We’re Zigging When We Should Be Zagging

Our city leaders have been ostensibly pursuing strategies that lead to economic development. If that’s their real goal, then they’re doing it wrong.

Oh yeah, those shiny projects are nice. They’re pretty. And City Council will be able to point to their names on the plaque when they’re old. That’s their little piece of immortality.

I guess they’re insecure that way. They need that approbation.

City Council thinks they should undertake projects that the private sector can’t afford. Well, there’s a reason the private sector can’t afford them. Because they’re money losers. They’re going to lose money every year. And they don’t create economic development, except for some real estate speculators.

Our economic development program right now is to appeal to the spectators. The wage slaves. The middle managers. The people who have settled for the safe life of forty hours a week and two weeks off. And God bless those wage slaves and middle managers. The economy wouldn’t run without them. But they’re not the people who create economic development. Who create change. Who inspire their fellow citizens, and make El Paso a place where people want to live.

Do you think any business executive anywhere says “We need to move to a place where our employees can watch Triple A baseball,” for instance? Or, “We need a city where our workers don’t have to drive 45 minutes to a Garth Brooks concert”? In most of the U.S., a 45 minute drive where you don’t have to ride the brakes is an easy commute. In El Paso, we’re talking about spending $180 million to save 15,000 people the trouble.

You can’t tax your way to economic development. You can’t spend your way to prosperity. We’re chasing an illusion. Pretending to be rich isn’t cool. Authenticity is cool. Pretension is not.

We’re building facilities for spectators. Do we need watchers, or doers? We’re spending millions of dollars on spectators when we should be subsidizing participants.

They used to talk about El Paso’s race to the bottom, but now we’ve embraced the race to mediocrity. And though our sights have changed, the results haven’t improved. We’re still not attracting industry. El Pasoans are still migrating to greener pastures. But now we’re paying more, a lot more, in property taxes for it.


  1. We ARE attracting industry if you listen to the mayors and city council members. The only problem is that they’re low wage, menial jobs for people with a minimum education. Businesses look on amenities as a third or lower selling point. They first want educated people who can be trained (and a decent high school diploma is fine). Second, they want a stable tax base that isn’t going to cost them more than they’ll earn. As usual, the city has delusions of adequacy and can’t face reality.

  2. On a brighter note, you can buy a 12 pack of Budweiser bottles for under $10.00. (Plus tax)

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