Monday, December 1, 2014

Correcting a Misstatement and Focusing on the Real Concerns

I misstated something in yesterday's post and I need to make a correction for the record. In a post published just yesterday but meant for last Friday, I wrote: "Not long ago, City Councilwoman, Cortney Niland, was heard to say that the City needed $3.2 Million to keep a promise made to developers. Amazing how that $3.2 Million is exactly what she and the Mayor propose to take from that portion of the stormwater fee meant to go to open space over the next couple of years." 

I checked my source because the item regarding the $3.2 Million for open space being re-directed comes up tomorrow. I was corrected. Ms. Niland made the statement in regards to an earlier decision by Council to charge businesses an extra fee on their water-sewer bills for road repairs. That amount was $3.5 Million. Ms. Niland was trying to find a means to address a budget short fall while providing a source of money to improve the pace of permitting by contractors with the City and thus reducing wait time. I did not inquire about the particulars.

Tomorrow's agenda item 13.2 does have to do with the use of the ten percent of stormwater fees that would normally go to the purchase of open space. Instead, over the next two years up to $3.2 Million will be diverted to flood water construction projects. The ordinance language (click on supporting document HERE) is quite specific and is in harmony with what the Open Space Advisory Board recommended: up to $3.2 Million over the next year (nothing more and it could be less) will be spent for these projects. Furthermore, the money does not get transferred to the City. It remains on the Stormwater ledger under the control of the Public Service Board. 

As a member of the Open Space Advisory Board I also voted to recommend. Quite frankly, it was the best thing to do noting five things: Open space priorities are being acquired or are in the act of acquisition. Second, there will be $800,000 in the open space account after the acquisitions. Third, we don't have a Council generally favorable to conservation at this time. (That $3.2 Million could have been nearly $5 Million more without our discussions with the Mayor.) Fourth, the language of the ordinance is as we discussed. All is honest and above board. Finally, OSAB only advises and recommends. The City Council passes ordinances.

I understand that some of you disagree with the recommendation but keep in mind that there are more critical concerns. One of them may be in item 8.1 on tomorrow's agenda. I'll cut to the chase. Read page 25. (Click on supporting document HERE.) My sources (far better than the $3.2 Million one) tell me that the City Attorney may have made a substantial re-write at the last minute without any notice. We will see tomorrow. At issue is who controls bonding and land sales and all of that - the PSB or this City Council bought and paid for by the El Paso sprawlers. 

The really critical issues: keeping the PSB in control and conserving more land.

As conservationists, let's work together on the critical issues which really count.

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