Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Next after Council Approves TxDOT Plan

Yesterday’s 7-1 vote by City Council approving the TxDOT Transmountain West plan means one thing: the freeway/highway is going to be built and along with it, interchanges/overpasses at Plexxar and Paseo del Norte.

Paseo del Norte will be a major thoroughfare as planned by the MPO. To be sure, the plan for Paseo is not part of the TxDOT project except as it connects with Transmountain; but it logically follows that Paseo del Norte will be completed as currently mapped-out. As a major thoroughfare intersecting a freeway (and Transmountain will be a freeway from I-10 to Paseo) it will encourage and contribute to commercial development and there will be no natural open space except as may be dictated by SmartCode.

It was good enough for Mr. Chuck Berry of TxDOT to assure Council members that there will be a “fix” for the currently unsafe entrance/exit to the State Park. No one can doubt his sincerity and determination that TxDOT will find a way to make that entrance to the Tom Mays Unit safer. Additionally, it appears that the overall project will be under budget enough to make for a good solution.

When all was said and done yesterday, members of Council decided to bite the $85 million carrot stick. Only Representative Susie Byrd stuck to her principles.

Of course, there is a possibility that the Federal Highway Administration may pay attention to many of the objections raised by you at the public meeting and by the copies of the first two petitions – each signed by nearly 1900 El Pasoans. There is also a possibility that legal action may delay the project. It is also possible that the fact that City Council would not preserve the Scenic Corridor for fear of losing money may prove to be a significant impact. Preserving the land never meant preventing the project. However putting Paseo del Norte where it is planned to be most definitely will mean no open space. A portion of TxDOT’s plan is predicated on the location and construction of Paseo del Norte.

So what are the implications in the short-term for people, including conservationists and environmentalists, who value natural open space and the preservation of the Scenic Corridor?

· First, there is no reason at this time to pursue a petition to preserve land. That fight can wait for another day. Even if enough valid signatures are presented, Council will still vote 7-1 against it. It may not always work the way we want and it may not always work well, but representative democracy works. That should be respected. Instead of pouring energy into an effort that will only be fruitless at this time, El Pasoans including the environmental/conservation community should work to elect genuine green candidates. Right now I’m aware of Lyda Ness-Garcia in District 1 (Ann Morgan Lilly’s district) and Ernesto Villanueva, Jr. in District 8, the seat Beto O’Rourke is vacating.

· It also means getting involved in the in the planning with the City for Smart Codes in the NW Master Plan. The location, size, and shape of the open space will be decided there.

· It means working with the head of City Engineering ,Alan Shubert, who is leading the way on a mitigation bank that will benefit the environment and business interests.

· And, it means keeping an eye on the land, on the PSB and on future City Council actions.

But here is the really good news – the rich blessings in all of this – an optimistic, Reaganesque pony in the manure pile: El Pasoans from all areas of the City and from different demographics have come together and discovered their common values and dreams. They represent a powerful and creative force for change and they can be found in government, businesses, medical and other service professions, schools, the University - everywhere. Here are three aspirations I have heard from many of them:

A PAC must be organized so that issues can be addressed, candidates can be found, and the public can be informed. A PAC is necessary because the long-entrenched political power structure in El Paso does not see the need for anything but sprawl and low pay and has nothing to offer but ideas for unsustainability. Ecology, ecosystems, wildlife habitat, sustainable human community, creativity and innovation are not terms in their vocabulary.

The City of El Paso, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Public Service Board especially must become more transparent and accountable to the people of El Paso. (Some at the City and EPWU/PSB will scream about this point because they either think that they are or they think that they don’t have to be and the “riff-raff” should just keep quiet and be grateful.)

El Pasoans (including the business and political communities) need more information about the environment, about ecosystems, about sustainable systems, about our natural heritage and treasures. Such information must be ongoing. Citizens must have more information about events and decisions that affect them and their communities. Media, schools, organizations, clubs, businesses, church groups and government workers must get this information. There are already good sources: the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition,, and organizations such as the West Texas Urban Forestry Council, Celebration of Our Mountains, Keystone Heritage Park, Friends of the Rio Bosque, and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition.

Just reviewing these few resources excites me and suddenly renews my spirit!

Yesterday’s vote was a sad disappointment with the decision, the decision-makers, with those we thought were friends. It was also a call to revival, renewal, and reinvigoration. There’s a pony in this room and we are going to find it and share it.

The fun, the adventure and the challenge has just begun!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

City Council Approves TxDOT Project 7 to 1

Only Susie Byrd opposed the approval of the Transmountain project as set forth by TxDOT. Chuck Berry was able to convince other members of Council that a safer entrance to the State Park will be created. In the motion to approve there was nothing about Smart Code. Paseo del Norte as planned will tear through beautiful, natural open space.

More later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

County Judge Veronica Escobar Speaks Out for Open Space

In the letter below written to Mayor John Cook, County Judge Veronica Escobar supports the "transportation infrastructure investment at Transmountain Road" but not at the expense of preserving natural open space.

Use the buttons below the letter to scroll, magnify, or download your own copy of the PDF.

Judge Veronica Escobar Letter about Transmountain Project and Open Space

New Petition Starts; Transmountain Goes to City Council

A petition to save the Scenic Corridor is back on the streets! Everyone will recognize it as the same petition as before that had language prohibiting major roadways through that corridor. (By the way, the petition language gives specific land description which does not include Transmountain. Signers need to know that the petition deliberately does not seek to stop Transmountain from being widened through this area.)

Why try again with the petition? First, the Municipal Clerk’s office did their job validating signatures and all are grateful to them for their hard work. Petition gatherers failed to correct some info which could have been corrected before submitting the petitions. Most importantly, you want to preserve the corridor and your voice should be heard. Also, since the petition never went before Council, there is nothing in the City Charter preventing its re-circulation.

If you can’t gather signatures, please download the form, print it and send it to Jim Tolbert at 2701 Frankfort Avenue, 79930 ASAP. Time is of the essence. You must be a registered voter residing in El Paso. Please make sure that the information that you put on the petition is complete and exactly like that on your voter registration card even if you moved recently and have not updated your card with the County. If you want to gather signatures, then take a moment to read through the instructions.

If you can, it is very important to attend City Council tomorrow. Some time after 11 a.m. there will be discussion and action on the proposed West Transmountain Loop 375 Project by the Texas Department of Transportation and will include approving (or not) the current flawed TxDOT proposal, adding Plexxar to the Master Thoroughfare Plan, and removing the Paseo del Norte overpass from the Transmountain Freeway design. (Item 15 on the agenda.) It is important that you attend and make your presence known as those who want to improve Transmountain safely and to accommodate added traffic without destroying the Scenic Corridor. If you cannot, please email your representative. Elpasonaturally does not support the inclusion of Plexxar and wants Paseo del Norte moved to that location instead. See What’s Wrong with TxDOT’s EA.

You can still give public comment regarding TxDOT’s proposal for the Transmountain West project and the Public Hearing on March 22nd. Email those comments to I suggest that you copy on your email the Federal Highway Administration official overseeing the proposal. His name is Gregory Punske and his email address is

One huge disappointment at the public hearing was a letter read into the record by a staff member of Senator José Rodriguez. The letter gave full support for that “Ask No Questions” project. Rather than listening to those who elected him, the Senator chose to side with out-of-towners who would force their one-size-fits-all (McDonald’s Arches-type) plan that ignores our love for our mountain to river corridor. The last time that I saw the Senator, he had not been elected and he was helping to pick-up trash along Transmountain west of the State Park. Apparently being seen meant more to him than “seeing”. Email him and tell him that you want land preserved and a new roadway that respects the Scenic Corridor. His address is

You probably have been reading about the dysfunction at EPWU/PSB especially if you subscribe to the El Paso Inc. After a year of attempting to get the EPWU leadership to give information about contracts and put items onto the agenda, the “citizens advocate” member of the Public Service Board, Dr. Richard Bonart, discussed these issues with David Crowder at the El Paso Inc. Crowder’s Taking on the PSB from inside is must-read. A good example of the Archuleta Autocracy that has no accountability to the people of El Paso and HIS Board members who merely bob their heads is the quick decision to hire the El Paso Council of Engineering Companies and Black and Veatch to investigate and report on failures and responses during the February freeze – the 60 hour event that led to dangerously low water levels, a call to the public to boil water and refrain from using water. Both the CEC and Black and Veatch do business with the PSB. Why not hire an independent consultant as Dr. Bonart suggested? Their local claims Archuleta – even though contractor after contractor on projects come from out of town. When you are an Unaccountable Autocrat, you do what you want and expect everyone to tow the line.

Apparently, Mayor John Cook now supports the idea of having an independent consultant who does not have a conflict of interest. See Crowder’s Mayor takes on utilities review/PSB member raises questions about how board is run.

Regarding Dr. Bonart’s assertion that he has been denied documentation as a Board member (Board members do have fiduciary responsibility and are not just bobbing heads), his claim is matched by evidence. One piece of that evidence is that I have a copy of the EPWU’s Emergency Response Plan (excluding supposedly sensitive Homeland Security information). Dr. Bonart asked for this document last year and still hasn’t received it! (By the way, that plan says nothing about the need for the EPWU’s Central Control room to be a “lights out” facility – one with the necessary back-up generators to work on its own even in the midst of a blackout. Wonder if Black and Veatch or the CEC would catch that “little” detail. The ERP is really pretty sketchy. It basically says that “In case of an Emergency, call Ed – or Nick Costanza” and now it appears EPWU is backing away from their claims about the threats from El Paso Electric.

One last comment: Jimmy Janacek’s online post to Crowder’s “Taking on the PSB” asks the perfect question – why aren’t all the PSB members serving us – the owners of the EPWU:

”According to PSB Rules and Regulations No. 11, Sec II (A)(1)(a), EPWU is owned by the citizens of El Paso. Yet EPWU finds it necessary to designate one board member as a "Citizens Advocate." EPWU is the only organization in this country that designates one board member as the owners advocate. Board members of all of the other organizations in this country are elected by the owners to advocate for the owners. These board members are criticized when they don't advocate for the owners but EPWU is the only organization in this country that will criticize a board member because he does advocate for the owners.”

Perhaps other board members have their own agendas like Maria Tehran whose company profits from the kinds of construction projects PSB contracts to do or supports through its resolutions. You see, Ms. Tehran is owner, president and chief operating officer of Sierra Machinery, Inc. which sells, leases and services heavy construction equipment. Talk about a conflict of interest! It appears that the co-chairman of the PSB is not there for the owners – you and me.

Of course, the El Paso Electric Company has its own woes. For all their hot air about promoting alternative energy, they are really penalizing rate payers who install and use solar energy panels.

Help for Your Yard Plants from El Paso Experts

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

El Paso Electric Penalizes Rate Payers for Solar Power

Don't believe El Paso Electric Company's claim on their home web page. You will see a rolling banner that includes solar panels and the copy "Renewable Energy: Improving our environment through renewable energy programs." Truth is that they don't just discourage residential use of solar energy - they penalize it! (EPEC's bogus marketing claims reminds one of the misrepresentations by PSB/EPWU in their expensive public relations campaign against natural open space.)

EPEC makes the installation and use of solar panels by residents uneconomical. They are also stealing electrical power from homeowners with solar panels or charging ratepayers with solar panels a $15/month surcharge.

One rate-payer (and an engineer) who recently installed solar panels gave me this report [emphases mine]:

We attended a meeting with Evan Evans and other representatives of El Paso Electric where the rate schedule for homeowners with residential solar systems was explained.

Until March, 2011 El Paso Electric was billing using “net metering” where the meter runs forward and backward depending upon production and use of electricity. Residents with solar systems would then pay only for their electricity use in excess of the amount produced by the solar panels. The Electric Company says that in July, 2010 they obtained approval from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for Rate Schedule 48. This schedule says that they can a) charge $15/month extra, b) charge the residential customer full cost for any electricity used (~$0.12/kW-hr, and c) pay the customer ~$0.025/kW-hr for any electricity produced. Although I have not seen the paperwork, homeowners are also offered the option of not being charged the extra $15/month but at the same time not receiving payment for any produced electricity. That is, whenever the solar panels produce more than the residence uses, the extra goes back to the electric company for no compensation – nice deal for the utility.

While Mr. Evans attempted to keep his answers factually accurate, his accuracy is uncertain; factually accurate is also not the same as fair and unbiased. When asked why we have this rate schedule we were told that the PUC has dictated these rates. In fact, rate schedules are negotiated with the PUC by the Electric Company. Why would any company, with true interest in solar power negotiate a rate schedule that makes solar systems uneconomic?

Solar systems produce during the highest demand hours of the day, when electricity is most valuable. When Mr. Evans was asked why the Electric Company pays so little for the produced power, given the optimal timing, his response was that it’s really not true that power is more expensive during the day, but rather that it’s cheaper at night! Those of us, who have studied logic, believe that’s exactly the same thing – but remember, these are the folks who brought us rolling blackouts this winter. The fact is that El Paso Electric charges its large customers an energy charge that increases by a factor of 18 during peak demand time relative to off peak hours (see Schedule 25: ).

So let’s see now: Solar power produced during peak demand hours has a very low value . . . but the surcharge for margin power used during the same time period has an 18X cost factor?

The net effect is that, despite the appearance of solar panels on the El Paso Electric web site, the solar option in the El Paso Electric portions of Texas is effectively dead. For residential systems, a very small set of solar panels (enough to meet minimum household daylight hours demand) would result in small monthly electricity cost reductions – but small systems tend to be uneconomic because some of the fixed charges of system setup greatly increase installation costs per kW. Larger systems are clearly uneconomic.

Here's a similar report about the meeting from a science teacher [again, emphases are mine]:

As you may know, EPE invited all of its solar customers to a 7 p.m. meeting on 24March at Stanton Tower to discuss changes in billing procedures. It turned out to be a pretty rancorous meeting that painted EPE in a very poor light. There were many angry people. Briefly, here is the story.

When I signed on in January 2009, I was credited on a PER MONTH basis for kWh that I was ahead ( sort of like putting them in a bank account). Once I had exhausted any credits I would be billed at the normal rate for any kWh I owed for the month. I also paid the standard monthly $4.50 residential customer charge since I was still, of course, hooked up to the grid. This resulted in my paying EPE about 90 dollars for electricity the first year.

Last spring, the billing changed some – less favorable to me in ways, but still fair I felt. Again, on a PER MONTH basis, I would be charged for net kWh consumed at the rate all of us pay for electricity, the retail rate. On months when I was a net producer I would be paid the wholesale rate for my excess kWh. I would also, of course, continue to pay the customer charge. Since I have not received a bill of any kind from EPE in the last 13 months(!) I don't know my exact bill in that time, but it would be in the 80 dollar range for that time frame. This would be less than the first year, mostly due to conservation efforts made here at the house.

Now the new situation: EPE is now monitoring net kWh on a TWO HOUR BLOCK basis, even though the bills (should I ever see one) are done monthly. Here is how this works: at night, when I am of course a net user, I will be billed for the net sum of kWh consumed based on the two hour blocks. At night, then, I am treated much like any other customer. During the day, I have a "choice" of two "options". I can pay a smaller customer charge – in the five to seven dollar/month range – and EPE will just take for free my net kWh production during the daylight hours. My other "choice" is to pay a $15 monthly charge, but then EPE will buy my daily two hour block excesses for $.025/kWh (the wholesale rate). I actually come out better on the first option, but it will turn my annual 80 dollar bill into something in the $250-300 range and ensure that EPE will get something from me every month, even those months when I make several hundred more kWh than I consume. Even days like today, when I will make 10 or so more kWh than I will use, I will have to pay them. This makes bona fide contractors look, at best, confused, and, at worst, complicit. It makes the payback period much longer and not really economically feasible for the homeowner. It cripples the growth of solar (by the individual at least) here in El Paso. All of this comes from EPE, which claims still and did so repeatedly at the meeting, to be FOR the individual solar customers. All this from EPE, whose lack of foresight in the deep freeze caused great, and unnecessary, financial damage.

Two comments: EPEC must have to pay for its $100,000 raise it is giving CEO David Stevens.

It also may be high time that we find ways to get off the grid and really live more sustainably. Find some ideas at Off Grid: Free Yourself. Here's a blog to follow. I predict that in the next few years, a getting homes and businesses off grid will become a huge growth industry. Here's one such house now where the owner not only lives off the grid but sustainably in other ways:

David Stevens and his solar power penalizing company will just have to go begging for customers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TxDOT Public Hearing Dominated by Conservationists

Last night's public hearing on the Transmountain West project really helped to define the differences between conservationists on the one hand and those who want to build a road without looking at any design alternatives nor considering the design flaws.

It was clear that those in favor of preserving the Scenic Corridor greatly outnumbered those who are willing to just tear-up the scenery, the animal habitats and the ecosystem. 23 people spoke for conserving and preserving land in the Scenic Corridor. Most of these speakers said that they favored road improvements but not at the expense of losing the Scenic Corridor. All seemed to emphasize that it was not the improvements to Transmountain that was the issue - but how those improvements would be made.

One speaker made it clear that preserving the Corridor would not stop improvements for Transmountain but the fear of losing $85 million for those improvements had stopped the City Council from preserving that land.

Those in favor of giving TxDOT a carte blanche for their cookie cutter design (TxDOT builds roads like McDonald's builds golden arches - one size fits all) repeatedly said that safety and less congestion were the reasons for bulldozing ahead. Most of these speakers are employed by companies standing to gain if the project goes through.

Avid mountain biker, teacher and 4th generation El Pasoan, Brent Sanders, easily debunked their arguments:

"I find it interesting that a project that touts itself on safety - safety at Resler, safety at Paseo del Norte, safety at Plexxar - has forgotten about safety at the State Park entrance. It really makes one wonder who this project is looking after. El Pasoans wanting to enter the State Park will have to cross 2 lanes of oncoming traffic.

"I have also heard others comment about how building overpasses, and gateways are going to relieve traffic congestion and pollution. I find that to be very interesting because the most congested areas that we have in El Paso are the gateways at the Hawkins, Airways, Lee Trevino, intersections. These also happen to be the most dangerous intersections in the city. So is this project helping congestion? Or safety? I worry this project is only for the benefit of a few at the expense of our tax dollars and our scenic mountains. Those of us against this freeway as it is currently being presented, bisecting our beloved mountains, are not trying to halt development in this city that we all love. Rather we want to preserve our mountains while still encouraging businesses to locate to a scenic, beautiful, desirable El Paso that we can all be proud of."

In her comment, Shari Bonart reminded everyone that it is not just unsafe to enter the State Park, it is unsafe to leave the Park - especially to make a left turn out of there. Take a look at a video Shari helped to produce that shows just how much more unsafe the current TxDOT design will make entering and exiting the State Park:

Judy Ackerman took on the proposed "animal crossing" by TxDOT. It is planned to occur between Paseo del Norte and Plexxar which might become a developed commercial area if the preservation of the Scenic Corridor fails. Animals would have to walk through developed areas, across a major thoroughfare (Paseo) enter the corridor and cross over to more commercial development. It isn't going to happen.

Sierra Club member, Bill Addington, reported that an attorney had been retained to review the

Federal Highway Administration official, Gregory Punske, was in attendance. I gave him copies of both sets of the petitions.

Finally, speaking about the petitions, discussion is now underway to push to get more signatures. One petition (roadways) only missed certification by 70 signatures.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's Wrong with TxDOT's EA

Use the buttons below the document to enlarge, download and print.

What's Wrong With TxDOT's EA

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time to Speak Out about Transmountain Road

First, read Rep. Susie Byrd's blog post, "TxDOT to El Paso: 'My Way or the Highway'". Take the vote on her blog. Print the form letter below and fill it out and mail it today or bring it with you to the meeting next Tuesday night:
TXDOT Form Letter for Transmountain

The public hearing for the Transmountain project is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. next Tuesday evening (March 22nd) at Canutillo High School.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Council Will Consider Trailhead Access to State Park

The El Paso City Council will consider a recommendation by the Open Space Advisory Board that will provide pedestrian access to designated state trail heads. At its regular meeting tomorrow, Council could ask that "the City Manager direct staff to coordinate with the necessary State agencies, Home Owner Associations, and if necessary, amend Title 19, to provide pedestrian access to designated state trail heads."

El Paso hikers and outdoor enthusiasts have indicated on more than one occasion their support for an ordinance that provides such access.

The Planning and Economic Development and the Engineering and Construction Management departments are in agreement with OSAB's request.

The recommendation follows a proposal first made by KVIA General Manager and avid hiker, Kevin Lovell. In a January 9, 2011 op-ed column for El Paso Inc., Mr. Lovell wrote:

The Franklin Mountains define El Paso providing its greatest source of beauty.

Now, due to poor decisions by the City of El Paso and developers, I’m fighting a private land ownership wall that threatens access to our precious mountains.

I moved into my home near Queen of Peace Church in the upper Westside in 1993. Since then I’ve been using a patchwork of jeep roads and trails to jog/hike into the Franklins.

The primary trail used to be a half mile from my house. Due to development, it’s now three times that far to reach my preferred trail that extends east off a road named Calle Lago near the new Hornedo Middle School. Recently, a gated community called Ocotillo Heights sprung up at the upper end of Calle Lago. I don’t mind the gate blocking motor vehicle access to mountain trails. I am horrified to now be met by “No Trespassing” and “Violators Will be Prosecuted” signs when attempting to make the same walk I’ve made dozens of times for 17 years. How could the City and PSB have sold land and allowed developers and property owners to block access to a prominent jeep road and other trails that provide reasonable access to the Franklins? I’m determined to get a solution.

I spoke in open forum at a city council meeting. Westside representative Ann Morgan Lilly has hosted two meetings involving the City Plan department, a representative of the developer and the head of the City Parks department. I presented my case to the Open Space Advisory Board this past week. I’ve personally talked with developer Doug Schwarz and PSB CEO Ed Archuletta and PSB board member and environmental activist Rick Bonart. At every juncture, I’ve been met with sympathy. Finding a solution is tougher due to Texas property owner laws. As I best understand it, the best solution lies with Nanette Smejkal, the director of the city’s Parks department. First, the property owners would have to be reasonable and permit development of a crude trail along the edge of the large privately owned open space surrounding the development to connect to the jeep trail. To make it happen, the parks department must accept right-of-way, thus assuming the liability of the trail.

The city council may ultimately have to weigh in if an ordinance is introduced. Something must be done before other nearby private land is developed blocking access to trails leading into the Franklins. I welcome your thoughts and support and can be reached at

City Council will also decide about two other Open Space Advisory Board recommendations. The first would leave ponding areas open for wildlife as wildlife corridors when those areas are part of a riparian corridor. The second recommendation is to rezone Keystone Heritage Park and the Rio Bosque as Natural Open Space (NOS).

Petitions Fail

Both petitions to preserve land in the Scenic Transmountain Corridor failed for lack of valid signatures. One petition called for preserving the land; the other called for preservation and the prevention of building any major roadways through that land.

I have asked Richarda Momsen, the Municipal City Clerk, for a meeting at 5 today to go over the signatures. About 300 to 400 signatures would have had to have been invalidated on each petition for both to have failed.

One petitioner emailed to say, "I am beyond disappointed. What else can we do?" Members and friends of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition will take a couple of days to determine what the next step will be.

In the meantime, the open public hearing on the TxDOT Transmountain EA is scheduled for March 22nd.

No Development Petition Fails

No Roadways Petition Fails

Friday, March 11, 2011

Watch El Paso History on the Texas Channel

From mural "Pass of the North" by Tom Lea


El Paso history documentaries to air statewide on

Time Warner Cable for Texas history month

March 7, 2011 -- Capstone Productions Inc. announces that three of its El Paso TV documentaries will be shown on Time Warner Cable’s Texas Channel in March 2011 to mark Texas history month. The programs have a potential audience of more than one-million homes across Texas.

The broadcasts are part of Capstone Production’s just-released marketing campaign designed to bring attention to El Paso’s history and heritage: Texas History Begins in El Paso .

"Tom Lea’s El Paso" will air Monday, March 14 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time; Saturday, March 19 at 9 a.m. Mountain Time; and Wednesday, March 23 at 8 p.m. Mountain Time.

"El Paso Visitors TV" will air Tuesday, March 15 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time; Sunday, March 20 at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time; and Monday, March 21 at 8 p.m. Mountain Time.

"Gunfights of the Old West" will air Thursday, March 17 at 6 p.m. Mountain Time; Saturday, March 19 at 10:30 a.m. Mountain Time; and Wednesday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

The programs will be shown on Texas Channel, which is available to 1.1 million Time Warner Cable digital cable customers in these cities: Austin on Channel 888; Corpus Christi on Channel 100; Dallas on Channel 185; El Paso on Channel 24; Laredo on Channel 888; the Rio Grande Valley on Channel 888; San Antonio on Channel 888; and Waco-Temple-Killeen on Channel 888.

The documentaries are produced by El Paso’s Capstone Productions Inc., which specializes in El Paso history programs. The statewide cable casts are funded in part by grants from the Hunt Family Foundation, of El Paso; and Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"Tom Lea’s El Paso" features an interview with the famous Texas artist and author recorded when he was 92 years old. Tom shared his memories of his boyhood El Paso when Pancho Villa was equipping his Mexican Revolution armies from El Paso. Tom tells how he was influenced by the Southwest as he became a world-famous artist. The one-hour program is illustrated with archival photographs and film of old El Paso.

"El Paso Visitors TV" is a one-hour program that takes the viewer all over the El Paso area to see the history and happenings a visitor might like to visit. It is narrated and features fast-paced visits to museums and historic sites.

"Gunfights of the Old West" re-enacts five infamous Old West gunfights at their original locations in El Paso. The half-hour program is narrated by Texas author Leon Metz, with reenactments by Six Guns & Shady Ladies.

Capstone Productions Inc. is an El Paso-based broadcast production company that produces heritage TV and radio programs about the El Paso area. For details about the programs, visit


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PSB to Hear Resolution Against Natural Open Space

PSB to Hear Resolution Against Natural Open Space

Save Our Wildlife Programs

Many of our State wildlife programs are affected by the federal budget.

Our urban wildlife biologist, Lois Balin, emailed the following information that informs about the current federal budget process. Along with the information, Lois, includes a note from Mark Humpert, the Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies with suggestions as to how we each can help:

Dear supporters of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Urban Wildlife Program, Texas Master Naturalist Program, Wildlife Diversity Branch, and State Parks:

The federal government passed a temporary continuing resolution last week which means that there are now a couple of weeks to educate constituents should they choose to contact members of the U.S. House and Senate. The Senate Finance Committee met last week and heard testimony regarding Texas Parks and Wildlife's top priority budget requests. TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith made several requests of the committee that would provide additional flexibility to the agency in managing the proposed reductions.

The next step in the process is for the Senate Finance Committee to break into smaller work groups to discuss the requests and amend the bill. That will be taking place over the next week or so. Once the mark-up is completed, the bill will go to the full Senate for a vote. The same process is occurring on the House side as well; and, once the two bills are approved, a conference committee will be appointed to work out any differences. Only after an agreed upon budget bill is approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law will TPWD know exactly what the numbers will be for the budget that will take effect September 1st.

Your voice is needed. Here is an excerpt that Mark Humpert of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) sent out to Teaming With Wildlife Coalition members on how you can help:

Good Morning:

You may have seen in the news that the Senate passed and the President signed a short-term continuous resolution this week. This will prevent the federal government from shutting down over the weekend but does not change much regarding defunding of the State & Tribal Wildlife Grants program for FY11. No funding for the State & Wildlife Grants Program has been or will be made available to states and their partners for this fiscal year until Congress passes a budget, and then only if funding is restored. Vice President Biden has been pulled in to help lead negotiations between Senate and House majority and minority leadership. Press accounts are saying this morning that the two parties are not very close to an agreement. One account said that the Democrats have found about $50B in cuts from the President's FY11 request but that the Republicans want a minimum of $100B in cuts. It's urgent that members of Congress hear from us while negotiations are happening .


1. Send letters from you agency/organization to the US Senate asking them to restore funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program. Use the attached template.

1. Add you organizations' name to the national sign-on letter supporting restoration of funding. So far 169 organizations have signed on. View the letter to sign on.

2. Call (and ask your friends and family members to call) your members of the US Senate and the House to register your concerns about the proposed elimination of funding.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Municipal Clerk's Office Counting Signatures

Some of the petition gatherers enjoy a light-hearted pose as they wait for the Municipal Clerk's office to time stamp and copy petition pages.

As most of you probably know from El Paso's other media sources, the Municipal Clerk's office accepted both petitions, time stamped each page, made copies for me and presented me with a receipt for each petition. Through the grapevine I have learned that they are going through the tedious process of verifying whether each signature is from a registered City of El Paso voter and may be finished as early as next Thursday or the week after that. The magic number for certification is 1547. Even as I was walking to the Clerk's office on Tuesday after a brief comment to City Council members, two people gave me more petition pages! I had counted over 1800 signatures on both petitions prior to that. They gave me nearly a hundred extra signatures so I know we were close or over 1900 total for both petitions. That's pretty good padding.

A number of citizens stood behind me as I told the Council my intention to submit signatures immediately to the Municipal Clerk. I told Council that, in addition to submitting, I would be making copies for the Federal Highway Administration which is reviewing the TxDOT Environmenal Assessment for the proposed $85 million Transmountain project. A public meeting for that is scheduled on March 22nd and I'll be posting more details about that meeting and where you can begin submitting your comments.

I also invited Council members to call or email me and I would take them on a hike of the land in question. It is not flat as PSB/EPWU President Archuleta has publicly claimed.

The petitions call for preserving land in what has come to be called the Scenic Transmountain Corridor - a mere 742 acres. It represents a compromise from an earlier suggestion to preserve all the land in the Westside Master Plan. It has been a reasonable suggestion all along but has received the greatest amount of resistance from Ed Archuleta, John Cook and others. Hopefully the petitions will give members of City Council yet another chance to do the right thing. Perhaps now they cannot rezone that land as Natural Open Space. However, they can get a conservation easement, they can dedicate it as parkland, or they can deed restrict it - 3 possibilities.

Stay tuned. For all of you who worked so hard to gather petiitions: a HUGE thanks. One thing that became clear: as more and more El Pasoans heard about this effort, more and more wanted to join an effort to save the Scenic Transmountain Corridor. It's too bad that the City Engineers and their consultant prepared a Traffic Impact Analysis of the area in which all the models point to not building Paseo del Norte through the area and yet they claim that they know better. More on that craziness later.