Concerns arise over transparency in stadium agreement

In 2006, the city of El Paso adopted the Downtown 2015 plan, a draft of what the heart of the city should look like by that year.

Concerns over transparency in stadium agreement

EL PASO, Texas - In 2006, the city of El Paso adopted the Downtown 2015 plan, a draft of what the heart of the city should look like by that year.

At public meetings then, residents said they liked the idea of a stadium in Downtown and City Representative Susie Byrd said the council had to move fast when that idea became a real possibility.

Still, others ask why the process wasn't more open.

Byrd said City Council learned the idea of a downtown stadium was likely to become reality during an executive session meeting about a month and a half ago. That's when city staff started working with MountainStar Sports, the ownership group trying to acquire the team.

MountainStar has said it had a confidentiality agreement as it negotiated with the baseball league and current owner of the AAA team and couldn't make the plans public until last week, when a deal hinged on a City Council vote to build the stadium.

"Certainly there's this ideal, you want to have a long time for public vetting. In most quality of life projects like this, we would have liked to get it to the voters, it's just the opportunity would have faded had we not done it this way," said City Rep. Susie Byrd, of the council's decision to commit to funding the projected $50 million stadium that would sit on the current City Hall site.

One taxpayer isn't convinced. "The mere appearance of a backdoor deal -- that should be enough to cause our elected leaders to say 'we have to think about the will of the people, we must get input from the average taxpayer,'" said Stephanie Townsend Allala, a local attorney, who publicly criticized council's decision on her Facebook page.

Byrd said the council took into consideration the more than 40 speakers at Tuesday's City Council meeting before they took the historic vote. She said time was of the essence.

"They (MountainStar Sports) were ready to go and needed to get some information - a yes or a no back from us before they took that to the Pacific Coast League."

Still, Townsend Allala is not swayed. "Too bad. I mean we're talking about the citizenry. And if Mr. Hunt and Mr. Foster had a deadline, that's their deadline, not mine. That's just not good public governance. It's not good public policy."

Byrd said a stadium vote was "pursuant to the vision that's been established by the public and the City Council."

"I'm confident that we did everything we could to secure the Triple-A team to come in a way that was respectful of public input and public process."

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