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El Paso Strategic Communications Task Force SUMMARY OF EDITORIAL PLACEMENTS TO DATE

(Presented by DCI and Mithoff-Burton on 5/9/2013)

PREPARED FOR:

Media Relations Campaign Results:


In association with Mithoff-Burton, Development Counsellors International (DCI) was engaged by the City of El Paso to work on a public relations program focused to tell positive stories about the region. Below are a sampling of media outlets where El Paso stories have appeared since the beginning of the contract, with clips of each media result following.

Total Advertising Equivalency Total Editorial Impact Audience Reached

$687,390 $3,436,950 34,231,867

El Paso Steps Up to Plate


By Marura Webber Sadovi April 16, 2013

With real-estate values on the upswing, the age-old battle between development and preservation is heating up again in some cities. In El Paso, Texas, development has won the latest skirmish. The former El Paso City Hall was demolished in seconds Sunday to pave the way for a new $50 million minor league baseball stadium. The implosion was the first step in the city's controversial bid to revitalize downtown in order to better compete for tourists and jobs. Few argue that the city lost an architectural gem. The 10-story glass and concrete building was built in the 1970s and its rectangular shape resembled a toaster. Still, some area residents say they will miss the centralized access it offered to city services. Its demise also is a reminder that the real-estate recovery is pressuring some cities to weigh the value of older buildings that are often prime candidates for demolition and aren't protected by landmark status. "As property values riseproperties that have been allowed to deteriorate from neglect often become targets for demolition," William Cook, associate general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, wrote in an email.

The development pressure comes as the construction industry, which includes demolition companies, shows signs of life. The construction sector saw employment climb for the 10th consecutive month in March, bringing the total number of jobs to over 5.8 million, the highest since September 2009. Michael Taylor, executive director of the National Demolition Association, said demolition contractors are among the first trades to see more work. "They aren't bragging about it, but everybody's pretty busy," he said. Cities large and small are wrestling with preservation issues. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to rezone the area around Grand Central Terminal to allow soaring skyscrapers, where preservationists fear for the fate of early-1900s buildings. In Chicago, Northwestern University is demolishing the Bertrand Goldberg-designed Prentice Women's Hospital over the objections some opponents. The university wants to build a new medical research facility on the site near Michigan Avenue. Plans to redevelop El Paso's downtown were adopted in 2006 but stalled amid the recession, said Joyce Wilson, El Paso's city manager. The city of nearly 700,000 sits on the U.S.-Mexico border and bills itself as the Boot Capital of the World. It is home to independent crude-oil refiner Western Refining Co. and to Fort Bliss and has a rich history. But Ms. Wilson said the city's downtown needs the stadium and more attractions if it is going to compete with other southwestern cities like Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz. "It's got a very international flavor to it, but it hasn't kept up in terms of renewal and redevelopment like other cities around the country," said Ms. Wilson. Last year, the city voters approved bonds to support the building of the new stadium, as well as a larger plan for a new downtown arena, a children's museum and a park. Ms. Wilson said the city opted to build the stadium on the site of the existing city hall because it was centrally located. Also, the city already owns the property, so it can quickly deliver the stadium in time for the Tucson Triple-A Padres to relocate and begin playing there next spring, she said. El Paso is relocating its city offices into several existing buildings nearby. The designers of the ballpark have sought to include elements of the city's history in its plan. David Bower, principal of Populous, a Kansas City, Mo., architecture firm that designed the ballpark, said the stadium will be made out of red brick to match the city's train depot and will include murals depicting El Paso history. Some residents who didn't formally oppose the demolition said they are concerned that the city's penchant for building new rather than renovating may be shortsighted. "The first thing people think of when they think of El Paso is the Old West," said Bernie Sargent, chairman of the El Paso County Historical Commission. "But we keep bouncing around trying to rebrand ourselves."

El Paso Touts Big Debt Plans


By Kyle Glazier April 19, 2013 A team of El Paso, Texas, officials and advisors spent last week traveling to New York and Washington, D.C., to trumpet their planned nearly half a billion dollar bond-financed overhaul of the city's downtown area, which they see as a major game-changer for their region. El Paso's 10-story city hall building imploded into a pile of dust and debris on the morning of April 14, the first step of the city's $473 million "quality of life" program that was envisioned in the bond referendum approved at the polls last November by a margin of roughly three to one. El Paso city manager Joyce Wilson said the city does not fear issuing a lot of debt, despite the atmosphere of fiscal conservatism and anxiety surrounding the White House's ambition to cap the value of the municipal bond tax exemption at 28%. El Paso, which has a population of roughly 655,568 in 2011, currently has about $600 million of general obligation debt. "We wanted to get out ahead of the market, before interest rates go up," Wilson said. The bonds approved in the referendum would finance 85 separate projects, from parks, pools, and recreation centers to a new children's museum, Hispanic cultural center, and multi-purpose performing arts facility. A $50 million minor-league baseball stadium will take the place of the demolished city hall about a year from now, said Tripper Goodman, president at Goodman Financial Group. The bonds, which have been rated AA by Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings and Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service, will be backed by hotel occupancy tax revenues, and will likely come to market in May, Wilson said. Wilson said El Paso's radical overhaul is roughly modeled on Oklahoma City's transformation during the past decade. That city financed a brand new indoor sports venue that helped lure the National Basketball Association's Seattle Supersonics into moving and becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder. Goodman said El Paso, situated in West Texas on the border of Mexico, has seen other Southwestern cities outgrow and out-develop it over the years and that the new initiative could inject new energy into the region.

El Paso's economic activity also includes Northern Mexico, with cross-border commerce accounting for close to 20% of the city's economic activity, said Wilson. "We're marketing ourselves as a region," said Goodman. Wilson said the El Paso community, which is largely Hispanic, has a strong affinity for open spaces like parks and soccer fields. Construction of new parks has not sated demand, she said. "We couldn't build them fast enough," Wilson added. That community, and young people interested in seeing a dynamic downtown, accounted for the overwhelming bond referendum support, Goodman said. But the decision to move ahead was not simple, Wilson said. The city council fought it out over some expensive propositions that failed to reach the ballot, including a $100 million major league soccer stadium. "We had people fight us," Wilson said. Goodman said the investments will be worth it in the long term, paid back in a higher quality of life for El Pasoans and in economic development for years to come. "Sometimes you've got to stick your neck out," he said.

El Paso Ushers in Its Downtown Renewal With a 'Demolition Weekend'


By Emily Badger April 15, 2013

Over the weekend, the DoubleTree hotel in downtown El Paso was offering a once-in-a-lifetime"Dreams to Reality" Demolition Package for two: a night in the hotel, a five-course gourmet dinner with wine pairings, an all-night Implosion Party looking out over the "last moments of moonlight" on part of the citys skyline, to be followed Sunday morning all of this starting at $299 by a champagne continental breakfast buffet with one of the best views in town of the live demolition of City Hall. El Pasos City Hall was not particularly historic (it was built in 1978), nor architecturally significant, nor even structurally unsound. But its eight-second implosion yesterday morning was cause for watch parties all over town because of what will replace it: a new AAA ballpark, the first tangible sign of a $473 million commitment by the city to improve its quality of life (the ballpark, in particular, is also apparently the stuff of some El Pasoans dreams). "Its like the first big step of implementation," says Joyce Wilson, El Pasos City Manager. To watch the 10-story City Hall implode into a mound of rubble literally clearing the way for the citys future was a form of collective catharsis (at least for those residents who didn't protest the decision). The new ballpark will go up on this same plot of land. Elsewhere in town, a quality-of-life bond supported by voters last November will also enable new parks, recreation centers, athletic fields, public pools, a cultural center, a childrens museum, and upgrades to the city zoo and performing arts center, about 40 projects in all.
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Most of them are due to be completed within the next decade. But the first games at the soon-to-rise baseball stadium are scheduled for next year (the ballot last November also included a vote to raise the hotel occupancy tax to finance it). "The impact on downtown," Wilson says, "will be very immediate and transformational." But first, the implosion (seen here in slow motion):

The city also demolished on Saturday morning a pair of towering smokestacks, long part of a 126-yearold copper smelting site in West-Central El Paso. "This is like demolition weekend," Wilson says.

Such wholesale change in the city was necessary after years without any kind of coherent development plan.

"El Pasos downtown is probably one of the few urban centers that did not really recreate itself in the late 90s and early 2000s when other cities were starting to do some pretty dramatic changes to their downtown," Wilson says. "For whatever reason, El Paso just never did that." For years, she says, property owners in otherwise blighted parts of the city were still turning profits renting ground-floor retail with vacant floors above, thanks to shoppers coming across the Mexican border. As a result, the city's ability to acquire some of these properties and the motivation for property owners to revitalize them stalled. Now, government workers who had been in City Hall, the last of whom moved out of their offices just a few weeks ago, have permanently relocated into what were a pair of vacant buildings and a third rehabbed building across downtown. And so Sunday morning's implosion also means that 600-700 daytime workers will now be animating another part of the city that had been largely underused. "Were kind of behind the curve, Wilson says, but were also at an advantage because were taking the best practices from other folks." A few more images for anyone who wants to savor the moment:

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All photos courtesy of the city of El Paso.


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El Paso, Texas
March 25, 2013 By Morgan Brennan The Texas border hub launched efforts to revitalize its downtown in 2006, with the help of more than $700 million in government reinvestment. In November voters cleared the use $473 million in bonds to be put towards 85 separate redevelopment projects. Among the larger projects slated: a new children's museum, a cultural heritage center, and a new Triple-A baseball stadium for which construction will begin this spring. Joyce Wilson, El Paso's city manager, expects the area will see a doubling in growth in terms of the tax base within the next five to 10 years, as the number of local residents and businesses grow.

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National Broadcast Coverage of the El Paso City Hall Demolition April 13, 2013
DCI wrote and distributed a media alert about the April 14th demolition of City Hall, and its significance to the El Paso downtown extreme makeover efforts. The alert went to all major national and regional broadcast assignment desks.

The result: more than 100 stations reported on the demolition and showcased the video. Of the stations that covered, 9 ran on national network programs.

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El Paso Making Half-a-Billion Bet With Muni to Revamp Downtown


By Kelly Nolan February 19, 2013 --El Paso's capital plan largest in city's history --Most muni debt lately has been sold for refinancings, not capital projects --City revamps, like Oklahoma City's, have been successful El Paso, Texas, is planning to sell more than half a billion dollars in municipal debt to revamp its downtown, an ambitious bet on civic improvement that few cities have been willing to take amid ongoing economic uncertainty. The debt will finance more than 50 "quality of life" projects, including a performing arts and entertainment center, an aquatic center with an Olympic-size pool and an expansion of the city's zoo. The capital plan, which residents approved in November, is the biggest debt undertaking in the city's history, though the bonds will be sold in smaller chunks over a period of about a decade, city Manager Joyce Wilson said. "It really is ambitious," Ms. Wilson said, adding that with the economy showing signs of recovery "it was the right time to test the waters." The first debt offering, a roughly $50 million issue slated to sell in April, will finance a 8,500-seat stadium for El Paso's new minor league baseball team, which is moving to Texas from Tucson, Ariz. Ms. Wilson said the city's next bond sale to support projects in the capital plan could involve up to $30 million in bonds and occur in November. Indeed, big capital campaigns for cities like El Paso are relatively unusual in the wake of the recession and the financial crisis. Municipalities have tightened their budgets amid the tough economy and instead of selling bonds for big improvements, they have mostly refinanced bonds in light of the ultra-low interest-rate environment, thus lowering their borrowing costs. In 2012, about 61.5% of the $366 billion in muni debt sold was for refundings, with just 38.5% for "new money" projects, according to Thomson Reuters data. In 2011, distribution was about even between refundings and new money deals, at 49% and 51% respectively. So far this year, through Feb. 15, about 64% of the $38 billion in muni debt sold so far as been for refundings, with the remainder "new money," according to Thomson.

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Historically, new money issuance typically outweigh refinancings by a ratio of 7 to 3, said Chris Mauro, director of municipal bond research at RBC Capital Markets. Even amid the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 and a still-tough economy in 2010, bond sales for new-money projects still outweighed refinancing deals, though the ratio was closer to 6 to 4 during that time, Thomson Reuters data shows. "The last two years were outliers," Mr. Mauro said. "There's definitely an infrastructure and capital improvement backlog of all the projects that were put off during the depths of the recession." Ms. Wilson, the El Paso city manager, said the city of roughly 665,000 decided to pursue an ambitious capital plan because of demands for increased amenities from residents. Voters approved the bond measures by a healthy margin, with more than 60% voting in favor of the three measures. Such big city revamps can be successful. Ms. Wilson said El Paso modeled their plan after Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Area Projects, a series of improvements Oklahoma City has funded through a temporary penny sales tax, the first of which was instituted in 1993. Richard Ciccarone, chief research officer at McDonnell Investment Management, said the strengths of El Paso's bond plan are that it spreads debt sales over a longer period of time and that it is funding a number of projects, not just banking on the success of one thing. Some cities, like Harrisburg, Pa., have gotten into trouble by making major investments in projects that were meant to help their economies, but ended up backfiring when the project didn't perform well. In Harrisburg's case, the debt burden from a failed trash incinerator project has had the Pennsylvania capital flirting with bankruptcy. "These bonds are an investment for the community," Mr. Ciccarone said of El Paso. "They want to build something that will entice people to come and stay." Of course, big capital plans aren't without risk, especially when the financing involves debt. Mr. Ciccarone said El Paso's debt burden is already relatively high compared with other cities of its size. "They may not have the financial flexibility to deal with unforeseen problems," said Mr. Ciccarone, whose firm oversees about $13 billion in fixed-income assets. Ms. Wilson, the city manager, said El Paso's debt burden should be manageable because the city retires about $30 million of debt each year on average, and it doesn't plan to sell bonds from its capital plan in large swathes. "We feel we can absorb the [debt increase] without any major pressure on the tax rate, and our growth assumptions are very conservative as well," she said.

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Most of the debt from El Paso's plan, about $473 million, will be general obligation bonds, which will be repaid by property tax revenues and the city's ability to raise those taxes, as necessary, to repay the debt. The baseball stadium deal is backed by a separate revenue stream, a hotel tax that residents approved an increase of in November. El Paso, near the U.S. border with Mexico, currently has about $700 million in debt outstanding and ratings of double-A from Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings. According to Fitch, El Paso's tax base only shrunk a modest 1% in fiscal 2011, and in fiscal 2012, it resumed a "healthy growth rate" of 4.5%. El Paso is the sixth largest city in Texas, and its population reflects an average annual growth rate of nearly 1.5% since the 2000 Census, Fitch said. The U.S. government also recently expanded its military presence at Fort Bliss, which boosted residential and commercial construction citywide, according to Fitch. "We already have a lot of economic growth going on around here," Ms. Wilson said. "But we wanted to make our mark on this community...so it continues to grow and be a desirable place to live."

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Voters Pass "Quality of Life" Bond Propositions


By Amy Wolff Sorter Last Updated: November 14, 2012 05:52pm ET EL PASO, TX-On Nov. 6, the local population voted overwhelmingly by a 3-to-1 margin to approve two bond propositions totaling $473 million, as well as a third proposition calling for a 2% increase in the hotel occupancy tax. With voter approval, the city is ready to funnel the money toward revitalization and redevelopment plans throughout the area, while additional plans are being drawn up for a $50 million baseball stadium, which will be funded by the hotel occupancy tax.

El Paso voters overwhelmingly pass quality of life propositions leading to revitalization of the CBD.

Propositions 1, 2 and 3, dubbed "quality of life" propositions, were hotly contested throughout the campaign season. Especially under the microscope was the baseball stadium, which will be built on what is now the site of the city hall building and Insights Science Museum. The 7,000-seat baseball stadium will be home to a Triple A Tucson Padres baseball team acquired by MountainStar Sports Group for the purpose of bringing baseball to downtown El Paso. In the meantime, Proposition 1, totaling $245 million and Proposition 2 at $228 million will be used for 85 separate downtown redevelopment projects that will commence during the next decade and a half. San Jacinto Plaza, the city's town center for more than a century, will be updated with new paving, street promenades and park cafes. Also on the drawing board is a potential performing arts and entertainment center to be used for sports, concerts and other activities, in an attempt to attract more national events to the downtown area. Stay tuned for an update on this bond election and its commercial real estate ramifications for El Paso.

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UPDATE: Propositions' Passage Timely for CRE Issues & Development


By Amy Wolff Sorter Last Updated: November 15, 2012 06:55pm ET EL PASO, TX-The so-called "quality of life" propositions that passed Nov. 6 will do a number of things to help the city, ranging from downtown revitalization to development of a triple-A baseball park. As such, experts tell GlobeSt.com that the bonds, in excess of half a billion dollars, are the next step in bringing El Paso to another level, so it can better compete with other Texas metropolitan centers to the east. "What these propositions will do is help make us more competitive with other Texas cities," comments William Blaziek, general manager with the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Much of our history isn't so much what we haven't done, but what those other cities have done. We'd fallen behind." Giancarlo Da Prato with local commercial and residential real estate company GDP Realty puts it another way. "The basic question comes down to, what is there to do on the weekends," he notes. "What is the culture, the restaurants, and where to shop. It sounds crazy, but those are the basic fundamentals that had been preventing employers from coming to El Paso."

El Paso: Recent passage of quality-of-life initiatives could help commercial real estate development.

So the way to catch up and be a regional player was to focus on increasing quality of life. And the way to do that was to put three quality-of-life bonds on the ballot. The model used for the referendums was taken from Oklahoma City and its Metropolitan Area Projects quality of life initiative or MAPS, as it's known. MAPS was initially approved by Oklahoma City voters in 1993, allowing sales tax to be increased by one cent over five years. The end result was $363 million raised for a variety of projects including Bricktown Ballpark, which eventually led to the nearby mixed use Bricktown entertainment/restaurant development nearby. Over the years, additional Oklahoma City bonds, such as a $180 million bond, have also been passed to improve everything from schools to infrastructure and public buildings such as museums. "The compelling story taken away from Oklahoma City was that you can't be attractive to companies growing in a region or those looking to relocate if you don't offer a good quality of life," explains El Paso Deputy Director, Planning and Economic Development Mathew McElroy. Because of this, the passage of the three propositions ends up being "the first time there was public comment and approval of specific issues and development that will take place over the next ten years," says Christian Perez Giese SVP-Director CBRE's El Paso/Juarez office.

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Quality of life is fine, but what effect does this have on commercial real estate? Blaziek is upfront by saying that he hopes to see developers building quality hotels in downtown El Paso in proximity to the city's 225,000-square-foot convention center. He also wants to see commercial attractions, such as amusement parks and water parks. Da Prato says quality of life initiatives shows El Paso as pro-business, meaning CRE developers are more likely to be receptive to the environment. There is also hope that the triple-A baseball stadium will bring its own share of commercial real estate development. Though the jury is out on the direct connection between sports arenas and commercial real estate building, Blaziek points out that the ballpark, which will be adjacent to the convention center, offers something else that's just as important. "I can lure conventions and meeting planners who believe we roll up the streets at 5 p.m., and point out that there are 72 home games at this ballpark, and that there's plenty going on after 5 p.m.," he remarks. The experts are unanimous in stating, however, that the bonds passage isn't geared toward jump-starting El Paso commercial real estate development. That's been going on for awhile, both in the CBD and the outskirts. Giese explains that Union Plaza's renovation project, which turned the historic relic into an entertainment area, and the renovation of Anson Mills Building, an office building at 303 N. Oregon St. have worked out fairly well. A new CVS is moving into the CBD, El Paso's first one. Giese points out that, on the industrial side, other factors, such as proximity to a booming Mexico, are driving interest in development and leasing. "Texas, as a whole, has been performing well, so well that major core markets have been picked over from an investment perspective," Giese says. As a result investors are taking a serious look at El Paso, partly because it's a city in Texas and partly because it sits right on the Mexican border. "We've seen more investors becoming knowledgeable about this market; a market that wouldn't have been on their radar screens three years ago," Giese observes. Da Prato comments that, as important an influx of more than half a billion dollars into infrastructure and stadiums might be, just as important is the psychological impact of overwhelming voter support for the packages. "What this says to the rest of the world is that El Paso is willing to spend money on itself to get to that next level and the voters are on board with it," he comments.

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By Unanimous Decision El Paso Wins the Fight

Posted: 06/15/2012 6:27 pm On Saturday, June 16, boxers Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and Andy Lee will clash in a highly anticipated match at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, scheduled to air on HBO. However, before Chavez, Jr. and Lee could get into the ring, El Paso had to do a little fighting for itself to keep this bout in our beloved City. You see, after the fight was scheduled in El Paso, Texas, (America's Safest City I might add) the University of Texas System Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, cancelled the fight in El Paso citing an "elevated security risk." This didn't make sense and seemed to contradict our Safest City Ranking. It didn't make sense to me, it didn't make sense to the rest of our city's leadership, and most importantly, it didn't make sense to El Pasoans. That is because for the second year in a row, the CQ Press (FBI Uniform Crime Statistics) ranked El Paso, Texas as the safest large city in the U.S. with a population of more than 500,000. The distinction of being the safest city in the United States is not a contest we won. It is the way we live our lives. And we have the track record to prove it. It is a fact that we haven't ranked out of the top three, since 1997. Year after year, we are heavyweight contenders in the realm of safest cities. We cannot go on having people's perceptions outside of our community lag behind reality. We cannot have people believe that El Paso is an unsafe and undesirable place to live and visit. So what did we do? We fought back. The fight was on. The fight was on not only to save the fight itself, but the fight was on to save El Paso's reputation. And it was at that point that El Paso rallied, coming together in a way I've never seen before. I gathered with various leaders in this community to get our fight back. We scheduled a press conference that included our City Manager, various City Council members, representatives of our County and State delegations, the Chamber of Commerce, our Convention and Visitors Bureau, the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, along with other area leaders. We wanted to get the message out that we were serious about keeping this fight in our City, and serious about deterring others from outside of our community to negatively label our City, based on inaccurate perceptions. And you know what? It worked. They heard us loud and clear and we won our fight - by unanimous decision! And after all that mounting pressure, the University of Texas System Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, declared the match was back on in El Paso, Texas, "The Safest City in the United

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States." Now, area leaders have rallied in an attempt to sellout Sun Bowl Stadium, which has a (staged) capacity of more than 30,000. In support of the ticket sales rally, local businesses have been buying block tickets for employees. And Operation H.O.P.E., a local non-profit charity, purchased 200 tickets for the Fort Bliss Wounded Warrior Project. Now the world will get to see undefeated Chavez, Jr., the son of famed boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, who is beloved in his native country of Mexico and has earned the nickname La Leyenda Continua (The Legend Continues). They will get to see him in El Paso, which sits on the US/Mexico border. This allows Chavez Jr.'s Mexican and American fans to see him in an attempt to preserve his undefeated record. Local businesses will greatly benefit from the increased economic activity from visitors to El Paso, as the match is expected to have a $4.5 million economic impact. El Paso will be center stage on this Saturday, June 16, and our city will have the opportunity to show the world how it came together to fight against what it feels is the wrong perception of our community. Plus, it keeps this much-anticipated boxing match in the venue where it was planned and promoted. As the sun sets in El Paso on June 16, with the world watching, Chavez, Jr. and Lee will enter the ring and El Paso residents will watch with a proud victory already under their belt.

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Pride and Prejudice


By Dagoberto Gilb 40th Anniversary Issue January 2013 IT'S TIME FOR TEXAS TO GET SMART ABOUT ITS WESTERNMOST-AND MOST IGNORED-CITY, WHERE AN OLD PASS TRACKS THE ROUTE OF OUR FUTURE. A thousand years ago, I was half of a young couple, attractive if I maybe allowed, the happy parents of two handsome children, the big one still willing to hold the hand of his beautiful mom, the baby still in a four-wheel collapsible that was more a rolling hammock. We didn't have much. A lousy "good" car, income to pay the monthly rent eleven months a year, a home with barely enough furnishings to look lived in. I knew a few who weren't better off, but also a few who were, who made car payments, found steady employment that could turn out to be career choices, had newer clothes and cooler shoes. Did we have "ideals" that locked us down, explained why we were staying too poor and not running from poor El Paso? That's not what I said then or would now. No ideals in my simple mind. True, I didn't want my wife to work, because we had two small children who needed to be with their mom while they were so young. But aside from less favorable alternatives, that seemed naturally connected to the pregnancies themselves. False, that we had lots of better options. We'd recently moved back to El Paso from years in Los Angeles, unto, finally, we were happy. One very fine day in the eighties, we were either coming from or going to the McDonald Observatory, or the fort in Fort Davis, or Marfa's lights, or Big Bend--our purpose then vague after these thousand years. What remains is a stuttered, super 8-like memory of us standing at a highway pullover, staring at El Capitan and the Guadalupe Mountains. Like most, I loved a blue sky that was from the feet up, from this end and corner to that. But it was better still with the howling, hard blow of the West Texas wind, bending the creosote and sage. Higher than any in Texas, the mountains are not all that big to anyone who's seen the many bigger. But they're not in the Chihuahuan Desert, and El Capitan is, a limestone tomb carved craggy like an old Mescalero's face. We were not alone. There was a young blond woman who, with distant years and evidence aside, I assumed was accompanied. She was wide-eyed, cheery, curious. My wife and I liked her for this, hard to not. Traveling across the American West, she was from Holland or Denmark or Sweden or Germany. In other words, she spoke English precisely, as though each syllable came from a distinct thought. There were many back-and-forths between us, none of which I remember whatsoever, except: And us, where were we from? Standing in the ancient desert, the history of the Southwest as visible as an agave's thorn, my wife answered that she was Mexican and I was Mexican and German, but where we lived was El Paso. The woman responded quickly. "El Paso? Isn't that the armpit of Texas?" She enunciated each syllable innocently, not building toward sarcasm or contempt but into a sincere question mark, as though simply recalling a geographic phrase she'd read in a paperback travel guide. It was as if she'd learned that New Mexico's slogan was "Land of Enchantment," while this armpit one was what went on El Paso's license plates.

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I have no memory after that moment. As happy as we were out in the wind, in the sun, under blue sky, we were as happy in our quarry-rock home, every night black and starry gorgeous outside it, nothing but quiet. We were happy inside together, all together, all better. We loved El Paso. How did bright people like us--both of us educated exceptions to our family histories--find this place so beautiful to live? Why do people not from El Pasofind it so ugly? With John Wesley Hardin buried on Boot Hill, and Pancho Villa its most legendary resident, an untamed West is El Paso's lure for visiting outsiders who see history not as the past alone. They're pulled all in by the mythic (which is to say, not visible) charms of the winding Rio Grande and dangerous border. Hot red-chile enchiladas still digesting, they're remembering a horse they once rode, or dreaming of the one they could've or should've--and done that and not just this. They're at a spacious, sparkly downtown bar, a double whiskey no ice, or a shot of tequila. And if there were a shake of love? Yes, it's a song coming! Out in the West Texas town of El Paso I fell in love with a Mexican girl. Nighttime would find me in Rosa's cantina Music would play and Felina would whirl. The lyrics of the 1959 hit "El Paso," by Marty Robbins, have fixed a romanticized countrywestern fantasy onto the city for over fifty years. It is not one that nests inside native residents-the local population of around 665,000 is more than 80 percent Mexican American--only an awareness of the other culture that views theirs as exotic. Consider, if you will, the possibility of a hit song about a hot, wicked, evil, blue-eyed "dancer" named Jane in an all-Anglo club on the dimly lit perimeter of a city. Two Mexicans fight over her attentions (she was sharing a drink with the more handsome, younger new guy). One kills the other and flees through the back door, peeling out for the safe badlands. But the vato can't bear to exist without Jane's love. So he goes back where he's not too welcome. They're waiting for him. Ignoring a windstorm of bullets, he doesn't quit moving forward until a blast hits his chest. Now Jane rushes out of the club and, as he is dying, kneels by him, kissing his cheek, cradling him. He kisses sweet Jane goodbye. Though more what you'd imagine seeing on an episode of Cops, the "El Paso" tale is recounted as a nostalgic romance--of the bad, dark woman, the manly cowboy, crossing borders, living fearlessly--for those whose Jane is Felina. 1 It's hard to deny that it's not the best image for El Paso'swomen to start out from. Compare that to a woman from Paris or L.A. Doubtful, too, it's the model El Paso itself would choose. Though not everybody, for example, thinks of the JFK assassination as Dallas, it lingers steadily, a second if not first thought. Chicago hasn't seen Al Capone since the thirties, yet there he is when people go mentally, or even actually. These images are what draw tourists in, and El Paso takes what it's given, as any city would. Everyone, everywhere, wants to fall in love with the outlaw, or the sexiest, or to be free of civilized restrictions other than those defined by Freud and guns, living life as an adventure. El Paso as the last outpost of the Old West isn't a bad business. It's the border town in this adventure fantasy that's the problem. Because the border is "foreign," El Paso is treated as though it were too. Not Romania, or Laos, or Uruguay, or Canada, but full of unique stereotypes that reach back a century and more. Ask Texans, even, what they think of when they think of El Paso, and there's no doubt that if it's not specifically Jurez (more so now, way wrongly, than ever because of the narco violence), it's generally Mexico. That's not to say that there aren't positives about having an association with our culturally rich, beautiful friend with a shared past. There's the tradition of fine art and architecture, the historical missions and trails. There are the ornately staged and costumed folklrico dances, the mariachis with brass and strings, the famed boleros and corridos, 23

the msica ranchera and American tejano. Above all, there are the plates of tacos and enchiladas, the flour tortilla, fajitas: all of this is extraordinarily popular within and across ethnic lines. And it's now all become a source of pride in Texas, but even more as Texas. Unfortunately, the city that has benefited here is San Antonio, not El Paso. That's because San Antonio is not a border town. Far from Mexico, it's a safe American city with a huge tourist center that especially highlights all of the above, lucratively, on its River Walk. El Paso shares the border with Jurez. To those driving by, it's subliminal Mexico or a real one, cheap-motels scary. Is it only coincidence that the ugliest things that outsiders say about the city and its residents are the same things said about Mexicans in neighborhoods everywhere? We have all heard them in their formal disguises and convoluted euphemisms. It really comes down to poverty. In this country's history, maybe dislike of Mexican poverty only looks a lot like racism. A couple of the dumbest canards are that these are people who don't care about speaking English (and, oddly, don't speak Spanish properly either), and that the girls get pregnant so young because it's Mexican in nature. Or that the same nature keeps them in jobs that are menial and low-paying, just as their heritage doesn't value educating children. And ... look at the dirty streets. How can it be that so many are so naive as to confuse issues of poverty, a socioeconomic condition, with the essence of a people? Or a city? But I ask you right now to recall that European visitor outside the city limits, who simply acquired her information impersonally. This lowly projection is not just offensive; it's factually untrue, false about El Paso, where a population of strong, good families reaches back to the Mexican and American eras. Texas is not Arizona, where a list like the above would be longer, and more public and overtly racist. In Texas even the worst bigots are polite and believe that it's better to say nothing if you don't got nothing decent to say. El Paso doesn't have the economies of Houston or Dallas or Austin. It is poor. And poor doesn't look as bright-lights, fashion-glamorous, haute-cuisine, big-stadium, or high-tech as rich. If not outright dismissed, El Paso more often feels ignored. And so it is, in the silence, six hundred miles from the state capitol. How I've heard it explained is thus: she is the dark child of a crazy night on the border, and married Austin pays his legally obliged child support. The rest of Texas ought to have sympathy for El Paso's larger, unseemly reputation. Much of the country still reports that it's what all the state, end to end, looks like for hours and hours of highway-and as unexplainably wild as the West Texas wind, even as most days are as wide blue and bright sunny as ... most days really. Those dirty streets of El Paso. It's absolutely true that, like on a worn horse trail, the dry dirt that dusts up in the wind is not held down by well-groomed, watered green meadows. In the desert, brown is the dominant earth tone. Just like in an old western. Like the Old West in a popular country-western song even. There is good reason why so many love the West--the historical fable of it, its natural beauty, the opportunity to start over it has always symbolized. Only one city is still so landlocked in both an American past and a Mexican one, a combination that will be the foundation of our New West. The raw forces of desert are still a daily part of El Paso life, from vinegaroons and scorpions, tumbleweed and ocotillo to the throbbing of the sun and the horizontal speed of the wind, resources of metaphor and energy. The beauty that reaches up into the Franklin Mountains and over to Hueco Tanks. A legacy of Spanish conquistadores, from canals to routes, an Indian nation transplanted after a loss in a world war-like, seventeenth-century battle of cultures, a settlement that has been the midpoint as a south-to-north national power shifted to an east-to-west one. 24

We all know that one about the thin line between love and hate. Or the other one that has ignorance as bliss. I still don't remember where my wife and sons and I had been that particular day way back when, staring up at El Capitan. Let's just say it was Fort Davis, a cavalry garrison erected to protect white settlers from hostile Indians. What I still recall understanding well, right then and there, was how doomed those hated Apache were. Sure, there were the modern artillery and well-equipped manpower of the fort, but what I mean here is the tide of inevitability, of history. Neither side could know, least of all imagine, that a continental tsunami was on its way, and a few years here or there ... The next tsunami is a blink away. There is now even more reason to love the West, and intimacy with Mexico will be the plus it should be once we rid ourselves of the ignorant, crude xenophobia of a national Arizona. Time to stare. To be curious. To get smart. At the most western corner of Texas, an old pass tracks the route of our future.

The Best Laid Plan


By Debbie Nathan EL PASO'S LATEST URBAN REDEVELOPMENT SCHEME IS ONE OF THE NATION'S MOST FARREACHING AND INNOVATIVE. IT IS ALSO, AS ANY RESIDENT WILL TELL YOU, ONE OF ITS MOST CONTENTIOUS. These days El Paso can feel like a big city (especially during rush hour on Interstate 10), but it's still close-knit enough to retain the qualities, both good and bad, of a small town: there's a coziness to it, which residents boast about, and yet also a fair amount of squabbling, the kind of brother-and-sisterly infighting that makes it hard to get things done. There's no better example of this than Plan El Paso. The urban redevelopment scheme first got national attention in 2011, when it won a Smart Growth Achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency. Some nine hundred pages long and beautifully illustrated, Plan El Paso was so extensive and cutting-edge--focusing on walkability, historic preservation, gorgeous public spaces, environmental cleanup, and efficient public transportation--that outsiders couldn't help but take notice. "It is among the best, most articulate comprehensive plans I have ever seen," wrote sustainable-planning expert Kaid Benfield on the website Atlantic Cities. In a city more used to making news for stray bullets zooming in from Mexico and crooked officials raiding the public till, the sense of accomplishment was palpable. "Let's seize this moment," wrote city manager Joyce Wilson in the El Paso Times last March, days before the city council unanimously approved the plan. Urban retooling, of course, is the activity du jour: Houston is working on EaDo, short for East Downtown, a project that's luring young professionals into an area once dominated by warehouses and freeways; Dallas and Fort Worth are spending billions to revamp the Trinity River for recreation; San Antonio's Pearl Brewery has wooed hip restaurants and other businesses, including the Culinary Institute of America; and Austin's Waller Creek Tunnel Project aims to encourage new high-rises by redirecting floodwater out of downtown. But what sets Plan El Paso apart is its citywide level of ambition. As you know if you've visited downtown lately, it is in dire need of upgrades: century-old buildings stand vacant, their windows shuttered and shattered. (Last spring, the former law office of gunslinger John Wesley Hardin caught fire, and the building burned to rubble.) The idea behind the plan is to reverse this decay by attracting people into the city's center. It also recommends replacing the 33-year-old toasteroven-shaped city hall with a more classical-looking building.

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But if that sounds to you like the sort of thing El Paso would go gaga over, then you don't know El Paso, where residents' priorities can be so disparate that something as seemingly benign as an artwork can set off bitter conflict, as happened in 2003, over a proposed downtown statue of Juan de Oate. While some El Pasoans considered the Spanish conquistador worthy of recognition for establishing the first European settlements in the Southwest, others denounced him as a monster who massacred Native Americans, and the two factions squared off in letters to the editor and at an angry, tearful city council meeting. (Eventually the statue was installed out by the airport.) So it was hardly surprising when, barely three months after Plan El Paso was approved, citizens were turning on one another again. To understand why, you have to go back to 2006, the year that the city council adopted a precursor to Plan El Paso known as the Downtown Plan. Developed by the Paso Del Norte Group (PDNG), an exclusive association of private-sector leaders, this plan aimed to improve downtown by building a sports arena, a hotel, shops, and an "arts walk" resembling San Antonio's River Walk. To make room for these changes, the plan also marked swaths of Segundo Barrio, a historic yet faded neighborhood, for razing. The proposal quickly exposed some deep divisions. For generations, Segundo Barrio has been a way station for Mexican immigrants and ground zero for political and cultural movements, and for many El Pasoans, it represents sacred ground (see page 92). Yet the plan targeted many of its buildings, and without giving residents prior notice. This infuriated the city's Chicanos, a group of politically conscious Mexican Americans who have fought since the sixties and seventies to advance their civil rights. Though Latinos now make up 82 percent of El Paso's population, they remain disproportionately poor, and activists were bothered especially by the fact that the PDNG leaders behind the plan were mostly white and very rich. Those in the PDNG, meanwhile, saw themselves as being in a position to bring some muchneeded prosperity to El Paso. The group's most high-profile members, such as developer Bill Sanders and Western Refining CEO Paul Foster, were known for their civic investments. Sanders, widely regarded as the godfather of the real estate investment trust, or REIT (an arrangement that turns skyscrapers, parking lots, and housing tracts into stock market shares), had returned to his native El Paso after years away to establish REITs on both sides of the border. Foster, the only billionaire in the city, was known for his charitable contributions; his gift of $50 million in 2007 to build a medical school would make El Paso the only Texas border city with such an institution. But the secretive nature of the PDNG--membership is by invitation only, and when the plan was unveiled no formal roster had been disclosed--as well as the group's reticence to engage the media, soon raised suspicion about its motives. At the time, Sanders was developing an industrial and residential complex near El Paso, and news that Mexican developers across the border had been using thugs and dogs to evict poor residents in a similar urban renewal scheme fueled rumors (all denied by Sanders's company) that the two sides were in cahoots. These misgivings and gossip turned to outrage when the city council, trying to promote a new vision of El Paso, unveiled a PowerPoint presentation that used unfortunate imagery: "old" El Paso, represented by a photo of a Mexican grandpa in a Stetson (the text described him as "dirty," "lazy," and "uneducated"), and "new" El Paso, represented by head shots of Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. This caused such a furor that soon a protest group had formed to actively fight the Downtown Plan. The project eventually stalled but not before many longtime friendships in the city had dissolved. So when the city council initiated Plan El Paso in 2010, it was eyed with both hope and caution. The PDNG signed on again, and a "quality of life" bond election was slated for November 2012 in which half a billion dollars would be earmarked for, among other things, fixing up the zoo, building a Hispanic heritage museum, and putting in a triple-A baseball stadium downtown, 26

something that excited PDNG members, including Foster. He envisioned a $50 million, publicly funded arena whose minor league games--played with a team he planned to invest in--would attract businesses to the city. "Give them things to do," he told the weekly El Paso Inc. "Give them a vibrant downtown and family entertainment." But nothing is ever simple in El Paso. The plan appeared to be going pretty smoothly until one day last June, when city manager Wilson made a sudden announcement. A baseball team (later revealed to be the Tucson Padres) was ready to sign with Foster and his partners, but only if a brand-new stadium was assured. Within hours, a vote was taken--but only by the city council. El Pasoans would still get their day at the polls in November, but now the stadium was already approved. The only question to be put to voters was whether to finance it with a hotel occupancy tax on out-of-towners. In another shocking move, the city council decided to make room for the ballpark by dynamiting city hall. Staff would move but not to the new building sketched out in Plan El Paso. Instead, civic business would be parceled out to scattered sites around town, and El Paso would no longer have a city hall.

A Night at Chicos
SAVORING AN INSTITUTION FROM 9 P.M. TO 2:30 A.M. By Jazmine Ulloa Chico's Tacos sits on Alameda Avenue in a humble area of El Paso known as the Lower Valley. Though a chain of five eateries now share the Chico's name, el original is this one. Here, wedged between a graveyard and a small park where the homeless often congregate, the city's most famous hangout has been sustaining El Pasoans with its processed cheese and soupy tomato sauce since the day that late boxing promoter Joe Mora opened its doors, on July 4, 1953. As a kid, this was my favorite place to go on Friday evenings with my grandmother. I've since moved away--for college, for work--but as anybody from El Paso can tell you, Chico's leaves a greasy imprint, and one cool night this past November. I returned with friends. The restaurant looked radioactive in the darkness, a humming beacon with fluorescent lights that turned the beige brick walls yellow. Inside, the booths were the bright-red vinyl I remembered. Arcade games, the same ones I'd begged quarters from my grandmother for as a rotten eight-year-old, blinked in the corner. It was almost nine at night on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but it was as busy as a lunch-hour rush. An employee rattled off orders over a crackling intercom as families, trailing children in pajamas, pushed through the doors. A group of teenagers giggled by the counter. Chico's is gloriously cheap: every item on its black menu boards is, and always has been, under $5. There are the burgers and fries, the grilled cheese sandwiches--or "grillos"--and the hot dogs, which are not really hot dogs at all but two sliced franks on a circular bun with chili beans, mustard, and pickles. And then, of course, the tacos: crispy tortilla flutes stuffed with ground beef, soaked in a thin tomato sauce, and topped with lots of shredded cheese. They come in a small paper boat, in a set of three for a "single" and six for a "double," but even the less devoted customers know that the better buy is an order of two singles: this guarantees enough sauce and cheese for all your tacos. You smother them in green salsa until they reach perfect, mushy goodness, and then you scoop them up with a white plastic fork. I am a fan. Still, El Pasoans have a tortured affection for the place, like variations on a bad romance: We love it or hate it. We love to hate it. We hate to love it. Don't go calling it names, though, because that's our prerogative alone. Even when the restaurant has disappointed us. as it did in 2009, when it made headlines after the police threw out two gay men from the 27

downtown location for kissing in public, it remains part of our collective identity. That incident ignited a mass protest, but it also opened up debate in a city that often chooses not to confront its old-fashioned conventions. (A friend saved a button from the protest that read "Not All Chicos Like Tacos.") "It is hard for me to put into words my appreciation for the place," said my friend Ryan Martinez as we dug into our tacos. Chico's, he continued, regularly sweeps reader polls in What's Up. the local magazine he is the editor of: Best lunch deal. Best place to take out-of-towners. Best place to eat hungover. An oft-recounted story tells of an El Paso woman who woke up from a coma in New York City; the first meal she asked for was tacos from Chico's. Other places have tried to duplicate the signature tomato sauce to no avail: a copycat restaurant in Austin dubbed Chuco's Tacos went out of business in 2008. We stayed until two-thirty, and children were still arriving in their nighties. The women who now appeared wore shorter skirts and longer coats. A group of mariachis ordered some hot dogs to go. Sitting in the back, a man named Cesar Holguin offered his thoughts. "If you go to Philadelphia, you order a Philly cheesesteak," he said. "If you go to Chicago, you order a Chicago pizza. In El Paso, we have Chico's."

An ode to Album Park


By Christine Granados Forty years ago I would burrow inside the nose cone of a three-story rocket slide at Album Park. Not Eastwood Park--officials have force-fed El Pasoans that name since the park opened, in 1968, but, like ketchup on hamburgers, we don't ever use it. Peering through the steel rods that made up the rocket walls, I could see the detention pond, where, after a heavy rain, people canoed among the frogs. A child of the Chihuahuan Desert, I had never seen a larger body of water. At the time, I thought all lakes had a rain gauge at their center. It was in the rocket that I first conquered my fear of heights and of life. I trembled as I flew down the scorching-hot metal slide, but like a six-lined racerunner, I knew all would be right when my feet hit the sand. The familiar puff of dust emboldened me. As I grew older, I was nourished by the team sports I played on the park fields and by the fare at the Eastwood Optimist Club's concession stand. East Side moms and dads fed hundreds of us from this tollbooth-size space. I ate burgers drenched in homemade chile verde and washed them down with a raspa. It all had to be consumed within five minutes or the snow cone cup turned the consistency of a spit wad. As a teenager, I retreated to the pond with friends, swatting at mosquitoes the size of sumac berries and contemplating my future in a haze of adolescent inebriation. Late, after the last softball game was played and the field lights were off, I'd stumble toward the rocket, squeeze my oversized, lean body up the steps, and slide down, singing Elton John: "I'm a rocket man!" When my feet hit the dirt, creating that dust cloud landing, I was sobered and renewed. Then I'd whip back to the top, as if waking from hibernation.

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better! cities&towns
Voters support smart growth in El Paso, across US

San Jacinto Plaza, as envisioned in Plan El Paso

By Rob Steuteville December 2012 Issue Voters in El Paso, Texas, overwhelmingly supported $473 million in quality of life bonds that will fund city parks and cultural venues to implement what Natural Resources Defense Council blogger Kaid Benfield called among the best, most articulate comprehensive plans I have ever seen. Voters also supported smart growth and transit measures in many other cities and towns across the country e.g. in Philadelphia, Arlington, and Virginia Beach. A few proposals were defeated in some cases they received majority support but a two-thirds vote was required. The El Paso bonds, supported on November 8 by a 3 to 1 margin, were among the most impressive smart growth election results this year. Earlier this year, the city adopted Plan El Paso (see Better! Cities & Towns April-May, 2012). Everything that was taken to the voters was designed to implement Plan El Paso and create a dynamic urban center, city manager Joyce Wilson told Better! Cities & Towns. Within 5 years, it will be a game changer relative to what El Paso is now. In 10 years, [the result] will be absolutely amazing. One of the measures, about $240 million, will fund parks throughout the city. Another will go toward a $180 million arena for sports, concerts, and theatrical shows plus provide additional capacity for the downtown convention center. A childrens museum and 29

cultural history center are also funded. A final measure levies a 2 percent increase on the hotel tax to pay for a AAA baseball stadium. A team is slated to move to El Paso for 2014. The stadium will be built on the site of the current city hall, a hulking 1970s building surrounded by asphalt. The city hall will be moved to three vacant, underutilized buildings within a block and a half of each other in the city center. In addition, city council has recently taken other steps toward realizing the vision in Plan El Paso: Downtowns primary public space for 100 years, San Jacinto Plaza, which has fallen into disrepair, will get $5 million for redesign and improvement. New paving, seating areas, park cafes and street promenades are just some of the planned additions for the revamp that will help improve the overall appearance and atmosphere of the central location, the city notes. Streetscape improvements The city has also allocated $10 million for streetscape improvements in advance of the signature projects approved by voters. Of the four bus rapid transit lines proposed in Plan El Paso, two are under construction, a third has Federal Transit Authority funding through the Small Starts program, and the fourth is in planning. All four are expected to be running by 2017. In addition, the city plans to launch a rail streetcar line with restored Art Deco cars that El Paso used from 1949 to 1974 connecting downtown, the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), and the international border. The city will seek state funding next year. The estimated cost to restore one original car is between $1.6 million and$2.5 million, while a replica would cost about $1.2 million. The additional cost is worth it to preserve a piece of authentic history, officials say. The investment is spurring new development downtown and near transit- oriented sites, Wilson says. Since the baseball stadium was announced, six properties have changed hands. UTEP is expanding, Texas Tech is launching an expanded architecture program downtown, and a local corporation is taking steps to relocate to the city center. There was significant opposition to the 2 percent tax increase, Wilson says, but this nevertheless passed by a 60-40 margin. Wilson credits a year-long public engagement process related to Plan El Paso. I also believe there is pent up hunger and demand for certain types of amenities that we have had not had up to this time, she said.

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Discounts on Texas Accomodations and Attractions


By Maryann Hammers February 19, 2013 As the saying goes, Everything is bigger in Texas. We found these Texas -sized deals for you in the Lone Star State. Act fast to take advantage of this offer: Through Feb. 28, the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort has a special from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the resort boasts plenty of recreational options, from an 18-hole golf course to an equestrian facility with horseback riding, nearby kayaking and rafting on the Colorado River, and hiking or bird watching on 18 miles of trails. If you stay Sunday through Thursday, enjoy a free daily breakfast for two, and for just $25 more, you can stay in a junior suite. Book online using special offer code SERVICE, or call (800) 55-HYATT. Set amid rolling hills and meandering creeks, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort has the makings for a perfect getaway. Its challenging-but-scenic Pete Dye-designed golf course is considered one of the nations best. Segway tours, trail bike rides, evening smores, and a water -park-like experience will keep the whole family entertained. Texas-style cuisine includes everything from steakhouses to sports bars. The hotel offers the Salute to Service package, with a nightly rate of $106 for active duty servicemembers, valid through 2013. Book online, or call (866) 882-4420 and ask for rate code GOV. Looking for a family vacation? Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine offers a 20-percent Howling Heroes discount on accommodations (including family suites for up to six people, with a microwave and refrigerator), plus free admission to the resorts indoor waterpark. (To give you an idea of your cost, as of this writing, the military price starts at about $160, compared to the regular price of about $200.) You can reserve up to two rooms using the military rate. Book online, using promo code HEROES, or call (817) 488-6510 and ask for the Howling Heroes discount. Gaylord Texan, overlooking Lake Grapevine, offers a military/government rate of just $139. The hotel is six minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and with a humongous 10-acre resort pool and lazy river, its a great family destination. Call (817) 778-1000 to learn more. Looking for a basic room with a bargain price tag? Youll find that at Red Roof Inns throughout Texas. The chain has always been noted for economy accommodations, and now the price is even better with its nationwide 15percent military discountthrough March 31. Book online, using code 606732, or call (800) REDROOF (7337224). The city of El Paso strives to show appreciation to servicemembers stationed at or visiting nearby Fort Bliss. Enjoy discountson museums, movies, shopping, and dining. (And if youre looking for a discount on accommodations, see above yes, there are two Red Roof Inns in El Paso, too. Click here for a comprehensive list of El Paso deals.

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En El Paso, Texastodo est bien


By Hernn Gabriel D. March 12, 2013

La ms grande rea metropolitana internacional con 800,000 habitantes en El Paso, 1.5 millones en Jurez y ms de 100,000 en Las Cruces, para un total de 2.5 millones en la regin

El Paso.- El Paso It's All good(Todo es bueno en El Paso), as reza el eslogan de esta ciudad que ha comenzado el desarrollo de un proyecto de unos $473 millones de dlares para mejorar la calidad de vida de sus habitantes, que incluye, entre otras obras, la construccin de un estadio de bisbol de ligas menores para su recin comprado equipo Triple-A Tucson Padres. La ciudad ha elaborado un esquema de remodelacin urbana de gran alcance, uno de los ms grandes e innovadores de la nacin, que a su vez, como cualquier residente le dir, es uno de los ms polmicos. El distrito que maneja el centro de la ciudad es una zona de mejoras municipales centrado en el desarrollo econmico, con iniciativas y programas. Tiene un acuerdo con la ciudad y la mayor parte de su financiacin proviene de un im-puesto de propiedad de 12 centavos por $100 de valoracin. "Estamos muy contentos con el rumbo que est tomando el centro," dijo Vernica Soto, directora ejecutiva del distrito en gestin. "El centro est creciendo para convertirse en un centro cultural y econmico clave. Pero todava necesitamos seguir atrayendo inversiones para asegurar que durante esta construccin las personas sigan viniendo a la zona". (www.visitelpaso.com)

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El Paso from six feet under


No shortage of history in this Texan desert treasure.
By Karin Leperi, April 25, 2013

Ive never considered visiting graveyards a must-see travel experience, but Ill have to admit that lately I am finding a wealth of history and a deep sense of place that develops necessarily when jaunting graveyard sites. This is particularly true in El Paso, Texas. Concordia Cemetery is a starkly desolate, almost lunar-like landscape where the high desert winds howl and fine dust soars from all directions sometimes all at once. With the Mexican border only a few blocks away, the cemetery holds the keys to an understanding of El Paso at the crossroads, not only geographically but from an ethnic and cultural standpoint. For buried on these hallowed grounds are the inclusive remains of El Pasos history a colorful chronicle that began with Spanish conquistadors, progressed to Mexican dominion, then further to an infamous town of Western ambitions and lawless pursuits, finally becoming a part of Texas and the United States. To better understand the city's patchwork, it helps to roam the graves of those that have gone before. With over 60,000 inhabitants all of them dead and confined to 52 acres, the Concordia graveyard is permanent record of El Paso's cultural and historical kaleidoscope.
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The Notorious Inhabitant of Boot Hill

Most visitors head straight to the grave of John Wesley Hardin(left), a gunslinger, gambler and outlaw so famous, that he reputedly killed more people than Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Ironically, he did not view himself in the same light and has been quoted as explaining his killing spree as only doing right. I never killed anyone who didnt need killing, rationalized Hardin regarding the 42 people he claimed to have murdered before his imprisonment at the Huntsville, Texas, prison. While in prison, he studied law and passed the Texas state bar shortly after being released in 1893, where he would then move to El Paso to practice law. Unfortunately, Hardin quickly reverted back to gambling and drinking, and was shot in the back of the head at the Acme Saloon by John Selman, a man who also found himself on both sides of the law at various times. The date was August 19, 1895. Almost a century later in 1995, Hardins descendants would approach the court for permission to dig up his remains and reinter them in Nixon, Texas. A judge eventually ruled that Hardins remains will stay in El Paso. A Most Diverse Graveyard In the 1840s, this area was known as Rancho Concordia and was home to a trader. It eventually became the final resting spot for his wife, after she met her untimely death when gored by a pet deer.

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By the 1880s, the place was a popular spot for people from El Paso just three miles away to bring and bury their dead. Proximity to the growing city was the key. This led to the city purchasing its first cemetery parcel in 1882 as a burial ground for paupers. By the 1890s, sections were purchased by various groups.

Different sections include: Jesuit, Catholic, Mormon, Masonic, Jewish, AfricanAmerican, Buffalo Soldiers (left), Chinese and Military. Theres even a childrens section where it is rumored that the bodies of numerous children were buried after a severe outbreak of smallpox. Today, the area is eerily marked by a somewhat dilapidated iron crib. Many Chinese buried in El Paso are the men and their families who helped build the intercontinental railroad and decided to stay in El Paso, making it their permanent home. However, with the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, immigration from Asia was severely restricted, causing many Chinese men to marry Mexican women when they were unable to bring their wives and families to the states. As a result, its not uncommon today to see mixed Chinese and Hispanic names within El Paso. Haunted Concordia and More By the 1960s, the graveyard fell into a sad state of disrepair. Much of this could be attributed to the fact that the Concordia was a patchwork quilt of privately owned, publicly owned, and some non-owned burial grounds with no one entity accepting responsibility for ground repairs and maintenance. Now run by the Concordia Heritage Association, a 501(c)3 organization determined to preserve El Pasos legacy and heritage, they through a largely volunteer basis have accepted the challenge to save this historical piece of land. Special events include Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), monthly ghost tours, and the annual meeting of the John Wesley Hardin Secret Society.
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No shade here.

Though Concordia is open from sunup to sundown, it is best to confine your sojourns to early morning or late afternoon. Otherwise, the intense dry heat will take a toll. Be sure to bring drinking water and wear a hat for shade, as the graveyard is bone-dry with almost no greenery or shade available. If you visit the bone yard in the morning, plan on stopping for lunch at L&J Caf for a slice of local mania and some really good food. Known also as the old place by the graveyard, its been in the same place since 1927. At that time it was considered to be on the outskirts of town. However, as El Paso has grown, Concordia Cemetery and L&J Caf are now in the center of the city, at todays I-10 Spaghetti Bowl interchange.

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