In 2015, Amarillo voters barely managed to squeeze out an approval of $32 million for a new downtown baseball field. The final outcome: 52% voted for, with 48% against. And if that isn’t close enough for you, the actual difference was a mere 820 votes out of 22,000 voters. Like most projects though, the proposed budget of $32 million quickly became $40 million, with some reports saying $45 million.
Half the residents that cared enough to turn out for the vote didn’t want this, and yet it was still given tens of millions of dollars in funding for a semi-pro minor league baseball team. Former Councilwoman Ellen Greene said, “More than 22,000 had their say, and I hope the council will listen and build a ballpark we need at a cost of about $32 million.” Like many of the others on the ‘for’ side, she forgot just under half those voters did not want a new stadium.
In late 2020, after a massive turn out (during a pandemic), Amarillo voters said “no” to the city’s proposed $275 million Amarillo Civic Center transformation. Unlike the ballpark, which was funded through a hotel tax, the Civic Center would be paid for through local taxes, increasing from a base of $0.44 to $0.57.
In this election, 42,596 people, or 61% of 69,383, vastly more than Hodgetown’s 52% of 22,000, did not want this, yet the city council went ahead with it anyway. While the Civic Center does need a bit of a face-lift, a quarter billion dollars is a bit of a stretch.
Mayor Ginger Nelson said she believes this renovation will generate greater revenues than it will cost taxpayers. One would hope. Though, where will this money be generated from? Well, maybe tourists, because a small city civic center is an obvious draw for tourism?
These are just two local voter issues, but they represent a very real problem: The growing apathy of voters. It’s not hard to see why voters grow apathetic when such blatant disregard is shown with such costly endeavors that won’t bring about any obvious benefits for constituents.
Voters feel alienated when their votes end up seeming like mere suggestions, while the mighty at the top scoff and do what they want regardless. The growing indifference of voters must be reversed. No matter how small you think you and your vote are, never let that fester. Many elections in the United States have been swung by mere hundreds of votes. There are many ways someone can turn one vote into many: join meet ups of like-minded people and educate each other, then go out and educate others on issues, both local and national. Voting is a major freedom Americans enjoy, don’t let a few bad apples spoil true democracy.