Following presentations by Planner Carlos Gallinar and former City and now EPWU attorney, Lupe Cuellar, I had these words:
"Mr. Mayor and members of the Council
for the record, I am Jim Tolbert, the citizen who authored the petition to preserve land in the scenic corridor along Transmountain in northwest El Paso. That petition was sponsored by the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. Along with others I coordinated and spearheaded a successful drive to collect enough signatures to bring the issue to your attention.
"When we began the task of preserving land in its natural state, I had no idea that our work would have such positive, far-reaching results. Rather than insisting on one way or another, we chose to work together, to find accommodation, compromise and consensus. As citizens, City Planners, attorneys, employees and agents of the PSB/EPWU, State Park officials, environmentalists, conservationists, recreationalists and consultants we were constant in our effort to stay true to the spirit and conditions of the petition while maintaining the integrity of our various value systems and institutions. We not only worked through our distrust of one another, but, there came a time, when it became apparent that all shared the same goal of making El Paso an even better place to live.
"Now we on the verge of preserving 658 acres of natural open space by transferring that land to the State Park. We will protect precious arroyos through the use of smart codes as we more intelligently design a place to live that is livable, workable, walkable and in better harmony with the natural environment. The re-doing of the NW Master Plan, the utilization of smart codes, the new knowledge of a great tool called green infrastructure/low impact development will improve community and recreation and foster the value of natural open space. It will make us a more productive, healthier and it will be a boost to our commerce.
"It has been said that following environmental principles is contrary to business. That to be “green” is to be anti-business. 100 years ago if you favored separating residences from factories with new-fangled zoning rules, you were labeled anti-business. As we know now zoning fostered better business and living standards. Back in the 60’s and 70’s if you favored cleaning our air and waterways, you were labeled anti-business. However, improving the quality of our air and waterways has led to more productive communities and healthier and happier work and living spaces. Today, one favoring modern development practices and green infrastructure/low impact development is often labeled “anti-business”. The truth is that being green is not the antithesis of commerce – but the partner. Our care for the environment, our natural world and our eco-systems of which we as humans are just a small part, will only lead to better lives for us all.
"There are so many to thank for this day: those who worked so hard on the petition drive; the Dover Kohl team; all the citizens who participated in the charrettes: the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition particularly Scott Cutler, Judy Ackerman, Pat White, Joyce Ford, Jane Fowler and Richard Teschner; City Staff particularly Matthew McElroy, Carlos Gallinar, Elizabeth Gibson, David Coronado and Lupe Cuellar. State Park officials: Deirdre Hisler and Dr. Cesar Mendez. For the PSB/EPWU – Dr. Rick Bonart, Ed Escudero and Katherine Brennand and especially Pat Adauto and Risher Gilbert and ultimately John Balliew and Mr. Ed Archuleta. Thanks also to Charlie Wakeem and the Open Space Advisory Board for its hard work. And I thank you on City Council for your patience and for allowing this work to be done deliberately and well even if it took more than a year; and I thank you, Mayor Cook, for your leadership and wisdom, and our city attorneys headed by Sylvia Firth.
"Today in El Paso there are those who would divide us. There are those who want our city to be “us against them”, “my group against your group”. But look what we accomplished together: a new vision that is pro-commerce as well as green. We overcame our mistrust of each other and we happily discovered that we were working side by side and shoulder to shoulder. To those who would divide who see only negatives let us respond together that we can be visionary and innovative. We can grasp for our future. Let us all remember that El Pasoans work best when we work together."