Elida S. Perez writes for El Paso Matters, whose biggest individual supporters are Woody and Gayle Hunt. On April 26, she published a report on J.P. Bryan’s effort to contact Mayor Leeser to discuss resolving the “Arena” dispute.
Perez claims she reached out to Bryan with “multiple requests for comment,” but J.P. tells me he was never contacted. Brenda De Anda-Swann of KVIA certainly had no problem soliciting comment from him for her report that aired during yesterday’s 10:00pm newscast.
The El Paso Matters and KVIA reports focus on the question of whether it was appropriate for J.P. Bryan, who donated $5,000 to Mayor Leeser’s election campaign, to reach out to the Mayor to begin a conversation about resolving the “Arena” dispute.
Perez editorializes: “It is the latest effort by the wealthy 81-year-old Houstonian to influence policy regarding a neighborhood and major government project in a city hundreds of miles from his home.” And she makes errors: “El Paso voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved a $180 million bond issue to build a multipurpose event center.” Actually, according to the ballot, they voted in support of “THE ISSUANCE OF $228,250,000 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS FOR MUSEUM, CULTURAL, MULTI-PURPOSE PERFORMING ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT AND LIBRARY FACILITIES IMPROVEMENTS, INCLUDING NEW CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, CULTURAL HERITAGE CENTER AND INTERACTIVE DIGITAL WALL.” The $180 million was subsequently earmarked by City Council. Minor detail, right?
To her credit, Perez published J.P.’s text to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Estrella Escobar, who accused J.P. (who holds a law degree), of inappropriately contacting the Mayor:
“Please believe me when I say your response is simply not correct. The mayor is not in anyway inhibited legally or otherwise from discussing a problem regarding the cities business. I have no intention of calling the legal department since they have always been the problem. I don’t know who is the mayor’s legal advisor but he is getting no wiser counsel than the former mayor got from his legal department. This is regrettable and ranks with her advice that I couldn’t contribute to any of those seeking election. A big part of the reason he was elected was to settle this dispute. That is what leadership is all about and that is what Mayors do. Karla Nieman is the problem – hardly the solution. But if she has an answer please have her call me Many thanks JP Bryan.”
Of course, the Mayor campaigned on not building an “Arena” and instead reallocating the $180 million in bond funds for “improvements to the Abraham Chavez Theatre and convention center.” Several months into his administration, Mr. Leeser has not taken any visible steps to implement this policy change even though he defeated his mayoral opponent with 80% of the vote.
As for the KVIA story, not only did De Anda-Swann interview J.P., but she also interviewed Prof. Don Kettl of the LBJ School for Public Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, who commented on J.P.’s outreach to the Mayor: “That’s the way in which democracy operates.”
El Paso Matters has done a fabulous job of luring current and former City-beat reporters from the El Paso Times to their online media operation, but I have yet to see a serious investigative report on the major controversial issues afflicting City government: certificates of obligation, TIRZes, 380 agreements, deficit spending, etc. But we can read about immigration, the environment and COVID until the cows come home!
Will Bob Moore direct his reporters to investigate any of the big developers or their lawyers and bankers who donate to the elections of our politicians and contact them with their concerns all the time?
Don’t hold your breath.