Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Gloves Are Off

City Council's land grab is becoming more and more obvious. It entails destroying your Public Service Board, the very people who have made sure that all of us who live in this desert city even in the midst of drought have water. Why the land grab? So that they can sell off land in little bits at a time to the sprawlers who are funding their campaign coffers and pulling their strings. What we have now is no longer a representation of us, but an autocracy of a very few people with the greedy intent of getting richer and richer. Damn our children and grandchildren and their children. Let them thirst, they say. Their profit now is all that matters.

Let me give you four examples of the land grab. Pay attention El Paso Times, El Paso Inc., El Paso Diario, KVIA, KTSM, et. al. especially to this first one:

First, Council's most egregious and covert attempt occurred at last Tuesday's City Council meeting. There was a strategic effort made by Rep. Cortney Niland to put control of all PSB managed land under the control of City Council by amending the language in a bond issuance proposed by the PSB. PSB bonds are backed by the assets of the utility pledged as collateral. In the bond language the PSB is referred to as the "system". Niland wants the land NOT to be part of the system but under the control of City Council. The problem with that is the fact that bondholders could then sue the city because there would no longer be collateral backing the bonds. The solution proposed was to alter the language in the bond issuance to prevent bondholders from having grounds to sue. 

24 hours before Council Sylvia Firth, who works directly under the Mayor, announced this new language. In executive session, the Bond Counsel, Paul Braden convinced City Council that it was impossible to make this change with only 24 hours notice. The language was dropped and the usual language remained. HOWEVER, we can expect Niland, et. al. to be better prepared in 6 or 8 months when more bond issuances go to Council.

Know that Niland has been heard in public that she does not care about EPWU's prestige for being one of the best water utilities in the country, she wants the utility to be under the direct control of Council so that our land can be sold for revenue. Her shortsighted plan is completely contrary to the vision for having an independent PSB/EPWU in the first place - a vision that has led successfully to our having water and water at a very low rate. (Those rates will still be lower than the average rates across the country even if it should go up another 8 percent or so. And remember, businesses, that it was Council not the PSB who levied that exorbitant franchise tax - I mean "fee" - on you and not the PSB.)

Second, Council's most egregious and overt action to destroy the PSB and grab land for their sprawler masters occurred just two hours ago. They appointed the third-rated candidate (Bradley Roe) over the first-rated and current PSB member, David Nemir. Why? Refuse the Juice said it the best in a post just minutes after the vote: "[Roe is] clearly a pick that will vote to sell all of the PSB land to home builders in tiny parcels so that parks don't have to be included . . . among other amenities. Smart code is out the door with this guy."

"The fix was in" as Refuse the Juice explained. As soon as the candidates were introduced, Lilly Limon moved to accept Roe. She did her part. It was all orchestrated beforehand. Only Rep. Robinson and Rep. Ordaz voted against the motion for Roe.

Thirdly, last March 18th City Council seemed poised to jettison smart development from the Northwest Master Plan - a plan forged by the efforts of so many El Pasoans. Their efforts were thwarted by an outcry by many of us and they reaffirmed (at least for now) that Master Plan. It bears vigilant watching however.

And finally, the recent attempt to take money from that portion of the stormwater fee dedicated to buying and preserving natural open space for flood control projects was a means of undermining not just the PSB but the Open Space Advisory Board. As an OSAB member I took the position that we could afford to be part of the City's efforts to help flood control. I was wrong. Many of you told me before that I was wrong and now you hear me saying it. It was an attempt to undermine the PSB by taking that decision away from them. It was an attempt to undermine the Open Space Advisory Board by setting the precedent that open space money is merely a slush fund. Hopefully the matter is dead as I posted last week. I can tell you that, when several of us were first invited by the Mayor to his office to discuss his proposal, I asked whether he had spoken to John Balliew about the proposal. Surprisingly he hadn't and he seemed to be caught off guard by my question. He promised to do so but I bet he wouldn't have had I never asked the question. I'll use another post to relate how we were sold a car. For now, know that I will ask that the matter be put back on the OSAB agenda so that we can rescind our recommendation.

I like to get along and always give the other side the benefit of the doubt and believe that win-win solutions are always best. I believe that there is good in each and every person. However, the beliefs, habits and practices of the El Paso autocracy (and the fact that they are an autocracy) - the sprawlers and their Council lackeys (who I will stop referring to as "representatives" because they don't represent the people) - are shortsighted and simply bad for our future. I will for awhile be posting daily about this land grab and the machinations of the autocracy. I can't be nice any longer. 

The gloves are off. It's time to fight back. El Pasoans are about to step up. Save our water. Save our land. Save our PSB.


  1. “My take --- we are subsidizing the water for the department of defense. Just like we are subsidizing a number of other public infrastructure and services (spur 601 freeway, discounted bus fares, etc). Whether or not you or I agree with that is another thing. But that's the deal El Paso cut with the feds at the beginning of the last decade to get the expansion at ft. bliss.”
    Beto O’Rourke
    El Paso Water Utilities contracted to sell our fresh water to Fort Bliss at wholesale rates so that Fort Bliss could save their own water for future use. EPWU knew that the contract violated sixteen of their own rules and regulations so they fraudulently labeled the arrangement as a partnership.
    EPWU does not have any fresh water to spare. El Paso Citizens will have to pay to replace the water sold to Fort Bliss. The cost will be around $1 Billion. The first replacement project is an $82 million plant to recycle our toilet water and inject it into our fresh water system.
    EPWU should obey their own rules and regulations, stop wholesaling water to Fort Bliss and return that water to their customers. The city politicians "cut a deal" that was not in the best interest of the average water customer. We all know that money is the mothers’ milk of politics.

    The average water customer can't afford to make large political contributions or to form a lobby group to oppose the Chamber of Commerce and the Paso Del Norte Group. The average water customer has to rely on the government to follow its own rules and regulations.

    Please look at the appeal that I filed and you will see that EPWU management violated 16 rules and regulations that were designed to protect the average water customer ( EPWU management was hired to enforce those rules but they betrayed the average water customer, sold their water to Fort Bliss and left the average water customer to drink recycled toilet water. The President/CEO was rewarded with annual compensation of over $500,000. Classic Cronyism.
    Let’s get EPWU completely out of the reach of politicians. The Public Utility Commission has a staff of experts to regulate EPWU upon request. It will cost nothing and it could save $1 Billion.

  2. Anonymous is right....the leadership of the city decided to heavily subsidize Fort Bliss, preventing its downsizing or even closing. There is a presumption that Fort Bliss is hugely important to the city, but it's hard to see why. Who actually benefits from the presence of Fort Bliss is hard to say. The troops increasingly shop on base; I don’t live in the Northeast but have friends who do who say they never see troops in the few stores there are out there. I have seen uniformed patients at the oncology center, but basic medicine is provided on base. Almost never see any uniformed visitors in our musems or other cultural sites.

    Some major housing construction was done around the base…but that’s pretty much over. I suppose one benefit is keeping huge amounts of land out of development, otherwise we’d have hundreds of thousands of more ticky-tacky houses whose property taxes do not pay for the services provided…

    This calls for a much longer post. In the meantime we are constantly reassured that we will never run out of water. That appears to be the underlying public relations purpose of the PSB. Don't worry folks, Water Forever! Move along now.

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