Taxpayers Paying $22 million for Political Favors

22mil-ortegaMany of you know that yesterday, KVIA’s Maria Garcia reported on an email she uncovered via an open records request about the delay of the sale of the ballpark bonds. KVIA has also reported that the delay in the sales of the ballpark bonds has cost you, the taxpayer, about $22 million in additional fees and interest. This is money that is coming out of your pockets. Like everything in El Paso, the truth is often hidden behind political shenanigans and the misuse of political mechanisms, like executive session.

Stephanie Townsend Allala and many others, including myself, filed numerous open records requests trying to get the information behind the ballpark scheme. Townsend Allala had to sue the city to force them to release many of the record we now have about the ballpark. Even with the lawsuit and pressure from members of the community, there are still numerous public records that remain hidden from public view.

Steve Ortega, who, according to the email uncovered by KVIA, benefited politically from the delay of the sales of the bonds, has publicly admitted that he has public documents in his possession that he has refused to release to the community.

The San Jacinto fiasco is another example of the city government keeping certain information hidden from you through the apparent misuse of executive session. They continuously discuss the fiasco behind closed doors. We now know, thanks to Cortney Niland, that the city is at least partially responsible for the delays and added costs to San Jacinto. We only know this because of her outburst in a recent city council meeting, not because the city government has been transparent about the ongoing fiasco.

KVIA has now exposed that the delay of the ballpark bonds was the result of political expediency.

According to KVIA, “several council members raised concerns about the timing” of the sale of the bonds “in relation to the upcoming general election, specifically because of the ongoing controversy over the project.” KVIA was quoting from an email dated August 26, 2013 from Joyce Wilson, city manager at the time.

KVIA also let us know that John Cook, the mayor at the time, and Ann Morgan Lilly were apprised of the situation. Therefore, we can conclude that Cook and Morgan Lilly were at least two of the “several council members” referenced in the email. We also know that Steve Ortega was in the midst of an election between him and Oscar Leeser during this time. We know that Ortega lost by a significant margin and that many political observers agree that it was because of the controversy of the ballpark.

Because of this, whether Steve Ortega remembers or not being part of the consideration for the delay of the bonds is immaterial because the fact is that the ballpark had a significant effect on his political race.

Unfortunately, the most important issue for the taxpayers is that they are now saddled with an additional $22 million in debt because “several council members raised concerns about the timing of this activity in relation to the upcoming general election.”

Now ask yourself this very simple question; who decided that it was better for you to spend an additional $22 million to help a political effort.

You are unlikely to ever receive a conclusive answer because the whole ballpark fiasco was done for political favors and behind closed doors because you, the taxpayer, were just needed to fund the whole fiasco, not contribute to the decision. That is the only thing anyone needs to know about the ballpark, today, tomorrow and well into the future.

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