One El Paso Boondoggle

El Paso government officials decided that the city needs a quality of life center for El Paso’s future. They allocated over a million dollars to fund the project and they started to build the structure. The voters of the community said, hold on for a moment, why didn’t we get a say in this? The government officials responded that this is good for El Paso, and necessary for the future of the city.

Eight community activists file suit to stop the boondoggle and demand a say at the election box.

Months later and after many court hearings, the government lawyers, paid for by the same tax dollars ultimately destined to pay for something the taxpayers don’t want, amass legal mumbo-jumbo arguments and the court issues a ruling that does not stop the construction. The court hides behind the notion that you have no standing or that we can’t stop it now until all of the legal process is complete, conveniently many years later.

Of course, the politicians proclaim, you see the courts agree with us.

The local paper, who coincidently has Bob Moore on its payroll, champions the project. “It’s good for the city” the editorials proclaim while the news section reports how the dissenters have lost in court again.

The three government leaders, staking their reputations on the “betterment” of El Paso, approve $11.5 million in general obligation bonds to finish the project. Of course, the project was originally budgeted to cost around $1 million. But what’s a million here and there between friends?

One of the saner politicians, who voted against the bonds, tells the local paper that “voters should send a message to all politicians that they should never try to ram something down their throats again”.

The electorate responded via the ballot box and votes two of the three out of office.

The incoming administration immediately orders that the construction stop and that the voters be allowed to vote on it.

Guess what the voters said? That’s right they told the government we don’t want it.

By the time the dust had settled the taxpayers paid a little over $1.5 million for a hole in the ground filled with water.

The boondoggle?

In 1990, then County Judge Luther Jones, Martie Georges and Orlando Fonseca pushed for the El Paso Aquatics Center even though the public was against it. Even after the electorate had voted Luther Jones and Martie Georges out office, they nonetheless voted to approve $11.5 million in general obligation bonds to complete the pool originally budgeted at $1 million. During their lame-duck session, they were helped by Orlando Fonseca.

Charles Hooten, who told the local paper that the electorate should send a message to the politicians ramming the project down their throats, and Rogelio Sanchez, voted against the expenditure.

Undeterred, Jones, Georges and Fonseca contracted Silverton Construction to build the aquatics center.

Incoming County Judge Alicia Chacon immediately stopped the project and took it to the voters. In fact, one of her most visible issues in the election was the pool fiasco.

And, guess who was championing the aquatics center, none other than the El Paso Times. They took the position that the aquatics center was good for El Paso. After spending over a million dollars, the County ended up with a glorified pool at Ascarate Park.

Today’s boondoggle is the downtown baseball field.

As it was then, so it is now. The taxpayers are funding projects that they clearly do not want. The lame-duck government is intent on ramming it down the taxpayer’s throats.  And as before, the cost over-runs start even before construction begins. And the government tax-funded legal teams continue obstruct the people’s will.

And just as before, the taxpayer’s of the community will eventually have the last word.

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