We are labeled shortsighted, crazies or idiots when we point out this inconvenient fact each time the latest and greatest economic engine for the renaissance of the city is floated by the politicians. The problem is not that many of us do not want economic development for the city – it is that we want economic development projects to create new sources of money.
The problem with the ballpark, as an economic engine, is that it is not creating new money; instead, it is shifting the existing money from taxpaying businesses into the ballpark. This is not economic development. It is taking from one pot and putting it into another. That is what the politico majority driving the ballpark fiasco do not understand.
Of course, some of my readers reading this also do not seem to grasp this simple concept. So let me enlighten those who still don’t get it.
On August 31, David Crowder wrote in the El Paso Inc. a piece titled “East El Paso: Where the action is”. In it Crowder quoted John Geske as stating that he “didn’t want to sound like a hater, but the ballpark wasn’t good for the Union Plaza”. You remember the Union Plaza, right. With much fanfare, it was supposed to reenergize downtown redevelopment. Geske, according to Crowder, stated that his restaurant has found itself competing with the ballpark’s concessions.
Clearly, here is a long-time successful restaurateur making the argument for me; that the ballpark did not create new disposable income, instead, it shifted it away from a taxpaying restaurant towards a tax-subsidized ballpark. It took the existing money and shifted it to the ballpark that the taxpayers own. How that creates, an economic boom is beyond me.
Geske concluded by telling Crowder that he is done doing new things in El Paso and instead is looking to go out of town. Hmm, that sounds like something I did three years ago.
On Wednesday, the news media and social media was abuzz about tomorrow’s closing of Kipps Cheesesteak. You remember Kupper Gray, owner of Kipps Cheesesteaks? He was being interviewed in May 2013 by the news media because he was telling everyone that would listen to him how excited he was the ballpark was coming to downtown. He told KDBC on May 30, 2013 “more people will be heading to the downtown area and can only have a positive affect on his” restaurant.
Business owners like Kipp ignore basic economic realities and buy into the notion that if you build it they will come. The problem is not downtown El Paso is economically depressed. The notion that giving people a reason to go downtown will somehow increase the city’s viability is idiocy at its best. The actual economic problem for El Paso is that there is limited disposable income to go around. Building some new fandangle does not create new money it just shifts it from an existing location to the new one.
The only way to resolve the economic stagnation of El Paso is to incentivize new money into the city. What the city leaders have instead done is take the existing money and funnel it into something new resulting in businesses closing down because they have become unsustainable.
What is even worse, in the case of the ballpark, is that businesses that are shutting down were taxpaying businesses paying into the city’s coffers. Now, that money, that was previously productive for the city, is now being funneled into the ballpark, an economic drain on the taxpayers of the community. It just cannot get any clearer than that. However, there are still some you that will argue the ballpark is the economic catalyst the city so desperately needs.
How anyone can continue to argue that even with the overwhelming evidence is beyond me, but their doing so explains why El Paso is led by those who have no understanding of basic economics. As a result, El Paso remains economically stagnated and getting worse every day.