Traditionally, in El Paso, we elect nice guys.
They’re politicians. Polite is practically in the name.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice. But if you’re a nice guy, averse to conflict, and you walk into a situation where everybody there knows more than you do, you might not want to rock the boat.
Like if you’re a newly elected City Representative. Young. Raw. Not used to the bullshit that life inevitably teaches as you age.
But City Staff is there to help you transition from ignorant citizen to informed elected official.
Those newly electeds trot along like lambs to the slaughter.
And City Staff is slicker than owl shit. They’ll lead you along, explaining how things work, and pretty soon they’re telling you what to do. Slyly. Deferentially.
And our City Representatives get indoctrinated into that habit. Pretty soon they forget they need to represent the citizens. The taxpayers. The voters. They take the easy way. They do what City Staff encourages them to do.
And when City Staff tells them to stick their finger in the light socket, they stick their finger in the light socket.
It would be funny if it weren’t so expensive. If they weren’t dragging the taxpayer down. If they weren’t throwing money away on stuff we don’t need.
City Management eases them into decisions by boxing them into positions.
When I worked the health clubs, we’d close a guy like this: “Now, Jim, you told me you wanted to lose weight, and have more energy, and meet people. And now you’re telling me that you don’t want a spa membership. So I have to ask, Jim. Were you lying to me then, or are you lying to me now?”
I’m sure the City Manager uses a variation of that close. “Well, you told me this, then. That you wanted a beautiful city, with streets paved with gold, and water parks, and splash pads. And now you’re telling me that your whiny constituents, who don’t share your wisdom, are complaining about taxes and the City’s debt.”
“Were you lying to me then, or are you lying to me now?”
Hell, things change. The political climate, for instance. Fortunes, and futures.
City government, at the behest of the developers and real estate speculators, are charging us hundreds of millions of dollars for prosperity, and all they’re doing is riding on fortune’s coattails.
The developers and the real estate speculators are benefiting from El Paso’s decline. From the brain drain, the flight of citizens and taxpayers that they are ostensibly trying to stop.
El Paso has a certain core economy of government largess. Fort Bliss. Border security. Welfare. That’s money that supports the El Paso economy regardless of Triple A ball and downtown hotels and splash pads and water parks. So when our population declines, our individual incomes increase, because that government largess is split between fewer hands.
And the decision makers dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the backs.
Those developers and real estate speculators are giving us the rainmaker pitch. Give me money, and if it rains, you made a wise decision. If not, I apologize, but you don’t get your money back, because I already spent it.
The amazing thing is that those developers and real estate speculators can’t admit their mistake. They can’t turn back. Developing El Paso is a hobby to them. They all have core businesses where they make their money. As though they need any more money. But they have their hobbies, like managing sports teams and tinkering with the local government and the local economy,
But they would be as gods. But they’re not gods. Their flawed mortals with big bank accounts, and connections.
We could have a lot worse people pulling the strings. And there would be somebody, believe me. We could have a bunch of carpetbaggers, here for the short term, only looking out for their own interests.
(Oh, wait. That’s what we’ve got.)
I want the same things that the puppet-masters pulling the strings do. So do you. We all want the same thing. For El Paso to be a great(er) place to live and work.
Our benevolent overlords just need to get their shit together. If they had employees that made the same mistakes that they made, those employees would be looking for jobs. I guess they can’t fire themselves. And they need to stop asking for handouts.
In the meantime, while we wait for the developers and real estate speculators to get their shit together, we need to break the connection between those exploiters and the decision-makers, i.e., our elected officials. And to do that, we need to elect candidates who aren’t so averse to conflict.
We need to elect brawlers. People who will push back when City Staff nudges them into costly decisions. People who recognize a pig in a poke when they see one, and refuse to buy it.
Great commentary, Rich. You are right that we need brawlers at city hall. The trick is to get them in there. Folks need to step up with financial support for the candidates who will take on the oligarchs.
And, those brawlers need to kick little tommy, and all of his staff, and the rot they have promoted, right on outta town, toot sweet! We need a Mayor, who is a brawler, to return a strong Mayoral form of City government to us. Any takers?
The vitality of cities depends mainly on two measurable facts: the percent of college educated adults (4 year degree and over) and voter turnout, an indicator of civic engagement. El Paso has a way to go. Detroit, Fresno, Las Vegas and Milwaukee have the lowest percentage of college graduates in the country, with less than a quarter of their populations earning a bachelor’s.
Could be worse.
Great commentary Rich. Unfortunately, the “Brawlers” have all left El Paso along with the huge Brain Drain that has gone on since the late 60’s. Not too many of the “Best and Brightest” are staying in El Paso. Corporate opportunities or the ability to climb a ladder in a good paying job are virtually non existent. It’s not just El Paso, but cities like Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville and even Corpus Christi. And, when people are talking about moving to Texas, they are Not thinking about El Paso. That’s where old people go to retire and enjoy their golden years. Not a Brawler who has the talent, energy and “ganas” to get things done.
The Cow is correct.
Will YOU run for office?
Another point: we need Ranked Choice Voting (also called instant runoff). Occasionally we have several good candidates running. We end up with the easy-going, likable candidate instead of the fighter. Only about 2 % of the electorate shows up for the run-off election. ! Eliminate the runoff with Ranked Choice Voting. Voters will be more likely to vote for the candidate they really believe in, instead of the candidate who can win because they are likeable.
Going to take more than one brawler to confront T-Rex and his team of crushers. Need a five-brawler majority to really have any chance of successful confrontation with that gang…don’t see it happening until, maybe, bankruptcy forces it…and eventually maybe not enough cash to pay these extortion experts the inflated salaries they now enjoy (if not earn….)