Dear Friends,

David Crowder of the Oligarchy Gazette just published a report entitled “Amid budget woes, council sticks to Arena 6-2. Vote leads to Foster-Grossman duel – in writing.” I wish to correct two glaring errors:

1. The first clause of the report begins: “While progress on the Downtown arena project that voters approved…” That is an outright fabrication and should not have gotten past the newspaper’s editor, who is apparently asleep at the wheel. Good morning, Robby! Voters approved a multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment facility,” not a downtown arena. In fact, neither the words “downtown” nor “arena” appeared on the ballot.

2. In the third paragraph, Crowder states: “The proposal from city Reps Alexsandra Annello and Claudia Rodriguez would have been something of a ceremonial act if passed since work on all of the city’s bond projects is at a halt anyway.” First, the Children’s Museum and several other bond projects are proceeding as planned in spite of the budgetary crisis, so this sentence is not accurate. Second, $66 million in bonds have already been issued for the QOL bond projects under Proposition 2, including the “Arena”, and the City is paying $2 million/year in bond interest plus $1 million/year in litigation. Thus, there are ongoing expenditures from the general fund, as City Manager Gonzalez has repeatedly indicated.

I cannot tell you whether these errors are Crowder’s or the result of edits from Robby Gray, Secret Wherrett and/or Tom Fenton. It doesn’t matter. The Oligarchy Gazette caters to a target audience comprised mostly of Upper Valley and Coronado golfers, and it actively promotes the agenda of the big developers and their bankers, whatever the financial consequences.

To Crowder’s credit, he concludes with an honest assessment of my financial concerns:

“Grossman responded with a statement noting that the city has furloughed 400 employees and cut salaries because it’s looking at an $86 million budget shortfall and has a pension system with a $58 million problem.

‘There are plans to cut funding for street repair, police academies and dozens of other core services,’ Grossman said.

Suspending the arena project, he said, would save El Paso taxpayers $500 million because that’s how much it would cost today to build the multipurpose facility voters approved in 2012.

‘The item was backed by City Manager Tommy Gonzalez, who understands that the city is straining under more than $2 million per year in bond interest from projects authorized by Proposition 2 of the 2012 QOL bond election.’ Grossman said.

He also said the six council members who voted down the proposal to halt the bond projects ‘have squandered the opportunity to place our city on a sounder financial footing and chosen a path that will significantly increase the strain on our budget, raise property taxes even higher and potentially lead to more furloughs.'”

Buenas tardes a todos,