This post originally appeared on December 17, 2013.
Today City Council approved a contract to study locations for a Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility as part of the Quality of Life Bond Proposals that voters approved last year.
Wait a minute, you may have said. A Cultural and Performing Arts Facility? Don’t we already have the Civic Center? And the Abraham Chavez Theater? Don’t we have the Plaza Theater? The Don Haskins Center? The County Coliseum? Why on earth would we need another Cultural and Performing Arts Facility.
Because this one is a Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility. And what that really means is an arena.
Then why don’t they just call it an arena?
Because it’s illegal to use Quality of Life bonds to fund an arena in Texas. But anybody who was paying attention during the ballpark fiasco, or since, realizes that our City knows the laws don’t apply to them. Otherwise they would have let us vote on the ballpark, as per Local Government Code Chapter 334. But our City Council, at the time, knew better than the state, and better than the voters, so they crammed the ballpark through a loophole, and now we’re stuck with it.
And now they’re going to do the same thing with the Arena. They’ve dodged the law this time by calling it a Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility. Get it? “Multipurpose” spells “Arena.”
I can only assume that our City Attorney is Board Certified in Fleecing the Taxpayer.
The ultimate motivation for all of this is a misguided attempt at Downtown Development. The theory is that all downtown really needs is a little push to get started, and then business will erupt adjacent to the arena, and the museums, and our Hispanic Cultural Center.
Of course, this theory conveniently ignores the fact that we’ve had the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center downtown since God was a little boy, and so far, no collateral development has occurred. None. Zip. Nada.
In fact, since the downtown real estate speculators started the scorched earth policy of downtown development, there are more empty storefronts than when they started. More vacant shops. And more historic buildings destroyed.
And let’s not forget that El Paso already has among the highest property tax rates in the country, and that they’re only going up, and if new businesses ever consider El Paso, the first thing the City will do is offer them property tax abatements.
The next election can’t come soon enough.