Why I support the bond issues
In about two weeks we’ll go to the polls to make a series of decisions about our future.
The presidential campaign has earned most of the attention nationally, and even to a degree locally. But for El Pasoans, there are other choices that are just as significant.
El Paso residents will decide such questions as who we want representing us at the state and what we want for the future of our community.
That’s what I’m writing about today.
El Paso will vote on spending almost $500 million for quality-of-life projects — parks, libraries, recreation centers, and yes, financing a downtown ballpark.
While there are fair questions, including the expense of the items, I believe that the program is worthy of our support. Progress requires sacrifice. It is no small thing to ask people to pay a few dollars extra each month. Added to a dollar here and a dollar there, the payments quickly add up. So this is not to be taken lightly.
But neither is the future of our city.
Ultimately, I strongly believe El Pasoans deserve first-rate civic amenities. These have long-term benefits for a city — for children growing up, for adults raising families, for people and businesses considering the quality of a community to which they’re considering moving.
We also deserve detailed accounting and community engagement. Residents of neighborhoods in line for amenities must be allowed input on the project details, and the books must be open.
There is another issue, one that has taken over the conversation. The ballpark project might live up to its promise as an attraction that can aid economic development, but it’s off to a rocky start. Even if the financing method passes and out-of-town guests pay the lion’s share of the cost through hotel-motel taxes, the city will still be liable for about 30 percent of the $50 million ballpark, and there will be additional costs to move city government to new locations.
Simply put, this will have a community cost, and that should be transparent.
Still, as I think this over I keep going back to the idea that for too long, El Paso has been defined by what it has not done. We are in a time of growth and possibility. I would prefer to take the chance and risk success rather than regret lost opportunities. We should chart our own destiny.
That’s the idea behind the bond proposals, which are part of a larger program meant to expand the framework of opportunity in the region.
Key elements are the growing role of higher education in El Paso that includes the push for Tier 1 status at UTEP and Texas Tech’s expanding role in the community, the exciting possibilities we see coming to fruition at the Medical Center of the Americas, the expansion of Fort Bliss, the push toward higher-quality neighborhood development that has parks and open space, and putting emphasis on our Downtown.
A year ago, even as the state continued to push its responsibilities to the local level, El Pasoans were denied a chance to manage our parks system countywide more efficiently. Voters from elsewhere in Texas decided their disapproval of government overrode our right to local decision-making, and a constitutional amendment to allow us to develop a regional parks authority was voted down, even though it passed in El Paso.
We will continue to work with the state on projects that benefit us and create value for Texas. But some things we just have to do on our own.
The quality of life in our community is up to us.
It is for that reason that I support the three propositions on the ballot Nov. 6, and encourage you to do the same.