Bad news for the Quality of Life Bond advocates. You got sold a pig in a poke.
Remember when they trotted out all the projects? There were swim centers for swim moms, and soccer fields for soccer moms. If you liked animals, there was a zoo expansion.
Whatever you wanted, in fact, was included in exchange for your vote.
You dirty whores.
To fit all those amenities under the umbrella, the bond proponents scrimped. So, for instance, a $14 million swim center got budgeted $10 million. Accuracy, and the truth, was sacrificed for expediency to close the deal.
And all those projects entail operations and maintenance expenses, and there’s no budget for that. Since the regime change, the new management has discovered that the previous administration was a little fast and loose with the pocketbook. We can’t actually afford all the stuff we want.
Economic forecasts weren’t consulted to predict the future. Economic forecasts were crafted to justify the bonds.
The numbers, it turns out, we’re based on faulty precepts and wishful thinking. Inflation, for instance, was pegged at four percent into the future whereas for the last ten years inflation has averaged two and half percent. (Higher inflation makes paying back borrowed money cheaper in real terms.)
Unprecedented growth, as a result of a tenuous security situation in Juarez and Fort Bliss’s expansion, was assumed to be a permanent condition.
Our city fathers felt the wind and thought it was their own breath.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Ron McGinnis was the rational voice in the wilderness, with data and spreadsheets, the whole time, but the bond advocates, and their media cohorts, chose to focus on the hysterical fringe. Any critical reporter could have unearthed these fibs with a minimum of skepticism, and a minimum of skepticism is a job requirement for a reporter.
You, El Paso, were betrayed by the people you trusted. Your elected officials ceded responsibility to the City Manager. She, I suspect, orchestrated the unrealistic financial predictions used to justify the rampant financial extravagance. In the end, the City’s Chief Financial Officer got hung out to dry. When confronted with the discrepancies between facts and fictions, she ran off and hid. [Edit: At least that’s my interpretation of the facts as presented in the press.] The media, which in a functional democracy is supposed to check government excesses, instead, sold out. In fact, instead of being an impartial reporter of events, The El Paso Times opted to cheer lead the financial irresponsibility, and label anyone who questioned the impending unsupportable debt levels crazy, like the town folks who derided the boy who noticed the Emperor was naked.
Even now the media, bought off by ad dollars in the face of dwindling revenues, won’t try to pull back the curtain to reveal the true state of the City’s finances. Why do we need to raise taxes after years of economic growth?
Unfortunately, El Paso can’t run up annual deficits like the federal government. Our debts have to be financed via other methods. And raising taxes will eventually reach a point of negative returns. We’re already losing potential retirees to communities with lower residential property taxes. Wait till the tax forfeitures mount, and property values fall, and our local governments enter the death spiral, a plunge from which we cannot pull out.
El Paso is dependent on the federal tit. The United States will always need an army base on our southern border. The United States will always need employees to man the bridges, and stem the onslaught of pillaging immigrants intent on securing a better life. That’s pretty much it for local industry. Unless there’s a seismic shift in the local economy, that’s all we’ll get. Unfortunately, seismic shifts are unusual in local economies. Developments usually proceed at a glacial pace, one day pretty much the same as the day before, until, eventually, a lot of incremental changes add up to a big, barely perceptible, change, for better or for worse.
Will the City have to sell its extensive landholdings to finance our sense of entitlement? Are we going to hock our patrimony? Are we going to be the generation that trades our kids’ inheritances for some shiny gewgaws that we didn’t need and couldn’t afford?
The sky’s not falling, Carlos says. But if you look real close, you can see where the paint is flaking off, and some cracks are starting to show.