The Business of Government

I lifted some slides from City Manager Tommy Gonzalez’ presentation on the water parks to City Council.

Like this one:

Will 8.5% of your neighbors use a water park once a year? Not my neighbors.

These numbers were derived from community meetings the city held.

When you hold meetings like this, the people who attend are people who are interested in water parks. Like an online poll, the people who participate self-select. The people who participate are in no way representative of the general population.

What if it cost this much?

According to the illustrations provided with the presentation, the water parks will feature a couple of water slides and some kind of a recreational pool, and a lane pool for lap swimming. The existing public pools offer lap swimming for $3. I don’t see those daily swimmers shelling out an extra five bucks to use the water parks.

But the Entrance Fee includes $1.00 discount to concessions. I’m glad they brought that up.

Salmon Burger for $12.95, and $7.95 for a hot dog. That sounds like El Paso. Of course this is just a sample menu, and, much like the rest of this plan, is in no way grounded in reality.

Can you imagine a private business coming up with this plan? You’d think they were nuts. For a private business, this would be a recipe for bankruptcy.

Does the City know this? Of course they know this.

By the City’s own analysis, based on their own inflated participation rates and charges, the City will lose about a million dollars a year.

Of course, not everything the City does is supposed to make a profit. Libraries, for instance, contribute to a city’s intellectual well-being. Buses help people travel around town, and their use reduces traffic and pollution. Parks enhance a community’s curb appeal, and provide a place for public gathering, and recreation.

We call those kinds of things Public Goods. They tend to benefit the entire community, even the people that don’t use them.

But water parks? You’ve got to try really hard to shoehorn water parks into the concept of a Public Good.

Water parks are a recreational facility that competes with private recreational facilities in the community. Money spent at the water park is money that won’t be spent at the movies, or the mall, or going to a concert.

The money spent at a water park is money that won’t be spent at the ballpark, or TopGolf.

And we’re not just talking about recreation. The money spent at the water park is money that won’t be spent on school supplies, or groceries, or books.

The City is subsidizing competition for other businesses in El Paso. The City is picking winners and losers in the marketplace. And they’re not making the pie any bigger. They’re just slicing it differently.

And the money that the City spends subsidizing the water parks is money that won’t be spent on street maintenance, or public safety, or the City’s burgeoning retirement fund.

So, who benefits? Obviously the architects, engineers, and construction companies. And, more perniciously, the construction management companies. That construction management money is low hanging fruit. That, I suspect, is where the real corruption lies.

But even without corruption, or the possibility of corruption, these water parks are a bad idea.


  1. This is indeed ridiculous and downright stupid. A swimming pool I can understand. But these things? Frankly, I don’t see such a concept succeeding anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Why compete with private business, especially when we are such a poor city to begin with?

  2. That is ALOT of $$$ for a “Season,” which I assume is probably May 31 to Sept. 1. So, for about 100 days out of the year, no, lets just say starting in Mid May for the Senior Citizens and retired people, since school will still be in session. So, for about 105 days out of the year (because I don’t see El Pasoan’s swimming or visiting water parks in January or February), for 105 days out of the year, or 28.7% of the year, the water parks will be “open.” And, whatever happened to plain old hamburgers? Salmon Burgers for $12.00 a pop? Does anyone see a scenario for a family of 4: mom, dad, two kids, that’s already $48.00. WITHOUT the cost of drinks?! Lets say they are on a budget, so they opt for those gourmet hot dogs. Which means no pig snouts or tails. That is still $32.00 + DRINK + Tax. So, a family of four are talking about $40-$42 for hotdogs that don’t have pig snouts in them. The people who are going to make money on this are the same people who always do in El Paso. The Hunts, the Fosters, David KKK’s parents, people who own cement companies, etc.

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