Dear Friends and Media:
First, a point of clarification. It was Dee Margo who sent the letter to the Texas Historical Commission on December 23 (shared yesterday). There is no doubt in my mind that Karla Nieman and her staff drafted the letter, but it bears Margo’s signature. I regret the error.
THE CITY RECEIVED PROPER NOTIFICATION FROM THE TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION
In the December 23 letter, sent to the THC only two days after Oscar Leeser’s election victory, Margo claims the City did not receive the proper notification of the upcoming January 16 of the THC. As I showed yesterday, Margo was in fact informed by the THC in a letter dated November 10. When asked about this by David Crowder of the El Paso Inc (current issue, page 14A), Margo responded, “I can’t comment on that. I was given legal advice by our city attorney and that was how the [December 23] letter was constructed.” He went on to say, “I don’t recall the Nov. 10 letter at all — no. That doesn’t mean it didn’t cross my desk, but normally I sent that stuff to staff.” NOTE: The November 10 notification was the reason why the City voted on December 14 to reply to the THC.
THE DURANGUITO PROPERTIES CAN BE REPAIRED
Margo also suggests in his letter that the properties within the “Arena Footprint” are damaged beyond repair, when in fact (1) only five of the thirteen National-Register-eligible properties were damaged in the bulldozer incident of September 12, 2017, and (2) two reputable engineering firms and a licensed inspector affirmed in writing that the five buildings can be repaired (shared yesterday).
MAYOR LEESER CAN TAKE ACTION
In his November 10 letter, Greg Smith of the THC asked the Historic Landmark Commission and Dee Margo, not City Council, to provide their opinions about the National Register nomination of Downtown El Paso. But instead of providing his opinion as asked, Margo put the matter to a vote of City Council on December 14; and they voted 5-3 to urge the THC to exclude the 13 Duranguito properties from the proposed historic district. Let us be clear. The City Council vote was not required by the THC, but Margo and City Attorney Karla Nieman cleverly chose that path anyway. Now Nieman will claim that Mayor Leeser may not write a new letter to the THC without a vote of City Council, even though page 11 of the THC’s Certified Local Government Handbook states that only the Mayor’s opinion is needed.
Yet, if Mayor Leeser is not comfortable sending a letter to the THC to replace Margo’s lame-duck letter, he can call a special meeting of City Council this week under Section 3.5A of the City Charter and City Ordinance No. 018746. The public must be given 72 hours notice and there is no other requirement or limitation. The Mayor can then put to a vote the question of replacing Margo’s letter with his own letter so that the THC can be properly informed of the current Mayor’s opinion in advance of the January 16 meeting.
Aaron Montes of KTSM 9 News was the first to break this story in his report this past Friday. I also refer you to the current issue of El Paso Inc (p. 14A) and Roberto Carrillo Arteaga’s report in El Diario. I suspect that more reports will follow, given the Historic Landmark Commission’s upcoming vote on the issue at their meeting tomorrow (see below).
Have a great Sunday!
Max Grossman, PhD
Board of Directors, Preservation Texas
Vice-Chair, The Trost Society
Co-Chair, Restore Sacred Heart Church