The Duranguito Elephant In the Room

Last week, while I was in the midst of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, an end to the debate over the building of a sports arena in Duranguito was accomplished. On August 8, 2017, I published, “Court Says No to Sports Arena, But is it Dead” where I wrote that the people pushing the downtown sports arena were not going to allow the courts to derail their plan to use your money to build themselves another playground. I know many of the Duranguito supporters were upset over my post. They were upset at either their belief that I was too negative about El Paso to understand their court victory or because my post was too conspiratorial for some.

In my post, I noted that the City, with Dee Margo’s help, was looking to increase its ability to issue debt without voter approval to allow it to circumvent the court’s ruling. Some of you pointed to the court ruling as proof that the sports arena was dead because the court did not allow for public funds to be spent on a sports arena. Some readers cannot believe that the City would ignore court orders when convenient.

But the City knows that it can circumvent the court through subterfuge because the deep pockets deem it important enough to spend your money on litigating the issue until they get the results they want. It’s easier to spend your money especially when the result is going to be you, the taxpayer, will build them another playground – a sports arena.

In addition to the vote to authorize greater flexibility in issuing certificates of obligations, the City has appealed the judge’s ruling. The proponents for the downtown sports arena, led mainly by the Hunt and the De La Vega families, have embarked upon an expensive public relations plan to create the illusion that the community is behind a tax-funded sports arena in the Duranguito footprint.

But the coup de grace was the partial destruction of five of the buildings in Duranguito. Only three buildings were left intact and that is because people responded fast enough to stop them.

Now, let’s look at the process by which the demolition company arrived to begin demolishing the private property buildings and the subsequent actions by the City to plead ignorance of the chaos. It is all a perfectly orchestrated move to make way for the downtown sports arena.

How many of you believe that a demolition company arrives to begin demolishing several buildings by punching big holes in each building before focusing on one building? Not only is this unsafe, because it creates structural problems, but it is very inefficient. There was a reason for their illogical destruction but first, let’s continue with what we know.

The City is protecting itself legally by strategically and secretly supporting the partial demolition of the Duranguito buildings while feigning ignorance of what is happening. The City is arguing it could do nothing about preventing the private property owners from demolishing their buildings, conveniently forgetting that it is within its power to rescind a demolition permit for the simple reason that there is an unclear court order that needs to be cleared up before allowing the demolition to proceed.

Now we get to the insidious part.

The same reason that the City could have effectively stopped the demolition, before it happened is the same reason that the City now must complete the demolition of the Duranguito buildings – the power of a municipality to regulate construction for safety and quality of life reasons.

The City can order the private owners to complete the demolition of their buildings, because of their unsafe state, or, it could simply say that the buildings are detrimental to City’s neighborhood standards and thus they must be brought to compliance or be removed.

Guess which option the owners would act on?

Now ask yourself this simple question, who stands to benefit from the removal of the Duranguito buildings?

If you said, the proponents of the downtown sports arena you just won the prize of the day.

At this point it doesn’t matter how the courts rule. Yes, I am aware that there is court activity asking that the City be forced to repair the buildings.

But, it doesn’t matter because the only impediment to the destruction of Duranguito was its historical overlay which relies on the buildings themselves. Without the buildings, there is no historical reason for the overlay.

But why can’t the court order the City to pay to refurbish the partially destroyed buildings?

Because it comes down to the taxpayers banning together to demand that their taxes not be used to fix a problem they can’t afford to pay for. You’ll soon start to see media blitzes about wasted taxpayer monies on dilapidated buildings tied together with rising taxes. You’ll see posters and social media posts of “old buildings,” instead of a nice ultra-modern sports arena with a winning soccer team playing in it. The tag line would be akin to “what would you rather have your tax dollars go to, old buildings or a sports venue where we can cheer on the local soccer team for $5.00 a game with all the hotdogs you can eat.

But, but, the Hunt’s and De La Vega’s will be using tax monies to build a sports arena? How’s that different in the eyes of the taxpayers?

Both issues tie directly into the propaganda blitz for a sports arena.

Voters, especially those in El Paso, vote on issues based on who has the loudest megaphone.

Megaphones, bought with money, are always louder than those carried by well-meaning activists using their own resources to pay for informing their fellow voters. The worst part is that it is your money that will eventually pay for the whole debacle.

I can see it now, a much touted private-public partnership where the rich people give you a team for a sports arena is in your future. The fine print in the agreement will likely include something like “reimbursement for litigation related expenses, including advertising and consulting to be paid to the team owners.”

The sports arena proponents accomplished their goals through malice and subterfuge. The City, tacitly, if not directly, played along.

It may take many years of litigation and many attempts to keep Duranguito intact, but in the end, it will become a sports arena. This is because like there is “too big to fail,” there is also “too connected to prosecute.”

Sorry, but that is the reality of it.

Funny thing is that some of you still do not believe that there is a plan underfoot to eradicate the Mexican culture from El Paso.

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