Maybe some council members should be spanked

September 29, 2014

An alert reader sent me this link to an article in El Diario.

We know that some of the members of city council cannot behave themselves during council meetings.  It seems that one in particular touches and holds another during the course of discussion with the intention of interfering with the touchee’s speech.

The touchee decided to move to the other side of the council table.  The problem with that is that the council table is not wired for that number of council members on that side of the table.  The touchee caused the city representative that used to sit there to move further toward the edge where there are no electronic devices for her to use.

The touchee is wrong here.  She should have found a way to settle the problem with the toucher so that she would not have to move.

The movee (the one with no electronics) is wrong in that she should have refused to move.

The mayor is right in taking the position that he is not going to pay to have the electronics installed.

Council has had to revert to a manual roll call when voting since one of the members has no buttons to push.

Personally I prefer the manual roll call.  We got to see some unexpected votes when the members of council had to publically cast a vote.

These people are not just acting like children.  They are acting like selfish incompetents.

We deserve better

Brutus


Missing and inaction

September 29, 2014

None of us can make this stuff up.

The city’s web site lists the various departments with their contact information and who is in charge.

Of the 33 or so departments listed all but two have a link to a departmental web site.

The department named “Economic and International Development” is one of the two that don’t have web sites.  I guess that they don’t want anyone learning what they have to offer.  This is strange when we have an administration that tells us that getting jobs for our citizens is a high priority.  I doubt that the mayor is aware of the situation.  From what I have heard about him he would probably blow a gasket.

Taking the prize

The other department not having a web site is just typical.

Which one is it?  “Communications and Public Affairs”   What can you say?

The new city manager has got a real problem here.  He did not hire these people but he is responsible for them now.

We deserve better

Brutus


Unravelling?

September 28, 2014

You might recall that the city is being sued by a software vendor for alleged piracy.

If you are not familiar with the situation and want to know more you can read One time where the city cannot bully a vendor and Pirates as well as hypocrites.

The two parties attended a mediation session recently and have failed to come to a settlement.

It looks like the case is headed for trial.  Many of the people involved from the city’s side are no longer employed by the city so they have not been able to sweep this one under the rug.  The new administration does not need to protect them.

Should our former city employees be worried?  I don’t think that the lawsuit is seeking damages from the individuals.  If however the city loses this case our former city employees will probably be made to look like thieves.

We might start to learn some of the truth about what was going on behind closed doors in the past administration.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


Prediction or procrastination?

September 27, 2014

The Tuesday, September 16, 2014 agenda for the El Paso Independent School District board of managers includes two construction items.

One approves a contract to spend slightly less than one million dollars for classrooms at Crockett elementary.

The other commits $4.2 million for a new classroom wing and kitchen and library additions and improvements at Milam elementary.

Finally

These projects are being funded from the 2007 bond issue.  For the record we are in 2014 now.  They were part of what the public was promised when the bond issue was being promoted.

Why has it taken so long to get around to making these improvements?  Were they not necessary back in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 … ?  Have we been paying interest on these bonds?

Are these people so smart that they can tell us what our needs will be seven years in advance, or have they been busy with more important things like football fields?

We deserve better

Brutus

 


100 year storm, 250 year storm, do I hear 500 years?

September 26, 2014

In 2006 El Paso had what was called a “100 year storm” and our city suffered damage to streets and property because the water could not drain as it should have.  The cause was said to be poor maintenance of our drainage system and lack of funding to build facilities.  Those are city responsibilities.

The city stepped up to the plate and used the situation as an excuse to charge property owners more money.  Charges were imposed that were to be dedicated to solving “our problem”.  Prior to this the funding for any efforts the city made came out of the general fund.  When the new charges were put in place we did not see a corresponding decrease in the city budget — the new charges were just a new tax.

Last year in Money down the drain we saw that the city was charging land owners about $15 million a year and was only spending about $7 million of the fee for operating expenses (including bond costs).  The remainder was being used for bond costs and transfers to the city.

Lifting the boat

Last week we had another of our summer gully washers.  This one has been characterized as a 250 year storm.  Get ready to pay more money.

The 2014 financial report for the water utility shows that the drainage fee has reached $15.8 million each year.  Of that residential customers pay about $6.2 million and businesses pay around $8.9 million.

According to the report they spent about $3.9 million on actual maintenance.  Another $1.7 million was spent on “general and administrative” costs and $1.3 million on “indirect cost allocation”.  Indirect?  How about directly to cover other expenses not directly related to water drainage — in other words subsidizing the city.  These people are spending $3 million a year in administrative costs to provide $3.9 million in service.

Don’t be surprised to hear city officials talking about the need for more money to handle water drainage.  They will tell us that they cannot control the weather and now that we have had a 250 year event we need more money to handle the next record setter.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


EL PASO – MASLOWPOLIS

September 25, 2014

This from Jerry Kurtyka:

EL PASO – MASLOWPOLIS

# 6 – A Consciousness of Cities

The greater our need for food or safety or affection or self-esteem, the more we will see and treat the items of reality, including ourselves and other people, in accordance with their respective abilities to facilitate or obstruct the satisfaction of that need. – Abraham MaslowBack to Richard Florida and his thesis that making your city just like everyplace else is a sure way to kill its attractiveness and, hence, cut off a desirable influx of hipsters and cultural creatives. El Paso pursues a strategy of expensive vanity projects rather than focus on basic infrastructure improvement that today includes ubiquitous high-speed broadband and the ability of citizens to use it effectively in addition to good streets. Who are we trying to attract? Retain?

I see El Paso’s strategy as equivalent to a corporate “best practices” strategy which is to say, if you don’t do it, you fall behind but if you do it, it doesn’t get you ahead of the game. So what is the game? Is there one correct strategy for urban vibrancy?

My urban studies have pointed to two major factors that account for a prosperous and vibrant city: educational attainment and citizen participation. Both of these factors are easily measured, too, and if you have them everything else will fall into place. But not always, it seems.

By my standards, Portland OR ought to be an urban paradise of economic and cultural vitality, yet it has recently been called a place where the young go to retire (NYT Magazine, 09/16/14) because it is over-populated with college grads who live there for the brew pub and coffee house culture, but with few prospects of a professional career in the local economy. El Paso, in contrast, is catching up slowly on educational attainment but is downwardly off the scale in citizen engagement. That is one reason why vested interests have so much leverage over elected officials here. For example, consider a recent CC election in which only 1,000 voters turned out and the winning candidate was largely financed from the west side, not her own district.

In our region, Santa Fe is similar to Portland. I lived in Santa Fe for a year and never met so many PhD bartenders and concierges who came there for the music, literary and art scene. There is a thin line between funky and trashy, too, as I learned. Funky is when my next door neighbor with the 1966 pickup truck on blocks in the driveway and a backyard full of scrap iron has an MFA from Yale and calls himself a sculptor; trashy is when he is just a retired plumber. My favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, La Casa Sena, hires singers from the Santa Fe Opera as wait staff who serenade you with an aria while serving your Aztec-dusted filet. It must be a wonderful experience for them, but what happens when they grow up and want to have a family, steady job and a home for their kids with good schools nearby? They probably don’t stay in Santa Fe.

So, I would say now that my view of urban vibrancy has evolved to be that of a city that has a place for all comers, though it may have a boutique concentration for some. Like Austin does for young techies who want to make the music and food scene on 6th Street when they’re not coding Java for Oracle. Wouldn’t it be great if El Paso could do as much and also accommodate the salon workers and tradesmen and retirees with its affordable housing? There will always be places like Santa Fe and Aspen for a getaway to haute’ culture and skiing, but for me I do not want to feel a total let down when I land back in El Paso and think to myself, “Oh crap, I’m home.” No, I want to feel good about whatever place I call home.

We grappled with this at the Urban Systems Collaborative (USC) conference in London last year and settled on a familiar construct from Psychology 101 to help us organize our ideas as to what makes for quality of life in the city: Maslow’s Pyramid.

Maslow’s Pyramid tells us that we have to meet our needs on a spectrum from the basic upward, otherwise we live in a deficit situation. It’s like some poor kid in Darfur who gets up in the morning and is worried about whether he’ll be alive that evening. Until his needs for security and food are met, he is in no position to plan a future at Harvard. In the city, this means that we usually don’t build an opera house until we have good roads to it with water and sewer. The city has to meet its needs from the bottom up rather than the top down, which explains why so many of us are concerned with the condition of El Paso’s streets while the CC goes off on a debt-fueled trolley ride. We have different opinions about where El Paso sits on the Pyramid.

MASLOW2

 

 

So, look at my expanded Maslow Pyramid and ask yourself where El Paso is and where it might go with the understanding that we will never be a boutique city like Mendocino or Sedona. But the boutiques are not necessarily friendly or affordable to all comers, either. The little craft homes in Rio Grande here that sell for $60K could easily cost $500K in boutique Aspen. Where is the value difference coming from other than what Aspen offers further up the Pyramid that very wealthy people are willing to pay for?

But the average El Paso family of mom, dad and 2.5 little ones earning $40K annually doesn’t necessarily need that space at the top of the pyramid as much as they need good schools and roads to get to work at ADP on time. The existential question for yourself then is, “What do I need in my city and will I find it here?” Where is the value coming from here in El Paso that our citizens do not vote, our CC is obsessed with vanity projects, and we are thrilled when ADP expands paper-smashing jobs?

NEXT – Some Affordable Steps to Renewal

 


Council uber all

September 24, 2014

El Paso Inc. wrote in their Monday, September 22, 2014 post (www.elpasoinc.com) that Uber is now operating in El Paso.

Uber is a jitney service where people can use their smart phone to arrange a ride instead of taking a taxi.  Users say that the service is quicker and more convenient than using our traditional taxi companies.

Part of the Inc.  post included this:

“I’m all for it,” said city Rep. Claudia Ordaz, City Council’s newest and youngest member. “I think this is a good opportunity for the city to look at the vehicle-for-hire-regs and maybe revamp them so that services like this can abide by the rules.”

Our city representative says that she’s all for the new service, even though it appears to be illegal to do this in El Paso.

Rules

Many of our elected officials seem to have difficulty remembering that our laws must be obeyed.  If we don’t like them we should change them.  If this service is truly illegal in El Paso, then what she said is irresponsible.  A better response might have been “the City needs to look into how we want to handle this.  I think that I would vote for an ordinance that would allow Uber to operate legally”.

Instead what we saw was a city representative once again deciding that they have the authority to violate or encourage others to violate our laws.

We deserve better

Brutus


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