Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pipeline to Bosque Schedule

Why it takes longer for public entities to get from A to Z is a mystery to me. Perhaps someone knows. Many have anxiously awaited for a long time to see the schedule for a pipeline from the Bustamante to Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. EPWU CEO John Balliew has been pushing on and for this for a long time. Thank you, Mr. Balliew! Here it is:

Do click on the image to enlarge and give 3 cheers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Friday Video: The Portable WIND TURBINE That Can Charge Your Phone

The day is coming when we will all be off the grid no matter what the Koch Brothers and their puppets in Congress and State houses want.

El Paso Needs a Water Summit

Rio Grande River Bed 
Former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh said the same thing that I've been saying for a long time now - viz., El Paso needs to have a major summit on water. 

"The flat truth is that EP farmers can no longer plant in most of the Valley due to an allocation of six inches," Shapleigh said. "Larger farmers are buying acre feet from smaller farmers mostly to keep pecan trees alive. Water tables are falling. Old wells from the 50's no longer touch available water."

What is required is major leadership - the kind that Senator Shapleigh gave us especially when he crafted a bill to do a Climate Change summit statewide - something Republican reactionary Dewhurst fought tooth and nail. (We don't want to upset our puppet masters in the oil and gas industry and industrial agriculture after all.)

The Texas Agriculture Law Blog shared a link to the Texas Water Report with this introduction: "Earlier this year, the Texas Comptroller’s Office put out the Texas Water Report.  This document provides a great overview of a variety of water issues currently going on in Texas.  It covers everything from current court cases to international treaty disputes to water ownership in Texas to the impacts of drought and the oil boom on water supplies.  If you are interested in Texas water issues, I would highly recommend reading over this report. . . "

Some major concerns remain: Will Texas actually have the will to address the stress on the water supply caused by fracking for oil and gas? Will Texas have the foresight to begin to promote small, independent, local, organic farmers? Will it have the foresight to regulate the use of water so that farmers will plant crops that don't require as much water? Will Texas promote green infrastructure/low impact development or continue spending billions of dollars on mega-reservoirs with lots of concrete? I'm afraid that Prop 6 money will benefit the large corporate firms and not thirsty citizens. 

El Paso also must deal with many of these water issues. But El Paso must also begin to limit sprawl. We have more land than water. Perhaps if developers and building contractors would begin to pay wages commensurate with the rest of the country, then they would have less to manipulate elections and elected officials. The higher wages would go far to spur a depressed El Paso economy so that sales taxes not property taxes could contribute more to financing city services. Infill would also mean that the financial resources of too many El Pasoans won't be drained by mortgages plus transportation plus energy demands. Again, infill would mean more people keeping more of their hard earned money and thus having more money to spend to help the economy. 

Water and the economy - they go hand in hand especially here in El Paso.

Time to listen to the Senator. Time for a water summit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

State Park Entrance on Track to Start Fall 2014

Picture appropriated from Robert Gray, El Paso Inc.
TxDOT Regional Engineer, Bob Bielek, was City Representative Carl Robinson's guest at the District 4 breakfast last Friday. Judy Ackerman asked him about the State Park entrance. Here's what Bielek told her in a nutshell: "Expect to start in Fall 2014.  Will take 3 – 4 months to complete.  Not a difficult project, because it is a short-span bridge.  Costs a bit over $1,000,000."

Ten Eyck Featured Speaker for 2014 FlorFEST at UTEP

Click on image to enlarge.

Pre-eminent landscape architect, David Cristiani, principal of Quercus and author of It's a Dry Heat blog, says of the FloraFEST Lecture: "A must-attend for anyone into better public spaces, native plants, and water harvesting. The UTEP plant sale following on Saturday and Sunday is good too."

Ten Eyck is simply one of the best designers in North America.

Click on image to enlarge

Be sure to take advantage of the native plant sale at the Centennial Museum that weekend as well. Renowned Chihuahuan Desert Garden Curator, John White, manages the event and will be on hand along with Master Gardeners to answer any question that you might have. "As a lifelong area resident, John has lived and worked in the Texas/New Mexico area writing gardening advice columns for the area newspapers, co-hosting the PBS television series, Southwest Yard & Garden, developing gardening classes such as the SunSCAPE program and the Extension Master Gardener Program, as well as numerous television and radio programs." - from UTEP's Centennial Celebration

Earth Day at Union Plaza This Saturday

Click on image to enlarge

Monday, April 14, 2014

Please Support Public Education in Our Community

The following is an emailed newsletter from El Paso Grassroots written by Xavier Miranda and published yesterday, April 13, 2014. Sustainable communities need great education. Investments in students, teachers and classrooms are critical. Spending money on top heavy administration and frivolous remodels while imposing austere measures on teachers and our children (our future) is unsustainable. Clearly the El Paso Independent School District is in the hands of the 1 percent oligarchs. It is time for a change. Read Mr. Miranda's excellent letter:

Please Support  Public Education in Our Community

Your support is requested at the EPISD Board of Managers Meeting on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 5 PM. Teachers, parents, and students will be speaking at the meeting, in addition to holding demonstrations in support of public education.
Issues plaguing our community are having a detrimental effect on our children. The struggling middle class is having to contend with the rising costs associated with ineffective operations at government levels, judicial courts, stadium projects, and school districts with some of the highest administrative expenditures in the state. Meanwhile the solution is inevitably the same: a prescription of austerity cuts. Whether it is increasing workloads, raising teacher-student ratios,  imposing parking fees, re-allocating Quality of Life/School Bond monies to build swimming pools and stadiums at affluent parts of town, or having the audacity to propose tax increases via Tax Ratification Elections (TRE)---the debt incurred now belongs to our children. Business-model reforms demonstrate little nurturing or compassion. Rather, these reforms are manifested by $100,000 renovations in buildings where the lease will not be renewed, exorbitant contracts, and corporate tax breaks. Little wonder our citizenry is absent at the voting polls.
Former Director of the U.S. Census Bureau and renowned demographer, Steve Murdock has presentedto El Paso legislators, educators, and business folks of the changing demographics in Texas. Mr. Murdock stresses investment in education. Unfortunately, Texas ranks at the bottom of education attainment levels, which is already having a negative impact on our economy. An apartheid model is evident, wherein Latinos and African-Americans are denied equitable educational opportunities. Current political divisions detract from a glaring reality: the key to economic prosperity is through education. Sadly, education funding has not been restored to 2010 levels despite increasing petroleum revenues.
As stated in previous emails, trust in appointed and elected officials is waning. In context to the appointed EPISD Board of Managers, the following concerns exist:
  • Board Manager President Dee Margo---a campaign contributor to conservative Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, has re-structured teacher contracts; is proposing privatizing custodial services; limiting citizen input at Public Forum; and is on record for slashing education funding when serving as a Texas State Representative from 2010-12. Mr. Margo is now determining the 2014-15 EPISD budget.
  • Board Manager Carmen Candelaria-Arrieta---serves as the City of El Paso Chief Financial Officer, of which appraisal figures and baseball stadium costs have been glaringly inaccurate. Ms. Arrieta is also determining our EPISD budget.
  • Board Manager Ed Archuleta--- previously served as president of the Public Service Board, wherein questionable policy allowed for construction contracts awarded to PSB members.
These individuals are responsible for the $480+ million EPISD budget. Educators and administrators in our district are very concerned how our students will be affected by the Board of Managers' next steps.

Once again, the call goes to community to show up in support of our public education system.


Xavier Miranda
El Paso Grassroots
Below is  copy of my address at Public Forum to the Board of Managers on Tuesday:

I've attended town halls where Mr. Cabrera, Board Managers Candelaria, Margo, and Archuleta have all claimed to heed the voice of our community. Yet discontent, fear, and anger are conveyed in letters to the editor, news reports, blogs, forums, and in this meeting room, by employees and community members facing austerity measures. It is quite evident, the Board fails to acknowledge its constituents. 

Your primary goal as a Board was to restore the integrity of our school district, yet you've taken punitive steps in applying business reforms to our education system. You've demonstrated a desire to dismantle and privatize public education. 

I view democracy and social justice as integral components of education. Sadly, what is being modeled by the Board of Managers and District Administration is just the opposite. You show contempt for teachers by restructuring contracts, you raise teacher-student ratios, you mandate instructional models without paradigm support, and you have arrogantly dismissed educators when asking for inclusion. As a Board with extensive business acumen, you must realize that policies crafted without educators' input simply hurt our children. 
Despite the exploitative practices of your predecessors, the teachers and staffs at each of our schools remained steadfast in providing authentic learning opportunities for our students. We took the helm when leadership was in transition and moved this district forward. You simply need to spend a day in our schools and classrooms to see for yourselves. 

At the Coronado High School Community Meeting, you smirked at my response to your question of me, Mr. Margo, when I stated that I wanted my students to be critical thinkers. Indeed, I want my students to question why individuals entrusted with our school district, disregard taxpayers, and unilaterally re-allocate bond monies to build stadiums and pools on the affluent part of town. I want my students to see how a profit-model denies health and retirement benefits to our custodians, and subsequently hurts our local economy. I want my students to understand how our constitutional rights are infringed when duly-elected officials are denied a seat at the table. More importantly, I want my students to be critical of oppressive systems, and uphold democratic ideals that are equitable for all. 

To Mr. Cabrera, it is appalling to witness the expensive remodeling of your office, in a building with a short-lived lease, when 130 educators are being surplussed. It is disheartening to see you add more six-figure salaried administrators to an already top-heavy district. 

Please serve our children before profit.