The voters of El Paso approved Proposition C on November 8, 2022, issuing $5.2 million in general obligation bonds “for renewable energy and resource use efficiency improvements and planning.”
Last Wednesday, our City Council voted 6-2 to allocate $1,239,235 of that for hiring a Chicago firm to draft a Climate Action Plan.
Proposition K would have created a “Climate Office” and a “Climate Director” but the voters shot that down in flames in the charter election of May 6, 2023.
But Tommy Gonzalez had created a Climate Officer anyway, the previous January, and appointed Nicole Ferrini, who has undergraduate degrees in interior design and architecture, as its leader.
Ferrini is paid $176,428, but there are also Fernando Liano Berjano, Senior Climate Programs Manager, who is paid $103,500; and Dora Hernandez, Climate Program Coordinator, who is paid $64,200.
We predict that the number of employees of the Climate Office will increase as it expands its mandate and begins recommending regulations for businesses, homeowners, and vehicle owners, unless Interim City Manager Cary Westin applies the brakes.
CITY PLANS TO ALLOCATE $5,000,000 FROM THE GENERAL FUND THROUGH FY2027
We examined the Adopted Budget Book for FY 2024 and on page 409 found that the City plans to allocate $1,000,000 for its “Climate Action Master Plan” in FY2024, with another $1,000,000 planned for FY 2025, $2,000,000 for FY2026, and $1,000,000 for FY2027.
Those funds will come from our General Fund, not from bond money, and so there will be upward pressure on our City property tax.
So you see, between Proposition C and the General Fund, the City has already committed to spending $10.2 million on climate issues.
ELIMINATE THE CLIMATE OFFICE NOW!
The City of El Paso has already taken steps to increase energy efficiency and does not need a Climate Office or Climate Director to tell them to plant more trees. Our City Council can enact ordinances as required and a new administrative unit is unnecessary.
We believe that the $5.2 million from Proposition C would best be spent crafting a plan to lure an energy firm to El Paso to establish a large solar power station, to compete against El Paso Electric, end its monopoly, and lower our electricity rates.
El Paso Electric must be congratulated for purchasing the largest solar power plant in New Mexico and committing to produce 85% renewable energy by 2035, but it is unacceptable that they have no competition.
We are in favor of private sector solutions, gently guided by pragmatic government policy.
Throwing millions of taxpayer dollars at a new City agency, which was already specifically rejected by the voters, would be a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
EL PASO MATTERS REPORTS FERRINI’S TALKING POINTS
Diego Mendoza-Moyers of El Paso Matters published a lengthy report in which he parrots Nicole Ferrini’s talking points and essentially supports the City’s “detailed, wide-ranging plan to counter climate change across the region.”
Of course, he omitted the pointed critical comments made by Rep. Brian Kennedy during Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which suggests the journalist has a personal bias in favor of the City’s project.
Mendoza-Moyers interviewed neither of the two reps who voted “nay” on hiring a Chicago firm to draft a Climate Action Plan, and he did not identify or investigate any problems or issues in Ferrini’s presentation.