The Destruction of Brand El Paso

What does “El Paso” mean to you?

I threw quotes around it because I want to talk about the idea of El Paso and not the city itself. For most of us, El Paso means home, but “home” means different things to different people.

The concept of brand is widely misunderstood. Some people think a thing’s brand is its logo, but a logo is probably the smallest part of a brand. A good logo invokes the brand.

Branding experts tell us that the brand is the thing and how people feel about the thing. Gestalt is a close approximate to the concept of brand as brand is used by branding experts.

Google defines gestalt as “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.”

A brand is the thing and the perception of the thing.

For most El Pasoans, the brand El Paso has some good components and some bad components.

Think of the things you like about El Paso. Friends and family. The culture(s). The food. The weather. The people. The lack of traffic snarls.

Now think about the things you don’t like about El Paso. The weather. The traffic snarls. City government.

How would describe the brand features of local government?

Arrogant. Secretive. Dishonest. Unresponsive. Serving a narrow sector of the citizens at the expense of the rest of the community.

Did I leave anything out? Feel free to add it in the comments.

Really, I think you can trace the erosion of the City of El Paso’s reputation back to the 2012 Quality of Life bond election. Remember the Paso del Norte Group, that secretive organization that took over El Paso’s economic development efforts? The PDNG pushed the bonds through with lies, disinformation, and subterfuge. And the City of El Paso was complicit in their efforts.

They destroyed Brand El Paso.

(The PDNG hurt their own brand so badly that they rebranded themselves a the Borderplex Alliance. An outhouse by any other name would smell as sweet.)

Our population growth has flatlined since 2012. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Maybe you can’t fight City Hall, but you can leave.

And the damage hasn’t been limited to municipal government. Lots of personal brands have been hurt, also.

  • Our local philanthropists have contributed lots of amenities to the community. A medical school. A nursing college. Projects at the zoo. Too many things to list. They should be revered in the community, but their reputations have been tarnished by their close association with the QoL projects.
  • The local politicians who promoted the bonds. They’ve largely retreated from public view, their influence greatly diminished.
  • The former city staff. To quote Mr. T, I pity the fools.

Our current elected officials and city staff are destined to be consigned to the same dustbin of history. All because they can’t let go of the same projects and goals of prior administrations.

I believe that all the major players mean/meant well. Some of the lesser players perceptions were colored by their own self-interest. For some people, self-interest is the only factor that makes a difference.

El Paso needs a course correction. We can’t fix Brand El Paso with a fresh coat of paint over old lies. We need to fix the fundamentals. We need a city government responsive to the needs of all the citizens, and not just the Country Club crowd.

Vote. Vote for change. Our responsibility begins at the ballot box.

9 comments

  1. yessir! I do agree that those movers and shakers have for too long ignored the real needs of the residents of this town. And, I also believe that our brain drain needed to be addressed long, and long ago! Like, back in the 70’s. And, I notice that Oscar “such a good boy” Leeser is fitna make another run at Mayor, with the same, lame and false promises he made the last time around (and, that he failed to keep).

  2. El Paso is a jewel, but we have lost much of our shine since the border closure and the increased border security since 9/11 . We need to change our focus from growth and instead cultivate our own garden, manage our dwindling water resources, and embrace a more open border. Most El Pasoans intuitively understand this already, thus the close focus on family, picnics in the parks, strong faith communities and cross-border ties. The governing class has mostly aspired for El Paso to be a different (and bigger) place. To me, El Paso is a place that provides strong roots to people who may or may not stay here. I for one hope that my kids experience many different places beyond El Paso.

  3. El Paso has always been a love hate relationship for me. My family came to El Paso in 1957 when my father became General Manager of Borden’s. We quickly developed a love of the culture, the food, the sunsets and cool desert nights.

    Since that time I’ve been in and out of the city serving in key positions at Speaking Rock, UTEP and even selling Porches and BMW for a period to some of the subjects mentioned in this article. I was always glad to leave spending the larger parts of my adult years in Austin and various locations across the West including Alaska.

    In my view, El Paso has always been the subject of white plunder with little regard for indegenous populations. Fortunes made in banking, insurance, substandard government housing and lower tier petroleum products. All this with bare minimums returned to the community while they built extravagant vacation homes on the California coast. I got to know their lieutenants while selling highline autos to them and cartel members in the late 80s. Believe me it was all about them, no genuine altruism involved.

    While Phoenix went through a metamorphis mid century and San Antonio took off like a rocket under Henry Cisnernos’ leadership. El Paso nothing. Only now do you see downtown going through a development phase, years after Austin set the example with 6th Street. There was talent and clamoring for this in El Paso but it was effectively blocked by the oligarch class due to a lack of perceived profit.

    So now it’s profitable but only by way of sweetheart deals, tax incentives and other mechanisms to enrich the oligarchs at the expense of regular El Pasoans. In there haste to add to their coffers they were in process to destroy an iconic neighborhood and symbol of the immigration that built El Paso. When you’re a staunch Republican and friend of Abbott and Trump, such concerns are probably of little importance. The pandemic seemed to have slowed or halted this, but I could be wrong.

    The last straw for me, was to replace arguably El Paso’s most impactful citizen in the last half century, who took UTEP from not much to National prominence and provided several generations of El Paso youth with access to quality education, with an unqualified Republican schill. What an insult to her, generations of alumni and to all of us who call or called El Paso home.

    Vote them out. It’s probably your last chance!

    1. Mr. Rankin you really missed the biggest catalyst, in my opinion, of when the form of the local government was transformed from a strong mayor format to a strong city council. It is my opinion that this shift in political dynamics is what lead to the floodgates of special interest and the resulting quagmire with which the citizens of El Paso are stuck.

      As to your mention of “white plunder”, I guess it still goes on even today. Today when there is a ‘study’ or ‘survey’ that needs to conducted, when virtually everything of import or high value needs to happen here it gets shipped outside of west Texas with the locals getting cacahuates. Large scale construction Prime contractors come from Dallas, Los Angeles and other environs. Local companies get to scramble for SOME of the sub-contractor contracts. Hey even big legal investigations and representations get sent out of county.

  4. El Paso it is time for everyone to get out and vote Papa Margo out of office. If we get Papa Margo out, the next Mayor can form his voting block and then get Tommy Boy out. You get Tommy Boy out, you can then clean house. Empty out the City Manager’s Office out of all those High Priced Deputy City Managers. If someone would research it, you would discover that they are all from some place other than El Paso. They all came here from another City that chased them away. Just like Tommy Boy that was chased out of Irving, TX. They are all rejects.

    We need City Staff that are from El Paso. Love El Paso. Have deep roots in El Paso. Care about El Paso. Not these Carpet Baggers from somewhere else. We can do it. Vote for the candidate of your choice. Just dont vote for Papa Margo. Let’s end all of this special interest of Paul Foster and Woody Hunt. They have already made million off of the El Paso Taxpayers. A Baseball Stadium. A new high rise in downtown El Paso. A new Plaza Hotel and Parking garage. 2400 acres of top Real Estate in NE El Paso.

    El Paso Voters let’s take back our City.

  5. Verónica Carbajal for mayor! She’ll address all this & more as she has fought for working El Pasoans (not the ogliarchs) her entire career as a TRLA attorney. Look them up. TRLA is basically the Doctors Without Borders of lawyers in this region providing free legal representation for those who cannot afford it. A fronteriza, born and raised. An ivy league graduate (Brown), I challenge anyone reading this to listen to the latest forum from 9/14 (watch it on the Eastside Democrats Facebook page) among the six candidates running for mayor and tell me that she doesn’t win, hands down, with her intelligent, insightful, well-informed, progressive ideas. If she loses this November, it’s because El Paso doesn’t deserve her. It’s absurd this city has never had a Latina mayor. Do us all a favor and vote for her, because you know you’re sick of being embarrassed by the fools in our city government and having a mayor we can actually look up to with respect sounds exciting for a change.

  6. Ana: You had me at “Hello.” Actually, you had me when you said she went to Brown. I’ve always been a big fan of Vartan Gregorian….It IS time for a Latina mayor and not some good old boy redneck from Oklahoma….Dee that is YOU!. Unfortunately, I cannot vote as I don’t live in Chuco Town….I, along with many other people, fled El Paso to seek greener pastures. El Paso, depressingly, has gone BACK in time….Not progressed. The “Good Old Boys” still run the town and the City Council has turned out to be a HUGE Disappointment. It truly is SAD because El Paso has alot to offer but the “powers that be” continue to enrich their pockets at the taxpayers expense. City Trolley? Great Wolf?

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