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Mayor Ginger Nelson on bar capacity, council meetings and running for mayor

The Chat
The Chat
Updated: Dec. 4, 2020 at 12:28 PM CST
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Mayor Ginger Nelson joined the Chat this morning to discuss the state of the city and answer viewer questions.

She recently recovered from COVID, and said Thanksgiving looked different in her house this year as she had to isolate from well family members.

“That’s how we spent our entire Thanksgiving,” said Mayor Nelson. “With our house partitioned off. Hello from a distance.”

During our discussion, we asked Mayor Nelson a couple of questions we received from our listeners.

Here’s what Mayor Nelson had to say.

1. “Will you continue to hold town hall meetings so citizens can give feedback. Will citizens be able to bring up concerns at city council meetings or will it still be restricted to what’s on the agenda?” - Listener question

Mayor Nelson said city council meeting are business meetings where council members can “concentrate on doing the business of the city”, but they do have time dedicated to public comment regarding items on the agenda.

Anytime council members and the mayor are together, they are subject to state law under the Open Meetings Act. This means they cannot discuss things that were not previously put on the agenda.

“That’s not because we don’t want to discuss them with you but because the state legislature passed this law that is meant to protect citizens,” said the mayor.

She said the law was passed to keep citizens from missing out on getting the chance to comment on things that matter to them.

“If the council is going to be discussing something the citizens were interested in, the citizen had at least 72 hours of notice that the issue is going to be addressed.” she said.

Mayor Nelson said she understands why citizens get frustrated when they cannot have a conversation about any topic during these meetings, but wants the public to understand that this is due to the law.

If the topic you want to discuss is not on the agenda, Mayor Nelson encourages citizens to reach out to council members or herself through other means.

“As far as addressing the council on any other issues that you have...we are essentially available 24/7,” said Mayor Nelson. “You can schedule a phone appointment. I’ve (also) done a lot of citizen Zoom in the last six months.”

2. What are your plans for 50% bar capacity? If you close the 50% open bars, are you going to make the restaurants with bars stop the sell of alcohol? If you close one, you really need to close both.” - Listener question

Mayor Nelson said the decision is in the hands of county judges, as Governor Abbott gave them the authority to decide whether or not bars could open or close.

“When it comes to bars and whether or not they can be open, that is a county judge decision,” she said. “Potter County closed bars (and) Randall County opened them...so within the city of Amarillo we have different situations regarding those types of businesses.”

At this time, she said it’s unclear what Governor Abbott will decide to do going forward. There is also some uncertainty regarding bars in Randall County, as the longtime judge Ernie Houdashell recently died.

3. “Do you plan on running for mayor again?” - Chuck Williams

Mayor Nelson said the first thing she does when deciding whether or not to run, is pray. She also consults her family, those she says are most affected by the decision.

“We do a lot of checking and talking...those talks are in progress,” said Mayor Nelson. “All five of us are serving as mayor. It’s been a joy and an honor...if we have the privilege to continue to serve, it would be a tremendous blessing.”

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