El Paso

Group submits petition seeking to preserve Duranguito, voters may end up deciding

EL PASO, Texas - The Paso del Sur group Monday submitted more than 2,200 signatures with the City of El Paso, hoping to force a public vote on establishing a historical overlay in the Duranguito neighborhood, the site of the new Downtown arena.

The move would create a historic district that Paso del Sur says, "the city's own architectural survey recommended 19 years ago."  Paso del Sur is against the demolition of buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood "for the sake of a sports arena that would benefit only wealthy investors."

"Today, we are turning in more than 2,200 signatures that we have gathered in the past three months that will put the vote directly to El Pasoans on whether Duranguito should be preserved as a historic district," said David Romo, a member of Paso del Sur.

Paso del Sur said this is the second round of signature gathering in the effort to preserve Duranguito. During its first round of signature gathering, volunteers gathered more than 2,400 signatures, however, City Council decided to take no action on the petition.

According to section 3.11 of the city charter, if more than five percent of the voters sign a petition on a particular ordinance, the council must place that ordinance on the agenda of a council meeting to be held within 30 days.

Paso del Sur said was the signatures of more than five percent of the voters in the last general election was handed over to the municipal clerk Monday, who now has 20 working days to verify the signatures.   

If the second petition's signatures are validated, yet ignored by Council, the petition must be placed on the ballot at the next general election for voters to decide.

Earlier this year, the City of El Paso asked a judge to halt the petition process, but the judge said she would not make a ruling on the petition issue.

"With this (second) petition, City Council is bound by its own charter to call an election," Paso del Sur said in a news release.

"The City has argued, and people who support the City, that only a small group of so-called activists are standing in the defense of the people of Duranguito and the history of our oldest neighborhood. I think this shows the contrary. I think this shows we have a lot of support from people of all walks of life, all parts of town," Romo said.

"If the Council ignores this petition it would automatically trigger an election," said District 2 City Representative Alexsandra Annello, "I think (petitioners) have the material that they need ... let's hope Council respects the community's voice."

Anello said she supports the petitioners. "I think the community's voice is very important, especially, through this process. I think historical overlay is important," said Anello.

One of Anello's fellow city representatives disagrees, but respects the work of petitioners.

"First and foremost, I wanted to thank (Paso del Sur) for going out and petitioning because that's not easy and I certainly respect their civic engagement," District 3 City Representative Cassandra Hernandez Brown "Unfortunately, what's going to happen is this is going to delay the progress of the project and I'm not in favor of continuing to delay the project voters approved."

Hernandez-Brown further stated she "wants to support the will of the majority, the 70 percent who voted to approve a multi-purpose facility."

"I certainly hope Council believes this community deserves the best and if we continue to accept petitions and we continue to delay the process, then we're not going to get anywhere," Hernandez-Brown said, "And that's why this community is frustrated with previous councils - because no one is willing to make a tough decision and stand up for what we all want in this community: which is a beautiful Downtown and a multi-purpose facility."

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