We Should Fire Tommy Gonzalez

He might be a nice guy. Maybe. He’s been here five years, and I’ve never heard anyone accuse him of being a nice guy before, but he might be a nice guy.

And maybe he means well. He claims to have improved the financial position of the City of El Paso, but he’s done it on the backs of El Paso taxpayers.

But he’s not good for El Paso.

Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t share the values of most El Pasoans.

$40 million for a Great Wolf Lodge?

Somehow he convinced City Council that it was an “investment.”

That related land swap in Northeast El Paso, and a 50 year Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone?

Another “investment.”

Water parks? Really? Even the City’s best case estimates say that the water parks will cost the taxpayers a million dollars a year. Plus, we had to issue Certificates of Obligation, i.e., municipal debt issued without voter approval, to build them.

El Paso now has the most debt from Certificates of Obligation of all the cities in Texas.

Mr. Gonzalez’ vision for the future of El Paso is ineffective and limited.

Hey, it’s not his fault. And everybody’s got to be from somewhere. I’m sure Mr. Gonzalez didn’t choose to be from someplace where the closest big city was Lubbock.

But Mr. Gonzalez is making decisions that are raising the taxes of El Pasoans, ostensibly for the public good, and he is driving our elected officials.

Mr. Gonzalez controls City Government. Mr. Gonzalez feeds City Council the information that our elected officials receive before they make their critical decisions. He sells his ideas to City Council, and then he says that he’s just doing what City Council told him to do. And Mr. Gonzalez has his thumb on the scale, because Mr. Gonzalez has his own agenda and his own vision for El Paso, and because the City is the only one with access to the City’s plans, no one can challenge them before the vote.

And Mr. Gonzalez has it both ways. First he talks City Council into backing his plan (whatever plan), and then he claims he was only doing what City Council told him to do.

I guess, if you come from a small town in the Texas panhandle, and the next big city is Lubbock, you might think that the epitome of sophistication is a Great Wolf Lodge, or a TopGolf, or an iFly. The arrival of those franchises might symbolize municipal achievement. But if you have to pay them to move here, aren’t you cheating?

If we’re giving tax incentives, or, worse, offering cash for retail amenities, while our streets and public safety infrastructure are neglected, isn’t that the same as spending money for a new car, or designer shoes, while your kids don’t have lunch money or school supplies?

What could El Paso businesses do with the $40 million the City is offering Great Wolf?

In addition to the real costs of all those tax increases the City of El Paso has been imposing on its citizens, i.e., the loss of disposable income, we have also incurred opportunity costs. The City could spend our money on things that make more of a positive difference in the lives of El Pasoans. Things like childcare for working parents, and early childhood education, and job skills for the unemployed.

Wouldn’t low or no interest loans for local small businesses, or grants for local startups, make more sense than paying Great Wolf Resorts $40 million to build a water park hotel here?

Instead of slicing off a fourth of the Electric Company’s franchise fee and using the money to lure “destination retail,” the City could use that money to fund rooftop solar.

And sure, Tommy Gonzalez has a severance contract, and we’d have to pay him a year’s salary if we fire him, but consider this: his $400,000 or so Golden Parachute is less than one percent of the $40 million we’re giving Great Wolf to build a hotel water park here. And that’s not even counting all the other wasteful debts Mr. Gonzalez has incurred at our expense. And if we hire a new City Manager, and pay him less than the exorbitant salary that we’re paying now, we’ll save money there, too.

$400,000 is pretty cheap compared to the damage that Mr. Gonzalez could do if he were to continue as City Manager.

I say we cut our losses.

7 comments

  1. Thank you, Rich, for saying what needed to be said loudly and clearly, from the title on down to the analysis. I will post and share widely.

  2. Thank you Rich. I agree 100%. Speaking of percents, $400,000 is only 1% of $40 million. Sounds like an even better deal when you put it that way.

  3. The Great Wolf Lodge will be a noxious stew of fetid chlorine, body hair, fecal matter and various biological effluvium. Or stated another way, the perfect metaphor for city hall. There’s a beautiful symmetry in that.

  4. Getting Tommy to go would be easier if you let him know now that the City will not be renewing his present contract. Then there’s no parachute. This would give the City time to prepare to return to a strong mayor and council form of government.

    1. His contract requires that if he’s fired without cause, he gets a year’s salary.

      And they just renewed his contract in December, so we’re stuck with him for another four or five years unless we fire him.

      But who’s going to fire him? The Mayor, Dee “Hold the Line on Taxes” Margo? The Stepford Wives on City Council? They’d have to admit that they’ve been wrong.

      We need to vote. But it wouldn’t hurt to tar the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.

  5. The future elected city council clowns will need to include a city residence requirement in the City Manager’s contract. Tommy G. does not have a primary residence within the city limits of El Paso. He is a part-time taxpayer paid by our full-time tax dollars.

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