Change is Hard

About ten years ago, the people who really run things in El Paso decided that the city needed public amenities to ensure the city’s future growth and prosperity.

Public amenities. An Olympic swimming pool and a ballpark and a downtown arena.

Not industry. Not education. Not the arts.

An Olympic swimming pool and a ballpark and a downtown arena.

City Manager Joyce Wilson enthusiastically led the parade. City Council jumped on board. The English language daily denigrated anyone who opposed the plan.

Naysayers, the advocates called the opposition. Malcontents. Crazies.

Since the electorate passed the Quality of Life bonds, El Paso’s population growth has flatlined.

In the most recent year for which U.S. Census Bureau estimates are available, the population of the City of El Paso declined.

In the face of failure, the management of the City of El Paso tweaked its strategy and doubled down.

The City’s current policy is to aggressively court entertainment retail.

TopGolf and IFly and shopping malls.

Not industry. Not education. Not the arts.

Entertainment retail competes with local businesses, and the absentee franchisers suck money from the local economy when they take their profits out of town.

The City’s policy is a failure. Soon El Paso will be a truck stop town with an Army base, albeit with some border crossings.

Picture Fort Stockton and Killeen and Laredo rolled into one urban mess, with more traffic and more pollution and comparable avenues for personal development.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez, with the blessing of Mayor Dee Margo and City Council, is throwing away our money in the most efficient way possible.

On the Operation and Maintenance of an Olympic swimming pool and a ballpark and, soon, water parks.

On tax incentives for TopGolf and IFly and shopping malls.

Change is hard. Admitting you were wrong is hard. But its time to admit that our strategy isn’t working. It’s time to embrace change.


  1. Do you ever get the feeling that you are a lone voice, crying in the wilderness? Those of us who were called “Crazy” agree with you, Rich, so don’t give up the fight! We do indeed need to change direction in this town, or it will be too damn late.

      1. Of course it’s too late. According to the top of the ‘elpasospeak’ home page, we owe 4.3 billion. This means that if we pay the same high amount in taxes and magically cut the cost of our local government so that we can pay 100 million towards the debt on an annual basis, then even after a generation (25 years) we would still owe a lot $. But should we make a serious effort to tighten our belts for moralities sake? That topic would be both interesting and pointless since it’s not going to happen anyway.

  2. Love the format, Rich.
    And, thank you so much for saying: ….”not industry, not education, not the arts.” My mantra for years has been that our arts, our culture and our history are this city’s, this region’s, strongest assets. They could be a tourist draw that would strengthen economic growth and impact, improve our children’s education, attract jobs, and make all of us feel good about ourselves and who we are. We are the Crossroads of the Americas, with potential that we cannot even measure!
    Katherine Brennand

  3. Well of course City Council didn’t support the arts, or industry, or education. The real estate speculators and plutocrats couldn’t make any money off of that. The plutocrats and their publicly elected private servants aren’t going to waste their time on anything that doesn’t make them money.

  4. Look at how the city’s three museums, archaeology, art and history and the libraries are under staffed and under resourced. Behind the scenes salaries are cut as people are forced out. Deferred maintenance throughout city facilities have been neglected long before the “Signature” projects were put on the ballot. Now we find out (see Infrastructure Fund on Sept. 16 council agenda) that city buildings and other facilities are worse than falling apart. As the Signature Projects cost more and more they want us to pay for a Public Safety Bond. In fine print on the city website for this bond you find the statement “Actual Use of any approved bond funds will be determined by subsequent action of city council.” So today, whatever they are saying will be paid for is really irrelevant. And the history of city council is to turn over those decisions to the City Manager. He can move funds around like a shell game to cover the latest controversial issue. I don’t see how El Paso is going to survive.

    1. Ms. Guida, I’ve got a post going up tomorrow with exactly that same point. Please stay tuned. Rich

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