Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Membership Drive To Begin

¡Hola Vecinos!© is our official Newman Park Neighborhood Association e-letter which I write, publish and take complete responsibility for (most of the time). I will also start posting them here on this blog.

Our membership drive is beginning as part of the countdown to our Annual Meeting on Saturday, July 11 at 6 p.m. at Newman Park. Hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks will be provided by City Representative Susie Byrd.

If you hear a tapping at your door soon, it won’t be Poe’s ungainly fowl, but a Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board member. (The two should not be mistaken.) Our annual membership drive is about to begin.

Just think: Your neighborhood association makes it possible to have concerts in the park, an annual Halloween pumpkin carving with crafts, an Easter egg hunt, park improvements, neighborhood potlucks and barbeques and much more. Annual dues support your association and are just $15 per household.

I’ve attached a virus-free Word doc of our official membership form. You can print out the form and send it and your check to our Treasurer - Lee Byrd, 701 Texas Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901. Of course, donations above and beyond $15 will be appreciated and welcomed.

Our membership drive will lead up to our annual meeting and cookout at Newman Park on July 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. At that meeting we will be electing new Board members. If you or someone you know is interested in board membership, please reply to this email. Board members must be members of the Association and there can only be one per household. They are elected to serve for two years.

Our bylaws are pretty vague about an age requirement. In fact, there is nothing in the by-laws about a board member even being human. Cats (particularly Tonkinese) make purrfect board members. If your choice is a dog – then your best bet probably is a Pug. Forget Chihuahuas. Just forget them.

There will be more about our membership drive in our Midweeker edition of the ¡Hola Vecinos!©.

Our neighborhood has many heroes. This week’s hero is Hector Montes who repaired a vandalized barricade that we use on Scenic Sundays. Most of you know Hector and his show, the Hector Sector on KHRO 1150AM Talk Radio El Paso. You can hear or livestream Hector Monday through Friday from Noon to 4.

Finally, help Homegrown El Paso help the homeless on Wednesday, July 1. Just eat at one of these restaurants: Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, Lancer’s Club, L & J Café, and/or Sorrento Italian Restaurant. 10% of the proceeds will go to benefit the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

¡Vaya con Dios!

¡Hola Vecinos!© An official emailed newsletter of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association is written and published by Jim Tolbert. To subscribe or unsubscribe, just reply to this letter or email jimhtolbert@elp.rr.com.

Follow me (elpasonaturally) on Twitter.

Please also see our neighborhood blog updated almost daily: www.newmanpark.blogspot.com. Also (and here comes the shameless plugs) please visit www.elpasonaturally.blogspot.com and www.conkeystavern.blogspot.com.

This is Volume 3 and Number 30 published on June 28, 2009.

"A million tax-free dollars would probably tempt me to divulge your email address.However, know that your privacy is safe with me . . . Nobody has offered me the million yet."

The mission of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association is to improve the quality of life in the Newman Park neighborhood through care and attention to the park and surrounding areas, and to build a community network of care, watchfulness and concern for each other and our beautiful desert environment

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just Where Are Those Benches and Exercise Stations

As previously mentioned, Newmanistas wonder just when we will see the benches, tables and exercise stations that are supposed to be installed in the park using Neighborhood Improvement program funds. Application for those funds began nearly two years ago and approval was over a year. Bids were taken recently, then rejected, re-bidded and accepted. A&R Contractors won the bid.

With about 17 working days to go before the promised completion date, the contractor has yet to show up.

In an email to our District 2 Representative, Susie Byrd, an official with the city's Department of Engineering wrote:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slow but Sure: the Swings Will Go Here . . .

In the last Newman Park Neighborhood Association e-letter I wrote:

"Work on the addition to our playground of swings continues. The City has also promised us that benches, tables and exercise stations will be installed by July 20th. That’s just 20 work days from now. Hmmmmm. Our neighborhood association began work on securing the Neighborhood Improvement Program grant for the benches, etc. nearly two years ago. "

Okay. So now we are down to 18 days. It will be amazing to see the swings in by then.

"We have to commit ourselves to audacity and reckless aspiration" - Susie Byrd's Inaugaration Speech June 22 2009

Along with Steve Ortega, Carl Robinson, John Cook and others, Susie Byrd was sworn in last night for a second term as the District 2 Representative on the City Council of El Paso. Here is the video of her inspirational address. Below is the text of her speech including her open, personal remarks.

"I want to start off by thanking my husband, Eddie Holland. He lets me be who I want me to be, a city council representative for the neighborhoods that raised me. He doesn’t always quite get why I want this job, but he knows I love it so he does whatever he can to make it work. My kids, Hannah, John and Eddie, are right there with him, cheering me on. And then there is my dad and my mom and my brother John who are always there to pitch in when we can’t quite manage the avalanche of community meetings and baseball practices and soccer games and flamenco and cello lessons.

"I love you guys.

"There were many people--friends, neighborhood leaders, business leaders--who helped me during this election. Ester Perez, my campaign treasurer, made endless phone calls to rally the troops. Mr. Jorge Almada, the president of the Central Neighborhood Association, campaigned full time. He called me often with this advice: don’t take the election for granted and please, Susie, please, quit putting wood on the fire. Judy Gutierrez and Rene Leon managed one of the busiest political offices in town while I was out stumping and knocking on doors.

"There is one person who has always been at my side that I can never thank enough—Commissioner Veronica Escobar. Since our wild ride during the Caballero administration, Vero and I have braved the strange waters of El Paso politics together. Whether it was digging through campaign finance reports, harassing reporters about the stories that need to be told, brainstorming about the best way to build momentum for an important issue or knocking on hundreds and hundreds of doors in support of a great cause or a great candidate, Vero has always been front and center, not just for me, but for many others, ready to give her time and willing to lend her tremendous leadership and inexhaustible talents to make this city great. I am lucky to have her as a friend, and I am proud to call her my county commissioner.


"A couple weeks ago, I walked to Ruli’s for lunch from the museum. Rulis is a café just across from the plazita downtown. Out walks Paul Foster. We say hello, ask how things are going. I have to put this moment in context: the national and global economy is recovering--we hope--from a nerve-wracking tailspin; our sister city Juarez is threatened by overwhelming violence and instability. But it is in this moment that Paul responds to my greeting by gesturing across the park to the Anson Mills Building and saying, 'We open this fall.'

"The Anson Mills Building was built in a moment of audacious city building. Gorgeous, towering buildings came charging out of the ground, defining El Paso as a major metropolis with greatness on the mind. Built in 1911, the building was only the second concrete-frame skyscraper in the United States and one of the largest all-concrete buildings. The nation took note of an El Paso on the move.

"Somewhere in the last half century, we lost our way. We began to bleed talent and optimism. Our daring and confidence began to wane. Poverty defeated us and created a feast for a business and governance model built on cheap labor and little or no competition. Our place on the U.S./Mexico border and the culture, the language and people of this place began to weigh on us as a burden. The buildings and the neighborhoods that defined us as exuberant and fearless in the early 1990s became boarded up and abandoned, replaced with nameless, placeless miles and miles of anywhere USA.

"But sure enough, steady enough, today, we reclaim our heritage and the confidence that built this city. And we do this even in the midst of great economic uncertainty.

"Two young Karam brothers claim a 1920s cold storage warehouse on Florence, risking a small fortune on building Downtown lofts. TVO and La Fe claim two vacant downtown city blocks to build 90 units of new housing, willing to fight decades of government policy and business culture that make it easy and cheap to build at the fringes and pretty painful and expensive to build in the center city. A small non profit called Preservation Alliance claims a small broken down historic home on Portland Avenue that had been vacant and burned out and occupied by vagrants, willing to bet that they can breathe new life into our most enduring neighborhoods, one home at a time.

"I am more and more convinced that we will only find a new El Paso, a stronger El Paso, a more prosperous El Paso, in the wisdom and audaciousness of old El Paso. Yes, sure, this means investing in old buildings and old neighborhoods, but it is more than that. It means investing in a different path. It means shedding decades of policies, practices and business models that got us where we are today. It means that we should no longer accept “but we are a poor city” as an excuse to do nothing or as an excuse to just keep on doing things the way we have always done them. It means that timid, half steps are no way to defeat poverty and create in El Paso a magnet for talent and economic dynamism.

"Each of us, in ways in big and small, have a role to play, but we have to commit ourselves to audacity and reckless aspiration. We have to believe that our city--this piece of land in the desert, captured by borders and sliced in half by rugged mountain—is worth loving and fighting for."

Friday, June 19, 2009

An Ominous Sign

At the beginning of this week, an ominous real estate sign appeared just past the intersection of Louisville Avenue with Scenic Drive.

What may be more ominous is neighborhood reaction.

One member of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association wrote in an email:
"Have you noticed the Real Estate sign as you are coming down Scenic Drive? It would be a tragedy to have the mountain excavated and leveled to build housing. What can we do to preserve the beauty of the mountain and preserve Scenic Drive? It is my opinion that no building should be allowed West of Scenic Drive."
Battle lines may be forming.

Work Around the Hood

At long last Accent Landscaping has begun to clear weeds and clean-up trash at the Louisiana detention ponds between Memphis and Sacramento. Although they had finished the project financed by open space funds which paid for this ponding area as well as the Van Buren Dam farther north on Alabama, Accent had yet to clean-up. Weeds and trash accumulated and neighborhood complaints began to be heard almost daily.

The landscaped areas and the trash bins will become the responsibility of the City's Parks and Recreation department. However, Parks cannot take control of these areas until the contractor has finished his work. There were approximately 50 items on the punch list according to Assistant Parks Director, Joel McKnight.

Responding to my question whether Parks was slow to push for a completion of the project by the Accent Landscaping because of tightening budgets, Parks Director Nanette Smejkal said: "The operating budget isn't so much of an issue, but we do need to ensure that all contractual obligations have been met and the contractor is released from their obligations before City staff interject themselves onto the site for ongoing operations."

Ms. Smejkal now awaits a green light from the Engineering department that Accent has finally fulfilled their obligations.

Also, in the hood, El Paso Water Utilities/PSB have been working on cleaning up more culverts and ponding areas as part of their effort to improve stormwater management. I suggest that you take advantage of a Scenic Sunday when you can walk along Scenic Drive from 6 to 11 without traffic. You will see a number of ponds that have been cleaned up. The picture above was taken at the entrance to Scenic from Richmond Avenue. The detention pond on the other side of the dam has also been cleaned out and awaits some new gravel.

Bottom line: good things are going on in the hood.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lencho Presente! The Concert of a Lifetime

This past Saturday Newmanistas experienced the concert of a lifetime. For nearly two and a half hours Ceiba performed their magical folk tunes from South and Central America. Nearly a hundred people enjoyed this very special event. Newman Park Neighborhood Association Vice-President, Becky Friesenhahn, reported that there were even people who came to Newman Park from the Lower Valley and the West Side, thanks to Newspaper Tree.

This is the fourth time that I have heard Ceiba and this was the best performance that I have heard yet. They played their hearts out. They played their hearts out because late on Wednesday night June 10, band founder Lorenzo Guel passed away after a long fight against cancer. Throughout the concert, his wife, Jena Camp, told the audience stories of Lorenzo's (Lencho's) last days at home, surrounded by his family.

One of the more touching stories was about Lencho's request one night when the band was singing to him. He asked them to turn away and sing not to him on his bed but to those standing outside the window, to people unseen by his family, but ones nevertheless who were there to be with him and to listen. In spite of having a very dry throat, Lorenzo sang in a strong voice about soledad—his conditionand spontaneously composed many verses.

Jena told the audience that Ceiba is now in the midst of a transition. They were joined that magical evening by a percussionist from Uruguay and a strings player from the State of Sonora in Mexico. Ceiba already plans to take part in the opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. this Thursday, June 18, at the Centennial Museum at UTEP for the opening of the show, Los Desaparecidos - The Disappeared.

Lencho was a talented muralist as well as a musician. His work decorates Mercado Mayapan on Texas Avenue in south El Paso. This Friday evening, June 19, the Mayapan will have a memorial for Lencho at 6 p.m.

When the Newman Park concert was over, Jenna called out, "Lencho presente!" (Lencho is here!) She and the other members of Ceiba had just performed the concert of a lifetime—a concert and tribute to Lorenzo Guel, father, husband, friend.

Entry written by Lee Byrd and Jim Tolbert

Friday, June 12, 2009

Newman Park Swing Project Continues

Award winning photographer and Newmanista, Marco Milazzo, shot the above today. The swing project is slow going but looking good.

Abbie Majerczyk Headlines the Great Southwest Showcase

Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board member, Abbie Majerczyk, and her son, Val, will perform at this Sunday's Great Southwest Showcase, El Paso's premier variety show. Here are the details:

The Great Southwest Showcase

Performance at the historic Scottish Rite Theater

301 W. Missouri & Santa Fe

Sunday, June 14th at 2:30 p.m.

For more information call: 915-564-5626

Tickets available at Dance Designs

Tickets are $12.00 lower level, $10.00 balcony

This Showcase is similar to a variety show. There will be approximately 100 local performers from throughout El Paso . Not only does this showcase present rising young performers, but includes some of El Paso ’s established performing groups as well. These high quality entertainers will enhance the show with their fabulous presentations. This show will be sure to please.

About some of the performers:

Anointed Praise Community Singers: Voices from heaven?

Brianna Pazos: A beautiful contempory dancer (just back from studies in Pittsburg ).

Desert Eagle Production: Award winning (America Cup) hip-hop group will surprise you with fantastic movements.

Emerge: From New Horizons Dance Academy , Ballroom dancers that will awe you with a spectacular Tango and Salsa.

Eurydice Saucedo: Bringing a bit of Broadway to the stage.

Gymnastics Team: Local artistic gymnastics (ala Cirque) will blow you away with flip-flops and aerials.

Jackie Gaines: Well known singer with the UTEP Dinner Theater performing a popular song from the 60’s.

La Luna de Desierto Flamenco Dancers: A Flamenco group that is considered to be one the best in the Southwest.

Marcos Ochoa: Poppers and Break Dancers that will amaze you with his incredible movements.

Sangre Gitana: Romani music that will have you swinging to the beat.

Scimitar: PerformingZsa Manca”, a modern take on a traditional Slavic gypsy dance.

Shelby Acosta: Sweet singing voice just back from the Interlochen School of Music.

Sponsored by: The Academy of Dance Designs

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ceiba Returns!

The Newman Park Neighborhood Association proudly presents the Latin American Folk Music sensation, Ceiba, at Newman Park on Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 7 p.m. The Association will also host a dessert potluck. So, bring a dessert, your own chairs and blankets.

Summer Camp at Memorial Park

WHERE: Memorial Park Garden Center

WHO: For Ages 6-12 years old

TIME: 9:00 AM TO 1:00 PM

WHEN: JUNE 15 – AUGUST 7, 2009

FEE: $40/WEEK – Limited Scholarships ($5.00 per week if qualified)
CAMP LOCATION: 3105 Grant Avenue ~ El Paso, TX 79930

REGISTRATION: Friday, June 12, 2009, 9-12pm at Garden Center
Other location: L. F. Washington Center
3400 E. Missouri St. ~ EL Paso, TX 79903 ~ Phone 562-7071
Registration from 2-10 PM only

Recreational Activities, Sports, Arts & Crafts, Table Games, Group Activities & Games, and some Field Trips

For more information call
(915)562-7071 or
(915) 544-0753

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ceiba Returns to Newman Park

the Newman Park neighborhood association

Latin American Folk Music
Newman Park
SATURDAY, June 13, 2009 at 7 p.m.


Bring a dessert. Surprise us. It’s your chance to show off!
AND bring your own chairs and blankets.

Save Houston Elementary Is Out To Beat the Clock

Concerned parent Elizabeth O'Hara Williams of Save Houston Elementary sent this summary of their meeting yesterday evening:

There were many teachers there, several parents, district representatives, Susie Byrd and Carlos Flores - our trustee. Dr. Garcia also spoke.

In a nutshell, Houston has until next spring to show, as Dr. Garcia said it, "significant progress" from parents, teachers and the neighborhood or the school will be closed. THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN!!!

According to school stats, there are about 348 students enrolled at the school currently. The target number of the '09-'10 school year is 384. How to get there???? That's where YOU come in.

There are two very important meetings where your input is needed. Mark these on your calendar.

June 11 @ Houston at 5:30pm. Meeting to talk about what we want in a new principal.

June 25 @ Houston at 5:30pm (or 6?? I can't remember now!) This is to get the ball rolling on the PTA. AT LEAST 20 people are needed to start the PTA and Dr. Garcia says one of the markers for success will be getting a working PTA off the ground.Dues will be $5 per member - DUES WILL BE COLLECTED ON THE 25TH SO BRING CASH!!

Karla Diaz is the PTA representative for the school. She can be contacted at kdqsv@yahoo.com Mr. Flores expects 100% from teachers and administrators - no less should be expected of parents so get involved.

At these meetings, future dates will be set so that everyone can get involved in the development of the "new" Houston Elementary. Among the realistic ideas being floated right now:

-dual-language program; potentially even adding a third language to draw more interest (read: kids) to come to Houston
-fine arts magnet (no other elem. school in district offers this)
-Head Start program -after-school program
-outreach to Fort Bliss

There are other, more aesthetic considerations as well such as getting Partners in Education to help donate time, money (ideally both!) to the school and help beautify it. "Team Houston" teachers and administrators already have some money for a new playground so it looks like we're on our way for that project. Good job guys! Carlos Martinez is our contact on at the district for Partners in Education: camarti1@episd.org.

There were some concerns about the departure/reassignment of the principal. No matter which side of the fence you fall, here's the bottom line: the school must move forward with whoever is the next principal. Time is not on Houston's side . . . do all you can to buy us more time.

Remember, you can also get updates on Facebook. Just search for: Save Houston Elementary. Save Houston can also be found on Twitter.

Carlos A. Martinez, Director of Community & Governmental Relations for EPISD said that "the vision of a revitalized Houston School was articulated last night by community leaders such as school trustee Carlos Flores, City Representative Susie Byrd, and parent Elizabeth O'Hara. It is ambitious and will benefit our students."

In an email to Elizabeth Williams he wrote:
Last night I observed high commitment and enthusiasm from the Houston School
community that wants to step up and participate in the revitalization of the campus. It is that kind of community involvement that can re-energize parents, teachers, and students to create a high performing learning community at Houston.

Please let me know how we can assist you with information and data about your Partners in Education (PIE) and Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) programs. They are important indicators of community involvement along with the start-up of a PTA.

Our records indicate that of the 19 PIEs at Houston, six partners are active. The most active partners are the Adult Probation Department, Papa John's, JJ's Pizza, UTEP-Teacher Education Dept., the Military Order of the World Wars, and Wet 'n' Wild.

For VIPS, Houston reported 19 volunteers that provided 1,450.5 hours of service to the school in 2008-2009. Of these 19 volunteers 8 volunteers recorded 1392.5 hours. As you can see there is a great deal of dedicated time and effort that is ahead of the task force for Houston in 2009-2010 academic year.

I look forward to working with you and the Houston Revitalization task force.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Non-Profit Day" at Representative Byrd's Breakfast

Representative Byrd billed her public breakfast as a "non-profit" day. On board were Al Velarde, the Executive Director of the Child Crisis Center, and Mike McGahhey, the Outreach Specialist for El Paso's Red Cross.

Velarde announced that the new goal of the Crisis Center is to provide a program for family reunification and preservation. Through better case management, the hiring of Lori Leon to be the Fund Development Officer, and expanded work with Ft. Bliss, Velarde has nearly doubled services in two years.
Cases from military families are up significantly in the past 2 years from 2% to 26% of the case load. The stresses of war, single parenting, and addiction have led to an increase of family issues among the military community.

The Child Crisis Center relies on funds from foundations, federal grants, city funds and private donations. There is also the Discovery Shop, a thrift store that accounts for one-fifth of its income or about $380,000 per year. The store is located at 4747 Hondo Pass Drive.

Mike McGahhey said that becoming better able to respond to disasters was the current goal of El Paso's Red Cross. Texas has had more declared disasters than any other state - 83 since 1953. El Paso often receives refugees from disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or Ike.

The biggest disasters in El Paso are house fires. There are 2 per week in the City. McGahhey went over tips for fire safety. He also encouraged members of the audience to volunteer through http://www.readyelpaso.org/.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beautiful German Shepherd Needs Home Now

Last week an email went out to the Newman Park Neighborhood Association email list about a lost German Shepherd. Cindy and Marco Milazzo have been caring for her and no one has claimed her. Even animal rescue has not called back. She needs a home NOW.

Here is what Cindy just told me:

I will share vet bills with someone who is willing to take her. She'll need a chip, shots and checkup. I can't keep her much longer because our cats are stressed and she's figured out how to get out of the temporary fence I put up.

If you would like a lovely, well-mannered dog, please email me and I will put you in touch with Cindy.

As you can see this dog is beautiful.

Ground Broken for New Swings at Newman Park

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Houston Elementary Revitalization Meeting Scheduled

Rep. Susie Byrd and EPISD Trustee Carlos Flores will hold a public meeting to discuss the School Revitalization Plan to help improve and increase enrollment at Houston Elementary School. The meeting will be held on Thursday June 4 at 6 p.m. inside the school’s auditorium at 2851 Grant.

“We are looking for new ideas on how to revitalize Houston Elementary School and encourage more parents in the neighborhood to enroll their kids at the school,” said Byrd. “This will be a very open and very inclusive meeting, so we would like to hear from everyone who wishes to be involved.”

Parents of students at Houston along with residents of the area are invited to attend the meeting and contribute any ideas or thoughts on how to improve the school and keep it functioning as an historic and vital part of the neighborhood.