Luxury from our tax dollars

August 28, 2015

The superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District was featured in an El Paso Times article the other day.

What they wrote when quoting the superintendent goes a long way explain by example one of the problems with our local governments.

They wrote:

The largest project remains the $93 million renovation of Eastwood High School, though the price tag is nearly $20 million more than what was proposed this spring.

Under the May proposal, YISD would have completely rebuilt the school. The new plan would renovate 85 percent of it but at a higher caliber, De La Torre said, offering the analogy of a model home’s upgrades versus the standard home buyers end up getting.

“What we were getting was the base price,” he said. “We weren’t getting the marble; we were getting the Formica.”


Not only do these people want $430 million of your money but they are publicly stating that they want our public schools to be luxurious.  His statement was not accidental.  The Times reported this:

Under the May proposal, YISD would have completely rebuilt the school. The new plan would renovate 85 percent of it but at a higher caliber, De La Torre said, offering the analogy of a model home’s upgrades versus the standard home buyers end up getting.

Standard home buyers

The district needs to understand that El Paso is one of the poorest of the major cities while having the 5th highest taxes of America’s 50 largest cities.  Many citizens cannot even afford their own home.  They get taxed through their landlords and in tragic twist of circumstances do not qualify for property tax exemptions.  Yes the poor are disadvantaged from a property tax perspective.

The thought of building fancy school buildings when utilitarian ones will do when El Paso is in the economic situation that it is in is foolish.

Buying votes

The article showed the superintendent intending to buy the voters.

He quoted Hughes: “Not everybody is going to get everything they want, but everybody is going to get something that they want.”

And then:

Hughes’ job ended after the trustees approved the bond issue, but De La Torre said he is considering hiring other consultants to help push the proposal forward.

Our school officials could get into trouble if they use taxpayer money to advocate for this bond issue.

We deserve better




Sun Metro performance

August 27, 2015

This is sad.

With all the hope that the Brio system brought ridership is down significantly across Sun Metro’s system.

The mass transit director’s presentation from their July 2015 board meeting was attached to their agenda for the meeting.

The numbers are for the first three quarters of their physical year (ending May, 2015).


What we can see is an almost 15% decrease in ridership for the first three fourths of the year.  Costs per trip are up 12%.  Safety as well as on time service both deteriorated.

The buses run on natural gas.  Gas prices have been declining, yet our costs are still higher.

We deserve better


More money for EPISD

August 26, 2015

The “penny swap” initiative proposed by the EPISD went to the voters and was approved.

Taxpayers will not pay more money because of this but the state will contribute about $9 million more to the district each year.

That means we will be paying down our bond debt by about $4 million less each year.  According to a recent article in the Times:

The district is expected to pay off its debt on time despite the changes, EPISD interim Chief Financial Officer Art Martin told the El Paso Times this week.

If the voters had rejected the initiative their tax bills would have gone down.  Instead they voted to keep their bills the same and take $9 million more a year from the state.

The district took a gamble when they unilaterally lowered the interest and sinking fund tax rate by the same amount that they wanted to raise the maintenance and operations rate.  Now they are telling us that they will find a way to fund bringing debt payments back to their former rate.

We’ll see.

We deserve better



Electricity rates

August 25, 2015 published an interesting piece, Step Right Up , the other day about our electricity rates in El Paso.

It seems that our area is one of the few  in Texas that is not deregulated.  The article gives a long list of events that will have to happen before we can have deregulated electricity.

Is this because we are so geographically isolated or are other forces at work here?

We deserve better


Simple is as simple does

August 24, 2015

City staff gave  a show and tell presentation to council a few weeks ago.

The topic was the improvement made in one specific area of the parks and recreation department.  They applied some of the six sigma principles that they have been learning about.

The problem staff tackled had to do with water sprinkler repair/replacement in the parks.  Previous to the initiative it took 24 hours for a sprinkler to be repaired.  Staff studied and planned and collaborated and the result was that it now only takes 2 hours to effect the repairs.

Their solution?  They put more sprinkler parts in the trucks that the workers drive to the park location.

No mistake

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am pleased that our new city manager is acting like a manager.  The end result of their effort is clearly a good one.

I shudder to think of the inefficiencies in daily operations in our city departments if this effort deserves special recognition.  The workers involved probably figured it out on their first day of work.

And the fact that city council sat there and applauded without a single representative asking what other Forest Gump situations we have at the city tells us a lot about where we really are.

We deserve better


Engineered profits

August 23, 2015

The Times reported the following in their Wednesday, August 18, 2015 edition:

The city recently hired two engineering and consulting firms — HNTB and Freese and Nichols — to assess the department’s policies and procedures, and to manage the Metropolitan Planning Organization submittal process for transportation projects.

Lombraña said both firms would be eligible to bid for contracts in the future if the city decides to outsource work previously overseen by city engineers–even if the recommendation to do so comes from the firms themselves.

Searching the city council agendas we got no results for either a contract with HNTB or Freese and Nichols, so we cannot report any of the financial details.

Being able to bid on projects that they themselves recommend be taken to bid must be sweet.

We deserve better


Send the message

August 22, 2015

apathykills3Just showing up to vote sends a message to our elected officials.

We deserve better



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