Crazy Joe Muench

Two recent columns by El Paso Times’ Joe Muench question the straw men opposing progress in El Paso. Here’s one, and here’s the other.

The claims of growth and progress in El Paso invite the question: To what should we attribute El Paso’s recent growth?

Undoubtedly, Fort Bliss has been a major driver of the recent growth. But Fort Bliss’ growth is dependent on federal budgets and in what parts of the world we’re in a tussle.

In the Miami airport two months ago, I met a guy who had recently been training in El Paso. He said, “I got off the plane in Afghanistan and it was like I’d just gone around the block. It looked exactly the same.”

I don’t think we should attribute growth at Fort Bliss to anything locally elected officials did. To the army, I think, El Paso is just incidental. El Paso is the city that happens to be on the edge of a large chunk of federal property that looks a lot like part of the world where we’ve got boots on the ground.

When we pull out of Iraq and Aghanistan, El Paso may loom less significantly in the Army’s plans, though the Army has made a significant investment in Fort Bliss, and they’re not likely to pull out soon.

Besides the growth attributable to Fort Bliss’ expansion, we’ve had an influx of businesses from Juarez. Recent rampant insecurity there drove many investors and businessmen to El Paso. One need only look at the culinary landscape to appreciate this fact.

Like doctors and lawyers, El Paso’s recent good luck is due to someone else’s misery.

Of course, Mexican drug violence isn’t going away anytime soon, and there’s the rest of the Mideast to worry about. Let’s hope global peace doesn’t become a problem.

So if we take Juarez and Fort Bliss out of the equation (because, short of advocating universal drug legalization and war with Iran, there’s not a lot we can do), where is the growth in El Paso? In which economic sectors have we made gains?

Where is this progress the Crazies are against?

This illusory progress Joe Muench talks about is largely only anticipated. Excluding Fort Bliss and the influx of Juarez businessmen, the only growth I’ve seen in El Paso lately is in its willingness to take on new debt.

If we accept that growth is a desirable goal (maybe we’ll deal with the water issue when it’s a crisis), I’ll allow that El Paso needs to invest in its future. The question then becomes where will we get the most bang for the buck?

Are sports arenas the path to prosperity? Numerous studies suggest that they’re not. El Paso isn’t Oklahoma City, with rising incomes and pent up consumer demand looking for an outlet. We can’t count on a hurricane driving an NBA franchise to our door.

It would have been good to have this discussion before the Quality of Life bond elections, but the bond proponent juggernaut would not brook any dissent. People advocating rational analysis were called “crazies,” or anti-progress.

Sometimes they still are.

One comment

  1. A citizen advisory committee is required to offset the business lobby. Community involvement would promote transparency and reward efficiency, resulting in authentic reform.

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