The anti-progressive movement on council finally showed itself in yesterday’s council meeting. Granted, it wasn’t an election issue pitting Ortega vs. Leeser during the election, but it is an ideological split between them that some astute voters would pick up on. We’re talking smart growth here.
I have talked extensively in the past about how the progressive’s desire for infill would be the death of homeownership within the city limits and the birth of gigantic trailer parks in the county. I also pointed out how growth pays for itself – which is most certainly does and Mayor Leeser pointed that out during the meeting.
The issue was something to do with a subdivision that is technically on land not yet annexed by the city. I only caught the end of the item, but it seemed that there was some kind of city road improvement that needed to happen to link this subdivision with the rest of the area. The real action was wrapped around annexation costs and why this developer wasn’t seeking to make this tract of land a part of the City of El Paso.
Now, if you’ll remember, the old voting bloc on council made annexing land prohibitively expensive hoping that developers would step away from developing large tracks of starter homes and instead buy old pieces of shit in Manhattan Heights one at a time and meticulously restore them to their original grandeur (if they ever had grandeur is up for debate). The progressives never realized, or wouldn’t admit, that there just isn’t a market for such homes in El Paso. Even if a builder like Bobby Bowling decided to quit his profitable building of new homes and go into the remodeling of centrally located rundown mansions, he likely wouldn’t have any buyers. Bowling eloquently and decisively made this point a few years back in the El Paso Inc. and it sticks with me until this day – you have to build what there’s a market for and there’s a market for what is currently being built, not what a few dreamers on council wish people would buy.
Rep. Acosta was the first to really pounce on the $800 per home impact fee that was likely keeping the city from collecting taxes on the 1,200 homes slated for construction on the site. And if you’re doing the math at home, you’ll know that’s close to $1 million someone would have to pay to get the city to consider laying claim to the development. Nobody is going to shell out a million bucks just so the City of El Paso can have the pleasure of taxing the property. Acosta stated that she’d rather have the revenue from the property taxes over the long term than the $800 up front.
Dr. Noe made a good point about people living out in the county using city infrastructure and not paying for it, which was a good point and the reason I have been calling for the consolidation of the city and county since I was humiliated in a primary in 2010 – and even before that, now that I think about it. I think Holguin piled on as well seeing that this was an opportunity to stomp on a Byrd, Ortega, O’Rourke and Lilly idea and that’s his second favorite thing to do (first being his love of verbally berating women in public because he’s too stupid to understand simple concepts).
What impressed me most was that Mayor Leeser did a back-of-the-napkin calculation on what the properties within the new development would generate in terms of tax revenue - $3.5 million annually. That’s a good sum of money, but more importantly the citizens of El Paso have a mayor who doesn’t mind doing a little math to make a very big point. The last council would have sat there with their thumbs up their asses asking city staff to go take two weeks to study how much tax revenue the development would generate instead of using the calculator on their computer to figure it out themselves like Leeser did. I was very impressed with Leeser and that’s actually sad. If using a calculator makes him leaps and bounds better than Cook – just how bad were things?
The eventual outcome of what we witnessed at council is the repealing of the draconian infill and smart growth principles set forth by the progressives. The only problem right now is that the County Commissioners have put a stop to all development in the county as a way of forcing the infill rules on everyone. I hear there’s $100 million in development alone that has been halted by the County Commissioners in the spirit of making homebuilders like the Bowlings become remodelers of Manhattan Heights crack houses. Of course, the county is delaying tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues they sorely need to run their burgeoning health care empire – thus shooting themselves in the foot. City dwellers are going to get smart soon and realize that the county is purposely dumping all of the tax burden on them by forcing a housing shortage and shooting their home values sky high (I have talked about this before and it’s playing out where I live now).
I will assume that Mayor Leeser will put something on the agenda in the coming weeks that will reverse the damage of smart growth on the city. This will likely result in Mathew McElroy’s departure because he is an ardent smart growth guy and won’t stick around to run a city not adhering to those principles (it’s bad for his resume). The only person voting against the changes will be Lilly, so it looks like it’s a lock.
Let’s see what happens…