Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bad News, Good News

Some bad news and some good news:

The current policy shift in the City from sustainable planning to development for development's sake is taking a toll on morale among Development and Planning personnel. The word is that Plan El Paso is being shelved. Long range planning is out while pushing permits is in. Conventional building is in; smart development is out. Mixed use building is out; single use building with extensive parking lots is in. I've heard that some of this is a bit exaggerated but that morale is low nevertheless. 

According to my sources the shift in policy is being driven by the Mayor's Office. This is too bad because conventional building is actually a huge economic drain on the city. Less energy efficient buildings and the favoring of sprawl depletes the disposable income of El Pasoans who must pay for higher energy and transportation costs with their monthly income. Consequently the sales tax base is low. With such policy combined with the tactics of TxDOT to favor automobile/petroleum industry over mass transit and bicycle infrastructure and even cultural heritage, El Paso will continue as a poorer city that can, at best, attract only low paying call center industry but little more. The Mayor would do well not to tout Prudential's opening a call center here. Answering calls and flipping hamburgers and being paid meager wages in the building trades - all keep El Paso from becoming a rich metropolitan center where we all prosper.

The good news is that an attempt to scuttle the Sustainability Office failed and that office is now safe under General Services and bolstered by the new Resiliency Grant.

The grant leads to more good news for the City and for a potential Conservation Cooperative tool.  From an email this afternoon from Janae' Reneaud Field, the Director of Frontera Land Alliance:

Dear Franklin and Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative, El Paso Update: Last week Wednesday, April 23, 2014, the Resilience Grant by the Rockefeller Foundation agreement was executed by El Paso City Council. The City’s next step is to recruit a resiliency officer. The city will move forward with developing a Resilience City Plan that will help El Paso withstand shocks while still maintaining its essential functions. The Rockefeller Foundation defines resilience as "the ability of a system, entity, community, or person to withstand shocks while still maintaining its essential functions and to recover quickly and effectively." Simply put, resilience is what enables people to survive, adapt, and thrive in the face of acute shocks and chronic stresses. 

We will stay in touch with the Resilience Program with the goal of participating and adding our objective of developing a mapping tool that will identify and classify lands that best accommodate development and gray infrastructure while also considering lands to conserve. The Land Conservation Inventory Tool is a collaborative approach specifically designed to obtain community input, create goals, assist in designing policies, identify land protection focus areas and develop funding mechanisms to create a lasting legacy in our region. This tool will strengthen and provide scientific data to assist in managing the Plan El Paso, Northwest Master Plan, the El Paso Sustainability Plan, the El Paso Open Space Plan, Dona Ana County Comprehensive Plan and other regional efforts that identify preserving large, connected natural areas. Again, the purpose of the project is to provide scientific data to assist in providing better information to organizations, government agencies, individuals, developers and business owners about the existing resources which will assist in their decision making. The Franklin and Organ Mountains Conservation Cooperative’s goals are: (1) safeguard natural and cultural features, (2) improve wildlife habitat and connectivity, (3) address the health of our regional watershed and (4) contribute to the local economy of our communities.

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