by Max Grossman
Tommy Gonzalez became City Manager of the City of El Paso on June 23, 2014. So what have been his achievements during the 3,168 days he’s been in office?
- We have suffered eight City property tax hikes in a row, one for each year that Gonzalez has been in office. The City has repeatedly failed to achieve the no-new-revenue tax rate. Gonzalez has lied about these tax hikes publicly. In fact, he has used taxpayer-funded resources to lie to the public about our property tax.
- We have more than $851M in non-voter-approved City debt obligations, with more than $2.2B in total bonded indebtedness. The City “growth” figures often cited by Gonzalez depend heavily on his deficit-spending strategies. In 2017, the maximum CO issuance permitted by the City was increased to $100M, and we have seen several $100M issuances since then.
- We have suffered huge cost overruns on QOL bond projects, including $20M+ for the Children’s Museum, $10M+ for the Mexican-American Cultural Center, and $10M+ for the Eastside Sports Complex.
- Gonzalez gave us the Great Wolf Lodge debacle, which included the “Great Wolf Lodge Land Swap.” The City acquired 44 acres in northwest El Paso from Paul Foster in exchange for 2,313 acres of land in the northeast that the City insisted was of equivalent value. We were told by City Attorney Karla Nieman that if Great Wolf Lodge withdrew from the deal that the land swap would be cancelled. She lied outright, in front of City Council: https://youtu.be/H29FGNdnmgw.
- The City then created TIRZ 13 for Paul Foster’s 2,313 acres, the greatest single corporate giveaway in El Paso history. We are talking about a half-century of 75% property tax forgiveness for anything he and his business partners build there, until the year 2070!
- Joe Pickett is suing the City for its creation of a $30M slush fund that is drawn from at least three “fees” on our water bills and then spent arbitrarily. Pickett prevailed on the plea to the jurisdiction and now the case is going back to the trial court for a ruling on the merits. If the City loses, they could be forced to repay over $100M to El Paso property owners! Gonzalez’ role in this scandal has yet to be clarified, but so far he has been silent.
- The City has negotiated scores of 380 agreements with developers behind closed doors, more than a quarter-billion dollars worth, and many of those went south, to the detriment of the taxpayers.
- Gonzalez supports Peter’s trolleys, which had $5.6M in operating losses the first two seasons and are totally insolvent.
- Gonzalez perverted the QOL bond so as to construct four waterparks, which have lost $4.5M so far, plus utilities costs.
- Gonzalez continues to support the Ballpark uncritically. The Ballpark can only survive financially with an annual $3.9M hotel occupancy tax subsidy. The City has never released figures supporting its claim that the Ballpark is an economic engine for downtown. Meanwhile, the City leases publicly-built parking facilities to Foster’s company for 55 cents per parking space during events, which are then sold to the public for at least $10 each. We are locked into our contract with MountainStar Sports Group for another two decades.
- The population of El Paso increased only 4.6% in 2010-2020 while the population of Texas grew 15.9% on average, but in the last 3-4 years, the population of El Paso has declined! Many are fleeing from our high property tax burden, a direct result of reckless deficit spending by our local taxing entities, especially the City.
- Gonzalez stayed silent while our electric utility was sold to a group of Wall Street investors. The total economic impact on the taxpayers is incalculable.
- Gonzalez is paid $424,595 per year plus benefits, which is ridiculous by any standard. Thus, if we keep him on until 2029, the end of his current contract, we will have paid him another $3M plus benefits!
- Gonzalez’ original contact stated that he could be fired for “Conscious misrepresentation of material facts to the Council or other City Officials in the conduct of the City’s business” but that was deleted from his subsequent contract!
- Gonzalez was given the authority to transfer up to $1M between departments or projects without City Council oversight, which is a absurd.
- Gonzalez has been remarkably unavailable for media interviews. His tenure has been characterized by a lack of transparency and accountability. Just ask any local journalist!
- Gonzalez has appointed several incompetent and/or objectionable individuals to positions of power within the City.
- Gonzalez has consistently pushed the agenda of the local Oligarchs, and it was revealed that he has been using his personal email address to communicate with Paul Foster.
- Perhaps worst of all, Gonzalez tried every which way to implement the disastrous and highly unpopular arena project, which displaced 39 people and threatened their neighborhood with mass demolition. He also promoted the useless $800K feasibility study and its inane recommendations.
For these reasons and many more, please write to the Mayor and City Council and urge that Tommy Gonzalez be terminated and replaced on Tuesday, under agenda item 23: