James Schenck

James Schenck

James Schenck

Running for: Amarillo City Council Place 2

How he voted in the November 2016 city bond election: No to all propositions

What are your major campaign points and how do you plan to make them happen?

The major points are to control debt and taxes and look at the budget. I want to look at zero based budgeting for our city. Right now I believe we're doing baseline budgeting, which is not a good effort for city government. So debt and taxes will be a hot button for me. I also want to strengthen our police and fire departments. We have gone a long way to do that with the recent proposition that would allow them to beef up and get more tools that they need to keep our families safe. I"m interested in what else is going on downtown. I'm resistant to the MPEV and the ballpark just simply that it's not happening right now and there's other things that need to go on. Citizens talk to me about the ultimate arena. I have ideas about doing some of the ultimate arena that would keep it off the backs of taxpayers, just simply by using other revenue sources and building it right there where the Coke property is. I know that's sort of a grand idea but I'm surprised nobody else is thinking about it because we had been gathering as much as $32 million to $40 million in [hotel occupancy] taxes. People voted pretty close on the $83 million just buff up of the Civic Center. Use a little bit of that if they needed to, that would go back to the citizens. The other part would be getting the AEDC to participate with some of the revenue that they have as a type "B" voted on part of their corporation. They could allow us to use $3-4 million of that, that would add another potential $80 million of revenue to help build this. I hate to give out all my game plans, but that's something I've thought about for a while watching what's going on.

Do you think the city should continue to issue bonds to fund future projects, or just use money allocated in the annual budget?

First off I think you need to go line by line in any kind of a budget to see where waste, where problems are where money is allocated. Until you do that, you don't really understand how much is in the icebox, you know, how much are we doing? I start at a "no tax" attitude, no tax meaning no more property tax on property owners. We have revenue sources that we're using with the [hotel occupancy] tax and the sales tax, which really funds our city. There's ways of looking at any government run organizations and finding and discovering pockets of money that may need to be allocated other ways. I know we have a good staff down there that they're trying to do that. But as you roll, most people understand government has a wasteful tendency just because of the bureaucratic snafus that go on to where all of a sudden you didn't realize exactly how much that was costing us. I'm more toward getting down to looking at the very last penny about where taxpayer money goes. Because after all that's the citizens and we're at the top of the food chain here. We're the top of the organization of the city.

Do you think the city should have a role in economic development, or should that task fall solely on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation?

The city should have a role in that to some degree but not by picking winners and losers. You should just encourage it by positive jobs, economic impact by keeping taxes and debt low. That would encourage people to come to the city because they would see us as a prosperous place to be. Now as far as the AEDC, I think we need to take a serious look at that group and see what is going on. They are a type "A" corp and I'm recommending that we consider them being a type "B," which would open up more of that revenue to be allowed to use for different infrastructure needs, Civic Center needs, even building ballparks and things like that with the money. Right now as I've found out, [the AEDC] is about $68 million in debt and they have about a $9 million debt service out of the $18 million that they bring in. To me, that is a certain amount of a problem. And then with the last little situation going on where they're not really keeping track of their travel. I've talked to those folks about that and they said they're working on that. And that's a good thing, that's important, because that's a multi-million dollar corporation that's using taxpayer money.

What letter grade would you give to the current city council and why?

I don't really worry about that so much. My concern is I've watched the city council for quite a few decades really from the outside and as a businessman here in town I never felt like there was quite access to me because I didn't have the money to run for city council. Nowadays it's not really taking that much money for some people. For some people it takes a whole lot of money, and it's puzzling to me but that's a different story. The current council, when we elected three new city councilmen, all of a sudden we had some things where citizens were actually given a voice, not that we didn't have a voice before. But when you meet at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and you have a work session before that and some people know about it and you read about it in the paper, you've sort of lost touch. But when they moved it to 5 o'clock, more people are there in the afternoons and so what I would see is that citizens have gained more access to help run our city. That's important. Now, by and in and of itself might cause a little bit of function ideas. Some people threw out that it was dysfunction, well I called it function. I think it's function when people don't always go along and get along. Let's go ahead and have some 3-2 votes. For the longest time, and I've gone back, I haven't seen too many 3-2 votes. But now we've seen them, and that gives a correlation to what's actually going on out here in the city. Because there are people I talk to all the time who feel like they haven't really been heard, or ignored. I give this city council a good thumbs up because they've done a good job of making the citizens more aware that we can have a voice in this city because we are at the top, and we elect them.

What do you think you would bring to the city council that's not there right now?

I would bring a strong citizen advocate stance. I hope if I'm elected there are people in the audience who come up and do what I've done the last couple of years just simply because we need to know what your question is. If we know what we need to scrutinize over, then maybe we can do that. Some of the other things I would bring, right now they've changed the public forum. I'm against the way they're doing it right now because it's very cumbersome and as a result there's no public forum per say. You have to get there and sign up and tell them what you're going to talk about on an agenda item long before they've discussed it. It's always important to at least listen to the council members who have the rest of the information discuss a particular agenda item so that the public, the citizen, actually knows, 'oh, I didn't really know that,' or, 'oh, I knew that, and I'm still against it so let me talk for a second before we go to your up and down vote. Maybe it'll make a difference, maybe it won't, maybe you've made up your mind. But to not have that citizen input I'm totally against. Something that has changed, too, is when they're actually going over agenda items, the mayor would ask for questions from the council and questions from the citizens. Well they've stopped that to where you can't really come up on the agenda item and discuss it before they go to a vote. I would want that changed immediately because I would want to hear from some of the people just to make sure we're clear on issues because the citizens are the ones who live here. That council stays a little sheltered from some things that actually are going on out here that you have to get out in the grassroots with it and see. That would be the way I would want to do that with the city.

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