Setting us up for failure

May 24, 2018

According to news reports our Mayor has signed a separation agreement with our soon to be departed city attorney.

We don’t know what the final version of the agreement looks like.

KTSM has evidently requested a copy under the Texas Public Information Act.  The city has yet to produce it even though the act reads:

Sec. 552.221. APPLICATION FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION; PRODUCTION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. (a) An officer for public information of a governmental body shall promptly produce public information for inspection, duplication, or both on application by any person to the officer. In this subsection, “promptly” means as soon as possible under the circumstances, that is, within a reasonable time, without delay.

As soon as possible does not mean waiting the maximum amount of time that they can.  What it means is that if they have the document they should copy it as soon a a copy machine is available and turn it over to the requester.   Unfortunately the Act does not make this kind of stalling illegal.  We have learned that many of our public officials are willing to do things that are wrong if they know that they are not illegal.

The version that KTSM has received might not be the final one, however the one they got has this in it:

The person signing this Agreement on behalf of the City certifies that the person has full authority and approval to bind the City to this Agreement.

The mayor cannot agree to contracts without prior city council approval.

We deserve better

Brutus


Developers have special needs

May 23, 2018

The city is proposing the creation of some new Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ).

Basically when the city creates a TIRZ they allow a special fund to be setup that takes the increase in property taxes that occurs over time and dedicates the increased money to projects within the boundaries of the TIRZ.

Out on the westside of El Paso there is a 3,900 acre area of land that is undeveloped.  I believe that the city currently owns the land and as a result it generates no tax revenue.

If the city creates the TIRZ and then sells the land any increase in property tax revenue could be set aside to be spent on improving the land, the money would not go into the city general fund to help pay for city services.

From the Texas Tax Code chapter 31:

Sec. 311.005. CRITERIA FOR REINVESTMENT ZONE.

(a) To be designated as a reinvestment zone, an area must:

(1) substantially arrest or impair the sound growth of the municipality or county designating the zone, retard the provision of housing accommodations, or constitute an economic or social liability and be a menace to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare in its present condition and use because of the presence of:

(A) a substantial number of substandard, slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;

(B) the predominance of defective or inadequate sidewalk or street layout;

(C) faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness;

(D) unsanitary or unsafe conditions;

(E) the deterioration of site or other improvements;

(F) tax or special assessment delinquency exceeding the fair value of the land;

(G) defective or unusual conditions of title;

(H) conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other cause; or

(I) structures, other than single-family residential structures, less than 10 percent of the square footage of which has been used for commercial, industrial, or residential purposes during the preceding 12 years, if the municipality has a population of 100,000 or more;

(2) be predominantly open or undeveloped and, because of obsolete platting, deterioration of structures or site improvements, or other factors, substantially impair or arrest the sound growth of the municipality or county;

(3) be in a federally assisted new community located in the municipality or county or in an area immediately adjacent to a federally assisted new community; or

(4) be an area described in a petition requesting that the area be designated as a reinvestment zone, if the petition is submitted to the governing body of the municipality or county by the owners of property constituting at least 50 percent of the appraised value of the property in the area according to the most recent certified appraisal roll for the county in which the area is located.

The undeveloped land is not blighted.

This is simply a giveaway to the people who buy and develop the properties.

We deserve better

Brutus


Don’t tell the truth when a lie is more convenient

May 15, 2018

So which is it?

Is the city attorney retiring, resigning, or being terminated?

If she is retiring as she has said, the six months of salary that the city has agreed to pay her is a violation of the state constitution according to a recent article in the Times.

Resigning would also make the payout illegal.

If however she is being terminated, her contract evidently provides for six months of severance.

Can’t anyone be honest about this?

We deserve better

Brutus


Derailed

May 3, 2018

The Texas department of transportation recently told city council that the bridges going over I-10 in the downtown area will all have to be replaced.

Our streetcars have not even started to operate and now we are being told that they will have to be re-routed since they travel over two of the bridges.

It would be hard to make this stuff up.

We deserve better

Brutus


Hiring a bully

April 21, 2018

In both the political and business worlds we are unfortunately seeing more situations where the power of government is used to oppress someone’s opponents.

We see it at both the national and local levels.

Adversaries used to fight in their own arenas but now some are involving government to crush their opponents.

We deserve better

Brutus

 


Helping out the big guys

April 8, 2018

The Texas state law that would allow the city to file a lien on your property until you have paid the amount of their assessment is chapter 372 of the local government code.

All it takes for the public improvement district to be authorized is a petition to be signed by:

property owners owning more than 50 percent of the appraised value of the properties to be assessed

If two or three property owners in your neighborhood own the larger and more expensive properties then they could gang up and force the smaller property owners to pay for part of the improvements.

This is not one man, one vote.  It is might makes right.

We deserve better

Brutus


Looking for a way to raise tax income

April 5, 2018

In El Paso we have the third highest property tax rates of the 50 largest cities in the United States.  That puts us higher than any city in Texas.

We have the highest hotel-motel occupancy tax in the state.  In fact the state passed legislation to put a cap on hotel-motel occupancy taxes when El Paso boosted ours.  You might argue that local residents don’t pay this tax but the higher the tax is the more it discourages conventions from coming to El Paso and spending money.

Our sales tax rate is the highest allowed by the state.  The state allows local areas to charge up to 2%.  In our case one half of a percent goes to the county and one and one half percent goes to the city and its bus system.

Now it seems that some of the people down at city hall want to get permission to go over the 2% maximum.

This came from a KFOX news report the other day:

“But, how can (we) come up with going about a creative idea pushing something at the state Legislature to try and get an increase at the overall sales tax? That’s something we’ve talked about to the council over the last two years now,” said Robert Cortinas, interim director of municipal finance.

They published this quote from the mayor:

“Well, given that, the only alternative would be to go back to the governor and say, ‘Fine. Give another half cent on our sales tax revenue because in 1987, we determined it to go to the county,” Margo said.

Didn’t he promise to hold the line on tax increases?

Is there no end to their money grab?

We deserve better

Brutus


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