Friday, October 24, 2014

Chuck Morris to Roll Through El Paso

Sources in the EP GOP indicate that movie star and Walker, Texas Ranger Chuck Norris will be in town next week.

The actor will be in town as part of a rally for Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbot. 

Stay tuned for details.


Diaz Out of Compliance with Campaign Finance Reporting Requirement

Democratic candidate for El Paso County Commissioner Precinct #4 Julio Diaz has again found himself out of compliance with reporting requirements relating to his campaign finances.

Candidates that are on commissioner's court or a candidate for an office on commissioner's court are required to report donations over $2500 to Commissioner's Court within 30 days.

This is a requirement laid out in the El Paso County Code of Ethics, Article XII:

13. Campaign Contributions
If a member of commissioners court, or candidate for a seat on commissioners court, accepts political campaign contributions of Two Thousand, Five Hundred and No/100 Dollars ($2,500.00) or more, including in-kind contributions, from any one person or entity within a twelve month period, he shall report the amounts, the donor, and the dates of said contributions by an item on the agenda of the El Paso County Commissioners Court within 30 days of the date of said cumulative contribution. The report shall also be placed upon the El Paso County web page.

Woody Hunt donated $2500 to Julio Diaz on September 22 of this year according to records at the County. The contribution should be on the agenda for Monday's meeting to be in compliance with the Ethics Commission.

Diaz has previously stated that the creation of the Ethics Commission is one of the best things the County has done.

"It's my first time running for office. I'm learning a lot." Diaz stated about the compliance issue.

Diaz also stated about the failure to report the contribution, "It was an oversight. I will go later today to take care of it."

As I previously wrote, Diaz has a pretty large campaign staff but he indicated that he does the reporting.

It was also the first time his primary and general election opponents, Melodya Salaices and Andrew Haggerty, have run for office as well. Neither of them have failed to comply with the reporting requirements.

His opponent, Republican candidate Andrew Haggerty stated, "This is why his previous record was brought up by both his opponent in the primary as well as me, he has shown over and over again that he feels the rules don't apply to him. We don't need another politician who feels like he is above the rules. We need to be the example."

Former First Lady Hits The Mission Trail

Former First Lady Laura Bush was visiting the Mission Trail here in town yesterday. 

I assume she hit all three but can only confirm that she was a La Purisima in Socorro and San Elizario.

Here is a photo of Bush with Mayor Maya Sanchez if San Elizario as they made their way to the mission. Photo courtesy of Ryan Montes.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Leticia Van De Putte to Attend Rally Saturday

Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Leticia Van De Putte will be in El Paso in Saturday. 

She will headline a GOTV rally being held at the El Paso County Coliseum.

The rally begins at 4:15pm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Social Media Continues to Evolve in Campaigns

Congressman O'Rourke leveraged social media pretty effectively during his campaign in which he defeated former congressman Silvestre Reyes. 

It's still evolving and candidates are still experimenting with how to make it work best.

Looks like Julio Diaz has decided to utilize sponsored ads on Facebook. Pretty good idea during early voting because it's a good reminder to voters and is pretty inexpensive. People are on Facebook multiple times a day. 

I would've included early voting locations and hours, but it's pretty smart on Julio's part.

But before you post a campaign ad, you might want to double check the English.

Not sure "enforcing" is the word he was looking for.


Cecilia Abbot is in Town

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbot's spouse Cecilia is supposed to be in town today making phone calls at the GOP headquarters today.

I don't have any other details on her visit, that is the information I was provided by a Republican insider.

Homegirl of the Week: Niland to Reclaim Her Seat

Hey look, a non-doctored photo of Niland!
Somebody tell Paredes he missed
doctoring this one.
Time for me to put this conversation to rest and time to award the Homegirl of the Week to a gringa.

City Representative Cortney Niland will be reclaiming her old seat at the next city council meeting.

As you have no-doubt heard there has been a long on-going novela about where people sit at El Paso City Council because City Representative Lily Limon can't seem to behave herself like an educated Latina during city council meetings.

For the second time a member of city council as asked to be moved from sitting next to Limon because of her conduct during the meetings. 

Representative Limon has apparently been more concerned with distracting her colleagues during meetings than representing her constituents which has led to her constituents having to seek assistance at other levels of government.

Sources indicate that Niland will reclaim her seat and save the tax payers the expense of having to pay for Representative Limon's behavior at the next city council meeting. 

About time someone stood up to Limon.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More on Tropicana Low-Income Housing Protest

So here is a follow-up to the piece I did about a protest yesterday in front of Senator Rodriguez's office by constituents who live in an area of East El Paso near Loop 375 and Rojas.

They live in upper middle to upper class area of the east side of town. Tropicana Homes, owned by Bobby Bowling and family, applied for some tax credits with the state and was able to get permission to build a 300 unit low-income housing community in their area.

The reason that the protesters were in front of Senator Rodriguez's office is because he signed a letter of support for the Tropicana project.

The residents indicate that they don't want the development in their area because they believe it will affect their property values, traffice, crime, and the local elementary school. Their primary concern at this point is that they feel there weren't adequately notified that the project was in the works and that robbed them of the ability to expressed opposition before a decision was finalized.

According to an email from Representative Ordaz's office, who represents the area, there may be very little the constituents can do at this point to stop the development.

Another applicant for a tax credit with the state was Ike Monty and he filed a complaint against Tropicana regarding the notification process for residents. Monty's complaint basically says that Bowling's project wasn't in compliance with the state criteria for the tax credits because residents weren't properly notified.














It appears that state didn't agree with Monty's complaint. Here are their findings:

So it appears that the reason that the residents weren't informed is because they weren't formally organized into a recognized neighborhood association. 

They apparently formed after this project and the tax credits were approved. 

Representative Ordaz produced emails that demonstrate her efforts to look into the matter to ascertain what the process was and at what stage the parties were in the process. Representative Ordaz took office in August of this year and so most of it occurred under the previous city representative Eddie Holguin.

Once the tax credits were approved the only other issue was to verify if it met zoning requirements, which it did. 

Representative Ordaz's emails indicate that she would like the city to look into seeing if its possible to work with the state, perhaps requiring legislation, to mirror the city's method of notifying neighbors of a zoning change if they live within a certain amount of feet of the proposed project in order to avoid another situation like this in the future. 

When asked if she was supportive of the neighborhood associations bid to stop the construction of the affordable housing community in their neighborhood Representative Ordaz responded by saying. "I believe they should have been notified, just like any of the City's zoning cases, they go through CPC and have a public hearing at council giving the public an opportunity to speak about it. They didn't know anything about it until they called the city a few weeks ago to see what development was being built in their backyards.

I've made myself accessible and tried to find any information to help answer any questions. There is not a lot I can do at this point. Bowling received funding from the state early last year, it didn't go through the city, but all the zoning looks correct. I'm working with our legal team to work on legislation to see if TDHCA can mirror what the city does in our zoning cases so that the public at least gets notification."

In terms of the next step for the constituents, they have a meeting scheduled next week with Senator Rodriguez's office to discuss his letter of support that was written to support the tax credits for Tropicana

Members of the Bowling family frequently contribute to political campaigns and have donated to Senator Rodriguez on multiple occasions

Commissioner 4 Debate Summary

You all know I'm a Democrat so I'm sure you'll take this post with a grain of salt but I'll be as objective as I can on this one.

In terms of performance in the debate hosted by the West El Paso Republican Women I think you'd have to give a slight edge to Julio Diaz, the Democrat.

Both candidates surprised me with the depth of their knowledge of county policy and issues. Haggerty showed that he's running on more than just a storied family name. Diaz showed that he's more than just a pretty face.

If the question is who impressed me more, then hands down I'd have to say Andrew Haggerty. Clearly young Andrew could use some polishing. He's a little unpolished and probably a little more blunt than he should be, but he wouldn't be a Haggerty if he wasn't.

Haggerty came out with a very sharp message about Diaz that he's been open to since the primary. Haggerty basically used Diaz's own message against him. Diaz has spoken about ending the culture of corruption and ethics, etc. Haggerty pounced on that in front of what should've been a friendly crowd save for the fact that Julio showed up with a huge entourage and a campaign staff larger than I've seen for congressional candidates.

He reminds me a little of Hector H. Lopez in that way, but I'll get to that later.

Photo taken from Diaz campaign FB page
Haggerty mentioned Diaz's “multiple run-ins with the law” and Diaz's business that is “near failure”. I went back and looked at the video and Diaz was clearly annoyed by the fact that Haggerty raised those two issues. I was going to post a screen shot from the video to illustrate my point, but this photo from Diaz's campaign team actually does more justice to it than the screen shot I was going to use. 

There is a mugshot of Diaz floating around. His primary opponent used it in social media and in a mailer so he was clearly arrested and booked for something.

But when it was Diaz's turn to speak he practically leaped out of his seat to get to the microphone.

Diaz was ready with a response that was right on the edge of political brilliance. Until he may have erred. 

Diaz responded by saying that he had “no felonies...no misdemeanors...but what I do have is a security clearance...” from the military.

That was a pretty good answer and he should've stopped there. But like anyone who is uncomfortable with a topic, he kept going and he made a comment that has the potential to be the turning point in the race.

Diaz added, “I have no criminal record.” What he should've said was that he's never been convicted of a crime. But that's not what he said.

Its going to be hard for a voter to take Diaz seriously with a statement like that if there's a mug shot floating around of him. If Haggerty puts that quote on a piece of mail along with Diaz's mugshot, its really going to hurt Diaz.

I don't know if Haggerty even has the time, talent, or resources to put a piece like that together considering early voting started Monday, but that statement has the potential to be a game-changer.

Diaz never really addressed the state of his business. But I was extremely impressed by Diaz's discipline of staying on message. If he didn't mention the fact that he has military experience in every answer it sure as hell felt like it.

The rest of the debate was the two trading positions about public policy that pretty much followed party lines. Haggerty talked a lot about smaller government and the budget. Diaz used the phrase “fiscal conservative” several times but spoke like a liberal Democrat on most policy issues. He fiercely defended the clinic votes and did so better than most members of commissioners court frankly. He clearly knows that issue inside and out and will eat anybody's lunch on the topic. He was absolutely brilliant on that issue.

But in Haggerty's opening remarks he touched on something I didn't catch at first but as the debate went on I started to notice he was right. Haggerty implored the audience to hold them accountable in answering questions. I'm pretty sure he did that because he knows Diaz takes a long time to get to a point and is often unresponsive in his answers.

Haggerty impressed me with his prosecution of Diaz. He talked about trust and said that the county doesn't need another mug shot. He also stayed on Diaz about a quote he made about the Ethics Commission. Haggerty mentioned that Diaz praised the creation of the Ethics Commission but that he'd been out of compliance with several ethics issues including filing his campaign finance reports late, accepting corporate contributions, note reporting the big dollars to commissioner's court, and filing the report improperly.

Perhaps in response to Haggerty's prosecution Diaz mentioned that he's “...not perfect...” several times and said that only God is.

Diaz scored with a sharp line about Haggerty's lack of military experience and Diaz's entourage celebrated when he dropped the line on Haggerty. One of Diaz's campaign staffers actually did a fist-pump so it was obviously a line they've been wanting to use for a while.

Diaz stayed on the military stuff pretty much the entire debate which made me chuckle to myself for a variety of reasons that I'll explain in another post, but I'll explain one of the reasons here.

Diaz went to ROTC and is a officer in the reserves. He's in a public affairs unit. But he's in charge of S-1, which means he's basically in charge of personnel issues. In other words, he's in charge of paperwork. He has a degree in political science.

I know when I was in the Army, they hammered home a little thing called “attention to detail”. It surprises me that a guy who, as Haggerty put it, “has a degree in campaigning” and touts his military paperwork experience, would make a mistake on campaign paperwork. Apparently on more than one occasion.

In terms of the debate performance I'd have to give the edge to Julio Diaz. He's very well packaged. He has deeper policy knowledge than I expected despite the fact that he takes to long to answer a question if he answers it at all. He also does his best not to answer questions that might get him in trouble and that takes discipline. I think he needs to make sure that his campaign staff don't become a distraction. Campaign staff, if they are doing a good job, are usually seen and not heard. If even seen at all. His campaign manager stood behind me during my post-fight interview with Diaz and signaled him a couple of times.

Haggerty did well. He didn't lose, he just didn't come across as well as Diaz. Haggerty has to have a sense of urgency about him. Diaz appears to be running a solid ground game, which hasn't been done by a Democratic candidate in that race before.

There were several moments in the debate when the two went after each other that made me say "Zas!", so it was pretty entertaining. 

The X Factor

What makes this race a perfect storm for the Democrats is the fact that Diaz is a more formidable candidate than expected in terms of the mechanics of an election. There is also a major issue on the GOP side.

There is no Republican state rep candidate on the ballot so there is no outside money being pumped in to push the GOP turnout. To add to Haggerty's worries is the significant number of undervotes that race has. Haggerty can't afford to have 2,000 people go to the polls and not vote for him in a tight race. So if there is a big push for the GOP to turnout, its going to be up to young Mr. Haggerty to make it happen. I think if the election were held today, he'd lose. If he doesn't call the rest of the family off the bench to pitch-in, Diaz is going to pull the upset.


Ebola Media Debate on Social Media

Late last week when there was a dust-up about a patient in an El Paso hospital that may have had Ebola-like symptoms, social media exploded with rumors.

A reporter from KVIA and the editor of the El Paso Times had two different takes on the situation and I monitored the conversation and found it fascinating. The comparison of one very seasoned reporter from print media and a pretty studious television news reporter was a great contrast.

It was interesting to see the two approaches to the story. One the more traditional and methodical newspaper approach and the other was the get-the-info-to-the-public-quickly breaking news approach.

An interesting debate arose about being first versus being right and the responsibility of media to inform the public in a timely manner without causing confusion and alarm unnecessarily.

It was all centered around the establishment of whether or not it was factually accurate to say that the emergency room was closed. 

Interesting conversation.

LATER TODAY - More on the subdivision on the Eastside that had a protest yesterday and more on the Diaz/Haggerty debate last week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tropicana Low-Income Housing Protest

I was downtown earlier today and happened to be near Senator Rodriguez's office when I noticed a protest going on so I stopped to ask a few questions about it.

These folks live in what one protester characterized as “an exclusive area” in east El Paso. Its the neighborhood that is north of Rojas between Zaragoza and Loop 375.

I'm gonna look into this much more comprehensively in a later post, but I wanted to post this quick interview to give you an idea of what I'm working on because I find protests interesting.

I think they are protesting in the wrong place and should be working through their city reps office, in this case Representative Ordaz's office if they want the project to go away.

The short of it is that these folks don't want a low-income housing community put near their area and thats why they are protesting. They indicate a concern about their property values going down, the local schools being at capacity, traffic and concerns over increased crime.


I'll do some fact-checking on this and check with the offices the protesters mentioned. 

More to come.

I Honestly Had No Idea He Was Running

Ben Mendoza, another perennial candidate is on the ballot in November.

Proving just how rusty I am at the whole blogging thing, I didn't even know he was a candidate.

That's my bad.

He is running for House District 77 against incumbent Marisa Marquez. He has less of a chance of winning than Manny Hinojosa does of being the next District Clerk. 

I found out Mendoza was running when I was at the Republican forum the other night and I saw a business card he was passing around advertising his candidacy. 

He is apparently running as an independent.


Friday, October 17, 2014

JP Interviews About Wedding Fee Revenue

After the debate last night I caught up with each of the candidates for the JP race on the westside to ask them a question about the money that JP's collect performing weddings.

JP's can collect a fee to perform weddings (as can judges) and they are not obligated to turn any of that money over to the county. At a time with commissioner's have to struggle to find funding sources I thought I'd inquire about the fee.

For background, many JPs don't charge anything for some groups like GI's. But they frequently perform the weddings during business hours at the county-funded offices. County-funded staff have to support the ceremonies. County resources are expended on performing the ceremonies and if it weren't for the fact that they were elected by county constituents, they JPs and judges wouldn't have the power to perform the ceremony and get that supplemental income.

So why not provide some tax payers a little relief?

BTW, some of the JP's have wedding stuff set up in their offices for photo-ops frequently charge different fees if they have to perform a ceremony on a weekend or out of the office.

Here's what both candidates had to say:



Times Editorial Board Whacks Libertarians

The El Paso Liberty peeps have been struggling to find a home now for many years. They are active and savvy. But the Republicans really don't accept them and they aren't quite strong enough to stand on their own.

Libertarians are all generally pretty well informed, except the occasional leanings towards conspiracy theories. Some of them still won't let the birth certificate thing go and a few think 9-11 was an inside job.

They almost all think they are smarter than everyone else. Which is probably why I like them. They are actually pretty good at poking fun at themselves which is something you have to appreciate.

But for a group of people so smart, they have let something devastating to their local credibility happen. They have been defined by the shallow-end of their political gene pool.

The El Paso Times made their endorsements of candidates and they took a moment to whack the two Libertarians that are candidates.

And the worst thing about it for the liberty movement in El Paso is that the Times was 100% right. About Libertarian candidate for District Clerk Manny Hinojosa the Times said he "seems to be running to make points about various issues not connected to the clerk's office."

Which is true. When you engage in conversation with him you will find little substance related to the actual office he is seeking. When he does get in the neighborhood of issues directly related to the office, he doesn't offer details. I'm speaking of budgetary issues. He frequently says things like he will cut the budget in half. Thats a huge and newsworthy position if he could actually articulate just exactly how he is planning on making that happen. But he doesn't. Because its an empty platitude and he doesn't really have a plan to accomplish such a fete. The reality is that the DC office already operates at a significantly lower budget under Norma Favela than it did under Gilbert Sanchez.

The one thing that Hinojosa does get right is the morale. Having been at the County I can honestly say there are morale issues with DC staff. Executive-level leadership don't usually know there are morale issues because well, who wants to tell the boss they don't like working for her?

Libertarian candidate for State Rep Alejandro Lozano was also whacked by the Times' Editorial Board. About Lozano's candidacy they wrote, "Libertarian J. Alejandro Lozano is a perennial candidate who shows little knowledge of issues the Legislature will tackle next year."

That's pretty gacho.

Especially considering that Lozano is a former elected official who should have deep policy knowledge. There was no mention of former Lozano and Cobos staffer, Libertarian for Congress candidate Jaime O. Perez in the piece.

But in fairness to the Times, they might have forgot he was running.

Libertarians, you can be mad about the endorsements but what was said was pretty accurate. And frankly, its your own fault for not rejecting the people that ultimately become the face of the Libertarians in El Paso.

West El Paso Republican Women Debate

Last night was the debate for the two major races on the westside – the JP race and the county commissioner 4 race.

I'll do a few posts that summarize the debates but I wanted to write this quick note about the actual debate.

Despite the fact that it was run by one of the auxiliaries of the El Paso GOP the debate featured both Democrats and Republicans.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it was going to turn in to a political food-fight. Well you'd be wrong.

The debate featured fair and probing questions of the candidates and the West El Paso Republican Women were gracious hosts. Even had homemade cookies.

Becky Hermosillo is the head of WEPRW and is probably one of the top two moderators in town that I've seen host debates over the years. She's fair, controls the program well, and keeps the show rolling.

It was certainly a tale of two debates. The first debate was JP candidates – Democratic nominee Sergio Coronado and Republican nominee Kelly Dickson. Both candidates are older than their PCT 4 colleagues and both are attorneys. The JP debate was civil and extremely cordial. Even when they had the opportunity to lock horns by asking a question of their opponent, they didn't get rough at all.

Hermosillo had planned to have them debate first anyway, but that worked out well for Coronado because he had to leave early to celebrate the birthday of his daughter who turned 21 last night. So shoutout to Coronado for showing up to a debate hosted by the opposite party on his daughter's birthday.

There were some shots fired in the second debate and you can tell that the Republicans aren't used to the same kind of hard contrasts between opponents that we are used to in our side of the aisle and you can tell a few of them were a little uncomfortable. Their discomfort made me chuckle because they had that uncomfortable look on their face like when a relative no one really likes shows up for the holidays.

Chairman and Mrs. Homsley were in attendance along with other prominent Republicans like Judge Bill Hicks. County Commissioner-elect David Stout, a Democrat, showed up to watch the debate as well. YISD Trustee Shane Haggerty was also in attendance.

Democratic comish candidate Julio Diaz showed up with a big entourage as well. It ended up being about 30% of the audience and included his campaign manager, a photog, a videographer, a couple of communications people, and family. They took up the entire first row and there were still others scattered in the rest of the audience.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Musical Chairs

Its stupid that this is even a topic, but it is and I must therefore chime in.

First things first. Lets stop pretending that there is anyone at fault here but City Rep Lily Limon. Country/pop music star Taylor Swift has become famous for writing songs about ex-boyfriends who have done her wrong. Well after a few songs like that, maybe the problem isn't with the ex-boyfriends...

That is the same situation here with city council. After multiple members of city council have asked to move, maybe the problem isn't with those members of council...

Seriously, what (in this case who) is the common denominator? 

As a Chicano from the barrio, I'm sorta pre-programed to root for people like Limon. An educated strong Latina woman. I happen to be a product of a strong Latina woman. Hell Limon had Little Joe in her campaign commercials! I should be her biggest cheerleader.

But instead, I find myself embarrassed by her conduct. She's an educator for God's sake. She doesn't know how to keep quiet while someone else is speaking? I'm pretty sure there's some former Limon students floating around that probably had their parents called when they did the same thing Limon does to her colleagues in class.

Way to set the example.

We've all seen the loud, brash, abrasive, do-what-I-want-or-I'll-throw-a-tantrum act before. It doesn't end well.

Don't get me wrong, I'll tell it like it is. If Limon were out there leading some great Chicano cause, advocating for the poor and disenfranchised, raising hell to protect the little guy/gal, I'd be cutting her a whole lotta slack. 

God knows I've done it in the past. 

I've looked the other way on the politics of personality before if I thought the leader was doing the right thing. You know the saying, no one likes to watch sausage being made.

But lets be real. Limon doesn't fight for those things. 

She fights for crappy lights that makes Charlie Brown's Christmas tree look like a blinged-out rap video with strippers iced-out, and ridiculously fat raises for her staff. 

So bottom line is Limon acts up and the white ladies (City Reps Niland and Lily) are uncomfortable and asked to be moved. 

Representative Ordaz isn't white and seems to be able to tolerate Limon pretty well. Although that might be because Ordaz has a super-hyper and annoying dog that doesn't know how to behave either so she probably has a high threshold.

Seriously, that effing dog bit me in the junk on more than one occasion. I hate that dog.

I honestly expected a whole lot more from the Honey Badger. I don't get how Niland can take on big power companies but can't handle Limon. Niland needs to go get her seat back. Give Limon a little taste of her own medicine.

You know how we handle someone in the barrio who fouls a lot when we play basketball? We foul them back harder. You gotta make your own calls anyway.

So sit right next to her and emulate her behavior. What is she gonna do? Run and complain to Mayor Leeser about the very behavior she started?

I assure you, nothing will drive her more crazy than having to sit between Ordaz and the Honey Badger.

Or she could always ask Ordaz to bring Jack to the meeting. That'll teach her. Jack is the dog by the way.

Seating at City Council Doesn't Matter Anyway

All of this is really a stupid conversation anyway. There's nothing in the charter that says where the kids have to sit in class. They conduct electronic voting anyway. They all vote at once. Its not sequential public voting like it is at the county.

At the city everyone votes and once everyone votes privately, the results are then shown to the public.

If you want to talk stupid seating arrangements, look at the County. From left to right the seating is as follows, Precinct 3, Precinct 1, County Judge, Precinct 2, Precinct 4. But when they vote its Precinct 3, then Precinct 1, then Precinct 2, then Precinct 4, and then the County Judge.


No one knows why it is set up that way either. 

I asked that question about a year and a half ago. Sequential voting means a little more political gamesmanship because you can see how people vote on an issue before your turn to vote comes up. 

I'm glad to see with all the pressing issues facing this community like domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, disease prevention, economic development, and the provision of services that we are focusing on important stuff like where the white ladies on council sit and the freeway decorations at Airway.

To borrow a phrase from The Juice, Keep El Paso Backward...