While virtually everyone is going back and forth about where to place the downtown sports arena, my message to the public has always been to put it up for a revote and let El Paso decide whether to have an arena at all, vote for better options, or reallocate the money for critical street paving and neighborhood needs that have gone ignored and will only cost us more in the future if not addressed now.
I have been and still am against kicking El Paso’s most vulnerable residents in Duranguito to the curb and cannot fathom our city leaders cavalier attitude about erasing our oldest living historical neighborhood and the Chinese Laundry building, El Paso’s last architectural touchstone that connects our Chinese community to their El Paso roots of turn-of-the-century Chinese railroad workers who put our town on the trade map.
But if the arena was already approved by voters in 2012 as part of the Quality of Life bond issue, why even suggest it be put up for a revote…isn’t that breaking a contract the City of El Paso has with the voters?
It is far from being that simple.
In Part One of this blogpost I would like to talk about my theories regarding how city leadership and the arena issue ended up where we are now.
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Our city leaders, with the exception of Lily Límon, have chosen to side with the real estate special interests, investors and wealthy property owners by perpetuating the stubborn insistence that it must happen in downtown and in particular Duranguito.
I theorize that city leaders made promises, if not inked actual deals, with investors prior to announcing that the arena would be built in Duranguito. A lot of individuals had prior knowledge of the arena and where it would finally end up, giving them information that might prove valuable should they decide to invest.
There is evidence of local investors owning property in that specific area, with even members of a particularly well-known local family closing a deal on property in Duranguito just weeks prior to the city making their announcement in October 2016 of that being the location.
Just one small detail the city didn’t consider…
When El Pasoans got wind that city leadership was going to displace some 150 poor tenants and homeowners in the direct and surrounding impact zone, along with destroying El Paso’s oldest living historical neighborhood and it’s significant buildings—concerned people, residents and organizations mobilized and fought tooth and nail.
They continue the fight to this day.
City leadership believed it would be a simple cut and dried process—offer the tenants some relocation assistance, pay property owners fair market value, and exercise eminent domain on any holdouts. I’m fairly certain they assured the investors the arena would move forward quickly with no headaches.
Resistance. Backlash. Protests. Neighborhood meetings. Bound and determined abuelitas. Blogposts. Ethics complaints. Texas Rangers. And a slew of other obstacles got in the way.
A fustercluck they could not have imagined.
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City leadership has continued their diversionary tactics in an effort to convince us it is a done deal and the faster we proceed the better for the taxpayer, lest the interest rates go up and we have to pay more. Even mayoral hopeful Dee Margo along with downtown business leaders are spreading this line that we have to act fast.
Something tells me that if city leadership doesn’t make the arena happen, they will be sued, not by the voting public, but by the investors they may have made promises to.
That’s one big reason they are helter skelter set on the arena…in Duranguito…and now if you don’t mind.
City Attorney Borunda-Firth has been leading the charge of diversionary tactics. She knows whats at stake, her job for one.
No one does it better when it comes to using their position to daze and confuse. She has mastered the art of employing legalese to muddy the waters and confound the wise.
She and Dr. Michiel Noe were part of the chorus that consistently said the arena “had to be within 1,000 feet of the convention center” in order to qualify for state incentives.
A local blogger even questioned her at a public City Council meeting asking if the 1,000 foot rule only applied to hotels and ancillary businesses within that distance, not an arena.
She started speaking legalese and when she was done nobody had a clue to what she had just said.
Within a few days, the City had informed us that the 1,000 foot rule applied only to hotels and ancillary businesses.
It’s no wonder that city staffers had to repeatedly explain the intricacies and issues surrounding the arena to City Council at least 7 times.
Then the city had their series of pro-arena propaganda at sites around town, which virtually nobody attended. People know when they are being played and this was just another misguided effort by the leadership to push this increasingly unpopular item forward.
I believe the City was hoping to wrap the arena up before the new administration and mayor was sworn in because of the increasing negative public sentiment.
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I have found that most El Pasoans when given the choice whether to build the arena will choose not to build it at all, confirming my anti-arena message. They say there are better uses of our tax dollars like street paving for example.
There is already a lawyer on record saying that the arena can end up in a revote situation but that will involve some legal hoops that have to be negotiated.
I think its safe to say that the arena will be the flashpoint issue with the incoming administration at City Hall.
And city lawyers will be playing a large role in where things go from here.
Start practicing your legalese, you’ll need it.
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