The El Paso Arena and Why Have Waited So Long to Write About It

ep-arena-oct16As I posted yesterday, many readers are concerned about two specific topics. The first is that I have been blogging about Donald Trump. The second is that some readers feel like I have been ignoring the arena issue. Yesterday I addressed the Donald Trump controversy. Today, I’d like to address the proposed arena.

Yes, I am aware of the controversies surrounding the arena. No, I am not ignoring them. The fact is that the arena has been in the works since at least 2012 when El Paso voters voted on the Quality of Life projects. The $180 million arena or, technically, the Multipurpose Cultural and Performing Arts Facility is part of the redevelopment of downtown that the El Paso leadership embarked upon many years ago, as far back as the Caballero administration.

In the case of the arena, the taxpayers voted to tax themselves for the arena. This is a fact that cannot be ignored. The issues lie in the processes, like always, and the obvious targeting of the disfranchised populations for the benefit of the community’s elite.

This is the bottom line; the Quality of Life projects are not for the citywide population but for a specific demographic that votes themselves additional taxes at the expense of the non-voters. I have dubbed this the “De-Mexicanization” of El Paso. {link}  It started with the infamous Glass Beach study {link} and continues today through the latest scam; the arena.

You need not look further than two inconvenient facts – the fact that an “investor” approached the City about property they want to sell to the City for the arena, and the fact that eminent domain is now on the table. Eminent domain targets a specific demographic. It is seldom used, as in never in the case of El Paso, against well-to-do voters that live off higher incomes. That is the key – the so-called voters do not suffer the consequences of building play grounds for the elite of the city.

Eminent domain is not new in the case of downtown redevelopment. Raymond Caballero tried it in early 2000. It was part of his plan to make El Paso like other cities. Caballero launched the “De-Mexicanization” effort through the TIF districts {link} he tried to implement it around Segundo Barrio. He was helped by Susie Byrd, Veronica Escobar and Beto O’Rourke, among others.

They, all of them, created the Glass Beach study and it has been the template from that moment on – regardless of what they all tell you today. Every time downtown redevelopment comes up the notion is to redevelop El Paso into another city. San Antonio, Austin or Santa Fe are touted as what El Paso should be.

But there is one impediment to the redeveloped El Paso – the “grittiness” of the Segundo Barrio and its people. I call it the “De-Mexicanization” of El Paso. Thus, you have eminent domain and the development projects that target the specific demographic that the Glass Beach study argued was detrimental to El Paso’s future.

Unlike the TIF Districts, which had strong advocates in the Segundo Barrio community – who rose up to challenge the attempts to take their homes – the current targeted homes are not ready or willing to get “down and dirty” to fight for their homes. The TIF districts were defeated because the home owners fought for their rights. There are not many individuals left in El Paso to oppose the status-quo since most of them have been run out of the city, like me, or have been forced into the shadows under the threat of criminal prosecution.

They’ve been silenced through intimidation. Additionally, the “De-Mexicanization” enablers have learned from their mistakes. Notice how the “vote” to build the arena in the pre-determined location was announced and quickly voted on? It was to limit your ability to throw a wrench into the plans by asking tough questions.

So, in answer to the questions by many of you as to why I’m not writing about this latest controversy; it is because I’ve already written about many times before. The TIF districts, the San Jacinto Plaza the controversy about the Mexican-American Center are topics I’ve written extensively about. They all point to the “De-Mexicanization” of El Paso that is the cornerstone of the Glass Beach study that is still very much driving El Paso “renaissance” today.

Unfortunately, it all comes down to the voters, those who do not vote and thus are targeted by those that do. If you don’t believe me just look at the upcoming city elections. In May, the city’s voters are going to be voting for a new mayor, among other elected offices. Emma Acosta has already said she is running. Cortney Niland is keeping you all in suspense but most of us know that she will likely run. Either of these elected officials have a good chance at being elected because by May their votes to take property away would have been buried in political noise. Those that lost their land or are paying taxes they wish they weren’t paying for others’ playgrounds will likely not take the time to vote to keep both out of the mayor’s office.