Wednesday, September 19, 2012

El Paso City Council backs ballpark: Stadium deal waits on Mayor John Cook ... - Las Cruces Sun-News

›› Related: Triple-A baseball team purchase for El Paso may close within week
›› Replay live coverage from the council meeting
›› Photos: El Paso City Council vote on baseball stadium

El Paso will play ball in 2014 -- if Mayor John Cook doesn't strike the deal with his veto authority.

"We're very happy, very excited for El Paso and don't believe the mayor will veto this project," said local businessman and philanthropist Paul Foster of MountainStar Sports Group, the private investment group bringing the Tucson Padres to El Paso. "We're moving forward."

After more than six hours of passionate public discussion Tuesday, the City Council approved a contract with MountainStar for the lease of the $50 million ballpark that will be built Downtown and house the Triple-A minor league team.

Cook left the council chambers immediately after the approval and would not comment on whether he plans to veto the vote. Under the city

charter, he has five days to do so. Three-fourths of the representatives -- six of the eight -- could vote to override his veto.

More than 100 people spoke in favor of or in opposition to the ballpark, which the council in June agreed to build where City Hall now stands if MountainStar Sports secured a team. The June action was challenged by a certified petition, which asked that the vote be rescinded, but the council voted down that option Tuesday.

Instead, the council voted 4-3 in favor of approving the contract, after which the audience erupted in cheers, high-fives and congratulatory handshakes. A few opponents still in the room promised that their fight against the ballpark and the demolition of City Hall wasn't over.

City Reps. Ann Morgan Lilly, Susie Byrd, Dr. Michiel Noe and Cortney Niland voted in favor of the contract. Reps. Eddie Holguin, Carl Robinson and Emma Acosta voted against it. Rep. Steve Ortega was on his honeymoon and did not attend the meeting, but he had expressed his support for the project from the beginning.

The Pacific Coast League on Tuesday told MountainStar it had approved the sale, transfer and relocation of the Tucson team to El Paso for the 2014 season with conditions,

including that the city agreed to move forward with the lease and ballpark construction.

Tuesday, the council cemented the deal with the MountainStar group by approving the lease contract.

The 25-year lease carries a base rent of $20,000 a year, with an increase of 10 percent every five years. The lease also calls for a 50-cent ticket surcharge for the city, with a 10 percent increase every five years. The city will also receive $24,000 a year with a 10 percent increase every five years, with other parking revenues split between the city and MountainStar.

The contract also calls for the originally proposed no-compete clause to be removed. That means the El Paso Diablos, who now lease the city-owned Cohen Stadium, can continue to play there past 2016 if the city extends their lease.

Also Tuesday, the council approved a ballpark development agreement that establishes a process and schedule for the design and construction of the ballpark, as well as a nonrelocation agreement that keeps the team in El Paso for at least 25 years and sets penalties if the team is relocated.

The council also approved an $81 million City Hall Relocation and Ballpark Capital Improvement Plan, which sets into motion the purchase of buildings into which city offices will be moved, allocates money for the move and identifies funding sources for the plan. The $81 million includes the cost of the ballpark construction.

The proposed purchase of the El Paso Times building and another on Texas Avenue were postponed, although the City Council accepted Foster's donation of the Luther Building. City Manager Joyce Wilson said the city is still working out what offices will move where, but she added that the move is now expected to happen in March and that demolition and construction would follow soon after.

Moving forward, MountainStar now expects to receive approval from Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball, which in essence is a rubber-stamp approval of the Pacific Coast League's recommendation, officials said. That approval could come within a few days, MountainStar investors said.

The majority of opponents who spoke during Tuesday's meeting said they supported a ballpark, but wanted the opportunity to vote on the stadium and where it should be located. Saying they believed the process skirted the democratic process, some opponents threatened to recall those elected officials who voted in favor of demolishing City Hall to make room for the ballpark.

"This will cause irreparable harm to Downtown El Paso," said former County Commissioner Charlie Hooten.

Many said that they didn't believe the expense of relocating city offices and the Insights El Paso Science Museum was financially prudent, and some advocated still for Cohen Stadium to be renovated to accommodate the new team.

Foster said he believes the city, including those who opposed the deal, will be happy with the ballpark, the team and the economic boost they will bring to the city and Downtown.

First, he said, the excitement over Triple-A baseball must translate to ticket sales.

"The city needs to support it, we gotta fill seats, we gotta sell tickets, promotions, season tickets, all those things," Foster said. "When we do that, the rest will follow."

Those in favor of the ballpark shared an array of views, speaking for progress, revitalization, economic development opportunities -- and hope for the future.

Veronica Soto, executive director of the Downtown Management District, said the taxing district that works to improve the Downtown area strongly supported the ballpark and the November bond propositions.

Soto couldn't hold back her tears as she spoke to the council on a personal note.

"My most important title is spelled M-O-M," she said. "And as a mother, I would love for this city to be a viable option for my children when they grow up. I want them to have the same opportunities here that they would have anywhere else."

Josh Hunt, one of the MountainStar partners, said baseball "means quality, affordable family entertainment for El Paso," and he added that the level of baseball and entertainment at the ballpark is something El Paso has never had.

His father, Woody Hunt, focused more on the bigger picture, saying the ballpark is just one component in what's needed to provide economic development for the city.

"We have to look at the medical school, the children's hospital and other assets to improve our community," the senior Hunt said. "It doesn't end here."

Cindy Ramirez may be reached at cramirez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6151.


About the veto
According to the city charter, Mayor John Cook has until Sunday to exercise his veto power. Here is the section of the city charter that pertains to a mayor's veto:
-- Veto. Ordinances and resolutions finally adopted by the Council shall be filed in the office of the City Clerk and signed by the Mayor before they take effect. If the Mayor vetoes the ordinance or resolution, reasons shall be set forth by the Mayor in writing, and the ordinance or resolution with those reasons shall be returned to the Council. However, the Mayor shall not have any veto power over any City Council action which removes the City Manager. To override the Mayor's veto, three fourths of all of the Representatives must vote in favor of the returned ordinance or resolution, in which event the adopted ordinance or resolution shall become law. If the Mayor shall either fail to approve or object in writing to any adopted ordinance or resolution within five days after it has been filed with the City Clerk, exclusive of the day of filing, it shall become law."

Sound Off! (Sept. 19) - Las Cruces Sun-News

This is about the teachers strike and about teachers in general. How can you be evaluated if not by the success of your students? We need to pay good teachers more and let the ones who are not making headway with the students go.

People bashing the Chicago teachers union should know they are fighting for the students. Seventy-five percent of the schools have no air conditioning and classes have 45 students. The average salary is $76,000 because of exorbitant salaries for administrators, but teachers only make $35,000 a year.

Las Cruces is big enough and has enough need for a veterans hospital or a larger clinic than we have now here in Las Cruces, so we don't have to go to El Paso. If we go to El Paso on one of the VA rides, we may have to wait all day long to get back.

If the Las Cruces police would patrol the University Avenue shortly before 7 am in the morning to around 7:30 am, they would do a tidy business in speeding tickets.

This is about the strip club, The Bronx. What you're going to get is more drugs, prostitution, police involvement, drunks on the road and undesirables hopping on and off the interstate. And most importantly, you are going to get four or five more strip joints in this town within a year or two after that first one is opened.

I am an 80-year-old woman. We went to Juarez with friends, once or twice a year, to the entertainment club because there were none in Las Cruces. We occasionally went to a strip club. I just

thought they were pretty ridiculous, but there was no harm resulting. So if you don't like them, just don't go. Live and let live.

Evelyn Madrid Erhard's experience managing budgets and her common-sense approach wins me over any day over Pearce's unabashed allegiance to the rich and corporations at the expense of the middle class. Erhard will fight for the middle class.

I am glad that a Sound Off! pointed out that Evelyn Madrid Erhard is not an old-time politician. That makes her the better candidate for Congress. She won't vote to get rid of Medicare.

The caller who commented about Evelyn Madrid Erhard obviously does not know anything about her. As far as Mr. Pearce goes, check his record for yourself. He has been part of the obstruction of Congress. It is time to clean house.

I ran for Las Cruces City Council in 2011 and I feel that we are qualified with Clerk Ellins and I will not be voting for Dolores Lucero Connor. I have come to the conclusion that not only is she is a bad sport but Clerk Ellins has done a great job and we should stick with him.

Where is the rage in America against the Middle East? I am tired of seeing a rage against America and our flag burning.

Years ago the National Endowment for the Arts sponsored an exhibit featuring a crucifix in a jar of urine. Christians were told at the time it was a free speech issue. Yet now the Obama administration is attacking a filmmaker for making a spoof of the life of Mohammed. Isn't this hypocritical?

I see Mitt Romney mourning the death of these people that got killed in Libya including the ambassador but he could not help himself by bad-mouthing Obama at the end. He could have separated that and done it at another time, but he did not. That tells me something about him.

Reports say that Obama had two full days warning about the attacks on the embassies but apparently chose to do nothing. Now four people are dead and these people would be alive had he acted properly.

There were 12 attacks and also the 9/11 bringing down of the Twin Towers during George Bush's presidency and yet the Republicans and Romney have the audacity to say that Obama is weak and all these attacks are happening, as if nothing happened during Bush's time in office?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EPISD to interview interim superintendent candidate - El Paso Times

El Paso Independent School District trustees are expected to interview a candidate for the position of interim superintendent today.

The interview comes a week after EPISD board members appointed Ken George as temporary interim superintendent to replace Terri Jordan, who stepped down to focus on her family.

EPISD board members are scheduled to have a closed interview session with the candidate during the district's regular board meeting. The meeting will be at 5 p.m. today at the Education Center on Boeing Drive.

The name of the candidate is being kept secret by James Vasquez, executive director of the Region 19 Education Service Center. Vasquez has been helping the district find interim superintendent

candidates.

Vasquez did not feel comfortable revealing the candidate's name because board members have not met the individual.

"I don't want to comment on it until the board talks to him. I just serve to contact the individuals that may be interested," Vasquez said. "I've been talking to a whole bunch of people. We may bring more than one (candidate)."

Vasquez said the candidate will be introduced today. No date has been set for when the board will make a selection.

"It's a process, and the individuals who apply, if they are not going to be selected, they may not want their names to be public," he said.

Last week, school board President Isela Castañon-Williams told the El Paso Times that trustees will

not hire from within the district for an interim superintendent.

Jordan undertook leading the district after former Superintendent Lorenzo García was arrested in August 2011 on public-corruption charges that centered on a $450,000 no-bid contract he steered to his mistress.

García has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Jordan decided to return to her previous job as EPISD's chief of staff and on Sept. 11 George, who retired from the district as an associate superintendent in 1997, took her place as temporary interim superintendent for the school district.

Aileen B. Flores may be reached at aflores@elpasotimes.com; 546-6362.

Sound Off! (Sept. 18) - Las Cruces Sun-News

It is not just the Christian right that disapproves of the strip club. Many people believe women should be respected and women themselves should have self respect.

About the strip club, I think it is great. I am tired of driving to El Paso.

I see in tonight's news that it was reported that there were two shootings in El Paso's strip clubs last night. So maybe it may not be a good idea to have a strip club here in Las Cruces because it seems like there is nothing but crime.

All these people are flying around in the university's plane. Did you ever hear of conference calls, instead of wasting $746 an hour flying the plane around?

Thank you for printing and making up for the missed Sound Off! in the paper on 9/13.

Dear politicians, how much money are we going to have to come up with for you guys to come out here to Berino to this Tierra del Sol housing project that they are making on this asbestos landfill. They are out here picking up those tiles. There is a tractor traveling over them and breaking them all and releasing all those fibers.

During the Libyan crisis, Mr. Romney's words were a disgrace. When Ronald Reagan was confronted with the downed-helicopter rescue mission ordered by President Jimmy Carter to save the American hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, Reagan said, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united."

Interesting that Obama decided he didn't have time to go to his daily intelligence

briefing after Sept. 5 (even through newspapers in Israel were warning of a likely 9-11 attack) and then skipped the one on Sept. 12 after the attacks in Libya and Egypt so he could go to a fund raiser. Guess what his priorities are?

The man that made the anti-Islamic film that cost the life of the ambassador and three other people in Libya should be prosecuted and brought to justice.

So they set our Embassy on fire because we don't honor their beliefs? Since when do we have to say and feel as they do?

Have you noticed that after 9/11 the country came together in unity and mourned and supported each other. But not now. Romney chose to attack instead.

Why does the NMSU football program need to be in the FBS? If the Aggies were in the FCS, they could legitimately contend for a championship, which this year is being played at Cowboy Stadium.

After hiking this weekend in the Uvas mountains and seeing the beauty that comes along with the rain and being a part of such spectacular landscapes, I can't help but come to the conclusion that this portion of land definitely should be part of a national monument plan.

I would like to know which of our candidates would be helping our children of New Mexico. There is a lot of abuse and neglected children here and they need help.

On the front page of the Las Cruces paper, Governor Martinez was praised for her speech at the Republican Convention. Now on the second page we see that the poverty rate is climbing in New Mexico. What a contrast.

I live off of Cheyenne Drive and Mission in the High Range area. Had quite a surprise yesterday when my daughter saw a two- to three-foot diamondback snake stretched across the sidewalk close to our front door. So be on the lookout for these desert creatures. Never expected to see one by the front door.

The word "God" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. Only the Declaration of Independence mentions a creator. At the original Constitutional Convention someone suggest starting with a prayer, but it was voted down. So Democrats are following the original Constitution.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Building donation may change City Hall relocation plan - KVIA El Paso

EL PASO, Texas -

The biggest issue many seem to have when it comes to the building of El Paso's new Triple-A ballpark is the fact that City hall would have to be relocated.

The City talked more about that relocation Monday, including the donation of a building which could change the City Hall gameplan.

The building is the Luther building, located at Campbell and Mills, and the owner who has donated it to the City is Paul Foster, one of the local millionaires purchasing the Triple-A team.

On Tuesday City Council was scheduled to vote on three items when it comes to the relocation of City Hall.  One of those items has been delayed a week, however.

Council will vote on whether to accept the donation of the Luther building, valued at $2.3 million, from Foster. The building was initially identified as a safe haven for the City to house its information technology department, but the estimated cost of renovation at $17 million scared some city reps away.

The City said they are now projecting the cost of renovation for the Luther building at $8 to $10 million.

City Council's vote on the purchase of the $2.3 million buildings at 801 and 811 Texas Avenue and whether to purchase the El Paso Times building near the Luther building for $11 million will have to wait another week. But Council will vote on whether to create an $81 million City Hall relocation and ballpark capital improvement plan, including more than $50 million to build the ballpark.

City Manager Joyce Wilson agreed that the biggest issue with the ballpark is relocating City Hall, which before the Luther building donation was projected to cost about $29 million for buildings and another $4 million in moving costs.

During a final news conference before Tuesday's big vote, Wilson talked at length about the decision to use the City Hall property for a ballpark and relocated City Hall.

"At the end of the day, you have a pretty significant piece of real estate in downtown, prime location," Wilson said. "It was a business transaction only. Right now, this real estate asset is not making any income for the city or the community, other than housing offices."

Wilson and other City officials are confident that using the City Hall site for the ballpark will create additional revenue and help offset the moving costs for City Hall at some point. But if that doesn't happen,, they have projected a rise in property taxes of about $6.20 a year for each $100,000 of property valuation..

Sale of Triple-A baseball team to El Paso one step closer to approval - KFOX El Paso

A group of local businessmen who are trying to bring Triple-A baseball to El Paso are gathered downtown trying to rally more support. 

Josh Hunt is a founding member of Mountain Star Sports group. The group has all but secured the Tucson Padres in a deal that would bring the team to El Paso for its 2014 season.

The deal is now contingent on El Paso's City Council voting on its final decision to spend $50 million demolishing the current City Hall and building a baseball stadium in its place. 

Hundreds of people at Cleveland Square are spending the evening showing their support for the plan. 

Proponents of the plan have said that the stadium will bring life back to downtown El Paso and pay for itself through long-term revenues. 

Opponents have said the City Council should have let the people make this decision since their tax money will pay for it, if it passes. 

Hunt said the Pacific Coast League has taken another big step in approving the sale of the team. The PCL board will meet and, depending on El Paso's decision, could approve the sale tomorrow. 

The Pacific Coast League released a statement saying that members voted to recommend that the board of directors approved the proposed sale and relocation of the Tucson Club to El Paso.

The fate of City Hall's move, the purchase of the baseball team and building the stadium all depends on tomorrow's city council vote.

Murder trial begins for Horizon City man accused of murdering mom - KFOX El Paso

The ex-girlfriend and mother of his child testified Monday Leo Martinez called her and said he'd killed his mother, Hilda Gonzalez, moments ago.

It was somewhat emotional testimony from Stephanie Paniagua, who on the stand described an hours-long conversation she says she had with Martinez back in February.

She said he repeatedly told her, "I can't believe this has happened."

El Paso County sheriff's detectives said they were called to a home near Horizon City where they thought a woman had been shot and killed inside the home. Deputies said that when they arrived at the home, no one answered the door, so they broke it down.

They said they got to the master bedroom, where "something was blocking the door," testified Sgt. Raul Apodaca.

"We forced it open," he added.

Apodaca said the body of Gonzales, Martinez's mother, was in a pool of blood right behind the door.

Deputies said they caught up with Martinez at the Motel 6 off of the gateway in central El Paso after he told Paniagua that was where he was headed.

 Inside the truck Martinez was driving, deputies found the gun investigators believe was used in the murder.

"There was a gun laying in the front seat. It was kind of in plain sight," testified crime scene investigator Laura Brown.

In a taped statement played for the jury, Martinez told deputies his mom had kicked him out of the house that afternoon.

Martinez throughout the day showed no emotion, even as pictures of his mother's bloodied body were shown to the jury.

He has been in jail since his arrest in February. If convicted, He's facing anywhere from five to 99 years in prison.