One Amarillo businessman is looking to give voters a say on the Amarillo City Council’s plan to move forward with building a new city hall, despite the project’s defeat last year.

Craig Gualtiere, owner of a coffee shop chain and former Randall County commissioner, announced on social media this week that he is intending to gather enough signatures from voters on a petition to force the city hall item to be placed on the ballot. Gualtiere said in a social media post that the item is not about whether citizens support or oppose the item but is rather about giving taxpayers the opportunity to have a say on the $35 million project.

“I need 5,600 signatures to allow you the taxpayers to vote on whether you want to build and pay for a $35 million city hall,” Gualtiere said. “This petition is not about being for or against, it’s just to have your right to vote on it. I need your help to make this happen and make history. This has never been done before in Amarillo.”

His petition drive is the first formal attempt to place an item on a municipal ballot in Amarillo through petitions since 2018. That year, a group of taxpayers attempted to gather enough signatures to place six items on the ballot but were ultimately unsuccessful in collecting the proper number of signatures. Organizers later stated that their two most successful petitions—to establish a no-kill animal shelter and to repeal red-light camera contracts—received over half the necessary signatures.

Additionally, Gualtiere told Texas Scorecard he has filed a lawsuit to dispute the validity of the city council’s use of certificates of obligation for the new city hall project. While the petition for the ballot issue is important, Gualtiere said he believes the lawsuit is the most important part of his attempt to have the will of the citizens heard.

Gualtiere also said the lawsuit focuses on how the city council is using certificates of obligation after ignoring the will of the voters.

“The crux of my lawsuit is [that] the city council misled the voters in crafting the project. By not mentioning city hall on the actual bond proposal, they believe it left them enough wiggle room where they could issue certificates of obligation for the city hall project,” Gualtiere said. “They completely broke the spirit of the law.”

Overall, Gualtiere said he believes he will be successful in both items, saying, “I believe it’s the taxpayers’ money and they should have a say on how this money is spent.”

“I’m not anti-Amarillo. I’m just tired of the politicians trying to work around the citizens. It’s time for me to plant my flag and make a stand,” Gualtiere said.

Gualtiere’s petition drive and lawsuit come after the city council voted earlier this month to publish notice of intent to issue $35 million in certificates of obligation for a new city hall. Despite voters declining to fund a spending package last November that included the item, the city council expressed willingness through a 4-1 vote to defy voters on the issue. Councilman Cole Stanley, the only council member who was not serving during last November’s election, was the sole vote against the item.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.