This location has been the focus of much community discussion over the years, and while the cleanup has progressed the question of whether to save the iconic stacks has been at the forefront. The tall one, at 828 feet, is one of the largest such chimneys west of the Mississippi, with an estimated replacement value of $20 million. It represents many different things; for some, it’s a symbol of the pollution spewed from the furnaces below, and for others, it raises the possibility of a new future.
I have supported the effort to save the stacks because I believe the structures can be “recast” into a new symbol for El Paso, a progressive future that reconciles with its past.
The land itself has immense public value, even if its market value is debatable. Even if the stacks fall — which the Trustee has scheduled for April 13 — this discussion is going to become increasingly at the forefront once we move into a phase of land “disposal” – in other words, what will happen to the land. That is in the hands of a Trustee invested with the responsibility for cleaning the property, and then disposing of it.
I and many others believe the Trustee has the authority to give the land and the stacks to the city, as well as the ability to use funds for remediation to address issues of retrofitting and ongoing maintenance and liability.
Once the stacks, which signal the entrance to El Paso from the far edges on both sides of the city, are taken down, the action cannot be undone.
Aside from the question of the stacks and the disposition of the property, I am doing due diligence in reviewing the demolition plan.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently told me that they expected to receive the detailed demolition plan last week. They also explained they would test the rubble of the stack before it’s buried.
It’s surprising, given the attention to questions of contamination on-site and the disposal of toxic waste that took place, that the stacks have not been tested and are not planned to be prior to demolition.
For all these reasons, I am not convinced that what is scheduled to take place April 13 is in the community’s best interest.
Local Democratic Party News
As you may know our El Paso County Democratic Chairman, Rick Melendrez, resigned recently due to his responsibilities as sole caretaker for his mother. It is now up to the party’s Executive Committee, comprised of more than 100 precinct chairs, to elect a chair for the local party. The election is set for 6 p.m. March 12, 2013 (a Tuesday), in the El Paso Community College Administration Building, 9050 Viscount.
It is of utmost importance that all eligible precinct chairs attend and actively participate in the election of a new chair. This development presents an opportunity to elect a strong, capable and energetic leader to unite and grow the party. Let’s make the election and transition fair, efficient and positive for the good of the party.
For more information contact Iliana Holguin at 542-1071.
And on a Final, Blue Note
I’d like to congratulate George Ybarra and Butch Maya and the Democratic Party for a successful event on Thursday, Noche Azul in El Paso, and thank the dynamic mayor of San Antonio, Joaguin Castro, for being the keynote speaker.
It was my honor to introduce him to the crowd more than 400, which included many young people. As I said in introducing the mayor, elections have consequences. It is so vital to get the youth involved in the electoral process, and then to follow that up with good public policy. I think Texas will be competitive in the near future, and that will be good for everyone in the state.
While Texas has been blessed with great abundance, I believe we can do better for everyone in our state. Huge portions of our population simply don’t have the opportunities they should, in a state as blessed as ours, in such key areas as education, health care and access to well-paying jobs.
That, combined with a focus on applying those values to District 29, is what drives me every day in the Texas Legislature.