Friday, March 27, 2009

Welden Yerby Senior Citizens Garden

Community gardening and yardsharing is an increasing trend from coast to coast led by First Lady Michelle Obama's edible, organic White House garden.

In El Paso there is one community garden: the Welden Yerby Senior Citizens Garden - one of the best-kept secrets in our City. Newspaper Tree's Elizabeth Ruiz did a great story about the garden: How does your garden grow. She did the video interview posted on You Tube of some seedy character:

You can read more about the Yerby garden here and more about the White House garden here.

Community Development Steering Committee Wants to See Alternate Budget for Memorial Park Upgrade

Tennis enthusiast and chairwoman of the Community Development Steering Committee, Billie Brown, wants to see an alternate budget proposal to the tennis court upgrade at Memorial Park. Proposed is a retrofitting of the courts that would include two basketball standards on one of the courts. Brown seemed to side with Manhattan Heights Neighborhood Association's Julie Rutledge who led a small group of people to the hearing in opposition to the multi-use proposal for the existing courts.

Two petitions have circulated. One supports the multi-use proposal and has 54 signatures. Another circulated by Rutledge has "30 or 40" signatures in her words and runs 2 - 1 opposed to the multi-use facility. That would still mean that most signers want the retrofit to include the basketball standards as proposed by Parks and Recreation.

Neighbor concerns included a bias that basketball players use profane language. (Of course, tennis players don't.) They also fear that basketballs, like soccer balls, will damage nets and fencing. Parks and Rec's design of the court would enhance ball control and provide more privacy according to project manager, Rick Garcia.

As always, the historic card was played - these have always been tennis courts and should remain that way. Never mind the new aquatic center, remodeling of the library, loss of a rose garden and a cannon that has never been replaced since it went missing.

Will there be more recreational opportunities for El Pasoans who use Memorial Park? Neighbors argue that the interlocal agreement between El Paso and EPISD already allows for youth to use school facilities and there are basketball courts available after 5 p.m. at Crockett Elementary. Of course, not just kids play basketball and many adults make it part of their exercise regimen.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stormwater Plan Set for Approval

This from Representative Byrd's office:

Stormwater Master Plan Set for Approval
"The Public Service Board unanimously approved the El Paso Stormwater Master Plan at its March 11 meeting. A City Council presentation is scheduled for March 31. The master plan addresses flooding that challenges El Pasoans year after year, and
its approval marks an important milestone for El Paso Water Utilities. EPWU has
managed the stormwater system since March 2008.

"The Board selected URS Corporation to develop the master plan. The engineering consulting firm was familiar with El Paso’s drainage issues because of previous work done in El Paso. Prior to 2006, URS conducted a flood insurance study for FEMA and provided the agency with county-wide flood insurance rate maps. The firm was called back to El Paso in 2006 to assess the performance of storm drain systems during summer storms and coordinate projects to repair the damage that resulted.

URS identified 99 projects that will correct stormwater system deficiencies. The
projects were prioritized based on factors such as flooding risk to property, Interstate Highway 10 and major arterial roadways; risk associated with debris flow; and required maintenance.

"Public input was solicited through the Stormwater Master Plan Community Advisory Committee, a group of 35 members representing public education; governmental entities; and civic, business and community organizations. The committee was charged with: 1) developing a list of community values related to the stormwater system, 2) validating the order of projects to be implemented during the first three years of the capital improvement program, 3) providing input on open space projects – drainage paths and arroyos to be incorporated into the stormwater system but preserved in their natural state, and 4) recommending dual use projects, such as park ponds, that function as both recreational venues and drainage facilities."

If you want a copy of the full report, just email me and I'll get it to you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Memorial Park Proposal

Parks Project Superintendent, Richard Garcia, corrected me about the proposed work at Memorial Park:
"Jim - we are proposing using only one of the two south courts as a multipurpose court (basketball or tennis ) the other 3 will remain tennis courts."
Thanks, Rick!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Los San Patricios Headline Annual Ardovino's St. Patrick's Fare

Our friend, Robert Ardovino just emailed us about the annual St. Patrick's Day fare at Ardovino's Desert Crossing:

Hello All,
Just wanted to update everyone about the fun planned for St. Pat's Day, March 17, 2008. Our Celtic Buffet is just $15 per person and $5 for kids. It will be fantastic as usual, with Soda Bread, Shepherds Pie, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and other favorites along with dessert.There will be drink specials and door prizes. It's fun for all.

Get your tickets ahead of time and save some $$$. Call the office @ 575-589-0653 (ext. 3).

Doors and Bar open @ 5 p.m. Buffet starts around 6 p.m. Our entertainment includes Anamieke Quinn at 6 p.m. and your very own Los San Patricios at 8 p.m.

Hope to see you here!!!
The San Patricios tell us that, "if you just can't wait until Tuesday to get a fix of the traditional Irish music, we'll be playing an acoustic set this Saturday (the 14th) at El Paso's very own Moose Lodge from 7 to 10 pm. The Lodge is located at 5939 Falcon in the Northeast and they're asking a $10 cover. We're also doing a short set for the little ones during story hour at the Sunland Park Barnes & Noble. That's also this Saturday, but at 11 am."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Memorial Park - a Community Park - Slated To Get Basketball Courts

We are fortunate to have two parks to call our own. First, our neighborhood park and namesake: Newman Park. Second, Memorial Park - a designated City of El Paso community park that serves all the surrounding neighborhoods including our own.

Probably all of us in the Newman Park Neighborhood Association have used facilities at Memorial Park many times: the library, the aquatic center, the tennis courts and the park itself.

There are four tennis courts there now. After listening to people who use the Memorial Community Park and receiving their petition, Representative Susie Byrd has proposed that two of the tennis courts be converted to basketball courts thus meeting the needs of more constituents. There are Department of Community and Human Development funds for this project.

As always, there is resistance from a few members of the Manhattan Heights Neighborhood Association who see the park as a neighborhood park exclusive to themselves and their vision of the historic nature of the neighborhood. They propose to re-do the four tennis courts and for there to be no other accommodations for other sports.
A CDBG meeting to consider the proposals is scheduled for Wednesday, March 25th, at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.
District 2 submitted a petition with signatures to make it a 'multipurpose' court and that is what the Department of Parks and Recreation accepted. Parks could not justify spending almost $400k for just tennis courts. Multi-use would accommodate a lot more kids and what they like to do.
Members of the public are invited to attend since what happens at a community park involves many more neighborhoods and people than just the Manhattan Heights neighborhood who often play the "historic" card when it comes to change.

To be fair, if we are going to play that historic card, then let us tear down the aquatic center and rebuild the old swimming hole that so many of us knew growing up. Let us remodel the modern library and cafe facility to be exactly as it was when Mrs. Conrad Bryson was the head librarian and a camera as big as an office copier photographed all checked out books and user cards. In fact, let's start a new smelter on the top hill. After all, the Federal Copper Refinery was the only prominent feature in this area at one time.

Yes, let's keep all tennis courts. Kids in this neighborhood today play tennis exclusively and long for the time when they can become polo players and belong to the Beverly Hills Country Club and talk about credit swaps and other financial derivatives. Who wants to play basketball? There's always tagging.

Rock Mole Strikes Again

The hole in the back wall of the McKee estate is now large enough for just about anyone to crawl through. One wonders when major damage will occur at the mansion. Damage is supposed to be reported to the attorney (Brandon Lewis) for the lending institution (GMAC). Don't anyone hold his breath.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Way We Were

Cindy Milazzo recalls: "I'd forgotten about that beautiful gazebo. And no iron or cinder block fence! Around 1955, we kids on Louisville enjoyed waving to Mr. McKee as he drove from Piedras up Louisville in his shiny black car. My Dad told me years later that the car was a 1940 Rolls Royce."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why Start a Neighborhood Watch Program

Officer Henry Slack told me that "having an active Neighborhood Watch Program in you neighborhood is key in deterring and in the worst case solving a burglary."

"There can’t be a police officer on every block at all times, so community involvement is a must in order to reduce the opportunity for crime to take place. Citizens such as yourself and your neighbors usually know what is going on in your neighborhoods.

If we can join together in an effort to address crime problems, fears, and issues dealing with your neighborhood concerns, we can make a difference – but only if we do this TOGETHER.

Neighborhood Crime Watch programs require active participation of citizens to reduce crime by doing several simple things. The first requirement is neighbors getting to know each other. Secondly, citizens become educated regarding activities that are suspicious and are taught where and how to report it. Thirdly, citizens are taught about home and personal safety.

This program has proved effective in reducing crime throughout the nation and has made a difference in El Paso. If you wish to learn more about Neighborhood Watch Programs, feel free to contact your local police Regional Command Center for more information.

Officer H. Slack #2106, 915-838-8013,"

Officer Slack also mentioned that robberies are up here in central El Paso - 13 just from February until now. The target: "Mom and Pop" stores that traditionally do not have cash drop safes, no surveillance video, and keep larger amount of cash in the registers than the large franchise convenience stores."

A robbery occurs when a "person commits an offense if, in the course of committing theft and with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death."
If you would like more information about what to do in case of a robbery, contact Officer Slack.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's the Best Leadership for Tough Economic Times: Joyce Wilson

El Paso is fortunate to have the calm, steady, conservative, no-nonsense leadership of City Manager, Joyce Wilson. Ms. Wilson spoke this morning at Mayor Pro-Tem Susie Byrd's monthly Thursday public meeting.

To be sure El Paso is not as touched by the economic downturn as are other cities throughout the country. Our housing market is relatively stable and there have been no significant declines in property evaluations. Wilson did say that sales tax collections are down as are bridge revenues. The latter were down as much as 20% in January from the previous year and 10 to 15% overall for the start of 2009. Fortunately, Wilson premised the current fiscal year budget on higher energy costs and the cost of gasoline and other fuels have actually decreased by 50% over the last three quarters.

There has been a construction slow-down but that has also had a favorable effect on the City budget. Contractors are bidding city projects more competitively.

Our steady-handed City Manager said that, in spite of the worldwide and national economic crisis, she would keep capital improvement projects on schedule and pursue IT improvements so El Paso could catch up with other places technologically. She happily reported that as much as $21Million dollars from the stimulus package for transportation is coming our way and would help to complete the loop around El Paso.

As she contemplates the budget process for the next fiscal year, Joyce promises not to take any draconian measures. Her assumption is that the economy will not turn upward until the end of the year or into next year. Therefore, she will start the budget process at $10Million dollars less than the current year without compromising police and fire protection as well as streets, infrastructure and IT improvements. By budgeting conservatively, Ms. Wilson will prevent El Paso from overspending in a bad economy and will position El Paso to gain a stronger footing should the economy begin to improve before the end of the year.

The City Manager next commented about the PSB and stormwater management. In spite of what critics say, she pointed out, the PSB is accountable to the people of the City of El Paso through the elected City Council. On March 31 the PSB will go before City Council for approval of a master drainage plan and capial improvements.

Wilson lauded the PSB's for its quick and effective development of a stormwater management plan and for putting into place the groundwork to reduce future risk of flooding.

A variety of topics were touched on through questions by the audience. Concern that the drug wars in Juarez might spill across the border was on the minds of many. Ms. Wilson explained that all levels of law enforcement (city, state and federal) are in communication about the violent situation across the border and that they are also in touch with their counterparts in Mexico.

Wilson assured everyone that she and law enforcement officials feel comfortable that we will not have a spillover of violence into our city. However, if we do, Wilson said that "response will be very fast, very swift and very strong."

It's good to know that, in good times or bad, El Paso has Joyce Wilson's strong, steady hands and her wisdom guiding us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

AHS Head Football Coach Appeals to Alumnae

Austin High School's head football coach, Ruben Batista, has sent a letter to all alumnus of AHS appealing for donations for letters to be sewn into the end zones of McKee Stadium. To put the words "Austin" and "Panthers" into the new artificial turf will cost $1,000 per letter or $14,000 in all. Here is his letter to fellow Austin alumnae:

Fellow Alumnus,

My name is Ruben Batista. I am the Head Football Coach / Athletic Coordinator for Austin High School here in El Paso. It is with great honor that I am writing to you to announce that our school district, with the help of an advisory board, to include myself and other fellow alumnus, have worked to improve our facilities here at Austin High School. One of our projects will include a new state of the art artificial turf at our football stadium. Our turf will have brown end zones and the school logo of a panther head in the center of the field.

This project is funded by the El Paso Independent School District bond allocation. The project will include the green turf, the yard markers, the numbers, the logo in the middle of the field, and NFL style gold posts. Excluded from the initial bid will be the brown colored end zones and the end zone lettering. The cost of the brown colored end zones will be $1,000 per end zone. This cost will be encumbered by our football booster club along with Austin School. In order for us to have the names “Austin” and “Panthers” professionally sewn onto our turf at each end zone, the cost will be $1,000.00 per letter or $14,000.00. This price is too costly for our school to cover. Other schools in our district have had their letters sponsored by ex alumni and businessmen. For this reason, I am writing to you and asking if you would be interested in giving back to your alma mater and sponsor a letter. I would like to see this beautiful 79 year old school get what she deserves. Our deadline to raise the money will be June 1, 2009. The finished project with the letters will be an accomplishment that you, as well as, the entire student body and community can always be proud of. I plan on advertising the donors in our football program for years to come. I will also have a special coin toss ceremony at our first football game to honor all the donors who have made the letters possible. These fields are projected to last up to fifteen years and the memory of your donation will endure during this

If you have any questions pertaining to this project, you can contact me at (915) 562-0402 or (915) 587-2502. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. Checks should be made out to the Austin Football Boosters and tagged turf lettering and mailed to 3500 Memphis Ave, El Paso, Texas, 79930, Attn: Ruben Batista/Turf Lettering. Thank you again for your tax deductable donation.

Ruben Batista
Austin Head Football Coach
Graduate 1976

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What Do Taggers Want To Be When They Grow Up?

They get to tag sidewalks, alley walls and streets and the paint lasts and lasts and lasts. Above is just what every homeowner wants - graffiti on their sidewalk.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Build Community

Lisa Degliantoni just reminded me of the beautiful poster written by the Syracuse Cultural Workers and illustrated by Karen Kerney: "How To Build Community". Its suggestions just make sense for us in the Newman Park Neighborhood and for communities everywhere.

The poster can be purchased online from the Simple Living Network.

Turn off your TV
Leave your house
Know your neighbors
Look up when you are walking
Greet people
Sit on your stoop
Plant flowers
Use your library
Play together
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden together
Support neighborhood schools
Fix it even if you didn't break it
Have pot lucks
Honor elders
Pick up litter
Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the mail carrier
Listen to the birds
Put up a swing
Help carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a tradition
Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a block party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Open your shades
Sing together
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent though many are not heard.
Work to change this.