that state law prohibited him from proclaiming loudly and proudly what he really thinks of the MPEV.

That’s OK, Mr. Mayor. I got the message.

Blue suits: uniform of the day

blue suits

My wife likely would be the first — and maybe the last — person to tell you I have no business being a fashion consultant.

She reminds me on occasion that I tend to dress like a stereotypical journalist — whatever that means. I’m often a bit rumpled and not quite “pulled together,” to use her description.

Still, am I the only Republican presidential “debate” viewer Thursday night who noticed that all 10 members of the GOP “A Team,” the guys at the top of the polls, were dressed essentially the same?

With the obvious exception of Ben Carson (third from left in the picture), all these guys even kinda/sorta looked the same. Most of them have dark-ish hair — although Sen. Rand Paul’s (second from right) style is sort of, um, one of a kind.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s ‘do stands alone.

It seems as though they all talked to the same media consultant who issued the memo: blue suit, plain shirt, red or blue tie; Old Glory lapel flag pins are optional.

But the sameness among all of them — yes, even The Donald — looks a bit creepy.

I’m betting the three Democratic male presidential candidates will consult with the same media guru prior to their debate.


Is ‘liar’ the worst political insult?

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18:  Carly Fiorina, former CEO of the Hewlett-Packard Company, speaks at the Heritage Foundation December 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Fiorina joined a panel discussion on the topic of "And Now for a Congressional Growth Agenda".  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Let’s take a break from the Donald Trump blather.

I want to discuss Carly Fiorina, who I thought killed it at the GOP “undercard” debate Thursday night. My hope is that the former business mogul makes it to the A Team roster at the next Republican debate.

But she said something that’s worth exploring. She has called Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton a “liar.” She said Clinton has lied about what she knew at the time of the Benghazi attack in September 2012; she has lied about the email matter.

I was reminded a bit by a scene from one of my favorite films, “The Cowboys,” starring John Wayne.

In the scene, Wayne’s character crosses paths with a gang of cattle rustlers led by Bruce Dern, who tried to persuade The Duke that he and his men are experienced at driving cattle, which is what Wayne did with a bunch of youngsters. He tells Wayne that he worked with this and that rancher. But Wayne knows better and confronts Dern, telling him that one of the men he claimed to work for had died years earlier.

Dern then tries to back away from his false claim, telling Wayne that he had just gotten out of jail and was trying to turn his life around. “I don’t care about that,” Wayne tells him, “but what I can’t stand is a liar.”

He tells Dern and his men to beat it.

Calling someone a liar is about as serious as it gets. It speaks to the character of the individual who receives the accusation.

It can be hurtful if the individual who gets pegged as such believes he or she has been truthful. It’s no fun being hit with that term and believe me, I know how it can raise the hackles of those who receive the label.

I cannot predict how Carly Fiorina’s intensely personal attack on Hillary Clinton is going to play out. That was only one of the things she said during the debate this past week. I thought on the whole she acquitted herself very well and likely has risen to the front rank of GOP candidates.

And as John Heilmann said this morning on ABC News’s “This Week” talk show, given the talk about Trump and his recent statements about Megyn Kelly and all the attention that has come to him regading his views on women in general, it would be wise indeed to ensure that Fiorina is included in the next found of first team debaters.

As for the “liar” accusation, someone will need to press Fiorina on specific evidence she has that Clinton lied about Benghazi or the email controversy. This shouldn’t be the kind of accusation that gets flung out there without proof.

Perhaps she’ll do better at answering that question than Trump did when he was asked Thursday night to provide credible evidence that Mexico’s government is “sending” criminals into the United States.

Is America full of “deviants”?

Donald Trump said of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that she had “blood coming out of her eyes … blood coming from her wherever.”

Most of us out here know what he meant by “wherever.”

But then Trump said he meant to say “nose,” and that those who make the obvious connection between “wherever” and the unspoken reference to female biology have “deviant” thoughts.

Let’s back up for just a moment.

Kelly was one of three moderators at the Fox News Channel-sponsored Republican presidential primary debate this past week. She asked Trump about his previous comments regarding women and wondered whether they suggest he holds chauvinistic views about women.

His response to the nature of Kelly’s question suggests — to me, at least — that he’s more than a chauvinist. He is totally unfit at any level possible to hold the job he says he wants.

Which likely brings me to another point about Trump’s presidential candidacy. It is that he isn’t at all interested in becoming president. He’s doing all of this to call attention to himself. He’s not going to be nominated by the GOP, let alone elected in November 2016.

So, what in the world is causing us to gobble up so much space in the blogosphere, TV air time, and column inches in newspapers and other publications?

Trump knows precisely what he’s doing. He has tapped into that celebrity-worship culture that attracts so many Americans to the thoughtlessness that spews forth from this guy.

Heaven help me. I think I need an intervention.

Amarillo City Council gets its own gadfly

When you mention the word “gadfly,” you ought to think of someone who annoys the daylights out of you.

I’m beginning to see a trend developing among the five members of the Amarillo City Council. It is that a gadfly has sprouted wings among them.

Randy Burkett got blood pumping apparently at a city budget meeting this week when he challenged a 3.5-percent budget increase for the Downtown Amarillo Inc., the non-profit organization with which the city contracts to promote our downtown district.

Burkett is one of the three new guys elected to the council in May. I guess he dislikes DAI Inc. He told fellow council members DAI should get a decrease in its budget or perhaps be eliminated.

That got Mayor Paul Harpole excited and the two men exchanged tense words, with Harpole accusing Burkett of “electioneering.”

OK, folks. Change has arrived at the City Council.

That ol’ trick knee of mine is throbbing once again and it’s telling me that we’re going to hear a good more from this new fellow as he seeks to get under the skin of his fellow council members.

I guess at this point I ought to mention the Facebook exchange he had with a member of a group called Amarillo Millennial Movement, a group of young residents who want the city to proceed with its downtown revitalization plans, which include the multipurpose event venue that the council voted 3-1 this week to refer to the voters for their decision on whether to build the MPEV.

I’ve lived in Amarillo for more than 20 years. I’ve spent most of that time commenting on policy decisions from City Hall, attending city government meetings, interacting with municipal officials. I’ve seen my share of contrarians holding elective office at City Hall. The late commissioners Dianne Bosch and Jim Simms come to mind.

But something is beginning to gnaw at me about the chemistry — or the lack thereof — that’s developing among the five men who set municipal policy. It’s palpably different than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

If this budget meeting exchange between Harpole and Burkett is an indicator of what’s to come over the course of the next two years, you are welcome to count me as someone who dislikes the change that has plopped itself down at City Hall.

And it’s fair to ask: Is this really and truly what Amarillo voters wanted when they elected this new majority, which includes an individual who seeks to become the City Council’s chief gadfly?

‘Wherever’ reference may seal the deal for Trump

Megyn Kelly is a grown woman who likely has received her share of criticism over the years doing what she does as a broadcast journalist. It goes with the territory.

But this latest reprehensible insult from the leading Republican Party presidential candidate surely must go way, way beyond what is an honest critique of her work.

Donald Trump, when asked on CNN what he thought of the Fox News moderator’s question during this week’s Fox-sponsored GOP presidential debate about some of the quotes attributed to Trump and whether they suggest he doesn’t respect women, said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

You no doubt know to what he seemed to be referring with that hideous statement. He said he meant to say “nose.”

Nose. Wherever.

Hmmm. Sure, Donald.

Can there be any more compelling evidence given — by the candidate himself — that he is unfit at almost any level imaginable to occupy the office he is seeking?

Say what you will about politicians. They get their share of criticism. Much of it — maybe most of it — is justified.

The pols who are really good at what they do, though, possess a skill set that Trump cannot grasp. It involves decorum, diplomatic skill, a command of language. Has anyone seen a scintilla of evidence of any of that as this man has risen to the top of GOP preference polls in advance of the party’s presidential primary season?

Erick Erickson, head of Red State America, a prominent conservative political organization, disinvited Trump from an event he has planned. Good for him. Erickson said he would not allow his daughter to be in the same room with Trump.

Trump reaction? He said he is “honored” to be disinvited.

I now am waiting to see whether Trump’s support finally begins to wither up and blow away in the hot — and foul — air he is spewing.

Young people rally behind MPEV

My path crossed those of two women today. Both are friends. One is a retired businesswoman, the other is an elected Potter County official.

I spoke to them separately, but the subject of our conversations was the same: the multipurpose event venue that’s been in the news lately.

The retired business owner seems to be quite against the MPEV. She calls it “a ballpark.” Yes, it is that. It’s also — as the name suggests — potentially much more. Indeed, its very name — “multipurpose event venue” — connotes a place where much more than baseball can be played.

The MPEV is going to a vote of the people this November. My retired businesswoman friend thinks it’ll go down in flames, that voters will reject it because they see no future for a ballpark in downtown Amarillo. The Amarillo City Council is under no legal obligation to follow the dictates of the voters, but it certainly faces a serious political obligation if it goes against the voters’ will. Thus, the referendum becomes a de facto binding event.

It’ll fail at the polls this November if those who support it do not start a major sales campaign to educate Amarillo residents about the possibilities that this event can bring to the downtown district.

Which brings me to the other friend with whom I spoke this afternoon.

She told me she supports the MPEV. She also thinks it’s likely to lose at the ballot box this November, but said the election results could be close.

But she offered a glimmer of hope. It rests with the involvement of the city’s young residents, specifically those who belong to a group called the Amarillo Millennial Movement.

AMM has formed specifically to be champions for the city’s comprehensive downtown revival effort. It puts its message out on social media — Facebook, Twitter and maybe other outlets.

My elected official friend is quite thrilled — as I am — that young residents are becoming engaged in this process. “They usually sit these things out,” she told me, adding that the involvement of this group — and perhaps other young people — might be decisive at the polls in November.

I hope she’s right.

They’ve spoken out to the Amarillo City Council, making the case that downtown Amarillo needs to be a place that attracts young people to it and keeps young residents from moving away.

Time will tell if they can organize their enthusiasm into a meaningful political force of nature.

My hope there as well is that they can.

Here’s what Gov. Kasich didn’t say

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28:  Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich deserves the credit he sought during the Republican presidential debate for helping bring about a balanced federal budget back in the 1990s.

He spoke about his work — as chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee — in helping erase the chronic deficits that plagued the budget for previous decades.

However, Kasich left out an important element in that good work. It was that he was able — along with House Speaker (and fellow Republican) Newt Gingrich — to work with a Democratic president, Bill Clinton in crafting a budget that balanced and, in fact, produced surpluses. (Full disclosure: One of my sons brought this tidbit to my attention. So, I’m running with it in this blog.)

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The former president is married to the Democrats’ current frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, someone against whom Kasich would face were he to win the GOP nod next summer.

Of course, any mention of bipartisanship — which is one of Kasich’s many strengths — doesn’t play well to a primary crowd starving for the red-meat rhetoric the candidates in both political parties are serving up to their respective bases.

Accordingly, Gov. Kasich wasn’t about to mention that those budget surpluses disappeared almost immediately after another Republican, George W. Bush, took office in 2001; we suffered the horrendous attack on 9/11, went to war with the terrorists — and then the government cut taxes at the same time.

I just thought it was important to add some context to what we heard on that debate stage in Cleveland.

Any outrage over moderator correcting Trump?

Let us try to balance two similar episodes involving debate moderators.

Then we can wonder: Are we treating them in a “fair and balanced” manner?

In the 2012 debate between Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, Romney asserted that Obama failed to refer to the attack in September of that year on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as a “terrorist” event.

Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN corrected Gov. Romney, telling him at that moment that the president did make such a declaration.

Political conservatives went ballistic, saying Crowley had no business interjecting herself into a political debate.

Then last night, Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly asked GOP candidate Donald Trump about statements he has made about women. She told Trump: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

Trump interrupted Kelly, responding, “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” to which Kelly said, “For the record, it was way beyond Rosie O’Donnell.”

OK, did Kelly interject herself into the debate in the manner that Crowley allegedly did in 2012? If so, where’s the outrage — from the right?

And, for the record, both Crowley and Kelly acted appropriately in both instances — in my oh-so-humble view — in setting the record straight.

Trump still in front … but only for now?

Of all the moments worth mentioning from Thursday night’s Republican Party Top 10 debate, one — in my mind — stands out dramatically.

It involves Fox News moderator Chris Wallace and, you guessed it, Donald Trump.

I give Wallace great credit for seeking a specific answer to a specific allegation that Trump has leveled at Mexico’s government, which is that the Mexican government is “sending” illegal immigrants across the border, into the United States, where they are raping and murdering Americans.

Twice last night he sought some specifics from Trump, who early in the morning after the debate remains — I’m betting — the GOP frontrunner.

When he failed to provide specifics to the first question, Wallace gave him another 30 seconds to specify what proof Trump had to back up his allegation.

Trump finally said he’d “been to the border last week” and talked to Border Patrol officers who told him “that’s what is going on down there, whether you like it or not.”

So. There you have it.

Border Patrol agents told him. That means it’s true, yes?

It was an entertaining and edifying exchange between a loudmouth entertainer seeking the presidency of the United States of America and a moderator seeking some detail in one of the more outrageous allegations that has come from a candidate’s mouth.

And yet, this guy somehow is getting away with this stuff?

I’m going to stand by my belief that Trump’s candidacy likely died when he made light of Sen. John McCain’s Vietnam War record. Events such as what we heard when Chris Wallace asked him twice to provide proof of a claim that Mexico’s government is “sending” illegal immigrants into the United States only highlights Trump’s unfitness for public office.

The big question remains: When will the GOP faithful realize it, too?