The Murky Future Revealed

You may recall that the City of El Paso is scrambling to make up a $3.5 million dollar shortfall in an $800 million dollar budget. That’s less than one half of one percent. You’d think they could make that up in paper clips, or ink-jet savings through changing fonts.

You may also recall that one of the City Reps put a motion on the agenda to eliminate the Public Service Board. That may or may not have been part of a ploy to gain control of the land that the PSB manages on behalf of El Paso’s citizens, perhaps with the ultimate goal of selling the land to finance the City’s revenue shortcomings.

Another interesting item is the disappearance of the City’s chief debt-enabler, former CFO and Deputy City Manager Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria. I mean, she didn’t just resign “to take a job in the private sector.” She completely disappeared. She vanished. Evaporated. Poof. Gone.

If this were a novel, and those three facts were revealed in the first chapter, you could bet that in the following chapters, after more complications, the City would have to eventually confront the reality of imminent bankruptcy.

Okay, it’s not a novel, so bankruptcy may be overstating it. But reading the tea leaves seems to indicate that the City’s financial straits are worse than we’re being told. Was our new City Manager intimating that we’re wading through a river of red ink when he said “It is clear that if you want something you must pay for it, and I am seeing a culture of wanting without regard to paying for it.”

(I wonder if he got a look at the books before he took the job.)

Can you imagine an entity that’s so concerned about a little $3.5 million shortfall jumping into a $120 million ballpark deal? (I know, $120 million is the minimum the City shelled out, but since no one knows exactly what the ballpark cost us, I’ll cut them some slack.) I’m afraid $3.5 million is only the tip of the iceberg.

Also, if our financial condition is rosy, why hasn’t the City started work on issuing that half a billion in Quality of Life bonds? Is it because the bond-rating agencies would want to see our current financials?

And just to pile on with the speculation, maybe the work on the San Jacinto Plaza is going so slow because the contractors won’t take the City’s IOU’s. The City claims it’s because the job site is tight, but I’ve been on tight job sites, and that ain’t one. They could finish that job in a month if they could afford it.

You know what El Paso needs? A trolley that doesn’t much go anywhere, and is only going to cost a couple of million dollars a year to operate.

That cloud you see on the horizon is the shitstorm headed this way. I wonder if the City has already hocked the umbrellas.

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