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.