Wednesday, June 27, 2012

El Paso City

To me, "El Paso City" is a horrible rip-off of the Marty Robbins classic "El Paso." And I do realize that both songs were penned by the same man, but come on, it's an awful song. However, it is a fitting title for this blog as the actions conducted by El Paso City Council are equally as awful.

In perhaps a monumentally stupid move, El Paso City Council voted to demolish City Hall to build a $50 million baseball stadium in it's place. The vote was apparently required for the city to continue negotiations to bring a Triple-A baseball team to the city. Yes, you read that correctly. To. Bring. A. Team. The city is willing to demolish City Hall, spend $50 million on a stadium, and we don't even have a team yet.

It gets better. El Paso currently has a non-affiliated team, the Diablos. They play out of Cohen Stadium, a city owned field in the Northeast of El Paso. The Tigua Indian Tribe purchased the team for $500,000 and they have sunk about $1.5 million into repairing and improving the stadium. However, under the terms of the deal with MountainStar Sports Group LLC (the company brokering a team for us), there is a non-compete clause. Meaning, the Diablos got to go. By 2015, they cannot play at Cohen Stadium or in the city of El Paso for that matter. The Tigua's are pissed (rightfully so) because this deal was being put together without their knowledge when they were buying the Diablos. And they thought they got screwed over when the white man stole their land!

But wait, it gets better, again! Because City Hall will be demolished, 650 city employees will need to be relocated. At a cost to taxpayers of $3 million dollars a year, they will be placed in office space around the Downtown area. That's on top of salaries. The cost to demolish the 33 –year-old City Hall will be around $2 million and the cost to move everything around $2.5 million. The city estimates it would cost $33 million to build a new City Hall and that does not include the cost of land acquisition.

So what do we have here folks? If the city started work today and finished by this time next year (which would never happen in a city this corrupt and lazy) the total cost to bring a Triple-A baseball team would be around $100 million dollars. Add on the lawsuits that are no doubt coming from the Tigua's and other business owners in the vicinity of the new stadium and you'd have to tack on a couple million more. Oh, lest I forget, the deal increases hotel taxes, property tax and a slew of other things to pay for it. And what is MountainStar getting out of it? They have to pay $5 million in rent for 25 years. Not per year, for the whole 25 years. Something tells me they're getting off cheap. 

I must confess, I don't get it. Why bring in a Triple-A team? This city knows no loyalty. The Diablos can't even fill half of Cohen Stadium, even when they don't suck. When they were the farm club of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Randy Flipping Johnson came here to pitch, they still didn't fill that place. UTEP can't sell out a football game. UTEP Men's basketball only sells out when their winning. Give it a few more years of sub-par standings and they'll be giving those tickets away for free. So why spend $100 million dollars on this? To renovate City Hall would cost between $9 and $13 million. Cohen Stadium would be Triple-A Quality with about $10 million in repairs. At worst case, $30 million gets you a nice City Hall and a professional stadium.

I have read and re-read the comments on various pages about the city's decision. There's a mix of rage and pleasure. Some people are pissed about it not being voted on by the people, others because of the Tigua's getting screwed. But the people who think this is a good idea? They're the worst. People are actually praising the idea to place it downtown as it will revitalize an area that needs it. You know what would revitalize the area? Less bullets flying over from Juarez. Does no one remember City Hall being struck by stray Cartel bullets? It happened in 2010. The same site you wish to build a stadium that will hold thousands of people can be hit by bullets from across the border. But wait, that was in 2010, it can't be that bad now, right? Wrong. Back in February, a woman was struck with a bullet in the leg while walking downtown with her child in a stroller. Think of all the people who will be walking to their cars, to diners and cafes, to the shops in the surrounding area. Do you think they’re magically safe from gunfire? 

Traffic already is atrocious downtown. Construction on the roads is never ending, as is the constant influx of people from Juarez. Notice I did not say illegal, thank you very much. The Santa Fe Bridge (combined with El Paso's other 3) sees an estimated 250,000 crossings a day into the city. How much will those increase during a game night? How congested will the traffic be then? Probably bad enough to cost the city more money in road work.

Here's the real kicker. The city of El Paso is 200 police officers short of what it takes be at MINIMUM staffing. Minimum. The past 3 recruiting classes have been cut or postponed because there isn't any money to hire more officers. No money to serve and protect the citizens of the Sun City. No money to respond when my sociopathic neighbors are screaming and fighting and pointing guns at people. No money, so where is this $100 million for this new stadium going to come from. I can't speak for the less-outraged people of this town, but I can speak for me and mine. We'll take more cops over a baseball stadium any day.


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