On October 18, 2016, 7 City Council members voted to approve the project site for the new arena. They also approved the POSSIBLE use of eminent domain to acquire the land. Reps. James Tolbert, Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson, Michiel Noe, Claudia Ordaz, Lily Limon and Cortney Niland voted in favor of the site.
In the last 24 hours, a recall has been started against Rep Cortney Niland and now Rep. Lily Limon is backing away from her vote. She told the news that she is worried that people are being forced out. Um, YOU VOTED TO USE eminent domain – what, exactly, did you think that meant? Her concern prompted her to post a comment on Facebook:
As far as announcements go, this is a pretty lame way to go about it. It is a comment on a Facebook post (not even her own Facebook page). Will she now join forces with Cortney Niland push forward an alternative? Who knows. It will be interesting to see if any other City Reps start changing their votes as the threat of a recall is hanging out there.
In July, the topic of hourly wages for city and contract employees was discussed. During the meeting, Rep Lily Limon tearfully pleaded with City Council to raise the minimum wage to $10 for contract workers. Rep Noe said Limon’s plan would be bad for taxpayers. “We’re voluntarily, that is artificially, raising the price of a contract and saying ‘okay I’m not going to pay for it. The taxpayers are going to pay for this.”
Well, the topic came up again yesterday. An emotional Lily Limon tried again to “raise the minimum wage for janitorial, security and grounds maintenance contract workers to $10 an hour.” City staff reported the increase would have an estimated $3 million annual budget impact – that’s an extra $3 million that needs to come from somewhere. They had to raise property taxes to accommodate the budget for this year WITHOUT the $3 million increase, so there is no way the current (or future) budget could account for this.
The City Council has tabled the vote until they get more information. “The City will seek input from UTEP, The Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness and its consultants in order to learn how other cities dealt with similar proposals.”
Every summer El Paso government officials start planning how they are going to spend your money and how much more of it they are going to take away from you. This past week the City Council began their budgeting process with a series of meetings. On Thursday, the topic of the minimum hourly wage of both city and contract employees was discussed. During the meeting, Rep Lily Limon tearfully plead with City Council to raise the minimum wage to $10 for contract workers. Rep Noe said Limon’s plan would be bad for taxpayers. “We’re voluntarily, that is artificially, raising the price of a contract and saying ‘okay I’m not going to pay for it. The taxpayers are going to pay for this.’
On the surface, Limon’s plea to raise contract worker’s wages seems like it would be a good thing. However, by artificially raising their wages (as opposed to letting the free market determine wages), she is going to be spending your money in more than one way. First, this increase would require the money to come from somewhere. The Council is already arguing over the budget (with the Mayor vowing to not allow passage of a budget that includes a property tax increase), so we know that there is no excess in the budget to cover these new wages, that means that property taxes WOULD go up.
Secondly, those quality of life projects and road resurfacing would no longer be able to be completed under their current budgets. Assumptions were built into those estimates, assumptions about materials and labor. We agree with refusethejuice: if the contract worker’s rate goes up, down goes the amount of money available to complete the projects. That means that either some of the projects would need to be dropped from the list OR another round of property tax hikes would have to take place to cover them.
El Paso has the third highest residential property tax rate of America’s 50 largest cities. Water and electricity rates went up this year. EPISD has stated that they aren’t going to raise taxes but they’ll be asking you to vote on a bond that would. Roads are clogged due to construction. Where are Limon’s tears for you? She’s too busy worrying that the $260,000 light display for San Jancinto plaza approved by City Council be just right: “Niland and city Rep. Líly Limón stressed that the contractor will have to create a festive display that’s representative of El Paso’s culture and community.” How is the contractor going to capture ‘broke’ in lights?
The City Council met on Tuesday to discuss, among other things, what they should do about the recent Ethics Commission’s rulings against Gonzalez. If you’ll recall, the Chairman of the Ethics committee, Stuart Schwartz, stated that “Because the sanctions are not a recommendation for removal from office, the commission is not required to make a presentation to council.” Basically, the case was over and there was nothing for the City Council to do. The Mayor reiterated that on Tuesday in an El Paso Times story: “The only time council would take any type of action would be if the ethics commission would (have) recommended termination,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. Furthermore, there was nothing for the City Council to do as “Once those rulings are made we cannot go back and change those rulings.”
Apparently that didn’t sit well with City Rep. Líly Limón who decided to add a discussion to the agenda regarding the ethics commission’s ruling. “It is not my goal or idea to prolong this, but we can’t slip it under the rug. We need to confront it face front and then go from there,” Limón said. “I just want to make very, very sure that everything is covered and that we’ve don’t the right thing and everything is covered.” So, they discussed it and, as was stated both before the ethic commission’s review and after their ruling, there was nothing for the City Council to do.
Way to go, City Council! You managed, again, to spend time talking about things you can’t do anything about rather than actually doing something for the people who elected you!