Amarillo residents to decide on MPEV
By John Kanelis
Here's the question of the day: Do the voters of Amarillo want to endorse a downtown revival project that includes construction of a multipurpose event venue?
If it's "yes," then the project goes forward. If it's "no," well, then the future of the downtown renovation project becomes a bit more uncertain.
"Live Here" will examine the MPEV on its next segment that airs Thursday at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS.
Karen Welch, senior content producer at Panhandle PBS, is going to explore the proposal with key proponents and opponents on "MPEV Vote, Part 1."
The proposal will be the subject on Nov. 3 of a non-binding referendum that will ask Amarillo voters whether they they favor or oppose the project. Yes, it's non-binding, but only in the strictest sense, meaning that the Amarillo City Council is not bound legally to abide by the results of the vote.
The politics of it presents another matter. If voters approve the MPEV, the City Council that comprises a majority that opposes the project, will have to decide to ratify the voters' endorsement of it. If the vote goes against the MPEV, then it's clear that the council will endorse that decision. My own hunch is that the City Council vote will be split -- possibly 3-2 -- no matter what the voters decide at the ballot box.
At issue is the ballpark element of the MPEV. City leaders and their civic partners crafted a plan that includes a 4,500-seat ballpark that can hold as many a 10,000 spectators for outdoor concerts and other special events.
It will cost about $32 million to build across the street from City Hall. The city plans to issue revenue bonds and will pay off those bonds with revenue generated by the hotel occupancy tax. Proponents are adamant that the city residents' property taxes will not increase.
Welch will talk to Richard Brown, former president of the Local Government Corporation, as well as City Councilmen Brian Eades (an MPEV supporter) and Randy Burkett (an MPEV opponent).
The proponents say the MPEV is a vital component to the city's push to remake, reshape and revive downtown. Opponents counter that the city shouldn't take on more debt and that an MPEV takes the focus away from a needed renovation and expansion of the Civic Center.
The MPEV debate has been vigorous and at times furious. It has produced a significant split on the City Council, with three new members -- Burkett, Mark Nair and Elisha Demerson -- opposing the project as it's been presented. Eades and Mayor Paul Harpole are firmly in support of the project and the disagreements between the opposing sides has been a bit, um, testy since the new council took office shortly after the May election.
My own feelings on this project have been published and posted on my personal blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. I will not repeat them here.
Instead, I want to encourage Panhandle PBS viewers to tune in Thursday and listen to what the principals on this issue have to say on why they oppose or support the MPEV.
Hey, it's why we live here, right?
OK, let's get a conversation started here.
Is the MPEV a good or bad thing for downtown Amarillo? If it's a good thing, where's the benefit? If it's a bad thing, what do you want to see in its place?
I'm all ears.