Anthony Jackson is the new City reporter at the El Paso Times and he just published an outstanding report on the City’s plan to authorize another $96 million in certificates of obligation, which is non-voter approved debt. Other reports were published by KVIA and the Herald-Post, while KFOX useless parroted the City’s press release.
On Tuesday, City Council voted 6-2 to publish its intent to issue the COs.
Reps. Svazbein, Annello, Hernandez, Salcido, and Rivera have voted to authorize $389 million in CO debt since January 2019, while Rep. Lizarraga has authorized $289 million.
By contrast, Reps. Molinar and Rodriguez have voted to authorize $0 in CO debt since assuming office, voting against the $93 million authorization on April 13 as well as the $96 million on Tuesday. They have perfect records of standing up for the El Paso taxpayer.
Jackson notes that “A 2020 report from the Texas Bond Review Board found El Paso to have the highest amount of per capita outstanding certificates of obligation debt at $793 for every man, woman and child, higher than the per capita debt of Texas’ five largest cities combined.” (See Table 5.3, p. 38)
Yup, that’s our City government at work!
MAYOR LEESER’S CAMPAIGN PROMISE ON CERTIFICATES OF OBLIGATION
Mayor Leeser campaigned on never supporting the issuance of COs for Quality of Life Bond projects. I have attached his campaign mailer, which I keep on my kitchen counter. But yesterday he made comments supportive of the $96 million CO authorization, which includes millions for the Mexican American Cultural Center, a Quality of Life Bond project. You can listen to his remarks at the 6:29 mark on the City video and judge for yourselves. He also did not oppose the $93 million authorization in April, and he has never used his veto power to oppose COs.
REPS. SVARZBEIN AND HERNANDEZ
On Tuesday, Reps. Svarzbein and Hernandez made comments strongly supportive of issuing CO debt because it comes with lower interest rates than other debt instruments.
But why do they wish to issue so much debt without voter approval? Why not put an infrastructure package on the ballot and let the voters decide, as they did for the Public Safety Bond?
Because they love to spend gigantic sums on incentives for developers and boutique entertainment projects and then fund capital construction projects with CO debt, enabling them to cover huge cost overruns on QOL projects and expand spending in general, without voter authorization.
Any property tax increase resulting from the recent CO debt issuances will be timed so as not to affect the election prospects of those who are responsible.
The QOL Bond that appeared on the ballot on November 6, 2012 authorized expending $473,250,000, and since that time the City–led by former Mayor Margo and reps such as Svarzbein and Hernandez–has spent tens of millions more, without voter authorization, by issuing COs.
That is undemocratic and amoral.