pat-selvesLast Tuesday City Council received a report about the city’s finances. Almost across the board, the report stated that the city was doing better in almost all revenue sources. After the report was presented, the city council representatives congratulated themselves for their leadership. Patting themselves on the back, they proclaimed that the city is on the right path.

That is how public perception is manufactured. Let’s take a closer look at this.

As part of the presentation, the council heard that revenues from permitting, bridge fees, sales taxes and especially the HOT taxes, among others, were greater than expected. The numbers that city staff used to generate the glowing report is probably accurate. I do not believe that they lied about the numbers.

However, what I believe is that the politicians like to project “it’s all good” by issuing glowing reports without context. Let me explain.

The numbers used in the latest report include factual information about the fees and taxes but they neglect to put in the context that the numbers have been affected by unique outside forces unlikely to repeat again. In this case, the obvious outside influence on the HOT taxes is the bowling tournament held during the first six-months of the year.

This is a one-time event that brought in visitors to the city that are unlikely to come back next year in the same numbers. It was a one-time event. They stayed in hotels and ate food in the city, thus the HOT taxes went up and they generated higher sales taxes during their stay.

While the city politicians are patting themselves on the back, two news reports were reporting the sobering fact that not all is good with the city’s economic engine.

First is the El Paso Inc. report in the dwindling airport traffic. On July 28, 2015, David Crowder quoted Rick LaFleur, the general manager of the Airport Wyndham Hotel, as stating that “it scares the hell out of” him when he looks at the 20% drop in traffic at the airport.

Of course, all of you are now aware of the Bloomberg report showing that El Pasoans are ditching El Paso in droves.

My problem is not with city staff reporting factual information about the state of affairs in the city. That is their job.

My problem is with the city officials who were pontificating about how well the city is doing because of their public policy management. It is one thing to have a temporary bump because of a one-time injection of economic activity because of the bowling tournament, however, it is an entirely different thing to show long-term stability because of a public policy that has created the necessary infrastructure to show continued economic growth.

All indicators, airport traffic down and taxpayers leaving the city, demonstrates a long-term problem.

Honest politicians would have celebrated the one-time economic jump by reminding everyone of the context of the numbers they based their celebrations on.

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...

11 replies on “Patting Themselves on the Back”

  1. Meanwhile, I am visiting in San Antonio this week, and I saw on the local news over here that San Antonio is the only city with a population over 1 million with a triple A credit rating, and is actually going to lower (that’s right: LOWER) the property tax rate!

  2. as you always like to point out Ali Baba is that location, location, location, makes the difference in most cases. city manager form of government has nothing to do with San Antonio’s success on Taxes.

      1. so you just posted that because your still a little butt hurt about Martin founding out who you were ?

  3. I agree, perhaps it’s the quality of civic leaders and an voting population.

    The manager system is in place everywhere, we just didn’t need the last one. Judging from quality of the reps, we NEED a manager.

    The issue I have is how in 24 hours the city is suddenly in the black. Vudoo math ? Something is not right. The other problem is instead of using the so called surplus to pay down on the bills, they decide to buy new things. If the garbage trucks need repairs, fix them. When and if we ever truly get a balanced budget or stop the out of control spending, then we buy new vehicles. Isn’t that what most of us do ?

    Strange, that it hasn’t been discussed anywhere that El Paso has not been the safest city for two years. That’s regardless of the organization that does the study. They use the same FBI statistics. The Times barely alluded to the fact and buried it deep in the lengthy article.

    So before everyone starts cheering, how about the truth. If we are still being told we are the safest city and its not true, why should we believe this story.

    Instead of gaining public trust, it’s getting more difficult every day. Save the pat on the back and cover the face.

    1. in the old system under the mayor didnt the CFO basically do what the City Manager is supposed to do ? make suggestions but not be a puppet and try to save the taxpayer money ? basically , not try to spend us into debt like wilson ? wilson helped and pushed the Ball park and found ways around having to get voter approval along with tearing down city hall imho. now what was those famous words Josh Hunt said according to Cook when Cook told him he was crazy if he thought the voters would approve tearing down city hall ? “You let us worry about that !”

      1. from what i remember the new mayor would bring in a new staff(usually have a CPA) that did what the City manager would do and would leave if the mayor lost the next election. the mayor only had 2 year terms back then so it wasn’t secure jobs for his staff. they also weren’t paid 6 figures with bonuses like the city managers and their underlings.

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