The past two city council meetings have been filled with enough drama to make my grandma stop watching soaps and start watching council. The downtown plan is still being debated by a few folks even though the rest of us have moved on. I don’t see why we are still talking about this at all.
The majority of the opposition has disappeared. The only ones left are the “Land Grab Opponents,” whose leaders appear to be Jerry Rosenbaum and Stuart Blaugrund. They’re worried their properties, along with others, may be taken (paid market price for) to make way for the downtown revitalization. I do sympathize with them.
I’m sure Jerry, Stuart and others make a killing downtown. I have no qualms with that. After all, Best Buy (a.k.a “Best you're going to do if you need it today”) makes a killing too. They fear that the plan may interfere with their ability to make gobs of money. I can understand their point of view.
I also understand where taking (buying at market value) private property from a person using eminent domain and giving (selling) it to another private person is a bad thing. I do, however, think that property left in disrepair and with unpaid taxes should be taken (bought at market value) and given (sold at market value) to someone who will reverse its condition.
So I’m not saying that Jerry and Stuart are wrong. (Note: the reason I don’t refer to them by their last names is because, like mine, they’re way too fricking long to be typing every three seconds)
What I am saying is that they and a few others are doing the best they can to keep from having their “cash cow” slaughtered. From the very beginning this plan has met opposition, buuuuuuutttttttttttt it hasn’t been the same opposition for the same reasons. Let’s take a trip down memory lane!
First the plan is unveiled and immediately residents in the Segundo Barrio were told that the bulldozers were on their way! Some thought they had mere days to evacuate or get crushed along with their homes (homes= place they are renting from some jerk landlord who doesn’t care to keep the place in working or safe order). While this scare tactic did legitimately scare residents in Segundo, it was ignored by the rest of the public.
The opponents then tried to make it a Brown vs. White thing hoping to play on some kind of deep-seeded racial divide that doesn’t exist in El Paso. I can remember Carmen Felix making a fool of herself along with her supporters at the late Al Jefferson’s forum at Ay Caramba claiming that this was a white conspiracy. Beto O’Rourke really impressed me that day with his poise. That poise and intelligence made Carmen and her wild accusations disappear rather quickly.
Only after city council convinced the folks downtown that the bulldozers weren’t waiting at the end of the block and it wasn’t an attempt at ethnic cleansing did most of the opposition die off. That’s when the eminent domain issue sprang up and we’ve been dealing with a small group of downtowners since then.
The opposition that is left is out of scare tactics used to drum up support. They are now embracing the mainly republican issue of eminent domain, which is a hard sell in a very democratic town. No matter what, they are running out of time to derail the plan itself. They can’t, however, derail the movement that has already started.
While these two groups fight it out in a poorly lit room that looks like a 70’s news studio, the rest of us are moving downtown. I see it every day and I hear it from Horizon to Vinton – let’s go downtown.
All anyone had to do is prove to potential investors that there’s an interest in being downtown and they’d start spending money. I know of several downtown building owners who are shopping ideas for their respective properties. One family has even thought of doing condos in a building we’ve all been dying to see renovated for years.
I see activity starting at Mesa and the I-10 overpass and moving south in a hurry. Names like Foster, Hunt and Stewart have all been linked to rumors of building buys and investor teams. Whether those rumors are true or not, I don’t know, but the talk, true or false, hasn’t been heard in a long time.
Guys like Morris Pittle (Two Ton Creativity) insist on having their businesses downtown when they could probably save a buck somewhere else. Morris gives me the impression that just being down there helps him and his staff keep a creative edge.
My wife and our couple friends would go watch a guy wax the stage at the Plaza Theatre if it meant a night downtown. Add a brunch place with a few tables outside looking at the plaza and you’ve got both the nights and the mornings covered.
It’s happening. The bee is in our collective bonnet and we aren’t going to let this just die.
City council and the “Land Grab” guys can fight all they want, but the rest of us are going to go forward with the spirit of the plan. It may take a little longer with the PDNG, but it’s going to happen. Of course, with the PDNG plan in place we can expect quicker results, which is good because I grew up in the 80’s and I’m an impatient little brat.
As for the opponents? The market will do what it does and they’ll have to adjust. I wish them luck and fairness, but I cannot guarantee them anymore public support.