Dear Friends and Media,
It took 2,273 days, a half-dozen attorneys, three City Council election cycles, and a full-scale revolt from the community, but I am pleased to report that the City of El Paso’s corrupt plan to erase a historic barrio for the benefit of a small group of elite investors has been terminated.
From the start of yesterday’s City Council meeting, it was clear that there is a new political order. Immediately after the swearing in of the three new representatives, an election was held for the positions of Mayor Pro Tempore and Mayor Alternate Pro Tempore. Rep. Henry Rivera nominated two “strong Latina women,” his two Oligarchy Caucus friends–Cassandra Hernandez and Isabel Salcido–but Alexsandra Annello and Joe Molinar were elected for the positions, thanks to their new colleagues.
Under agenda item 13, our City Council voted 4-3 with one abstention to abandon the project to construct an arena in Duranguito and to reallocate the remaining $154 million in QOL bond funds to upgrading existing City facilities.
Reps. Molinar and Annello, who co-sponsored the item, voted in favor and were joined by Art Fierro and Chris Canales. Brian Kennedy would certainly have voted “aye” as well but was compelled to abstain by the City Attorney for what she perceived as a conflict of interest.
The video begins at the 1:10.30 mark and continues all the way to 10:14:58 for a total of more than nine hours, including a long executive session.
83 members of the public spoke during public comment: 30 in favor of demolition and 53 against. The Country Club crowd turned out in force. Among the speakers were Adair Margo and Dora Oaxaca, whose comments can only be described as angry rants that were utterly devoid of reason. But the anti-arena speakers, including two barrio residents, were clearly on the side of right. I have appended a complete list of the speakers below.
Toward the end of the discussion, Rep. Cassandra Hernandez tried as hard as she could to undermine the agenda item so that the public could have three more months to digest the results of the Oligarchs’ feasibility study. It was painful to watch her contortions as she struggled in vain to get her way. Rep. Salcido made a feeble motion to put the arena matter to another vote but she could not get a second to her motion.
What we saw yesterday was the final attempt on the part of the Oligarchs to destroy Duranguito for an arena project. The $798,611 feasibility study was a transparent ploy to make the Oligarchy Caucus on City Council seem reasonable and thoughtful, but this time no one drank the kool-aid, in spite of City Architect Daniela Quesada’s desperate support of the Gensler plan.
But the consultants showed themselves to be as disingenuous and deceptive as our City staff have been since the time Tommy Gonzalez was appointed City Manager. They insisted that their proposed arena options would be profitable while omitting the cost of debt servicing from their expenditures columns. The bottom is that their proposals are destructive and, quite frankly, perverse.
Yesterday’s vote was a victory for all El Pasoans, who will not face a tax hike as a result of this project and can take pride in the preservation of a historic barrio that showcases the history and culture of our City, from the Native American period through the Mexican Revolution.
The pro-arena speakers were as follows:
William Kell (for Paul Foster)
Desirae Manzanares (for the Hispanic Chamber)
Joe Gudenrath (for the DMD)
Stuart & Nancy Shiloff statement
William Helm (his firm submitted an arena design)
General Manager of Podium Finish
joint statement (Lane Gaddy, Miguel Fernandez, Martin Morales, Paul Foster, Stuart Meyers, Alan Lozara, Martin Najera, Jim Scherr, Elma Carreto)
Andrea Hutchins (for the El Paso Chamber)
Yolanda Giner (for Paul Foster)
Dora Oaxaca (wife of Rep. Henry Rivera)
The anti-arena speakers were as follows:
Fr. Rafael Garcia
Dr. Oscar Martinez
Dr. Sharon Bonart
County Commissioner David Stout
Dr. Yolanda Leyva
Dr. David Romo
Dr. Selfa Chew
Aurelio Valdez, Jr.
Deliris Montanez Berrios
Alana de Hinojosa
Dr. Rick Bonart
Leola Westbrook Lawrence
Jaimes Peinado (for Republican Liberty Caucus)
Dr. Max Grossman
Photo Credit: Elida S. Perez, El Paso Matters