Council votes down free metered parking for baseball games

The El Paso City Council on Tuesday voted down a proposal that would have provided free metered parking on the afternoons of Chihuahuas game days. The idea came from Salvador Gomez, a government watchdog and City Rep. Emma Acosta put the item on the agenda as a courtesy to him; however, the proposal didn't go far.

According to the City's Chief Financial Officer, the city currently uses the revenue from metered parking downtown to pay off the debt used to renovate the Plaza Theatre.

Mayor Oscar Leeser said El Paso would lose about $187,000 per baseball season if the city provided free parking. Parking meters downtown operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at a cost of 25 cents for every 20 minutes or 75 cents per hour.

The City's CFO also pointed out the contract Council signed with MountainStar Sports Group. In it the city agreed to split the revenues of downtown parking garages on game days. Some city representatives expressed concern that people would not use the garages if the metered parking was free, thus reducing the garage revenue as well.

The Plaza Theatre debt, though, dominated the discussion.

City Rep. Michiel Noe stated "This is money generated by the city to help pay for the Plaza and if we lose those funds, where are we to come up with that? And over the interest, that $200,000, how much is it going to cost us eventually by giving this up? We've given up enough. I'm at my limit at this point," he said.

The city's chief financial officer said that if the the city stops using that metered parking revenue to pay for the Plaza debt, the money will have to come from the general fund, which will ultimately affect taxpayers.

Noe then questioned why Gomez, who took the city to court over the ballpark, would be interested in offering free parking for patrons.

"You've dedicated the last two years of your life in sabotaging this thing. I'm certain you don't have the best intention for this. I can't believe you'd want us to divert money to the ballpark. I refuse to believe that," said Noe.
Gome zresponded by saying "You know I fought the fight and I didn't win. I didn't lose either but it was a good ride. But I do care about the ballpark and I do care about baseball and downtown"

Gomez is recalling the same City Rep. who posted his idea on the agenda for consideration: Councilwoman Emma Acosta. He believes she doesn't listen to her constituents. She said he has the right to start a recall petition and adds she's always open to constituent ideas.

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