Amarillo, TX - A comprehensive overview of Amarillo's downtown revitalization projects took place Wednesday to educate the three newly elected city council members about nearly three decades worth of work.
"This is not about one person. It is not about one entity. It is truly an effort that has come together over the past 30 years," said John Lutz, the chair of Downtown Amarillo Inc and member of the Local Government Corporation. "It is important to take the time to stop and recognize all those efforts and recognize why decisions were made five or six years ago that have an impact on what we're trying to do today. It is important that we stop and make sure everyone understands this process because it has taken a while and because there have been a number of different moving parts to it."
The special meeting was scheduled prior to Tuesday's unexpected request for Amarillo City Manager Jarrett Atkinson to resign. Place 4 council member Mark Nair made the request within hours of being sworn in at the city council meeting that same day.
Mayor Paul Harpole said he was "shocked" by Nair's request and said Atkinson has played a crucial role in the downtown development process. "Over this period of time he has been integral in all the agreements, talking to the Local Government Corporation, attending the meetings and disseminating the information between the different groups."
Harpole said the City of Amarillo would lose a wealth of information about downtown development if Atkinson were to resign. "I think he has a very specific knowledge about hundreds of things that have gone on," said Harpole. "It's very important that we carry that knowledge forward somehow and if that is all missed, I think that will leave a void that will be very difficult to fill with no information."
Lutz agrees Atkinson has been an integral part of the equation, but said the projects will move forward with or without him. "Jarrett has been an important part of this process, but this project is bigger than he and I," said Lutz. "We've been planning this as you've heard since 2008. There have been changes to city staff. There's been changes to the council. There has been a number of changes. This plan is not about the people that are doing it, it is about the project as a whole."
Harpole is more weary of what revitalization may look like without Atkinson at the helm. "We are at a critical point. Both sides have said it," said Harpole. "Those dominoes are ready to fall one way or another and he (Atkinson) is right in the middle of those dominoes in my view. There's some that think it should move in a different direction. I just want to know what that direction is. What is the plan to move forward if we're on the wrong path right now?"
Lutz is more optimistic and said his focus now is making sure the new city council understands the history and planned future for downtown Amarillo. "I hope that with this meeting today, we end up giving them a lot of the information they are looking for. They are probably going to walk away with a couple more questions that we are going to have to delve into. But again, I think the project is sound, I think the benefits are immeasurable and I hope in a couple weeks to be standing in front of you talking about the next steps forward."