Above the law?

August 22, 2014

The Max Powers blog published an article the other day titled “Hawaiian Hardball”.

The article contained a link to an email from the former city manager instructing the city staff to play “hardball” with an open records request relating to a potential water park.

It looks as though the city was negotiating with a organization and received an offer from the firm.  Then someone (probably a competitor) filed an open records request asking for access to the offer.  You can read the email below:

hardball

Power hungry

In the email we learn that the city manager wanted “to play hardball” with the proprietary portion of the offer.  She did not want to release that material so she decided to use her power and “play hardball”.

If she cared just a little bit about the law she would have known that the city did not have to nor should it have released the proprietary material, so she did not need to play hardball.  She just wanted to.

The Texas Public Information Act gives specific instructions to governments requiring them to notify the owner of the proprietary material and giving the owner an opportunity to object to the release before releasing documents like these.  If an objection was raised the city would then have to take the issue to the attorney general of Texas for a determination.

The general principal is that while negotiations are still being conducted no party should have access to information that would give them a competitive advantage.  How the city might have proceeded with the offer is another issue.

Mean spirited

The city did not have to play hardball.  They simply could have obeyed the law.  I wonder if she knew that.

We deserve better

Brutus


We could improve our roads

August 21, 2014

Why are our neighborhood road in such disastrous shape?

Neglect is a big reason.  The city’s efforts have been toward “signature projects”.  In the meantime our roads are falling apart.

Standards

All of us have experienced the frustration of seeing a newly paved road be torn apart while some utility project scarred the new street.

We should be able to plan better.

We should start with a well built street.  Then we should try to avoid tearing it apart.  When it becomes necessary to dig a trench we should require the contractor to return the road back to it’s original condition.

Then we should hold the contractor responsible for the repairs over the life of the pavement.

Yes, this will cost more.  Then again maybe we will not be so quick to pave a road when utilities will need to dig them up later.  That will require planning and coordination.  The city will have to work with the utilities.  In those cases where it is necessary to tear up the road we have to hold contractors responsible instead of letting them save money with shoddy work.

We deserve better

Brutus


Continuing lies

August 20, 2014

Now the financial expert that was brought in to save the children’s hospital has resigned.

It looks like the ship is sinking.

It was built on false economics.

After multiple studies they finally found one that said it might work, if.

Then the people behind this built a hospital even bigger than the one that the last study said would be marginal.

The children’s hospital needed to be a part of a general hospital, not a separate entity that would draw money away from our county hospital.

The charges from the county hospital were poorly planned.  To this day no one has explained why the children’s hospital has to pay rent to the county hospital when the construction was financed by a separate bond issue specifically promoted to build the children’s hospital.  The charges for services that the children’s hospital has to pay the county hospital are unreasonable.  If children’s was in fact a separate entity they could have at least managed those expenses to be within their means.

The revenue projections, as optimistic as they were, were based on reimbursement from the state and feral governments.  Planning to have a steady revenue stream from those two was just wrong.

Now both hospitals are in trouble.

The children’s hospital chief executive has resigned.  Is the situation beyond fixing, or would the solutions not be acceptable to the people in power who got us into this mess originally?

We will soon get to see the new county hospital budget for next year.  I won’t be surprised if it too is based on false economics.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


A tax by any other name is still a tax

August 19, 2014

Our local petroleum refinery has announced that it opposes the city raising the franchise fees that our electric company pays.

The economic reality is that the electric company will pass on the increases to it’s customers.  That means you and me as well as the refinery that is a major customer of the electric company.

The refinery will try to pass on the increase in it’s costs to the motoring public.  Lack of serious competitive pressure probably means that they will be able to do that.  Eventually the public will blame the refinery.  The cause of a gasoline price increase will soon be forgotten by the public and the refinery might have to compete with products brought in from other places where they do not have to pay the city’s new fee.

City council’s action is an increase in taxes.  Some will try to tell us that it is not a tax, it is an increase in fees.  I googled the word tax and this is the first definition that came back:

a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’ income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions

Granted it is not an increase in property taxes.  State law requires that property tax increases above certain percentages must be put to a public vote.  Council has once again decided to not let us vote, but their action is a tax and their actions are deplorable.

At this point they are also considering imposing a new fee on the city owned water company.  That too would be a tax on the consumers.

We deserve better

Brutus


Some are more special than others

August 18, 2014

The Tuesday, August 9, 2014 city council agenda has an interesting item on it.

Item 12.4 on the regular agenda contemplates renting three parking spaces next to the DoubleTree downtown to the hotel corporation.  They plan to use it to park tour busses.  These three parking spaces occupy 612 square feet of Missouri Street.  The hotel will pay the city $2,040 per year for the exclusive use of the spaces.

A previous post, Valet Parking, addressed a similar situation downtown.  The upscale restaurant in the Mills building wanted to use part of Oregon street to facilitate valet parking.  The city provided them with 1,376 square feet of space for $1,000 per year.

Both facilities are owned by people that have close ties to city government.  Evidently some are closer than others.

We deserve better

Brutus


Rough roads

August 17, 2014

Along the same lines as the discussion about the sad state of our police cars, another thing that someone would look at when considering whether to move their company to El Paso is the condition of our roads.

Our neighborhood roads are in horrible condition.  Anyone looking at them can tell that there will be a huge tax bill coming eventually.

Maybe the city should reprioritize it’s spending policies to make our city streets look less disgraceful.  Who wants to move to a losing city?

We deserve better

Brutus


Pitiful police cars

August 16, 2014

Our mayor has told us that bringing new businesses and jobs to El Paso is one of his highest priorities.

Just as most of us would clean up our house before offering it for sale, the city could do some things to make us look better in the eyes of people visiting the community to see if they want to move here.

Our police cars look like we are either broke or don’t support public safety.  Many of the cars have paint peeling off of them.  They look like junk.

They certainly do not convey the image of a healthy city.

We deserve better

Brutus


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