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.
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.
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