By the time this is published, we will only be a few days away from the 2023 Amarillo Municipal Election Day. You may even read it after the election has ended and the votes have been counted. Nonetheless, it is imperative to reflect on what this election cycle means to local residents and our entire region.
I’ve been an elected official myself. On the AC Board of Regents, we collaboratively managed a $67 million budget while adopting policies to reflect the best interests of community college stakeholders. I respect anyone willing to appear on a ballot and serve their neighbors. However, being on the “outside” of local politics has provided me with a fresh perspective. As I have attended recent public events and forums, it has become widely apparent that even our local political discussions are victims of the divisive, partisan rancor that has infected once-thoughtful debate. We no longer trust one another, and as a result, this has increased voter apathy and decreased opportunities to learn from one another.
Communication is impossible without trust. Solving problems is impossible without communication. Leaders must be able to consider the concerns of those whom you may otherwise disagree with. Leaders have to be willing to challenge their own preconceived notions. And regardless of what a candidate may say during a campaign, citizens expect their elected officials to consider the potential impact of every ordinance or policy without reservation to a political party or allegiance to any special interest group. In fact, it’s in the oath. From issues like public school curriculums to neighborhood zoning, citizens deserve to know their elected officials will ignore the partisan noise and thoughtfully consider the local perspective.
We have real issues to solve. In education, our local public schools are fighting to protect funding from being rerouted by the state government to private schools. We are also working to make sure our students are being taught the critical thinking skills required for life and success beyond high school.
Public safety is equally complex. It requires thoughtful collaboration between neighborhoods, nonprofits, and law enforcement agencies. Crime prevention, rehabilitation, and decreased recidivism should be priorities for us all.
Access to nutrition remains a problem for our region. Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in our nation, reports that 1 in 7 (13.5 percent) individuals in the Texas Panhandle and 1 in 6 children (18 percent) face food insecurity. Thankfully, local nonprofit organizations have been working for decades to eradicate food insecurity. Our local elected officials must be equally as dedicated to advocating for the needs of local families when communicating with state and national elected officials. Hunger is not a partisan or a race issue and can no longer be ignored.
Hopefully, our local elected candidates will remember to prioritize the needs of the place we are all proud to call home. Regardless of your vote, thank you for being invested in the future of our city. I look forward to the continued privilege of standing alongside you, advocating for Amarillo in the public arena.