Yesterday I contacted all three opponents of Mayor Dee Margo and asked them where they stand on the “Arena” and on tomorrow’s City Council agenda item 19.1, which would suspend the construction of both the MPC and the MACC for budgetary reasons. Here are their replies:
“I am in favor of Item 19.1 because the sports arena was not approved by the voters, will consume the majority of the bond funds, and will require us to take on more debt while giving us little to zero return on our investment. The health and economic crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic has made the fiscal irresponsibility of the arena even more apparent.”
Ms. Carbajal is an attorney for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents four current and former Duranguito residents and she has litigated shoulder to shoulder with me since the very beginning. Her position on the “Arena” issue has always been consistent and firm.
In response to my inquiry, Carlos Gallinar directed me to his new campaign position on the MPC.
“I believe there is still an opportunity to salvage the project — but it starts with changing the location. I will work with members of the public, Duranguito stakeholders, the private sector, and downtown property owners, to identify an alternative location within the downtown footprint. As part of this plan, we need to identify sources of financing that do not add more debt or increase taxes. I will advocate for public-private partnerships and sources of revenue from the state and federal governments.
The City has not given this project the attention it deserves. My administration will engage in robust public participation, present financing options to complete the project, and determine how to move forward.
Revitalize Duranguito: Engaging and working with residents, artists, historians, architects, and city planners, we can find creative solutions to reinvigorate this area. Duranguito can once again be a vibrant and thriving neighborhood with mixed-income housing, neighborhood retail, locally-owned shops, and opportunities for cultural heritage tourism through historic preservation. This can augment the past efforts of the Union Plaza Entertainment District and complete that area’s revitalization.”
In my recent conversations with Mr. Gallinar, I found him receptive to my concerns and thoughtful in his approach to finding a just solution to the “Arena” controversy.
When I asked Mr. Leeser where he stands on item 19.1, he kindly sent me a text message with the following statement:
“At this time I definitely think we have to put a hold on every expenditure we can, including major capital expenditures.
This pandemic has changed everything. Unemployment is 10% and rising. We don’t know where it will top out. We don’t know the City’s revenue shortfall. We don’t know what the full impact will be on our financials when it’s all said and done. There are too many unknowns. Considering the enormous debt that El Paso is already carrying…we have to be very careful moving forward.
This is my personal opinion that at this time we need to put a hold on all major expenditures.”
From his statement, it is clear to me where the former mayor stands on this agenda item, and you may come to your own conclusions.
MAYOR DEE MARGO
Mayor Margo is facing three opponents who, at a minimum, question his priorities and management approach. Here is what he told the El Paso Times about agenda item 19.1 four days ago:
“As stated previously, no action is being taken on the MPC at this time for two primary reasons, it is still in litigation at the TX Supreme Court, and we are in the midst of a pandemic affecting the health and economy of El Paso. This agenda item posted by Representatives for District 2 and 6 is politicizing a pandemic because of outside influence and it is shameful. Given the challenges this community is facing, we should be focused on the health of our citizens and how to restore our economy.”
So our Mayor is unconcerned about the budgetary impact of the signature QOL bond projects, even as the City furloughs 400 employees and cuts the pay of thousands more. For him and Rep. Svarzbein, any attempt to curtail the spending on these projects is heresy.
The Mayor and Svarzbein are of course supported by the Executive Director of the Downtown Management District, Joe Gudenrath, who today sent an email in which he urges his friends to write to City Council in opposition to item 19.1. He writes: “An official and indefinite suspension of these projects will NOT do any more than what is already in place. It will only disrupt our long term economic development strategy and eliminate any flexibility to pursue these projects when the time is right.”
Let them eat cake, right?
I am 100% convinced that Dee Margo will lose his reelection bid and that on January 1 we will have a mayor who is receptive to the concerns of ordinary citizens and not just his/her Oligarchy donors.
Have a nice day.