Thursday, May 30, 2013
When the mafia extorts money from you to allow you to live, they call it “protection money.” When the government does it, they call it “consumer protection.” Either way, you are paying for protection from someone who has the power to take everything you have.
Today’s post is written jointly to all residents of cities out there who are thinking of embracing “smart growth” and/or burdening yourselves with the debt of a downtown arena stadium to spur economic development as well as to anyone in El Paso who is considering voting for Steve Ortega for Mayor in the June 15th run off election. I have just one word of advice for both of you–don’t.
El Paso has spent the last couple of years trying to figure out how to redefine itself. Our rabidly “progressive” city council passed a new landscape ordinance which requires more greenspaces and less parking as a part of a plan to beautify our city. Our newly adopted master plan calls for smart growth and a redeveloped downtown where multi-storied, mixed use buildings comprised of retail on the bottom and apartments on the upper levels will line narrow streets. We are spending $27 million on upgrading our notoriously badly run bus system–Sun Metro. And the crowning jewel of this new, green us is a brand new Triple A ballpark stadium which we are building on the site of our former city hall. We imploded the latter building, which was only about 30 years old, on April 14, and moved our city offices, so that we could build a new arena stadium for a minor league baseball team which is moving to El Paso. Combined costs for moving the city offices, imploding city hall and building the arena ball park were initially estimated at between $85 and $100 million. After two years of meetings and investment in a public relations firm, we even have a new city motto–“El Paso: It’s All Good.
“The problem, of course, is that it’s not all good. Our redevelopment comes at the cost of nearly half a billion dollars. According to a news story by KVIA-TV’s Matthew Smith, our city will not break even on the stadium expense for 250 years. That is at the current cost of $50 million, but this past Tuesday the team owners came back to city council requesting an additional $10 million for “upgrades” to the stadium that were not part of the original plan. The official groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium happened today, although construction began a couple of weeks ago, and already we are short on the budget for this boondoggle. The project manager says that if the additional funds are not appropriated–which presently they are not, since city council refused to allocate the extra money–voters will not get the ballpark they were promised.
As it happens, the voters did not get any say on this project in the first place. If they had, I am quite certain that there would be no stadium under construction and city hall would still be standing.