Today, about 35,000 signatures were submitted to the District Clerk’s office effectively stopping the scheduled vote for the non-voter approved debt that UMC had asked county commissioners to approve. On June 27, the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) asked the county commissioners to approve $345.7 million in certificates of obligation to be issued to make upgrades to the county hospital’s facilities. Soon after the county commissioners authorized the publication of the required notices to issue the non-voter approved debt, two citizen petitions were launched to stop UMC’s effort to bypass the voters.
One was launched by the Libre Initiative and the other by a Special-Purpose Committee created by former city representative Michiel Noe and former county commissioner Vince Perez. The two signature drives collected signatures from El Paso’s voters asking that the voter be given the opportunity to vote on UMC’s request rather than bypassing them through the county commissioners.
Karla Sierra told El Paso News today:
“By reaching the more-than 25K signatures needed to prevent the commission from rubber-stamping this tax hike, voters are sending a clear message to the El Paso County Commissioners Court that our community is demanding that we have a say before we are forced to incur new debt and see our property taxes go up. For far too long, El Paso has become a place where elected local, state, and federal officials continuously overstep their bounds and fail to protect the interests of our community. To that we are saying: Enough is enough!
We urge the El Paso County Commissioners Court to not only delay the vote, but to reject the proposal from the University Medical Center’s plans to issue non-voter approved debt for expansion projects.
Now more than ever, with so many in El Paso struggling to make ends meet and paying so much in taxes – now is not the time to take on new debt and pay more in property taxes.
Let the people have a say!”
Organizers for the two petition drives were required to collect a little over 25,000 signatures to force UMC to take the matter to the voters. State law requires that “5% of the voters” must sign the petition. According to the County Elections Department website, there are 503,268 registered voters in the county today. As such, for the petition to be successful, the petition organizers were required to submit no less than 25,164 signatures. The 35,000 reported signatures are more than sufficient to stop the UMC vote.
Now that the signatures have been submitted, they must be validated by the county. However, until the signatures are validated, the county commissioners cannot vote to issue UMC’s debt. Item number eight in the county commissioner’s agenda for Monday asks the county commissioners to vote on the UMC debt. However, now that the signatures have been submitted, the agenda item is likely to be postponed, or deleted. If the signatures are validated, then UMC will be forced to take their request to the voters. It is unknown at this point whether there is enough time to put UMC’s public debt on the November ballot.
No word yet from the Noe and Perez petition drive.
El Paso News will stay with this developing news and report as more information becomes available.