El Paso City Council rejects open discussion about aspect of $50 million stadium plan; petition likely too late

baseball

Possibly inexplicably oblivious to the El Paso area public corruption scandals that have destroyed public trust, half of El Paso City Council quashed a move to bring a discussion into the open about the planned baseball stadium.

A group of citizens, Quality of Life Voters for Democracy, want to vote Nov. 6 on the $50 million Triple A minor league baseball stadium planned for downtown, but apparently submitted its petition too late, KVIA reported. The city has until Sept. 21 to verify signatures, but the issue must be finalized for the ballot by Aug. 20.

“We use this term all the time that we want to be transparent,” City Rep. Carl Robinson was reported saying. “If we really believe in the word being transparent we should be transparent to the people that have filed the petition and let them know whatever they’ve done is all for naught.”

Robinson’s comment came during an effort by council to waive its attorney-client privilege and discuss the stadium vote petition timeline in public, just as they had earlier in closed session. Council’s legally allowed to do that, but the move died, 5-4, with Mayor John Cook casting the deciding vote.

A Triple A minor league baseball team would replace the current Double A Diablos. Council also voted Tuesday to spend $22 million to relocate City Hall to two other downtown buildings, including the current home of the El Paso Times, so the stadium can be built where City Hall now sits. The city would pay for the new City Hall beginning in 2014 with certificates of obligation, which don’t require voter approval, the El Paso Times reported.

The city also will have voters determine the fate of $468 million in “quality-of-life” bonds for parks and other projects in November, and Cook’s concerned about public trust.

“When community trust is shaky, then they (voters) are liable to go vote no for everything,” said the mayor, in explaining the importance of the bond issue, the Times reported.

Ironically, that same public trust didn’t compel the mayor to level with citizens in the open.

If voters reject his prized quality-of-life bond issue in November, here’s hoping Cook points a finger at more than those who’ve been indicted or are already in jail.

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Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Photo of money by flickr user athrasher, used via a Creative Commons license.