|An Introduction: Oscar Gonzalez for City Representative|
|February 17, 2005 - Oscar Gonzalez|
I am a native El Pasoan with a Masters Degree in Political Science from UTEP and I currently serve as Lead Facilitator for Grassroots El Paso, a coalition of 27 neighborhood associations. I am the author of the Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance, which requires notification to neighborhood leaders from developers or applicants regarding land-use issues such as rezoning. This important ordinance gives all neighborhoods a voice in our city government. These are the key issues I will pursue for the benefit of Central El Paso:
First, Neighborhood Initiatives must be enhanced through the adoption of citizen-driven neighborhood plans and by the protection of the interests of neighborhood associations by the establishment of a Central Neighborhood Council. For the past nine months City Representative Robert Cushing has led a crusade to see that neighborhood plans be restricted to meet the demands of a structured template. He initiated this after learning of the Five Points Neighborhood Plan and its specific goal to see that the Railroad tracks be relocated out of the Five Points neighborhood. This plan had been coordinated through the City’s Planning Department with the participation of the Five Points Development Association and Five Points Neighborhood Association for nearly two years. Cushing, having worked for the railroads, then stormed a Five Points Neighborhood Association meeting in June 2004 and declared the neighborhood plan as unrealistic. The Five Points Neighborhood Association voiced strong opposition to Cushing’s tactics. Cushing responded (along with Representative Cobos) by attempting to decertify the group from the City’s Neighborhoods First Program. In other words, this is not a productive venture but a unilateral blatant attack on neighborhood associations' voice in city government. The City’s Comprehensive 2025 Plan was not drafted through a template structure and the neighborhood plans should likewise not be policed either.
Second, the West-Central area leads the city in blighted and abandoned areas. I would create tax incentives to promote positive development in these areas to attract businesses that might want to invest in the redevelopment of the infrastructure of these vacant spots. For a city to progress it must not ignore it’s central core, and a progressive pull-mechanism needs to be established to excite investors to look at Central El Paso and as an alternative to the now rampant urban sprawl.
Third, the railroads are a wonderful part of the history of El Paso. Yet, back in 1925 George Kessler noted in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that “grade crossings should ultimately be eliminated from all intersections…classification yards and tracks not necessary for local service should be removed from the center of the city” (The 1925 City Plan for El Paso p. 33). Presently only a small percentage of the freight cargo that crosses through our neighborhoods is bound for El Paso. The 1925 Plan also noted under the subchapter Railroad Problems that railroads needed to be removed “from the heart of the city and grade crossings (abolished); at the very least, abating the nuisance of freight train traffic through the business center” (ibid. 13). Especially following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the issue of security comes to the forefront whether the railroad tracks should continue to cut through our neighborhoods. Critics would say that this endeavor is undoable or unrealistic, but a recent train derailment and ensuing chemical spill in a South Carolina neighborhood resulted in the death of five people. Are we going to wait for a potential tragic accident to make us focus at the problem at hand? Are we going to wait another eighty years to embrace the wisdom that was set in the 1925 Plan for El Paso? Only together as a community can we accomplish this.
Lastly, our beautiful mountains need to be saved from the ongoing destruction from high-profile developers and quarrying activities. Endangered Mt. Franklin land could be acquired through a land swap or eminent domain. Most of the monies garnered from the rape of our ecological system not only leave El Paso, but the United States as well. This land must be converted and preserved as a city or state park.
Some of these issues are very ambitious, but as your City Representative I will work hard to protect the natural integrity of Central El Paso and will take the necessary steps to pursue these goals. For example, by initiating a dialogue with the Railroads several community concerns, such as the volume of the train whistle and the speed of the trains in our neighborhood, could be immediately addressed.
I am the city representative candidate who will put Neighborhood & Community Interests above Special Interests.
This article is part of the El Paso Tribune's feature allowing all candidates an opportunity to communicate with the constituency directly, in their own words. All candidates are requested and encouraged to submit articles during the election season to be published here. Please submit your articles to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All articles will be published as submitted. Please include pictures with your submission, if possible.
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