Monday, April 27, 2015

City Council Appears Ready to Seal the Deal on Kern View Estates

Hikers get exercise and enjoy the trail where Kern View Estates II could have gone.
City Council seems poised to pass an amendment to Title 19 which will seal the deal on Kern View Estates II. (The amendment is stated in agenda item 16.2 for tomorrow's meeting.) The amendment allows the owners to get a refund on a park dedication fee that they had to pay. That reimbursement is part of the deal to purchase the land from the owners and re-zone as Natural Open Space. Without the reimbursement, the sellers would call the deal off.

Last week Representative Noe said that he would oppose the amendment on the grounds that it was giving money to rich west siders. Will the politics of envy never stop in El Paso? Will the forces that eternally seek the lowest common denominator rather than the best for El Paso ever quit? The land to be preserved is for all El Pasoans. People from all around the city are doing more and more hiking in our mountains. For a city with such a high rate of diabetes and obesity, the increased outdoor activity is good news and should be encouraged.

Of course, Noe may see what some owners are doing: threatening to develop land on the mountainside so that the City will buy and preserve that land. So what? The land only has value as developed or preserved. As owners, they have a right to be recompensed if turning the land to the City for preservation.

There are also other good reasons for supporting the amendment and, thus, closing the deal. The development would have negative impact on stormwater and emergency services. It's not a matter of protecting "rich west sider's" view of the mountains; it's about safety and recreational opportunities.

Dr. No strikes again - oops - I meant Dr. Noe.

However, there are clear indications that the amendment has at least 5 solid "yes" votes. It may turn out that only No - I mean Noe - and Limon will be the only negative votes.

Here is an email from activist, Ellen Esposito, sent out yesterday evening:

"On Tuesday, April 28th, City Council will vote on an ordinance which directly impacts the approved purchase of Kern View Estates II.  One of the conditions of the purchase is that the owners receive a refund of the fees already paid to the city. These fees must be paid when the development plan is submitted for approval if park lands will not be dedicated in the development. Because the owners are conveying the property to the city, the City Planning Commission supports this refund to the seller. 

"There will be discussion and dissension is expected at the city council meeting. Because it is next to impossible to build a park in mountain development zoned property, a landowner would be required to pay these fees.  Many of us recognize that this reimbursement will encourage landowners of mountain development zone properties to abandon their plat and convey the property to open space.  In the interest of protecting open space as designated in Plan El Paso, we believe that City Council's approval of this ordinance is vital. The Franklin Mountains are ecologically sensitive areas which we have a responsibility to protect for future generations of El Pasoans. 

"Please mark your calendar to attend the city council meeting this Tuesday. It is important that city council see that their constituents care about protecting the mountains from development. It is important that they pass this ordinance to facilitate the purchase of Kern View Estates II.  The meeting begins at 8 AM, though I am sure this will not be addressed until later in the meeting."  

Next time Noe wants something for the east side, maybe it should be voted down because all the rich east siders have too many new and fine restaurants. Hmmm? No, Noe, it is better never to play the politics of envy.

El Paso County Commissioners Court Passes Anti-Fracking Resolution

Click image to enlarge.
Kudos to Cemelli De Aztlan who has worked tirelessly to stop fracking in Hudspeth County. Today by a nearly unanimous vote the El Paso County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing fracking. (Only Republican Haggerty opposed it.) Here is what Cemelli posted on her Facebook page:

"El Paso County Commissioners Court passed a Resolution to Ban Fracking in El Paso County. Next step, Hudspeth County Commissioners and our El Paso Water Utilities, who plan to sell us water from the basin above Fracking, despite evidence of Fracking toxins contaminating water basins. CALL ALL TEXAS SENATORS TO OPPOSE SB1165. [SB1165 is the Senate version of HB40.] Also, demand that UT System divest from Oil&Gas Companies. — with Aurolyn Luykx, Virgil Esquivel, Dan Monahan, Robert Leal, Mary Gourdoux, Jim Tolbert, Bill Addington, Nayra Vizcarra, EL PASO NATURALLY, EL PASO EQUAL VOICE NETWORK and WEST TEXAS WATER PROTECTION FUND."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Please Vote for Rick Bonart

An Open Letter to District 1 Voters

Please vote for Rick Bonart for El Paso City Council, District 1. He will be an effective leader who will champion your concerns. Certainly I agree with all of Rick’s platform and you can read more about his views online as well as in the mailers that you have probably received. However, let me tell you why I esteem this man personally and know that he will be a great City Council Representative.

Rick Bonart is conscientious. He does his homework – thoroughly. He doesn’t skim through anything regarding the important policy issues that matter to you. He delves into them. He does so because he cares about people – taxpayers, ratepayers, citizens, people; and he takes his fiduciary responsibilities very seriously.

Rick Bonart has the courage of his convictions. He wants what is best for the people of District 1 and all El Pasoans. He never backs down to those who put politics and pettiness over caring and doing the right thing for people. More than ever we the people of El Paso need a really strong advocate on City Council – someone who knows that people come first and not special interests. He not only believes in open government, he has paid personally for that belief. As the citizen advocate on the Public Service Board, Rick was tireless as he looked out for ratepayers. He even opened up the selection process to that board to the public. For such transparency he was vilified by those who protect their power over the interests of the people of El Paso and he was not re-elected by City Council for a second term on the PSB in spite of the fact that he had been designated as the number one choice by a selection committee.

Rick Bonart is a doer and not just a talker. Many advocate for this thing or that. Rick rolls up his sleeves and makes it happen. He has helped to create recreational trails throughout the Franklins. He did the hard work to open El Paso’s first complete trailhead at the Lost Dog Trail. He has been the leader for open space and conservation for decades now. He was the first Chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board. He was a leader in the successful effort to preserve 800 acres of land in the northwest.  He helped to fashion the Open Space Master Plan and the stormwater utility including setting aside 10% of the stormwater fee for purchasing needed open space.  He worked with TxDOT and conservationists alike to develop a good plan for an entrance to the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. (That entrance is scheduled to be completed early next year.) On the Public Service Board he introduced the need for potable reuse of water to continue to supply El Paso’s increasing need for water. He fought hard for a pipeline to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, a key eco-tourist and local recreational wildlife preserve in El Paso. He always stood strong for open, inclusive and transparent government.

Rick Bonart built a very successful business (a veterinary clinic) from scratch and managed it for 35 years. (I can tell you that he was one very knowledgeable and caring vet because both of my cats were patients.) He recently retired which means he can give 100% to serving you as your Representative. He won’t be part-time and he will be wholehearted.

Rick Bonart is honest and ethical some would say to a fault. But honesty, ethics and high standards are the ingredients of his integrity. Rick doesn’t want the lowest common denominator for El Paso. He wants the best.

Rick Bonart is a friend. Yes, he is my friend but I’m not saying that you should vote for him just because he is my friend. I’m saying that you will do well to vote for him because he is a friend. He takes people just as they are. He doesn’t hold a grudge. He’s never judgmental. He’s not spiteful nor is he power-hungry. He strives to do the right thing and he cares deeply about each individual person. He is passionate about his views. Yet I’ve always known him to listen and to understand. In all matters he has a great sense of humor and he has the humility not to take himself too seriously.

Early voting begins this Monday. For sure there are some very good people running for District 1. Rick Bonart is your best choice.

Jim Tolbert

P.S. Please see his web site and his Facebook page.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Local Communities Should Have the Right to Protect Themselves from Fracking

It's unusual for the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post to run the same news stories or even agree on the top story. However, this morning they both headline the same study and link to the same Los Angles Times story: Man-made earthquakes increasing in central and eastern U.S., study finds.

What's the story about? The USGS has mapped earthquakes that apparently are caused by fracking for oil and gas and injecting millions of gallons of the spent water (and noxious chemicals) back into the earth. (Be sure to look at the map and the charts in the story.)

In spite of the growing data that fracking (or, more probably, injection wells) cause earthquakes, cities such as Denton, Texas may be denied the right to protect themselves from this dangerous technology. As posted yesterday, HB 40 is racing through the legislature of Texas, the state sponsored by the oil and gas industry. HB 40 would ban banning and take the right of local communities to protect themselves away and give it to the Texas Railroad Commission - the cronies of the oil and gas industry.

Texas prides itself as a state that enshrines the right of anyone to bear arms and to use those arms to protect life and property. Yet, the right of citizens to protect themselves against the greed of the oil and gas industry is disallowed.

With fracturing trumping democracy and corporations slurping up water from local communities, one wonders how long it will be until those rifles come off the racks of pick-up trucks and den rooms.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day?

It's Earth Day. It's good that there is a day to remind some that it is important to be kinder to Mother Earth. However that "some" are already in the choir singing about environmentalism and conservation. Hopefully more join the choir each Earth Day each year. The real work though happens the other 364 days of the year. That's especially critical now in the State of Texas which is sponsored by the oil and gas industry and whose legislators for the most part are bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry.

Forget the will of voters in local municipalities. In last November's election, the people of Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking in their town. Now House Bill 40 is racing through the legislature. That bill will ban bans. According to Nicholas Sakilaris: "The controversial bill gives the Texas Railroad Commission authority to preempt city laws when it comes to subsurface oil and gas operations, including hydraulic fracking." Read Bill that would ban fracking bans breezes through the Texas House

A Louisiana Judge handed down a similar ruling in effect banning bans.

What you should also read is the public relations propaganda put out by the Texas Oil and Gas Association. (Let's call them "Lola" as in "whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.")  Be sure that you watch the video. George Orwell could not have done better. 

Despite the above bad news, the El Paso Commissioners Court seems poised to pass an anti-fracking resolution. Judge Veronica Escobar favors it and the matter will come to a vote at next week's meeting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Monday Links on Tuesday

[Monday (or, in this case, Tuesday) is "Links Day" with links gathered over the past week to online "stuff" to read and sites to surf that impact us directly or offer information about our regional issues. Please feel free to send me links to any conservation, environmental, simple living, city planning, energy and water, etc. stories that you have come across online.]

Water issues (always at the top of the list):

The Rio Grande:

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege

A glimmer of good water supply news for New Mexico’s middle Rio Grande farmers

California's and the West's water woes:

Nestlé’s despicable water-crisis profiteering: How it’s making a killing — while California is dying of thirst

Drought Spurs Protest Over 'Unconscionable' Bottled Water Business

Petition to Nestlé: "Stop taking water from drought stricken California"

Another Petition: Tell the U.S. Forest Service: Stop Nestlé’s Illegal Water Extraction

As water runs dry, Californians brace for a new way of life

You'll see more of this in Texas (and everywhere):

Hays County Water Fight Tumbles Into Committee

County to buy land for groundwater


The Facts on Fracking

Fracking is causing Oklahoma’s earthquake “swarm”

The Power of the Energy Industry:

Teaming Up with the Fossil Fuel Industry NPR’s Gas Pains

Monday, April 20, 2015

Update on Light Polluters

elpasonaturally has just learned that the ordinance favoring Clear Channel's wish to continue their light pollution has been postponed for four weeks. That's great news because it means more time to email your City Council Representative. Just remember to do it.

You can continue to get updates here at elpasonaturally naturally.