El Paso’s Visionaries Mantra of Not Willing to Take Risks and Investing

The so-called El Paso visionaries always rely on the notion of the community’s unwillingness to “invest” in itself and “take risks” to make El Paso a better city. In fact the whole public debate about the fiasco that is the ballpark is centered on the notion that the community must “invest” in itself and if we don’t take “risks” the community will never come unto its own.

The problem with “taking risks” and “investing” is that both are very subjective and carry with them a tangible cost that affects many individuals. It is always easier to take “risks” and “invest” when it is someone else’s money. And this is exactly what the “visionaries” always rely on, everyone else’s money.

What makes pointing this out to the “visionaries” difficult is that their retort is always that El Paso is stagnant because no one is willing to take “risks” and “invest” in the city. The results are many years down the road therefore holding the “visionaries” du-jour accountable is always too late when the results come in. The “news media” conveniently takes what the “visionaries” dish out without challenging them, and in many cases empowers them by supporting the notion that naysayers are nothing more than obstructionists.

Take for example the fiasco of the downtown trolley fantasy.

According to a KVIA report by María García on July 11, 2013, the City of El Paso has spent over $4 million on the whim of an “informal communication”. In May 2012, Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland and Steve Ortega, among other city representatives voted to spend about millions to complete a study for the construction of a street car system. In fact, on May 10, 2012, KVIA’s Darren Hunt reported that the “Texas Department of Transportation is ready to hand the Sun City $80 to $90 million to pay for nearly the entire project”.

Notice that I quote directly from Hunt’s report and how he uses the words that TXDOT “is ready to hand” El Paso millions of dollars. Hunt goes on to state that the money is contingent upon the city spending $4 million for a study. Darren Hunt also quotes Steve Ortega as stating that “it really is a no-brainer”. Like in the case of the ballpark there were some community activists challenging the notion of a trolley system for downtown El Paso.

The response from the proponents, including Byrd, Niland and Ortega, was that we needed to have “vision” and a willingness to take a “risk” and “invest” in our community.

Sound familiar?

Now, after the $4 million of taxpayer monies have been spent we find out that the belief that the State of Texas was going to hand El Paso “millions” of dollars turns out to be not true at all.

The taxpayers’ spent $4 million on an “informal communication”.

Let that sink in for a moment. The taxpayers’ just flushed $4 million down the toilet because “Ortega could hardly contain his enthusiasm” about the State’s “money”. What is worse yet is that the same KVIA proponent of the ballpark fiasco, Darren Hunt, produced the KVIA report where he quoted Ortega as “enthusiastic”, it’s a “no-brainer” and that they “get results without once questioning where is the guarantee that the State will give the money to the city. He took Ortega’s assertion of millions coming in without once challenging that statement.

Now the community is faced not with “risking” just $4 million with the ballpark but instead the taxpayers’ are risking over $60 million on a plan that does not even have a feasibility study to it!

And like before, the cheerleaders of the Foster-Hunt invading horde, Darren Hunt and news cohorts report on the naysayer’s unwillingness to take “risks”, “invest” in their community or lack “vision”.

Oh sure, García’s reports that Jane Shang, one of the city’s Deputy City Manager, as stating that the “$4.4 million weren’t a waste because the city is now shovel ready as soon as it gets state funds”. García adds that Shang has stated that what the city paid for is good for another three years. But what happens if that money never materializes?

Who do the taxpayers’ hold accountable for the expenditure of $4 million on pieces of paper with no tangible benefits to the community if the State does not allocate the money? In today’s economy it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the State would actually release the money to El Paso. What then? Do the taxpayers’ just shrug and say; “oh well, it was a risk”.

The $4 million came from monies approved by the voters for street repairs. I wonder how many taxpayers would argue that the $4 million would have been better spent on fixing that pothole they just drove over. I would wager that nearly all would.

More importantly, just as Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd are conveniently unavailable today to be held accountable so will they be unavailable to be held accountable by angry taxpayers’ when the truth finally emerges that they now hold the note to a ballpark that is destined to fail.

Will the taxpayers’ just shrug and say “oh well we took a risk”?

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