Friday, May 30, 2008

Traffic Calming

The Neighborhood Association applied to the Traffic Engineering Division of the City of El Paso to do a study and to propose specific traffic calming measures for our area. Here is the commentary that was attached to the application:

"The Newman Park Neighborhood Association extends from Richmond Avenue on
the south to Nashville Avenue on the north and from Piedras to the
mountain. By agreement with the Manhattan Heights Association, our
membership boundaries also extend from Richmond Avenue to Aurora Avenue to the south.

The City of El Paso Traffic Management Program petition (attached) shows signatures of some (but by far not all) concerned residents. These signatures were collected between 9:30 and 10:30 on May 24, 2008 as Association Board members visited with a few neighbors as a beginning of the 2008 membership drive.

There are five streets of principal concern to us: Alabama, Piedras, Louisiana, Richmond and Altura. However, every street experiences some speeding between Piedras and Alabama.

With all of its steep and wavy hills, Alabama is dangerous to cross because a car may not be seen until it crests the hill at Memphis Avenue. Cars routinely speed up and down Alabama. In fact, just this past Saturday (May 24, 2008) there was a serious accident on Alabama at Hamilton Avenue.

Piedras traffic has noticeably increased in recent years and the speed limit seems to be just a suggestion to be ignored. Recently a pedestrian was killed by a motorist speeding on Piedras. The bar traffic at night seems to exacerbate the problem but volume and velocity of vehicles during the day continues to be a hazard.

Residents along Louisiana complain about speeding cars throughout the day but more often late at night or very early in the morning.

Richmond between Piedras and Alabama is a speedway. There are no stop signs between Piedras and Alabama for traffic going east and west. As vehicles often must wait an unduly long time for the light to change at Alabama, drivers often pick-up speed as they approach from the east through the residential area or the west off of Scenic Drive also through a residential area. Indeed, motorists coming off of
Scenic Drive or approaching Louisiana often race to catch the fleeting light at

Since Altura is a chief thoroughfare between Gateway North and South and Alabama, traffic routinely passes through the neighborhood beginning with Alabama. Drivers often speed to catch the light at Piedras going east; or, going west, they race to get to Alabama or crossover to Richmond or speed down Louisiana.

Here are some comments that exemplify the observations, opinions and sentiments of residents:

“The traffic on Alabama is so dangerous especially in the morning/evening when everyone is trying to get to work and school! I am ALWAYS afraid to cross in the
morning for fear of not seeing a car coming so fast up/down Alabama.”

“The Richmond/Louisiana crossing is how many people coming from neighborhoods south of the park get to the park. It isn’t safe without adult supervision, so young kids can’t safely just run up to the park to play (and I think they should be able to).”

“The crossing to the House of Pizza and to 7-11 is not well-lit at night. A woman was killed there about 20 years ago because the driver couldn’t see her. It is really hard to cross because the traffic goes along at a steady rate.”

“People come barreling down on Alabama towards Richmond, especially early in the morning when I sometimes walk, at around 60 miles an hour.”

“Too many vehicles are speeding between Piedras and Alabama on some of these side streets.”

“Cars race down Richmond past the park to catch the light at Richmond and Alabama.”

“Cars racing down Louisiana often wake me in the middle of the night.”

“Piedras is a speedway all day long and is especially dangerous at night with all of the drunk drivers who frequent the numerous bars on Piedras!”

“Cars are going way too fast down Altura.”

“Alabama is getting out of control and we need to act before a tragedy occurs. I am old enough to remember the two little girls who were run over in the early 70's in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. There are flashing lights now in place to slow down traffic on each side of the Church so having something similar in place near the park might help our efforts.”

Although the City of El Paso Traffic Management Program will use specific strategies to calm traffic in neighborhoods, it might be helpful to hear neighborhood perceptionsin order to assess the situation. Some suggestions by neighbors

· A 4-Way stop at Richmond and Louisiana

· A 4-Way stop at Richmond and Elm

· A 4 way stop along Alabama between the Richmond light and the light at Memphis and Alabama

· Painted crosswalks or "PARK AREA AHEAD" with some flashing yellow lights as motorists approach Newman Park from the north or the south

· Painted crosswalks on Piedras at Louisville and Lebanon

Of course residents and members of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association will be most grateful for any measures that will calm traffic on the above streets mentioned as well as other neighborhood avenues."

Swings Are Coming to Newman Park

Plans were presented today for the placement of new swings at Newman Park. It may be awhile longer before the project begins, but Richard Garcia and his team presented the plans for the addition of swings to Association Board members, Becky Friesenhahn and Jim Tolbert.

The three existing live oaks will remain to provide balance, beauty and future shade.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Crystal Meth in El Paso

Our Community Police Officer, Officer Henry Slack warns us about this dangerous crime trend:

"Our Border City is preparing yet another blow, this time is in the form of
Crystal Meth.

Crystal Methamphetamine is the most potent and dangerous drug on the streets and often Addictive after the first use. This drug has many names and they change often. For your familiarity: Speed, Chalk, Batu, Blade, Cristy, Crystal Glass, Hanyak, Hiropan, Hot ice, Kaksonjae, L.A. Glass, ice, quartz, shabu, shards, stove top, super ice, tina, and ventana, just to name a few. The smokeable form of Meth is called ice or crystal because of its appearance. If your children or love ones use these names, know they are talking about Crystal Meth.

What does Crystal Meth look like?
Crystal Meth is typically odorless, and in small crystal like fragments of glass or shinny blue-white “rocks’ of various sizes. Color is often added for marketing appeal.

How is it used?
Crystal Meth can be taken different ways. Orally, snorted, injection, smoking or inhalation. The quickest means to reaching the potency of the drug is through injection, followed by smoking or inhaling the vapors, then by snorting the drug. When used orally (pill form), Meth is often taken with a mixed flavored drink.

Time Sequence for the effect of
Injection: = Instant high
Smoking = Rapid high
Snorting = 2 -5 minutes for high to take effect
Orally = 30-60 minutes for high to take effect

Crystal Meth, is fast becoming an epidemic which we (as a community) must be able to recognize, and deal with accordingly. The Central Regional Command is offering training on this topic, if you are interested contact our office at 838-8013."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

City of El Paso Web Site

There is really much information that you can find at the City web site. Highlighted currently on the home page are links to the new traffic management program and the new subdivision ordinance. The FAQ page is also quite valuable.

If you want to know the meeting schedules and agendas for the Council or other City boards and commissions, just click on meetings and find what you are looking for.

This Saturday morning Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board members and volunteers will be going door to door to ask for membership contributions and getting signatures for doing some traffic calming in and around our neighborhood. One of the great advantages of having a neighborhood association is being able to access City services in a more efficient manner. Our relationship with the Parks and Recreation Department and Neighborhood Services has been very valuable for us already. We've secured a $50,000 neighborhood improvement grant recently, gotten more trees for our Park, obtained an electrical hook-up for our music and movie events at the Park, and more.

So, it is worthwhile to get to know City government and the web site is a great place to start.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Environmental Services in El Paso

One of the best run departments in the City of El Paso (if not the best) is Ellen Smyth's Environmental Services. Among all the things that they do (collect garbage and recycling as well as promote and enhance "a clean and healthy environment"), they make sure that folks are in compliance with those codes that have to do with keeping a neat yard and sidewalk, disposing of garbage correctly, following zoning restrictions, maintaining walls and fences and so forth.

That is why it is surprising that some disgruntled neighbor in or around Dyer Street felt it necessary to counterfeit compliance notices and mail it to some of his or her neighbors. Why go to the time and expense when a call to 774-4500 will do the trick? Even easier for those online is to fill out the General Request Form of Environmental Services. (I would give the form a new name such as Compliance Form or something like that. There is nothing about General Request that tells me that is where I should click to report a compliance issue.) Complaints are kept confidential and investigations with results follow quickly.

Friday, May 9, 2008

You'll Love the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park

I can remember hiking through a native wetland forest when I was a young Boy Scout. This was in the early 60's. This was in the upper valley of El Paso, Texas. No such place exists any longer.

Many decades before that hike, great stands of cottonwoods disappeared from the banks of the Rio Grande in the upper valley. Engineers were straightening the channel and in those days the only power for the large dozers was steam - steam from burning the wood of the trees that they had dug up just to power the engines to operate the machinery to straighten the river channel.

The disappearance of so much of the native habitat along the Rio Grande in our "Place", is what makes the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park so special. The dream of John Sproul and the collective work of so many, the Park today showcases what can happen when we restore our native environment.

Now is the time to visit the park and see the native bitterweed in bloom. Tomorrow, Saturday May 10 at 8:00 a.m. you can even go on a special birding hike. Many birds that have for years no longer nested along the Rio Grande have returned: the Long-eared Owl, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Bell's Vireo just to name three.

Gone are most of the salt cedars. Returning are the native Tornillo and Cottonwoods.

Getting to the Park is a bit tricky so get directions here.

Also plan to see the exhibit Building a Bosque: 10 Years of Habitat Restoration at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park at the Centennial Museum at UTEP. All those who I've spoken with who have seen this exhibit rave about it.

The Rio Bosque Wetlands Park shows us just why this Place of ours is so precious.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

New Subdivision Rules

Following the leadership of our own Council rep, Mayor Pro Tem Susie Byrd, the El Paso City Council voted today to approve the new subdivision development rules. A brief story by David Crowder in the Newspaper Tree about the passage can be found here.

I emailed Susie after I got home from watching this historic discussion and debate. I told her:
"I am so proud to be an El Pasoan today. Thank you for your leadership and hard work with the subdivision ordinance. There was no need for further delay. It was time to act and City Council did so.

I continue to hear some inspiring leadership coming from you, Beto and Eddie. It tells me that the City is going in the right direction and will have great leadership for many, many years to come."
Charlie Wakeem, The President of the Coronado Neighborhood Association and member of the Ad-hoc Subdivision Ordinance Committee, stated that the new ordinance would "will have an impact on taxes, quality of life, health, safety & welfare, transportation and much more. Some improvements to the subdivision standards include narrower streets, wider sidewalks, more parkland dedication and open space, requiring parks in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) outside of the city limits, better drainage, more street lights, a connectivity index that links our neighborhoods better for walkability, and much more."

In short, the ordinance is quite forward-thinking and we are fortunate in El Paso to have the great young (and old) leadership that will serve us well for many years to come.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

May 2nd ¡Hola Vecinos!© E-Letter: Calling All Volunteers

A Big Welcome to our new Association Board Member: Sergio Guerrero, Jr. Sergio, a resident on Frankfort Avenue, brings to the Board quite a portfolio. He holds two Masters from the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, has worked on environmental issues for the EPA in the City of El Paso, and is currently teaching in the El Paso ISD. He is the son of a very beloved teacher, Rosa Guerrero, who was my class sponsor at Austin High School. (Sergio also has a very loyal Chihuahua named Azucar.)

Sergio replaces Christina Estrada who is moving with her family to New Hampshire. We wish her and her family all the happiness in the world and thank her for her service.

Please help your Newman Park Neighborhood Association with its second annual membership drive on Saturday, May 24th. We need people to go door to door, give out information about the Association and its activities, and collect membership contributions. The drive will begin at 8:30 with a potluck at President Lynn Coyle’s home, 2700 Richmond Avenue. The more people that we have, the more ground we can cover and the fewer homes each person will have to call on. Since our Association extends from Nashville to Aurora and Piedras to the mountain, there is a bit of ground to cover.

Anyone can send in a contribution of $15 or more at any time. Checks can be mailed to our Treasurer, Lee Byrd, at Cinco Puntos Press, 701 Texas Avenue, El Paso 79901.

Attached is a 2008 Association Membership Application.

Please remember that your Association also needs your experience and help with these Committees:

Crime Committee

Communications Committee (includes this e-letter and developing a future hardcopy newsletter, blog and web site, distributes flyers to all neighbors regarding upcoming events of special importance to all)

Events Committee ("fun stuff" - concerts, pumpkin carvings, caroling, potlucks, etc.)

Park Committee (park improvements, grand design, a Master Plan, maintenance)

Neighborhood Economic Planning Committee (elicits local business support for the Association and encourages support for our local businesses, works to boost local economic vitality.)

Greening/Traffic Calming Committee (works to calm traffic in and around the neighborhood; advocates for “green” living and restoring and expanding a native tree canopy; promotes xeriscaping.)

Great news! Our application for a $50,000 Neighborhood Improvement Program grant was accepted by City Council. Lynn Coyle reports:

“I am happy to report that the City Council voted to approve our $50,000 grant!

I made a brief appearance before city council to introduce our organization and thank the City for providing us this grant opportunity. This victory belongs to the NIP committee! Thank you Becky Friesenhahn (our fearless advocate with the City), Becky Ayala, Jim Tolbert and former board member Cristina Estrada. Really, the work of this committee has been long and hard – oftentimes frustrating and thankless. Great things happen when we work collectively. These improvements will truly increase our enjoyment of the park for years and years to come.”

A letter from Lorrine Quimiro of the Department of Community and Human Development to Becky confirmed that grant as well.

However folks, don’t hold your breath to see any improvements immediately. The City often moves slower than a snail on tree sap. For example, the City has yet to install new swing sets in the Park adjacent to the current playground. This $16,000 grant was made many moons ago – many moons ago. Board Member Lisa Degliantoni has volunteered to follow-up with Richard Garcia in the Parks Department to see whether we can finally get this project moving along. (By the way, the new swings will be installed without removing the beautiful live oaks near the playground.)

President Lynn Coyle, highly recommends that you visit the El Paso Botanical Gardens at Keystone Heritage Park and see the beautiful mosaics on the walls of the garden:

“If anyone has not been over to the El Paso Botanical Gardens at Keystone Heritage Park, I highly recommend a visit. There are incredible ruins, great birds and a fantastic butterfly exhibit. I also want you all to check out these fabulous mosaics on the walls of the gardens. I am thinking that a Newman Park monument/sign can look something like these mosaics with a professional artist and neighborhood kids working together to create it. I have spoken with the director of public art and she is amenable to funding such a project."

Be sure that you check out Pictures from our Halloween, Christmas and Easter events have been posted. You can upload your own neighborhood photos as well. (Anyone have historic photos of our hood?)

Also take time to visit our blog (, take the “greening” poll and read about traffic calming. Also, please become a member of our Google Group. It’s easy to do. Just visit and sign-up or email me at and ask me to add you to the list. Members: please be sure to update your membership information. Two of us have pictures. (No comment about Paco Man.) Being a member of the Google Group allows you to participate in discussions about topics of concern to the neighborhood. It also means that you can send out one email and have it broadcast to all other members. You may know about a missing person, have a lost pet, or have seen a suspicious activity in the neighborhood. You can get the word out quickly as a member of our Google Group. Ideally, it would be great if all of you would join so we can assure that all urgent messages go to as many households as possible.

Finally, all of us are concerned about rising food costs (not to mention our having to mortgage our homes and pet Chihuahuas before we buy gasoline). I love one of our local grocery stores: Amigo Market on Fort Boulevard and Copia. They sell a gallon of Sarah Milk (great milk!) for just $2.69. I’m also seeing great prices for beans, rice and store made tortillas. Beat that Albertson’s!

¡Vaya con Dios!

Friday, May 2, 2008

More on Traffic Calming

Probably the best place to learn more about traffic calming measures is at Traffic Calming 101, a page on the Project for Public Places web site. In fact, take time to surf this entire site. You can even subscribe to a free emailed newsletter. "Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public places that build communities." You just can't go wrong doing that! In fact, the Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board members have recently been reading the PPS book, The Great Neighborhood Book. I recommend it to everyone who wants to love this Place we call home.