Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No Public Meeting about Park Entrance Scheduled as Promised

In spite of earlier assurances by TxDOT District Engineer Bob Bielek, there will be no public meeting about the an entrance to the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park off of Transmountain Road. Bielek told us on September 23rd that a public meeting would be scheduled before November.

Just yesterday I emailed him and asked him what was going on. Here is his response:

Mr. Tolbert,

There are a number of issues that have caused a delay, including developing the initial plans for the improvements needed in the area bounded by Montana, Global Reach, Spur 601 and Loop 375 to support the development anticipated by Fort Bliss disposing of approximately 2,500 acres that will go into residential and commercial development.  Since this will have a very significant impact on the congestion that will be experienced by many thousands of commuters, and the attendant air quality impacts, we have had to give priority to getting these initial plans developed.  A secondary issue is that the project manager for this project accepted another position (still within the District, but as the Assistant Area Engineer in the Alpine Area Office).  While Tony is trying to assist our Advance Project Development staff here in the District, his absence and the limited staff we have available has presented challenges that we are attempting to deal with.

I still expect to hold the public meeting to present alternatives in December. I am trying to get this accomplished halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas so that we will have minimum interference from people traveling for the holidays.  I apologize for the delay; however, we do need to prioritize our workload based on the number of citizens that will be affected if we don’t get adequate facilities in place when they are needed.

Bob Bielek, DPA, PE
District Engineer, El Paso District

Texas Department of Transportation

What residential and commercial development? On March 25, 2011, the El Paso Times ran this story. The Department of Defense announced land for sale on March 10, 2011.

The Texas Department of Transportation will conduct a series of Open House Informational meetings to provide information on the plans of improving the mobility of the Purple Heart Memorial Highway (Loop 375) and the Liberty Expressway (Spur 601).

The series of Open Houses for this project will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the following locations:

Monday, November 4, 2013
El Dorado High School – Library Lobby
12401 Edgemere Blvd. El Paso, TX 79938

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Parkland High School  - Cafeteria 
5932 Quail Ave. El Paso, TX 79924

Thursday, November 7, 2013
R.E.L. Washington Elementary School - Gymnasium

3505 N. Lee Trevino Dr. El Paso, TX 79936

Regarding a meeting about the park entrance, one veteran observer said: "It is very inconvenient to have a public hearing 'halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas' when everyone is busy to the max."  

Now Leeser Is the Giant Pothole for El Paso Bicyclers

It's confusing why Mayor Leeser was so concerned about spending federal money on a new bike share program that he deleted an item discussing that new program from yesterday's City Council meeting. Read KVIA's report

One city staffer with the Sustainability department said that the "Mayor may have been confused about the deletion and then addition of the $100,000 for the feasibility study which was the only difference in the presentation from the last time he saw it (per direction from the City Manager). He wanted more information about why we are providing funding for the start-up operation and maintenance (O & M), though I’m a little confused because he saw the entire presentation yesterday.

"He believed that the larger system ($1.9 million) did not budget for any O & M, though the MPO had presented that proposal and had intended to cover a year of O & M costs. Seems the item was deleted from today’s agenda because he wanted more discussion on it before action was taken."

The question is why does the Mayor want more discussion? We've been over this issue now many times. Perhaps pitching a bike share program to a car dealer is just doomed to failure from the get go.

Here's Sustainability's presentation:

The smaller bike share program is on the agenda of this Friday's Transportation Policy Board meeting. However, it's unlikely to be discussed until the El Paso City Council decides what it will do.

More and more communities across the country are becoming bike friendly including Fort Worth with its bike share program.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Adopt a Dog Saturday at Franklin Mountains State Park

Second Annual Happy Tails n' Happy Trails

Click on images below to enlarge.

LoBello Lectures Scheduled for Celebration of Our Mountains in November

Zoo Education Curator to present three "Celebration of Our Mountains" Presentations in November

Rick LoBello will speak on his vision to bring back the Mexican wolf to Texas, ongoing efforts to create a US Mexico International Park in the Big Bend area of Texas, and Conservation Challenges in El Paso.

Conservation Challenges in El PasoFriday, November 1, 7:00–8:30 p.m. 

Environmental concerns in El Paso include clean air and water, recycling, energy conservation, the protection of habitat for wildlife in the Franklin Mountains State Park and surrounding areas, and the availability of natural areas where kids growing up can readily connect with nature. Many of our environmental concerns are actively addressed by local government agencies and non-profit organizations, but not always at the level of effectiveness that many people would like to see. What can ordinary citizens do to make sure that all the community’s environmental concerns and issues are adequately addressed? During this 90-minute program, El Paso conservation educator and community organizer, Rick LoBello, will share his vision on how we can improve our community’s environmental outlook.  At the Westside Regional Command Center Community Room, 4801 Osborne Drive, El Paso.  RSVP and Contact: or 915-521-1881.

Refreshments sponsored by the Bagel Shop and Starbucks.

The Howl of the Mexican WolfBringing back nature’s grand opera back to Texas – the howl of the Mexican wolf: An impossible dream?Friday, November 8, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

During the early 1990s, there was a movement in Texas led by the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas to bring back the Mexican wolf to portions of its former range in the Southwest and Mexico, including the Big Bend National Park area of Texas. What happened to the movement? Critically endangered Mexican wolves are on a slow road to recovery in Arizona and New Mexico. Will they ever return to Texas? Could wolves survive in the Franklin and Organ Mountains of El Paso and Las Cruces? During this 90-minute program, Rick LoBello, El Paso conservation educator and community organizer, will review the history of the Mexican wolf in Texas, what the Mexican Wolf Coalition of Texas accomplished during the 1990s and how a new grassroots effort to return the wolf to the wilds of Texas could return to the public’s radar screen in Texas.   At the Westside Regional Command Center Community Room, 4801 Osborne Drive, El Paso.  RSVP and Contact: or 915-521-1881.

Refreshments sponsored by Albertson's 

Big Bend-Rio Bravo International ParkFriday, November 15, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

A giant US Mexico international park in the Big Bend would help both countries better address key issues such as protection of water and air quality, control of invasive species, and management of wildland fire.

The park would become a permanent monument and symbol of peace between the U.S. and Mexico, one that will celebrate the friendship between the two countries and be a meeting ground where the people of both countries and citizens from all parts of the world could come together to learn about each other's culture while coming to better understand the natural world that they all share.

Join others in the United States and Mexico in helping to create one of the largest and most significant protected wilderness areas in North America — the long proposed Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park. Rick LoBello will review the history of the international park and suggest many different ways people can get involved in a new grass roots effort to establish the park in the Big Bend region of Texas and northern Mexico.  At the Westside Regional Command Center Community Room, 4801 Osborne Drive, El Paso.  RSVP and Contact: or 915-521-1881. 

Refreshments sponsored by Holiday Inn at Sunland Park

All three programs will be presented at the Westside Regional Command Center Community Room, 4801 Osborne Drive, El Paso, Texas (Map) from 7:00am to 8:30am.   For more information write or call 915-521-1881. 

Events are part of the 2013 Celebration of Our Mountains.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Friday Video: BikeSwell Smart Movement in Arlington Virginia

People from coast to coast are getting it. Don't expect TxDOT, Bob Bielek, Ted Houghton or the El Paso sprawlers ever to get it. We the people must insist that our elected officials act in spite of these Neanderthals. We the people must act in spite of these Neanderthals especially if our government does not.

Here's the Friday video with a hat tip to Maria Trunk and Judy Ackerman. Keep sending them in, folks:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Open Space Board and Democracy under Attack

Well, either you're closing your eyes 
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of sprawlers and their lackeys in our community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, 
I say, trouble right here in Rio Grande City. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Development Community Continues to Halt Passage of Drainage Design Manual

Last Thursday the City Plan Commission (CPC) once again postponed action on the new Drainage Design Manual. City Planning Engineer Kareem Dallo asked for a two week extension and hinted at delay until January. CPC Chair Larry Nance was hoping for at least the implementation of the DDM on a voluntary basis.

The fact is that the development community of El Paso is in the driver's seat and they do not want the DDM passed. Never mind dealing with water scarcity and conservation. Never mind making sure that there is enough water for their grandchildren's grandchildren or even their grandchildren. What's important are those big profit margins and bank accounts. They have got to afford those mega homes which are more space than anyone will ever need and more space gouged out of the mountainsides and arroyos. Why should El Paso enter the twenty-first century when good old-fashioned Conquistador colonialism is good enough for a few builders. (I always think of the evil villains in J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis novels who are often described by their lust to destroy the environment and reduce the earth to concrete and steel. Both by the way were real Christians who used fiction to talk about Christianity.)

The complaint remains the same: the DDM is unfair because there are no soil tests of El Paso and a comprehensive survey will cost in the excess of $100,000. Try getting their bought and paid for sycophants on City Council to come up with that pittance. 

But the fact is that there already is a comprehensive soil survey of El Paso County. It was done by the USDA in 1971. You can see the report online. The Texas A&M Ag Research Center of El Paso published a guide in September 2000: "Soil Resources of El Paso" which contains a map of the soils of El Paso. You can get a copy of that guide from our County Extension Agent. As I said in an earlier post: the soils in El Paso have not changed in all of this time in spite of the excuses and protests of those in City Planning who are politically motivated to go along with the developers. (Read Carlos Gallinar.) The soil survey exists in spite of the misinformation put out by the voice of development, Richard Williams.

There is no need to spend money on a new survey. The survey has already been done.

There is no need for further delay of the Drainage Design Manual. If some want to make it voluntary - fine. But make those who choose to use water wasting methods pay an impact fee - a huge one. 

EPWU Issues New Policy Mindful of Wildlife

A new policy regarding the clearance and dredging of irrigation drains was authorized by EPWU CEO John Balliew this past Friday. The policy was written in response to the massive destruction of animal habitat, including bird nests, and vegetation along the Montoya and Nemexas drains this past summer. That destruction was ordered by El Paso Water Improvement District Manager Jesus "Chuy" Reyes following a brush fire and a complaint by a prominent El Paso attorney. The El Paso Water Utilities was forced to help with the clean-up by prior agreements with the water district.

The extreme clear cutting of the drains resulted in an outcry from people living in that area of the Upper Valley, the El Paso conservation community and wildlife experts. Elpasonaturally had a number of posts about the operation beginning here.

John Balliew acted quickly to develop a new water utility policy that would be more mindful of animal life and vegetation. He put EPWU attorney, Lupe Cuellar, in charge of writing that policy. Ms. Cuellar worked with wildlife experts such as John Kiseda and Rick LoBello of the El Paso Zoo and Urban Wildlife Biologist, Lois Balin, along with leaders in El Paso's open space community. Very significantly she worked with utility field operations - the persons who actually do the work of maintaining the land. The new policy is written as a guide for field management.

Sensitivity to the nesting season and limiting the amount of vegetation to be cleared away during any given operation are central to the policy. Before any work can be done the EPWU's Environmental Planner will make an evaluation. That person has been identified as Valerie Provencio, the utility's archaeologist with expertise in ecology. A calendar governing the scope of operations was adopted as part of the project.

Here is the memorandum stating the policy and initialed by Balliew:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bicycling and Walking Make Sense

Our friends at TxDOT, City Planning, City Manager's office, City Council, the CPC, the Transportation Policy Board of the MPO, etc. should watch the videos below. In fact, all El Pasoans should see these. Together both will take just 31 minutes of your time. Watching them beats a sitcom re-run. The first came to me from Judy Ackerman via Fred Eiland. The second I learned about from the speaker himself in an email. He was a key speaker at a city planning workshop over a year ago.

The question is why are we so backwards when it comes to urban design including more opportunities for pedestrians and bicyclists? There is so much to be gained as the videos will show.

Upon reviewing some documents relevant to TxDOT's refusal to allow CMAQ funds to go where they were intended to go (an El Paso bike share program), one expert told me: "They [TxDOT] don't see bicycles as a form of transportation!  So for them the only way to reduce emissions is to enable/encourage more people to drive, then make them more efficient (which actually adds, not cuts emissions).

Speck speaks to the question of walkability/lifestyle versus more efficient gadgets:

Times and Inc. Take PSB to Task

If you didn't see David Crowder's article in this weekend's Inc., you need to read it. PSB gag rule has everyone talking sums up the situation with the gag rule - the PSB Communications policy. There is no doubt that the policy was invoked by the current PSB Chair Richard Shoephoerster, abetted by Robert Andron, the legal counsel for PSB/EPWU, to get back at PSB member Bonart for bringing to light the deficiencies in the UTEP Centennial Water Plan.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Conservation Leadership Institute

New Conservation Leadership Institute organized in El Paso

The Friday Video: Thermoelectricity from Hand Heat

Okay - it's not Friday. I just didn't get around to posting a video last Friday. Sheesh!

Here's a great video about a technology that utilizes energy wasted in the form of heat. The company is TXL Group, Inc. which operates right here in El Paso. The company's web site states: "TXL Group, Inc. is a Texas corporation that manufactures small scale thermoelectric solutions (today) and is developing large scale solutions (tomorrow) for capturing waste heat energy and turning it into dollars." 

My reason for showing this video is not just the "green-ness" of TXL and thermoelectricity. It's the fact that the founder and president of the company is none other than David Nemir, P.E., a member of the PSB and currently the Secretary Treasurer of the PSB. We are in good hands.

Here's the video:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Balliew: "I am not an advocate of the policy"

"I was not advocating for the policy and am not an advocate of the policy." - John Balliew, CEO of the EPWU.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Give Me a Break!

EPWU/PSB is not a private company and it is more than just a utility. We El Pasoans have asked them to manage land and stormwater as well as water and sewage. We understand that there are tough political decisions to be made about water scarcity and conservation, urban sprawl and groundwater. In other words, they are not just responsible to us for delivering a product that is safe and clean, but helping us with far greater issues of conservation and sustainability - issues that are political. Debate, doubt, discussion and dissent must be out in the open and must include the public. This is not a bad thing but a healthy thing. It is, of course, detrimental to those who like to use power without accountability.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

City Council Unanimously Supports Bike Share

Bike share was back on the City Council's agenda today:

16B.      1.   Discussion and action on requesting a letter of support from the Metropolitan Planning Organization to transfer CMAQ funds from the proposed bike share to the P3 Program on the bridge as the bridge proposal will provide a more significant impact on air quality than the proposed bike share.
[Representative Michiel R. Noe, (915) 541-4701]
[Representative Cortney Niland, (915) 541-4123]
[POSTPONED FROM 10-01-2013]

2.   Discussion and action on developing a bike share program.
[Representative Michiel R. Noe, (915) 541-4701]
[Representative Cortney Niland, (915) 541-4123]

[POSTPONED FROM 10-01-2013]

Apparently something occurred between now and past meetings at the MPO and with the City Council to lead to a deletion of 16B at today's meeting. It is becoming clear that taking CMAQ money for the P3 Program on the bridge is a No-No. Instead, a motion was unanimously passed to fund a bike share program with whatever funds available.

There is a planned meeting in Austin among the Federal Highway Administration, the MPO and TxDOT regarding CMAQ funds that have been designated for El Paso's bike share being used instead for the P3 Program. One can only hope that TxDOT will finally be persuaded to do the right thing especially as they see public support gaining traction among elected representatives and legal experts.

Conflict of Interest

Richard Schoephoerster is both the Dean of the College of Engineering at UTEP and the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Recent open record requested documents clearly show a conflict of interest with regard to the UTEP Reclaimed Water Project and his role as Chairman of the PSB.

As I reported in an earlier post, my first ORR to the EPWU came up short. I made a second request. Frankly, the response to it seems to be lacking as well. Nevertheless, there are some email exchanges that demonstrate that Schoephoerster was very much engaged in inappropriate persuasion for the UTEP project and, in so doing, failed to act as a fiduciary for the PSB/EPWU, his sworn duty.

Although Shoephoerster recused himself as both Chair and voting member when the project was discussed at the PSB in August and again in September, behind the scenes he was quite active in promoting it. His enthusiasm became apparent publicly at the last EPWU strategic planning meeting when he attempted to shut down any discussion that was negative about the Centennial Park project or reclaimed water in general. Although reclaimed water is subsidized, Schoephoerster used some pretty creative sophistry to suggest that it isn't. He recused himself from voting at a PSB meeting prior to the strategic planning meeting, but was quite engaged in the discussion during strategic planning and used his position as Chair to shut down any discussion of doubts raised by PSB member, Dr. Richard Bonart. After the PSB failed to support the project at its September meeting, Schoephoerster exhibited what can only be called peevishness. He very much personally owned the issue.

In fact as shown by ORR docusments, Schoephoerster put together "talking points" for the project. His "talking points" came in the form of a resolution as if he were drafting the motion for a vote. When asked by UTEP Executive Vice President Richard Adauto why he used the form of a resolution, Dr. Schoephoerster at first quipped in an email: "Artistic license? :)" Less than 3 hours later in a follow-up email, he wrote: "I used the 'resolution' form just as a way to organize the information." Ingenuous? CYA? In that same follow-up email to Adauto, the Dean of Engineering and Chairman of the PSB added a P.S.: "David Crowder [El Paso Inc.] is doing a story in next week's Inc. He asked to speak with me but I told him I have no comment due to conflict of interest." No comment to Crowder, but a resolution to Adauto and Balliew. 

He highlights two of his "whereas clauses". In both he touts the "education opportunity to thousands [my emphasis] of UTEP students, faculty, staff and visitors annually" and states that the project "will educate thousands [again my emphasis] of students and their families, along with faculty, staff, and community stakeholders, on responsible water management including the use of reclaimed water."

Nevermind the grandiosity of the resolution, the fact that the program showed no benefit cost, was obviously going to be subsidized by ratepayers (you and me), championed a methodology (reclaimed water) which shows dubious and expensive results and says nothing about rainwater management and capture - a better strategy. What was not noted was the fact that waste (read "crap") from the project would not be recycled at UTEP but would instead go back to the NW Plant to be re-processed - a double whammy not included in the cost overruns. Oh - sorry - they didn't show any cost overruns.

Schoephoerster's resolution is rhetoric with very little sense of reality. He is promoting a program. Why? Missing in the second set of documents (and I requested communications as far back as January 2012) was any discussion of the origin of the project. We are led to believe that it just came to mind and just came to many minds at the same time.

Obviously as early as December 2012 there was some talk about justifying the Centennial Park/UTEP Water Reclamation project. An email from government relations consultant John O'Donnell to Ed Archuleta and others talks about the "[use] of reclaimed water on lands at UTEP" as "another way UTEP and EPWU collaborate to provide a water supply to benefit the University, City and Fort Bliss for environmental and economic sustainability in the high desert." The collaboration with UTEP benefits the City and Fort Bliss? How? Again a program of rainwater capture and management would be much better and more cost effective. Students at UTEP can always go to EPWU reclaimed plants off campus. 

Whatever the origin (and it would seem that it may take a court subpoena finally to get all of the relevant documents especially noting the apparent attempt by EPWU legal to shield Schoephoerster from the first request), the Dean of Engineering was very much involved in seeing that the PSB approve the project. In so doing, he was acting not as a sworn member of the PSB but as a Dean seeking a showcase project (those thousands and thousands of students and their parents). His actions would seem to violate Texas and El Paso ethics laws.

By the way, there is one more interesting twist to Schoephoerster's turning down an interview with David Crowder. An old communications policy of the EPWU/PSB states that only the Chair of the PSB, the CEO and the Vice-President of Marketing can respond to media requests. When a request is made to another board member, that member must turn the request over to the Chair, CEO and VP of Marketing. News is controlled and channeled that way. By denying an interview, Schoephoerster is attempting to shut down press coverage negative to his pet project. Crowder in a September 8, 2013 Inc. article reports on the questions raised about the UTEP project by Dr. Richard Bonart.  On the agenda for tomorrow's PSB meeting the communications policy will be discussed in executive session. Why discuss it in the privacy of executive session and not out in the open with the public present? Could this be an effort to get back at Bonart for dissenting on the UTEP project? The only reason why it would be behind closed doors and away from the public is because it may very well be a means of retaliation. Here's the policy and it needs to be abolished or changed since it comes from an old leadership style that wants no transparency, utilizes subterfuge and makes decisions in the dark behind closed doors:

PSB members swear an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States . . . " I guess that the First Amendment is just too darn inconvenient to be covered by the oath.

It would seem that Schoephoerster violated his fiduciary duty and should resign as Chair and member of the PSB. Discussions about communications policies should be made in the open. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Stealing the CMAQ Funds Is Just Like...

Here's one more thought about Bike Share and the attempt by the powers to be to steal the CMAQ money for the border crossing project:

Diverting bike share funds to the bridges is like diverting the $10 million federal grant for the Northpark/Northgate redevelopment project to fund the downtown ball park's $10 million cost overrun. 

Wouldn't you agree Joyce, Ted and Bob?

March Against Monsanto

Genetically modified foods are dangerous to our health and to the independence and ownership of small and indigenous farms. Join a worldwide rally against Monsanto and GMOs this Saturday. Here's more info:

Click images to enlarge.

Join the march at 11 a.m. at Union Plaza Park (map) and see the screening of Genetic Roulette at the Main Library (map) at 1:30 p.m.  Here's the trailer for the documentary film:

For more information:

Facebook page

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Fix Is In

I'm tired of this endless saga of bike share and TxDOT. Today's Transportation Policy Board of the MPO convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fix is in and has been in for some time. Here's how it is going to go down and why.

In answering a question from Courtney Niland, TxDOT's Bob Bielek once again repeated in many more words than necessary the bottom line: TxDOT sees no benefit cost to spending CMAQ money for a bike share program. Mayor Leeser then stated it best: "In other words, the answer is 'no'." It doesn't take a B.S. (and I don't necessarily mean an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree) to figure this one out.

The motion from Joyce Wilson basically stated that we will wait one more month to be told the same thing again so that we can use the money for the Border Patrol bridge project. Bielek made clear that CMAQ money could not go for personnel but for structure. You watch and see how the money taken and spent on personnel will be justified as structure in some way. Wilson and others repeated two new themes (new to the public not to themselves). The first was that, if we can't do this big bike share program, we will do a smaller program and then fund it more as more money comes available (or not).  The other theme: let's all make sure that this current fussing over money doesn't damage our relationship with a great agency - viz., TxDOT. They're worried about ruffled feathers!? I don't think so. They (the City Manager's office) wants to make sure that this appearance of a disagreement is sustained but that anyone who really, truly believed it will now be ready to make nice and move on.

The mantra from city of El Paso officials was this: Just tell us if TxDOT will release those funds or not. How many times and how many ways can Bielek say publicly that the will of the people of El Paso and their elected representatives means nothing to the most powerful agency in the State of Texas especially when they are most probably in cahoots with the top people in El Paso city government (who were probably driving this from the beginning) and there is a stupid belief that throwing away the CMAQ money will really help improve bridge times - until the money runs out and there is new federal bloat to pay for in perpetuity never mind that the the better answer is to re-prioritize the personnel that the Border Patrol already has.

Here's how the deal went and how it will go down. I already related to you an August 12th email gathered from an open records request in which Bielek says: "Why are we complicating this? The discussion prior to the MPO meeting with the Mayor [Leeser of El Paso], Representative Pickett and Mike Medina (Director of EPMPO) was based on deprogramming the bike share program so that those funds could be used in the pilot program to decrease congestion at the bridges. The city would look for funds elsewhere."

Elpasonaturally has learned that Wilson was already looking for money for the bridge project and  was hoping for some money from the MPO for her "smaller program" (throw the bike riders a spoonful of refried beans). All of this back and forth has gone on first because we do have representatives like Senator Rodriguez and Naomi Gonzalez and Joe Moody who have principles; and, second, process window dressing to convince us that everything that could be done was done: We talked to everyone. TxDOT won't release the funds. We've got to get along. Let's put the money for the bridge and give a token nod to bike share. 

Somebody please tell me why the City is fixing a federal government problem and, for that matter, not even fixing it - or, what they propose won't really fix it. 

I hope that those who see a future better than Big Oil, automobiles, consumer economies will really start pointing out that those currently in power are playing games and doing it behind closed doors - all of the public process is just for show. I also hope that our representatives will continue to stand up against this current city sham. After all, it really would just be easy to release the CMAQ funds intended for a bike share program in El Paso to go to a bike share program in El Paso. This would be a lot easier than months of putting on a show.

The Friday Video: Man invents machine to convert plastic into oil

Here's an idea to convert the El Paso city flag into oil. The city flags, of course, are all of those plastic bags from the grocer or other retailers. You can see them flying on ocotillos, chollas, yucca, sotol. They flap from all of El Paso's beautiful chain link fences. This invention doesn't just do shopping bags but all plastics. Of course, a city that talks sustainability and tauts being a Tree City USA for window dressing and a city that scuttles bike share behind closed doors in order to get a temporary fix to move some traffic on the bridges, is probably not the city that will have the vision to utilize this technology. But one can hope. The big hope, the big positive . . . is that all those twenty and thirty somethings who see a sustainable future and know how to get there are our future.

Here's the video with a hat tip to Judy Ackerman: 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Agenda 21 Comes to OSAB

I need to preface this post with two items:

First, as a person with deep traditional conservative roots, I don't like big anything - government or business. I also want plenty of liberty with freedom of choice. Smart Growth means more options to me. It doesn't mean that someone can't do something. It means more choices. Living in sprawl America means that I must choose the automobile for transportation. I must choose hydrocarbons for fuel and lubricants. I must choose the big box store on the edge of town. If I live in most suburbs created from the 1950's forward (or in East El Paso predominantly with the palm trees and squared front walkways), my choice is to leave my niche or culvert, find the main arteriole where I join many more motorists and drive to the strip mall usually much farther from my home than the crows flies or park on I-10 to go to work. The oil, automobile and agricultural giants have convinced me that I still live in a free country and have such great choices such as buying a Chevrolet or a Hyundai, purchasing Chevron on this corner or that, and shopping at a mega food giant or a big box store. So many choices! Bah! With Smart Growth I have more options: drive a car, ride a bus, ride a bike, walk, maybe even take a train. I can live in a house with a backyard or in an apartment above my small street shop. I can choose to live next to natural open space because there is natural open space - not just more land for developers to put up the latest Happy Acres.

That's my first preface, here's my second: Ed Beck is a good guy. I mean it. Who is Ed Beck you ask? He was one of the many candidates who ran for the District 2 seat on City Council. More than anyone else he was probably the reason Romero beat me in the run-off. Ed had a sizable loyal following of fellow conservatives. I'd often find his cards stuck in the door of the same houses I was visiting. They would read: "I'm the only Republican in this race." Ed is a man of principle and voters loyal to him weren't squishy. Having principles was also true of Michael Apodaca who endorsed me after he lost in the general election. My other opponents had squishy followers and they easily voted for Larry Romero or myself. Am I sore with Ed? Absolutely not. If you ever get to know the guy, you will like him. He's not just nice, he's a good man. He's a good neighbor and someone who will do something for his neighbors not just talk about it. The big problem with Ed is that he believes one really screwy thing: the Agenda 21 UN Conspiracy. 

Agenda 21 Conspiracy followers believe that smart growth and smart choice and sustainability and being green are ALL U.N./Communist plots to ultimately put all the world under one government control. One conspiracy nut (and let's not call them "nuts" because that's derogatory - "fruit pies" which are sweet seems far more apt) . . . one fruit pie said this: "Agenda 21 is not an environmental management policy, but an attempt to impose a global centrally planned quasi-government administered by the United Nations. Under Agenda 21 all central government and local authority signatories are required to conform strictly to a common prescribed standard and hence this is just communism resurrected in a new guise." (The Green Agenda) Can you stomach more? Then read the American Policy Center's piece. Or read a piece by an El Paso blogger even if she gets most of her facts wrong about Dover Kohl and Plan El Paso (that communist, UN document that evil people thrust on El Pasoans). The ultimate vision of the world under Agenda 21 comes from Glenn Beck, no relation to Ed I don't believe. Here's that dark future being brought to us by Plan El Paso, Agenda 21, and all those who who favor sustainability, a clean environment, plenty of natural outdoors and freedom to walk or ride a bike as well as drive a car:

Now you know that, as the author of a blog for a "sustainable El Paso southwest", I want to burn up old people (after taking away their automobiles, their backyards and their WalMart.) Bad robot!

There are, of course, more rational voices. Read Jeff Turrentine who concludes: 

"In the century since they first appeared on our physical and cultural horizon, the suburbs have earned the right to consider themselves every bit as American as our gleaming cities and rolling farmlands. There's no stealth plan to "abolish" them. There is, instead, a perfectly transparent plan to include them in the list of communities that must be brought into the sustainability fold if we're ever to address climate change effectively, protect wildlife habitat, and ensure that we don't pollute or deplete our resources to the point of no return. Smart growth is great for cities—but it's great for suburbs, too. People who love them should understand that any concerted effort to make them cleaner, prettier, safer, and less congested is a conspiracy worth joining."

Or read Stephanie Mencimer who makes the connection between the Agenda 21 Fruit Pie Conspiracy and Big Oil. 

So, what difference does it make that Ed Beck believes the Agenda 21 Conspiracy? Today City Council appointed Larry Romero's nominee to the Open Space Advisory Board: Ed Beck. Larry demagogued the smart code/smart growth issue in the election with his own brand of misinformation. He had a business friend of mine believing that he would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel his struggling restaurant. Larry also got it in my friend's mind that the evil El Paso government was going to take away parking from his patrons for more mass transit. Larry has a new vision - a vision of continued blight and favortism. Ed gets his payoff and Larry and his rich string pullers get the status quo and that suits the old fogies on the 5 Points Business Association just fine. They're Americans, you know. They like that freedom of choice that Big Oil, the Automobile Industry and Big Industrial Agriculture give them. Let's hear it for choice!

Oh - one new insight!   Why does TxDOT want to take federal money from Bike Share and give it back to the federal government by way of salaries for more agents at the border gates? Bob Bielek said it: "The automobile is King." TxDOT loves your freedom to choose the automobile - but not the bicycle, not the bus, not the train, not the soles of your own shoes - walking is a communist, U.N., Agenda 21 conspiracy. (Ted Houghton saw to it that big money went to Larry Romero in the election. He vetoed any money that might have gone my way and the way of freedom of choice.)

Soil Map of El Paso

This is a follow-up to last Friday's post, Critical Water Conservation Guidelines May at Best Be Optional in El Paso. The development community wants to scuttle the Drainage Design Manual and their excuse is that there have not been soil surveys of El Paso so that standards are not arbitrary. As I pointed out, the USDA in 1971 did a comprehensive soil survey of all of El Paso County. A soil map was developed by Texas A&M University, Agricultural Research Center at El Paso using 26 soil survey maps of El Paso County. Here is the map. Just click on it to enlarge. Copy if you would like and send it to one of your favorite developers or maybe Carlos Gallinar in Planning and Development.