The Emperor’s New Clothes

Is the City out of touch with the taxpayers?

Here’s an op-ed in the El Paso Times from Mayor Dee Margo and City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. TL;DR: It’s All Good.

El Paso has turned the corner when it comes to economic prosperity. Our community is experiencing an upward shift in quality of place made possible through recent strategic investments in endeavors that stimulate the economy, improve safety and foster recreational, cultural and educational opportunities.

. . .

City leaders, in collaboration with private development partners have been aggressive in attracting new companies to El Paso and the results are compelling: Top Golf, Cabelas, Alamo Drafthouse, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all opened in El Paso providing the community with more options to work, shop, eat and play.

All those stores are on the west side. Sure, there’s a Dick’s at the Fountains, and a Sprouts out on 375, but all the rest are exclusively west side.

And, sorry, retail is not my idea of a good time. Not even for work, which the Mayor and City Manager are quick to highlight in the above blurb. If you work at Dick’s Sporting Goods, you might not be able to shop at Whole Foods.

What does the rest of the city get?

First steps have been taken to develop a comprehensive master plan for the reimagining of Cohen Stadium. More than 300 people recently attended a community meeting to provide feedback on the initial plans.

The west side gets retail, and Northeast El Paso gets a meeting. What about the Northgate Transit Oriented Development? Can’t we finish (or at least get started on) one project before we plan for another? Planning’s fun, but things change, and yesterday’s plans are today’s fish wrap.

The City is leveraging its economic development strategies by investing millions of dollars in its street infrastructure, airport, public transit, public safety, parks, aquatics programming, libraries, museums and the El Paso Zoo.

How about that? Street infrastructure is part of the City’s economic development strategy. So is public safety. So are libraries, public transit, parks, and museums. You’d kind of think that would be basic services, the stuff we pay for every year, but, nope. You should be grateful.

Delivery of the bond projects, as well as countless other quality of life amenities, has been completed in a fiscally responsible manner. Many of the bond projects were underfunded, yet the City has managed to complete projects through prudent management of its debt service. The bond program’s three signature projects – Children’s Museum, Multipurpose Performing Art and Entertainment Center, and a Mexican American Cultural Center – were able to be accelerated as a direct result of the City refinancing its bond rollout plan. All three projects are currently at different phases of development.

Prudent management of its debt service seems to include raising our property taxes. From an August 22 El Paso Times article about the tax increase:

In late July, the council unanimously voted to amend the city’s debt management policy to allow using certificates of obligation to complete or enhance quality of life bond projects.

The amended policy applies to issuances for certificates of obligation totaling less than $100 million. Debt issuances of $100 million or more must be approved by voters, according to the city’s debt management policy.

“How can I be out of money? I still have checks left.”

Life is good in El Paso. But mostly, the City’s got nothing to do with that. But they want to tax us for it anyway.

4 comments

  1. Does anyone else believe this is economic development?
    Are the Border Alliance and Chamber of Commerce just pretending to be supportive?

  2. My biggest question is why does the city think government/private partnerships are good? Private enterprise is looking out for one thing, its cut of the tax dollars. If this is a prosperous city, then Detroit, Stockton, and other cities that have declared bankruptcy must really be living hells. Detroit – 18 – 20 billion; San Bernadino- 1 billion; Stockton – 417 million. All of them had one problem, they were tax and spend cities. The tipping point isn’t too far off and will happen because taxpayers won’t be able to afford paying their property taxes. What will the city and other taxing entities do then?

  3. One more piece of evidence that we city & county residents of El Paso are being taxed into oblivion. No wonder El Paso is one of the poorest areas in the US to live. By the way, is anyone aware of the high single digit increases being called for by the local water and electric monopolies/utilities that will be paid for by residents’ non-existant pay raises or COLAs?

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