VOTE! VOTO! VIVIR!

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by Laurence Gibson

We, as a world, are at all kinds of turning points these days. Scientists actually made the national news this weekend saying that it is now almost too late to save Planet Earth. Nationally, we have really important mid-term elections coming up, elections that will determine what happens to our “republic…if you can keep it” in the words of Ben Franklin.

Locally, we also have very important choices: Four districts of City Council are on the ballot. Check the candidates’ web-pages to see their platforms. Visit the League of Women Voters site, VOTE 411. Watch the KCOS debates and the various candidate forums.

City Council’s recent creation of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZ) is something new on the development front. Our view is that the TIRZ is a clever device to get citizens to pay developers to build houses on their own open spaces…which won’t be so open anymore, and wouldn’t otherwise be profitable for development, sort of a “pay for your own sprawl” scheme. City Council has now approved four of these, something voters may wish to consider. Also, the Bonarts (549-5585 and 549-8483) have a “Kill the TIRZ” petition that they must submit soon. The hotly contested Lost Dog Trail/TIRZ12 petition was recently accepted by council, and then put on hold for two years. This highly successful petition to put TIRZ12 on the ballot was not approved in time for this November’s election. Watch for it on the next ballot, in May.

Folks have been confused about Council’s needing multiple petitions for the same issue. (“I signed once, why do I have to sign again?”) Well, it seems that City Council can “deny” a petition to put an issue on the election ballot. If that happens, a second successful petition is required to overcome that opposition and force it to happen.
And, by the way, if you receive an absentee ballot, be sure to find the City Council races on the last page and be aware that a straight-ticket vote is not a City Council vote. If you should toss out your absentee ballot, (there are reports out there of unsolicited absentee ballots) you cannot vote at the polls November 6.

Sierra Smart Goals Update

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The El Paso Sierra Club Group Executive Committee met this morning and reviewed the status of our five most important Smart Goals.   For questions about these goals contact anyone on our committee.  Volunteers to help with these goals are always needed.

SMART Goal #1 Blue Bin Contamination:
Laurence Gibson reported that the City is ramping up efforts to address contamination in the blue bins.  An article on his efforts will appear in the next Sierran.  Next Step – talk to staff at Senator Rodriquez’s office.

SMART Goal #2 Return of the Wolf to Texas Educational Initiative:
Rick LoBello reported that over 10,000 letters and nearly 5000 signatures on petitions were sent to Carter Smith on August 19, 2018 requesting TPWD support.  The cover letter was signed by Laurence Gibson as Chairman of the Executive Committee, El Paso Group of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. Laurence has not received a response to this letter and the 6 boxes of letters that were sent to his office.  Members are encouraged to reach out to Carter Smith at Carter.Smith@tpwd.texas.gov and express their support for our effort. Next Step – create a Take Action Tool Kit on our website.

SMART Goal #3 Outdoor Leadership Training. Next Step – in the process of getting members qualified.

SMART Goal #4 El Paso Group t-shirts:   Next Step – still working on a plan.

SMART Goal #5 Sierra Student Coalition at Americas High School:
Neysa Hardin reported a cost to Sierra Club El Paso Group of approximately $400 to sponsor the students to attend the Wolf Reading Camp at the Zoo.     On September 22 the group picked up trash on the southern end of the Ron Coleman Trail.  Next Step – we are planning a trip to a local national park.