Retrovision: Is El Paso City Government a Secret Public/Private Partnership?

This article originally appeared on 27 November 2017. I updated the chart to show the most recent available from the U.S. Census.

Nothing else makes sense.

The City is pursuing a plan formulated by the Paso del Norte Group, a bunch of rich guys who plotted behind closed doors, back in 2005.

A lot has happened since 2005. The collapse of the international banking system. The Great Recession. Occupy Wall Street. Computers with video cameras in everyone’s pockets.

That 2012 Quality of Life bond election was part of that 2005 plan. It got delayed by the economic drama, but the plan never got derailed.

And look what’s happened in El Paso since 2012. Our population growth has flatlined to an anemic one quarter of one percent per year. That’s less than births minus deaths. People are fleeing El Paso.

Our tax base is collapsing. This year’s budget is $4.5 million dollars less than last year’s, but taxes went up five percent. The City is giving tax incentives to businesses that have been here for 18 years so they won’t leave.

The clearest evidence that City government is a public/private partnership is the downtown arena. The City is trying to spend $180 million for an arena with no public benefit. The City isn’t doing that for the citizens. Or the taxpayers.

And if you ask any of our city “leaders” about the arena, they say “The voters approved it.”

But nobody voted for it. Maybe they voted for parks, or libraries, or a digital wall. Maybe they even voted for a Multipurpose Performing Arts Center. But nobody voted for an arena.

There’s another clue that City government is a secret public/private partnership. Advocates of the QoL bond projects hired a consultant who advised the City to group the controversial projects, like the arena, together with other, more desirable, projects. Like parks. Like libraries. Because, apparently, the voters couldn’t handle the truth.

And here’s another clue. The City outsourced much of its economic development policy to the Borderplex Alliance. That’s the new name for the Paso del Norte Group, those rich old men who formulated the original plan behind closed doors back in 2005.

That twelve-year-old plan isn’t working. In the private sector, that plan would have been canned and the Board of Directors would have fired the C-suite executives years ago. In El Paso, the Board of Directors is City Council, and they eat the losses and pass them on to the taxpayers.

That plan isn’t working. When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

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