1978: An Odessa ‘tea’ party, new football stadium - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

1978: An Odessa ‘tea’ party, new football stadium

oanews@oaoa.com | Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015 6:00 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year marks 75 years of the Odessa American. Through the OA’s anniversary date of Oct. 2, we will count down the last 75 years, with a brief summary of some of the news and events that affected Odessans.

Jail death: The Jan. 22 death of Larry Ortega Lozando in the Ector County jail prompted a federal investigation during 1978. Lozando was incarcerated Jan. 10 on three charges of aggravated assault on police officers. Suspecting that jail officials had beat him to death, the Pecos man’s family called in the Texas Rangers and the FBI. Ector County officials maintained that Lozando died from head injuries sustained when he rammed his head against a glass window in his padded cell. In December, following a five-month probe, the Justice Department concluded that Lozando had died from a crushed larynx sustained in a scuffle with deputies. The department ruled the death accidental, and no indictments were returned in connection with the case.

Tax protest: On Aug. 15, a crowd of irate Odessa taxpayers burned a barbecue grill stuffed with tax notices in protest against city property tax hikes. The Odessa-style Boston Tea Party, staged at City Hall by the Concerned Taxpayers of Ector County, attracted about 100 people, according to news reports. The group denounced the Odessa City Council for “misuse of its taxing power,” insisting that the property revolution project be scrapped and the city’s $5 million surplus be used toward the next year’s budget. In the following weeks, nearly 900 taxpayers sought appeals in hearings before the city’s Board of Equalization. However, protests fell on deaf ears when the city said it would not consider rescinding the revaluation of property.

Stadium issue OK’d: On Dec. 5, Ector County voters approved a $21.6 million bond issue that included $4.7 million for a new football stadium. Also included was $8.7 million for expansion projects at Ector County schools and $9.29 million to build a new junior high school and two elementary schools. Earlier in the year, voters narrowly approved a $4 million bond for sewage treatment improvements, but rejected a $5.7 million bond for a new police and municipal courts building and a $2 million bond proposal for improvements to the city’s water distribution system. City officials attributed the failure of the two bonds to backlash from the controversy over property tax revaluation.

A good year: An estimated 2,500 births were recorded in Odessa in 1978, according to a report from the Ector County Clerk’s Office. Bank deposits increased, reaching a record of $440,882,502 by the close of the year. Traffic fatalities plunged from 50 deaths in 1977 to just 21 for 1978. And in weather statistics, the national Weather Service reported above average rainfall for the year, with a total of 17.29 inches.

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Information is drawn from news accounts, archives and other historical records.