“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Send in the Clowns

Speaking truth to power in Amarillo tends to fall on deaf ears.

Fact: Amarillo’s leadership at the Chamber of Commerce, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. and City Hall are in denial about the amount of poverty in Amarillo, how good the business climate is and how strong the economy is.

The credibility of those in leadership goes to the heart of “Amarillo: The State of the Economy” presentation that Mayor Debra McCartt substituted for a State of the City address. McCartt chose Gary Molberg, president of the Chamber, and Richard “Buzz” David, AEDC chief executive, two of the biggest business boosters, to conspire with her to spin how good the economy is in Amarillo. That presentation on KACV-TV Tuesday evening bears repeated watching and viewers should do so with an extremely critical eye.

First, no panelist spoke the “unvarnished truth” as they promised. Few of their responses were direct answers to the questions from moderator Ellen Robertson Green, who made clear that the show was McCartt’s and that the two cheerleaders were the mayor’s choice. McCartt could have shown more respect for the truth had she invited someone paid to be objective, like an economist or business professor. Instead, she revealed more about herself than she realized. She gave the public a choice between the “unvarnished truth” and a verbal dance and the public got the soft shoe.

Other “leaders” are part of the spin. Marc Gilmour, general manager of KVII-Channel 7, recently ran promotions about our “strong local economy” just days after laying off staff. In an e-mail to Green, Gilmour argued the layoffs were the result of weakness elsewhere in Barrington Broadcasting Co. But, it still doesn’t change the fact that the layoffs occurred in Amarillo and Barrington and KVII are contributing to economic difficulties in this city rather than helping by telling the truth. And they have, last we looked, a news department.

Molberg and David each provided flawed information. Molberg claimed that he thinks a lot about the small business community in Amarillo. But, talk to several of the small businesspeople in town and they will tell you that the Chamber is not responsive to them. It is run by representatives of the large businesses and small businesses receive short shrift.

And David characterized the data on subsidized or free school lunches, a reflection of poverty in the community, as “typical” of the United States and Texas. However, according to the Texas Education Agency, AISD’s students are more beset by poverty than elsewhere. The state average for subsidized or free lunches in schools is 55 percent of students, while the percentage in AISD is 62 percent.

Amarillo deserves honesty from its leadership and it is well past time we get it.