The Arena Saga That Wouldn’t Die

I lifted this from David Crowder’s article about the Downtown arena that appeared in the El Paso Inc. this weekend.

Going back to the earliest case dealing with ballot language and public spending, the state Supreme Court ruled in 1888 that a ballot proposition must “submit the question … with such definiteness and certainty that the voters are not misled.”

In the initial Bond Certification hearing in Austin, former City Manager Joyce Wilson said that the reason the city didn’t originally call the facility an arena was because they were afraid the bond wouldn’t pass if the City called it an arena.

That kind of rules out the possibility that the proposition was stated “with such definiteness and certainty that the voters were not misled.” That alone should invalidate the bond election.

If you believe the rhetoric emanating from the Mayor (a dubious proposition), he would have you believe that the City of El Paso is contractually obligated to build the arena.

Curious, isn’t it, that the City is in no such hurry to meet their contractual obligation with Union Pacific Railroad to close the crossings in El Paso’s Lower Valley, as they promised to do when they built parts of the ballpark over the tracks downtown?

But even if the Supreme Court of the State of Texas ends up ruling that El Paso voters truly did support the arena, why do we have to build it now? Why can’t we wait till we get some of that economic development that the bond proponents promised us? Why can’t we wait till our stagnant population growth rebounds?

When City Manager Tommy Gonzalez first took his position, the Quality of Life bonds were scheduled to be rolled out over fifteen years, to minimize the impact on taxpayers, but City Representative Emma Acosta insisted the projects be rolled out in ten years instead. So we are not “contractually obligated” to build the arena now, or next year, or ten years from now.

The Mayor’s proposition that he’s “contractually obligated” to build the arena, full-speed-ahead, all-hands-on-board, shows that Dee Margo is a weak mayor. He’s like a cork on the ocean, tossed about by stormy seas, blown about by winds that he is powerless to resist.

Mayor Margo couldn’t even muster three votes on City Council to uphold his budget veto.

When he first took office, and raised our property taxes for two years in a row after promising to “Hold the Line” on taxes, he claimed that the tax increases were already in the pipes, and there was nothing he could do about them.

In fact, in Mayor Margo’s response to recent ethics allegations made against him, Mayor Margo leans on the El Paso City Charter’s description of his role as a “weak mayor.”

I’m thinking he takes that description too literally.


  1. IF the arena – or Multifunction Performing Arts Center – is even to be built, one reason for urgency would be that, the million dollar study by HKS determined that for each year construction start was delayed the facility would need to lose 1000-1500 seats or the budget would need to be increased 10-20 million dollars. Hence the recent numbers of $250 million for the facility.

    Of course it remains to be seen if this facility will ever be built!

    1. I’m okay with building a smaller facility. I’m okay with not building it at all, for that matter. What’s it for, anyway?

      I haven’t seen the HKS analysis, but I assume it was based on rising building costs. If our population keeps falling, or the economy tanks, building costs might fall.

      HKS knows who butters their bread. They know what the City wants to hear, and they’ll say it.

  2. Good points, Rich. Thank you. Unfortunately, we have a Council with misplaced priorities hoodwinked by a CM who i believe to be out for numero uno, and an arrogant Mayor lost on effective communication and who chokes on the notion of “servant leadership.” I feel it’s gonna take El Pasoans with grit to stand up to our self-serving “public servants”, whether in Council Meetings, using social media, the press, etc, to hold them accountable. Fortunately, we can change things at the ballot box.

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