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Story+Gallery: Northeast El Paso’s unique ‘Sugar House’ a Must-See

When I was born back in 1970, El Paso was smaller -way smaller. Now, with all the growth in our city, I am sad to admit there are just places I have yet to see.

For example, living in the Lower Valley,  I don’t often find myself venturing further than Fred Wilson Drive in Northeast El Paso. That neighborhood is foreign territory to me; El Paso is just too big…bigger than it was when I was a child.

Now along with the size, El Paso has some great architecture: the Kress Building, Mt. Sinai Temple, the O.T. Bassett Tower – just to name a few. Yet, on one of my few trips north of Fred Wilson, I discovered a house that is dedicated to the City of El Paso, and deserves to be on that list.

The house I am talking about is on the corner of Leavell and St. Charles, and I had never seen it before.  According to Rufino Loya, owner of this remarkable property, his home illustrates the mosaic that is Mexico.

One day, when I was coming home from Chaparral, I caught just a glimpse of this house out of the corner of my eye. What I saw, for only the briefest of moments, was a giant painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Sadly, with a busy life, I really didn’t think anything of it again. A couple days later, I was back in Chaparral. By the time I started to head home, it was dark. That’s when I saw the house again. This time, it was lit up.

At that point I decided to get off the North-South Freeway, and check it out.

Mr. Loya says he started decorating his house back in 1973. It is, he says, in the style of Spanish art as you would see in Zacatecas, Mexico. All of it started with one piece, an angel standing atop an arch in his front yard. “I liked it, so I made another piece,” he says.

The house is definitely from another time, another style. Walking around the house, I could not help but feel like I was standing inside a church that was built for the whole world, open to the whole world.

The art is reminds me of some of the Churches I have seen while on holiday in Mexico, and took me back to a more peaceful, simpler time of life.

Mr. Loya said that the overall style of the home is that of Mexico. Each of the thirty-two states, he says, has their own customs, and styles: food, dress, way of speaking, music. Yet, in his work, Mr. Loya has managed to combine them all into a visual gift to El Paso.

When I asked him, why he does it, why he made his home an artistic masterpiece, he said just that, that he wanted to give something to the city. Something they would appreciate, and marvel.

And people do enjoy it.

Several times a week, Mr. Loya says that there are visitors to his home. Some stop and pray before the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or St. Frances. Others stop to pray before the statue of Jesus in front of the house.

It truly is a place that will make you stop, and take a moment out of your day for something that is bigger than all of us.

Next time you are out in the Northeast, why not stop by. Or, take a trip over on the weekend.

This house is really worth seeing in person.

Story & Gallery by Steven Cottingham – Special to the Herald-Post

Report: El Paso Spends $5 million on Litter, Illegal Dumping

Texas communities are fighting an expensive battle against litter and illegal dumping.

In February, Texans for Clean Water, a nonprofit organization formed by business leaders to address the problem of waterway litter, released study findings that quantify how much litter and illegal dumping is directly costing communities. The study, conducted by consulting firm Burns & McDonnell, examines annual cost data for prevention, education and outreach, abatement and enforcement efforts to address trash and debris littered or dumped in nine cities.

The nine cities — Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, Lufkin, Midland, and San Antonio — represent 25 percent of the state’s population and spend more than $50 million annually on litter and illegal dumping issues.

The study used only direct costs reported by local governments and associated organizations and by not including expenditures by private business or valuation of volunteer time, $50 million is likely a lower estimate than actual costs.

“We wanted to present a study of hard data,” said Scott Pasternak, Senior Project Manager at Burns & McDonnell, “By using only direct costs, without extrapolation, we can show the real- world receipts of these efforts.”

According to the study, nonprofit organizations, water districts, cities, counties and law enforcement entities are commonly involved in efforts to prevent and cleanup litter. Methods vary widely, from creating law enforcement units specifically tasked with catching illegal dumpers to advertising campaigns featuring angry grandmas.

There is a common trend across all nine cities, however: the amount of money spent cleaning up illegally discarded materials greatly surpassing all other categories. According to the study, 52 percent, or $26 million, of the money spent by all nine cities went towards litter abatement with another 14 percent, $7 million, going towards cleaning up illegal dumps.

“A possible follow up to this study could be an evaluation of enforcement mechanisms and jurisdictions for these violations, to get a better understanding of how effective the current system is in prosecuting what are criminal acts.” said Maia Corbitt, a consultant for Booth, Ahrens and Werkenthin, a law firm specializing in environmental and water law.

“Materials that are littered or illegally dumped get into our waterways and can affect water quality, critical infrastructure for flood control and irrigation, reduce valuable water storage space, eventually flow to the gulf and as you can see, costs a lot of taxpayer money.”

The study demonstrates how many departments and organizations work on this issue within a community. Ten different nonprofits and governmental entities provided data for the City of Houston, which adds up to more than $21 million per year or about $7 per resident.

Some insights provided by communities include efforts to better coordinate between departments as in the case of Fort Worth’s Litter Summit.

“We realized that bringing the multiple stakeholders across the city together to talk about what each department was doing could help us better coordinate efforts to more effectively serve our residents and visitors to Fort Worth.” said Debbie Branch, Resource Recovery Planner & Keep Fort Worth Beautiful Director.

“This is a great study, but there is much left unanswered,” said Mike Garver, founder of Texans for Clean Water “including which methods are the best at reducing the amount of materials being littered and illegally dumped. It also does not show which practices are the most cost effective.”

There are a handful of bills filed this legislative session intending to impact litter and illegal dumping in Texas. House Bill 2140, filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D- Rio Grande City, would create a statewide group to determine the best management practices and funding mechanisms for windblown and waterborne litter. House Bill 1884, filed by Rep. “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, would add a community service requirement for litter violators.

“These study cities are working hard and demonstrate their commitment to keeping a clean community but windblown and waterborne trash doesn’t recognize municipal boundaries. It’s going to take a coordinated effort to tackle this problem including increased state attention to this issue,” Garver added.

Full Report Texans For Clean Water Litter Cost Study 2017

Mx Leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador set for El Paso Visit, Speech Monday

Mexican leader Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador will visit El Paso to speak in Downtown on Monday, March 6 at San Jacinto Plaza.

The populist office holder and activist is visiting El Paso as part of a multi-city tour to express solidarity with the millions of Mexicans living  in the United States.

Via a news release, officials with López Obrador’s tour say, “His presence is an act of solidarity with the intent of motivating Mexicans to fight for their human rights, their right to work and their right to live for peaceful lives. At the same time, it is an invitation to the United States to be generous with our people who are at risk of losing their right to stay in a country where they have developed their lives and those of their children.”

“We are convinced that human nature is common for all people, no matter their country of origin, the color of their skin or their beliefs. We want people to know that they are not alone in this time of fear and that is an obligation of the United States of America to respect every person who works honestly to make a living to support their families that still live in Mexico,” officials added.

From 2000 to 2005, López Obrador held the position of Head of Government of the Federal District – a title and position similar to a mayor  of Mexico City and the Federal District that surrounds it – before resigning in July 2005 to run in the 2006 Mexican presidential election; representing a coalition of the PRD, Labor Party and Citizens’ Movement.

He currently is the leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).

“We live in two different countries, but we are ONE nation and we share the same culture, language and history. We want people to know that they are not alone in their fight,” López Obrador adds.

López Obrador will speak starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 6th at San Jacinto Plaza.  Officials say the event is open to the public and to anyone who wants to express their solidarity.

 

TTUHSC El Paso Physician Hosts Facebook Live Q&A on Colorectal Cancer Friday

An upcoming Facebook Live Q&A will invite the community to listen in and pose health questions to a physician at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso).

In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Navkiran Shokar, M.A., M.P.H., M.D., a physician and clinical researcher in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, will host the session. Dr. Shokar, who specializes in cancer prevention and early detection, will take questions from viewers about all things related to colorectal cancer, including prevention, screening, and treatment.

Dr. Shokar has brought nearly $8 million in grant funding to the El Paso community for cancer detection and early prevention services. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Oxford Medical School and completed residencies at Oxford University Hospitals’ Horton General Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

Participants are encouraged to submit their questions to Dr. Shokar in advance and RSVP on TTUHSC El Paso’s Facebook Live Q&A on Colorectal Cancer event page.

This Q&A session is part of a new TTUHSC El Paso initiative called The Exam Room. The Exam Room encourages the El Paso community to engage with expert health care professionals at TTUHSC El Paso.

Each month, The Exam Room will hold one or more public Q&As, each focusing on a different health-related topic and highlighting a TTUHSC El Paso health care specialist who has volunteered to answer questions on the subject.

What: Live health care Q&A open to the El Paso community

When: 10 a.m. Friday, March 3

Where: Online at facebook.com/ttuhscep

march-the-exam-room-flyer

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.
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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

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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.

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