May 23, 2015
This came in from Helen Marshall:
And you thought you’d heard the worst! I am trying to find out who and what the devil this is all about.
Your tax dollars at work!!!
Begin forwarded message:
The City of El Paso, Environmental Services Department, is looking at a change
to Title 7 of the City Code to, among many other things, prohibit some feeding
of wild birds on private property. The proposal was presented at public
meetings on April 30 and May 14. Another public meeting is scheduled for June 4
at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers. The slide in the presentation is labeled
“Add a section to address the feeding of certain animals that create common
nuisances.” The two photographs on the slide refer to birds. Ms.
Rodriquez-Hefner, the presenter, only talked about bird feeding. She mentioned
too many birds and old seed. She also said some people are allergic and some
have asthma. She did say they “are not talking about a single bird feeder.”
The City staff have not yet drafted suggested wording. The public meetings are
to gather public input and attitudes before the ordinances are drafted by the
Legal Department and submitted to City Council for enactment.
This effort apparently comes from complaints by neighbors (we know the details
of one complaint) about bird feeding being a nuisance. At present, the code
applies only to kept, caged, or controlled animals, not wild birds.
The Board of the El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society is strongly opposed to any
restrictions on feeding wild birds on private residential property. Wild bird
feeding is widely practiced in El Paso and is supported by numerous
organizations. Is the complaint of a cranky neighbor enough to harass a person
feeding birds? Which bird species? How many birds is too many? Do health
concerns have any scientific basis for persons marginally exposed to wild birds?
The Environmental Services Department has said they want to hear from the
public. If you have an opinion, please make it known.
May 22, 2015
Some good things happened the other day at city council.
In Disorganized or dishonest? we wrote about several items that were on the council agenda without any backup material. One of the items was a presentation about the city’s second quarter financial results. We commented that not making the report available to the public before the meeting made it difficult for members of the public to exercise their rights when the report is not made public.
The budget report was item 15.4 on the agenda.
When the item came up the chief financial officer of the city prepared to speak. At that point the mayor allowed city representative Emma Acosta to interrupt the presentation and say that since the report was not posted with the agenda members of the public would not have an opportunity to question or comment on the results. She indicated that she had received the report that morning and had not had time to review it herself. She made a request that the item be postponed for one week and that the report be posted on the web.
The chief financial officer indicated that he would be out of town next week and asked if the presentation could be postponed two weeks. Council postponed the item.
Ms. Acosta suggested that in the mean time the report be posted on the web so that the public could exercise it’s right to be informed.
Later in the meeting the item relating to the notification of intent to issue $62 million of certificates of obligation was addressed. Representative Acosta interrupted the presentation and asked if the city could not make the breakdown of the $62 million available to the public. She evidently feels that we have the right to know these things.
The city’s chief financial officer told council and the public that the certificates would be used to pay for projects that have already been approved and completed. He went on to say that spending the money first and then arranging the financing was not the method that either he or the city manager preferred.
Before our former city manager changed the process, city council would approve the sale of bonds, the money would be raised and then the project would be built. This gave council more control over the spending that happens during their tenure. The process that is currently being used allows a city council to authorize a project, have the project started, and then a future city council is required to pay the bills.
Representative Acosta deserves our thanks. If the city manager and chief financial officer can get us back to a more sane method of handling public works, they will deserve our thanks also.
This is better
May 21, 2015
The Times’ editorial the other day was another example of their hypocrisy.
They were advocating the discontinuance of the new water franchise fee. I found myself agreeing with them.
They called the fee a tax. They pointed out that the new city manager suggested cutting expenses instead of ordering the tax. They pointed out that the tax was a last minute suggestion and that the public did not have an opportunity to participate in the process.
Then they did it. They wrote:
Rushed public policy is almost always bad public policy.
Are they saying that their support of the rushed ball park (the team franchise must be purchased now, or else some other city will get it) and the tearing down of city hall with the subsequent sale of the Times building to the city, all done at breakneck speed, was bad public policy?
We deserve better
May 20, 2015
Things are getting less transparent at city council. The May 19, 2015 agenda has these items on it without any backup material. That makes it hard to rally the citizens to speak before council. These items have no backup material other than the item placing it on the agenda:
13.1 Presentation on status and general overview of Capital Projects, including;
a. Carlos Bombach Park Improvements …
13.2 Discussion and action on Aquatics Plan.
15.4 Presentation and discussion on the 2nd Quarter Financial Report for FY2015.
16.1 Presentation of Strategies Plan – Goal 2
16.2 Discussion and action on the construction of Country Club Road.
16.3 Discussion and action on the construction of San Jacinto Plaza.
In addition the agenda includes an item to approve $62 million worth of certificates of obligation. As the posts of the two days have discussed this item has backup material that provides a long list of projects but with no indication of how much each one will cost. Making the item even more confusing is that the backup material that is provided indicates that the money will be spent in the future but according to an article in the Times the city’s chief financial officer has said the money has already been spent.
The lack of the backup material makes it harder for citizens and our city representatives to do their homework before staff makes their presentations and council is required to vote.
Shouldn’t we expect more of city management? We might point out to them their own Goal 5: Promote Transparent and Consistent Communication Among All Members of the Community
We deserve better
May 19, 2015
Is there any truth to the rumor I heard after last week’s gully washing rain storm?
It seems that the public service board is worried that after all the money they have charged us in storm water fees they will still not have enough money to control the occasional flooding.
The rumored solution? Flatten Mount Franklin.
Actually I’m just kidding here.
Then again, it might be cheaper.
We deserve better
May 18, 2015
The city council agenda item that would allow the city to issue notice of intent to issue $62 million of certificates of obligation is another example of the double dealing we are seeing from our city government.
The backup material reads “for the purpose of paying contractual obligations to be incurred for the construction …”.
Can’t stop it
While the backup material says that they want the money to pay for bills to be incurred, the city has evidently already built the projects and rung up the bills. This was printed in the Times the other day:
Mark Sutter, the city’s chief financial officer, who will give a quarterly financial report on Tuesday, said the city has routinely adopted the use of certificates of obligation around this time of year “to reimburse itself for expenditures made on capital project debt authorizations that council has approved for various projects.”
In this case, Sutter said, the $62 million reimbursement covers four authorizations: transportation funding of March 2010, transportation funding of November 2010, short term capital improvement projects of April 2011, and street infrastructure of June 2012.
“The reimbursements cover expenditures since the last resolution (approximately April last year),” he said.
We deserve better
May 17, 2015
The city council agenda for the Tuesday, May 19, 2015 meeting includes an item that would authorize the city to announce that they want to issue $62 million of certificates of obligation.
They evidently want the money to allow them to pay for a whole laundry list of public works projects.
This part of the list caught my attention:
“… renovating, improving and equipping City Hall and other City administrative facilities…”
Details of how much is to be spent on each project are evidently none of our business.
We deserve better