umc_shell_game_07Because I had previously written about the Children’s Hospital fiasco and that the rhetoric was a nothing more than a prelude to a county tax increase, notwithstanding the pontificating politicians, it was no surprise to learn that the taxpayer funded hospital was laying off employees. Nothing get’s the attention of the community better then layoffs of good paying jobs. In El Paso the majority of good paying jobs are government jobs funded by the taxpayers. Tax funded entities need voters to funnel taxpayer funds to them. Laying off tax-funded employees is how a taxpayer funded entity drives its point across. UMC needs taxpayer funds to survive. Because taxes are an unpalatable word at the moment, Veronica Escobar clearly understands this, the taxpayer monies need to be secured without calling them a tax increase.

Therefore, instead of taxes, University Medical Center is asking for permission from county politicians to borrow money, $20 million to be exact. But make no mistake the credit line is guaranteed by the taxpayers of the community because they are the asset that will guarantee the money and the sources of the funds to pay off the loans.

In other words, and very poignant indeed, the taxpayers will pay off the borrowed money but in this case they will also be paying interest to the lenders. A double whammy for the taxpayers. I realize some of you are groaning right now proclaiming that I’ve got it all wrong. You are pounding your fists saying that UMC is only partially funded by the taxpayers of the community. Of course, some of you are saying that because it’s all a shell game being played out through the news media. The news media dutifully reports what it is told never asking the tough questions.

Earlier this month, UMC told the news media, and the news media dutifully reported that UMC was asking for a $60 million line of credit (July 8). Then yesterday that figure has been cut down to $20 million. This is after Jim Valenti tearfully announced laying off 56 taxpayer funded employees because of the Children’s Hospital lack of payments to UMC. Along with the layoff announcements Valenti stated that they were implementing other cost cutting measures including not filling certain open positions, however adding that there is no hiring freeze at UMC. Double speak at its perfection.

Somehow cost cutting measures and firing 56 employees resulted in lowering the need for $60 million down to $20 million. All that in about 20 days. Imagine if UMC spent another 20 days looking for more cost savings? However it is not about that. It is about public manipulation.

Playing the game of “we will closely look” into the financial status of UMC by Veronica Escobar and Vince Perez allows the politicians to wrap themselves under the mantra that they are for the taxpayers. Proclaiming they would not support a tax increase reinforces that notion. However, look closely at their commentary. Escobar and Perez are saying they will hold UMC to the fire while at the same time proclaiming how important the Children’s Hospital is and how important the jobs are for El Paso.

As the game continues to play out, notice how the politicians will proclaim a winning strategy of allowing UMC to borrow money and not raise taxes. They will gleefully proclaim they didn’t raise taxes and saved jobs, UMC and the Children’s Hospital.

Unfortunately the community will lap it all up because the news media will dutifully report that UMC’s budget is only partially funded by the taxpayers of the community while putting laid off UMC employees on television crying about how their families don’t know what they are going to do now that the breadwinner doesn’t have a taxpayer funded job. It will help if crying children are put on TV asking where their next meal will come from. Because, the reality is that, all of this is a game whose goal is to secure more taxpayer funds.

Back in 2007, Jim Valeniti’s greatest supporter was Veronica Escobar. The Children’s Hospital’s greatest cheerleader was Veronica Escobar. In 2007 Jim Valenti went around town proclaiming how the Children’s Hospital was the next best thing since apple pie and this weekend he is blaming the Children’s Hospital as the cause for laying off people. In both cases the pontifications was about the need to get the taxpayers to buy into his rhetoric.

Likewise, on October 17, 2007, Veronica Escobar held a press conference in front of Thomason Hospital proclaiming that the Children’s Hospital is a “vital piece of the economic development engine” for rebuilding El Paso. To her credit, Escobar continues to proclaim that saving the Children’s Hospital is important. However she clearly understands that she cannot just wave her wand and raise taxes. So she needs to rely on a shell game of borrowing money while holding UMC accountable, wink wink.

Now you can clearly see why Veronica Escobar forced the vote for a county administrator because with a malleable county administrator Escobar doesn’t need to play a public shell game, all she needs to do is manipulate the budget through her hand-picked county administrator to get the results she desires.

The bottom line is that any money that the University Medical Center borrows is taxpayer guaranteed and payable by the taxpayers, albeit with interest added to it. Any monies that the Children’s Hospital owes UMC are taxpayer monies. It is the taxpayers that are the pawns in this elaborate shell game being played out between Veronica Escobar, Vince Perez and Jim Valenti.

And make no mistake; they all clearly understand what it is they are doing. It is the taxpayers that will be hoodwinked yet again.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “The UMC Shell Game”

  1. Jim Valenti even had Ray Gilbert, the late, great veteran El Paso ankle biter, fooled. I questioned Mr. Gilbert’s support of the Children’s Hospital and he told me had faith that Jim Valenti had done his homework and worked out the numbers. Unfortunately, Mr. Valenti didn’t count on the possibility of Medicaid decrease in payments to free-standing hospitals, one of the reasons he cites for the financial problems at Children’s and subsequently at UMC. I say never, never, never base solidity of a plan on factors that can easily change, including government payments.

  2. We keep putting them in office I was against Children’s Hospital no background in finance or economics just common sense. Eventually it was due to happen, taxpayers to the rescue. You have 3+ more years of her. Any bets on this new County Manager will lead to Deputy County Managers, CFO, Director of this, Director of that, and more political bilking of tax payer monies?

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