El Paso is like the little brother of the rest of Texas’s urban centers. It wants to be like his big brothers, but just isn’t at the point in his life where he can do the same things.
I attended the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, late September. I hoped to better understand El Paso’s short comings and to come up with solutions to address them.
El Paso is plagued with two main issues, apathy and a lack of informative resources. These issues go hand in hand. It’s like the chicken or the egg argument.
People in El Paso don’t vote in high numbers. They have very little knowledge of local politics. It means that problems like property taxes are not properly addressed.
When I say lack of informative resources, I mean that the local news publications have been slacking it.
El Paso has the highest property tax rates in the state, and they just went up again. The city raised them to make up for revenue loss caused by the banning of red-light cameras.
On the other hand the county raised taxes to give themselves pay raises.
When I told people in Austin about the situation, they were surprised it wasn’t a bigger story.
Your average person doesn’t have time to keep up with everything the city council does. A journalist’s job is to keep themselves informed.
They write about a subject so that the people can learn about it when they get a break from their busy schedules.
Every news publication in El Paso should have been all over the property tax raises and informed the public, but they didn’t.
So, what’s going to happen?
When people find out how much they must pay next year, they’ll get angry, but it’ll be too late to protest it. The vote already happened. This is part of why people become more apathetic.
The Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt mentioned during the Civic Enragement panel that people become apathetic when their rage goes nowhere. That’s exactly what’s going on in El Paso.
When people become apathetic, they don’t vote. When people don’t vote, people get elected officials that raise property taxes, give themselves pay raises and abuse their power.
There is so much wrong with the property tax increases. In the city, the government was going to lose revenue.
Instead of having a budget that reflects this, they increased spending, and plan to make up for it with our tax dollars.
If an El Paso family had less money coming in one year, would they go on vacation? No, they save, plan and cut their expenses to keep themselves afloat.
As mentioned earlier, the county raised taxes, simply to give themselves a raise. These raises exceeded $10,000.
Their excuse was that they were just putting their wages at the same level of officials in other urban centers.
This goes back to my initial point. El Paso’s local government tries to do things like these bigger cities. At the same time, they fail to increase wages in El Paso like these bigger cities do.
El Pasoans don’t make as much as people in Austin, but the city still tries to charge them taxes like they do.
One solution I was able to come up with is that El Paso needs another news publication. The El Paso Times NEEDS competition.
Right now, the people of El Paso don’t have a watchdog to look out for them. People need to be informed if local governments are going to be held accountable.
Right now, there are no incentives for El Paso’s news to be those watchdogs.