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La Corona grocery on Seventh and Ochoa streets in El Paso photo by Bruce Berman With roughly 350 members, the group is a who’s who of the politically connected. The roster includes mayors, former governors, Gov. Rick Perry appointees, and extremely wealthy businessmen and land developers from El Paso, Juarez, New Mexico, and the state of Chihuahua, according to a list posted on the Web site of Paso del Sur, a group organized to fight the plan. Among the wealthiest are Woody Hunt, a Bush supporter and former member of the University of Texas Board of Regents who presides over a firm that has built more military housing than any other company in the United States; Eloy Vallina Garza, the son of Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina Laguera, whom Mexican sources say is one of the richest men in the state of Chihuahua; and billionaire 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 Sanders happens to be the father-in-law of first-term Councilman O’Rourke. To avoid creating a conflict of interest for his son-in-law, Sanders announced he intended to donate any profits he made from the redevelopment to charity. Plan opponents like Blaugrund remain skeptical, saying they haven’t seen the pledge in writing. 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. “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. By age 10, Bill Sanders was selling Coca-Colas to golfers at the 13th hole of the El Paso Country Club, he once told El Paso Inc., a local weekly. He operated a landscape business while attending El Paso High School. In 1960, he went east to Cornell University, then returned and started buying and selling property. Eventually he moved to Chicago, where he established LaSalle Partners, a real estate and investment management firm. In 1989, he sold his stake in LaSalle for roughly $65 million, moved to Santa MAY 4, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9