stopdowntalkingOn Tuesday, city council discussed the possible annexation of land “along Zaragosa”. During the council’s discourse, there was an outburst by Cortney “Sin Zapatos” Niland towards city attorney Sylvia Borunda-Firth and Oscar Leeser. Many of you who have followed Cortney Niland since her election knows that Niland lacks basic interpersonal skills frequently belittling individuals she perceives as below her, not to mention she doesn’t think it is important for her to wear shoes at the city council chambers. What happened Tuesday was not only her normal condescending mode but also it was nothing more than protecting one of her political benefactors.

During Michiel Noe’s presentation to city council, he pointed out that one of the largest property owners in the targeted area is River Oaks Properties. It was Noe who posted the item on the agenda. According to Noe, River Oaks has been the obstacle in the discussions about annexing the land. Noe wanted to give the city attorney authority to do what was needed to complete the annexation of the area.

You might remember River Oaks Properties when Cortney Niland defended her use of free office space from them back in 2011. At the time, Niland was running for her office. Her campaign headquarters was located at 5380 N. Mesa in a building owned by River Oaks Properties. Niland was not paying rent on her campaign headquarters.

When it was pointed out that corporations cannot make in-kind campaign contributions to candidates, River Oaks’ president, Adam Frank came to her defense stating that he was personally paying for the rent on the property. Gerald Rubin owns River Oaks and is Frank’s father-in-law. According to campaign finance reports, the value of the “rent” was $1,350. River Oaks, a large commercial property developer, was supporting Niland’s campaign because of the issue of the imposition of smart growth principals on commercial property the city was pursuing. The smart growth principals increases the cost of commercial development. Niland publicly stated that she opposed mandatory smart growth principals and instead would pursue voluntary adherence to the principals.

Additionally, in December 2012, Cortney Niland led the charge to allow River Oaks to demolish the Union Bank Building – a Henry Trost designed building. The El Paso Historical Landmark Commission had denied the demolition application.

Last Tuesday’s pontification by Niland not only once again demonstrated her disdain for everyone else she perceives as beneath her but it also demonstrated how Niland likes to keep public policy issues that benefit her benefactors behind closed doors. As you pierce through the public exchange, you will notice that Cortney Niland was upset that the discussion about “water fees” was exposed to the community.

You might remember that it was Niland who pursued and pushed for the water franchise fee that businesses are having to pay for now. No doubt many of them, if not all business owners, are upset at this new “fee” that in some cases account for 30% or more of their water utility fees. Imagine how they will feel if a major commercial developer was exempted from paying water utility fees, they have to pay. Keep in mind that annexation to the city for the developer increases the viability of the value of the raw land and the waiver of fees only increases the bottom line for the developer.

I am sure Niland’s defenders will rally in her defense and therefore I believe it is important to point out the following verbal exchanges during Tuesday’s discussion.

The city attorney inconveniently let out two facts that Niland was hoping to keep a secret. The issue was that everyone agreed that the piece of land needs to be annexed and the owners are looking forward to it. The problem is that River Oaks, who owns a significant portion of the land to be annexed forced the issue of annexation to be separated into two distinct issues to allow the city to deal with the immediate problem of resolving one part of the issue while allowing the developer to exact fee waivers for the rest of the annexation.

During her explanation to council, the city attorney stated that the developer agreed to convey the ‘little sliver” needed for Pebble Hills. Adding that annexation was separated by the “major developer” into a separate discussion. The “sliver” allowed the city to deal with the immediate need while giving the developer an advantage for special treatment on the rest of the annexation.

The “major developer” is requesting that the city waive water fees and other PSB fees. This has stalled the negotiations. What the developer wants is for the city to waive the expensive water fees that the city has been imposing in order to curtail growth outside of the city.

Niland was upset because the issue of fee waivers was brought up publicly, instead of in executive session. During the discussion, the mayor pointed out that Niland approached Oscar Leeser the previous Wednesday. Leeser was pointing out how Niland was attempting to work behind the scenes for River Oaks through the mayor’s office. Instead, Niland, on Tuesday was attempting to disguise her pontification as an issue about city council making policy when in fact she was protecting River Oaks.

As a matter of fact, Niland stated, “we offended a major developer in this community”. The “offense” was because the public now knows that River Oaks is trying to avoid fees others are subject to having to pay.

Leeser told Niland “I think you are having sidebars with the developers that no one else is having”. Clearly pointing out how Niland was trying to keep the fee issue hidden from the public. Leeser added to Niland, “I don’t ever want to talk down to anyone” at the city.

Niland started out being upset about the exposure one of the her major benefactors was enduring but unfortunately for her by the time her indignation was over not only was River Oaks exposed for trying to avoid water fees but Niland also demonstrated her disdain for those that she perceives as below her.

Now sit back and entertain yourself as you see how a certain useful idiot comes to the defense of Cortney Niland because not only am I pointing this out but Maria Garcia of KVIA further exposed Niland on the local news on Tuesday night. In Niland’s mind, this cannot be allowed to stand and she is now busy barking orders at her useful idiots.

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...

5 replies on “Cortney Niland’s Hypocritical Defense of One of Her Benefactors”

  1. She is proof that the Beverly Hillbillies was based on a true story. Names were changed to save El Paso embarrassment.

  2. *Sigh* Martin you are a piece of work. What exactly does her choice of footwear matter for the discussion you were planning to have? After the pains you’ve gone through to vilify her with the Limon thing, this is why people think you are writing hit pieces on _certain_ people. On an issue where you have some legitimate stuff to bash her with you have to bring up her shoes? What are you five? Who cares?

    Getting back to the issue at hand, I actually agree with you about some of that stuff. I do think it’s troubling that Niland is so close to River Oaks. For all of her whining about various issues and her attacking the city attorneys for not doing their jobs, I think it’s highly questionable that she is having discussions with property owners about their property WHILE the city is negotiating with them to buy some of that very same property. That’s just wrong for so many reasons and Niland should know better. That seems like some sort of ethics violation IMO.

    I also found her going off on Leeser to be fascinating. I don’t think it means that she is ANY more elitist or dismissive of other people than other members of the City Circus (Limon, Acosta, Lilly, and Robinson all come to mind as being very up front about the fact that they hold certain people to be better than other people for various reasons, be it money, race, etc…), but it was certainly interesting to hear. That’s also when it became painfully obvious that she was having discussions with River Oaks while they were negotiating with the city.

    That aside though, you know who is most at fault for the Pebble Hills thing? It’s the City and the overly optimistic city council that voted to only pursue voluntary annexations that created these stupid doughnut holes. If you go over and look at the zoning map ( you can see what they are talking and if you do a tiny bit of research with CAD to figure out who owns what, you can see that River Oaks owns a tiny sliver of land that the street would be built on, and two other entities own the rest of the land.

    I know some folks who work at the city and my understanding is that several departments have been working to make that extension happen for a couple of years now, but because the city has no process for initiating annexations, all three property owners had to go through the process to annex their land and pay for it out of pocket BEFORE the city could even buy the land to build the road on. Is it ANY surprise that this process has been long and drawn out? I’ve also heard that ti was the middle property owner (not River Oaks) who was less interested in selling the land in question because it was going to carve up their lot from one rectangular lot into two significantly smaller triangular lots that would be harder to develop.

    I think it was Noe that mentioned it in council, but this property owner actually wants to build something on their land presumably for the same reason that River Oaks wants to develop their huge chunk of land. Only problem is that the smaller property owner isn’t in a rush and doesn’t have a ton of money so things have moved slowly. If you “connect the dots” as you like to do, you would see that the main problem that caused all this mess is that the city didn’t give itself a way to come in and say “Ok, we need to annex you because we are annexing this other property and once that happens you will be in a doughnut hole and we don’t allow those”. Dr. Noe seemed to appreciate that issue and I hope they fix that problem so that they get rid of those doughnut holes. If you consider that River Oaks has a big chunk of land in this particular doughnut hole I can easily imagine why someone came up with the idea of not pursuing mandatory annexations.

    After all, who wants to upset the builders and other developers in the city who might own large tracts of land just outside the city limits? Imagine how much tax revenue we gave up by not annexing that land years ago when the propert around it got annexed? I know that’s why a lot of people stay outside of the city limits, but in cases like this it’s just a sad fact of land ownership that sometimes you are forced to come into a city because the city is growing. Having a policy of only pursuing voluntary annexation means that the RIver Oakses of the city can buy up loads of land, leave it out of the city even if it’s surrounded by the city on all sides and avoid paying city taxes on it until they feel like bringing it into the city limits.

    Personally I find that to be more offensive and if I remember correctly I think Niland was involved in those policy changes when they came into play. I’d rather criticize her for things like that (and the sketchy thing you pointed out with the free rent from River Oaks) than for whether or now she wears shoes. Seriously man, grow up. Go after the real issues and do some simple investigating. It is AMAZING what you can find if you just look at what is available as public information.

  3. Martin,

    As much as I’d like to bite here – I can’t. You’ve got two teams here that are using the mayor and city council to war with each other. One team supported Niland and not Leeser and the other supported Leeser and not Niland. It’s a pretty typical battle that goes on with many issues.

    What I did learn watching the exchange is that the mayor has the power to cut a council member’s mic. That was done repeatedly. I’m happy that we all know the truth on that one. There was some question as to whether or not it was going on – if you remember.

    The next time I go to a council meeting I’m going to tell Rep. Niland to put her shoes on and stop being a meanie weenie because it upsets you. We don’t need you getting all stressed out while you’re connecting all these dots.

  4. The useless idiots jump in rabidly to defend her commonality and vulgar ways. They hope it’ll get them an invite for a photo op with the oligarchs that they can frame and hang in their cubicle. But notice how they completely avoid the more substantive issue of her unethical conduct. They don’t want you to dwell on that. You do have to wonder how long El Paso’s esteemed blue blood oligarch philanthropists and corporate welfare beneficiaries can stomach her embarrassing displays. Surely they can afford to buy more dignified representation.

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