City Manager and Taxes

culture_gonzlz_payThe discussion on taxes and fees disguised as taxes have been the focus of community discussion the last few months as a result of the sobering fact that city and county revenues are not enough to pay for the public agenda that is being led by Veronica Escobar and cohorts. The city implemented a fee on water usage by commercial customers ostensibly to spread the cost of services away from the homeowners towards the commercial sector. The county will likely implement a tax increase as well as new fees. As is common in El Paso politics the reality is veiled behind the rhetoric of its all good in El Paso.

For his part, Oscar Leeser has begun to create his own version of its all good in El Paso. His version is predicated on the notion that El Paso is an attractive place to bring industry to. Forget high taxes, high utilities and fees directed at commercial users, in Leeser’s mind businesses are just chomping at the bit to move their operations into El Paso.

This is the statement Leeser sent on August 25 in response to whether he would veto the water fee imposed on commercial users; “The City of El Paso has prioritized recruiting new companies and helping expand existing businesses in order to build our commercial tax base. While we have seen six announcements in the last year alone, it will take some time for El Paso to fall in line with the other major cities in Texas…I support City Council’s action and have no intent to veto their decision.”

El Paso has replaced a do nothing mayor with one living in a fantasy that El Paso is prime commercial real estate. Isn’t that what Bill Sanders proclaimed before he left investors in his downtown REIT holding bonds that they must sell at a discount? But I digress; let’s get back to Tommy Gonzalez.

As you all are aware, Tommy Gonzalez became the new city manager, replacing Joyce Wilson. As is proper in a city manager government system the city manager does not inject himself or herself into the policy decision making process that is the purview of the elected officials. Because of that we really haven’t heard what Gonzalez thinks about the fees and taxes adopted by city council.

Until now.

On August 13, 2014, the El Paso Association of Builders hosted Tommy Gonzalez during one of their membership meetings. At that meeting, Tommy Gonzalez shared some observations about what his experience has been in El Paso so far.

I believe that Gonzalez’ comments to the builders clearly validates what many “crazies” have been saying about El Paso for years. That the façade of “it’s all good” is nothing more than an attempt to hide the reality that is the failure of El Paso’s current public policy agenda fiasco that focuses on plastering paint over a deteriorating infrastructure overburdened by debt that will likely never be paid off properly.

This is what Tommy Gonzalez told the builders:

I have never met a community that wants this much and that considers wants as necessities more than this community of El Paso.”

I come from very conservative communities like Lubbock, Harlingen and Irving where wants like libraries and parks are just that…want’s.”

Here those things are considered necessities, almost a demand, without regard of how we will pay for them.”

I will work to complete the wants of the vote, but we will have to figure creative ways to pay for them because there wasn’t a plan in place for doing so as part of the vote, and that probably starts with increasing taxes.” This comment was in regards to Quality of Life bonds.

When discussing the politicians, Gonzalez stated, “It is clear that if you want something you must pay for it, and I am seeing a culture of wanting without regard to paying for it.”

From his quotes, Tommy Gonzalez seems to agree that El Paso politicians have lost focus on the reality of having to pay for the wants as well as the needs from an overburdened tax base. I hope you all noticed that Gonzalez admits that increased taxes are in the immediate horizon.

I wonder if he will also be labeled one of the “crazies” by his predecessor Joyce Wilson and the two strongest supporters of higher taxes – Veronica Escobar and Cortney Niland.

Source: “City manager Tommy Gonzalez: ‘We have to pay for what we want’”; Adauto, Ray; El Paso Builders Association Builders Outlook Issue 8, 2014

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