UPDATE: Round two, El Paso Downtown ballpark hearing being heard in Austin
City of El Paso seeking a declaratory judgment
Round two for a declaratory judgment has begun in Austin.
More than a dozen people have traveled to the 353rd District Court to argue the future of the site that holds City Hall.
Earlier this month, a similar hearing was put on hold because several members of the opposing side did not show up in court. Instead, former Mayor Ray Salazar and five others filed a motion in federal court trying to remove the case from a district court in Austin.
A U.S. District judge has since ruled that the move was made as a delay tactic. He also levied a fine on the people, noting that delaying the case was a success, however he would make sure they paid the price for that success.
District judge Tim Sulak previously consolidated multiple cases against the city. That move led to some of the confusion earlier this month.
Carl Starr and Salvador Gomez are fighting the city, however, they cite separate reasons. During Tuesday's hearing Starr argued that the city wouldn't be able to listen to the voters when they vote on his petition that has been approved for the May ballot. If the city moves forward to knock down City Hall and build a ballpark on its current timeline, the election would be too late.
Starr also argued that the designation of a venue project, which is how the ballpark is labeled, requires that it draw out-of-town residents. He told the court that he didn't believe this ballpark would do so.
Former Mayor Ray Salazar and Jesus B. Ochoa cite separate reasons. They argued that the hearing itself may be unconstitutional, and that they haven't been given enough time to research their case. They've also argued that the city illegally overpaid brokers to purchase property to move City Hall throughout downtown El Paso.
The attorneys representing the city of El Paso have argued that Ochoa has driven the hearing off-track. Numerous objections were hurled at him for items being brought up that have nothing to do with Tuesday's hearing.
Sulak showed leniency, but warned Ochoa on numerous occasions that he wasn't on track, stating "The line of inquiry does seem to be a bit afield... I don't see a direct issue on the bearing of what I'm here to rule on today."
That leniency led to a prolonged hearing. After numerous arguments, witness testimonies and prolonged breaks time ran out on Tuesday. That means that the hearing will have to be taken back up on Wednesday, however, no one expected the trial to last that long. Another court hearing has been scheduled to meet early Wednesday morning. As a result, the second day of the hearing can't begin until late Wednesday.
The city is expected to argue more about bond issuance rules on Wednesday.
So far, attorneys have already argued several points, including: that they followed all laws related to a venue project outlined by state law, that the city charter doesn't offer a way for the citizens to call for a referendum in this case and that allowing a "re-vote" on the location of the proposed ballpark would violate a "contract" with the citizens of El Paso that they must uphold following the November election.
Sulak has said he will need to listen to arguments to determine whether he has the authority to offer such a decision, "It seems to me the first things would be within the parameters; the latter, though, causes me a little pause."
The case will re-convene at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
For live updates, follow reporter Matthew Smith on Twitter. He is giving live updates via Twitter at @MattSmithABC7.
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