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H-P Exclusive Video+Story: El Pasoan’s Dream of Bringing Surfing to the Desert Taking Shape

There’s a long-running joke about El Paso having plenty of sand for a beach, but never enough water; however, if one El Paso entrepreneur has her way, that joke will soon be swept out by real-life waves.

Monica Riehl, an avid surfer and self-described ‘idea architect’ says she’s traveled across the United States and the world, but something kept calling her back to her home town.

Once back in the Sun City, it boiled down to one question: What do I want to do here – how can I impact my community in a positive way – and in a way that would make it my favorite place of residence?

That question led to a unique answer, and launched her on her quest.

“It was the ocean, and surfing; every time I asked myself the question…that’s the answer I got,” Riehl shares. Now, that answer-turned-business has a name: Southwest Surf Ranch and a growing community of support.

As with most quests, the idea is the easy part, but Riehl says that her experience in other cities and the untapped potential she sees here in El Paso make the path for the surf ranch a bit easier.

When she speaks of her city, the surfer in her comes out and her eyes twinkle; talking about the energy and the vibe that the city exudes.

“There’s an identity here…there’s something here that’s special…I just wouldn’t be arrogant enough to give it a name…it’s elusive, and – to a person – it always brings us back.”

Riehl’s Communications and Strategy Adviser on the project, Donna Clarke, comes to the project after a year and a half stint in El Paso, by way of New York.  Clarke’s view of that energy comes down to one thing: people.

“People leave, but they always come back because of family – this whole city is family, a deep sense of community and wanting to do good here, for your family,” Clarke adds.

Riehl’s project is one that is grand, not only in it’s potential to bring something good to the members of the community, but to place El Paso on the world’s map.

There are similar man-made surf facilities, in Austin and in North Wales to name a couple of the more well-known sites, but her vision for her facility begins with two words:  world’s largest.

The North Wales location, is a good example of a formerly unknown destination becoming a world-class facility.  Jim Jones, Managing Director of North Wales tourism said North Wales has recently been recognized by Lonely Planet as the 4th best region to visit on the globe in 2017.

Photo courtesy Surf Snowdonia
Photo courtesy Surf Snowdonia

“It is a special accolade, but something we in North Wales were mindful of. We have our spectacular mountainous  landscape, incredible seascape, our land is steeped in heritage and unique culture with our own language. Some of the best food and drink found with ample of places to visit. However the real game changers for our profile has been the development of world first attractions, such as the first commercial wave garden in the world Surf Snowdonia.”

The change from sleepy, small community to a must-see stop on for surfers worldwide is something that inspires Riehl.

“First off, I want to make it clear that this project – our project – won’t just put El Paso on the map,” Riehl emphasizes, “this is for people in Horizon, Sunland Park, the whole area will be elevated by it.”

By marrying ‘world’s largest’ with ‘world class,’ Riehl sees the project as being iconic for the entire area, and once the surfing community sees the project underway, the transformation will be nothing less than magical.

“Surfing has captured the imaginations of people everywhere, if they’re land locked or live on the coast, the ocean and the waves help form a very creative and free culture…to bring that here will change the way people see the desert and the world they live in.”

With both commercial and private facilities, there are limitations.  Some wave facilities are research and development parks; others, likesurfR one in Northern California access is by invitation only.

The commercial park in North Wales has seen a 97% capacity since they opened, Inland Surf  in Austin sees similar numbers; but all are limited due to size and space.  Riehl says that will not be a problem here.

“First off, we had to look at locations here where the water table is high, and the area large enough to fit our facility…we’re talking 6 million gallons of water and enough space to build the needed infrastructure to generate the waves, have a comfortable beach and its amenities. “

The size of the waves, won’t be your standard wading pool experience.  Riehl compares them to the what one would see during surfing competitions on TV, except dependable – many a surfer’s vacation has been nixed due to weather or just bad waves.

While she can’t reveal the final location yet, Riehl says that there are three locations that meet the needs of the surf ranch, and two have the infrastructure ready to go.

She adds, “there’s one location that already has the water in place – so much in fact – that we may have to drain it to suit our needs…if we do go with that location.”

Riehl is admits that the vision for this facility is unlike anything residents have seen, surpassing the construction of the Sun Bowl, or Southwest University Field, and that there will be naysayers along the way.  Some pointing out the failures in the past, such as the short-lived Magic Landing or Mountain Shadow Lakes (now known as Shadow Mountain Lake)

“I think that we do have really wonderful things already, they just don’t last…the economic development in this region – for lack of a better word has ADHD – where they come up with these great concepts and we keep tapping into the same economic pool, be it Dave & Busters or Magic Landing, and we only have a certain amount of the population that can afford that ticket, and when a competitor shows, up there’s just no room and the previous business loses it’s luster,”  Riehl says.

She adds, “The idea for something of this magnitude is to draw the local population in, have them participate – learn to surf and lay out on the beach – and have 65 to 75% of the people actually surfing coming from regional, national and international locales…that’s where your entertainment venues not only survive, but thrive.”

The vision of I-10 travelers no longer passing through the area, and the notion that locals want to have the oceanside experience without the cost incurred by a trip to the gulf or either coast are key to the surf ranch’s success.  The prices, while not set in stone, will be affordable enough for a family to spend an entire day at the beach, without breaking the bank.

When it comes down to what the surf ranch would mean to the everyday border resident, Riehl leans back and takes a deep breath…almost as if waiting to ride a wave herself, and then answers.

“The only term that come to me when I think of the completed project is ‘mind blowing’…I often see this project through the eyes of a 4th grader from Juarez or Segundo Barrio,” she says staring past the office walls, “they’re blindfolded and it’s removed just as they’re standing on the beach of the Surf Ranch…a perfect, curling wave approaches…how did it get here…how is it made…just the sense of awe.”

Clarke chimes in, saying that the ‘awe’ is only the start.

“To me, it’s more about creating these unique experiences, these opportunities and giving them to the people of El Paso…the ability to experience this physical dream,” Clarke shares, “it’s planting this one idea, that spreads throughout the city…you won’t even have to surf, just dipping a toe in the water, it’s  an event.”

Aside from the awe, there are concrete and valuable partnerships that will grow from the surf ranch being built.  Clarke points to partnerships with local school districts, new and innovative P.E. classes that would incorporate surfing, swimming, and even the nutritional needs of those athletes that could be taught as well.

Riehl has already reached out to local school districts – both public and private – and the response has been positive; as has the response from the business community, something she says is indicative of the direction of the region.

“I think it’s an exciting time for El Paso because most people are pointed in one direction, everybody wants this area to be recognized, to get bigger companies to invest in our city and I know when this project is completed, you’re going to see these national and world-wide companies turning their head and setting up shop here,” Riehl says.

“This is not just about surfing…it’s about it being the ‘head turner’ because where the head turns, the body goes…” she adds.

With partnerships in place with the surf-centric city of Santa Cruz and fabled Venice Beach, where Riehl taught herself to surf and participated in competitions, the groundwork is being laid to bring the surf culture directly to the Borderland.

“I’m not at liberty to name names, but the exciting part is the commitments are in place and that tells me this is going to happen.” Riehl says with a huge smile.

 The timeline for the project is a grand as the project itself, with an opening day in 2022.  It’s a special date, as the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will feature surfing as an Olympic sport.  Riehl hopes that with the surf ranch open, the U.S. Olympic committee could even train at the facility.

Of all the business plans, partnerships, faces reflecting the awe of the man-made waves, Riehl says the true representation of the project’s success for her will be a simple one.

“I’m going to feel successful when I see cars driving around town, with surf racks on their roof, filled with surf boards…surf shops on Mesa or Dyer Street…that’s when I know this whole project is a success.”

Critics: Arrest of Alleged Abuse Victim in El Paso Could Deter Immigrants from Reporting Crimes

Experts fear the undocumented community will be more reluctant to report crimes after immigration agents detained an alleged domestic abuse victim as she left an El Paso courthouse.

After an alleged domestic abuse victim’s arrest by immigration agents in El Paso gained national attention, advocates and attorneys said the case could set a dangerous precedent for immigrants who might decide against reporting crimes if faced with the possibility of deportation.

On Feb. 9, an undocumented, transgender woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials shortly after receiving protection from an alleged abuser in an El Paso courthouse. The woman, initially referred to only by her initials but later identified in an ICE statement as 33-year-old Irvin Gonzalez, was taken to a detention center.

Experts nationwide said the case set a dangerous precedent and might deter undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes to authorities. However, ICE authorities revealed Thursday that the woman is a previously deported felon with six deportations and at least eight convictions for crimes including false imprisonment, domestic violence and assault.

During a press call Thursday, El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza confirmed that the woman had a criminal history but said his main concern in this case was not the victim’s status but the access federal law enforcement agents had to the courthouse. He said a domestic violence victim’s legal status should not matter when they’re reporting a crime or offering testimony.

“[Federal agents] came into the courthouse, and I think that sends a horrible message to victims of domestic violence on whether or not they’re actually going to have the ability to seek justice in our courthouse,” Esparza said. “We will work this out with federal authorities. They can do what they have to do, but not in the courthouse.”

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said Gonzalez had filed three police reports against her alleged attacker, who reportedly had kicked her, punched her and chased her with a knife. Gonzalez was being escorted out of the courthouse by an El Paso attorney when ICE agents stopped her and arrested her, Bernal said, adding that at least one ICE agent sat through Gonzalez’s court hearing before detaining her.

“In all our years, none of us can recall an incident where immigration authorities made their presence known inside a courtroom in this courthouse, and especially not in a courtroom that is reserved for victims of domestic violence,” Bernal said.

The El Paso Times had initially reported that ICE officers located the woman after receiving a tip, presumably from her alleged abuser. Bernal told reporters that she can’t verify that claim, but she said the only two people informed of Gonzalez’s court hearing were Gonzalez and her alleged abuser.

ICE Central Region communications director Carl Rusnok said in a statement that Gonzalez had been arrested after agents received a tip from another law enforcement agency “indicating that a previously deported felon had illegally re-entered the United States.”

If ICE did receive a tip from her alleged attacker, her arrest would violate certain provisions in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that protects undocumented women when reporting perpetrators, said Denise Gilman, director of the University of Texas’ Immigration Clinic.

“Congress has said that victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes should be able to come forward and seek assistance and not fear that doing so will put them in danger,” Gilman said.

Gilman said she has seen instances in which individuals sought out assistance as a result of domestic violence and ended up tangled in immigration proceedings. These cases, she said, “absolutely have an impact” on the immigrant community, in terms of their willingness to report domestic violence or other crimes.

“I do expect this to have a very negative impact on women’s safety and on public safety,” she said. “If victims of crime aren’t willing to come forward, that really endangers the whole community.”

According to immigrant rights organization We Belong Together, immigrant women are three to six times more likely to experience domestic abuse than U.S.-born women. Lora Petty, a representative of Texas immigrant rights group American Gateways, said this is because abusers use deportation threats as fear tactics against their victims.

State lawmakers have already responded to the incident, including El Paso Sen. José Rodríguez, who in a statement said this case will prevent people from reporting crimes to law enforcement officers for fear of facing deportation.

The case also attracted the attention of national public figures, including Chelsea Clinton, who called the arrest “horrifying.”

Read more about recent ICE detentions here: 

  • Immigration officials arrested an El Paso woman who alleged she was a victim of domestic abuse. The tip that got her arrested may have come from her alleged abuser.
  • Undocumented immigrant Miguel Angel Torres was on his way to deliver Valentine’s Day chocolates to his daughter last week near Austin. Now, in what his family calls a case of mistaken identity, Torres is in an immigration lock-up near San Antonio.

Author:  MARIANA ALFARO – The Texas Tribune

State Senator Rodríguez: ICE Action against Domestic Violence Victim ‘Shameful’

Austin – Senator José Rodríguez released the following statement in regards to the recent actions taken by ICE following a domestic violence case in El Paso.

This shameful episode shows what results from an anti-immigrant atmosphere created by irresponsible rhetoric from the president on down to state leaders, combined with an immigration enforcement system now focused on rounding up all undocumented people.  Under no circumstance should a person trying to escape an abuser have to fear that if she tries to get help, then the abuser can call ICE.  What an awful choice to make: stay with someone who hurts you or get a protective order and run the risk that ICE agents will grab you while you’re in court. 

This will certainly prevent people from reporting any crimes or abuse to law enforcement, the courts, or nonprofits, making all of us unsafe.  This is also inextricably linked to anti-sanctuary cities policies state leaders are pursuing. There will be many more victims like the woman at our courthouse if SB 4 or similar legislation becomes law.

The fact that this woman is transgender only further highlights the diversity of vulnerable people who will be swept up in these raids.  Transgender women of color are disproportionally more likely to die violent deaths. This further illustrates the ongoing attack on many different communities, and the need for us to unite in the face of laws that single out specific groups for discrimination.

In Texas we’ve already seen at least one deportation attributed to a case of mistaken identity.  In Seattle, we have at least one person who was living in this country with authorization through DACA nonetheless captured in an ICE raid.  How long before we have U.S. citizens wrongly detained under this deeply flawed enforcement effort?

If Texas Passes anti-“sanctuary” bill, El Paso County Could Face Lawsuits

If the Texas Legislature passes a bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Texas, El Paso County could face a legal quagmire.

That’s because the terms of a 2006 legal settlement expressly forbid the county’s sheriff deputies from doing what Senate Bill 4 demands: enforcing federal immigration laws.

The legislation state lawmakers are considering would punish local governments if their county sheriffs fail to honor “detainers” — requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to hand over immigrants in custody. SB 4 would also punish those government entities that enact policies preventing local law enforcement from asking people for their immigration status.

While some Texas sheriffs anticipate getting sued for refusing to honor detainers, that’s not El Paso County’s issue. (El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said his department honors ICE detainers and doesn’t plan to stop.)

After a local resident sued the county several years ago, accusing sheriffs’ deputies of conducting immigration checks at roadside checkpoints, the parties reached an agreement: The sheriff’s office had to “memorialize in writing its policies that prohibits Sheriffs Department Deputies from enforcing civil immigration law.”

Jed Untereker, assistant El Paso county attorney, said he’s already “received notification that we are going to get sued if we comply with [SB 4].”

SB 4 doesn’t require sheriff’s deputies or local police to ask for a person’s immigration status. But it does prohibit department heads or elected officials from preventing them from doing so. Wiles said any of his roughly 250 deputies could decide they want to be de-facto immigration agents, taking them “out of the field doing that instead of the work we want them to do.”

“The public expects us to guide and limit the discretion that they have because of the power and authority that law enforcement has to take away people’s freedom,” he said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has assured El Paso County that any local lawsuits over the settlement agreement won’t be successful. In a letter to lawmakers earlier this month, he wrote that the settlement didn’t qualify as an actual court order.

“Parties cannot agree between themselves to trump state law,” he wrote.

Untereker said he wasn’t swayed.

“We disagree with that opinion,” he said. “A signed settlement agreement is a signed settlement agreement. We can argue as to exactly how much weight it has, but we’re going to be in violation of that” if the county is forced to follow SB 4.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate, has made its way to the Texas House for consideration. It remains unclear how much House lawmakers like the current version. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who has authored a companion version of the bill, said on Tuesday that he’s been in recent discussions with attorneys and law enforcement authorities to address some concerns with the legislation. He didn’t specify what those issues were.

Read more about “sanctuary cities” legislation: 

  • After Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton insisted in a letter last week that Texas’ anti-“sanctuary cities” bill would survive a legal challenge, immigration attorneys are trying to convince members of the Legislature that he’s wrong.
  • After hearing more than 16 hours of testimony, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 along party lines to advance a bill that would punish local government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws.
REFERENCE MATERIAL

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Trolley Crews Advancing: Mesa Lanes Reduced as Franklin Avenue work Shifts East

Some of the most complex and intricate work associated with the El Paso Streetcar Project is advancing on Franklin Avenue where motorists, pedestrians and cyclists will encounter new traffic patterns beginning on Friday, February 17, 2017, according to the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority.

Crews from Paso del Norte Trackworks have completed installation of a rail switching mechanism in the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Oregon Street. That switch is one of two links between the Uptown and Downtown loops. Crews have also installed rail along Franklin Avenue between Santa Fe Street and Oregon Street.

On February 17, Franklin Avenue will re-open to eastbound traffic between Oregon Street and Santa Fe Street. Oregon Street will reopen to north-south traffic at Franklin, at that time as well.

Beginning on Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Franklin Avenue will be reduced to a single eastbound lane between Oregon Street and Kansas Street. Mesa Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction at Franklin Avenue. Left turns from Mesa Street to Franklin Avenue will not be permitted. These closures are necessary as crews lay rail along this section of Franklin.

Crews will also place the second track switch which links the Uptown and Downtown loops in the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Stanton Street. Because of the complexity of this work, Stanton Street will be closed to thru traffic between Main Drive and Franklin Avenue. In the coming weeks, the Stanton Street closure will switch to between Franklin Avenue and Missouri Avenue.

All told, work in this area is scheduled to take approximately twelve weeks to complete.

As crews continue laying rail and pouring concrete along North Stanton Street, closures of the following cross-streets will be required on the following dates at the following times:

  • Boston Avenue closed at Stanton Street from 1am to 9am on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.
  • Kerbey Avenue closed at Stanton Street from Wednesday, February 22, to Tuesday, February 28, 2017;During this period, University Avenue will temporarily re-open as an alternate east-west route.
  • Cincinnati Avenue closed at Stanton Street from 1am to 9am on Thursday, February 23, 2017.
  • Rim Road closed at Stanton Street from 1am to 9am on Tuesday, February 28, 2017; Motorists who use Scenic Drive and Rim

These dates could change pending weather.

During the week of February 13, 2017, overnight lane closures along I-10 through Downtown El Paso will not take place. They will resume during the week of February 20 and be in effect Sundays through Thursdays from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

As work continues along the 4.8 mile route, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists should expect to encounter the following which will remain in place during the week of February 13, 2017:

Street Closures

  • Stanton Street between Yandell Drive and Baltimore Drive (open to northbound traffic only)
  • Baltimore Drive, Robinson Avenue, University Avenue, Blanchard Avenue, Blacker Avenue, Hague Road, Crosby Avenue, Cliff Drive, and Rio Grande Avenue immediately west of Stanton Street.
  • Santa Fe Street between Father Rahm Avenue and Paisano Drive
  • Rio Grande Avenue between Oregon Street and El Paso Street
  • Arizona Avenue between Mesa Street and Oregon Street

Lane Restrictions

  • Kansas Street between Franklin Avenue and Father Rahm Avenue
  • Santa Fe Street between Missouri Avenue and Paisano Drive
  • Oregon Street between Yandell Drive and Nevada Avenue
  • Campbell Street between Paisano Drive and First Avenue

Later this month, southbound traffic on Kansas Street will shift to the right site of the street as crews resurface the existing travel lanes. San Antonio Avenue and Texas Avenue will close immediately east of Kansas Street to allow crews to complete concrete paving of those intersections.

Feb 2, 2017-02 (1) Feb 14, 2017-01-01

TTUHSC El Paso Joins Statewide Effort to Teach CPR

As part of a statewide effort to teach lifesaving first-aid skills, free hands-only CPR training sessions will be offered throughout El Paso and the rest of Texas this weekend.

The Texas Two Step: Save a Life Campaign is led locally by medical students at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center ElPaso. The future doctors will volunteer at seven public locations on Saturday, offering bystanders free five-minute CPR training sessions.

Participants will learn how to act quickly in the event of cardiac arrest by taking two critical steps: step one is to call 911, and step two is to0001 initiate CPR by pushing hard and fast on the center of the chest.

Participants will practice on mannequins and be provided with educational materials summarizing the skills learned.

Last year, more than 4,200 individuals in 53 Texas locations took the lifesaving training course, with the help of more than 650 medical students.

What: Statewide hands-only CPR training

When: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11

Where: Various locations citywide (see schedule below).

8 a.m. – Noon Loya Family YMCA, 2044 Trawood Dr.

8 a.m. – Noon Westside Family YMCA, 7145 N. Mesa St.

8 a.m. – Noon Rotacare Clinic, 301 S. Schutz Dr.

8 a.m. – Noon El Paso Baptist Clinic, 816 S. Florence St.

8 a.m. – 4 p.m.        Sun Metro Bert Williams Downtown Santa Fe Transfer Station –  601 S. Santa Fe St.

8 a.m. – 4 p.m. San Jacinto Plaza, 111 Mills St.

Noon – 4 p.m. The Fountains at Farah (Amphitheater Lawn and Stage) – 8889 Gateway Blvd. West

TX2STEP_General_Info_Flyer

Artists Sought for “My City, My Home” Project

The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) is seeking artists or artist teams for “My City, My Home,” an aesthetic improvement project.

The artwork will be used throughout downtown and reproduced for application on utility boxes and other structures. Submissions should reflect the vibrancy of the El Paso arts and cultural heritages and be suitable for viewing by all ages.

A design stipend of $250 will be offered to the chosen artworks.

Applications must be submitted by February 16. For more information and to download applications, visit the Museums and Cultural Affairs website.

Video: Your City in 5 – Super Bowl Edition

In this edition of Your City in 5, Rick Isaias has information on a new website created by the City of El Paso for military veterans; free income tax preparation provided by the Parks and Recreation Department; a new avatar created to help business owners find important City related information; a new calendar created by the Animal Services Shelter and the El Paso Fire Department that features adoptable pets and Super Bowl information for the community.

For more information on these stories and other services provided by the City of El Paso visit www.elpasotexas.gov

Cross-Border Freight Shuttle System Highlighted in Treasury Department’s 40 Infrastructure Projects

A proposed cross-border Freight Shuttle System using autonomous, electrically powered shuttles to move cargo in 53-foot-long truck trailers on elevated guideways was named in a U.S. Treasury Department study to a list of 40 infrastructure projects across the United States that would provide significant economic benefit if completed.

The study was commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in support of the Build America Investment Initiative to identify 40 proposed transportation and water infrastructure projects across the United States of major economic significance.

The proposed Freight Shuttle System project, which would transport cargo between El Paso and Juarez using transporters powered by efficient, electric linear induction motors on a 12-mile elevated guideway between secure terminals on either side of the border, was identified in the study as one of only eight projects nationwide that would provide over $10 of economic benefits for every dollar of investment. The system was conceived and designed at Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI).

“The Freight Shuttle is a great example of how research universities and the private sector can solve everyday problems in the real world,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “In the El Paso example, it would address border security, traffic congestion and environmental concerns. And now we have confirmation of its economic benefits.”

Freight Shuttle International (FSI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of El Paso, the City of Juarez, and state officials in Chihuahua in 2012 to support continued consideration of establishing a privately financed Freight Shuttle System across the border to reduce congestion on international bridges, improve security, lower the cost of cross-border cargo transportation, and reduce truck-generated emissions.

FSI’s chairman and president, Dr. Steve Roop stated, “We’ve been developing the freight shuttle concept for over a decade and we proposed the cross-border system at El Paso nearly four years ago, when the system was just a concept, but now that it is a real, tangible system with a working full-scale prototype in testing, we believe the time is right to seriously consider deployment of a system.

The results of this study support private or private-public-partnership investment in this new transportation system.” The City of El Paso Department of Bridges has been executing a strategy to facilitate smooth flow of cargo across the border and has been monitoring the Freight Shuttle System development.

“This new way of moving freight across the border has the potential to bring a privately financed solution into our tool box for managing secure and efficient cargo transportation between the U.S. and Mexico. We believe that the system could be a game changer for cross-border economic development in our region” stated City of El Paso Deputy City Manager of Economic Development Cary Westin. “The results of this new study are very encouraging and serve to demonstrate the economic value of investing in cross-border transportation infrastructure.”

“This technology is a visible example of the significance and importance of university-based research programs at organizations like TTI and The Texas A&M University System,” said Gregory D. Winfree, TTI agency director. “Congested border crossings and seaports are ideal locations for the Freight Shuttle System, which will reduce congestion, lower emissions, improve safety and security, and increase on-time delivery.”

“The Freight Shuttle System was designed to provide secure transportation and total control of cargo movement across the border”, said Gordon Dorsey, vice president of strategy and commercial development for FSI. “Drivers and trucks do not need to cross the border. Only the trailers and cargo move across the border in either direction and 100 percent of those can be scanned in motion.”

Freight Shuttle International has also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of Houston Authority and is engaged in the early phases of planning to support development of a strategy for deployment of a Freight Shuttle System in the Port of Houston area.

Link to the study, which was conducted by AECOM with the assistance of Compass Transportation Inc., Raymond Ellis Consulting and Rubin Mallows Worldwide Inc. can be viewed HERE.

City’s Purchasing & Strategic Sourcing Department Launches “Ask Laura”

The City of El Paso Purchasing and Strategic Sourcing Department is excited to announce the launch of Virtual Information Officer “Ask Laura,” an interactive online avatar.

image004 (8)Ask Laura” will assist businesses and the public in navigating the Purchasing and Strategic Sourcing Department’s website and provide an instant response to many questions with instructional videos or provided links for additional information.

The avatar was first revealed at the City of El Paso’s 6th Annual Cooperative Purchasing Expo and received rave reviews because of the customer service and efficiency the interactive avatar provides.

“Ask Laura” provides users with a unique customer service experience by providing immediate information on topics that include, How to Register as a Vendor With the City of El Paso; The Hire El Paso First – Bid Preference Program; Where to find open Bids; and other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on how to do business with the City of El Paso.

City officials say “Ask Laura” will significantly reduce the amount of time the Purchasing and Strategic Sourcing Department utilizes in responding to frequently asked questions, thus allowing staff to be reassigned to other strategic initiatives.

“Ask Laura” will debut today at www.elpasotexas.gov/purchasing

 

11th Annual Neighborhood Leadership Academy Registration Deadline Approaching

The enrollment deadline for the 11th Annual Neighborhood Leadership Academy is quickly approaching, and the City of El Paso’s Community and Human Development Department is still seeking applications from residents who are interested in how their City government works.

Registration ends February 2.

Participants will receive first-hand information about City services and programs through comprehensive presentations from City department leaders, and on-site field trips to various public facilities.

The Neighborhood Leadership Academy is free but space is limited to the first 50 participants who enroll. Participants will receive a certificate of completion following the Academy. (Spanish translations and interpretation is available upon request.)

WHO: Neighborhood Services Division of the Community and Human Development Department

WHAT: Free Neighborhood Leadership Academy – Educational program for citizens to learn about municipal government    

WHEN/WHERE: Classes are held on Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at various locations – First class begins on February 15, 2017. Academy is expected to run through June 28, 2017.

WHY: Programs like the Neighborhood Leadership Academy support’s the City’s strategic goal to have transparent and consistent communication among all members of the community.

How: Registration is open to residents 18 years of age or older, and that live within the El Paso city limits. Those interested must fill out an application and return it by February 2, 2017.

Applications are available online or can be picked up at 801 Texas Avenue, 3rd floor – Neighborhood Services Division. Applications can be submitted via mail, email, or in person.

Video+Story: El Paso to Host 2019 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game

The El Paso Chihuahuas will once again host a premier Minor League Baseball event as the 32nd edition of the Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game comes to Southwest University Park in July of 2019 in a nationally televised game. A date and time will be announced in the future.

The game showcases the best players of Triple-A Baseball’s Pacific Coast and International Leagues. The multi-day event includes a number of major events, including the fan favorite Home Run Derby.

“We’re proud to have another opportunity to show off El Paso and Southwest University Park to a national audience as the host of the 2019 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game,” said MountainStar Sports and El Paso Chihuahuas President, Alan Ledford. “This is a wonderful opportunity for Chihuahuas fans to see the next generation of future Major League stars right here in El Paso.”

Joining Ledford in the announcement are Josh Hunt, co-owner, Vice Chairman and CEO of MountainStar Sports Group; Pat O’Conner, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball; Branch Rickey, president of the Pacific Coast League; Randy Mobley, president of the International League; the Honorable Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso; Bryan Crowe, general manager of Destination El Paso; and Brad Taylor, general manager of the El Paso Chihuahuas.

“The Triple-A All-Star Game is a marquee event for all of Minor League Baseball,” said Minor League Baseball’s President and CEO Pat O’Conner. “To bring together the top caliber of players for this event makes it a showcase event. I can think of no better venue to play this game than in El Paso. What has happened in El Paso is no surprise given the first rate ownership, management and affiliation put together for the passionate fans in the region.”

“I am so enjoying this announcement because not only is it a showcase event we can bring to the City of El Paso but it shows off a magnificent organization in MountainStar Sports Group and the Chihuahuas, and an El Paso fan base also, to the rest of the country,” said the president of the Pacific Coast League, Branch Rickey. “On top of all that, it’s just such good fun and families will love it.”

The All-Star game is celebrating its 30th year in 2017 as the Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners) play host to the game that alternates annually between the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and the International League (IL).

Started in 1988, the game features the International League vs. the Pacific Coast League. The International League has bested the PCL with a 12-7 record and alumni include Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza to name a few.

IMG_2124“The International League is excited to be part of bringing the national spotlight on Triple-A Baseball back to El Paso and Southwest University Park,” said Randy Mobley, International League President. “The Chihuahuas operation and this ballpark represent all that is great about Minor League Baseball.  The fans and corporate community of greater El Paso have earned the opportunity to host this game with their tremendous support during the past three seasons.”

This is the second Triple-A Baseball national event hosted at Southwest University Park. The Gildan Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game was played on September 22, 2015 with the Pacific Coast League’s Fresno Grizzlies (Houston Astros) defeating the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians), 7-0.

The Chihuahuas open their fourth season in 2017. Since their inaugural campaign, the Chihuahuas have been committed to providing affordable family entertainment to the El Paso region. They have welcomed more than 1.5 million guests through the gates of Southwest University Park; lead Minor League Baseball in social media with more than 200,000 followers; won the Pacific Coast League title in 2016; were community leaders with more than 500 community service hours, donations, and speaking engagements to name a few.

Current and new Chihuahuas Season Seat Holders will be given the first opportunity to purchase tickets. Fans are encouraged to call (915) 533-BASE for information on how to reserve their seats.

Individual game tickets will be made available to the general public at a later date.

The Chihuahuas Opening Day is Thursday, April 6 versus the Las Vegas 51s (New York Mets), the start of a five game homestand. Season Seats, Paw-tial Plans, and Baseball 2 Business plans are on sale now.

The Chihuahuas are also accepting group and hospitality reservations. For information on Corporate Partnerships, Season Seats, group rates and our new and unique hospitality areas, call (915) 533-BASE or visit EPChihuahuas.com.

FORMER CHIHUAHUAS ALL-STARS

2014: Jonathan Galvez

2015: Cody Decker

2016: Carlos Asuaje, Casey McElroy, Hunter Renfroe

City: Lean Six Sigma Program Saves Residents Thousands of Dollars

Officials with the City of El Paso announce that the Lean Six Sigma program has saved area taxpayers another $252,000 by reevaluating three El Paso Fire Department programs.

The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt team reviewed personal protective equipment inventory management, 911 communications recruit training time, and firefighter on the job injuries and lost workdays. The team recommendations not only resulted in the $252,000 savings, they also provided a future cost savings of $111,173 and 13,463 hours saved.

“I am proud our department has embraced Lean Six Sigma for process improvement. It is the enthusiasm within the department to continuously improve how we do business that makes Lean Six Sigma successful to the El Paso Fire Department,” said Interim Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino.

To date, the Lean Six Sigma Program training has resulted in a total cost savings and cost avoidance of $1,637,645 and 41,523 hours saved.

The Lean Six Sigma Program training is part of the City’s strategic plan of delivering services in a timely and efficient manner with a focus on continual improvement.

City to Host Meetings for Trailhead Projects Tonight, Thursday

The City of El Paso has scheduled two community meetings at which members of the public will have the opportunity to view the design plans for the construction for two trailhead projects.

 These trailhead projects will provide a convenient way for the public to access existing hiking and biking trails located in various areas of El Paso by providing the following services and amenities:

·       Construction parking spaces to provide public better access to hiking and biking trails

·       Installation of pet waste stations, trash cans, benches and picnic tables

·       Landscaping

Recently, the City of El Paso hosted community meetings for the Roundhouse and Lazy Cow trailheads, which are located in the Northeast El Paso.  The four projects have a combined total budget of $600,000, and are part of the City of El Paso’s commitment to enhance our community’s quality of life through the creation of recreational, cultural and educational environments.

The meetings will be held on the following dates, times and locations:

Community Meeting for Thunderbird Trailhead

6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

In the cafeteria of Western Hills Elementary School, located at 530 Thunderbird Drive

 

Community Meeting for Thousand Steps Trailhead

6 p.m. on Thursday, January 26th, 2017

In the library of Bridges Academy, located at 4320 N. Stanton Street

Website Ranks El Paso as 3rd of ‘Most Recession-Recovered Large Cities’

A recent study from personal finance website WalletHub.com has ranked El Paso 3rd in its list of 2017’s Most Recession-Recovered Large Cities. The Sun City also ranked among the best when looking at cities of all sizes, coming in at 13th.

 According to the website, the purpose of the study is “to measure the progress of local economies since the financial crisis.” WalletHub did this by comparing 505 U.S. cities of varying sizes across 18 key economic indicators, which include unemployment rate, home ownership rate, poverty rate, number of businesses, and gross metropolitan product (GMP) to name a few.

WalletHub officials said,” For many Americans today, the Great Recession is nothing more than the distant shadow of a troubled economic past. After all, the longest downturn since the Great Depression officially ended in June 2009, and cities coast to coast have completely bounced back. Some have even surpassed their pre-recession economic levels, thanks to lucrative industries that helped them rebuild or stay afloat through the crisis.

 The study also revealed that El Paso ranked 3rd in its list of cities with the highest decrease in poverty rate.

 “The results of this study shows that El Paso continues to move in the right direction,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser. “We’ve worked hard to address issues like unemployment and business growth, which is exactly what this study analyzed to determine which economies have grown in strength. It is reassuring to see an outside entity recognize the outcome of our efforts and hard work.”

2017’s Most Recession-Recovered Large Cities (WalletHub.com)

Overall Rank               City

          1                 Austin, TX

          2                 Denver, CO

          3            El Paso, TX   

          4                 Fort Worth, TX

          5                 Corpus Christi, TX

To view full study, click HERE.

To measure the progress of local economies since the financial crisis and how much work remains to be done in the name of recovery, WalletHub compared 505 U.S. cities of varying sizes across 18 key economic indicators. The data set ranges from “inflow of college-educated workers” to “share of households receiving public assistance” to “homeownership rate.”

UTEP 728X90 FEB 23