As El Paso city council wrestles with deteriorating streets and trying to keep taxes in check, they nonetheless continue to squander limited resources in the mistaken belief that if you apply enough lipstick on a pig it will miraculously become a much sought after city destination. The fact that politicians and the voters that enable them refuse to accept is that El Paso will never be a tourist destination. People will never flock to El Paso for tourism.
El Paso missed the tourism bubble in the 60’s and 70’s when Juárez was a tourist destination based on its nightlife and Mexican curios. By the late 80’s the curios were being replaced by the maquila industry and the nightlife has all but vanished. Cd. Juárez has accepted the fact that its future is in industry, yet El Paso continues to try to be like other cities instead of accepting what it really is.
As nostalgic as the trollies are their cost and use will do nothing to alleviate the high tax burden that keeps the El Paso taxpayers just making enough just to survive. As long as the fees and taxes continue to be disproportionally high, El Paso will not be a viable attraction for new industry.
As is typical by the Veronica Escobar led “let’s be like other cities and feel-good” nostalgic crowd it’s not about the appropriateness of the project, or the costs but rather about “let’s be like” other cities because El Paso just cannot be, well El Paso. Apparently, being too Mexican isn’t what Escobar and cohorts want. Instead, they want to be like Portland and San Francisco because that’s whom they use as examples of successful city trolley systems.
Let us see, anyone contemplating traveling for vacation has three options – El Paso, Portland or San Francisco. Hmm, I wonder which city will come in last.
Oh, Veronica Escobar and cohorts will argue that the $97 million is free money for the city conveniently forgetting two important details. The first is that the $97 million is taxpayer monies. It comes from the taxpayers and it is not free money. The second inconvenient truth is that there are many more urgent projects that the city taxpayers need before the trolley project.
According to a letter sent out by Joe Pickett on Monday, August 25 to the Texas Transportation Commission there are seven road projects that could use the $97 million of state monies. Among them are the widening of I-10 near the funnel on Airway Blvd. and the expansion of Loop 375 at various locations. These are road projects that are not only vital to the city but actually have the benefit of increasing the likelihood of economic development in the city because it adds road capacity for commercial activities.
Some of the proponents will argue that the $97 million is a done deal and that it is too late to change their minds. Others will argue that it was a choice between using the money and losing it. Pickett on the other hand argues that the money can be used on other projects and that there was not enough public engagement and discussion about its use before the vote was taken.
As a matter of fact, the Texas Transportation Commission is meeting today and it is possible the trolley project may be revisited again, much to the chagrin of Escobar and cohorts.
Pickett is asking the commission to reconsider their allocation of the $97 million and instead use it to deliver much needed road projects to El Paso. Not too long ago Cortney Niland was trying to impose a water fee on taxpayers to expedite much needed road repairs. Yet, she is an ardent supporter of the trolley project. Likewise, Oscar Leeser as harping about how he wants to bring new industry to El Paso to alleviate taxpayer stress yet he has not taken a strong position on whether the trolley project is something El Paso should be focusing on at this point.
In other words, on one hand we have politicians decrying the state of the streets in El Paso and the tax burden on the taxpayers while on the other hand there is $97 million that can be leveraged to alleviate those problems yet they would rather use the money to build a 5 mile nostalgic trolley system that will do little if anything for the plight of the taxpayers of the community.
Clearly, El Paso politicians have a misplaced sense about how to take care of the city’s taxpayers.
Click here to read Joe Pickett’s August 25, 2014 letter to the Texas Transportation Commission.