More Gobbledygook From Our Friends at City Hall

You may have seen that the City refused to compromise on the downtown arena swindle.

(Why do all the City’s projects swindle the taxpayers? You’d think that just by accident, every once in a while we’d get an honest elected official or civil servant.)

The City came up with a load of crap reasons why the deal proposed by J.P. Bryan and Max Grossman wouldn’t work.

Here’s what Mr. Bryan and Dr. Grossman proposed, and the City’s response, via an article on KROD.

Spend $35 million on renovations to the Abraham Chavez Theater to fulfill the promise of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond to deliver a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility. Use savings from $180 million by not building a standalone MPC to complete other Quality of Life bond projects.
City’s response: This request will not fulfill the expectations of the community. The MPC is the result of studies conducted over the span of 20 years. Voters overwhelming approved the development of an MPC that would provide a variety of entertainment events, including sports.

Create a local and federal Historic District in the Union Plaza area and invest an unknown number of millions of dollars for public uses, including low revenue private and/or nonprofit uses. 
City’s response: Proposal is not financially viable. The condition of buildings in the area includes many that are in demolition by neglect. None of the structures within the footprint currently have any local, state or federal historic designation. The results of an archeological study to be completed by the City will document the history of the area. Further, under the National Register of Historic Place, buildings with historic designations may be demolished provided the loss is mitigated. Mitigated efforts include Historic American Building Surveys, which the City has completed on multiple buildings within the footprint. 

Entice a private developer to build a sports venue on Airport property with no public dollars. However, the request does not identify the private developer and goes against the voter-approved ballot that calls for the MPC to be located within Downtown.
City’s response: The language in the ordinance calling for the election stated the MPC would be located in downtown. The City has a contract with the voters to deliver an MPC in downtown. In addition, it is unlikely that the private sector would build a facility with private dollars on airport land when successful models call for such facilities to be located within downtown and tend to require public dollars. It is also important to note that the buildings, which had been privately owned, are in demolition conditions by neglect. In addition, FAA regulations restrict the location such facility in an around aviation uses.

This more of the same nonsense and doublespeak we get from the City. The City thinks that we’re stupid (and maybe they’ve got a point).

The City keeps saying that the bond election represents a contract with the voters. They hang on to that idea like a bulldog with a pull toy. But who ever heard of a contract where the price keeps changing?

Remember, former City Manager Joyce Wilson admitted to hoodwinking the voters. Joyce Wilson told the business community they had to trick us, for our own good.

Turns out she wasn’t so smart after all.

The City has a way out of this morass they’ve led us into, but they won’t take it.

Come next election, we need a new City Council.


  1. I, for one, certainly do not recall anything saying that a sports arena had to be built downtown! I know that is what these people have always wanted, but they are definitely lying when they make such claims. Beyond that, why can’t they just accept the fact that too much time has now passed (with the entire city getting along just fine *without* any damn arena, I might point out) for any aspect of the original bond issue to still be applicable.

    1. There are two parts to the items from that 2012 election. There was the actual ordinance calling for the election in which they stated that the arena would be built downtown and there was the ballot language that spelled out what the ballot would say which did not mention downtown. It’s not an issue unique to this election or even El Paso, there have been quite a few elections whose outcomes were impacted dramatically by the ballot language used. So unfortunately, technically the language in the ordinance calling for the election is what needs to be met even if it’s not what the ballot said. It sucks and I think everyone knows that they weren’t entirely honest in doing that, but the powers that be have always acted and spoken like it’s going to be downtown (even before the election) so we’re pretty much stuck with that.

      I do agree with your other point though, after 7 years with no significant progress, it does seem like they should be obligated to reevaluate the need and feasibility of a project of this size and see if it makes sense at this time or the foreseeable future given what we know about the economy etc. I can think of half a dozen or more significant developments in the last 7 years that would make me reconsider building an arena at all let alone if it HAD to be downtown.

  2. Honestly I’m kind of glad that they didn’t take the settlement offer from Grossman and J.P. Bryan. I don’t think that we need an arena, but let’s be honest, Grossman and Bryan have a very specific interest in this fight. They care about old buildings and to some extent “historical tourism” not necessarily what is best for El Paso or for the area.

    In particular I’m not sure that I buy the whole “historical tourism” thing as a concept. Just because we have old buildings here doesn’t mean that we could or should focus our efforts into make them “tourist” attractions or trying to force El Paso to be a tourism “destination”. I’m not positive that it won’t work, but it kind of feels like until we come up with a good hook we aren’t going to get anywhere with it. I’ve lived in cities that do have a bona fide historical tourism draw and I don’t see the same level of interest coming from folks here in EP. Sure plenty of folks “like” old buildings but when it comes time to actually make a commitment and spend some tax dollars folks end up going back to their old favorites of “Fix our streets and build us parks and pools!”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually working on fixing up my 2nd old house here in town. I want to see old buildings preserved and restored, but El Paso has never felt like a town that really cares about this the way that other places do and I don’t see an asshole like Grossman or a billionaire from Houston like Bryan actually changing things for the better. If anything it feels like they might even be making people like historical preservation less thanks to their heavy handed approach and insistence that things be done the way they want them done.

    Also having grown up here I do have to wonder what they’ve been doing for the last 40 years while big chunks of “Duranguito” fell apart. The City isn’t entirely wrong in pointing out that some buildings were undergoing demolition by neglect. I wonder why the billionaire can’t offer to put a tiny bit of his money where his mouth is and actually help kickstart some of this development that he wants to see. Instead he’d rather just fund a lawsuit which has a bit of a competitive feel to it (i.e. wanting to win the case/argument instead of working to actually fix the problems in the area).

    As this whole process draws out over the years I do start to wish that there was a mechanism to force the City to reevaluate the game plan and maybe redo their feasibility analysis to see if carrying out this project still makes sense. After 7 years it is definitely feeling like insisting on moving forward with such a huge project might not be the best idea and it would be nice if we could say that definitively. I’ve never been a fan of an arena that mostly just duplicates what we already have nearby, but I’m not sure that the “historical tourism” stuff isn’t just as much of a scam/waste of money.

  3. In response to Chuco Geek, I have only this to say with regard to his ponderance about heritage tourism. Heritage tourism is the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry. Here in Texas where El Paso is the sixth largest city and has historical landmarks that are twice as old as the state, we sadly only have two percent of the state’s heritage tourism market. This is a mere reflection on our poor promotion of this aspect of our city. Our city’s first lady would rather take groups on walking tours in Juarez, for example, than to dirty her feet on walking tours in our own streets. Go figure.

    With regard to the econodynamics of any city building a venue that will be primarily occupied by a single anchor tenant, that is never a sound economic decision. Just looking at the baseball stadium’s first five years of operation should tell us plenty. Plus we can’t raise the Hotel Occupancy Tax another two percent because we are topped off by law on that one. So where would the payments come from on this “arena”? They would come on the backs of ever taxpayer, that’s where.

    There’s no correlation between bush league sports and economic growth. In fact, that also holds true about professional teams.

    We should stop spending and pay off our debt. There’s really no reason for our city to be sitting under the weight of debt. It’s time to be responsible just like all of us who have 750+ credit scores.

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