What would you do as Mayor if you had unlimited funds?

Paul Strelzin threw this question at me and all I could say was, “That is a really good question.”  It got me thinking and now I want to know what you would do as Mayor of El Paso (or any city for that matter)  if you had not unlimited funds, but say a $100 million surplus.  I will add what I will do later today.   Be mindful of the citizens, infrastructure, marketing, city employees etc… 

I am really looking forward to seeing what some of you say.  If anything, just write a quick sentence like, “I would put in a super nice hot dog stand worth 100 million dollars.” 

photo by Eleaf.  click pic to visit profile

photo by Eleaf. click pic to visit profile

Here is my plan…well part of it anyway. 

  • Beautify the San Francisco district downtown
  • Establish more trees/flower (desert friendly of course) downtown
  • Put in traffic lights myself (instead of waiting on txdot) @ zaragoza and edgemere
  • Create a viral marketing campaign that was based on word of mouth techniques
  • Repave parts of Dyer street
  • Tear down the chain link fence that surrounds the city hall parking lot
  • Create a new vistitors center that is more visible than current one
  • Conduct study on viability of locating an arena downtown
  • Bring back street cars downtown
  • Use incentives to lure alternative energy/tech firms to EP
  • Use the rest, if there is any, to pay off debt

My name is David and I am living El Paso.

32 responses to “What would you do as Mayor if you had unlimited funds?”

  1. Joserey1701 says:

    I am not sure if this will take more than a $100 million but I would provide tax incentives to high tech companies so IT Professionals like myself can come home to decent paying jobs.

    I would also give incentives to that developer that wants to redevelop Ascarate Lake and surrounding areas.

    Now that Asarco is gone (all things being equal and there is no lead poisoning in the ground) maybe redevelopment that area into a riverwalk (seperate or in addition to the one being proposed farther up the valley).

    I guess it is gonna take more than a $100 million to get those things done.

    Just wishful thinking.

  2. livingelpaso says:

    Nothing wrong with wishful thinking. Maybe you should come back to EP and start up a company like Rackspace.

    I went to Ascarate for the first time this past weekend at the taco festival and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Great place for families.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. the merry go round says:

    Hi David, I enjoy reading your blog because of your obvious youthful exuberance and excitement and you wanting to make El Paso a better place.

    I think though, for those of us who have been here 20 years, there seems to be a cycle of when certain ideas come up. If you go back into old news stories, it was probably 10 years ago when there was a big deal about having an arena downtown and an entertainment district, etc… Unfortunately, as with so many things in this city, it didn’t take off. I think if you went back and read news articles on NPT from 10 years ago, you would see some of the same ideas.

    The problem here is that we have a powerful group of businessmen, politicians, and lawyers who benefit from and fiercely defend the status quo.

    So, every few years we get energetic, hopeful people like yourself who come here and have great ideas and then after 2-3 years of banging your head against the wall of stagnation in this city, you finally come to the conclusion that nothing really changes here, it just keeps coming back every few years.

    The best example of that is the “brain drain”- people have known about and studied it here for 20 years- there is actually an article on NPT at: http://www.newspapertree.com/politics/112-the-fall-of-el-paso-growth-without-prosperity that was a reprint of a story from 1993, down in NPT in 2003. Go read that and don’t pay attention to the dates and tell me if it doesn’t sound like it was written today.

    I would use the money to investigate all the businessmen, politicians, and lawyers, who have colluded to keep new, innovative businesses out of El Paso so that the businessmen here can continue their business model of having one rich guy running the company with a bunch of minimum wage, no benefit workers. They are certainly not a group that would be hard to find- they are always at city council complaining that businesses make money so the incentives should not go to ones from outside El Paso, but you can bet their campaign donations that their puppets will give them incentives.

    So, the legit businesses don’t come here because they will not pay la mordida, so the best and brightest of our students have to leave to get decent jobs and the same cycle keeps coming around and around. And, while I really, really admire your positive attitude, I’ve seen dozens of young people like you who have wonderful ideas and you come and hit the brick wall here and then in 3 years you’re gone.

    I’m one of the people who came back here after professional school to help stop the brain drain and make El Paso better and guess what? No one cares. I’ve been here 4 years now without a job, watching the same jobs get filled by people from out of town who turn around and leave in 1-2 years while I literally know dozens of native El Pasoans with the same credentials who can’t get a job here. I had high hopes coming back- now I’m just trying to get my ill parents in some sort of shape to be able to move somewere where I can actually have a career.

    So, there you go. David, I really mean it when I say that your enthusiam and excitement is refreshing and wonderful but, unfortunately, so many of us who were like you now just want to get out of here and forget this nightmare

  4. livingelpaso says:

    MGR, I am really happy you posted. Your perspective is important and interesting. You are right in saying that the “newness” probably hasn’t worn off yet. I have had many people tell me the same thing about coming here with high hopes, only to see them die away.

    I think the corruption here is definitely a problem and needs to be fixed, as does our reputation outside of the city. Until we fix it, no company will want to relocate here or open up a branch.

    I can tell you are passionate about the city and I wish there was a job here for you, because if there was, you would and still can be a difference maker.

    In all reality, I feel El Paso has about a 5 -7 year window to jump on the train or we will get left at the station. I pray that this time is different from the others.

    I hear a lot about the old guard who hold the city back, but if they want to really make some money, they are going to have to recognize the possibilities of openining up the door to others. The barriers to entry are definitely difficult and they need to be lessened.

    From what I have observed, it is usually a big decision to move out here and a really easy one to move away.

    It is time for our business/civic leaders to get serious about fixing our town. That means cleaning up our image, getting rid of those who hold us back, taking a few chances here and there, and coming together as one so that we can actually accomplish our goals.

    MGR, I am really happy you posted and you need to do it more often.

    One last thought. I guess you could compare El Paso to gambling. When you are winning, you are feeling great and anything is possible, however, a few bad hands and all you want to do is get up and leave.

  5. the merry go round says:

    David, thanks for listening. I had really stopped voiceing my opinions because you will discover something shortly, if you have not already done so- El Pasoans for some reason HATE it when outsiders criticize anything about the city- eventually people will tell you that you need to love it or leave it. For some reason, all of us who were not born here, yet may have lived all over the US and in other countries, who have now come here- we don’t get a chance to suggest a better way or point out bad ways that other places have already figured out without getting people jumping on you for not loving and accepting El Paso exactly as it is. So, if you haven’t heard that yet, be prepared for it, people here can be very cruel about it and that has been why I gave up trying.

    Next, there is the elephant in the room and that would be ethnic relations here. I’ve been here off and on for 30 years and it is getting to be the worst I have seen. Most El Pasoans, both white (and no I won’t say anglo) and Hispanic are very 2 faced and will tell everyone that El Paso is a big melting pot and everyone gets along. Then you will be with a group of white friends and people will start saying stuff about how “they” act and are and laugh about it while you sit there wondering where all those feelings came from. Then, if you understand Spanish, or you have Hispanic friends for a while, you’ll hear one slip and talked about how “Anglos” have dominated the city for too long and now the minority has finally started kicking the majority out. That’ll be a shocker too, believe me. If you go back and research the Cabellero and Wardy runs for mayor on NPT (I’ll dig up some links if you want, NPT at least allows you to read old articles while the EP Times charges) you’ll see where the bomb thrower Jaime O. Perez, the current chief of staff to the County Judge, got his start- he was actually being paid by former mayor and candidate Larry Francis to start throwing around accusations that Cabellero said that he wanted “to throw the white boys out”- this was a big controversy at the time because no one could actually find Cabellero saying that. So there is this 800 lb gorilla in the room that no one wants to admit to but you will start hearing things that show people’s real opinions. And that is from both sides, no matter what anyone tells you- I know plenty of the Country Club set that say that the Hispanics are “too dumb to run the city”. Just telling things the way they are but I bet there will be someone disputing it the second I post. Unfortunately, the website “Last Anglo in El Paso”- which was hysterically funny- seems to have been taken down. Anyway, the guy who made that site had a faux tabloid type paper pointing to how much the white population has declined here, which is quite true when you look at the census numbers. So, the site was funny as heck because you got the least amount of points on the West side and the most in the Lower Valley in a game of “spot the white person”- extra points if they were blond. Using a funny site to point out something very important- the demographics of the city have started changing radically since I went to high school and UTEP. UTEP was almost 30% white when I was there and it is now something under 10% I believe. So, one needs to know this and see it dispassionately, but most El Pasoans will jump on those remarks.

    I would suggest to you the histories of the El Paso region by Leon Metz- you will have people tell you that he only tells the “white” history of El Paso, which is hogwash. But you will see that from the time that the city was incorporated until Blackjack Pershing’s Punitive Expedition thru the ’20-30’s and the Bracero program, thru to present day, unfortunately corruption has played a major part in El Paso politics. Unfortunately, ethnic relations have been a problem too (look up the El Paso Salt War). Metz wrote about some election where both sides were going and getting Mexicans (as in Mexican nationals) drunk and then dropping them off at the polling stations with their instructions (I think that was in the 1920’s).

    So the largest problem we have in my mind is the ingrained corruption here. I work in one of the 3 fields listed and I was able to work in that field somewhat prior to coming back to El Paso full time and for a short amount of time since then. I know some of the people in the corruption scandal and amonst the county courthouse crowd, it has been no secret for years that El Paso is pay to play. The entrenched old boys here (and they are white, black, hispanic, you name it) they put their money into elections and politicians and they try their darnedest to keep new businesses, and therefore actual fair competition out, so they can continue their rackets here.

    Of course, they have sold El Paso for years as a low wage, low level of education, union-free city only good for cheap labor. So those people who go and get degrees are for the most part out of luck- unless you want to be massively underemployed, you have to leave. That, of course, is mighty convenient because it is usually the young and educated who are the most vocal voices for change.

    Next up is education and that seems to get better and then get worse and on and on here. El Paso as a culture, and this does tend to be the Hispanic part of the city, values going to work to help pay the family bills over going to school. So, you see the people who are 35 and have been “attending” UTEP for 20 years while working retail and blowing their money at the bars and clubs every weekend. Unfortunately, with lack of education also comes lack of birth control. Now I’m Irish Catholic and I know someone will say it is because the majority is catholic and it is against the religion but one, I see very few teenaged Hispanic woman at mass, so I think they are missing that message, and two, there is an awful lot of Mexican folk/pagan stuff mixed into the church here and loads of people still believe in curandaros (I think I spelled that right- basically shaman like faith healers) and that ain’t exactly church doctrine either. So, you have the men who are pressured to get jobs and the women may have the best of intentions and I know a bunch who have managed to stay away from the child trap at 16, but I’m sure that you must know that we have a HUGE teenage pregnancy problem. I’m sure you will have meet women here who are 25, have 3 kids from 3 different dads, and they are f**ked for life, because they will never get a degree and never get anything past the retail sales level of job. So, education is a HUGE thing here, even more than corruption.

    The more educated people get, then the more attention they pay to elections and we don’t have people representing an 800,000 person city from an election with 600 votes total in their race.

    So, I’m more in the range of we have 2-3 years for the corruption stuff to resolve, and believe me it won’t be done by then. The education is going to be the hard nut to crack and with the alarming rate at which El Pasoans with degrees are forced to move out, that will be the worst nut to crack long term.

    The violence in Juarez has been going on since before the Mexican Revolution- it gets bad and dies down every few years and we happen to have a bad time now, which has gained far too much press. I’ve actually had people from other cities ask me about sleeping in my bathtub like I’m in Compton, CA, which is funny since I live on the West side and the worst troubles are the vandal kids who either shoot out your car windows with BB guns or steal your lawn decorations.

    The thing that you need to realize though about the old guard is that they already ARE making money and I’m sure if you haven’t, you will at one point have a run in with a white businessman who thinks that the serfs shall bow before him. I’m a white male and have a professional degree and I can’t stand being around some of the rich folk here (and the problem is that they are middle class by DFW standards but they don’t know it). For the old guard, they make a lot of money, not always legally, and they want to keep competition out. For them, they simply would not be able to compete with other American companies who are at all innovative. So, they pay off the politicians and judges (and no, that is not an exaggeration) to keep out the bigger businesses. Here is what you should do- the next time that there is a vote on giving incentives to any out of town company, try and watch the city council or commissioner’s court debate on it. This is a heavily democratic town and the main theme you will hear over and over is” They are businesses and they make money, why should we give them any incentives”- all while, say San Antonio, jump up and down to give them incentives to get the Toyota truck plant built there. So, the old guard WANTS it to remain the same, they can make their money, exploit their workers, and go play golf at the country club and laugh about which politicians they have in their pocket.

    I know that you will point out Sanders and Foster and I’m going to save my comments on them for one of your downtown posts.

    So, if you will like me to post more I will. Unfortunately, the longer I’m here, the more I see that the city is on an endless merry-go-round, things just keep popping up everyfew years, the same story, and when everything is said and done, it goes back to what it was. If I were to make a prediction on the city- it continues to gain population but will never break thru as the city it could be, which is a shame, but hey, at some point most of the population has to WANT things to change and has to make an effort to make it happen. That hasn’t happened in more than a 100 years, so I don’t know that it will happen now.

  6. livingelpaso says:

    TMGR, that was great. I am really happy to hear your point of view and I am glad you are using your voice. If nobody speaks up, nothing will get done. I need to go back and reread your current post, but there some issues there that do need to be dealt with.

    Like I said before, the next few years are very important to El Paso’s future and if we don’t start talking about the problems, the solutions will never come.

    Keep up your comments, I think a healthy discussion is happening and I hope more readers get involved.

  7. walt says:

    Want to really stir them up? Then build a bi-national casino over the Rio Grande with the only exits thru each country’s customs. We could have top notch entertainment and the slots would draw big bucks. With 60% off the top going to each city for infrastructure improvements, we could have all the amenities one could want. The exciting diversity here would only enhance the entire venture. Want to bet that the bucks would be fighting to build downtown and all over?

  8. livingelpaso says:

    I like your out of the box thinking Walt. So if there was a hotel on top of the casino would you have to bring your passport if your room was on the Mexico side but you entered through the American side?

  9. walt says:

    No, the entire casino, hotel and all, would be like in a DMZ. Passport would be needed to enter Mexico or reenter the USA. It would almost have to be a no limit custom area as well.
    While we are at it, why not have a two mile “free zone” (one mile on both sides).

  10. Joserey1701 says:

    To Mr. Merry Go Round-
    Your post contains very insightful statements and I hope there is truth in it. I lived 33 years in El Paso. Most of this stuff was never on my radar.
    AHA!! That is the problem with most El Pasoans…alot of what is happening with “the group” goes un-noticed and un-reported….sadley most dont care. As long as their little personal space is ok then nothing else matters.
    Reading your post is eye opening and it saddens me. I want to go home. Even with a degree and 11 years of experience I get turned away by El Paso firms all of the time. I have worked for top notch fortune 500 companies in my career. One can say I have it made here in Austin…do I really?
    One hiring manager in El Paso almost choked on his coffee when he asked me how much I was expecting in a salary. I thought I had adjusted to rate between cities but I guess I was way out of the range.
    I dont know what it is about this place called El Paso. Why would I go back “there”? Friends and family laugh at me and tell me I am “loco”. I dont know anymore. It interrupts my thoughts. It occupies my time.

    Please do continue to post…very powerful!!!

  11. the merry go round says:

    To Joserey1701, thanks. I’ll tell you that my family was just plan middle class white folk who worked in medicine and education. We were not and are not of the country club set. I worked a few jobs before my professional school, so I had been around El Paso a while, went to grade school, high school, and UTEP. I never paid attention much to local politics or who is aligned with who or whatever. I read the paper and watched the local news but they have both done terrible jobs doing any sort of investigative reporting. The web and blogs and NewspaperTree (which is sometimes right and they try harder but I see stuff that is just totally wrong on there) have made it possible for the average joe to find out more. Personally, when I came back I had to start dealing with people in the local government and the legal and business communites and I got an eye opener. I think El Paso probably has at least 90-95% of the population that is just trying to live their lives. There seems to be about 5% of the population who make the money and run things here. I know when I started getting the invites to political parties and other social stuff, it is the same group of people and their familes and they have all inter-married.

    I think it is true that there is a substantial population of people here who owe their allegiance to Mexico and really live their own lives, in many ways seperate from many of the rest of the people here. They watch the Spanish media (if you check the ratings, the Spanish Channel-2 on cable- usually has ratings which are higher than all the English stations combined). In many ways, El Paso is a city divided into many parts, not just westside or eastside, etc… but a population that simply is here to get work and doesn’t care a whit about becoming American. There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, but when you have a substantial portion of the population with a foot on each side of the river, then you start having exactly what we have- a very divided electorate that manages to get elected by a very small proportion of the population. You can go on to the county website and check the elections department and see how many people vote. http://www.co.el-paso.tx.us/elections/2008-11-04/final.htm For example, the last election for president, there were 387146 Registered Voters and 189119 voted for a 48.85% turnout, which is good for here but out of estimated 606,913 people here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Paso,_Texas#Real_.22Wild_West.22) , if my calculations are right about 31% of the population voted and that population number I think in pretty low.

    I would recommend checking NPT for their list of blogs and reading them- many are biased and you must sort the wheat from the chaff, which can be difficult. Then you can start getting an idea of who the money people are here- you can check all of the records for who contributes to what politicians, etc. Honestly, go to the wiki site for the Paso Del Norte Group and you can start seeing the names of the heavy hitters here. I have honestly been really disturbed by many things I have seen and heard- judges telling me that it is widely thought that the major law firms in town have most of the judges in their pocket, I’ve been in political meetings talking about hiring people for major public entities and have heard people say “we don’t want a white boy for this”- I read thru all the pleadings on the corruption stuff and if even half of it is true, we should have a full jail soon. So, it is a matter of taking an interest and seeing what different people in town have to say. For example the website http://www.pasodelsur.com/index.html has some interesting stuff about the anti-downtown plan people (of course, not everything they say is gospel) but there are some interesting links on there about Billy Sanders and Verde Reality. You can of course check out old stories on El Paso Inc. to see who Paul Foster married and the social connections and business ones across the border. If you are really bored and know how to check SEC filings and DBA records and such, you can see the web that both Sanders and Foster are entwined in, the boards that they serve on, the shell companies and subsidiaries. What land is being bought and why- how Sanders REIT background is involved. I’ll post links when I have more time. It sorta like when you see Western Refining get a great IPO, stock was at $60 or more a share and some people got really rich really quick. If you had a suspicious mind you might go into the SEC filings and see how the company was expecting major losses (the stock is at $7.63 as I write this) and how Fosters donations to the Med School and UTEP were in stock, which he could take a tax deduction on the value of it when given (about $60) and not what it was at the next tax time- far lower. You could start looking at stuff like that and wonder just how 2 very wealthy men, who are relative newcomers to El Paso, are buying up land on the border, both in Downtown and across from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry- maybe even see who bought the land on the other side of the border and if any of our wealthy citizens have married into their family. Or maybe see about that whole Farah site deal and see that the company that Foster was partnered with is one of Sanders old companies. Then you start asking questions about why a certain city council member didn’t recuse himself from voting on some of that stuff. A few links to check out- http://www.pasodelsur.com/news/paytoplayontheborder.html


    and remember that not everything you read on the net is 100% true.

    As far as your personal situation- I feel for you, I am hearing just huge numbers of the same story- the degreed people, especially with work experience and good credentials just can’t find jobs here. I hear from friends who tell me almost the same thing. I like many things about this city but you need to work and what is the point of working for much less here? So you can have a bad retirement? I have heard and meet so many people with the same story that it really does scare me- I think El Paso is going to have a very serious problem in the near future-there is a study that I need to find the link for- it showed that among graduating students at UTEP, almost 100% of the White Students planned to leave and I think it was something like at least 60% of the Hispanic students were planning on leaving too- the reason- mostly jobs.

    I guess somewhat surprising to me, many of the singles I meet, the more educated ones, almost always say the main reason apart from lack of jobs that they are leaving is lack of an educated dating population.

    But you know, I’m one person- I got another job rejection today and I have one more place where I have an application in, I have applied to nearly every employer in my field at least 6 times- now I’m even down to the seedy places. The job I didn’t get- went to someone who has never lived here. If the history of that job is correct, that person will probable leave within 6-12 months. I’ve been watching the market in my field closely, checking the ads and boards every day since I came back and this particular job has been advertised at least every 6 months for almost 5 years. So, I don’t get it. But there you go- the reality is that if you can find a job, the city can be very good, but I’m meeting way too many people who have been sitting here 1-2 years, living with their parents, looking for work, and when your student loan comes due, well- people start moving.

  12. Joserey1701 says:

    the merry go round…so you are saying that the “group” and associates want to give the false illusion that they are in it to better El Paso while in the background they have a secret agenda? To keep the competition out? To make money while they exploit “Juan” and “Lupe”?

    You have given me alot of info to digest. I appreciate your insight. Please keep on keeping on!!

  13. the merry go round says:

    Joserey1701, you know I just had someone tell me Friday that I shouldn’t be saying stuff about very influential people in town. This was in my personal life and I have no idea if it was because of stuff I aid on this website or what. However, I’m going to be thinking about whether I should post anything else for a while- there are going to be some influential people going to jail soon and maybe more info will come out soon, but I’m in a situation where I need a job too badly and honestly, there are so few people who really care- that is why stuff continues. I even know of other bloggers who claim to have gotten threats for writing about El Paso politics. I don’t know, I need to digest things for a few days.

  14. Joserey1701 says:

    TMGR….yes you are right. I think we should stand down for awhile. Thanks for the info and good luck with your job hunting. BTW… I have a job interview in two weeks in El Paso. Lets hope that this one does not turn out the same.

    FYI…there is El Paso based forum where you can post privately and directly to members. I have a different handle there.

  15. the merry go round says:

    Joserey1701- good luck, I’ll be praying for you.

    I guess David can give some feedback about where he wants the discussion on his page to go and then we can go from there.

  16. livingelpaso says:

    I think the discussion is fine. Like I said before, you need to air your grievances before you can start working towards a solution. I am still new here so I haven’t experienced what you guys have for the most part.

    If you feel uncomfortable continuing discussion on this topic, then you can stop, however, I would still like to get your thoughts on other topics because all the readers on this site will benefit from your comments.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to post your comments on this site!

  17. the merry go round says:

    Ok, David. This is your website and I don’t want to hijack it or anything. I think what makes the frustration level of many people here who have spent years here so high is that how to make the city better has been known for years- better jobs and education, keeping our smart young people here, and stopping the corruption. I guess what I was saying is that you have great ideas however, they have almost all been proposed by different people in El Paso for decades and none of them have ever come to fruition.

    Joserey1701- I’ll try and share some links and you can make up your own mind. Obviously, both Billy Sanders and Family, Paul Foster, other familiar names like the Jobes, Balsiger, and many more of the wealthiest El Pasoans have had magazine articles and newspaper interviews done with them, and most are wealthy because they do business for a living, not charity. I’m sure you know that many wealthy people use charity donations as tax write-offs to get their tax bills down. There isn’t anything wrong with that- but one needs to always remember that people don’t become billionaires by not being good businessmen all the time.

    Is there some sort of wide-spread business conspiracy- I don’t know for sure. The Paso Del Norte Group and their secret devising of a downtown plan- well that didn’t go down well with many people, especially those who already live and work south of I-10 and within the area from there down to the border. That is obviously a poorer community. I would venture to say that there is a business community here which is not monolithic-i.e. they are not all white, brown, black, yellow, or purple. The workers here are also varied just as much. So, we are not talking about a bunch of white guys controlling a bunch of brown workers.

    If you go back and read articles about Billy (and that is what he goes by) Sanders and his career in real estate, REITs, etc… and then what he has actually said is his plan to dominate the border region because it was the last best area for undeveloped real estate- on both sides of the border.


    So, his plan has been out there and has been known to those in the business community and those that care to read news stories and pay attention. The media here is not very sophisticated and they do little to no investigative reporting. More like the whole “if it bleeds it leads” sort of stuff- so if you rely on the traditional media here, you will be quite informed about all the car accidents and bar fights but nothing really in depth about the inner workings of the city. You have to actually go out and search down the info or be involved so you hear what is going on at work, or look to business concentrated media like El Paso Inc. and places like Newspapertree (which is owned by Keith Mahar who certainly has a ton of his own baggage- including being the father of TV Reporter Celina Avila’s kid) who are somewhat more independent- as an aside, David Crowder moved there before he was going to be canned at the El Paso Times and has unfortunately taken his lazy method of journalism there. They used to be known as more of a guerrilla-type underground news source with people willing to write stories about the people in power. The El Paso Times is not going to bash the business people who pay to run ads in their paper- they are in dire enough financial trouble as it is.

    They (EP Inc. and NPT) both have searchable archives that go back years and if you want to look at old news, just start there first.

    Things can get real interesting if you do follow the business news and you know how to read SEC filing- which are all public and describes almost anything you want to know about publicly traded companies like Helen or Troy or Western Refining. EP Inc. also writes about some of the social stuff about local businessmen, so you can go to: http://www.elpasoinc.com/ReadArticleSearch.aspx?xrec=2371 and see who Paul Foster married and then look at who the major objectors were to the Farah project (hint-Simon property group- the owner of Cielo Vista and Sunland Park malls and his own brother-in-law, Artemio de la Vega). Another resource on that and the Farah project: http://www.newspapertree.com/news/2611-simon-raises-question-about-sanders-foster-business-ties

    http://www.elpasoinc.com/ReadArticleSearch.aspx?xrec=2395 will tell you who Sanders son married. You probably already know his daughter married Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (who has a sister Charlotte- for whom the Charlotte’s furniture store was named) and their father was an influential El Paso politician who tragically was killed while riding his bike up by Artcraft and McNutt.

    So, there is just a ton or two of info that Joe Blow on the street in El Paso doesn’t know. I was against the whole Farah deal (I’ll tell why some other time) and there were some very suspicious stuff there (the project is on hold).

    I’m not a fan of the current PDNG backed downtown plan, but I’ll talk about that another time as well.

    I’ll address what I said last time re: not talking about the influential people in town. I’m an opinionated person who has probably been a bit too open over time of actually questioning why different things happen. I don’t know if that has hurt me in finding a job here- the same friend basically alluded to that- that people knew I posted stuff like this and the influential people knew it and made sure I was going to find work here. I don’t know if I believe that- I doubt that most people would have a clue who I am. If you read David K’s blog (http://refusethejuice.typepad.com/thinkaboutit/) apparently former mayoral candidate Alfrank Catucci has been threatening him. David K is someone whose opinion always needs to be taken with a grain of salt or two. However, Catucci, apart from owning multiple bars/clubs, is also the former husband (one of several) of former City Attorney Lisa Elizondo, who has a whole slew of drama from her time as City Attorney (http://www.newspapertree.com/news/1599-the-lisa-elizondo-file) and her follow up lawsuit against the Mayor and city for defamation for allegedly calling her a “slut”. If you search marriage and divorce records you can see that she has been married multiple times. Then, you know when you know really juicy info but can’t ethical say anything?- This would be one of those times. (As an aside, she is among a seemingly long line of attorneys for the City Attorney, District Attorney (Travis Ketner of the current corruption case was apparently fired from the DA for having too many DUIs), and County Attorney ( I think there has been 3 of them in the past few months who have been busted)- who have been busted for DUIs).

    Be that as it may, my point is that there is a seemingly widespread view among people who are in the know that nothing can be talked apart except over drinks at happy hour with co-workers, and certainly not with reporters, about what is coming to light now- widespread corruption. NPT has a couple of new stories about Woody Hunt and others trying to put together a from the ground up organization to take back El Paso from those for whom corruption has been the norm. (http://newspapertree.com/politics/3935-woody-hunt-other-business-leaders-think-corruption-has-crippled-competition-contributed-to-the-poverty-in-el-paso). Hopefully, the “influential people” whom people have been afraid to talk about for so long will be indicted and the people who want to see this city succeed, not just for themselves and their own profit, but for the good of all of us, will feel more open to discuss all of this stuff.

  18. livingelpaso says:

    Very interesting MGR. You have have added a new dynamic to the site and it is definitely interesting. I thought Charlottes was named after the grandmother, Charolotte, who opened the store.

    I thought the Farah deal was interesting too, especially with the back and forth with de la vega and such. It’s a blighted property that I hope will eventually be redeveloped in to something nice…but that takes time and money

  19. the merry go round says:

    Well, I see you managed to get my post to work- thanks. I went to high school with both of the O’Rourkes and the story I always heard was it was named for the daughter, and I think it was straight from her mom that I heard, but hey I’ve been wrong many times before and will be again. Heck, I’ll email her and ask her.

    I hope that what I havw written will encourage other people to spend some free time reading online about various stuff in the city here- it can only make every one a more informed voter and people can get an exchange of ideas going here that will benefit us all. Far too many times people in El Paso take criticism or disagreements on the direction of the city as a personal attack or the beginning of an agrument instead of an open dialogue with people who may not agree totally, but can agree to disagree without the name calling that it so oftens degenerates into here.

    David, I’m sure that you have figured out that I may not agree on the same exact things but it is great to have a POSITIVE dialogue- it was mentioned about some of the other forums- I guess like Topix (cesspool), CityData, Streltz, etc… I see far more arguing and name calling on those than trying to talk seriously so I stay away from those sites.

    As far as the Farah place, I actually still have some pants from the outlet store there. I agree it needs redevelopment- the question is how. I think that if you haven’t figured out if I think Paul Foster is good or not, you should know that I questions someone who moved here from Dallas and then makes a ton of money on Western’s IPO and then starts donating money around town. Then a year or two later starts asking for tax incentives. Seems a lot like he was getting his name out there as a great donater of money (and it was stock, not cash that he gave) but I really think that there is some questionable dealing during that time frame- i.e. Western had bought a couple of refineries back East that were turds and there debt there went thru the roof. So, many people were forecasting that the stock was going to take a massive hit, even when gas prices were their highest in decades, and they took a massive hit. If he knew that ahead of time and had donated a bunch to get tax deductions, well that would be insider trading. So, I’m not sure he is really the savior of El Paso. If you look at some of the links I provided- the same names pop up in the SEC filings and there were a bunch of selling of stock by board members at the same time and stuff- just really stuff that probably needs to be looked at but there isn’t a reporter in town who would do that and most don’t have the financial and legal knowledge anyway. Foster had bought the Farah property I think a year or 2 before the Regency deal was being talked up and he was saying then- and you can find this in back articles, that he was going to develop it with his own money and not use any incentives. Suddenly, he lets the property sit vacant, even though in the news at the time he said that stuff would start right away. Looks like someone wanted another tax right off huh? Big building, depreciation, who knows really? I’m just not so sure that sticking a mall across the street from another mall is smart. IF I were wanting to make money- I be looking to far east El Paso where the population is shifting (you’ll notice that is exactly where his brother in law has his shopping centers). Makes more sense- closer to the port of entry, huge underserved population there. Heck, the NE has been hurting for more retail for years, especially with the influx of troops.

    So, in my mind, I would like to see an effort to attract a far broader array of jobs here first and foremost- if it takes tax incentives, give them- we need the higher end employers badly. Recreation to me is something that is market driven later on instead of forced up front with a “build it and they will come” mentality. We also have to not depend on the military- I was here when the 3rd ACR was still here, among a number of other forces. With democratic presidents whom are elected to end wars and pay out the peace divedends- it isn’t reliable. We need to have people move to El Paso because they want to, not because they are ordered to.

    Downtown, well I’ll save that for another time. I have worked down there at several jobs over the years and the only people who I ever heard who wanted to live down there were the artsy type people who want El Paso to be Austin or Soho or something that we just are not. All the business people and lawyers- they all move up near Franklin, even my stomping grounds in Kern and Mission Hills are beginning to show their age, people dying and estate sales like crazy. The area is nice but far over-priced for anything but the convience to downtown or UTEP. Even with that, more and more of the people I know want to move into the bigger, newer houses that are in what is PERCEIVED to be a better school area- i.e. the people tell anyone white that moves here that the west side is the white area and they need to send their kids to Franklin and its feeder schools. I don’t agree with that, I know far too many people whose kids have had massive problems in those schools, all of which are over-crowded and actually have quite high drug and gang problems. I have other thoughts about downtown and you are certainly free to try and convince me otherwise, but it is too late tonight.

  20. livingelpaso says:

    The NE and Far East Side are definitely underserved, but it will only be a matter of time until the retail aspect makes its way to those locations.

    I am all for infill and that’s one reason why I like downtown a lot. There is so much space to do so many great projects. It doesn’t all have to be high priced condos, but also affordable apartments, cheap office space, etc…

    My ultimate vision for downtown would be to have it not glitzy, glamorous, and fake but like a true neighborhood area. People living, eating, working, playing all in that however many mile radius it is.

    I know Brent Harris is the go-to guy for Foster on real estate deals…I would venture to speculate that he is probably the main decision maker when it comes to the investment projects. If Foster wasn’t putting his many millions into downtown etc…who would be and would El Paso even be talking about a revival without it?

  21. the merry go round says:

    I guess some of the downtown stuff has to be what you associate it with. I have always known downtown and specifically the lower end retail as people who develop a niche serving the Juarez folks who came over. Back in the day I remember going down there and shopping the sales at Penneys. I’m sure that you are aware that most of the buildings downtown are not occupied above the ground floor. Even the Chase and Wells Fargo buildings are not full. So, what fills all of it? If the market was there to support an interest in redoing downtown, would it not have happened by now (setting aside the corruption argument for a moment)?

    I can remember back to the whole entertainment district stuff and they made the parking garage with the train museum and redid the whole area around the old Club 101 and then it seemed to just go poof. That is like the whole arena idea- it has been tossed around for years but never has happened. Now, I can respect the people in El Segundo who object to the whole thing because of the way the current plan was handled and I really can’t blame them. Right now, there are stores there that have been there far longer than I have lived here, so to many people here, it is what it is. There was a woman Jenni Barton who used to write for NPT and she was into touting the whole artsy type aspects and she disappeared.

    So, I feel like I am the exact demographic of who they want to move down there, as are many people I know. I know you have posted about how dead it seems there after hours and on some weekends (there was car show or something and there were a ton of people down there yesterday). Anyway, I have worked down there. As anyone else who has worked there, there are practical issues to deal with. It seems like a bunch of the pay lots have left. So, there are only a few parking garages and try finding a spot there (unless you pay extra for a reserved space- I was dumping like $75 a month for mine) at ten till 8 in the morning. Work at the courthouse- you learn the days when juries are called, especially for big cases where they call a huge pool- the traffic is backed up to I-10. Work late- hope you don’t have you car in the lots that close at 6 and don’t open on the weekends. So, for me, there are just practical issues like that. Then there the whole thing that I want a darn yard for my dog, that sort of stuff.

    Then I just have a basic objection to 2 people buying all the real estate downtown, which is exactly what is happening. I just don’t have a good feeling about that. Then there is the question of what happens when all this development occurs, displaces the people who have lived and worked there for generations and then no one comes? What if that happens? Then the buildings will be totally empty. I think that the majority of El Paso wants SOMETHING done downtown, but the big question is what.

    I’m from the NE corridor and can understand people wanting El Paso to be like that. But this is El Paso and not there- I read somewhere that someone was complaining about the downtown plan and said that the “progressives” on city council were just people who wanted to be hip and cool and have El Paso be like Austin and we are just not that way. If people like the young and hip urban scene, there are many other places that are like that already. We butt up against a 3rd world country- the only place in the world where the 1st world is right next to the 3rd world and that will never change. We are also not like the urban centers like Manhatten which can’t expand out so they go up. Here, the east side has just exploded in the last 10 years. The traffic on both I-10 and Montana coming into downtown in the morning are a nightmare, much, much worse than 10-15 years ago. So there is the question of the market- if the market is driving the vast amount of building out there but is leaving downtown behind- doesn’t that give us a clue of what people want here? If most people want a house and yard and a garage and just the whole Manhatten urban jungle thing is a foreign concept here- we certainly don’t have the public transportation infrastructure to support going carless here. If I were to live downtown, I would need to go at least up to the Kern area to pay the inflated prices at Albertson’s- where do you go to get groceries downtown? There are not bodegas on every corner or even that many places to eat out down there. To me it just sounds like far too much of a hassle vs. driving down the street to the store and coming home and parking in the garage to unload whatever.

    But, you to each their own- I’m from the NY and Boston areas and it just doesn’t seem the same here- people move here to have space and not pay $3 grand a month for a 500 sq ft closet to live in.

    So, I just don’t see it being a viable business enterprise or someone would have put their cash there already. I mean, I really do get the willies that when you start bumping elbows with the upper crust-that they are all related and they are marrying into families from across the border, creating basically a large group of people totally entwined with each other, whom own half of the land in El Paso. With an ongoing corruption investigation, that just makes me nervous. When you look at other cities like DFW, Austin, Houston- they have the wealth much more widely disbursed over a much larger group of people. I think that spreading the wealth around is better than concentrating it in the hands of a few.

    One of my favorite quotes from the movie “The Devil’s Advocate”- “You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God… and where can you go from there?”

    Looking at what seems like a very widespread corruption investigation- it just makes me nervous to see what is going to come out next. If the government can actually prove their case- it looks like every governmental entity in the county, including the city and county governments, the school districts, the courts,- all have been co-opted so that a few can make money. If the government has all these thousands of hours of wiretaps, well, do we want to go down the path of putting even more power into an even smaller group of people? I don’t know- I mean we just had a judge indicted for soliciting bribes from undercover FBI agents before he was even sworn in- I mean, what kind of moron would do that now when the FBI is crawling all over? Then he and another judge, both of whom beat out far more qualified candidates because those other candidates had an (R) after their name- DA has finally gotten off his butt and he is investigating them for nepotism- we start with that and half the city will be in jail, including all the people in the DA’s office who are related to one another.

    Sorry to sound so pessimistic in the beginning of a new week, but El Paso has truly made me into a person who only believes stuff when it actually happens here.

  22. Joserey1701 says:

    I understand Paso Del Sur is petitioning against the possibility of the use of eminent domain to further the advance of the Downtown Project. I have not heard what happened after it was taken to the steps of the Capital.

    What will be done to help the current residents? Will they be allowed temporary housing for the short term or the long term?

  23. livingelpaso says:

    I really liked the quote from Devils Advocate…so true in today’s world. I can definitely see that being here for a while can lead to a wait and see approach.

    Until El Paso attracts more outside people with money, most of your land/buildings are going to stay under the same people that own them now.

    The sad thing is, some of the downtown building owners are satisfied with the current state of dwntwn as long as they get their monthly rent.

    It truly is going to take an army of people to change this city…maybe we can be the front line?

  24. Joserey1701 says:

    TMGR…Concerning the Naked Harem mistrail. What a prime example of the “corruption” in El Paso. The holdout juror should not have been allowed to discuss prostitution in other clubs. The issue at hand was the Owner and the Naked Harem. Smells something stinky about this case.

  25. the merry go round says:

    J1701- I don’t see how the juror in the naked harem trial constitutes corruption- misguided maybe, stupid maybe, corruption?

    David, I’m afraid that I am far past being on a front line on anything here- I have had too many things happen in the past and I have seen things here for too long to waste my time when I know that El Paso has developed an inertia which will take a major army to turn around, not just a few people. While I have found a few new job prospects, long term I just can not have professional fullfillment in El Paso and I’m not one of those people who is willing to give up their dreams and settle for something less than exactly what I want out of life.

    RE downtown- I can’t disagree that many of the properties downtown are falling apart and the owners don’t care. I think you are contradictory when you talk about unless outside money comes in, the property is going to stay in the same hands. We have been talking about Sanders and Foster and the companies owned and/or controlled by them have been buying up significant chunks of downtown already, so that is already happening. So, as we sit here, land is already changing hands and we shall see if any of the proposed projects make money or go bust. I don’t agree in doing these projects until there are firm commitments in who will occupy the empty spaces. We may go from ugly empty offices to prettier empty offices and while that may be a cosmetic improvement- what will that actually accomplish?

    How could I forget about the emminent domain issue? I think that KELO is right up there in the top 10 worst SCOTUS decisions of all time. I believe that it was in the news a few days ago that the governor is going to follow the lead of many other states in allowing the citizens of this state to vote on an amendment to the state constitution to make it illegal to use eminent domain for private purposes and I think that will likely pass by a large margin. That was and is a major component of the PDNG downtown plan and without it, the whole thing will likely fail (and it has come grinding to a halt as it is, just like the Farah project, because of the economy).

    • Joserey1701 says:

      Maybe he was paid off…possibility. BTW I am in EL Paso this week. Enjoying the weather and sites. Have a job interview on Wednesday. Thanks for your prayers… I receive them.

  26. livingelpaso says:

    The “build and they will come” mentality is definitely risky. However, I’ve thought about it and now think that might be the only way to convince people to relocate to there.

    Outside money is a must and while Foster & friends are buying up some buildings, you still want a diversity of ownership there. A monopoly on downtown is good for no one.

    Where do you think you will relocate in the long term?

  27. the merry go round says:

    J1701- I hope that your interview went well. I suppose I have the extreme misfortune of having had a series of very bizarre interviews in El Paso. I have had people refuse to shake my hand, had people literally throw my resume at me and tell me that I wasn’t qualified for the job (why would they waste both of our time if they felt that way), had people basically intimate that they would not hire a white male (I think with those they were government jobs that forced them to interview all the qualified candidates), I have interviewed for advertised jobs were the entire process was a sham because the business knew that they would be hiring the relative of someone who either worked there or was a big customer. At least in those I actually heard back- probably at least half the positions I have applied for I never heard a word from. I have interviewed at a place where the boss told me, in front of the current employees, that I was over-qualified for the job-that it was really just a low end job that didn’t require the degree I had but they had to advertise it that way. I thought that was quite insulting to the people who worked there. Currently, I was hopeful because of a number of applications I had out. One I already got a rejection shortly after applying. Another, the one boss told me that the company would be making me a written offer that week and that was almost 4 weeks ago; I have contacted them regularly and the answer is that they haven’t made a decision yet. So, I will tell you that I have found the job search here in El Paso to be the most frustrating of my life.

    Which leads to David’s question- I will most likely end up in the DFW area and that may actually be sooner rather than later. I thought that I would be able to find work by now. I would say that roughly 95% of the people I know, from school, older jobs, other people, etc… have moved out of El Paso. The job situation is nearly always the reason for that- El Paso just doesn’t have a wide variety of jobs in different fields. I know a boatload of smart, well-educated, people from El Paso who want to work and live here but they can’t find a job here. For some reason, it seems like many employers in El Paso seem to look down on people from here and they hire people from outside El Paso- people who usually leave. I really can not fathom the logic in this but I have heard literally dozens of stories from people I know about how they spent a year trying to find a job here and they didn’t even hear back from anyone, then they moved somewhere else and got a job in a week or two.

    I’m going to save my other comments for your post about the future of El Paso.

  28. livingelpaso says:

    That is rought TMGR…I don’t blame you for wanting to leave and find work in another town. I wonder what the secret formula is that will make this town find its mojo…

  29. the merry go round says:

    David-thanks, I just scratch my head about how some people in El Paso think- on one hand people want to copy everything that has worked in other cities- stuff like a riverwalk or a Sea World, or whatever- and then the same people will complain that people in the rest of Texas (DFW is mentioned the most) don’t get El Paso and people don’t like their attitudes. Then I hear employers complain that they hire people from Dallas who move here, have a massive culture shock, and then they move back to Dallas 6 months later; so the employers want to hire someone with an El Paso connection and they move in 6 months too because many of the employers have not figured out yet that you can’t treat your employees like crap, no matter where they are from, because if they are smart people they will just pick up their marbles and leave- move to somewhere where the employers actually act like they care about their employees and their professional development. I’ve had employers here tell me in the interview that they have so much turn over that they will not train me because I will just turn around and leave and they don’t want to waste their time. What is the obvious result of that? People who don’t even take the job or people who move as soon as they get a better job offer. I have seen this over and over and the employers here always want to say and believe that people only move because the wages are higher in other cities. While that is true, I know many people who would gladly give up the higher pay for a nice place to work where the boss actually seems to care about you. For some reason, most of the business world outside of El Paso has already figured that out- for some reason the ones here will not get it into their head.

    I don’t know if there is a secret formula- right now I think the corruption stuff has thrown a large wrench into everything and maybe that will cause some change. Things here seem to be messed up because of the attitudes of some people who are being dragged kicking and screaming into the same age as the rest of the country and there are many who seem to really not want that. You know- the same people who don’t want their kids to go out of town to college because if they see the world outside of here, they don’t want to come back.

    Then there is this arrogance among the rich and powerful crowd (white, black, brown, asian, whatever) that I find terribly objectionable- there is a large group of people here who believe that they can get away with anything. For example, look at Judge Barrazas, the one who was indicted shortly after being sworn in for soliciting bribes from an undercover FBI agent and another cooperating witness. He literally had his hand out the moment he won the election. In the middle of a very well publicized corruption investigation, with rumors of FBI agents behind every tree, it takes either incredible arrogance or supreme stupidity to start soliciting bribes that quickly.

    I have friends, who are white males, who told me that they felt funny when they moved away from El Paso (they had been born here) because here they were special immediately because they were white- that people automatically thought they were rich and well educated just because they are white. When they moved to other cities that were mostly white, they were just another person in the crowd and they actually had to prove themselves. I have lived around different cities from coast to coast and that is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard.

    So, I don’t know, there seems to be an “El Paso way of thinking” which seems to be contrary to what people in other places think. I really think that is why it would take a major amount of time and effort and a massive influx of people from other places to get El Paso to think like other cities of our size. Here there is always someone saying “yes but we are majority hispanic and we are on the border and therefore, things are different here than ANYWHERE else, so people who move here need to adjust to El Paso and not the other way around.” When you look at history and see how so many of the world’s greatest cities have become the way they are by embracing people from all over and those people’s cultures get thrown into the melting pot and you get something better out of it. El Paso seems to want to go the opposite way- to become more homogenous, have most of the population being Mexican.



    If you read both of those stories- basically you have people from Juarez who have money moving over here to escape the violence over there. A few quotes:

    “”I hope it calms down in Juárez. If it does, I and my family will go back,” he said. “If it stays violent, then we’ll have to do what some of these people in the Mexican Revolution did, settling here permanently.”

    Migration sparked by the Mexican Revolution of 1910 is often cited as one of the major reasons why El Paso remains one of the most Hispanic cities in the U.S.”

    “He emphasized that many of the high-caliber entrepreneurs and professionals responsible for Juárez’s growth and prosperity in the past 40 years are among the families resettling in El Paso. He also estimates 30,000 Mexicans from Juárez and other major cities in Mexico have fled the violence and moved to the U.S. in the past three years.

    “El Paso is not getting poor refugees like those from eastern Europe who came to the United States in World War II,” he said. “These are highly qualified professionals. The only reason they’re coming over is because they’re afraid for the safety of their families.””

    Now, I’m offended by the poor refuge from eastern Europe remark- apart from having ancestors who fled the wars in Europe- someone who says that people from there are ignorant is an idiot. There were only people like Albert Einstein who came here fleeing German national socialism- I’ve heard somewhere that he was pretty smart. Only most of the scientists in the Manhatten project were refuges from Germany. Only half the scientists who sparked the US space program came from German territories. That makes me shake my head and wonder at the incredible arrogance of people who are rich because their family owns a bunch of property and they inherit that and that is why they are rich- not because they worked their way up like so many of the European immigrants who were craftsmen in innumerable different trades who left everything to get away from concentration camps.

    “Navarro said friends displaced from Juárez are becoming more involved, volunteering at their children’s private schools in El Paso, sampling the city’s lifestyle but often experiencing a bit of culture shock. She laughs at how Juárez friends recently tried dining out late in El Paso and wound up at a Village Inn after they could not find an open higher-end restaurant.”

    I just shake my head- when I went to UTEP- there was the group of very arrogant students from Juarez who used to hang out in front of the liberal arts building, with their cell phones back in the day when they were bricks, and their superior attitude to everyone else. The rest of the students called them Fronchi’s- for the Front. Chi. license plates- and looked down on them because of there massive attitudes. That is what I see a lot in El Paso. I mean the horror- they actually had to eat at Village Inn- oh my God, how deprived they are. And the people who are still over there- living in colonias with no utilities and houses made of wooden shipping pallets and corrugated steel-who have drug addiction and violence as constants in their lives. Bet they would love to eat at Village Inn.

    So, my feeling is that when you have the people who are rich having these attitudes- it just is not conducive to having other people move here and actually try and get El Paso into the 21st century. I just don’t know how we accomplish this but I know that I am quickly getting to the point where I just don’t care anymore. I gave it my best but I can’t sit here with no job for much longer.

  30. karen says:

    Have you heard anything else about traffic signals at Zaragosa and Edgemere.. WIth our neighborhood almost to capacity, it looks like they would do something…

  31. livingelpaso says:

    Not yet…I was thinking about that yesterday actually. I hate having to cross there as sunset with cars flying. I did see spray painted lines on the ground which makes me think those are preparations for installing signals.

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