Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earth Day Forum for All City Council Candidates Tomorrow

Forum for All City Council Candidates Tomorrow

Monday, April 18, 2011

Does Lilly Campaign Finance Report Reveal Vote Bias?

Ann Morgan Lilly's campaign finance report may reveal more than what the El Paso Times reported. Their Saturday front page headline story, PAC aids candidates: Group backs Lilly, Niland for council, states that $24,782 has gone to Lilly (District 1) and Niland (District 2). Lilly got the lion's share of it: $17,682. Here's what the Times didn't mention.

Remember that 7-1 vote to approve TxDOT's Transmountain plan. That was held on Tuesday, March 29. When did the PAC led by Woody Hunt, Robert Brown, Richard Castro, Steve DeGroat, Rick Francis, Paul Foster and Beto O'Rourke's father-in-law, Bill Sanders give money to Rep. Lilly's campaign? January 15 ($2,000/Consulting); February 15 ($2,000/Consulting and $5943.78/Signs; March 15 (3,000/Consulting and $4738.70/Mail)

$17,682.48 before March 15. Vote for TxDOT on March 29. BTW, at that same meeting, Rep. Byrd's amendments to remove Paseo del Norte or its overpass failed and Plexxar was added to the Master Thoroughfare Plan. (March 29th Agenda)

This stinks.

Here's Lilly's finance report:

Lilly Campaign Finance Report

Friday, April 15, 2011

Letter Outlines Deficiencies in TxDOT EA

A letter to TxDOT outlines the serious problems with their Environmental Assessment of the Transmountain Road project between I-10 and the State Park. It is written by the law firm of Lawerre, Frederick, Perales, Allman & Rockwell, the attorneys for the local chapter of the Sierra Club. It utilizes a key study by David Simon, the principal of Eco-Think Consulting.

It makes the following chief points:

TxDOT's EA is underfunded and deficient.
The report used outdated data.
There is no true evaluation of the noise impact.
There is no true evaluation of the visual impact and, in fact, the video that TxDOT provides online does not include commercial, industrial or residential development.
It underestimates damage to biodiversity, wildlife and vegetation.

What is needed is study for an Environmental Impact Study.

Here's the letter and attachment of the consultant's findings:

Sierra Club Public Hrg Comments-TxDOT Loop 375 Transmtn West

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

PSB Can't Answer Simple Question about New PR Position

Have you ever noticed that the PSB just can't answer a simple question directly or easily? They dodge. They weave. They refer things to legal counsel.

I asked Christina $84,820/year Montoya the following easy question based on a story in the El Paso Times:


In yesterday’s El Paso Times was a story that PSB/EPWU was hiring a new public information specialist and that “the PSB voted to create the new position long before the shortage [February freeze] occurred.

Will you please email me the minutes of the PSB meeting at which there was a vote to create the new position?

Thank you.

Jim H. Tolbert

Publisher, El Paso Naturally

You would think that I would get back a simple email that would say "See Attached" with an attached PDF of the minutes of the PSB meeting at which the new position was voted upon. Pretty easy for most people accountable to the public whose organizations have nothing to hide. Instead, here was Christina $84,820/year Montoya's reply:


Our legal department is in receipt of your request and will respond.

Thank you,


The Times went on to report that the new staff person will make between $39,500 and $58,500/year. I know someone at City Hall who does the same kind of job as Christina $84,820/year Montoya but who makes $36,000 less than she does. He is more creative and more responsive to the public. I won't mention his name because he would probably be embarrassed.

When asked whether the new person at PSB would mean having a 3-person PR staff at PSB, Christina $84,820/year Montoya responded that right now there is one person doing public relations and that she herself is "executive staff". Personal message to Ed $275,000*/year Archuleta: Sell more land, buddy. You've got to pay for all these needless positions at PSB to cover your ass.

*The Times got it wrong. They reported that Archuleta makes $250,000. The Texas Tribune keeps up on current salaries of public officials. Read here for Ed's. Joyce Wilson who is far more valuable to the City of El Paso makes $47,419/year less than PSB's CEO! That difference would just about pay for a Marketing/Communications position at City Hall for a guy who does better work than is done over at the PSB. At least he quickly and easily answers questions from the public.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Join "Share El Paso" with Native Plants and Wildlife on facebook

If the world we live in becomes unsafe for wildlife it certainly will not be a very safe place for people.  That’s why we need to learn to share our world with nature.  We simply cannot maintain a healthy environment any other way. 

The other day I was taking pictures of the new housing developments in northwest El Paso when I took the picture you see above showing a recently bulldozed area just outside Franklin Mountains State Park. As you can see, there is little in this picture besides dirt. The developer could have saved some of the natural vegetation and the related wildlife associated with it, but that was not the case. Instead of sharing El Paso with the living things that have been growing and living here for thousands of years, it was decided it was best to bulldoze the entire landscape.

This picture reminded me of three words I have been saying over the past few years - "Share El Paso."   Many people do not value conserving land and sharing it with native plants and wildlife.  Sharing means just that, whenever we do something like build new houses, strip malls, schools or factories, we should save wildlife corridors in the immediate area and connect them with other wildlife corridors so that wildlife have a chance to survive.

I hope you will join this facebook group and encourage others to join you. Sharing El Paso with nature is simply the right thing to do. Before we can share we have to know who we need to share El Paso with. This facebook group is designed to help. 

Join "Share El Paso" with Native Plants and Wildlife on facebook
Share El Paso, help others in El Paso learn to share our city with native plants and wildlife.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sign the Petition: Save the Land!

Get 1548 signatures! That’s the overwhelming message that came back after my last e-letter. I was inundated by email from people who want to preserve the natural open space of the Transmountain Scenic Corridor and they want to sign the petition. Many of them are willing to gather petitions stat!


1. People want an alternative to the Paseo del Norte overpass. That overpass will make development of the land possible and inevitable. They want an alternative that means saving the open space.

2. Only the petition has the potential to allow the citizens to vote on preserving the land around the proposed freeway. A board member of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition said, "I thought the petition would put this on the ballot for voters to decide how they want the public land managed which would in turn requre the City Council to honor that directive from their constituents."

3. One petition gatherer remarked: “I love the mountains and conserving the beautiful things about El Paso and for those reasons I will not throw in the towel.”

There have been some misconceptions about the petition. Know two things:

1. The petition and its language are perfectly good.

2. There are other ways to preserve land as natural open space besides a Natural Open Space Zoning.

There is a reason for ONE petition being done TWICE: the first to go to Council and the second, should Council disapprove, to go to the voters. The petition out there now IS the same language as before because the petition used before never went to Council. It failed to have enough valid signatures because there were “amateurish mistakes” – incomplete birthdays, a different address than on the voter certificate. The Municipal Clerk and her staff worked honestly and deliberately. The gatherers of the petition made the mistakes and were unaware of what they could do to help validate signatures.

It is true that a zoning category of the city is Natural Open Space (NOS) – one way to preserve the land as natural open space. It is also true that Council can’t rezone the land NOS for a period of time since they voted recently against an ordinance to do just that. HOWEVER, the petition calls for preserving the land as natural open space which doesn’t necessarily need an NOS zoning category. The land can come under a conservation easement; it can be re-dedicated as park-land; it can be deed restricted. There are other ways to preserve it in perpetuity as natural open space. Thus, even though Council turned down an ordinance to re-zone the land as NOS and cannot re-consider that ordinance for a year, El Pasoans can still petition to preserve the land as natural open space (descriptive words in lower case not a Zoning title in all caps.) Again, there are at least 3 ways available to preserve the land: a conservation easement, dedication as parkland, deed restriction. (Sorry for the repetitiveness – but these misconceptions are still out there.)

The petition and directions are available at Time is of the essence. Read the instructions before you sign and/or gather petitions. If you gather, be sure you are also a signer.

Finally, when representative democracy fails, there is the people’s choice of an election as it is written in the City Charter of the City of El Paso.