At its stormwater budget review meeting last night, the PSB recommended raising the stormwater fee by 8% over the next several years. Mayor Leeser proposed that for the years 2015-2017, that portion of stormwater fees that goes to the purchase of open space be diverted to other flood prevention projects which have become immediate priorities following the recent September rainstorms flooding. Identified projects include Fairbanks, the Diana Ditch and the Fort Bliss Slump. You can read more about these proposals in today's Times story.
I first became aware of the Mayor's proposal at an October 22 meeting. He invited Charlie Wakeem, Rick Bonart, Richard Teschner and myself to meet with him and Rep. Niland to discuss their proposal and get our feedback. Initially he was proposing a 5-year moratorium. With feedback from EPWU officials and ourselves, the 2-year proposal seemed more appropriate. We met again as a group on November 3rd. The proposal comes up tomorrow at the 3 PM meeting of OSAB of which I am a member. The meeting is held in the Trost Conference Room in the basement of the City 3 Building, 801 Texas Avenue. MAP
I have had reservations about the proposal all along. I was mainly concerned about the impact that it might have on future open space funding. However, I had decided to vote for it on OSAB because I had given my word to the Mayor and he and I agreed that we were only discussing a difference in how one does their arithmetic with the money - not the sum.
Although I could not attend last night's budget review meeting, Charlie Wakeem did. He reported to me this morning that he felt very positive about supporting the Mayor's proposal. What he reported to me also removed doubts in my mind. Here is what he said in an email to me and others just a little while ago:
"Attached is the Open Space portion of the Storm Water Workshop presentation. As Jim said, he and I both struggled with the proposal to support suspending the 10% for open space for 2 years. I wanted assurances on 3 things before I could make up my mind, (1) A guarantee that the 10% suspension would last only 2 years with no extensions, (2) that the $3 million [$3.2 million] would be used for immediate public safety needs, and (3) and most importantly, that Lupe has sufficient funds to complete the open space acquisitions on the current OSAB list.
"I went to the Storm Water Workshop Monday evening with an open mind. After Marcella's [Navarrete] presentation I decided to support the mayor's proposal for the 2 year suspension. The third slide shows the status of the open space acquisitions. It's the slide that convinced me not to oppose the 2 year suspension. This is a good way to show the community that we want what's best for the city and not ourselves.
Here is the presentation from last night's meeting:
Charlie got the assurances that he was looking for and now so have I. I will vote for the Mayor's proposal tomorrow at OSAB.
Kudos to Mayor Leeser for an inclusive leadership style.