I realize that for many of you this blog post is going to sound like one giant crazy conspiracy theory. I guess that is why I’m labeled one of the “crazies” by certain political operatives. My theory is based on my observations over almost fifteen years of El Paso politics. I offer it as a starting point for discussion. As you know, some of us have been arguing that the “progressives” that have laid forth the current public policy agenda have been on a spending spree in an attempt to take El Paso to the next level.
This spending spree started on the notion that massive spending would somehow make El Paso successful. The most obvious example of the spending spree to prosperity is exemplified by the ballpark but there are numerous other examples of what I believe is El Paso overspending on feel-good projects with little to no economic value for the city. The result of the shopping spree is the overwhelming burden on the taxpayers of the city.
Some argue that to be successful you must spend however those making the decisions to spend taxpayer monies are driven, in my opinion, with the notion that El Paso must be reinvented as a copy of another city in order to be successful. The result, though, is that the taxpayers are now becoming more vocal about the burden imposed on them and city leaders are finding it harder to raise taxes. Politically they are feeling the pressure to keep taxes level.
I believe Steve Ortega was the first casualty of the tax pressure on the electorate. I also believe that the electorate is becoming more vocal as they are beginning to realize that taxes will only continue to rise. However the spending spree is now forcing the politicians to figure out a way to pay the bills and keep the electorate at bay. The answer seems to be fees the government entities impose upon the electorate. These are hidden taxes that the politicians proclaim are not.
Fees have historically been used to offset debt service by shifting monies from one budget item to another. Cortney Niland first tried this during the budget discussions by bringing up water fees. It did not go well but it gave rise to the realization that water fees were an avenue to raising monies to pay for the rising debt.
As a result, city council recently added a franchising fee to the water bills.
However the politicians needed a way to disguise a larger money grab through the water utility. A “significant event” was just the distraction they needed for the electorate. The recent flooding at the city has given the politicians the perfect solution to their dilemma. Arguing that the electorate needs a solution to the city’s flooding they focused on a previous successful money grab – the storm water fees.
I realize that the politicians and the enablers of the progressive agenda will argue ad nauseum that the storm water fees are not a money grab. The thing they conveniently ignore is that the city still floods and that their argument has gone from a 100-year flood event to a 500-year flood event all with the same result of needing more money. They have all sorts of excuses as to why the money they already spent hasn’t resulted in results.
As soon as the flooding started the PSB was already preparing presentations about the wonderful work they have done with taxpayer monies and the Powerpoint presentations were updated to reflect a need for more money. The money grab was on again.
Pay attention to the numerous fees the PSB is floating about. Notice how the local paper, the one that directly benefited from the progressive’s agenda, is now talking about water. Ask yourself how lucky is it for the progressive agenda to have a newspaper reporter get a grant to write about water issues at the very time that raising water fees is on the minds of the politicians.
How very convenient. I believe it is all related, although I can’t prove it.
However, because the electorate is now noticing the oppressing taxes and responding at the ballot box and the taxes disguised as fees is not fooling them anymore the politicians are being forced to look at paying bills by other means. In addition to raising service fees and the continuing talk about raising storm and usage water fees the politicians are also looking at delaying the day of reckoning as much as possible.
Notice how the discussion about the 2012 Quality of Life projects that the voters approved are being used in two ways. The first is that the debate about oppressive taxes is usually preceded with the notion that it is voter approved debt. Voters are told that they knew taxes were going to go up. At the same time the bonds have now become another tool for obfuscating the truth about rising taxes.
There is now a public discussion about the perception of how many years it was going to take to deliver the promised projects to the electorate. First it was ten years and now they are creeping into 15-year projects and before long some of the projects will magically vanish never to be heard of again. The longer it takes to start a project the more time the politicians have to shift monies from one line item to another. For proof of this new debate I offer you this week’s El Paso Inc. article where former city manager Joyce Wilson is stating that it was always a 15-year project.
Keep in mind that Wilson was not only instrumental in the implementation of the progressive agenda but I believe she is wholly dependent on her employment viability on those who support the progressive agenda. Yet, city council members insist it was supposed to take 10-years. As is normal, there are two primary drivers in this discussion. The first is that the person delivering the message is someone who has the excuse of being only the “messenger.” The other is the technicalities about debt-ceilings and debt-service that conveniently confuses the electorate with techno-babble that makes explaining the situation coherently to the normal person impossible.
All of this, of course, is enabled by a complicit news media and an elite with money to burn that loves spending the taxpayers’ monies on their pet projects and thus spending pennies on the dollar of their own money is just the cost of building playgrounds for themselves. Ultimately the brunt of the progressive public agenda is borne by the taxpayers.