Cook Considers Veto of City Hall Demolition
POSTED: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 10:54pm
UPDATED: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 6:12pm
EL PASO — Mayor John Cook is looking to take some drastic measures to keep City Hall from being demolished to make way for a Triple A baseball stadium
Since June, talks over the proposed team have heated up the community.
Some saying the idea's a home run.
Others, calling it foul.
Especially the notion to tear down City Hall to make way for that stadium.
Mayor Cook is one of those against the demolition.
"It's still millions of dollars of taxpayer's assets that we're willing to throw away," he said
Tuesday, City council members are expected to make a lot of decisions that will bring El Paso closer to getting that stadium underway.
But a decision without public input are what fueled backlash from the community in the first place,
On June 26, council members voted in favor of a resolution that promises they would tear down City Hall and the Insights Museum to make way for the stadium.
That enraged several people, even pushing some to seek petitions to repeal it.
One of the petitions garnered enough signatures, to be taken before the council.
They will vote on it Tuesday.
Mayor Cook says there are three ways it can go.
"We can either reject it on its face and vote no on it, or we can accept it and pass it as a municipal law, or we can modify it in some way, shape or form," he said.
The mayor wants to modify the wording on the current petition.
Instead of repealing the demolition completely, he's proposing changing the wording so that it indirectly gives voters
In November, El Pasoans will vote in the Quality of Life Bond initiative.
Proposition 3 asks to raise the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) in order to finance the construction of the stadium by two percent.
If it is not passed, then the cost would fall on taxpayers, through certificates of obligation.
Mayor Cook wants to change the petition's ordinance wording, so that if voters turn down the HOT tax, then the demolition of city hall would be scrapped altogether.
If that is passed by council, it would be sent back to the petitioners for approval.
But City Rep. Susie Byrd says all that work would be for nothing.
"With the citizens'' petition, it's too late to go on the November ballot," she said.
"What's always ideal, is we would take this to a quality of life bond election, but the Pacific Coast League has indicated they need a commitment now," she said.
That means, the ball would be rolling before voters would even see the petition ordinance on the ballot.
Mayor Cook knows this too, which is why he says he's considering veto-ing council's decision to relocate on Tuesday.
"Seeing that I wasn't able to vote, I can only vote if there's a tie, I think it's important that people can know what my official position, which I'm against it," he said.
If the Mayor vetoes the demolition, then council can override the veto with a majority vote.
Rep. Byrd believes the council can get the votes to override the veto, but she's worried what kind of message his veto would send.
"I understand the Mayor's reservations, but I believe it will be much more difficult in the future should he do something like this to get the private sector to put the kind of dollars they're willing to put now," she said.
Meanwhile, there is one issue City Council won't be taking up Tuesday.
That is the purchase of the El Paso Times building.
Council members were hoping City Hall could, in part, relocate there.
Now there's a discrepancy over the price valuation of the building and a nearby parking lot.
The vote on that has been postponed.