On Tuesday, city council discussed the possible annexation of land “along Zaragosa”. During the council’s discourse, there was an outburst by Cortney “Sin Zapatos” Niland towards city attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth and Oscar Leeser. Many of you who have followed Cortney Niland since her election knows that Niland lacks basic interpersonal skills frequently belittling individuals she perceives as below her, not to mention she doesn’t think it is important for her to wear shoes at the city council chambers. What happened Tuesday was not only her normal condescending mode but also it was nothing more than protecting one of her political benefactors.
During Michiel Noe’s presentation to city council, he pointed out that one of the largest property owners in the targeted area is River Oaks Properties. It was Noe who posted the item on the agenda. According to Noe, River Oaks has been the obstacle in the discussions about annexing the land. Noe wanted to give the city attorney authority to do what was needed to complete the annexation of the area.
You might remember River Oaks Properties when Cortney Niland defended her use of free office space from them back in 2011. At the time, Niland was running for her office. Her campaign headquarters was located at 5380 N. Mesa in a building owned by River Oaks Properties. Niland was not paying rent on her campaign headquarters.
When it was pointed out that corporations cannot make in-kind campaign contributions to candidates, River Oaks’ president, Adam Frank came to her defense stating that he was personally paying for the rent on the property. Gerald Rubin owns River Oaks and is Frank’s father-in-law. According to campaign finance reports, the value of the “rent” was $1,350. River Oaks, a large commercial property developer, was supporting Niland’s campaign because of the issue of the imposition of smart growth principals on commercial property the city was pursuing. The smart growth principals increases the cost of commercial development. Niland publicly stated that she opposed mandatory smart growth principals and instead would pursue voluntary adherence to the principals.
Additionally, in December 2012, Cortney Niland led the charge to allow River Oaks to demolish the Union Bank Building – a Henry Trost designed building. The El Paso Historical Landmark Commission had denied the demolition application.
Last Tuesday’s pontification by Niland not only once again demonstrated her disdain for everyone else she perceives as beneath her but it also demonstrated how Niland likes to keep public policy issues that benefit her benefactors behind closed doors. As you pierce through the public exchange, you will notice that Cortney Niland was upset that the discussion about “water fees” was exposed to the community.
You might remember that it was Niland who pursued and pushed for the water franchise fee that businesses are having to pay for now. No doubt many of them, if not all business owners, are upset at this new “fee” that in some cases account for 30% or more of their water utility fees. Imagine how they will feel if a major commercial developer was exempted from paying water utility fees, they have to pay. Keep in mind that annexation to the city for the developer increases the viability of the value of the raw land and the waiver of fees only increases the bottom line for the developer.
I am sure Niland’s defenders will rally in her defense and therefore I believe it is important to point out the following verbal exchanges during Tuesday’s discussion.
The city attorney inconveniently let out two facts that Niland was hoping to keep a secret. The issue was that everyone agreed that the piece of land needs to be annexed and the owners are looking forward to it. The problem is that River Oaks, who owns a significant portion of the land to be annexed forced the issue of annexation to be separated into two distinct issues to allow the city to deal with the immediate problem of resolving one part of the issue while allowing the developer to exact fee waivers for the rest of the annexation.
During her explanation to council, the city attorney stated that the developer agreed to convey the ‘little sliver” needed for Pebble Hills. Adding that annexation was separated by the “major developer” into a separate discussion. The “sliver” allowed the city to deal with the immediate need while giving the developer an advantage for special treatment on the rest of the annexation.
The “major developer” is requesting that the city waive water fees and other PSB fees. This has stalled the negotiations. What the developer wants is for the city to waive the expensive water fees that the city has been imposing in order to curtail growth outside of the city.
Niland was upset because the issue of fee waivers was brought up publicly, instead of in executive session. During the discussion, the mayor pointed out that Niland approached Oscar Leeser the previous Wednesday. Leeser was pointing out how Niland was attempting to work behind the scenes for River Oaks through the mayor’s office. Instead, Niland, on Tuesday was attempting to disguise her pontification as an issue about city council making policy when in fact she was protecting River Oaks.
As a matter of fact, Niland stated, “we offended a major developer in this community”. The “offense” was because the public now knows that River Oaks is trying to avoid fees others are subject to having to pay.
Leeser told Niland “I think you are having sidebars with the developers that no one else is having”. Clearly pointing out how Niland was trying to keep the fee issue hidden from the public. Leeser added to Niland, “I don’t ever want to talk down to anyone” at the city.
Niland started out being upset about the exposure one of the her major benefactors was enduring but unfortunately for her by the time her indignation was over not only was River Oaks exposed for trying to avoid water fees but Niland also demonstrated her disdain for those that she perceives as below her.
Now sit back and entertain yourself as you see how a certain useful idiot comes to the defense of Cortney Niland because not only am I pointing this out but Maria Garcia of KVIA further exposed Niland on the local news on Tuesday night. In Niland’s mind, this cannot be allowed to stand and she is now busy barking orders at her useful idiots.