What does our chief performance officer do?

July 5, 2015

I’ve been wondering about us having a chief performance officer at the city.

Is the San Jacinto Plaza disaster something where we should expect performance?

Maybe a reader can explain to us what our chief performance officer is supposed to do.

We deserve better



Thoughts about our future independence

July 4, 2015

What those brave people did in 1776 changed the world and all of us should be grateful.

Thinking of our situation today, two quotes come to mind:

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both”.  Ben Franklin

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.  Edmund Burke

Be careful today.

We deserve better


Take a smaller bite

July 3, 2015

The El Paso Independent School District announced that they are considering a different plan for the school consolidation and refurbishing.  Instead of needing one billion dollars they are now projecting the need for $686 million.

That is good news.  It looks like the district is working to come up with the best solution that they can find.

Earn our trust

Many of us do not trust our local governments to handle bond issue money.  Cost overruns, “repurposing”,  switching projects, and never ending projects  are events that we continue to see and are on our minds.

Much of the money will be used to remedy “deferred maintenance”.  Instead of maintaining our buildings on an annual basis,  past school boards have ignored maintenance in order to pretend to balance the budget.  The result is that they have to ask for bond money when the schools are too run down to continue to operate.

I have a straightforward suggestion.  Instead of asking for all of the money at one time the district should ask for a smaller more manageable amount (say $68 million) and then prove to us that they can handle the money wisely.  They could then come back to us and ask for another tranche after having proven that our money was well spent.

Remember the old saying: “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”.

The quality of life bonds at the city have caused us to realize that the city staff does not have the capacity to handle the $400 million that we voted for.  They are going to have to parcel out the construction over a period of time.

We deserve better


A suggestion to improve transparency

July 2, 2015

When a new city council term starts they normally review and modify their operating rules.  They do this through an ordinance that controls the placement of items on their agenda.

We are seeing more and more cases of agenda items being posted with no backup material for either the public or the city representatives to review.

The ordinance that specifies the rules for posting agenda items used to say that the backup material had to be posted at the same time as the agenda item.  If for some reason it could not happen council had to take a special vote to allow consideration of the item.  Otherwise the item had to be tabled.

We should go back to this rule.

You can read more about what they did in Public confession.

We deserve better


City secrecy part five

July 1, 2015

The Texas Municipal League’s document “The City Attorney:  A Reference Manual” addresses the attendance of a city attorney in executive session at a city council meeting.

“Bringing your city attorney into executive session is tricky. In some cases, the city attorney must be present in an executive session: namely, executive sessions in which the purpose is to consult with the attorney about litigation or a matter involving attorney-client privilege.”

The document goes on to say that when council needs legal advice, attendance of the city attorney is necessary.  However:

“There is an executive session scenario involving the city attorney that the council should be careful to avoid, though. Sometimes a city is tempted to adjourn into executive session to discuss a controversial or sensitive matter for which there is no independent legal authority to hold the executive session. To get around this, the council will take the city attorney in tow and label the executive session “consultation with the city attorney.” This should not be done.”

Later they write:

“For example, say the city is negotiating a contentious contract for the purchase of a piece of equipment. The city council would like to conduct the discussions in executive session, out of the hearing of the public and press. Can it do so by consulting with the attorney? No. For one thing, there isn’t pending or reasonably anticipated litigation going on—mere controversy or sensitivity doesn’t amount to anticipated litigation. So the city will have to look for other independent authority—but there isn’t any. Discussion of real estate might qualify, but not equipment. The bottom line? Be careful not to use your new city attorney as a “crutch” to conduct otherwise improper executive sessions. Illegal executive sessions might result in jail time (for you, not the city attorney).”

Does this happen in El Paso?

Let’s take the case of the weekly updates on San Jacinto Plaza.  Council should discuss the situation in public.  What progress has been made?  What is left to do?  If it appears that legal action will be necessary they should adjourn into executive session but the citizens should hear the details of what the situation is.

Secrecy is the reason they take the whole matter into executive session.

We deserve better


Pretty drunk?

June 30, 2015

Our city manager is requiring that items that are placed on the city council agendas be identified with one of the city’s stated goals.

I guess its a six-sigma kind of thing.

This agenda item from the June 30, 2015 city council agenda caught my attention:


Maybe I’m naïve but I don’t see how allowing a bar to open close to a daycare center promotes the visual image of El Paso.

I can see how goal number 2, “Set the Standard for a Safe and Secure City” or maybe even goal number 4, “Enhance El Paso’s Quality of Life through Recreational, Cultural and Educational Environments” might apply but “visual image”?

Do these people ever check their work?

We deserve better


Your check for $1,526 please

June 29, 2015

The city has a report on it’s web site titled “Amended Continuing Disclosure Report For The Fiscal Year Ended August 31, 2014″.  It applies to general obligation debt.

It shows that the city had $1,046,440,00 in property tax supported debt and the end of it’s 2014 year.  That’s one billion, forty six million, four hundred and forth thousand dollars.

The report shows that each and every man woman and child in El Paso has a $1,526 share of that debt.

There’s more

Not included in the report were bonds that are paid out of “special” revenue accounts.  They included:

$467,100,000 Water and Sewer System Revenue Bonds

$20,075,000 Airport Revenue Bonds

$60,860,000 Municipal Drainage Utility System

$60,860,000 for the ball park

You will notice that the ball park and the storm water system have the same amount of debt.  Actually they don’t.  The correct number for the ball park was $60,785,000 according to another of their reports.  I guess that we shouldn’t expect accuracy in reporting, especially from the city.

Keep in mind that they have yet to issue $423,875,000 in quality of life bonds much less figured out what it is going to cost to fix our deteriorating streets.

We deserve better




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