|How To Carry Out a Landgrab in a Few Easy Steps:
A Do-It-Yourself Handbook
1. If you’re the richest guy in town, form a group.
2. Keep the membership list secret.
3. Keep your secretive group exclusive—membership is by invitation only. Your yearly membership dues have to be high enough so that most people in town can’t afford them.
4. Include the owners and publishers of several major news media in your membership list. This will insure positive coverage of your plan.
5. It helps if the City Representative—who supposedly “represents” the zone targeted for your landgrab—is also your son-in-law. That way you can always discuss the plan at the dinner table whenever the need arises.
6. Divide the community. This is an old and highly effective strategy.
7. Draw a line on a map. On the north side of the line is the lucky zone called the “historic incentive” zone. On the south side is the “redevelopment” or “demolition” zone.
8. Say that all the businessmen south of this line (who were not invited to your secret organization) are bad, while all the businessmen north of this street (who are dues-paying members) are good. The business people in the unlucky zone—even those that have actually invested in their property and community—will be punished. They have two years to sell or else eminent domain will be used against them. The ones north of the line—even though some of them are actually the largest slumlords in town—will be rewarded.
9. Lie. Deception, like eminent domain, is a powerful weapon, whether you use it as a first or a last resort.
10. Claim the owners south of the line only pay $400,000 a year, although that figure only includes city taxes. In fact the actual amount these business pay—if you include state, federal, school taxes, etc.—is more than 1.8 million dollars.
11. Don’t mention that many businesses within downtown actually pay higher taxes than most businesses in other parts of the city.
12. Rush to create a Tax Increment Redevelopment Zone before anyone really gets what this zone is all about.
13. Don’t explain that the TIRZ will take tax money away from the other city, county and school districts that normally receive them. Part of the tax increment that would have gone to the cities' general fund will now be mostly for the benefit of the new landlords in the so-called redevelopment zone. None of those taxes will go for police, fire fighters and librarians.
14. Hide the total cost of this plan to the citizens of El Paso. If someone asks you how much will this cost us, say, approve the plan first, then we’ll tell you.
15. Choose a poor historic barrio that has little political clout as the site for major demolitions and displacement. This is where you’ll construct a big-box retail store and a strip mall.
16. Create insiders and outsiders. Make sure to exclude all the residents, small businesses and community groups within the poor neighborhood from the planning process.
17. Hide your politics of exclusion by designating one chief executive of a social service agency who is willing to play ball as the official representative of the poor neighborhood. Exclude all other community leaders of the neighborhood from the initial planning process.
18. To make a show of your cultural sensitivity say that the proposed strip mall for tourists in this poor barrio will have an ethnic theme.
19. Trivialize the poor neighborhood’s history. We all know the history of los de abajo is not as worthy as the history of the wealthier neighborhoods in town.
20. Ignore the fact that eminent domain abuse historically has been used predominantly against the poor and minorities in this country. Since the Federal Housing Act of 1949 that authorized the use of eminent domain to clear so-called “blighted neighborhoods” was was put in place, one million people have been displaced, eighty percent of them were Latino or African American.
21. Pretend to be greatly offended when anyone points out that City Hall would have never planned to destroy the heart of a wealthy neighborhood in town (where many of the members of the secretive organization live) to build a Wal-Mart or a stripmall without involving the people who live and work there in the initial plans.
22. Don’t give out the information about the exact number of people who will be forcibly relocated. They number in the thousands, but make the number seem smaller by talking about households, not individuals.
23. Confuse the public whenever you can.
24. Make the heart of the poor neighborhood within the demolition zone semantically disappear by renaming it. Tell the public that the barrio, that used to be a barrio but is now something else, is no longer in the plan, although it is still in the plan.
25. Don’t carry out genuine and open negotiations with the affected communities where everything is on the table. Instead engage in back-room politics, behind the scenes deals, private lunches with the multibillionaires, and other forms of co-optation.
26. If you are the City Manager, write an email instructing your staff how to “engage and neutralize the losers.”
27. Instruct the proponents of the plan to take photographs of the worst buildings in the demolition zone. If you include some pictures of buildings that aren’t actually in the proposed demolition zone, don’t worry too much. Figure no one is paying attention.
28. Don’t take any photographs of the well-maintained properties that are under the threat of eminent domain and demolition although they are by no means blighted. Because if you do people might ask the embarrassing question, “Why is that many perfectly viable buildings are going to be demolished just because they happen to be in the wrong zone, while the truly decrepit ones in the incentive zone are not? Is it just because the owners there happen to belong to the behind-the-scenes organization?
29. Make sure the "blight study" is conducted by an out-of-town group hired by the rich guy who started the secretive group.
30. Manipulate the figures and define blight in a way that more than half of the city could easily fit that definition.
31. Let the opponents of the plan go to public griping sessions where they can vent all they want (within the three minute limit, of course) as long as the plan remains the same.
32. Bet on the fact that the rest of the people in town will be indifferent, apathetic, or too afraid and demoralized to stand up to power.
33. Rely on ignorance.
34. Make everyone believe this plan is a done deal no matter what they say or do.
35. Hope that after you carry out your destruction of the community, all will be forgotten.
36. Hope that the truth will never come out.