Articulated buses

August 31, 2014

We are now seeing a few of those new articulated buses traveling our city streets.  I assume that the drivers are practicing.  Evidently they need to practice, I heard a person the other day talking about watching the tail section of one of the busses careening through a turn.

Part of the project has been to build special stations along our state maintained highway 20 otherwise known as Mesa Street.

The stations have had their adjacent roadway torn out and replaced with thick concrete — supposedly to provide support for the heavy buses as they stop and start.

Which is it?

However now the buses are stopping at the old bus stops, the ones without the special reinforcement.

Are we destroying the roadway where they are stopping now, or does it turn out that the streets do not need to be reinforced?

We deserve better

Brutus


More sleight of hand

August 30, 2014

Not that we should have expected anything different, I was wondering about the water wall at our new baseball stadium.

waterwall

The slide above is one of many that were presented to us.

If anyone has seen the water wall I would appreciate being corrected.

We deserve better

Brutus


Mystery solved

August 29, 2014

El Diario and some local radio stations have reported that a dead human was found hanged near the library at UTEP last week.  At this point we don’t know the circumstances or details about the dead soul.

According to a local radio station it is the policy of the Times to not report suicides.  The explanation given is that the Times does not want to publicize these events for fear that the news may spur additional cases.

Now clear

Maybe this can help us understand why the Times does not publicize the corruption that goes on at the city.  They must think that if they do so they might encourage more corruption.  Could it be that we owe them our gratitude?

This could also help explain why our local district attorney will not reveal the results of his investigation into the case where the city representative allegedly assaulted a city employee.  Could it be that he is trying to help the public by not revealing the truth?  If she did assault the city employee and he did let that be known might we have city representatives attacking citizens regularly?

We deserve better

Brutus


Little guy loses

August 28, 2014

Maybe some of our readers can help clarify this situation.

Our local refinery stepped in at city council to express their disapproval of council raising the franchise fee that the electric company is charged.

In an earlier post I speculated that the refinery might be concerned about a tax that would be passed on to them, since they are a large electricity user, when any out of town competitor would not have to pay the fee if they used a different electricity supplier.

What I am not clear on is where the gasoline in El Paso comes from.  I have been under the impression that all of our gasoline comes from our local refinery.  Now I have learned that the 7-11’s in town use gasoline from Alon which comes from out of town.  I might be wrong on this and would appreciate being set straight.

If it is true that the Alon gasoline comes from out of town then we can see that an increase in the franchise tax paid by our electric company would put our local refinery at a competitive disadvantage .

Our city representative that proposed the increase in the electric company franchise fee evidently got the word that her proposal would hurt the profits of the refinery.  Being sensitive to the harm that would be done to this local business she changed her position and voted to impose a fee on all of the other businesses in El Paso.

Both the proposed increase in the franchise fee and the new water utility fee to businesses are attempts to deceive the public.  They are taxes.  By imposing the water utility fee on businesses city council was able to avoid increasing our property taxes even more than they are doing.

In this case the big company was able to avoid having extra costs imposed on them while the individual small businesses in El Paso got the bill.

Our city representative showed were her allegiance is.

We deserve better

Brutus


Game #2 – I Have Dream (High Tech)

August 27, 2014

This from Mr. Jerry Kurtyka:

EL PASO – WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE GAME?

Game #2 – I Have Dream (High Tech)

I have a dream, a fantasy

To help me through reality

And my destination makes it worth the while…

- ABBA, I Have a Dream

It was around 2001 as the Dot.com boom was imploding in Silicon Valley, that I first heard of local efforts to develop a software technology cluster here. Certain individuals in the Chamber conceived of a Camino Real “research corridor” stretching from Los Alamos to Santa Fe to Albuquerque to El Paso and Juarez. They were inspired, in part, by the late visionary George Kozmetsky, UT-Austin business school dean and the co-founder of Teledyne, who noted that this corridor had several components needed to develop a tech industry – a research university; national labs; access to venture capital (in NM); entrepreneurs and labor – but it needed to create an “angel investor” group to provide seed capital to nurture new products along until they were ready for VC expansion.

Ron Munden, CEO of a small tech company here, was the main driver of this idea and did succeed in getting Camino Real Angels, the seed capital group started. It consisted of local investors with deep pockets. They developed screening methods to evaluate deals and even vetted a few with one of them being a healthcare software venture.

Concomitant with the angels, Ron (and others) started what eventually became SITO, the Software Information Technology Organization. I was very interested, volunteered to help, and became its program person who recruited speakers for the monthly meetings for over two years. SITO had a big vision to put together tools and systems that solve industry problems here, not just software: Education; healthcare; defense; intelligence community; government and other sectors. Mostly, though, we just met every month at the Chamber for breakfast and a speaker. Its members were local tech entrepreneurs and CIOs, not really R&D types. So, very little came out of SITO in the five or so years I was involved with it other than a local conference, Biz-Tech that the Hispanic Chamber organized. The same, I think, could be said of the angel investors as a robust deal flow did not materialize for them.

A few other ideas surfaced in this era, the most ambitious being the Bi-national Sustainability Laboratory (BNSL) that was initially funded by Sandia Labs in Albuquerque. The concept was to be a campus spanning the border that developed new products and businesses as an “incubator.” There were other incubator efforts underway, too, at UTEP, one of which (The Hub) is still around and located downtown.

Well, 9-11 put an end to the idea of the border-spanning campus. But it created an opportunity for a local tech entrepreneur, Hector Holguin, and his Secure Origins concept. Secure Origins managed to get financing from the State of Texas with, I think, several million dollar plus injections of research funds to bring its product to market. The City of El Paso also gave them $195K in 2012 to pilot a technology-based tracking mechanism to expedite the cross-border movement of commercial shipments. The main thing Secure Origins seemed to do well is to secure government funding for its now, 7 or 8 year “incubation,” though I hear it has some paying customers. The BNSL similarly failed to find a way to sustain itself beyond grants and is no more except as a corporate shell.

Recently, the Medical Center of America (MCA) Foundation has backed RedSky, a company whose mission is to be a launch pad for healthcare startups, combining angel and venture capital funds, a science and technology team, R&D, and a clinical trials network. RedSky has hired some impressive talent and aims to commercialize intellectual property coming out of Texas Tech and the MCA. Also, Beto Pilares, a UTEP PhD grad, is representing Woody Hunt in a VC business, but as of last Fall it had few if any prospects here.

So, don’t criticize El Paso for not having a serious interest in high tech ventures; it does. You could ask why so few of these efforts have born any fruit yet or even become self-sustaining, not counting the few successful tech companies here that pre-existed these efforts. Really, you could ask the Embarrassing Question: Is there even one tech company in El Paso that originated in any of these efforts, that has existed for five years, has more than one employee and is not on welfare (grants, facilities)?

The easy answer is, this ain’t Silicon Valley that is more aptly described as an “ecosystem” of innovation, talent and capital unique in the world. It is a culture as much as it is a place, a culture that sees mega-deals formed over a power lunch at Birk’s in Santa Clara or new ideas vetted in the cafeterias of the companies along First Street in San Jose. Those cafeterias, if you’ve ever been in one, are a mini United Nations of talent come to these shores to seek fortune and opportunity, peopled with engineers and scientists who consider a 60-hour work week the norm and who obsess with staying ahead of the technology curve in their careers. Sorry, but that is not El Paso’s work or business culture. Some tech companies may develop here, especially with the talent RedSky is importing, but I would expect that their patents and processes will migrate to California and east coast pharmaceutical and med-tech companies, not to local startups.

High Tech lessons learned? First, technology is as much a culture as it is applied theoretical knowledge. It is a culture alien to the El Paso we see every day and experience in our jobs here. If a development strategy is to succeed here, IMHO it needs to be congruent with the local culture and be something that culture can embrace and grow with, a ladder of economic and social mobility (unlike the garment industry). A second lesson is that government has no business in business, because it will always invest politically, not in what works. We are captive to our stories.

NEXT: Game #3 – Give Me Land (Growth)


Nada In The Times

August 26, 2014

It doesn’t take long to realize that the local blogs are the only place to find out what’s happening in our local government. Several blogs do a good job with some first rate investigative reporting which explains to the “crazies” not only what is going on in El Paso but why.

 

A brief summary of the articles of the blogs will be provided followed by a clickable link for your convenience.

On 8/25/14. Max Powers takes on the Convention Center Hotel situation and discusses options. While on 8/21/2014 he he discusses the N.E. Water-park and the Hawaii Falls proposal along with problems encountered in Dallas with their park.

David K on 8/26/2014 suggests the city is proposing to hire a lobbyist to make up the Budget deficit with Washington money. He looks at the firm and its clients and our position with the firm. Nice twist.

Martin Paredes on 8/26/2014 discusses the D.I.M.S.(D.A. Information Management System). which will come up again today at City Council. This is an old issue that is operative and if you don’t remember, Martin will give you the take on what it is and where it could go wrong. Interesting read.

We deserve good Government.  Knowledge is the Vehicle

 

M. T.  Cicero


New fee may be found to be illegal

August 26, 2014

Our Public Service Board and water utility were formed in the 1950’s if my information is correct.  I do not know which Texas laws they operate under so my thoughts here may be inappropriate.  Maybe a reader will be able to better inform us.

Texas law allows municipal water utilities to assess charges for various purposes but they all seem to directly relate to the construction, maintenance, and operation of water distribution.  There are provisions that allow for fees for wastewater and storm water as well as water replacement.  Once again, all of the permitted charges appear to relate to water.

Our city council voted the other day to impose a charge on “non residential” customers of the water utility.  Council’s discussion clearly showed us that they wanted the fee for the city’s general fund, not for any water related activity.

I suspect that in the coming weeks we will see discussion about the nature of the new charge and whether the water utility can legally impose the bill on the “non residential” customers.  Listening to the city council meeting where this charge was discussed we can clearly see that their purpose in imposing the fee was to raise more revenue for the general fund, not to improve the water utility system.

We deserve better

Brutus


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