Rightsizing El Paso’s Government

by Rich Wright

When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

It’s time to acknowledge that the Borderplex Alliance’s plan for El Paso isn’t working.

You remember. The controversial plan that the Paso del Norte Group pitched in 2005.

City Council approved it, including that Glass Beach Study which portrayed El Pasoans as ignorant and lazy.

That, in turn, led our leaders to endorse the 2012 Quality of Life bonds.

Originally the City told us that investing in quality of life amenities for the leisure class would lead to economic development, as new industry moved in to El Paso to watch Triple A baseball and visit our Mexican American Cultural Center.

Preposterous, right? Somehow they got the voters to buy into at least some of it. I guess they fooled some of the people some of the time.

They promised us “economic development”, but the only people who have garnered any kind of economic development have been the developers and contractors and real estate speculators. All the taxpayers have gotten is higher taxes and reduced services.

They used to promise that all those “investments” would attract new businesses, and the increase in tax revenue would cover the costs of the investments. Well, that didn’t happen, and it continues not to happen.

They’ve stopped talking about economic development. That balloon doesn’t float anymore.

So now what?

Taxes are up. Our population is declining. The City’s budget continues to grow.

In 2012, the budget of the City of El Paso was $714,834,193. Today, in 2023, the budget is $1,171,086,079.

And what do we get for it?

Water parks?

Come on. Their plan isn’t working, except for the developers, contractors, and real estate speculators, and their lackeys. “Ending Brain Drain” is developers’ dog-whistle speak for building more sprawl and financing more development at the taxpayers’ expense.

Read the newspaper. El Paso is a small town. According to the media, new stores at the Outlet Mall is what passes for economic development around here.

It’s past time to face the facts.

Paul Foster and Woody Hunt know the development plan isn’t working. New stores at the outlet mall don’t make a thriving community.

But Mr. Foster and Mr. Hunt can’t give up on the plan because they’re too heavily invested in it, not by what they’ve put into it, but for what they’ve taken out. Namely, the municipally financed ballpark used by MountainStar’s Triple A baseball team. MountainStar, I’m sure you know, is owned by Mr. Foster and Mr. Hunt and their families.

It’s time the City of El Paso stopped kissing the developers’ asses. El Pasoans don’t need growth. Developers need growth. Real estate speculators need growth. Contractors need growth.

The whole western United States is running out of water. El Paso Water has some crazy idea to build a pipeline from Dell City, but that’s not for you. In what fantasy world does building a water pipeline from Dell City make sense? That dream is for the developers. It’s not for you.

It would be one thing if our city government were managing growth. But we’re trying to induce it by mimicking the things that cities that are actually growing are doing. Our city planners can’t tell the difference between cause and effect. Uptown Downtown. Onward Alameda. They seem to think that planning for growth makes a city grow. They think those planning processes induce growth, instead of planning as a response to growth.

People are fleeing from El Paso, not flocking to El Paso.

We need to give the city back to the people. Back to the citizens, and let the billionaires play Sims in cyberspace instead of driving up taxes and rents in El Paso.


  1. I have to say that it has to be more than just a coincidence that all of this crap dates back to just about the time y’all bought into the concept of hiring an outsider to come and run the city (I lived in the Dallas area back when John Cooke brought in that woman who likes like a cheap marionette). We all know that the City Manager form of City Government has not done a damn thing for the citizens of this city, and the damage that comes from that office, not to mention the expense, continues today. Let’s look at going back to a truly representative local government, and bring costs back into line with our actuall pocket contents. Hmmmm?

      1. That’s a nice piece, Jerry, but I believe that the City Attorney reports to the City Manager now. That change took place, if I had to guess, about five years ago.

        (Or I could be wrong. According to the org chart for the City of El Paso, the City Attorney reports to City Council. Curious, innit, that we don’t get better service from her.)

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