Friday, February 27, 2009

PSB Responds to Concerns about the Mayfield Wildscape

I just finished publishing the entry below about the quick response of the PSB to the trash accumulating in nearby detention ponds. Now comes this response to our letter from Representative Byrd's office about the Mayfield Wildscape:

"Thank you for your letter of February 16,2009 concerning the preservation of the landscape. You are correct that we very much value open space and will work closely with you and the neighborhood association to make that happen.

I have discussed this with John Balliew and Nick Costanzo, and if you wish, John is willing to meet with representatives of the association at the site to make sure we adhere to the concerns. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and the neighborhood is to be commended for taking care of this important resource."

It is signed "Edmund G. Archuleta, P.E./President/CEO.

PSB Responds Quickly

Just yesterday I took some pictures of one of the detention ponds along Louisiana between Nashville and Sacramento. All of the ponds have trash and debris. However this particular area (just on the west side of Louisiana between Nashville and Mobile) is becoming a dumping ground. The pictures above were sent to Paula Lisko-Apodaca, the Consumer Affairs Officer for the El Paso Water Utilities. In no time she responded with the following:
Mr. Tolbert,

I’ve just been informed that our field crews will clean up all three small ponds by next week. Once again, thank you for your email and letting us know of this situation.
If you have further questions, please let me know.

Paula Lisko-Apodaca
Consumer Affairs Officer
1154 Hawkins Blvd.
El Paso, TX 79961-0001
If you think that the City can do a better job managing stormwater and that your taxes won't be raised, then by all means vote to move control of stormwater to the City. Let's talk after your taxes are raised if the referendum passes.

One more thing, if you support open space and the preservation and restoration of natural regions in El Paso (arroyos, canyons, a mountain to river trail, bosques, wetlands, etc.), then know that the items in the Green Infrastructure Plan have been incorpated into the stormwater master plan whereas those same items have had no success being implemented under the City even though they should have been beginning two years ago!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rock Moles at Work

The McKee Mansion is again under assault even though the City has boarded and secured the property.

There is an arched gateway to the alley behind the house. The gate was previously removed by vandals and thrown into the swimming pool. Thick plywood now covers the gateway. However, someone is slowly digging through the rock wall way where it meets the arch. I have watched for three days now and seen new rocks removed from the wall each day.

One neighbor who lives directly across the alleyway was asked if he cared to keep an eye on the gateway. He disgustingly replied that he was washing his hands clean of happenings at the Mansion. On a number of occasions he had called the police to report people trespassing onto the property only to have the police show up 2 hours later!

Reportedly, someone at the City is looking into this newest damage. The NPNA Save the McKee Home Committee has also identified banks and attorneys involved with the home. The City, of course, will bill the financial institution for the work done on the property. However, the City seems to be balking at doing any more work because of the expenses they have already accrued.

Meanwhile, rock moles continue to work night after night.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scouting for Food Called a Success

Scouting for Food successfully collected food over the weekend. Scout Leader and parent, Irene Soto-Prat, said: "The Boy Scouts food collection was very successful thanks to everyone's generosity."

Food will benefit non-profits such as the Lee and Beulah Moor Children's Home. To see what items the Children's Home can use, see Feeding the Children at the elpasonaturally blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Letter to the PSB

February 16, 2009

Ruben Guerra, Chair
Public Service Board
P.O. Box 511
El Paso, TX 79961-0001

RE: Mayfield Wildscape

Dear Mr. Guerra:

A very beautiful natural feature of our neighborhood is the Mayfield “Wildscape”. It is located at the end of Memphis, Frankfort and Savannah avenues and sits below Mayfield Terrace, a street that borders the Franklin Mountains.

For almost twenty years, several neighbors have tended to this “park”. They have kept it clear of debris and even painted rock signs identifying different plants. It is home to several species of birds. Foxes frequent it and even the Franklin Mountain female cougar has been spotted there.

Recently, utility work was contracted by the City. Workers carelessly damaged much of the brush and some of the trees. They littered the area with their spent lunch materials and water bottles. We reported this problem to City Manager, Joyce Wilson, who immediately saw to its cleaning and reparation by the City Streets Department. Three new Desert Willows were planted.

Our wildscape is currently zoned as a median. Parks and Recreation declined oversight.

Currently there are a number of lines drawn showing where water lines run through the Mayfield Wildscape. We are concerned that work may be done on it that will further damage this lovely natural area. We do understand that there is always the possibility that you will need to do something with the existing water lines. However, can any work ever done there be done in such a manner as to minimize damage to the wildscape and would you help us restore the natural setting in the event that you have to work there?

We are aware that PSB values open space and that it has helped to preserve much of the natural environment around the City. Would you please work with us in preserving this beautiful natural open space referred to by neighbors as the Mayfield Wildscape? Representatives of our Neighborhood Association would be more than glad to meet your representatives at the site and show you just what we mean.


Susie Byrd
District 2 Representative

On behalf of
Lynn Coyle, President, Newman Park Neighborhood Association
Jim Tolbert, Secretary, Newman Park Neighborhood Association

Monday, February 16, 2009

Our Efforts on the McKee Home Make the El Paso Times

El Paso Times reporter, Aileen B. Flores, frequently calls Becky Friesenhahn, VP of our neighborhood association, to see if there is anything going on in the neighborhood. This last time she heard about the McKee House - its disrepair and our efforts in the neighborhood to find a good owner and to see it restored.

Read her story, Preserving history: Residents look to restore McKee mansion.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Land Is Your Land

Here's another community building song: Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" as sung by Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger at the inauguration of President Obama.

By the way, there are a couple of verses that are not well-known. You can see the full Guthrie text of lyrics here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Anti-PSB People Aren't Telling the Truth

When our Representative, Susie Byrd, filed an ethics complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against the group that is putting a referendum before voters to take the stormwater utility away from the Public Service Board, she may have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

According to David K, Gerald Miller's group has been spending a lot more money quite illegally and telling people one big lie: taking stormwater management from the PSB and putting it under the City will reduce people's taxes.

Meanwhile, Open Space advocate, Rick Bonart, describes himself as a reformed PSB hater. He wants to keep stormwater management with the only group that can truly, effectively, and cost-efficiently manage stormwater: PSB.

By the way, Rick Bonart carries a lot of weight with me. I serve with him on the Open Space Committee and I know him to be a man of integrity who cares deeply about our environment. He and Charlie Wakeem have done so much for preserving our open spaces and our arroyos. They have cared so much for our beautiful part of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

McKee Mansion: Board, Secure, Clean and Bill the Bank

Today the City of El Paso Streets Department did extensive work at the McKee Mansion. Since the property has now been condemned, the City has moved forward to board and secure. Extensive cleaning of the grounds occurred earlier today. The cleaning included moving piles of bricks to the locked garage. Bricks had been used by vandals to break out windows. The windows and doors on the first two floors of the home have been boarded.

The pool has been drained and workers today covered it with plywood over two by four framing.

In recent days, the house was vandalized anew first by teens from Northeast El Paso and more recently by three thirteen-year olds.

The City will bill a bank in Pennsylvania that holds the note for the work performed today.

The Newman Park Neighborhood Association board has formed a committee to Save the McKee Home and members of that board (including non-board member neighbors) are implementing a plan to find a good owner for the house.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tech Talk with Marty: Privacy Invasion?

Privacy invasion or just plain fun?

Try this when you are surfing the net - it can be fun but also very scary. Go to and type in your phone number complete with area code and see what happens. You can type in any phone number you want. Be sure you include the area code. You do not need the number one (1) in front of the phone number. Do not use dashes in the number. That comes later, type 5555555555.

Your name, number and address may pop up. If you think this is a privacy invasion, get rid of it by following these steps:

1. Type in or just click on the URL.

2. If you think this is privacy invasion you can get your name and number off this database by: typing your phone number including your area code with the dashes. Use the following method XXX-XXX-XXXX, then click search. Click on the top line "Phonebook results for 5555555555" this will take you to a page that lets you "Request to have your name removed from this list, so you desire. (If your number is not published in a local phone book you will not get your number on Google.)

3. Click on the underscored "Request" and it will take you to a description of the service, it will also show you a link to get your number off the database.

4. After twenty-four (24) hours go back to Google and re-enter your number just to check if it has been removed. If it has not, go through the process a second time.

You can use this application to locate your home address, and receive exact directions of how to get there from anywhere in the country. For that matter you can get anyone’s address and information across the nation.

Try this one, you can also type an address: 142 Dock Street, Annapolis Maryland. This is a neat little hardware store on the waterfront.

If you don’t mind your number and/or address on Google, leave it on and tell your friends about this Google service. You can use this service free and get your friends to visit now that they know how to get to your home.

Use our computer perspicaciously, have fun!


Marty Martinez

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Veronica Escobar Headlines Susie Byrd's New Line-up of Public Meetings

Susie Byrd started her 2009 public meetings today and her new location really made a difference! She now has her monthly Thursday meetings at Tierra del Sol restaurant at 4201 Alabama. The number that attended was triple those who met for a long time on Hondo Pass.

Another plus to her new meetings is a pre-announced schedule of speakers. Her staff worked hard on the scheduling and should be applauded.

Today, our County Commissioner, Veronica Escobar, was there. (Another big draw I'm sure.) Always ebullient, Veronica talked up her shared services initiative - a program that allows local governments, school districts and other organizations to share resources. There are 3 principal areas: purchasing, facilities, and information technology.

Any organization can demand a better price if it buys as part of a larger organization. The more you purchase, the lower the price. So, if the County, the City, Thomason General, EPISD, etc. all buy together, they get this advantage.

Over the next 5 years, governments and agencies will see how they can share facilities.

Already started is sharing IT services between the City and the County.

Ms. Escobar also spoke about health care concerns. We all know that Thomason is strained by the extraordinary events going on in Juarez - the war between the drug cartels that has cost thousands of lives and sends victims to seek medical care at Thomason. There is about 65% reimbursement from the federal government for treating Mexican citizens who are victims. When asked for more, Congressman Reyes expressed that Thomason is there to help those people - which is true by law but how about 100% reimbursement. (This is not the place for me to get on my soap box about how poor Reyes is as a Congressman and how a City/County without a viable two-party system gets stuck with these incompetents and their arrogant, uncommunicative staff. No, this is not the place for that soapbox.)

The State requires counties to treat mental health patients. Yet, the State provides little or no funds. The result is a drain on our 911 system and our jails.

Finally, and this should make everyone mad, when the Federal government hands out health dollars, they look first at the poorest states. The State of Texas uses stats from its border counties to show how needy it is. When they get the money, they switch formulas. The State bases handing out those federal health dollars on which counties have the most utilization of services – i.e., the counties with the most hospitals, clinics and so forth. Obviously Dallas, Houston and Austin dominate and not the border counties and they get the most bucks. We come up on the short end of the stick.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stormwater, Susie Byrd and Gender Issues

Newmanistas (and everyone else out there):

First of all, read David Karlsruher's tongue-in-cheek open letter to the opponents of the PSB published today at the Newspaper Tree. David has sized up the stormwater issue better than anyone. Besides, he may be the funniest guy in El Paso. His writing is pure entertainment.

Be sure also to visit Susie Byrd's blog. She has several new entries including some words about the closing of Asarco. Be sure to vote in her poll: "Should the City of El Paso take over management of Ascarate Park from the County?"

The City Council accepted the proposal by Parks and Recreation to keep the status quo when it comes to prohibiting girls from playing on competitive boys teams even when we are just talking about pre-puberty boys and girls. Susie also moved to ask our Parks representatives at TAAF and AAU to advocate for a change in policy. That motion failed. I spoke to the issue and said that we should advocate for the change. It helps everyone when there are new opportunities. Alas, all words fell on deaf ears.

One final point that I made when addressing Council was this: although Council has gender balance, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board does not. Out of 19 spots on that bulky board, only two are held by women! Shouldn't all City of El Paso Boards and Commissions have a gender balance? Shouldn't this be the policy that Council sets?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Stormwater Debate Deepens

Mayor Pro-Tem Susie Byrd has filed a complaint against the stormwater petition group with Texas Ethics Commission. You can read about it at the Newspaper Tree. Also read David Karlsruher's blog about it.

Folks, we need to form a group that will urge citizens to vote against the proposal to take the stormwater utility away from the PSB. If the PSB doesn't run it, expect your taxes to go up and up.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mayfield Wildscape Reborn

Last Tuesday (1/27/09) three new desert willows were planted at our Mayfield Wildscape. In an email to Daryl Cole (Director of Streets), Brent Pearson (City Arborist) and Jim Tolbert, Mandy Chew wrote:

"We are so grateful for your help in restoring this little corner of nature to our neighborhood. It had been neglected for so long . . . I feel as if it has been reborn with the addition of the new trees and the TLC recently given to the remaining trees and shrubs. Please be assured that we will take good care of these new additions and will continue to protect it for the birds, roaming creatures and future generations to enjoy, as have we."

Mandy and David Chew

Parks and Recreation Department Director Nanette Smejkal did not want to consider the area as a new park. Streets Department Director Daryl Cole sent an aerial view to City Manager Joyce Wilson showing the designation of the area as a median. Of course, our "median" is a natural wildscape that sports a variety of native vegetation along with birds such as quail and dove and visiting foxes and the Franklin Mountain female cougar.

In an email to Representative Susie Byrd today, I suggested that this median at the end of Savannah, Frankfort and Memphis avenues and below Mayfield Terrace be given a new designation of "Wildscape". If created, a wildscape designation may present the opportunity to preserve such areas more deliberately.
No matter what, City employees and contractors hired by the City need to know that littering and destruction of natural areas will not be tolerated. No response has ever been made to the idea that severe penalties will be meted out to those City workers and contractors who destroy or mar the environment.

Of course, this is the City where, if a contractor grades outside of spec (for example, piles dirt on top of an arroyo), the fee assessed is a whopping $50!