Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Open Letter to Representative Cortney Niland

Dear Rep. Niland,

I’ve taken some flack (not a lot) recently for not having endorsed you and, in a comment to a comment on my blog, endorsing your opponent, Josh Dagda. I did so even after the good news from you about your wanting to preserve land next to Keystone and saying that you were not for abolishing the PSB. I wrote a post about that and even sent the link to you. I was surprised and curious – but definitely not peeved – when you didn’t respond. I took it that it was either no big deal to you or that you took my praise for granted.

Let me be clear. I like you and always have. I like the energy and passion that you have brought to City Council. I think that you are a good person. I’ve never met your husband but have received very thoughtful emails from him in the past. I hope I can meet him someday.

I realize that people can’t agree one hundred percent all of the time. I don’t even mind to agree to disagree with folks most or all of the time. You have a reputation for getting things done for El Paso and you are a strong leader. Contrary to the belief of many, I’m very pro-business and support any and all efforts to help our local businesses. However, I don’t like unchecked, cancerous sprawl and know that we can do better. We can also be more energy efficient and do more with our building standards to conserve water. I am for open space and here lies my problem with your policies.

You haven’t been a friend to open space. You recently wanted to raid open space funds for $3 Million. You now are opposed to development next to Keystone yet that issue has been alive for three or four years now. Had you spoken with the neighborhood associations near Keystone, you would have heard their dissent and their concerns a long time ago. You can’t just blame the head of Environmental Services and not take ownership yourself. Land conservation is inextricably linked to water. Yet, you have tried in City Council to change bond language which would have led to the City taking over the PSB’s prerogative to declare when land is inexpedient if not a step toward abolishing the PSB itself. Also, I don’t believe that you were ever confused about the franchise “fee” or that there was some kind of communication break-down between the PSB and City Council. The “fee” originated in Council not the PSB and the PSB tried to make it less onerous.

So, it’s a matter of trust. I really struggled because I wanted to endorse you. It's just that trust was the trump card. The best way to predict the future is to look at the past. Hopefully you will support conserving land around Keystone and hopefully there will be no more attempts to use bond language as a backdoor to undermine the PSB. Hopefully you will become a strong advocate of recommendations that come out of the city’s Open Space Advisory Board.

I hope so because I’d like to be one of your biggest supporters. As I said, I like you and you are a good person. Rumor has it that you might run for Mayor in two or six years. I’d love to be on your bandwagon. I just need – and other conservationists need – a record of doing as much good for our environment as you have for downtown and business development. After a few years more and a few more actions by you on Council supporting open space, Keystone, the PSB and smarter planning and development in El Paso, then you will have our trust, endorsement and vote.


Jim Tolbert

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