Beto O’Rourke, fitting nicely into his daddy-in-law’s back pocket…
Remember when that YUGE scandal broke regarding ex-El Paso City Councilman Robert Francis O’Rourke conspired with his multi-billionaire father-in-law Bill Sanders to displace thousands of low-income American citizens of Mexican lineage, all to bulldoze their neighborhood to create a Yuppie paradise?
Neither do I. Probably because the American media largely ignored the entire corporate, big money hack that Robert Francis O’Rourke really is.
With the City of El Paso pumping a quarter of a million dollars into something called the GlassBeach study (The city of El Paso contributed $250,000; another $260,000 came from a state Economic Development Administration grant, and the remaining $252,000 was put up by the Paso del Norte Group) mixed Democrat politicians and Big Money to rip-down a heavily Latino area known as Segundo Barrio.
According to the GlassBeach study, the figurative crosshairs were aimed directly at thousands of low-income Mexican-Americans. Among those manning the sniper rifles: El Paso City Councilman Robert Francis O’Rourke.
As reported by The Texas Observer; (emphasis mine)
Some of the historic buildings are in need of renovation or repairs. Miraculously, many have escaped the wrecking ball. Now a powerful alliance of wealthy businessmen, aided by local politicians, is on the brink of seizing the barrio. If it’s successful, hundreds of residents will be forced out of their homes. Businesses will be relocated.
And the Segundo Barrio and surrounding neighborhoods gradually will be erased-“de-Mexicanized,” some call it-and replaced with an arena, parking garages, condos, lofts, town homes, a “lifestyle retail” district, a “mixed-use” zone, a “mercado,” and an “urban retail” outlet rumored to be a Wal-Mart or Target.
The redevelopment plan was drawn up behind closed doors over two years by the Paso del Norte Group, a civic organization of wealthy oligarchs, industrialists, real estate developers, and politicos from both sides of the border. (Members in the group reportedly must shell out $750 to $1,800 annually and are required to sign confidentiality agreements.)
Under the plan, roughly 325 acres between Interstate 10 and the Mexican border are targeted for redevelopment.
Nearly 168 acres probably will be bulldozed, and another 157 acres designated a historical zone eligible for tax incentives. From the rubble, city leaders envision a shining new El Paso that will capitalize on its proximity to Mexico, become a destination spot for tourists, stem the drain of young people, create jobs, produce more affordable housing, and erase once and for all the notion that the city is somehow inferior to its distant cousins in Austin, San Antonio, and even Albuquerque.
“El Plan,” as it’s become known, was received with enthusiasm by El Paso’s elected officials, including Mayor John Cook, a songwriter and father of six; City Councilwoman Susie Byrd, a good-government crusader; and 34-year-old Councilman Beto O’Rourke, a boyish-looking, fourth-generation El Pasoan who runs a Web-based technology business.
The Texas Observer failed to note that Mayor John Cook and City Councilman Robert Francis O’Rourke are Democrats, and that Councilwoman Susie Byrd is technically “non-partisan”, but is known in the El Paso area to be a hard-left “progressive”.
Nonetheless, The Texas Observer also cited;
[B]illionaire real estate tycoon Bill Sanders, a hometown boy who has come back to remake El Paso.
Now in his mid-60s, Sanders is the leading proponent of the redevelopment effort. Known as “Billy” by friends, he likes fast cars and off-road vehicles. He is secretive in his business dealings and normally shuns the media. But when the downtown plan was unveiled, he assumed a Bill Gates-like stance at the podium, hand chopping the air, glasses perched on his nose, explaining why it was great for El Paso. (Later, he would tell a reporter, “The biggest failure that I know of in the United States is El Paso.”)
Sanders happens to be the father-in-law of first-term Councilman O’Rourke.
O’Rourke, meanwhile, has participated in several key council votes, including the critical decision last fall to incorporate the redevelopment project into the city’s comprehensive plan. O’Rourke, who is running for reelection, adamantly denies any conflict of interest despite the fact that his wife, his mother, his father-in-law, and even O’Rourke himself were at one time all members of the PDNG [Paso Del Norte Group]. “My relationship with Bill does not present a conflict, as he cannot profit from this plan, nor can I, nor can any member of my family,” O’Rourke wrote in an e-mail.
Oh, but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have only begun to fly in the TexObs piece;
“The status quo losers that live in Segundo are up in fucking arms because their hood is going to go from old and busted to new hotness,” a pro-plan blogger wrote in a screed posted on the Paso del Sur Web site. “Maybe a little kick in the nuts of motivation in the form of tearing their shitholes down will get them to do something with their lives.”
On that same Web site, O’Rourke, whose council district includes the Segundo Barrio, has been called a “little puto,” a “punk-ass bitch,” a liar, a thief, and a sellout. Business and government elites have been labeled as “neo-conquistadors.” Wilson has been characterized as an “anti-Mexican scold.” In conversations elsewhere, defenders of the barrio have been tagged as “nostalgists,” “sentimentalists,” and “blight preservationists.”
In an even bigger bombshell, the TxObs also cited;
The city hasn’t used eminent domain yet, but it’s about to turn up the heat. One tool the city could use, [Mayor John] Cook said recently, is to report all property offers to the appraisal district. “I don’t have to use eminent domain,” the mayor says. “All I have to do is take the offer down to the Central Appraisal District and allow the property to be taxed at its real market value.”
The city’s also going to start sending zoning and building inspectors into the redevelopment area to inform owners of code requirements. “If necessary, police and fire departments will assist in explaining and enforcing violations,” a city document stated.