EL PASO TX — Mayor John Cook called a press conference today, to make it clear: voters in November are not being asked to approve a new stadium. Rather their vote will decide how to pay for it.
"In a representative democracy, you don't have to ask the voters for everything. You know that some things are extremely important and you can't risk it not happening," said Mayor Cook.
Cook called a press conference today to clarify the ballot language on proposition 3; the proposed 2% hotel motel tax increase. Some say the language on the ballot is misleading and confusing.
"If the people don't read it very carefully they could think that they're voting yes or no the baseball stadium, when the reality is they're really voting yes or no on the funding source for that venue,” said Cook.
Stephanie Townsend-Allala is the leader of a baseball opposition group. She says city council is not listening to voters.
"All 3 propositions must fail on November 6th. Even though I want libraries and parks and I would love to have a baseball stadium, the process they followed is undemocratic. I would be the first one behind all of that if we had an open transparent process," said Townsend-Allala.
She and a group of others have filed complaints against the city for factual errors in advertising the HOT tax. Mayor Cook says the ballot was carefully worded to comply with state mandates. council already approved the stadium, which means if proposition 3 doesn't pass, it will still be built.
"The people of El Paso are going to pay for it, for the project one way or another rather than letting people who check into a motel or hotel pay for it," said Cook.
And El Paso has seen this before. Council approved renovations to the Plaza Theater without voter approval. A big chunk came from the private sector and the rest from parking meter revenue.
"So it was hard to get people and show them the vision of what the dream was like at the end of it," said Cook.
So what happens if voters shoot down proposition 3? The stadium will have to be paid for some other way, either by property taxes, or through other general obligation bonds. One thing both sides can agree on , it'll be back to square one.
Mayor Cook cited a current example of how the city uses revenue from border crossing revenues to repair streets.
"If we take that funding source away from repairing streets, then we'll have to increase property taxes in order to pay for it. It's like a balloon, full of water you squeeze it in one place the water goes somewhere else," said Cook.
Townsend-Allala welcomes the idea of city council starting over and discussing the possible fund options in front of the public.
"If the hot tax fails, they will have to start over again, in terms of finding funding sources," said Townsend-Allala.
Mayor Cook says the stadium has to be clearly defined as a venue on the ballot in order to use the HOT tax to pay for it.
As for Stephanie Townsend- Allala, she's hosting a Quality of Life Voters for Democratic rally and fundraiser on Monday at 5pm at the Wyndham Hotel-Airport, which will feature City Reps Eddie Holguin and Carl Robinson.