As you likely already know, Peter Svarzbein voted yesterday to deny having the city keep the historical survey grant that city officials want to return because they could not get a buy in from downtown property owners. As expected, the El Paso County Historical Commission is irate that Svarzbein did not support them.
In this blog, I want to address Peter Svarzbein’s political rhetoric during both the campaign for District 1 and the notion of campaign donations. It is important to note that I am focusing only on the political rhetoric and not on whether the historical survey grant is proper or not. Because the reality is that, I grew up in a country where property owners have little to no actual control over their homesteads and I am against any public policy that tries to tell a real estate owner what they can and cannot do with their real estate holdings. I will have a blog about property ownership in tomorrow’s edition.
For now, let us focus on Peter Svarzbein’s political rhetoric because the fact is that politicians lie to be elected and the electorate chooses their elected officials on lies. Peter Svarzbein happens to prove this conclusively.
Peter Svarzbein based his political experience on his quest to preserve and bring back the historical trollies to El Paso. On May 24, 2015, Svarzbein issued a political statement (screen capture below) stating that he supports “the El Paso County Historical Commission” in their “efforts to create a National Historical District downtown.”
Clearly, Svarzbein was pandering to a political powerbase and made the promise that if elected he would vote their policy agenda.
Yet, on the very first opportunity to support the historical public policy agenda of the El Paso County Historical Commission, Peter Svarzbein voted against the survey grant.
The Texas Historical Commission’s $56,000 grant was supposed to be used to conduct an extensive survey of El Paso’s downtown historical buildings.
Those opposed to the use of the grant are downtown property owners who see the survey as an attempt to implement additional requirements on their investments. Many of the property owners donated to Svarzbein’s campaign.
On one hand, Peter Svarzbein was running on a platform of supporting downtown historical preservation and on the other hand, he was accepting money from the same property owners that were against it.
Although I happen to side with the property owners on this issue (think TIF districts) the fact remains that Peter Svarzbein’s vote on the matter went in line with the wishes of his largest donors. During the most recent election cycle, I created various infographics and analysis of where campaign donations were going because for many years I have alleged that the city’s public policy agenda is driven by some very wealthy campaign donors.
Peter Svarzbein’s vote on the historical survey further supports my thesis.
A few minutes ago I received a from Peter Svarzbein’s office about his vote. In his statement, Svarzbein writes:
“No plan, survey or historical designation will work without robust support from the folks who live and own property in that district.” [original emphasis]
I happen to agree with Svarzbein’s position that historical preservation requires a buy in from the property owners, however it is nothing more than a political ploy to once again hoodwink part of his support base. The only constituency that benefited from Svarzbein’s vote were his largest campaign contributors.
In El Paso politics, money talks and moneyless grassroots constituency do not matter.