Visiting Alice

Helen Marshall sent this in:

After reading the Times for the past few days I must conclude that I have fallen down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

Ms. Niland tells us that the citizenry doesn’t need to vote on returning to a strong-mayor system because the city manager arrangement has been very successful. (And the Charter Advisory Committee agrees, with the guidance of former city manger Joyce Wilson, appointed by Ms. Niland, and former mayor Joe Wardy, who came up with the city manager idea).

City Manager Gonzalez then briefed Council on his work in completely overhauling the city administration and eliminating waste and inefficiency.  In Parks and Recreation, for example, irrigation repair jobs that used to take 24 hours now are done in less than rwo hours.  

Unless my memory has completely failed, the first and only previous city manager had responsibility for running the city effectively and without waste for ten years, concluding in mid-2014.  If the city-manager system was so successful, how is it that the successor has to conduct a massive overhaul of city business?  

The reporting about city finances hails the ratings from Standard and Poor’s and Fitch that reaffirmed the city’s AA rating (which is NOT the top rating).  Buried deep in the report is this: Fitch “pointed out several areas to watch, including inadequate reserves, elevated debt and plans for major capital projects. … Fitch believes the city will be challenged to balance ongoing capital needs against an already above-average debt service tax rate, slower tax base growth in the near term, and below-average socio-economic characteristics.”

Couple that with the remark in a report on UMC tax proposals that El PAso County is in a unique situation compared with other counties in Texas; “in El Paso the property tax base is declining and as a result the effective tax rate is going up.”

Mayor Leeser assures us that “with City Council’s guidance we will continue to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensure that we provide the best for the citizens of El Paso.”  And what’s more, it ain’t true that City Council is “dysfunctional” and its members don’t get along.

And so we must follow the White Queen and believe six impossible things before breakfast.

15 Responses to Visiting Alice

  1. G.E. Nieto says:

    Why even vote when in May one of the best voter turn out screamed for Firefighters to get their raises and contract and have yet to see it because the clown council has silenced US the citizens by making a mockery of our Votes. Yet Nilanco sits in judgement and lord knows what her hands are into but you all voted her in…..
    Under rated city what a bunch of bs, being dragged down by no good politicians that are over rated!


  2. taxpayer says:

    Surely no one can think that a strong mayor (that would be Leesor) would be better than Tommy Gonzalez! I understand that everyone is still mad at Wilson and her form of management, but she’s gone. Let’s move on. We’ve had plenty of mayors who mismanaged the city. Why go back to that system? Gonzalez is doing his best to fix problems. We just need to let him go forward and see if he can lead us out of this mess. For sure he is more qualified to do so than Leesor.


    • Helen Marshall says:

      No doubt about Gonzalez being better qualified than Leeser…but you have to wonder, why exactly have a mayor at all if the effective control of the city is in the manager’s hands? And when you have a manager like Wilson who was openly disdainful not only of any citizen who disagreed with her ruthless tactics, but of council members as well – voters have no way of getting rid of that person if council is not willing to fire him or her. Let’s hope that Gonzalez’s tenure will have a better record than Wilson’s. Hope is all we have. Watching his behavior in the Country Club public art caper, I’m not sure hope is enough.


    • Reality Checker says:

      You might be right, but consider Gonzalez’s hiring of his Chief Performance Officer who he brought with him from Irving. He is not exactly setting a great example for creating jobs for El Pasoans.

      She is reportedly the second highest paid person on city staff, making more than the CFO, usually the second highest paid person in corporate America, and 4 to 5 times the median HOUSEHOLD income in El Paso.

      Her background was basically as a HR manager and speaker. Are we really to believe that there were no people in El Paso with similar or stronger credentials? By the city manager’s own admission, he didn’t bother to look locally.

      But here’s the real rub, the real poke in the eye to El Paso. The Chief Performance Officer’s profile shows her current job as being president of The Bartlett Alliance, which is her consulting company. It shows her residence as the Dallas Fort Worth Area. There is no mention of the City of El Paso.

      Her website for her consulting business, which the City of El Paso lets her continue to operate while supposedly having a full-time job, makes not mention that she lives in El Paso or is employed by our city.

      Is she embarrassed to call herself an El Pasoan? Is her top priority still her consulting business? Or is it that she plans to be here just long enough to pick up a big bag of cash?

      Odds are both she and Gonzalez will move on to greener pastures within 12 months. They will be part of the ongoing exodus.


      • taxpayer says:

        If I were Gonzalez, I would leave at the first possible moment rather than deal with some of the council members who are an embarrassment to our city. He can’t leave before his contract expires but expect him to be gone the day after. — And as for the city manager system, all cities in Texas that have a city manager have a mayor with similar or less powers than our mayor. The mayor is expected to be the face of the city in recruiting business and representing us nation-wide. He / she is also expected to exhibit leadership and to guide council, something I hope our mayor soon begins to do.


        • Reality Checker says:

          Yes, he can leave before the end of his 5-year contract. Employment contracts protect the employee more than the employer.


          • taxpayer says:

            He cannot leave for 2 years and get another job in city management. After that, he’ll be gone. However, nationwide, the average stay or term for city managers is very short — 2 to 4 years.


    • thomaspainelives says:

      So you’re fine with someone who literally has more power than the mayor (remember that the city manager can pull items off the agenda unless they’re put on by a council member) and NO accountability to the people. With a bad mayor, we can at least recall him/her. Niland is a total snake in the grass who acts like she’s mayor. And, in case you didn’t know, the last city council (with Cook and Wilson) put the county 2 BILLION dollars in debt for frivolous things. Watch the arena, voted on by uninformed voters, end up gutting Segundo Barrio.


  3. Reality Checker says:

    I agree with Helen. Some of the much talked about exodus is a result of widespread mismanagement and dysfuncton in local government.


  4. mamboman3 says:

    Why would we heed or ask for Joyce Wilson’s advice after all she’s done to foster mistrust in our elected “officials?” Would you keep going to the Doctor who almost killed you? The Mayor and Tommy G did a good dog and pony show but that’s all it was. Valenti’s getting deeper and deeper into a pile of you know what if you read what the local pediatricians are saying about him. It’s definitely not all good.


    • Reality Checker says:

      It’s not that they wanted Wilson’s advice. They wanted her and Wardy to make sure that the city manager form of government did not come up for a vote. Leeser, who promised during his campaign to put it to a vote, lost total credibility when he named Wardy to the charter advisory committee. The city manager form of government was installed under Wardy’s mayorship. Leeser and Niland together stacked the deck by naming these two individuals to the committee. They knew exactly what they were doing.


      • mamboman3 says:

        Thanks for the background on Wardy and Wilson’s appointment to that committee. I agree with Reality Checker and Helen completely. Wardy’s like a sleazy used car salesman if you ask me….when I saw that pic of him smiling in front of city council I didn’t feel well at all.


    • Helen Marshall says:

      I would guess that our city “leaders” give thanks every morning for the UMC and EPCH, as they make the city look “not quite so bad,” kind of like Texas being grateful for Mississippi so it isn’t the bottom of the list.


  5. Royal Bow says:

    Helen, great points.


  6. In other words, we’re pretty much screwed. FWIW, I am visiting San Antonio right now, where they announced a Triple A credit rating, tax rates are going down, and gasoline is much more reasonably priced (El Paso actually has the highest priced gasoline in Texas). Until and unless we can get citizens off their asses, we cannot hope to change anything in El Paso. Since the currently elected “leaders” have taken this stance (everything is just fine, Joyce can do no wrong, we don’t need to visit the idea of a return to a real city government), the only way to force the issue would be a complete recall election, and that ain’t about to happen.


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