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Home | Tag Archives: Duranguito

Tag Archives: Duranguito

Open Letter: City Council Furloughs 400 Employees, cuts salaries of thousands but votes against suspending Arena, Cultural Heritage Center

The City of El Paso has furloughed 400 employees and cut the salaries of thousands more. There is a budget shortfall of $86.4 million between now and the end of the 2021 fiscal year, and the City pension system has a $58 million hole. There are plans to cut funding for street repair, the police academies, and dozens of other core services.

Our community is hurting. KTSM announced today that 31,609 people have filed for unemployment in the El Paso area since March 29. Other networks have reported that the food lines in our community extend for as long as two miles.

Today, under City Council agenda item 19.1, Reps. Annello and Rodriguez attempted to ease the strain on our budget by suspending the construction of the “Arena” and Cultural Heritage Center, which could have saved the taxpayers as much as $500 million, reduced our future debt load, and safeguarded the City’s credit rating.

The item was backed by City Manager Tommy Gonzalez, who understands that the City is straining under more than $2 million per year in bond interest from the projects authorized by Proposition 2 of the 2012 QOL bond election, plus $1 million per year in ongoing litigation costs.

Sadly, six members of City Council, including three who had previously supported preserving Duranguito—Reps. Svarzbein, Morgan and Lizarraga—today voted against suspending these two projects even though they are in favor of putting most of the other QOL bond projects on hold.

They support furloughs and pay cuts but will not support suspending the non-essential multipurpose basketball arena and cultural heritage center, and they have made clear that the interests of their powerful donors are more important than the well-being of City employees and of the taxpayers of El Paso at large.

They have squandered the opportunity to place our City on a sounder financial footing and chosen a path that will significantly increase the strain on our budget, raise property taxes even higher, and potentially lead to more furloughs.

There is, however, one good thing that came out of today’s vote.

Six City Council representatives who opposed the action are on the record and will have to defend their votes if they wish to continue their political careers in the future, especially Reps. Hernandez, Morgan and Rivera, who must face the voters in November.

Max Grossman

Grossman is a member of the Board of Directors at Preservation Texas; Director of Operations at El Paso History Alliance; Vice-Chair at The Trost Society and an Associate Professor of Art History at UTEP – The University of Texas at El Paso


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UTEP Symposium to cover Apache ties to Duranguito

Five distinguished historians and archaeologists will share new research that highlights the significance of the Duranguito neighborhood in El Paso history at a major symposium on Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, October 14.

The speakers at “Before Ponce de León: The Mescalero Apaches at El Paso del Norte” will share their research that shows how a large Apache reservation with up to 1,000 inhabitants existed intermittently from 1778 to 1825 in the area of what is now Duranguito, which is essentially the Union Plaza area.

Mark Santiago, director of the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Museum in nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico, discovered a series of Spanish colonial documents and wrote about them in his book, “A Bad Peace and a Good War: Spain and the Mescalero Apache Uprising of 1795-1799,” which was published in 2018.

That information “will require historians of El Paso to completely rewrite the early history of our city,” said Max Grossman, Ph.D., associate professor of art history at UTEP and the event’s chief organizer.

According to Grossman, Spaniards established “peace camps” for the Mescalero Apaches in the late 18th century to keep the Mescaleros from raiding Spanish communities and to encourage them to abandon their traditional nomadic lifestyle to become sedentary farmers.

Scholars consider these camps, which stretched from Tucson, Arizona, to Laredo, Texas, to be the first Native American reservations in the Americas. The residents of the reservation at Duranguito – considered one of the largest – organized themselves into five tribal sections led by prominent men within the Mescalero Apache nation.

The symposium’s other presenters, experts on the history and archaeology of the Apaches during the Spanish colonial period, will be Rick Hendricks, Ph.D., New Mexico State Records Administrator; Matthew Babcock, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of North Texas; David Romo, Ph.D., borderlands historian; and Deni Seymour, Ph.D., archaeologist of Apache sites throughout the Southwest.

Yolanda Leyva, Ph.D., associate professor of history at UTEP, and Angel Diaz, president of the Academic Revival of Indigenous Studies & Education, will co-host the event with Grossman.

The free symposium, open to the public, will run from 5 to 7:45 p.m. at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Magoffin Auditorium. Free parking will be available at the Sun Bowl Parking Garage.

UTEP to Hold Opening Reception for ‘Rebirth of Duranguito,’ ‘Border Street, A Photo Exhibition’

The Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens will host an opening reception for two exhibitions that highlight border culture.

“Border Street” is a photography exhibition celebrating our border culture through the lens of four photography enthusiasts.

“Rebirth of Duranguito” is a community-generated plan for the preservation and restoration of Duranguito, one of El Paso’s oldest neighborhoods.

The exhibit opening is set for Thursday, January 31st, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and will be open through early March.

Additionally, the exhibit  “Where the World Met the Border,” will be on view through April 27, 2019.

“Where the World Met the Border,” tells the stories of a place, El Paso’s 1st Ward. This is the story of El Paso’s first neighborhood: a fronterizocommercial center, where immigrants from all over the world made their homes.

This exhibits provides a window into the lives of people from all over the world—Mexico, Ireland, Syria, Italy, and China— who came to the First Ward to better their lives and make their homes.

Permanent exhibits in the museum focus on the natural and cultural history of the Chihuahuan Desert region, the largest desert in North America. A variety of temporary exhibits address themes related to border life and culture, the Americas and the University’s history and current activities

The Centennial Museum was constructed in 1936 to celebrate the anniversary of Texas’ independence, making it the oldest museum in El Paso.

What: Exhibit opening

When: 4:30 – 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31

Where: Centennial Museum at the corner of University Avenue and Wiggins Way 

 For more information, please call 915-747-5565.

Preservation Groups Present Plan, Video for the Rehabilitation of Duranguito

After a Saturday conference about Duranguito and a possible second plan to preserve the area, supporters of the new plan released renderings and a video of the area.

The “El Paso Preservation Forum” hosted Preservationist J.P. Bryan, State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, and five speakers who all advocated the preservation and restoration of Duranguito, to make it an ‘Old Town’-type attraction.

Preservationist Dr. Max Grossman said the event was an “unqualified success,”  with nearly 200 residents from all walks of life in attendance.

Of the discussion, Grossman added, that “Duranguito, the birthplace of El Paso, must be preserved for posterity rather than demolished for a D-League basketball “Arena” and that it has great potential to drive heritage tourism in our downtown”.

According to the Paso del Sur Facebook page, Dr. David Romo presented a virtual reconstruction of the neighborhood created by a team of designers led by Diana Ramos.

Other members of the team were  Victor Soto, Andres Armendariz and David Dorado Romo, and the video produced by Ingrid Leyva.

As part of the presentation, the group included the following description of what Duranguito could be:

This restored neighborhood could showcases the city’s rich global border history to visitors from around the world.

The Plan for the Rebirth of Duranguito proposes a cultural heritage corridor with museums, mercados, performance areas as well as renovated low-income housing, community gardens and other residential services that provides a cutting-edge urbanistic model for historic preservation and equitable development that is truly inclusive for all sectors of the community. 

This community-generated plan for the restoration of El Paso’s oldest neighborhood is inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken objects based on the philosophy that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.

One of the strategies for the funding of this vision is based on a citizen’s initiative petition that is now before City Council to reallocate the 2012 bond funding to pay for the establishment of the Mexican American cultural center as part of this restored historical corridor in Duranguito.

Other proposed sources of funding for the renovated affordable housing will include federal and state funding sources, community land grants, and federal tax incentives for historic preservation projects. 

To view our in-depth coverage of the Downtown Arena Saga, click here.

El Paso Preservation Forum to Discuss Duranguito’s Restoration, Potential for Area

Preservationists have announced a public forum on restoring Duranguito, as well as a discussion on the potential for the entire area.

The forum will be held Saturday, December 15,  from 10am to 1230pm, in the El Paso Public Library’s Auditorium located at 501 North Oregon Street.

As part of the forum, J. P. Bryan will moderate a discussion on restoring Duranguito that will feature the executive directors of Preservation Texas, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation; the President of the Texas Historical Foundation; and the Senior Field Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Preservationist and Architectural Historian Max Grossman, Ph.D. says the importance of the forum cannot be overstated.

“Never before has such a distinguished group of national and state-level historic preservation experts visited El Paso for such an extraordinary event…we wish to emphasize that the public is welcome to attend and we sincerely hope that City, County and State leaders and administrators will join us as well. This is an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the future of our the historic building stock in our downtown.”

In addition to Bryan’s discussion, State Sen. José Rodríguez will present a virtual reconstruction of Duranguito that was created by Victor Hugo Soto, Diana Ramos, Andres Armendariz and Ingrid Leyva in consultation with the neighborhood residents.

Five presenters will discuss Duranguito’s economic and cultural potential as well as the opportunity for developing heritage tourism in downtown El Paso.

The forum will wrap up with Mr. Bryan’s concluding remarks and then questions from the audience.

To view our in-depth coverage of the Downtown Arena Saga, click here.

City Installing Fence Around Duranguito, Archaeological Study to Follow

On Wednesday,  workers with the City of El Paso began installing fencing to secure the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center (MPC) footprint in order to begin the next phase of the archaeological study and to replace the temporary fencing that is currently onsite.

“This voter-approved MPC is advancing into the second phase of the archaeological study which involves opening trenches. Thus securing the site with durable fencing is a necessary step to preserve the health and safety of the community,” Capital Improvement Department Director Sam Rodriguez said.

Via a news release, city officials said, “the judgment issued in August 2017 by an Austin judge allowed the City to build the MPC at its proposed downtown location. The City has agreed not to begin demolition prior to November 19, 2018. An official date for demolition has not been set.”

Preservationist Max Grossman responded to the development via an email.

“The City of El Paso is surrounding Duranguito with a new barrier. They are permitted to do so per my Rule 11 agreement with the City as long as the buildings are not touched before November 19. My attorneys are very busy preparing for relief from the courts before that date and we are confident that the neighborhood will be safe…”

The targeted footprint is bounded by West San Antonio Avenue, South Santa Fe Street, West Paisano Drive and Leon Street || Map courtesy Google

The Texas Historical Commission (THC) has approved the scope of work proposed by City of El Paso for an on-site archeological and historical review of city-owned properties project’s master planning area.

Moore Archeological Consulting, a firm specializing in completing archeological investigations in urban settings, is conducting the archeological study. The City contracted the firm to comply with the applicable requirements under state law.

The archeological study encompasses four phases: archival and historical research (completed), ground-penetrating radar survey, mechanical survey, and an additional investigations stage, which would only be conducted if intact archeological deposits are discovered.

Discoveries will be handled in accordance with state law and Antiquities Permit requirements.

Paso del Sur Launches Citizens Initiative for Election to Approve Changes to 2012 Bond

Paso del Sur announced Friday the launch of a new citizens initiative petitioning the City Council to pass an ordinance so that voters can decide on proposed changes to Proposition 2 of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Election.

The group, according to their facebook page, “works for the rights of residents and workers of El Paso’s barrios against displacement, demolition, and erasure of history,” and has been very vocal about the city’s plan to destroy a portion of Downtown that dates back to the city’s earliest days.

Via a news release organizers say, “These changes represent a viable solution for the problems that the City is facing in fulfilling its promises to the people of El Paso.”

“In 2012, voters were promised numerous projects through the Quality of Life Bond and voters approved $228 million for Proposition 2. The particular amounts allocated by City Council for each project were not stated in either the ordinance or the ballot. Therefore, the voters did not approve the amounts set out for each project. Although the City Council has authority to change the amounts allocated to each project, they have remained steadfast with the original allocation,” officials added.

The main projects included in Proposition 2 were a Children’s Museum ($19 million), a multi-purpose performing arts facility ($180 million), and a Mexican American Cultural Center ($5.75 million).

The release goes on to state:

“The multipurpose performing arts facility is embroiled in litigation due to the City’s decision to locate it in the historically significant neighborhood of Duranguito.  The City’s insistence in designing the performing arts facility for sporting events was disapproved by a state district court judge and the case is on appeal. The Mexican American Cultural Center cannot be constructed because of insufficient funding.”

In addition to the initiative to pass an ordinance to vote on the bond specifics, Paso del Sur has an alternative plan for the entire section of Downtown slated for demolition.

“…the solution is in cancelling the construction of a new multipurpose performing arts facility, reallocating the funds and enhancing existing assets. Rather than construct a new performing arts facility, the existing Abraham Chavez Theater can be renovated and expanded. The Mexican American Cultural Center and Corridor can be located in and become a part of a transformed old town Duranguito that will include a historic corridor reflecting and leading to the global roots of our City. This would create a thriving residential neighborhood and tourist attraction.”

For those wishing to support the group, they will be holding a launch event Monday morning.

  • What: Citizen’s Initiative Requesting an Election to make changes in the 2012 Bond Projects.
  • When: Monday, June 25, 2018 at 9 a.m.
  • Where: Firefighters Memorial Park, 316 W. Overland

·  Contact: David Romo, 915-630-9502


To view our in-depth coverage of the Downtown Arena Saga, click here.

12 Duranguito Properties Set For State Antiquities Landmark Nomination

Via a news release on Wednesday, preservationists announced that 11 properties owned by the City of El Paso and one property owned by a private party in Duranguito are being nominated to the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

Should the properties be approved as State Antiquities Landmarks, the archaeological remains below ground receive legal protection under the Antiquities Code of Texas.

The nominators are Dr. Max Grossman, Dr. David Carmichael, Mr. Harry W. “Skip” Clark, and Ms. Elia Perez .

Dr. Grossman shares, “This is an important step in the process of preserving archaeological sites in Duranguito for all El Pasoans…we are confident that the THC will approve the nominations in the near future.”

The structures in the area – as well as the archaeological sites buried just below the foundations of the buildings – are within the footprint of the proposed downtown arena, which is currently in legal limbo.

Preservationists cite several surveys and original plats from the mid- to late-19th century, that indicate the locations of historic remnants – including Juan Maria Ponce de Leon’s original ranch and the two acequias (irrigation ditches) that were used for irrigating the fields that existed long before the towering skyscrapers of Downtown El Paso.

According to the preservationists, a 1998 archaeological survey conducted by the City of El Paso identifies the probable remains of Ponce’s 1st ranch, just below the surface.

They add, “The same survey included a ground-penetrating radar study conducted by archaeologist Mark Willis. That study identified probable structural remains (architecture) in the area of Chihuahua Street and [also] West Overland Avenue.”

In addition to the studies, actual excavation in the area revealed more of the city’s long-buried history.

In the release announcing the nominations, Dr. Grossman shares:

“Archaeological excavations in 1970 and 1984 immediately to the north and east of the Arena Footprint identified the physical remains of the “Acequia Madre,” which is a second acequia that traversed Duranguito further to the north, where the Convention Center is now located. The Convention Center excavation confirmed that the 1827 stratum lies very deep below ground.”

The group goes on to explain that the nomination process is quite different from a historical designation.

“The Texas Antiquities Code and Texas Natural Resources Code are complex and require much attention to understand…archaeological sites are not the same thing as structures above ground. The law provides that nominating a structure as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) requires registration on the National Register of Historic Places…this is NOT required for archaeological nominations.”

Any citizen can nominate a public property or a private property (with the owner’s consent) as an archaeological SAL provided the criteria are met.

***Click here read our previous coverage of the Downtown Arena saga.

Letter to the Editor: Protect the Great Neighborhood of Duranguito 

As a Dane I have had the privilege – since 1978 – to visit the US maybe 30 times. Often I write articles about America along the way. I love and respect America.

A couple of weeks ago I visited El Paso for the first time. It turned out to be a great experience. I stayed at the Gardener hotel – next to John Dillinger’s room – visited the most interesting art museum and I saw the Magoffin Home. I bicycled all over town enjoying the kindness and safety of this great city.

Visiting Duranguito, however, I was surprised- not to say shocked – to learn that the most interesting part of this neighborhood is going to be demolished. The idea seems to be to build a sports arena on the ruins of that neighborhood. A sports arena sounds like a great idea. But it seems to me the location chosen is so wrong.

I have studied the history of Duranguito and here is what I found out:

Duranguito is El Paso’s oldest platted neighborhood and tells the story of the origins of this border community like few other places. It’s roots go back to indigenous peoples including Apache, Pueblo and Manso Indians. It is the site of the Ponce de Leon ranch in 1827 and was located right down the middle of major trails that traversed this gateway city from the four cardinal directions. Including the Camino Real Trail and the Butterfield Overland Wagon Trail. The homes that are currently standing include 130-year-old structures and sites of memory from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the first major social revolution in the twentieth century. Duranguito and other South El Paso neighborhoods has been called the Ellis Island of the border because immigrants from all over the world lived here. The Chinese laundry constructed in 1901 is one of the last remaining landmarks to El Paso’s Chinatown from the early twentieth century. La Morena Grocery was run by Syrian immigrants in the 1920s. Many other buildings in this historic neighborhood were the residences of Italian chefs, German-Jewish merchants, Mexican writers, Japanese immigrants, etc.

In this sense Duranguito represents not only local and regional history, but world history as well.

I am convinced that people from Europe and other parts would rather come to learn about this history if it were highlighted and explained in historical museums, small gift shops, bookstores, traditional mercado and performance spaces rather than a big box arena that isn’t at all unique to the area.

For this reason but first and foremost because the people of El Paso have a right to their own  history, I kindly suggest that the plans to tear down Duranguito are being reconsidered and  hopefylly skipped. Instead this beautiful and interesting neighborhood should be restored to its former glorry days.

Erik Boel, Danish Tourist


To submit your letter to the editor, email us at

Preservation Texas Add Duranguito Neighborhood to ‘Most Endangered Places’ List

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Preservation Texas announced the addition of the Duranguito neighborhood in downtown El Paso to its Most Endangered Places list. at the 2018 Preservation Summit in Brownsville on Tuesday evening.

The neighborhood has been at the center of an intense political and legal debate about the future of a proposed new public building that would result in the loss of Duranguito’s historically-significant architectural and archaeological resources which date back to the earliest days of settlement in the city.

Preservation Texas’s listing of Duranguito as one of the state’s most threatened historic places is intended to raise broader statewide awareness of the issues that local preservationists are facing in El Paso and build increased support for their efforts. Saving Duranguito will ensure that the architectural and cultural fabric of downtown El Paso will retain its strength and authenticity.

“In the last few years, significant private investment in the rehabilitation of El Paso’s downtown landmarks proves that historic preservation can be a major economic development strategy for El Paso,” said Preservation Texas’s executive director Evan Thompson. “Duranguito is a part of the cultural and architectural DNA of El Paso. Protection of its modest yet culturally significant historic resources is essential to preserving the city’s diverse and authentic sense of place. Selectively saving the facades of certain buildings in the neighborhood is not preservation.”

Designation of Duranguito’s historic resources on the National Register of Historic Places would make federal and state tax credits available for up to 45% of the costs rehabilitating the neighborhood’s historic buildings. Local preservation ordinances and voluntary conservation easements can provide long-term legal protection for the buildings.

“Large-scale new developments should be encouraged in areas immediately adjacent to the historic core of the city, and recent land-use planning proposals have identified sites in which a large public building could be built that would allow El Paso to have a first-class entertainment venue without requiring the demolition of Duranguito,” said Thompson.

Since 2004, over 150 sites have been named to Preservation Texas’s Most Endangered Places list, and only eight have been lost. Founded in 1985, Preservation Texas is a member-supported non-profit historic preservation education and advocacy organization based in Austin with a statewide board of  directors.

Numerous sites in El Paso have been named to the Most Endangered Places list in recent years, including the Albert Fall Mansion that was saved through the leadership of the City of El Paso.

Other sites named to the Most Endangered Places list this week are Ship-on-the-Desert, a 1940s-era house in Guadalupe Mountains National Park; the mid-19th century Neale House, perhaps the oldest frame house in Brownsville; and six threatened historic railroad depots in Central Texas.

For more information about Preservation Texas, visit their website or call 512-472-0102.

Op-Ed: It’s Time to Hit the Reset Button

The findings of fact surrounding the albatross sandwich of the arena in the Duranguito neighborhood should outrage all El Pasoans.

Such facts as those concerning the manner in which the properties were acquired, the secrecy needed to accomplish demolition and, now, city leaders willing to jump off the proverbial cliff to make this project happen regardless of court decisions.

If we take a step back, we must understand that it is incumbent upon us to preserve and capitalize on our history—a history that begins the story of Texas. Capitalizing on heritage tourism works. The benchmark for El Paso’s success has long been San Antonio, a city that built an entire heritage tourism industry on the back of the Alamo and then established other heritage clusters throughout its center.

The arena debacle has turned into a larger conversation about vision and leadership. Thanks to “outsiders” like J.P. Bryan and Max Grossman, who have exposed the city in a way that has never been done before, the days of “business as usual” are over.

Sadly, we have politicians who are told what to do and how to do it by individuals with an agenda which, though certainly progressive, risks eliminating major cultural assets, either inadvertently or intentionally.

When I came back to El Paso in 2007, I was eager to get involved in our community. Indeed, something special was happening in El Paso and I was happy to have a front row seat. As time passed, however, I realized that I was part of a movement that included only a few hundred people, incredibly gifted folks (some that are dear friends) who were helping to dictate direction and policy for our community.

In our minds we had the solutions and knew what the city needed to be better and everyone who was in disagreement either was clueless or didn’t care. Our arrogant position was an easy one to take because, obviously, we had volunteered hundreds of hours, attended several events showcasing our city, and made countless donations to all types of causes to make El Paso better.

I certainly subscribed to that mindset. It was the kind of thinking that lay at the heart of the Quality of Life bond and brought it to fruition. A group of caring and dedicated individuals worked hand-in-hand with the city to create something that would function as a lynchpin for future development.

The problem is that one cannot build trust and engage an electorate with this attitude—an attitude that has been alive and well in El Paso for decades now. We have a population that is often described in political circles as apathetic, and I have come to believe that is an excuse used by politicians who are unable to connect with the people they represent.

We, as a city, are divided. There is a clear line being drawn between leadership and the people.

It was only a few years ago that we had a city manager, another “outsider”, who was so eager to push through the QOL bond that language was used to intentionally mislead the voters, and this has been proven in court. She created a bully culture (D.Crowder. “Retired firefighters bring attention to hazing” El Paso Inc. 2/5/18) in our government and I recall attending meetings where she would make fun of the opposition.

That culture continues to this day, so that when citizens like J.P. Bryan and Max Grossman take a stand, they are vilified. By contrast, when our political leaders are called to account, somehow the deck is reshuffled and these same people end up in different leadership positions throughout the city, with the same disdain for the people who balk at their policies.

It’s time to abolish the culture of “business as usual” in which mediocre politicians are told what to do by their powerful donors and act over the objections of the majority of El Pasoans. We need to hit the reset button and work towards prosperity, together as one family, in a manner that showcases what makes our community unique and authentic.

We are, after all, from the World’s Famous West Texas Town of El Paso and we can, and must, do better.


Written by: David E. Saucedo

Saucedo is a native El Pasoan, Cathedral and Notre Dame Graduate who returned to the Sun City with an accounting degree to help run his family’s century-old locksmithing business.


To view previous coverage of the Downtown Arena/Duranguito, click here.

City Completes Duranguito Petition Review; Council to Discuss on Oct 31st

On Monday, City of El Paso announced the completion of its review of signatures on a petition filed to try to impose historic designation zoning on the site selected by City Council for the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center by placing the matter on the ballot of the next general election.

The petition was filed on September 11, 2017.  The City Clerk’s office authenticated a total of 1,974 signatures of registered voters on the petition. The process was completed within the 20 working days as required by the City Charter.

The City Clerk’s office certified that the necessary number of signatures required under the City Charter, 1,666 signatures, have been submitted but the certification does not automatically place an item on the ballot.

The City Council is the body required to call an election.  The matter will be placed on the agenda for the City Council meeting to be held on October 31.

The proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance included in the petition seeks to create a new Historic District and related use restrictions in the area bounded by San Antonio Avenue, Paisano Drive, Durango Street and South Santa Fe.

Via a news release, city officials said, “On June 27, the Council was advised about what Texas law provides in regards to attempts to impose or repeal zoning by initiative or referendum…Texas Courts have consistently held for decades that zoning matters have been removed from the field of initiative and referendum, irrespective of broad Charter provisions.”

The group Paso del Sur, who submitted the petition on behalf of residents of Duranguito, released the following statement:

Today the Citizen’s Initiative submitted by Paso del Sur on behalf of the residents of Barrio Duranguito on September 11, 2017 was validated by Interim City Clerk Laura Pine.

This second petition was signed by more than 2,200 El Paso voters, and went through a 26-hour validation process by members of Paso del Sur prior to submission to ensure the validity of all the signatures collected.

The City Clerk validated 1,974 signatures, exceeding the required number of 1,666 signatures.

The first petition, which was submitted on May 15, 2017, contained over 2,400 signatures and called upon City Council to establish a historic overlay in Duranguito. City Council refused to take action, which triggered the second round of the petition initiative. With this second petition City Council is bound by its own charter to present the item for a vote in the next general election as a ballot item.

Thousands of people have supported the petition initiative across two rounds. Both petitions were made possible by a diverse group of volunteers ranging from students, elders, and members of grassroots community organizations. Volunteers were able to reach the required number of signatures needed despite the fact that they were limited to only gathering signatures of registered voters who had voted in the May 2017 election – a day with a record-low voter turnout. Apart from signing petitions, hundreds of El Pasoans have also spoken at City Council, attended neighborhood meetings and community events, and have written letters to voice their opposition to the City’s reckless and fiscally irresponsible push to destroy El Paso’s history.

We await City Council’s response in hopes that they will respect the wishes of their constituents who demand that Duranguito be protected from demolition and established as a historic district.

Previous Content HERE.

Op-Ed: County Commissioner David Stout – …They Lied!

While the fight with the city over Duranguito has been going on for quite a while, it is just now, with the dramatic actions taken and the media focused on the issue, that many people are giving it some thought.

Unfortunately the City, whose plan is to demolish the neighborhood and build a sports arena, has purposely tried to confuse the public.  How much misinformation and lack of transparency must we endure from City officials before we say, “!Basta!”?

It started with the omission of sports in both the ordinance and the ballot language when the bond election was held in 2012. If everybody knew that they were voting for sports, as arena supporters argue, why not be up front and transparent and just include it in the language?

Could it have been because of the fallout regarding the way things were done with the baseball stadium?

If you recall, we were told that it would be paid strictly with hotel-motel taxes paid by out-of-town visitors, yet taxpayers ended up paying the difference when a multi-million dollar shortfall was announced. Taxpayers also are paying for police and other ongoing costs for services associated with the games.

For the record, I am a supporter of the baseball team, but I support transparent, honest government even more.

The City knew they couldn’t pass the bond if it said sports, but they also knew the project wouldn’t be viable without sports, so, thumbing their nose at transparency, they omitted it the language with the idea that later they would figure out how to convince the public they voted for it.

The no transparency game they decided to play has really gotten the City into trouble because the omission of sports is the basis of Max Grossman and his team of attorneys’ lawsuit, and now, after wasting millions of dollars, a judge has ruled the City cannot use bond money for anything sports related.

And speaking of the ballot language, though I have always advocated for a downtown location other than Duranguito, nothing we voted on states that the arena must be downtown. However, the City continues to lie to the public, stating that it did.

The City’s game continued when, on October 18th of 2016, the Council voted to place the arena in Duranguito. The announcement came just a few days earlier, however no information was provided to the public regarding how it was determined El Paso’s oldest neighborhood was the best site, nor was there any backup on the agenda item on the 18th.

A public presentation was given for the first time during the meeting in which the vote took place. A “study” was and continues to be quoted, but never publicized, and it took months for the City to post any relevant public documents on its website.

To add insult to injury, when information regarding other possible sites came out, the City claimed that the site east of the new City Hall, owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, was vetted and not an option. That was a lie.

What really happened was, when the City approached UP for land to build the ballpark, UP agreed to give it to them, but with the condition that they close a number of railroad crossings throughout the city. A wish-list of 31 closures was provided, and UP asked for 7.

When the City was moving to its new home, the option to purchase the railroad’s land behind that location came up. However, UP told the City there would be no negotiations until they made good on their first promise: closing 7 crossings. It was 2013 and there were still 4 open.

Fast forward again to 2016, nearly 10 years from the original deal, and the City still had not made good. The railroad company told us they never had discussions with the City regarding a possible arena location because of this. There was NO vetting of the railroad site.

The only reason the railroad site wasn’t a viable option was because the City duped UP.

So, to keep the public from finding out about it, they made up a huge lie. They said Union Pacific would ask the city to close as many as 31 railroad crossings in exchange for its land, and predicated on that one, huge lie, members of Council began to throw out excuses as to why the rail yard wouldn’t work, saying traffic would be hugely disrupted, people’s access to I-10 would be cut off and that it would be too costly.

Another story the City fabricated was that the arena had to be built within 1,000 feet of the convention center so they could receive $25 million in state incentives that was needed to expand from 12 thousand seats to 15 thousand. That one was completely debunked by the El Paso Inc. in an article written in January of this year.

One more on the long list was that the rail yard was so contaminated and it would cost millions upon millions to remediate. This absurd claim was never substantiated because, again, there was absolutely NO of the site.

There are so many lies.

Duranguito is the site not only of the first urban neighborhood, it also is the site of the first European settlement in Paso del Norte, the Ponce de Leon ranch. It is a historical treasure trove, yet the city denies these plain facts, too.

The sports arena has already cost us dearly, in both taxes and in the damage to public trust. I implore the current City Council and the business community that supports the arena to quit looking the other way and to say, “! Ya basta!”!





Author: David Stout, El Paso County Commissioner, Pct 2

Sacred Heart Church to Hold Procession Honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Duranguito

Fr. Rafael García, S.J., of Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church will lead a procession honoring the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in solidarity with the vulnerable people of barrio Duranguito tonight at 7 p.m.

The participants will walk, reflect on Scripture and pray the rosary for the safety and well-being of the impacted residents of the neighborhood who have been struggling to maintain their community in the face of evictions and the imminent threat of demolition.

For over a century, Sagrado Corazón Catholic Church has served the people of South El Paso, including Duranguito.

Sagrado Corazón stands with the vulnerable residents of Duranguito, who are typically of low-income and immigrants, as well as for the preservation of historic neighborhoods and architecture in our city. In the words of Pope Francis:

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 19)

The procession will begin at 7:00 p.m. at Firemen’s Memorial Park, 316 West Overland and proceed through the neighborhood. The matachines, Danza del Sagrado Corazón will join the event.

For more information, interested persons can contact Fr. Rafael García, S.J., Associate Pastor and Ministry with Migrant and Refugee Persons, at Sacred Heart Church at 915-532-5447.

Coalition to Preserve Neighborhood Slated for Arena to Present Petition to City Monday

Paso del Sur (PDS), a coalition to preserve Duranguito in Union Plaza, will be submitting over 2,400 signatures to the City of El Paso, in hopes of saving the neighborhood in downtown, slated for demolition for the proposed arena.

The petitions are the result of several weeks of collection and request that a Historic-overlay be established in Duranguito, creating the historic district that the city’s own architectural survey had recommended 19 years ago.

According to the group’s news release, the coalition includes “residents of Barrio Duranguito, the small business owners of El Tiradero Market, Paso del Sur, the El Paso History Alliance, as well as the people of El Paso who stand against the displacement of our communities and the erasure of our history.”

PDS Officials go on to state, “This petition is a direct call by the registered voters of El Paso County to Mayor Oscar Leeser, City Council Representatives Peter Svarzbein, Jim Tolbert, Emma Acosta, Carl L. Robinson, Dr. Michiel Noe, Claudia Ordaz, Lily Limon, Cortney Niland and their successors to designate Duranguito as a historic district and prevent the demolition of El Paso’s first and oldest neighborhood.”

 “The city propaganda machine would have us believe that the fight for Barrio Duranguito has been lost—that there is only one holdout in the neighborhood unwilling to sell. However, with the submission of this petition we will show that the people of El Paso stand firm, in solidarity with the residents and small business owners in Duranguito, calling on the Mayor and City Council Representatives of El Paso to move the arena, not the people.” PDS officials added.

The petition will be submitted to City Clerk Richarda Duffy Momsen at her office Monday afternoon. Officials say that immediately after the petition is turned in, a statement will be given to the media in front of City Hall.

To read our previous coverage of the arena saga, click HERE.  Photo gallery courtesy Jon Eckberg

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