El Paso - In a Nutshell
I've lived in El Paso for the past three years. Having grown up in the greater Phoenix area, El Paso is about 10-15 degrees cooler during the summer months and it has great weather about 9 months of the year. El Paso is primarily a Hispanic city with numerous generations of Mexican-Americans living here. As a result, the schools spend a lot of resources ensuring the bilingual children succeed by providing them additional English Second Language learning courses. The added expenses for education are then passed on to homeowners and renter tenants. Although the state of Texas has no income tax, the city of El Paso has the highest property taxes in the nation at 3 percent! Most of the property taxes go towards K-12, local hospital subsidies, and law enforcement. If the schools here forced parents to prove citizenship or legal immigration status for their children attending the schools, I'm guessing school enrollment would drop by 10-15%, and so would our property taxes. The city is currently going through a rapid growth period and there seems to be a shortage of homes at the moment, causing a substantial 10% rise in property values. There is also an effort to "Beautify" the city by improving landscaping on city streets (i.e. the islands between the streets). Additionally, there seems to be an effort to improve the city's transportation system by widening the interstate (I-10) and adding new bus stops in the city. In my own neighborhood (Cielo Vista) the city installed accessibility ramps at all corners of the sidewalks. Many of the city parks have also had water features added for the children to cool off during the summer months. Investors have also built several new water attraction parks. The education of the population is improving, due to the large campuses of El Paso Community College (EPCC) and the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP). Many of the students there are the first generation in their families to attend institutions of higher learning. There are only two shopping malls in the city, an outdated mall (Sunland Park) on the West side, and a newer mall (Cielo Vista) on the East side. On the East side, there is also an outdoor shopping complex known as The Fountains at Farah. The city is lacking a bit in fine dining options, despite EPCC offering culinary classes which teach the art of fine food preparation. If you want outstanding meals at an affordable rate, contact EPCC and ask them about buying the student-prepared meals ($15 at the time of this writing). Culturally, the city is lacking. There just isn't a lot of top bands coming to play in El Paso, nor are there many offerings such as dance and theater. I've only seen one museum, and an old movie theater downtown that had some charm. The city organizers did bring outdoor ice skating during the winter, and they did a fair job at decorating the downtown area for Christmas. So why 2 stars you might ask, well...the high property taxes, the widespread and state/city-funded acceptance of illegal immigration, lack of cultural events and entertainment, and a lack of ethics amongst the population here are the primary reasons I give El Paso only two stars. Now I know I may have upset a lot of people with that last sentence, but I feel that when people of a society grow up impoverished, their morality is skewed in order to survive and it will take numerous generations of prosperity before it corrects itself and the idea of fairness is returned, and doing what is right when nobody is watching (i.e. putting your trash in the garbage bins at the parks). If you are Hispanic, or bi-lingual (English-Spanish), you may give this city more stars, especially if you were born south of the border. For someone who is well-traveled, you will recognize El Paso for what it is, a gateway city between the United States and South America. It is a melding of cultures, Mexican and Mexican-American. It is a city in its infancy to becoming one of the greatest places to live in the South-West; it just isn't there yet, maybe another 20 years of economic development will do the trick. El Paso is also a gateway city within the United States, essentially linking the East and the West via one of the US's main transportation arteries (I-10). El Paso is definitely a family-oriented city, due primarily to the Hispanic culture here and the unity of the people. However, if you are a Gringo amongst the locals, you may feel out of place, especially if you don't speak Spanish. If you are open and show a willingness to learn the language, the locals will accept you.
Michael | El Paso, TX