Quality of life dying a slow death

October 18, 2017

Back in 2012 the voters in the city approved $473 million worth of bonds for various projects.

Five years later we can see the city’s progress in this chart that city staff presented at the July 11. 2017 city council meeting:

Wow, $29 million dollars in only five years.

 

 

 

At this rate we should look forward to completion in 81 years.

We deserve better

Brutus


Quality of life project shortfalls

July 13, 2017

Most of knew in the beginning that the quality of life projects were poorly planned and that we would end up spending even more money than the $473 million bonds would fund.

This slide is part of the preliminary budget document that the city manager has given to city council:

That’s right.  They are going to consider issuing $16.8 million in certificates of obligation to finish part of the quality of life projects.

We deserve better

Brutus


Quality of Life–eventually

July 8, 2017

If you go to the city’s website and enter “Quality of Life” in the search box you will get this graphic:

We approved the $450 million in bonds in 2012 and as of June 25, 2017 the city is telling us that they have completed $28 million in projects.

The situation tells us a lot about how poorly conceived and planned the bond issue was.  Since then a new city manager and elected officials have inherited the mess.

We deserve better

Brutus


Stuck with the quality of life vote?

March 28, 2017

It would appear that we will not be allowed to have an election to revoke permission for issuing the bonds for the arena.

There may be more recent case law, but the most recent case we can find dealing with the issue is the 1932 appeals court case Orr v. Marrs.

In that case the voters approved a bond issue for a school district.  Subsequently three-fourths of the registered voters signed a petition asking that the bonds not be issued.  The school board agreed and issued an order rescinding the vote of the taxpayers.

From the court’s decision:

It is fundamental that voters of a district can only exercise such powers as are conferred by statute, either expressly or by implication. All powers not expressly or by implication conferred are excluded. The power to rescind the former vote for the bond issue not being expressly given by the statute, it may not be, it is believed, reasonably implied. The power to vote on a bond issue implies the power to vote against it, but not to vote to rescind it after it has been regularly authorized.

If the Legislature had intended to grant the right of withdrawal of the vote, it could easily have been expressed.

New laws may have been passed that would allow a vote to rescind a bond vote but we have not been able to find any.

Just don’t issue a contract

At this point it would appear that our only hope of not building the arena is for city council to fail to authorize construction.

If they do nothing the arena will not be built.

That would open up the possibility of a mandamus action that would seek to compel each city representative to vote to approve construction.  A problem there would be that each city representative could vote no on a proposed construction contract if they thought the contract was not in the public’s better interest.

We deserve better

Brutus


El Paso Quality of life update

November 6, 2013

Our interim city engineer wrote a column for the El Paso Times this Sunday.

She said that her engineering and construction management department had made “profound” progress on the projects in the last year.  She suggested that we go to buildingtomorrowtogether.com to see their progress, so I did.

Most important

The web page lists ten of the projects that we voted for, one of which they have already started construction on.  The city was in a hurry on that one so they chose not to bid it out but instead use a “requirements contract”.

This Quality of Life bond project is obviously the most important one (or it would not have been the first one started), it is the “Convention Center North Pedestrian Pathway”.

The pathway will provide a pedestrian entrance to our ball park and is scheduled to be completed by April 2014, just like our ball park.  This project is scheduled to cost $500,000.  You can decide if it is really part of the ball park costs.

Another project titled “Pedestrian Crossing and Way Finding” will not have it’s first phase bid out either.  The city plans to use a “requirements contract” on that one too.  Remarkably the web site indicates that construction has not yet started but completion for phase one is scheduled for August 30, 2013.  This project will evidently make it easier for pedestrians to find the new ball park.

Tomorrow is right

The buildingtomorrow part is accuate.  Of the other eight projects three are scheduled to have construction complete in August 2015.  Three, including the children’s museum, do not have anticipated completion dates but are marked as “BEYOND THREE-YEAR ROLLOUT”.  One project is scheduled to be completed in August, 2016.

Incredible digital wall

In Something is rotten in the state of Denmark I wrote about a new $3 million digital wall.  At the time the city was planning to force five city staff members to go to Denmark to learn about it.  The wall is scheduled to be completed in August of 2014.  It is a good thing we sent our staff over early, you never know where they might move Denmark to.

Children’s museum

According to the web page this project is on schedule.  “Urban Planner Consultant selected.  Received proposal on October 14, 2014“.  For those of you reading this post at a later date please remember that at the time of this posting it was November 2013.

Maybe we should nominate city staff for an award in fiction writing.

For those of you who are either crying or laughing too hard to go look for yourselves, the web site presentation is below:

qolOctober2013

qolOctober2013-2

We deserve better

Brutus


Baseball stadium now part of Quality of Life bonds?

October 29, 2013

I found this on the official site of the El Paso Chihuahuahas:

El Paso citizens approved $500 million in “Quality of Life” bonds, including the building of a state-of-the-art baseball stadium nestled in the heart of downtown to be completed for the 2014 season.

Mistaken

We know that the statement is wrong.  The baseball stadium was not voted on by the citizens.  It was not part of the “Quality of Life” bonds.

Whoever wrote that is either clueless as to what has been happening in El Paso or is trying to change history.

Move on El Paso

Some say that we should stop talking about how the ballpark came about and come together to support it.

Personally I’m inclined to think that supporting it at this point is the right thing to do.  Without our support the situation will become even worse.

As far as stopping talk about how this was foisted upon us, I disagree.  We need to remember this and see to it that our current and future city officials don’t get away with something like this again in the future.  

We deserve better

Brutus


Decreasing quality of life

August 22, 2013

Half of city council passed the 2014 budget this week.  The mayor broke the tie and voted for the budget.

City staff had submitted a 784 million dollar budget proposal for council’s consideration.

After much work and sole searching about where we could cut back, council added 17 million dollars to staff’s request.

Good work council

Did council realize  that staff’s proposal made cuts in most of the departments that work with quality of life issues and thus they added money  to augment those departments?  (Read City budget)  The library, zoo, public health and parks were being cut back, to name a few of those departments.

No, each of those departments is still being cut.  Departments that deal with internal processes and construction are being increased.

It takes an army

The backup material to the agenda item includes a figure that I need help understanding.  The staff proposal allocated 36 million dollars to “Human Resources”.  The revised budget allocates 63 million dollars.

That’s a bunch of human resources.  Are raises being given?  Are more people being hired?  Will it take an army of clerks to handle the money they are spending?  Was the original staff proposal wrong?  They do have a history of understating expenses.

We deserve better

Brutus


Quality of Life

December 29, 2012

I was discussing the situation that Brutus has pointed out where the city is moving offices into a recreation center and displacing citizens.

During the discussion this week I lamented the move in view of the quality of life bonds that the community recently approved.

The person I was speaking with pointed out to me that the move and the quality of life initiative were compatible!  The folks at the city evidently think that we passed the bonds to improve the quality of their lives.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.


So much for quality of life

December 11, 2012

The El Paso Times reported recently that 75 city employees will be moving into the Pat O’Rourke Recreation Center (formerly the YMCA on Montana avenue) next month. The city will be occupying the space for nine to twelve months.

They will occupy a computer lab, a game room, an activity room, and a multipurpose space.  The kids and citizens that use these facilities will be “inconvenienced” according to the article.

The city is thinking about leasing parking space for the employees it moves from a Baptist Church across the street, “leaving nearby street parking available for the public”.

We will have to wait to see how much the required remodeling, parking (which was free at the old city hall)  electronic equipment, and moving expenses will add to the $63.9 million (out of $33 million — go figure) already committed to facilitate the move out of the city hall that will be torn down.  About a year from now we ought to be able to see how much it costs to move these people again.

Some of us think that recreation centers contribute to a community’s quality of life.  Evidently some people don’t care about that.

We deserve better.

Our children deserve better!


Life on a diet

April 23, 2015

Looking at the city’s financial reports for the first six months of fiscal year 2015 and at the revenue shortfalls that are occurring it is interesting to see how they are doing with spending.  We would hope that with revenues not meeting expectations management would cut expenses.

The police and fire departments are spending consistently with what was budgeted for them.

The office of management and budget has spent 24% of their full year allotment after these first six months.  At this rate they will spend only 48% of their budget by the end of the year.  You might think  that this department would be running on all cylinders instead of being strangled.

The city manager’s office has spent 76% of their annual budget.  At this rate they will be at 152% by the end of the year.

In the quality of life area we have the parks department at 40% so far for the year, public health at 41%, and our libraries at 44%.

Economic development is at 37.35%.

Some things never change.

We deserve better

Brutus


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