Mayor decides not to veto City Council's baseball stadium vote

Breaking: Mayor Cook will not veto ballpark decision

El Paso, TEXAS - El Paso will get its Downtown baseball stadium and a team will start playing in it in 2014 barring a successful legal challenge.

Mayor John Cook did not exercise his power to veto City Council's decision on Tuesday to build a ballpark on the current site of City Hall.

Cook made the announcement about his decision on ABC-7 at Noon on Thursday, saying three issues weighed heavy on his mind: the lack of voter approval, the demolition of city hall, and what the impact would be on the upcoming Quality of Life bond issue.

"Realizing this has been something that has divided the community, I don't think it would be in the best interest of El Paso for me to veto this particular action," Cook said by phone from Austin where he will attend his daughter's wedding this weekend.

Mayor Cook said he'd received more than 500 emails to his personal email account and that City Hall had been bombarded with reaction from supporters and opponents of the ballpark since Tuesday's City Council meeting.

At that meeting, city representatives passed three agenda items 4-to-3 that will pave the way to demolish City Hall  and allow for a ballpark to be built in Downtown El Paso.

"Either way I was going to make some people happy, and some people not happy," Cook said.

Cook said he expects city staffers to begin moving out of City Hall in March. That will allow time to demolish the building and begin construction on a $50 million stadium that is expected to be ready for a Triple-A team for the 2014 season.

"We'll probably be out, most of the departments will be out earlier than that," Cook said. "The department that will have the most work to do will be the information technology folks. They have to tap into the fiber that runs up off the street and all of our IT equipment will go over to the new building which is the building that Mr. (Paul) Foster donated to the City."

As Cook made his announcement, there were shouts of "yes!" by city staffers that could be heard throughout City Hall.

Cook's decision not to veto the vote was even the talk of City staffers crammed into a crowded City Hall elevator during lunch time. One woman planned on texting the decision to husband out of town while another person wondered if a particular request about records showed what the mayor was going to do beforehand.

City Rep. Cortney Niland, while watching the announcement live, said she was happy about the mayor's decision. Niland had voted in favor of building the ballpark.

"I'm excited for El Paso," Niland said. "I admire the mayor and I'm so happy to be a part of his administration and I know he sees the vision for our city and I'm really glad to be a part of his team."

As for what's next?

"Onwards and upwards," Niland said with a big smile.

City Rep. Carl Robinson, who voted against building the ballpark, said he respects the mayor's decision.

"I wish he had vetoed it but we just have to live with the decision he made," Robinson said. "I don't agree with his decision but I respect his decision. It's just something we're going to have to live with."

Robinson was hesitant to say if he thought the ballpark decision could affect the quality of life bond election.

"Will it impact the quality of life bond? There's a possibility," Robinson said. "It may have an impact because people are upset."

Robinson said he has received many calls from constituents and others outside his district that were still upset about the ballpark decision. He said it will take a lot for trust between El Pasoans and City Council to be rebuilt.

"What I have said publicly back on June 26 is that what we have done in effect, we have destroyed public trust," Robinson said. "And it's going to take a long time to regain that trust ... which it could have an impact on the quality of life bond."

Cook said the next item to tackle is the quality of life bond.

"Being that the people were split 50-50 on it my job is to get the people who I decided against to understand that the quality of life bond issue is extremely important for the El Paso community," Cook said. "It's important for our children, to our grandchildren, to economic development, we want to be a competitive city and we want that quality of life for our own families to enjoy. People should get behind this bond initiative. They should be asking the smart questions: can we afford to pay for it? Are we going to go broke like some other cities around the country? I'm going to do a couple of op-ed pieces in the next few days to start. I'm going to lead the charge to get support for the quality of life bond issue and hope that people will put their differences with this issue aside and do what's best for the city of El Paso in the long run."

MountainStar Sports Group has agreed to purchase the San Diego Padres Triple-A affiliate that currently plays in Tucson, Arizona.

On Tuesday Josh Hunt, a member of the ownership group, said he'd received an email from the Pacific Coast League telling him the deal would likely only occur if city council voted to stay on a previously proposed timeline for baseball to be played in Downtown El Paso in 2014.

"The members of MountainStar Sports Group join the people of El Paso in celebrating the vision and forward-thinking action taken by our Mayor and City Council members this week to commit to build a downtown ballpark for El Paso's Triple-A baseball team," according to a statement from MountainStar Sports Group. "This issue was controversial, and difficult questions were addressed on both sides. At its conclusion, we believe this is a momentous step forward for El Paso. As the ownership group, we pledge to bring a team to the City that El Pasoans will be proud of and a quality product they will enjoy."

A formal announcement of Minor League and Major League Baseball approvals and finalization of team acquisition is expected soon.

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