EL PASO, Texas -- Eco-tourism, solar energy, streets, Green infrastructure, and unfunded priorities. These are some of the areas the El Paso city council is considering for targeted investment via a multi-million bond election this November, but streets will be the highest priority.
“Based upon what we’re hearing from residents, by giving the voters the opportunity to invest in El Paso and put their voice out there, that they want us to focus on streets," Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso city council member, said.
The plan came to light last December when city council and top staff participated in strategic planning sessions. The possibility of the bond election was discussed also in the Jan. 4 meeting when city staff proposed an initial timeline for community outreach and engagement.
"There has to be clear communication with the public so they understand what is the framework and what are the goals of that specific bond," said City Rep. Cassandra Hernandez, who said she was part of the 2012 bond election as support staff.
Hernandez wondered whether council should narrow the focus of the projects or leave that to residents at the risk of opening up too many options that would lead them to end up with a quality of life bond.
"Really, the discussions we've had during the strategic planning sessions have been solely on how do we improve our aging infrastructure and dilapidated infrastructure," she said.
In 2012, the city council approved about $218 million in certificate of obligations to pay for street repair projects. Svarzbein says that money is almost all gone.
“It’s time to have a discussion on what kind of projects and what kind of investment the voters want to see," Svarzbein explained.
The timeline for initial outreach is described as "early winter." The plan must be set by August for council to sign off on the final proposal ahead of the November 8 election, according to the city's plan.
Voters have approved the city's bond proposals in the past. Most recently, residents passed a $413 million Public Safety bond in 2019 and in 2012 they approved $473 million for a Quality of Life bond. The city touts hundreds of projects have been completed through that investment, but a gaping hole exists in the list of finished projects as the bond's signature projects -- a multipurpose performing arts center, a Mexican-American Cultural center and a Children's museum-- are way behind schedule and over budget, or stalled.