Wake up El Paso: It’s not a new baseball stadium; it’s a culture war

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EL PASO – I won the bet. El Paso was the loser, along with my friend who bet Mayor John Cook would do the right thing and veto the proposed baseball stadium. The words of Henry David Thoreau in his Essay on Civil Disobedience, which I paraphrase, come to mind: Never have so few in the name of so many done so much harm. Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay the tax to finance the war against Mexico. He realized it was a blatant land grab to extend slavery and enrich a few in Congress and members of the board of the South Carolina Railway Company that wanted a cheaper rail line to the Pacific Coast.

El Paso's City Hall and the Insights Museum are part of the buildings that would be demolished to give space to the new stadium. (Luis Barrio/Borderzine.com)

El Paso's City Hall and the Insights Museum are part of the buildings that would be demolished to give space to the new stadium. (Luis Barrio/Borderzine.com)

Mayor Cook seems to have forgotten he was elected because former Mayor Joe Wardy represented the wealthy developers of the city who wanted to be in on the lucrative downtown redevelopment feeding frenzy. With Cook’s win over Wardy, El Paso repudiated those interests. El Paso voters sent a message with that election that in spite of all the money spent on Wardy’s reelection, we didn’t want the kind of redevelopment he stood for.

This time El Paso was betrayed by our gullible political leaders (GPL) who swallowed the line that came with the Kool Aid: Wow, Las Vegas built one. Tulsa built one too! And proponents mentioned several more cities in the pro-stadium propaganda effort fueled by the El Paso Times. The same El Paso Times that will benefit nicely ($12.25 million) from the sale of their new building to the same City Council that approved the baseball stadium boondoggle. This is an unabashed conflict of interest that only GPLs under the influence of Kool Aid (if not something else) could not see.

The hidden agenda of the El Paso Times goes back to the March primary election. The first dose of Kool Aid was served up when the paper endorsed Beto O’Rourke to unseat incumbent Sylvestre Reyes. The paper waited until after the election to publish what was evident to many – that O’Rourke’s in-laws had contributed indirectly to his election campaign through the Super Pac that targets incumbents. O’Rourke’s successful election was a clear signal for the big dollar developers to rush in with more Kool Aid.

What a coincidence then that the Times also endorsed the baseball stadium. Who are the big fish with the big dollars that will benefit? When and where did they meet to plot how to milk the taxpayers of El Paso? Can we trust the Times to do that investigation? Will El Diario de El Paso do that investigation?

Do our gullible political leaders (GPL) really believe progress for El Paso will come from our imitating the so-called downtown revitalization efforts of the aforementioned cities that decided to build baseball stadiums? Or that success will come by getting a second-hand team from Tucson! If these cities were doing so well, including Tucson, why would such a successful lucrative revenue-producing franchise leave for a dubious future in El Paso?

Why wasn’t the baseball stadium project, which El Paso will eventually pay for with an increase in taxes, put to a vote? Our GPLs did say why publically: they knew we would vote it down! This generation of GPLs has a track record of going against the wishes of El Paso’s voting public. Although I didn’t support the recall effort against them organized by our local religious Taliban, I cannot support elected officials who thwart the will of voters.

Of course, this is not the first time our leaders have attempted to shove a pet project down our throats. How many have forgotten lawyer Luther Jones’ International Olympic Swimming Center project that never got off the ground. Jones left behind a dubious model of civic responsibility and ethical behavior after he went to jail for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and deprivation of honest services. It seems other El Paso political figures seem to find him worthy of emulation.

What I see is a war against El Paso’s biggest cultural asset: its Mexican culture. El Paso is the most Mexican-dominant city in the U.S., which makes us unique. El Paso represents the demographics of America’s future. Unlike us, leaders of other big cities like Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Santa Fe, and New Orleans proudly embrace their racial, cultural and ethnic diversity. But here, next door to Mexico, there is an undeclared (I’ll concede, maybe unintentional) cultural war against our “Mexicaness.”

Does anybody really believe tourists will rush to El Paso because we have a new baseball stadium where second-hand teams play? Make El Paso more like Tulsa and they will come! They will come because El Paso has a Wal-Mart, a McDonalds and a baseball stadium! Not likely.

Now that our gullible political leaders (GPL) have turned the city over to the developers, we can expect more efforts to neutralize our Mexican cultural stamp. As I write this essay, the new ruling class of developers is talking again about using eminent domain laws to remove the historic, immigrant-heavy El Segundo Barrio. This is the next sizeable chunk of downtown real estate for them to exploit after razing City Hall for a stadium was much easier than they expected. After drinking the Kool Aid, they had the courage to bypass the electorate.

I, along with many other El Pasoans, unlike our local free press, did not drink the Kool Aid.

I bet that Mayor Cook would cave: the temptation, the pressure, and maybe some secret backroom deals with big money buddies were too much for him. His feeble announcement of a possible “veto” of the stadium deal was only a ploy. We had already seen our entire field of GPLs (except for one opportunistic abstention) show their cards with the prior vote for the stadium. Now, the only way to express our dissatisfaction with this project is to reject any proposed tax increase to finance this project. Can we trust the GPL with any more of our tax money? Definitely not.

The stadium redevelopment project is not an exotic trick, but a well-engineered campaign to get taxpayers to pay while developers take the profits. It is a ploy by the rich and powerful, in collusion with the politicos, to depreciate downtown real estate, buy it up while it’s cheap and make a profit from construction contracts then sell the property back to the city for more tax payer money or to private interests for a handsome profit.

How is Thoreau relevant to this? He refused to pay an unjust tax that he knew would enrich so few in the name of progress. Like him, El Paso must vote NO on all the proposed new taxes in November because that money will be used to continue the culture war against Mexican-El Paso. And $12.25 million in taxpayer dollars will go to the coffers of the El Paso Times!

In the old days, someone touting a proposal like this one would have been considered a traveling salesman peddling snake oil. Now it is just Kool Aid for the gullible.

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16 Comments

  1. Many conscientious people oppose the new stadium for AAA baseball, but comparing it to the Mexican War and calling it racist is the stupidest political statement I’ve heard in my 36-plus years living here. And just for the record, Joe Wardy ran promising to be a “neighborhood mayor,” as opposed to “downtown mayor” Ray Caballero. Mr. Perezdiaz is entitled to his opinions, but he has no qualifications for a Google News soapbox. As of last February, he didn’t even know that downtown tailor Jose Rodriguez had retired years before.

  2. second hand team? it’s triple AAA, THAT’S ONE STEP BELOW THE MAJORS! A culture war against “mexicaness”? that’s retarded. this is America xxxxx. you think we should just leave those crappy homes and apts up in downtown because they’re historic? if you’re a cowboy fan, do you have any problem with jerry jones building a stadium on land claimed by eminent domain?

    raised taxes? do you live in a hotel? that’s where the majority is coming from. home owners taxes, which i doubt you are, are to go about $50/yr or so. i font recall exact number right now but it’s under $50.

    i for one do not mind paying that to have a better city to live in and a nice place to see future mlb stars.

    finally, if you were truly a Mexican you would know that baseball is a big part of that culture.

  3. The real divide is between those under 60 who want to eschew to failed ways of the past and those over 60 who can’t see any further into the future than their next property tax statement. To blame Reyes defeat on the El Paso Times ignores the elections of Mary Gonzalez and Vincent Perez. El Paso is a young vibrant city on the move, if only those who have a limited lifespan in would stand aside and let the stakeholders decide what course of action has the highest probability of success.

  4. Right on Roberto. Borrowing a famous saying, it was the best of times for a group of speculators looking to make a killing at the expense of El Paso taxpayers. It was the worst of times again for El Pasoans, with an incompetent City Manager, a runaway City Council and a weak City Mayor.

  5. Mr. Perezdiez’ article is a useful piece and his viewpoint is appreciated. I think there has been very poor balanced reporting on this significant and pivotal He cited various cities that did big public works projects. He did not cite cities -like San Bernadino and Birmingham- who did similar projects that led to bankruptcy (and that were done in GOOD economic times). Why would El Paso be different (and doing this in Bad economic times, to boot)? If one does not care enough to use the past as instruction for the future one deserves the negative consequence of their sloth.
    PS Nice literary device using the GPL moniker. Sadly and regrettably, I must dispute the “G.”

  6. I’m sorry but this article is full of misinformation.

    A) Joe Wardy ran only on the platform that he would be a “neighborhood mayor” and not a “downtown mayor”, where Cook ran to reperesent all areas of El Paso, and never ran on a platform against downtown like Wardy did. Cook is a member of the PDNG, and anyone that seriously thought he would veto the vote was clueless.

    B) You cite two examples of cities that had a rough go of building stadiums but forget that the vast majority of public/private stadium partnerships are highly successful, rarely go to a public vote, and are usually a catalyst to the immediate areas development. I’m not saying it’s going to be the savior to downtown, but putting the stadium close to Union Plaza and the Plaza Theatre is going to be an amazing compliment to that area, which is now hopping.

    C) I don’t even know if it’s worth touching on all the accusations of racism in your article. Last time I checked, El Paso is an American city, not Mexican, and like New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami, and the others mentioned, we don’t shy away from our heritage at all. Travel along I-10 or I-25 in any direction and see advertisements and billboards for our city promoting our cities cultural and ethnic heritage. No one is trying to sweep our cities “Mexicaness” under the rug like you and Ray Salazaar are claiming, and I don’t know any El Pasoans be they white, hispanic, black, asian, or Native American that would want to hide anything about our city. Our city government has done nothing to that effect and you have absolutely no proof otherwise. IF anything, they have been a beacon to our city, along with the Hunts and Fosters, in promoting our city and shedding our image as a dangerous city next Ciudad Juarez.

    D) Baseball is an important sport in Mexican culture, and is easily the number two sport in Mexico after futbol. El Paso has historically been a baseball city.

    E) AAA baseball is serious business in the baseball world. The Tucson Padres roster alone has several players earning almost half a million dollars, which doesn’t include several players that receive million dollar sign on bonuses. Every single year we will get to see players that by the end of the season will be playing Major League Baseball. You discount the quality without the realization that the quality of baseball will be something that El Paso has never seen in town.

    F) While only the most die-hard baseball fan would visit El Paso soley to see our stadium and watch a game, it is an incredible compliment in the list of “things to do” for visitors. When I have visited Albuquerque, Sacramento, and Austin in the past few years, I have found myself at a AAA baseball game although I never had the intention of going when I set out on my trip. Local friends would bring me along as it was something fun to do, cheap (tickets are less then $10), and entertaining. People bag on the quality of the team, but minor league ball isn’t always about whats on the field. Arguably, what makes Minor League Baseball so fun is the giveaways, after game concerts, promotions, and in between inning activities. It wasn’t until I was in college going to Diablos game when they were still an affiliated team that I remember what actually happened on the field. Most of my Diablos memories are filled with seeing my mom dance for the first time to the Beach Boys, San Diego Chickens, and eating ice cream out of a small baseball hat.

    G) Just because we support the baseball stadium, the propositions, and the tearing down of city hall, does not mean we have drank the kool aide. If anything it means we believe our city is ready to move forward. After this stadium deal went through, I was disgusted by how many people were actually hoping for the teams demise and the stadiums failure. It’s like “we don’t want to pay for all of these projects, but now that we are, I hope they fail”. How can so many residents be so down on their own city? Whether or not you like baseball, hoping for the failure of something this large just to say “I told you so” is the most pathetic thing a person can do, and this article is full of it.

    El Paso is a city with a population of 800k, over a million when including Las Cruces, and now almost 3 million when including Ciudad Juarez. We are absolutely ready to support a baseball team and a baseball stadium that seats 9k people, and we are on the cusp of being a great southwestern city that locals can be proud of and that outsiders will enjoy.

  7. Wow I’m glad I read this… And thank you for the amazing citizen journalism, where else would we get these stories?

  8. Nick, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to point out the many faults in Roberto’s editorial. His editorial is so full of red herrings, straw men and ad hominem attacks on the people of El Paso, I was dreading attempting to even begin. I was glad to see you responded so well. Much better than I could have done, and now I can save my breath.

    All I am going to add is I find it especially frustrating and silly that Roberto purports to speak for the “Mexicaness” of El Paso, but he is so out of touch that he can’t see the truth in your statement, “Baseball is an important sport in Mexican culture, and is easily the number two sport in Mexico after futbol.”

    Onward to the future.

  9. I constantly hear that El Paso has “Brain Drain”. Therefore, those left behind are the ones that the school system and teachers had to “accommodate” by “DUMBING DOWN” the curriculum.

    These people that are left, are incapable of peeling back the layers of CORRUPTION; and just like a hungry fish are willing to swallow the hook even if it means getting raped with taxes, special interest kickbacks and destruction of its history.

    This is the reason El Paso is the #1 Corrupt city in Texas and the Nation. I love the dumb El Pasoans that are so willing to brag that they may have a baseball stadium. Jesse-the second person to comment echoes this sentiment. “it’s triple AAA, THAT’S ONE STEP BELOW THE MAJORS”–you said it buddy. So ignorant that you can’t see your own shadow.

    To all those in favor of the stadium. One Question. When was the last time you traveled to Midland, Albuquerque, or Tucson to see their Triple A Baseball team…. probably NEVER. BOTTOMS UP…….TASTY KOOL AID.

  10. This baseball stadium was put to a vote, but no one new it. The bond issue was to make it a park venue which approved the building and cost of the stadium. According to state law it gives them other rights to include but not limited to eminite domain, bond tax money, federal and state grants… The votes of El Paso were sold a bill of goods without knowing everything that went with it.

  11. ALBUQUERQUE- El paso should use ABQ as an example for growth. New Mexico is way better than Tex-ASSS.

  12. I’ve seen it an el paso ain’t goin through tuff times compare to our nation. Thanks in part course people from Mexico come shopping here. Also for the military growing although the military knowing el paso has cheap labor was a very statistical move on there part. But I got a question if you go to a store and at that store they make you feel welcome and study you and provide you with your needs I’m pretty sure you’ll go back right???? So why not do that to those who come to our town to shop why not cater to them??? If baseball is second to futball why not built a futball stadium. The only thing you forgot to mention that our city is run by our city manager wish I believe is from Arizona. The many contractors also from Arizona. That four day work schedule the city has is so this people city manager an her crew can go back to Arizona. She and her department head have gotten raises while the city worker has been stuck with the same salary for five years. Saying that the city is financially struggling yet they get a raise. Understand this, this town does not have a good pay wage. Most people here get pay under 12 an hour an at this moment with gasoline going up grocery shopping getting more expensive you think baseball is on there mind.study it el paso see how many are in welfare. Most city that do such a project have one very different thing that El Paso doesn’t better pay wages!!!!

  13. Joe Velarde

    Why are so many people so ardent against progress? They don’t live downtown, they don’t see the state of desolation and ruin it’s been in for the past 30 years. They simply don’t care. They refuse to pay any form of tax (which by the way, the stadium requires none from us) that doesn’t directly benifit them. It’s this nuevo, republican elitist selfishness that’s seemingly blown in by the rhetoric of Ron Paul and the rest of his clones, and planted itself firmly in the minds of more than enough El Pasoans. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what’s good for El Paso – particularly downtown. Paul Foster put up money for a NOW STAND-ALONE four-year medical school, the city is outraged. He throws money at UTEP athletics, they complain about it not going towards education (see: medical school), provides thousands of jobs for an expanding refinery, and now he’s out of control. This limited mentality is not only striking, but is almost a direct threat to the future of El Paso; the kids who work hard ensuring that El Paso CAN AND WILL BE the city of our dreams. The city of opportunity. The city of growth. Our city!!

  14. Joey says:
    May 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    “Why are so many people so ardent against progress?”
    —————————————-
    PROGRESS??? OH REALLY???

    Demolishing a City Hall building, and a SCIENCE MUSEUM, to make room for a stupid sports arena, a great big sandbox for retards to play in, is hardly what I would call, PROGRESS!!!

    Last year, back in October of 2012, some drooling moronic imbecile wearing an orange shirt with black lettering saying PLAY BALL EL PASO, said to me, that people like me are what’s wrong with America.

    Oh! YEAH RIGHT!

    So, people like me who support science museums, art galleries, public libraries, etc. etc. are what’s wrong with America?

    Then, the orange shirt gutter-thug said that he didn’t give a sh-t about museums and libraries.

    At the time, I didn’t know yet, what was going to happen (if anything) to the history museum or the public library.

    Oh! But it gets even better!!!

    OK, I’m 61 years old, going of 62 this coming September 30th.

    I get around in a power chair because I have arthritis in my knees and ankles.

    So, this idiot went on to say that people who are physically handicapped should be exterminated, and he even said that handicapped kids who are unable to participate in sports shouldn’t even be allowed in our schools.

    Yeah! This is the kind of people the new sports arena is going to attract, like buzzing flies to a great big manure pile, which is exactly what the new sports arena is!

    And, it’s going to look absolutely hideous, dominating the down town landscape.

    Oh! There’s more! I was even told, that us “old coots” over 60 with “one foot in the grave” should just go ahead, and put the other foot in the grave.

    Well, I told the idiot that he wouldn’t like where I put my other foot, because we will both need to see a proctoligist to have my foot removed from his ass!!!

    Yeah! Uh huh!

    Some of us who are against the new sports arena have been told that we should just die.

    So, I’m afraid that violence in El Paso will increase because of the new sports arena.

  15. PLEASE CHANGE THE NAME

    if they wanted to make a kids theme park, then YES, CHIHUAHUAS IS WONDERFUL. THEME PARKS IS ONE THING…… BASEBALL IS ANOTHER.The Desert Dogs for the team and Chihuahua for the kids… everyone is happy then…

    change.org/petitions/mountain-­star-sports-group-llc-change-t­he-name-of-el-paso-s-upcoming-­triple-a-baseball-team-the-chi­huahuas?share_id=dhGMnIawQk&ut­m_campaign=autopublish&utm_med­ium=facebook&utm_source=share_­petition

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