The Hispanic Cultural Center Solution

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, except when it interferes with the intended nefarious agenda of a powerful group. If you are in El Paso, you have likely been keeping an eye on the community’s attempt to build an Hispanic or Mexican-American cultural center. You are also likely aware that there is a court controversy involving the expenditure of $180 million from the 2012 Quality of Life bonds to build a sports arena downtown. The Hispanic cultural center (MACI) has been unable to raise $30 million it says it needs to build the center. The Quality of Life bonds underfunded the proposed Hispanic center by about $30 million.

This is where everything dovetails perfectly.

Late last month, the City of El Paso issued a report stating that the private group organized to raise funds for the Hispanic cultural center were unlikely to do so because the group lacked the necessary tools. The group denies the findings, but does not dispute that they have been unable to raise any significant funds toward the project. The reasons are disputed but at this point the money does not exist.

On Wednesday, the 250th District court issued its final ruling as to whether City of El Paso could sell bonds to build a sports arena downtown. The point of contention is whether the City must build an entertainment and performing arts venue or that a sports arena is what the voters intended.

The court ruled that the City has the right to sell the bonds and those bonds that it has already sold are legal and valid. But the court additionally ruled that the City must use the proceeds to build a “Museum, Cultural, Performing Arts, and Library Facilities” venue.

Did you note how a “cultural,” “museum” and “performing arts” facility nicely fits into the proposed Hispanic cultural center?

The City allocated $180 million for the sports arena, it cannot build under the current ruling. The City has indicated it intends to appeal the ruling. If it appeals, it will spend taxpayer money on legal fees.

However, if the City were to team up with MACI, it could produce the Hispanic center, voted on by the voters, in an acceptable part of downtown El Paso, both fulfilling the expectations of the bond voters and ending the acrimony of the Duranguito neighborhood.

The best part is that the $30 million price tag for the Hispanic cultural center leaves $150 million for another library, which is part of the legal language, as well as addressing other funding shortages.

This simple solution would not only save taxpayer monies, allow for shoring up the other underfunded quality of life projects and create a center of unification in the community instead of the current discord. The taxpayers, especially, would be happy at the tax savings.

Unfortunately, this simple solution ignores the reality that politics isn’t about serving the community, but rather about self-serving the interest of a few people with power.