STEALING HOME: HELP STRIKE THEM OUT

$930 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 16 people in 13 months

INTRODUCTION


I announced at Tuesday's meeting of the Amarillo city council that I will be filing a petition for an injunction in district court, in an effort to force the City of Amarillo to hold an election on the stadium, before any more construction is completed.

It is my contention — supported by the plain language of the state law and the numerous statements by both City of Amarillo and Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) officials — that the project required a vote by Amarillo taxpayers, because a Type A EDC (which is what the AEDC is) cannot spend taxpayer funds on a “Sports Venue and related infrastructure” without taxpayer authorization through the ballot box.

The remedy I am seeking through the court is to have the court mandate that the City of Amarillo follow Texas EDC law and hold the taxpayer election it was required by law to hold once the City Council approved the use of AEDC funds “to complete the trifecta” of the Hotel, Parking Garage and MPEV for the City.

Multiple milestones throughout the development of the MPEV were accomplished illegally, and will be clearly laid out in my filing that will be posted here once it has been filed with the court and served to the defendants.

I'm hoping to halt the expenditure of the near $60 Million on top of an illegal land purchase, and allow the tax payers the voice in the process they were always supposed to have.

Given the rapid departure of Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT Tax) -generating events, the self-sustaining economic false premise that city leaders pinned the hopes and fantasies on for this project will likely never materialize and it will fall back on the taxpayers. The taxpayers need to see the real numbers for this project that will not only sustain the $60M construction cost, but also the tens of millions of dollars in operations and maintenance costs that the MPEV will incur of the life of the facility.

THE FACTS:

The use of sales tax monies for a “Sports venue or related infrastructure project” requires a tax payer election to authorize the use of those funds for such a purpose. An election is required for both Type A and Type B corporations.

If the AEDC or any other EDC for that matter, requests approval from a municipality (or city) for such a project that would be funded by Type A or a B Corporation  funds and the municipality approves it, Texas law requires that such an approval be followed by a defined series of actions by the City:

LOCAL GOVT CODE SEC. 504.152. ELECTION TO AUTHORIZE PROJECTS APPLICABLE TO TYPE B CORPORATIONS:

THE MUNICIPALITY MAY SUBMIT TO THE VOTERS OF THE MUNICIPALITY A BALLOT PROPOSITION THAT AUTHORIZES THE TYPE A CORPORATION TO USE THE SALES AND USE TAX IMPOSED UNDER THIS CHAPTER, INCLUDING ANY AMOUNT PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED AND COLLECTED, FOR A SPECIFIC PROJECT OR FOR A SPECIFIC CATEGORY OF PROJECTS THAT DO NOT QUALIFY UNDER THIS CHAPTER BUT QUALIFY UNDER CHAPTER 505, INCLUDING A SPORTS VENUE AND RELATED INFRASTRUCTURE.

But wait! The law says “the municipality may submit to the voters ….”. It doesn’t say they must hold an election. You’re exactly right. The law gives the City the discretion as to whether an election to authorize the use of tax payer monies for such a project would be called. As Mayor Ginger Nelson stated during her campaign, “Elections are expensive,” and a City may well decide that the benefits of the project would not outweigh the cost of an election.

The “may” language built into to the Texas state law is quite common is the deference the state gives to the cities and towns throughout the state to exercise the principle of “Local Control” that we hold so dearly.

However, while the City is required by law to approve ALL project expenditures by the AEDC, the language is very clear that ONLY THE TAXPAYERS — through a public election — can “AUTHORIZE” the expenditure of taxpayer funds on a “Sports Venue and Related Infrastructure.” No election, no authorization.

After all,  Type A Corporations are only chartered to expend funds on projects that “create or retain” Primary Jobs. Not Sports Venues.

After the municipality agrees to call for an election, notice must be given and a public hearing must be held!!!

LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE SEC. 504.153. PUBLIC HEARING PRECEDING ELECTION: 

BEFORE AN ELECTION MAY BE HELD, A PUBLIC HEARING MUST BE HELD IN THE AUTHORIZING MUNICIPALITY TO INFORM THE MUNICIPALITY'S RESIDENTS OF THE COST AND IMPACT OF THE PROJECT OR CATEGORY OF PROJECTS. 

AT LEAST 30 DAYS BEFORE THE DATE SET FOR THE HEARING, NOTICE OF THE DATE, TIME, PLACE, AND SUBJECT OF THE HEARING MUST BE PUBLISHED IN A NEWSPAPER WITH GENERAL CIRCULATION IN THE MUNICIPALITY IN WHICH THE PROJECT IS LOCATED. THE NOTICE SHOULD BE PUBLISHED ON A WEEKLY BASIS UNTIL THE DATE OF THE HEARING.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE SEC. 504.154. ELECTION TO AUTHORIZE PROJECTS APPLICABLE TO TYPE B CORPORATIONS:

(B) THE PROJECT OR CATEGORY OF PROJECTS DESCRIBED BY SUBSECTION (A) MUST BE CLEARLY DESCRIBED ON THE BALLOT SO THAT A VOTER IS ABLE TO DISCERN THE LIMITS OF THE SPECIFIC PROJECT OR CATEGORY OF PROJECTS AUTHORIZED BY THE PROPOSITION. IF MAINTENANCE AND OPERATING COSTS OF AN OTHERWISE AUTHORIZED FACILITY ARE TO BE PAID FROM THE SALES AND USE TAX, THE BALLOT LANGUAGE MUST CLEARLY STATE THAT FACT. 

Once the City of Amarillo approved the use of Type A sales tax monies on the MPEV, HERE'S WHERE THEY FAILED:

* THE CITY MUST AGREE TO IT (They agreed to the expenditure of $4.5M in 2013, but they did not ever
agree to $9.8M in 2014, another violation of state law)

* THE CITY MUST CALL AN ELECTION

* THE CITY MUST GIVE 30 DAY NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING 

* THE CITY MUST HOLD PUBLIC HEARING

* THE CITY MUST WORD THE LANGUAGE ON THE BALLOT BEING CLEARLY DESCRIBED SO THAT A VOTER IS ABLE TO DISCERN THE LIMITS OF THE SPECIFIC PROJECT OR CATEGORY OF PROJECTS AND MUST CLEARLY STATE THE TYPE A FUNDS BEING USED FOR A TYPE B PROJECT!

* THE CITY MUST HOLD ELECTION

* THE VOTERS CHOOSE!!!!!!!!
 
THE CITY FAILED TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE!!

The fact is, there should have been a vote held way back in 2013 to authorize the expenditure of $4.5M, and then again in 2014 to authorize the expenditure of $9.8M and the abandonment of a $5.4M land asset to the City, also in violation of Texas EDC law!!! This was a $15.5M expenditure of taxpayer assets that were never authorized rendering the entire “land swap” transaction illegal. 

FREQUENT QUESTIONS:

I frequently hear people say things like: “Didn't we already vote on this?” or “We already had a vote on this!”

HERE'S THE ANSWER:

In 2015 there was a non-binding referendum held which is merely just a survey. (not binding) Furthermore, that was only approved by a very narrow margin at the proposed cost of $32 million and only asked if “the MPEV to be constructed downtown should include a baseball stadium in the amount of 32 million”. So the correct answer is "no", a proper vote was never held. And it should have been TWO votes.

In my opinion the City’s MPEV campaign has been very misleading. They led the voters throughout their campaigning of the MPEV referendum and on campaign material, to believe that we would be building a multi-purpose event venue. In reality, this is just a ballpark.

The lease they have signed gives the baseball team ultimate rights to this stadium, allowing them (at their discretion) to approve minimal events to take place at the stadium, aside from baseball games.

The biggest problem we face is that the team prohibits anyone from setting foot on their ball turf (grass) and will not allow the turf to be covered by anything. So, what makes anyone think we will be able to use this facility for anything other than ball games?

Not to mention the price has almost doubled from $32 million to now near $60 million. It needed to be sent back to the voters before taking any further actions, once this council was elected. This mayor and council were all very aware of the situation at hand and even campaigned on it, using it as a crutch, saying that they would take it back to the voters and even suggested holding an actual election on it, but of course they never did. Once elected, they immediately started rubber stamping everything and putting the MPEV into full swing.

Keep in mind that Mayor Nelson was on the board of the AEDC when all of these alleged violations of state law and local ordinances surrounding the MPEV were taking place.

I ALSO FREQUENTLY HEAR QUESTIONS LIKE:

1.)  What will we do with the big hole in the ground?

2.)  What will we build in lieu of a ballpark?

3.)  Why are you complaining, they're going to do what they want anyway, it's already been signed, why not just let it happen?

4.) How Did you come up with S60 Million, I thought it was $32 Million or $45.5 Million?

THE ANSWERS:

1.)  That decision should have been all along and will ultimately be for the voters to decide!

2.)  In my opinion, whatever the citizens want and vote on. Voters voice in the matter is essentially their commitment to come out and support it after it's built. Preferably something that is realistically sustainable and economically viable. 

3.)  I know some prefer the path of moral relativism and the fact that since the law was broken yesterday, we should all just move along, today. A violation of law is a violation of law, period. period. And in the case of the MPEV, MULTIPLE violations or law are MULTIPLE violations of law!

4.)  Construction Cost is projected at $45.5 Million, add the cost of illegally acquiring the land , $10M, the cost of demoing the existing facility and clearing the land, $5M, and the cost of infrastructure changes around the facility, $2M, Oh and the new city hall parking garage that will be built because they took out 75% of city hall parking, $4M And you’re north of $60M for a total project cost. 

This $60M price tag does not include the tens of millions of dollars that will be incurred in operating and maintenance costs over the life of the facility. The total life cycle cost of this facility will likely be $80 to $100M.

NEWS FLASH:

THIS BALLPARK IS COSTING US 3X THE AMOUNT PER SEAT OF ANY OTHER AA BALLPARK IN THE COUNTRY!!!

How did I come to this conclusion? Well, I did an analysis of my own, whereas the city of Amarillo, never bothered to.

Three weeks ago Jared Miller, the City Manager was asked why we are paying 3x the amount per seat of any other AA ballpark in the country. His response was “Well, we never did an analysis, so we don't have that information”. Wow, you're spending $60 million on a ballpark that you never did a cost analysis on? 

Not your money, not your problem, right? Insanity!

At the current lease rate of $175,000 a year, with interest it will take approximately 3,000 years to pay this ballpark off! Yes, three thousand years! And that’s just the bond obligation! That doesn’t account for the annual operating costs the City is on the hook for! Again, it adds up to TENS of MILLIONS of dollars over the life of the facility!

Another common misconception is that it's being paid for with HOT Tax.

That's debatable....

If you read the contract, it also says they can pull from the general fund to pay for it if the council approves it. I presume that is precisely what will happen when this baseball stadium goes belly up. 

The fact that we are paying 3x the amount per seat of any other AA baseball stadium in the country, leaves me with only 2 logical conclusions (in my own opinion and speculation, of course) :

1.)  The officials of Amarillo are extremely ignorant and some builder is getting extremely rich off of this baseball stadium as a result. 

Or

2.)  Money is being funneled somewhere, to someone or several some one's. Whether it be through an LLC of a builder or a construction company etc. That, I don't have the answer to. 

TAKE NOTE:

If you've attended any of the regularly scheduled council meetings since this mayor and council has been in their seats, you may have noticed their ample efforts to silence the citizens. At one meeting on April 3, 2018 Mayor Nelson even had a man arrested for clapping during a council meeting, directly following a speech given during the public comment forum. The speech was given by an attorney, informing the mayor and council members that they were being sued in district court due to violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

It is my opinion that Mayor Ginger Nelson is attempting to change public comment rules, as she wants to have the stadium project completed without dissent from citizens. I feel she wants to shut down all public speech because, ultimately, she wants to ram through the MEPV project, to see what she started while on the board of the AEDC is finished as Mayor.

For those of you who aren't up to speed, I recently filed a separate lawsuit against the mayor and council members for violations of the Open Meetings Act. A few of the alleged violations include: holding meetings behind closed doors, voting on matters in closed meetings, restricting the public from recording the open meetings, improperly opening and closing meetings, meeting in quorum and distorting the public record.

To those who would trivialize these alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, most citizens consider an official’s oath of office, respect for the rule of law and respect for the public trust, to be very serious matters. 

And while nobody was robbed at gunpoint or physically assaulted in this case, i believe the public trust was violated and violated more than once. I believe when all of the facts are known in this case, it will be abundantly clear that the entire council intentionally violated the open meetings act and that the citizens of Amarillo deserved much higher standards from our elected officials.

These violations are continuing to occur each week during meetings even though they have been sued and potentially face criminal charges. That being said, in my opinion, it is very apparent the mayor and council members have zero regard for public trust or the law. 

CRIMINALIZATION OF THE HOMELESS:

As many of you are aware, the baseball stadium is being constructed downtown where a large majority of our homeless population resides, due to lack of shelters and lack of capacity in existing shelters.

Mayor nelson and the council implemented a “camping ordinance” just last month, in an effort to run the homeless out of downtown where their prized ballpark is to be constructed. 

The homeless moved to another location not too far from downtown, on a private piece of land which was authorized by the owner of the property. The city immediately filed a lawsuit against the owner of the property, fining him $2,000 per day, retroactive back to November of last year, for allowing the homeless to camp on his own private property. 

Instead of addressing the homeless situation, and implementing something to solve the absolute necessity of sheltering them, Mayor Ginger Nelson and council members decided it best to just kick them out. Quite frankly this is abuse of power at it's finest. I'm not certain the mayor and council could get any lower than this; kicking the homeless out of being homeless, criminalizing the homeless etc. 

THIS IS MUCH MORE THAN A FIGHT OVER A BALL PARK:

It is a watershed moment with the spotlight on the conduct of public administration in this city.

It's about unmasking public corruption and giving voice to the marginalized!

It's about taking a stand and demanding local government accountability!

We citizens of Amarillo have been trampled on by our local government and the Downtown Mafia elitists for far too long! They have been all too happy to saddle residents with more and more debt and suffer zero consequences in the process! It's about putting the people back in power!

FIXING CORRUPTION FIXES EVERYTHING:

Inequality- The needs of the poor are routinely overlooked by politicians dependent on big-money donors.

Government waste- Politicians routinely grant lucrative contracts and approve bloated budgets to please super-donors

Education- Special interests prevent the kind of reforms that would make Amarillo education competitive with the rest of the world.

Pollution- Wealthy special interests stifle government action on cleaning up any area of the city that isn’t downtown.

I strongly believe these are all things happening right here in Amarillo.

THIS IS AN ORGANIZED ATTEMPT TO BRING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TO OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT:

For far too long, our elected officials have been remiss, to put it mildly, in their duties to the taxpayers. For starters, officials have not followed both local and state laws while governing, have violated both local and state ethics standards and have practiced blatant nepotism. They have had multiple meetings behind closed doors approving things without the transparency and public input we are entitled to. 

Council decisions must be made solely in the public interest, openly and transparently, with the full facts disclosed, free from conflicts of interest and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. As long as there are officials in power who are self serving and corrupt, this is a near impossibility.

It is also a sad state of affairs when elected officials have either no moral compass or plain just don't care and consistently violate local government codes, the open meetings act and state ethics laws to financially enrich their friends/family members, spending money and making decisions without votes, the list goes on and on. 

Basically, these officials think that they are above the law and I am here to remind them that they are not- they are civil servants and are accountable to the people for every action and decision they make!

INVEST IN THE FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON THE BALLPARK AND THE FIGHT AGAINST OUR LOCAL CORRUPTION:

I have been inundated with requests from citizens on how to help this cause, with many people so scared of retaliation by the officials that they want to remain anonymous- hence this go fund me campaign, where contributions can remain that way. 

I was a paralegal for several years, so at present time I am representing myself in the lawsuit regarding the Open Meetings Act violations and in the MPEV injunction suit. However, this is a large task for a single mom to take on the downtown mafia alone, at some point I may need to retain legal counsel, which can be very costly. 

I am in need of funds to continue the current litigation which include: court costs, filing fees, copy fees, process server costs, deposition costs, legal representation and consulting and other associated costs

Keep in mind I am not seeking any damages or recovering any monies from this lawsuit.  All of this is in effort to solely benefit the taxpayers by halting the fiscally irresponsible near $70M expenditure before it's too late. This ballpark is a catalyst to many other projects this council has been approving each week of more and more unnecessary expenditures of OUR tax dollars and this is only the beginning of this whole pay to play scheme.

We must fight back to hold corruption at bay and our elected officials accountable and force them to be transparent in their actions and decisions.

A motto I deem appropriate in my quest - "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

PLEASE HELP ME IN THIS FIGHT FOR THE AMARILLO TAXPAYERS BY DONATING TO THIS CAUSE!!!

ALL AMOUNTS, NO MATTER HOW SMALL, ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED - THEY ALL ADD UP.

IF YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR DONATION NOT REMAINING ANONYMOUS THROUGH THIS GO FUND ME, YOU ARE WELCOME TO DONATE BY SENDING YOUR DONATION VIA PAY PAL AT :  https://www.paypal.me/ClaudetteSmith

EVEN IF YOU CANNOT DONATE I UNDERSTAND, BUT PLEASE SHARE THIS GO FUND ME TO HELP GET THE WORD OUT!



********************************UPDATE****************************

UPDATE!!!!! 8-21-18

The ballpark injunction has finally been filed! I still need as much support as I can possibly get, as this will be a costly and time consuming endeavor. Thank you kindly to all who have donated thus far. Please share with your friends and family to spread the news regarding the filing of the injunction and to encourage others to support this endeavor to benefit the taxpayers and voters of Amarillo! For anyone doubting whether or not we will have any success in this due to the construction having already started on the ballpark; remember that just because someone committed a crime 20 years ago, but they just solved the case today, does not mean justice can no longer be served. They will still have to answer for their crimes, even 20 years later. "The time is always right, to do what is right." - Martin Luther King Jr.

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UPDATE!!!!! 8-21-18

The ballpark injunction has finally been filed! I still need as much support as I can possibly get, as this will be a costly and time consuming endeavor. Thank you kindly to all who have donated thus far. Please share with your friends and family to spread the news regarding the filing of the injunction and to encourage others to support this endeavor to benefit the taxpayers and voters of Amarillo! For anyone doubting whether or not we will have any success in this due to the construction having already started on the ballpark; remember that just because someone committed a crime 20 years ago, but they just solved the case today, does not mean justice can no longer be served. They will still have to answer for their crimes, even 20 years later. "The time is always right, to do what is right." - Martin Luther King Jr.
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Get ready! The injunction will be filed very soon! I have attached a link below where you can view just a few of the "smoking gun" documents and a slide show to simplify the Coca Cola transaction just a bit. Thanks again for all of your donations and support in this! No amount is too small! Every dollar counts!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1205717379565393&id=1168124503324681
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Raised by 16 people in 13 months
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