Paul Foster inserted himself into the news cycle this week, with this email he sent to all the players on Team Foster and the media.
From: Paul Foster
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 11:41 AM
To: Dee Margo <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Peter Svarzbein <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; Cassandra Hernandez <email@example.com>; Sam Morgan <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Isabel Salcido <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; Henry Rivera <email@example.com>; Cissy Lizarraga <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Tommy Gonzalez <email@example.com>
Subject: Thank you for Defending the Citizens of El Paso
Mayor and Council,
I just wanted to drop you a short note to thank you for standing up against the loud and vocal minority who are constantly trying to drag our city down, and who are doing everything in their power to override the will of the fine people of our great city.
We have a college professor who, under the guise of historic preservation, has apparently made it his life’s work to destroy the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown El Paso. He is supported by a guy who apparently has lots of money to throw around who doesn’t have any ties to El Paso. He doesn’t own property in El Paso. He doesn’t pay taxes in El Paso. And he doesn’t vote in El Paso. This same man has filed suit against Brewster County for trying to protect its citizens during this pandemic because he wanted to keep his hotel open. We don’t want him here and we don’t need him here, and thanks to your collective courage, you sent that message loud and clear at yesterday’s council meeting.
There are lots of people in El Paso who want to see our city move forward. We have made incredible progress over the past fifteen years despite the efforts of a few naysayers. El Paso is an incredible city with marvelous historic buildings and a fascinating history that must be preserved. I am doing my small part to make sure that progress continues, and lots of other people are as well. Our citizens voted overwhelmingly for a downtown arena and thanks to you, we are still on track to build it. Any city on the rise in America has a downtown arena and entertainment facility, and everyone knows that. Only those who are opposed to progress would stand in the way of such an incredible opportunity.
So thank you once again. You have done your job. And the citizens of El Paso appreciate it. I hope each of you and your families are faring well during these unprecedented times.
The question all the pundits are asking: Why is Mr. Foster emailing City Manager Tommy Gonzalez on his private email address, instead of Mr. Gonzalez’ city email address?
Mr. Foster has had a rough couple of weeks. He’s an oilman, and he’s taken a beating lately. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate, a benchmark crude, is selling for about $20 today, and in the last year the price has been as high as $65.65. Forbes reports that in March of 2019, Mr. Foster was worth $1.7 billion, and today he’s worth $1.4 billion, representing a loss of $300 million.
Losing $300 and still being a billionaire is a problem that a lot of us might like to have, but it makes Mr. Foster feel like someone pissed on his Cheerios. Sure, as far as his lifestyle goes, $300 million is just a lot of zeroes. But the ultra-rich count the zeroes.
All of a sudden, those millions of dollars that Mr. Foster put into downtown El Paso look like Don Pablo’s folly. Mr. Foster is agitating for a downtown arena so he can get a return on his downtown real estate gambit, seems like.
A downtown arena won’t save downtown El Paso. Mr. Foster asserts that ” Any city on the rise in America has a downtown arena and entertainment facility, and everyone knows that.”
Ding ding ding.
That’s your bullshit alarm going off. It’s a long road from correlation to causality, and Mr. Foster needs to draw us a map. How, exactly, does a downtown arena create a city on the rise? A lot of cities in decline have downtown arenas, also. A downtown arena is not a Silver Bullet.
I could spend a couple of six-packs telling Mr. Foster how El Paso is not like other cities, but I’m off the beer these days. Mostly.
The premise of El Paso’s plans for economic development are these features of other cities. Other cities have hip destination retail, so we better court it. But more businesses don’t make more business. All that new imported retail competes with existing homegrown retail.
Our plan is a failure. El Paso is operating on a plan that was dated when it was formulated fifteen years ago, a plan based on nostalgia.
Baseball? Really? Wikipedia says the Golden Age of Baseball ended in 1960.
Americans flocked to Juarez in the 1960’s. These days, even pre-pandemic, not so much.
If El Paso wants to relive the past, we should be putting money into developing a Time Machine instead of a downtown arena.
And the post-Covid future is going to look a lot different than recent pre-Covid past.
Will sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with 14,999 other people in a downtown arena be attractive?
The economy is undergoing a radical change, and not just the entertainment facilities and oilfields. In the future, people will generally be poorer. Many of us will find we’ve been selling buggy whips and fixing typewriters all this time. Huge swaths of the economy will go under. The United States has been a service economy, and we’re finding we can perform many of those services ourselves.
The rich will get richer, like the robber barons of the late 19th century. But those robber barons won’t be coming to El Paso. Not even if El Paso has a downtown arena.
Mr. Foster and his minions want to convince you that the City of El Paso needs to spend up to a half a billion dollars on an arena that stands a good chance of being obsolete before the first spade is turned.
Paul Foster needs a hobby that doesn’t cost the taxpayers any more money.