What If Their Plan Doesn’t Work?

What if they’re doing it wrong? What if their plans for economic development are based on false assumptions? What if their plans to make El Paso a tourist destination fail?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it might fail, or is already failing. Our population growth has flatlined since 2012 while the rest of the country has grown more than four percent. And sure, unemployment is down, but unemployment is down all over the country. We’re just witnessing the local manifestation of a national phenomenon.

A better indicator of the efficiency of the plan might be the absence of the successes we were promised. New companies aren’t flocking to El Paso. The downtown apartments aren’t all rented out. Our local businesses aren’t thriving, except for, maybe, the carpetbagging companies our city leaders have lured in with attractive tax incentives.

Is there a mechanism for evaluating our progress? A feedback loop? Evidence-based management?

Or is it all gung ho, stay the course, we’re off to see the wizard?

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” — Milton Friedman

People don’t leave healthy cities. When you’re in a hole, stop digging.


  1. Common knowledge that the city is in debt up to their necks and wants to continue borrowing and spending. We can’t continue on this path.

    El Paso will not be a destination city unless the killings stop permanently in Juarez. Don t kid yourself, that’s the only reason used to come to El Paso. Access to a wild city. It wasn’t anything else.

    Look around what do we have that is historic or different to attract tourists even if it’s just for a day or two. It isn’t going to be the trolley ! That has to earn a million annual just to maintain. So that’s already a loss. Baseball stadium, well we know. Golf range ? Once the novelty wears off as being a new place to go. That might make a little money. We are not a high wages city . It takes money to use these toys/playgrounds. We are already on the list as a city that it’s residences don’t pay their bills.

    With all the chaos and mismanagement at every level of government. Do you really believe corporations will move here ? Not unless they continue to sell El Paso as a cheap labor/no benefits. Fast foods, taco joints and call centers are not careers ! The VA offers special incentives for Doctors to work here. They don’t have enough medical staff. Because of the bad reputation of El Paso. Oh yeah, city hall will get on the phone and arrange for the PR firm on retainer to make sure the skids are greased so they can announce El Paso is the best__________. It’s what they do when council is feeling the heat.

    I’m blaming the entities but the real fault is ours because we don’t vote or vote for the same people over and over. And what did Einstein say about that?

  2. While I understand your point about people leaving El Paso, I’d caution against leaning too heavily on that statistic. Cities lose population (or in our case, experience slow growth) for a number of reasons. Chicago has also lost population in recent years. Chicago has its problems, but anyone who’s been around areas like Downtown, River North, or Lincoln Park would agree that it’s a dynamic place. And as the article linked below states, when you study Chicago in more detail, it’s gained actually higher income people while losing lower income people.

    I doubt this is exactly the case for El Paso, but there are still nuances that could explain the issue further. Maybe we’re seeing a slow exodus of juarenses who moved here during the violence moving back to Juarez. Maybe fewer Mexican immigrants are coming here as the economy there continues to develop. These might not look good in the short term, but I’d argue they’re both good for El Paso in the long term because they mean Juarez is improving, and the fates of our cities are closely related.

    I’m not saying population loss/ minimal growth is a good thing, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that thing are going to shit in El Paso on that statistic alone.


    1. Brah, I want you’re drinking, unless it’s the Kool Aid. Do you think El Paso’s migratory experiences are anything like Chicago’s? Are the upper income folk moving to El Paso, while the poor people leave?

      That’s a possible conjectural explanation of what’s happening in El Paso, but it’s not supported by even anecdotal evidence.

      There is no industry in El Paso. City government abuses the taxpayers and allows them no legal recourse to address their grievances. More than a decade of lax municipal oversight has left us at the whim of predatory developers who may or may not have the best interest of the citizens at heart.

      Also, consider that being poor in Chicago has existential consequences. If I were poor in Chicago, I’d leave too.

      But you’re right in one respect. City government in El Paso doesn’t care about poor people, just like city government in Chicago.

    2. Hey Joel. I’m from Chicago so I’m glad you jumped in and offered to illustrate what a vibrant and dynamic city it is. Chicago is effectively bankrupt. It went from being a corrupt city that made sure the streets were fixed, the trains ran on time and everything worked to being a corrupt city that has some spectacular areas around the lakefront and that’s about it. The rest of the town is fucked. I’m glad you had the opportunity to feel all warm and fuzzy near the lakefront where all the yuppies live. But if you really want to be an urban warrior travel anywhere on the near west side or the Southside where I’m from. That way you can get the full big city experience.

  3. Rich and tBusch – thanks for your replies. I’m not denying that Chicago has its problems or claiming that El Paso’s migration is anything like Chicago’s. I only used that city as an example that in isolation, a shrinking population doesn’t necessarily mean a place is a hopeless disaster. No – a shrinking or barely growing population is not a good thing. But even the most cynical among us have to admit that outside factors – such as juarenses moving back home and an overall slowdown in immigration from Mexico – have impacted El Paso’s growth rate. Is it also due to a lack of industry in town? Of course. But that’s not a new problem. We were hardly a hotbed of industry before 2012 and yet the population boomed during those years. So I’m not denying that lack of opportunity here is holding back our population growth, but I don’t think we can assume it’s the only factor.

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