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Home | Opinion | Op-Ed: Early Morning Durangito Demolition Crosses Line in Arena Debate

Op-Ed: Early Morning Durangito Demolition Crosses Line in Arena Debate

No matter where you stand on the issue of the arena, one area that we can all agree on is the rule of law.  It is the central pillar upon which our country is built.

If you disagree with a law or court order, you are allowed to appeal the order, to protest, to voice your opinion, and even – if necessary – have an entirely new law is written or court order issued.  This applies generously to both sides in any legal debate.

It may take time, it may delay a process, but it’s a central theme to our getting along civilly in this society.

So when a member (or members of a community) violate that compact – the reaction is swift. A law or court order has been broken, and the means to remedy that action are very clear.

After preservationists were granted an injunction (8th Court of Appeals – Amended Order) to temporarily halt any demolition of the Duranguito neighborhood – the area designated for the multi-purpose arena – it was expected that both sides would, as they have in the past, abide by the court’s decision.

Now – again I say – regardless of where you stand on the arena debate, we should be able to agree that the courts now have jurisdiction here; the competing sides will have their sides heard by an impartial judge and the rule of law continues as it has.

Those sides include, to varying degrees, the Duranguito preservationists, the city, and the property owners within the footprint of the arena.  All have agreed – if not themselves personally – but through actions by those that represent their side to follow the rule of law.

The city (and those arena supporters) have been patient through this long, legal process – as have the preservationists.  Even when in direct disagreement with one or more of the court’s decisions, they have followed the rule of law. Protest, appeal, make statements, appear in court. Rinse, repeat.

So in light of Monday’s decision, it was thought (or hoped) that all sides would continue this pattern; the city went so far as to issue a letter to the lawyer representing the owners of the property (Ltr to M Shane.) asking them to follow the rule of law.

Photo & Video courtesy KTSM | Andra Litton

Early this morning, supporters of the arena and preservationists alike got their answer in the form of demolition equipment tearing into the heart of the arena’s footprint where the privately-owned homes are located.

Social media calls for supporters to rush to the area came too late, preservationists were only able to catch the aftermath and a few photos of the demolition equipment leaving the area.

So now the questions arise: was this a ‘simple mistake?’  Did the message not get to the demolition company in time to stop their contracted duties?

Or was this a calculated move, on the part of the property owners, to force the hand of the city.

In either of those scenarios, the law was quickly and definitively broken and the remedies are clear.  But an important line has been crossed.

One could probably make the argument that the company simply did not know the demolition had been delayed by the courts; but that would require that everyone involved completely ignored the ruling, the letter from the city to the property owner’s lawyer, traditional media reports from across all the outlets here in the city – as well as the instant-information of social media and the internet.

Photo & Video courtesy KTSM | Andra Litton

And one could possibly say that the uninformed demolition crews started their work at one site, only to be told of their mistake, and they immediately stopped.

But the crews didn’t start on one building, they moved from site to site, ripping structurally-important pieces of the structures out. And then left the area, leaving debris, stunned preservationists and confused law enforcement in their wake.

The actions of Tuesday morning have an unfortunate air to them, and are similar – if not in content, but in execution – to the way this project has been seemingly rushed from the start; from site selection to vote, it all feels forced.

And it’s time for two things to happen.

First, the judge in the case needs to come down hard – and fast – on the violators in this case.  From the property owners, to whoever it was that did (or did not) give the order to proceed.  They all need to pay the legal price for their actions.

Second – and more importantly – this is no longer about the need of a downtown arena, or the preservation of a once-thriving neighborhood, this is about the lengths some will go to, in order to get their way.

If ‘someone’ decided to allow the demolition to continue even with the court order, what is to stop the next someone from ‘deciding’ to go ahead and build the arena with enough space for the much-discussed NBA G-League team (or other sports-based team) in violation of that court decision?  How long would that half-built structure stand as lawyers fight it out?

The legal ‘what ifs’ are enough to give everyone headaches for years to come and the lawyers on all sides plenty of business.

No one person or group is above the law; to that end, this process must be stopped here and now and the entire project sent back to the drawing board and the voters.

And while it may cost a bit more in the long run, at the very least – and more importantly – the rule of law will have been followed.

Photos & Video courtesy KTSM | Andra Litton

***

Below are statements from Preservationist Max Grossman, Mayor Dee Margo, and the City of El Paso

I sent one of my attorneys, Lisa Hobs, to Duranguito this morning with court order in hand to stop the demolition. The demolition has been halted, but more than a half-dozen buildings have been gravely damaged by the demolition company. We had to call the police to help enforce the court order.

Make no mistake about it. The City of El Paso and the two property owners, Dr. Roberto Assael and Alejo Restrepo, have violated a court order signed by all three judges of the 8th Court of Appeals. The demolition action this morning was a blatant act of cowardice and a violation of the law. We filed contempt of court charges at 10:29am and have requested a hearing today. I am on way to Duranguito now to assess damage – Max Grossman via email

***

“The series of events regarding the MPC has been unfortunate. The City of El Paso is complying with the Order issued by the Eighth Court of Appeals. The City does not yet own or control the properties within the MPC footprint, and did not initiate the demolition scheduled for September 12. The property owners were not part of the order; however, the City issued a letter to their attorneys requesting they not proceed with the demolition. The City will continue to comply with the law regarding the MPC.” – Mayor Dee Margo

***

The City of El Paso is complying with the Order issued by the Eighth Court of Appeals which prohibits the City from taking steps related to the demolition of privately-owned properties within the MPC Footprint.

Last night, the City Attorney’s Office contacted the attorney representing the private property owners and requested that the property owners comply with the order, even though the property owners are not named in the order, and that the property owners not proceed with the demolition of the properties. 

Earlier today, the appellate court amended the order to add an address which had not been included in the original order requested by Mr. Grossman’s attorneys.  – Statement released by the City of El Paso

 

About Chris Babcock

Editor in Chief: El Paso Herald-Post, horizoncity.com Chris began his long journey in Journalism back in the early 70’s. Armed with a Bell and Howell 8mm camera and tape recorder. Chris would go on to document such events as the great plastic dinosaur attack on Tornillo, GI Joe’s dramatic rescue of Barbie from a backyard mud pit and a massive toy train derailment caused by Godzilla. FULL BIO

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8 comments

  1. How “transparent” that someone decided to allow the wrecker ball to go ahead. The demolition company had orders to wreck enough of each building and proceed to the next one. Can’t believe that the demolition people hadn’t heard repeated news reports about the legal moves that led to the Court of Appeals issuing a court order to suspend demolition. “They” simply had to get “their” way no matter what. This should receive swift punishment regardless of where the blame ultimately falls.

  2. I do not know what the maximum penalty is for demolition against a court order, but I am willing to guess that if it is a fine, the maximum amount is probably a drop in the bucket compared to the 180 million for the proposed facility to be built. Let’s hypothetically say the fine is ten million dollars, but the investors hope to make a two million dollar profit each year for the next twenty years. Do the math. I hope there is jail time involved in this matter and if we discover the city had any part in this, certain elected officials need to resign.

  3. Back in 2012 El Paso voters went proudly to the election polls to vote for the Quality Of life Bond Issues! and in those bond issues there was Proposition 2. To build a $180 million dollar downtown arena.with sports in mind,
    Proposition 2 passed with an overwhelming 71% of El Paso voters, as we voted YES!
    OK so all three Quality of Life Proposition projects WON FAIR AND SQUARE! no complaints, no protest, no problem since the city was going to put the downtown arena on the back burner and leave it’s construction date till the very end. Only problem was that if the city started building the arena around guesstimate date, say around the year 2025,construction cost and building materials would cost a whole lot more, resulting in a smaller arena with less seating capacity,it just wouldn’t be worth building.
    So during the Oscar Leeser administration the city decided to expedite the arena and put it on fast forward,but first the city had to find a location in downtown to build our voter approved arena.
    So the city hired out of town consultants to locate propertes in downtown in order to build all three signature bond issue projects.
    And the Union Plaza came out as the best choice to build a state of the art downtown arena because it would require the least minimal relocation of residents that would have to move away from the Union Plaza. In October 2016 city council unanimously voted YES for the downtown arena to be located in the Union Plaza. During those city council meetings city officials were met by opposition resistance during each city council meetings that are held on Tuesday of each week.
    They were the actual few people residing in the Union Plaza,probably no more than 65 residents and another larger group of protesters that came from the Segundo Barrio.
    The city was determined that it was not going to waiver to the opposition,they would offer monetary moving incentives to the people being affected along with helping some find homes or apartments.
    But going back more than three decades or more and most unfortunately the Union Plaza neighborhood was left to deteriorate by it’s property owners as they neglected it for many years and no one ever complaint or said anything.
    Nobody ever seemed to care about the area since it was mostly old and only poor Latino people that lived there.
    So why is it that after all those wasted years of neglect and turning the neighborhood into a dilapidated eyesore! now the small Union Plaza neighborhood. Has taken some great interest by a couple historians, preservationist along with some anti progress radicals.
    Since the city want’s to build the downtown arena in that location after spending a hell of a lot of taxpayer money just to hire consultants and offer moveout incentives and court cost.
    I think that the ones that are to blame and at fault are those that are determine to continue to stall the demolition process along with the three justices of the 8th Court of Appeals.
    I understand that the Union Plaza has seen better days, but those days are long gone now, leaving behind only a two architectural Henry Trost designed structures, that really have no significant value.
    They are no Bassette Towers or Mill Buildings! so only the old fire house is probably worth saving!
    But more delays more court cost more waste of taxpayers dollars just because some historian wants to make a name for himself by bringing a out of town Billionaire to help him pay for his own legal expenses while opposing the downtown arena at the same time.
    If he gets his way, El Paso voters will lose,El Paso will lose,since it’s all about him and the 2,500 signatures against the over one hundred thousand voters that voted for the downtown arena back in 2012. If we have to go out and vote for the downtown arena again,I hope that we turn out again in great numbers to defeat the historians the naysayers and the opposition radicals.Lets also vote to include sports in the ballot because this historian said that sports was never mentioned in the Proposition 2 ballot or 2012.
    WE must be prompt and resilient and lets get it right and put it in writing,because the historians are trying to derail our arena and designate the Union Plaza as a historical district. That would mean that the area never again be touched or buildings removed,so it’s a race against time. I’m Pro El Paso and I’M PRO ECONOMIC PROGRESS and support the ongoing downtown revitalization process! I don’t dwell or live in the past,besides we are already rich with old beautiful well kept well maintained architectural homes, buildings, not to mention our cities rich history. We can do without a dilapidated Brothel Whore House called the mansion,that is not who we are.

    • FACT: The Bond specified a “Multipurpose Performaning Arts Center” NOT an arena for sports.

      FACT: The Bond did not specify a location.

      FACT: There was a plan calling for an Arena in Duranguito long before the Bond election

      FACT: City Officials we’re told not to use the word “sports” in the Bond language because it was highly unlikely such an item would pass.

      FACT: City Officials we’re also told to bundle certain projects to increase their chances of passing.

      Despite what the marketing campaign wants us to believe, the people of El Paso did not vote for an arena, nor did they authorize the City to operate in such a non-transparent fashion. Lies, deceit and propaganda do not change the facts, or make what happened yesterday acceptable. The build an arena just because mentality, however is to blame.

      • So then what you are telling us is that we are supposed to believe you?
        And not believe in what we voted for! I myself wouldn’t have voted for the Quality of Life Propositions if I had known that the Proposition 2 Arena was not going to host any sporting events.
        I make my own choices and no one tells me how to vote and what or whom to vote for or not.
        That is totally up to me,the only ones spreading lies and propaganda are the same people that protested the implosion of the former city hall in order to build the downtown ballpark stadium.
        That was also probably you #SaveDurangito, you are part of the opposition and more or likely, a member of the Paso del Sur Radical Movement.
        The build the arena just because is not a mentality either! Build the downtown arena is what WE The People Of El Paso Texas, the El Paso Voters WANT!
        If you don’t believe in change or believe in improving your environment and knowledge,that is your right and that is also your own problem.

      • One last note! #Save the Durangito,Max Grossman and Paso Del Sur are hurting El Paso attract jobs! when the city of El Paso is trying to bring Amazon to build it’s 2nd headquarters here.
        Not to mention other potential companies that are watching El Paso, and then watching El Paso again from a different prospective. By seeing these negative protesters pounding their drums and marching in downtown against the building of downtown arena.They are trying to scare business away with their radical violent demonstrations,I saw what they did yesterday Tuesday at the city council meeting with their rude behavior.
        I hope that the majority of El Pasoans will hold all these naysayers accountable if we do start to lose businesses and companies from relocating here.
        If there was counter protesters supporting the downtown arena, we would out number the opposition 75 to 1. But we are civilized people,unlike the opposition.

  4. Bravo Alberto! Ironically, when I expressed a similar viewpoint on Senator Jose Rodriguez’s Twitter feed I was blocked. This arena WILL be built and none of these pandering “Pobrecito” protests will change the fact that “Duranguito” was ignored by these same politicians who now model outrage and that more than 70% of voters approved this arena. Protesters seem to think that governance is about posing for cameras as outraged victims when genuine action is voting, attending board meetings and doing the 24-7-365 chores that Democracy demands. “Duranguito” did not fall to ruin overnight and to if folks wish to save the 2nd. Ward or ANY other historic barrios, they need to do the due diligence required BEFORE TV cameras arrive.

    • I totally agree with you 100% tillzen! and you are right about the protesters receiving too much TV exposure coverage or photo ops. The majority of these protesters don’t even live in the Union Plaza,I call them radicals or trouble makers. They should instead heed what is happening now and start cleaning up and repairing what is in the 2nd Ward NOW! And not worry about some other neighborhood across Paisano Street that don’t belong to them.
      Change Is Coming to downtown El Paso like it or not, and I happen to like it a hell of a lot.

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