Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gandara's Sentence - What Does it Mean?

Photo Courtesy of Rosy Zugasti - Univision 26
Forever gone are "the Kennedy's of the Valley" and they went out in yet another made-for-Hollywood twist in an epic saga that has plagued the lower valley for years.

Whenever someone isn't liked by someone else and a sentence is handed down, they say, "Oh, he got a slap on the wrist."

The reality is we have a justice system and the rules are in place as they are. The sentence was from the jury. If the jury, the same one that convicted him, said he has to get probation, then the judge has to give him probation. He can control the conditions of his probation and from what an attorney tells me he could make 180 days of jail a term of his probation. But that is pretty much it.

Gandara betrayed the trust of an entire community and for a time pretty much held another community hostage, and gets off with a night in jail.

But Gandara was a good candidate for probation. He had no priors. First time offenders routinely get probation. And the concept of probation doesn't mean someone is "off the hook". Probation sucks. The terms can vary from person to person and case to case. But trust me, its not fun.

His cousin Willie got a stiff sentence at least partially because he was an elected official. But that was a sentence handed down by a judge. Jesse was an elected official at the time of his crime as well but his sentence was handed down by a jury.

That is our system, however imperfect some may think it to be. The same system that made many happy when it produced a guilty verdict enraged others when it returned what they feel is a lenient sentence.

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However, the community in Socorro and San Elizario feel like they were victimized twice. It has been an emotional roller coaster for those communities. They go from the uncertainty of whether or not there will be a conviction to the relief and joy they felt when the jury convicted Gandara of bribery. Only to end up a frustration and disbelief at the news of the sentence.

Many are only satisfied at a severe level of punishment. Bread and water in a dungeon. They say probation is a slap on the wrist. If he was sentenced to prison time and ended up in anything less than a 4x4 cell in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day they would say he got off easy.

Why do they feel that way? Because for years Jesse Gandara and some of his relatives victimized that community. The Gandara family have been in power in that small town for many years. In fact, there is still one member of the family on the city council.

The communities are understandably enraged at the sentence.

During the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution didn't offer any witnesses. The defense offered several. The prosecution had witnesses there to testify, but just didn't. The result was the jury only heard one message and that message was from the defense about why they should be lenient.

So its not surprising they were lenient when that is the only message they got.

No amount of Monday-morning quarterbacking from non-lawyers is going to change anything or make the people of San Elizario or Socorro feel any better about the verdict today.

They feel let down by the system after being let down by the Gandaras.

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But lets look at this a little more deeply. In my opinion, the guilty verdict was the punishment.

Jesse Gandara is about ego. That is the one thing you immediately learn about him within the first minute of speaking about the guy. He loves himself. He loves his ego. That is why he has the strut and always has that smug look on his face.

Remember the press conference he held on his front porch when he got arrested? That was all ego talking.

He went into the council meeting after he was arrested to resign and he arrived late. He did that on purpose. He strutted in late in order to show off. Then he resigned, but not really because he knew he'd still be in office as part of the Texas holdover clause.

Two times in the trial he wanted to testify. That was all ego. Most defense lawyers will not want their clients to testify. Gandara's ego compels him to do things like that. Both times he backed down. He hid from the media today after the sentencing, but his ego will tell him to make a statement. He can't help himself.

He thoroughly enjoyed running Socorro. More than anything in the world he liked being a "somebody", even if that was a city councilman in a small town. Seriously, the guy named a street after himself. Who does that? A guy with a serious fucking ego problem.

He has a Facebook page he runs anonymously and refers to himself in the third person as "El Teflon", a Spanish reference to the Teflon Don, John Gatti. He fancies himself a Don.

So the conviction was his punishment. He will have to wear a scarlet letter of "Felon" for the rest of his life. When you google his name it will always be a bunch of negative stuff. Whenever he tries to find a job, the felony will be an issue. He's going to be radio-active.

He has become a punchline in a really bad joke. He is no longer a "somebody" and is now going to be known as a bad guy. That is going to hit him where it hurts the most, his ego.

The normally smug and arrogant man who ran Socorro was replaced by the pudgier man who used the Bible and his family to try to gain some sympathy during his trial. His mother, his wife, and his oldest daughter all had to endure the shame and humiliation of the proceeding. That is punishment for life and I honestly felt sympathy for his family. And truthfully I must admit, I felt sympathy for him when his daughter was on the stand because I can't begin to imagine how little that must have made him feel inside as a father and as a man.

That hit him in the ego.

The guy that strutted into city council meetings and insulted members of the Socorro community was replaced by a guy who covered his face when his mom testified and couldn't even look in his wife's direction when she was on the stand trying to save him from jail time. And honestly, I have a ton of respect for his wife because she's the bread winner and has stood by her husband at a time when it was probably a lot easier to walk away.

But more than anything, Jesse Gandara's biggest punishment was losing. He was rejected at the ballot-box by his community. His plan to annex San Eli went down in flames. almost all his allies are gone and the one that is still there is coming around to being a pretty decent representative now that his influence is gone.

The strut was replaced with hanging his head in shame. That smug smile was replaced with crying. El Teflon was replaced by El Lloron. The guy who used to publicly mock people of Socorro will now do the same but will have to hide behind his keyboard on his anonymous Facebook page to do so.

Go to Facebook and look at the comments of any of the stories posted about the verdict and you will see the public's reaction to Jesse Gandara. The outrage is all over the county. I can't remember one person so universally reviled in this community, from Vinton to Tornillo. His lawyers argued that he was only charged with a crime because he's a Gandara, but judging by the comments, people think he only got a light sentence BECAUSE he's a Gandara.

And he earned all the things that are being said of him. He took advantage of communities that had limited resources but were far too trusting of him. There is a special place in hell for those that take advantage of the defenseless and a man that uses his position and influence to try to cheat people out of transparency and fairness is a let down to this community.

Elliot Shapleigh made several speeches in the valley during his time in office and often referred to the Gandara's as "the Kennedy's of the Valley". Perhaps Jesse's biggest punishment is that he, like his father, like his uncle, and like his cousin, have turned that reputation into a political punchline synonymous with corruption. Jesse, probably even more so than the rest, did more to tarnish the family name than even the Willie's.

Sadly the term "Gandara Politics" has within just a couple of years, became a pejorative term despised by the very community that they once ran.

Everyone lost today. No one should feel happy about what went down.

Commissioner Leon Announces Re-Election Bid

El Paso County Commissioner for Precinct 1 Carlos Leon announced his reelection bid last night during a gathering of family, friends, and supporters. 

Leon will be seeking his second term to represent the eastside of El Paso and parts of east El Paso County. 

Commissioner Leon spearheaded some reforms at Ascarate Park following the uncovering of alleged financial misdeeds by former county employees.

Leon was also a key vote in the expansion of healthcare through the UMC clinics.

Commissioner Leon also spearheaded training and policy changes among the Constables to get them all on the same page on a variety of issues, which was sorely needed.

Recently Commissioner Leon led a plan to install payment kiosks around the county which will help the County capture more revenue. The plan came about over the refusal of Justices of the Peace to accept payments that go the the court of other JP's. They have the ability to do so, they just don't want to. The kiosks will remove the JP's ego's from the equation and facilitate better flow of collections.

The primary election is next March.


Gandara Verdict & San Elizario

In an ending worthy of a Hollywood script, Jesse Gandara was found guilty of bribery yesterday on the vary day that San Elizario was celebrating the gran opening of their new city hall.

Jesse Gandara was responsible for hatching a scheme to try to annex the commerce portion of San Elizario and was found guilty of trying to bribe the Licon family into publicly supporting the annexation in exchange for $40,000 in advertising and $40,000 in a weekend event at their dairy. 

Gandara is currently awaiting sentencing. The jury deliberated for just over and hour.

Gandara had no reaction when he was found guilty.

During the sentencing phase several prominent people were going to testify including former Socorro City Manager Manny Soto, Socorro City Rep Gloria Rodriguez, and others were called that weren't present including Roberto Lerma and Socorro City Rep Anthony Gandara.

Gandara's mother, spouse, and daughter all testified during the sentencing phase. 

During the closing arguments David a Contreras, attorney for Jesse Gandara, used the word "bullshit" more than a dozen times. It felt like more times that it's used in the song "Cotton-Eyed Joe".

The prosecutor responded by saying "when the facts are on your side you pound the facts. When the law is on your side you pound the law. When neither are on your side you pound the table and yell 'bullshit'". 

The jury returned with a verdict quickly.

"The guilty verdict in Mr. Gandaras trial allows Socorro to close a chapter in our troubled past. The people of Socorro deserve a government that is transparent, open, and its members comply with all aspects of the law. We have worked towards this goal for the past two years and we will continue to build on the progress that we have made." Said Socorro Mayor Jesus Ruiz.

Mayor Maya Sanchez added, "Today is a celebration for San Elizario and our focus is moving our city forward. But I'm also proud of our citizens, the Licon family. Their bravery in standing up for justice is an example to all and because of their actions, the City of Socorro is celebrating a victory today as well."



The grand opening event held just about an hour after the verdict and the mood was very upbeat at the event. The people of San Eli all were pleased with the verdict and felt like justice had finally been done.

Every mayor in the county showed up to the event except Mayor Leeser.

Correction: Tejano Election Results

I meant to post this election correction yesterday but I was busy covering the Gandara trial and the City Hall Event in San Eli and didn't get a chance. 

I was told by a member of the Tenajos that the margin was 5 votes in Eddie Holguins win over Barbara Perez. It was actually a larger margin of victory. When I get a firm number I'll post it. 

I am still covering the Gandara trial but there's a break right now and I checked my email and saw this message from Dr. Anna Perez. 


You'll not that she doesn't take issue of any other facts I've written regarding the Tejanos.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gandara Defense Rests

The defense has rested in the Jesse Gandara case. The case will resume in moments with closing arguments and then go to the jury for deliberation. 

Judge Gonzalo Garcia has given the prosecution and defense each 30 minutes to make closing arguments. 

More to come.

The Gandara Trial - Day 1

Screenshot from KINT 26 Story on Gandara Trial
Tuesday was the first day of the Jesse Gandara trial. Gandara is facing up to 20 years on a myriad of charges surrounding allegations of public corruption.

Gandara, who has taken to referring to himself in the third person as "El Teflon" in social media, arrived at the courthouse in a gray pin-stripped suit and he appears to have put on some weight since his series of arrests in 2013.

The case is being heard on the 10th floor by Judge Gonzalo Garcia or "GG" as he's known around the courthouse. The Judge runs a tight ship and use of electronic devices is prohibited in his courtroom so tweets, etc are not allowed while the court is in session so updates can only really happen during breaks so there isn't the immediacy of tweets as is the case in other trials.

You can follow my twitter feed for updates as I am able to make them. www.Twitter.com/TheLionStarBlog

The first day of testimony featured Gene and Sandra Licon, two members of a prominent family in San Elizario who recorded a conversation in a car ride with Jesse Gandara. In the conversation and on the tape, the state alleges there was an attempt by Mr. Gandara to bribe the Licon family into publicly supporting the annexation of San Elizario into Socorro.

Mr. Gandara's attorneys are from the Public Defender's Office and are David Contreras and Jeanette Diaz.

Most of the day's testimony was the prosecution walking the first two witnesses through various parts of the audio recording that took place during that car ride around Socorro in which the State alleges the bribe offer took place.

The Licon family is very prominent in the valley and they are known for their dairy, asadero cheese, and the attractions at the dairy. Gene Licon was the first to testify. Commonly known as "Boy" around San Eli and Socorro, Licon is a farmer and took over the family business right after he got out of high school. He's a very plain-spoken man with a cleanly-shaven head and wore a light blue shirt and slacks. He didn't appear to make eye contact with Mr. Gandara when he was testifying on the stand. After walking through various parts of the recording with the State, Gandara's attorney David Contreras began questioning Licon about the benefits of annexation into the City of Socorro. Contreras' strategy in the courtroom wasn't clear and there were several times in which he was interrupted by the Court and asked the relevance of certain questions.

During the playing of the audio clips Mr. Gandara appeared to shift in his seat quite a bit and shrug his shoulders.

But the day's most compelling testimony came from Boy's wife, Sandra Licon. Mrs. Licon took the stand wearing a conservative blue and white dress with her hair pulled back into a tight and very neat french braid.

Several times during her testimony Mrs. Licon became emotional when speaking about the alleged offer of a bribe. In contrast to her husband, Mrs. Licon appeared to try to look directly at Mr. Gandara during her testimony but Gandara's head remained down looking at a yellow note pad that attorneys give their clients to give them something to do during testimony.

At one point during the examination the prosecutor asked her about a portion of the audio in which her son Angel, who testifies tomorrow, confronts Gandara about the offer and telling him it sounds like a bribe. Sandra Licon cried when describing that moment because she said she was proud that her son said out loud what they were all thinking. "I'm not as brave as my son. I am ashamed of that now...you have to speak up when something feels wrong...say something right then."

She was cross examined by Jeanette Diaz, a young attorney from the Public Defender's Office that is representing Gandara. It was a pretty short cross examination and the State didn't feel it necessary to conduct re-direct.

The State alleges that Gandara offered the Licon family a $40,000 event paid for by the City of Socorro and $40,000 in advertising along with some additional access to water in exchange for the Licon family's public support of annexation. Gandara is also facing other state felonies and is facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The trial resumes Wednesday morning at 9am on the 10th floor of the El Paso County Courthouse.

City Council Campaign Tidbits

Well here's a couple of little tidbits about a few different campaign items that I thought I'd just through in to one piece. The last one in the piece is about Rosa Cabrera (Arellano), so stick around.

A couple weeks back David K gave me a public lecture and scolding. I guess its my turn to return the favor. He really doesn't want Svarzbein to win for whatever reason. So The Juice has not taken his foot off the gas when it comes to the Svarzbein campaign finance reporting stuff and I think it irritates him that no one else seems to really care much about the issue. Here's why...its not illegal.

DK, time to take your medicine buddy. You are trying to allege corruption about something that is completely and totally legal. Sure its really silly that he filed that way, but its not illegal and you shouldn't be giving people the impression that it is. Unless you know that there is a specific crime being committed, in which case you have an obligation to report it to the authorities. DK also made a pretty serious allegation but never followed up on it. He alluded to Svarzbein's staff being paid directly by donors and not reporting it. Thats a serious allegation and if you've got the goods you should come forward with it. If not, I think you owe an apology.

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Speaking of Svarzbein, two more tidbits. Both involve former opponents. Lets start with Daniel Lopez. His tone has changed pretty drastically following the election and it seems like he has every intention of running for office again so don't be surprised if you see his name pop up again. He's been pretty supportive of Al Weisenberger for the run-off. Interestingly he made one social media post that I found interesting. He predicted Svarzbein would win, somehow compared him to Luther Jones of all people, and then referred to Svarzbein as "a simple photographer". Kind of weird to see a class ware break out in a city rep campaign on the westside. even more strange to have a guy originally from the lower valley be the one involved in the class war and refer to someone's occupation as "simple".
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Another former opponent is apparently block walking with Svarzbein, Rick Bonart. I ran across this photo late last week and the two were presumably walking areas that Bonart did well in and showing his support for Svarzbein in the run off.

Speaking of which, don't look now but early voting is just one week away.

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Heard this one from a member of the media. Apparently on election night Rosa Cabrera (Arellano) didn't even attend her own election night event. That is pretty terrible considering there were lots of friends, family, supporters, and volunteers waiting at the Julio's restaurant to hear from her.

In Cabrera (Arellano) defense, she was defeated pretty solidly. But you should still go if for no other reason than to thank your supporters.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eddie Holguin Elected Chair of PDN Tejanos

Only in El Paso does a guy who just supported a Libertarian and who's main political advisor is a Libertarian, become elected Chair of the once most-influential organization in the local Democratic Party.

Eddie Holguin, the former city rep narrowly defeated Barbara Perez by just 5 votes of about 35 members in attendance in an election held moments ago.

The other officers include Sheriff's Office PIO Chris Acosta, former Ysleta Interim Superintendent Dr Anna Perez, Former EPISD Trustee Isela CastaƱon-Williams, and Frank Ortiz.

Correction Regarding Chris Acosta & Tejanos Fundraiser

Chris Acosta, who is a staffer for the Sheriff, is apparently really upset at me for saying that the Legacy Banquet she ran for the Tejanos last year was a "flop".

You'd think due to recent headlines she'd be a little too busy to worry about what was written in a blog, but she is apparently on top of her game.

In an email sent out last Friday night to the membership of the Paso Del Norte Chapter and its officers, Ms Acosta (who referred to me as a "dear friend") instructed the Chair and Vice Chair to "correct" me and to inform me that "the Legacy made 3,500" dollars I assume.

She also asked when they were signing me up to be a member.

Well, I have said many times that I certainly don't want to be inaccurate whenever I state something as fact. I guess the term "flop" is subjective so perhaps I could've gone on to deliver a little more clarity on what I meant.

So let me apologize to Ms. Acosta for my error. I should not have said it was a "flop".

I should've said it was a "major flop".

Yeah, that would've been more accurate I think.

Ms. Acosta didn't have to go through the trouble of emailing everyone else to get a message to me, she could've sent it to me directly seeing as how I actually post my email address. But hey, I'll make it simpler for her and anyone else wanting to reach Yours Truly. My email address is thelionstarblog@gmail.com and my cell phone is 915.694.5714. A sus ordenes.

But lets crunch some numbers. Word around the Tejano camp fire is that the alleged $3,500 raised for the Legacy Banquet is inaccurate. I was told by an officer that it is closer to $2,500. I think that last figure also accounts for a table and corsages that needed to be reimbursed.

Yes, your "dear friend" LionStar knows about Corsage-gate too... (seriously, you guys fight over some really dumb stuff)

A $2,500 profit from the main fundraiser of the once-mighty Tejanos certainly isn't stellar. Its actually not much more than what Mayela Mejia was able to help the Eastside Democrats raise in a flap-jack sale at Apple Bee's. Yeah, pankcakes at Apple Bee's raised almost as much as the Tejano's major annual fundraiser.

But I'm a fair guy, so lets just say for a moment that Acosta's figure is accurate (despite the fact that I think there may be an outstanding bill still floating around). In previous years that event has raised at least $10,000 for the club. More in an election year. For those of you keeping score at home, 2014 was in fact, an election year.

One of the previous programs was filled with a bunch of ads from judges, law firms, and candidates. So on a bad year the Tejanos made about $10k according to officers with the PDN Tejanos. But under Acosta it struggled to make 1/3 of that amount?

Yeah, pretty sure that is a flop.

And I haven't even mentioned the complaints from other members that she was difficult to work with, didn't acknowledge the officers at the event, and made sure things were kept between her and her click of support in the PDN Tejanos which from what I'm told is made up mostly of people she appoints to the Sheriff's Citizen Advisory Committee.

According to records with the Black El Paso Democrats, a MUCH smaller organization, they have never made less than $8,000 off of their annual fundraiser dinner and usually make closer to $12,000. Black El Paso and Tejanos both normally feature national-level speakers that they fly in for the banquets.

Acosta had the mayor and the sheriff.

Spaghetti and Enchilada dinner fundraisers for the Party usually make about $3,000.

The election is later this evening and she will likely be elected since I don't think anyone else actually wants to be a Vice Chair. Well, I guess they can start to focus on Flop Jacks. Oops, I mean Flap Jacks.

Oh, I almost forgot...when are they getting me to join...

I'm flattered at the invitation and would've joined sooner, but I didn't think I was old enough to be a member.

Stupid Monkey

Sometimes Martin "Fallas" Paredes is so stupid its actually painful. As usual he's late to the party and trying to take credit for something he "exposed". I'm actually a little surprised he hasn't woken up one morning opened his curtains, seen the sun and proclaimed to have "exposed" the fact that a sun in fact exists.

He's a regular Christopher Columbus, discovering stuff that was already there.

This time though, I think he might actually get in trouble with KFOX. I'll get to that in a minute.

Anywho, Fallas Paredes wrote a piece about the death of SGT James Brown and was critical of local media because only KFOX has covered the story.

This is the part where the discount bin of the blogosphere shows his stupidity. It took YEARS for KFOX to get a ruling from the Texas AG's Office on whether or not they could have the video. They are the only media outlet in town that actually has the video.

Which is why they are the only media outlet in town doing the story (so far).

Which is why I don't think they are going to be happy with the fact that the second-hand store blogger is posting the video second hand and even posting his logo on the video like its his.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Gallardo Endorses Weisenberger

My bad, I'm a little late on this one. I meant to post this earlier in the week and I forgot.

The third place candidate in the recent race for District 1 was the last candidate to come out and support a candidate in the run-off election between Al Weisenberger and Peter Svarzbein.

Bertha Gallardo has come out in support for Al Weisenberger and made the announcement via social media.



That means the candidates each split endorsements from their opposition. Weisenberger also got the support of the last-place candidate Daniel Lopez, while Svarzbein secured the support from the second and fourth place finishers in the race.

Holguin Draws Challenge from Perez

In what is now shaping up to be an interesting race, former city council rep Eddie Holguin will be squaring off against former city rep/former county commissioner/former JP Barbara Perez for the chair of the Paso Del Norte Tejano Democrats.

Sources within the PDN Tejanos indicate that EPCC Trustee Belen Robles will be the one who nominates Holguin at the behest of City Rep Lily Limon.

Perez has been a member of the organization for several years. Holguin became a member last year.

Holguin has been on the phone calling members asking for their support. That drew a response from some of the membership that are concerned about Holguin being the head of the Tejanos. They quickly recruited a formibdible opponent for Holguin in their person of Barbara Perez.

The issue for the faction opposed to Holguin is his support and endorsement for Pickett even after recordings of ethnically charged statements have surfaced.

"We are trying to be a voice for the Hispanic community. I don't know how Eddie could've supported someone who puts immigrants in the same level as terrorists, but we can't advocate for our community with Eddie as our chair. We would be a joke and no one would take us seriously," stated one member who asked to remain anonymous.

The member is referring to the fact that Holguin endorsed district 6 challenger Mike Pickett for city council on campaign literature over City Rep Claudia Ordaz.

Pickett is a self-professed libertarian like Holguin's political mentor Jaime O. Perez. Ordaz is a Democrat that worked for both former Congressman Reyes and former Senator Elliot Shapeligh.

The election for the Paso Del Norte Tejano Democrats is next Tuesday.


European Vacation?

For whatever reason it appears KFOX appears to be the only station covering the story of an active duty soldier that died in custody at the El Paso County Jail.

There have been more developments and for the latest, watch this story from last night that features a former guard at the county jail and an inmate that was in the cell with SGT James Brown. http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/features/featured/stories/Former-El-Paso-County-jail-corrections-officer-says-James-Brown-incident-falls-on-improper-training-lack-of-military-presence-at-jail-134224.shtml#.VV8uETK9LCR

At the end of the story Erika Castillo said that KFOX was still waiting for comment from the Sheriffs Department. If memory serves, Chris Acosta is the PIO for the SO.

But sources indicate that Sheriff Wiles is allegedly on vacation in Europe right now and that may be why KFOX hasn't heard comment yet.

There was no indication when Wiles went on vacation or when he would be returning.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The County Doesn't Run Children's Hospital

There is some confusion out there about the current situation with the Children's Hospital, UMC, and the County.

So rather than repeating myself on social media I thought I'd set the record straight for those of you that are really interested in understanding the roles each of the entities play. Although there is a group of people that are not at all interested in the process, they just want to deliberately spread misinformation, which is unfortunate because this is a serious issue and they'd rather score political points that deal with the real issue.

First thing to understand is simple. This isn't the county's fault and they had almost no role in this.

Why?

Because under the Texas Constitution counties are the weakest form of government.

And because the Commissioners Court does not appoint the board members of the Children's Hospital.

And because they only appoint members to the UMC Board and have no power to remove them or tell them what to do (which has been an issue for the county for quite some time).

The only member of commissioners court that was a) on the court at that time and b) publicly supportive of the Children's Hospital is Escobar. None of the other members of the court were there yet.

The board members at Children's Hospital are made up of their own membership. The county doesn't appoint those people.

That is probably why each member of the court was so publicly critical of what the Children's Hospital did because the CH was still allegedly negotiating a partnership with UMC and that was likely what they were hearing in their executive session briefings.

Now if you want to place "blame" on Escobar because she publicly supported the creation of the Children's Hospital, that is up to you. But then you have to blame yourself for everything someone you voted for does something you don't like too. Just because she supported the creation of the Children's Hospital doesn't mean she is responsible for what a different board does several years later when they have multiple options on the table.

That would be like blaming Hector Montes because Larry Medina pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. Hector Montes was once is campaign manager. By that logic you'd have to partially blame Montes. Does that make any sense? Of course not.

The way I look at it, the CH entered agreements with UMC. They stopped paying UMC a long time ago and began racking up a huge bill. Had you not paid your bills for that long you would've gotten kicked out, and the lights and water cut off.

If CH is disputing what they owe, why didn't they take it up with UMC a long time ago instead of just not paying them?

And by them, I mean us because UMC is a taxing entity.

Bottom line is this. The county doesn't have authority over the CH board. The county only appoints the members of the UMC board but they aren't obligated to listen to or cooperate with commissioner's court. UMC board members and CH board members are not elected and are not directly accountable to tax payers.

The CH voted in February to pursue bankruptcy and all the while was giving the indication to the court that they were negotiating with CH in good faith.

Except they really weren't.

Road Rage in Socorro

I hate when people take advantage of the poor. It bothers me to no end. It's like bullying someone who can't fight back.

So when I see it, I want to do something about it. 

It's happening in Socorro...again. 

I'm acquiring more documents and maps but let me tell you what I've uncovered so far.

At least one city rep has been directing a particular staff member to push through road paving projects in what is alleged to be a personal benefit to himself.

This is similar to the movida Jesse Gandara pulled when he was in office where he and his supporters allegedly received driveways before other constituents.

The City of Socorro has been working on improving their infrastructure under the direction of Mayor Jesus Ruiz, Councilman at Large Rene Rodriguez, and Councilwoman Gloria Rodriguez. Under the previous Gandara administration they were focused on putting a ton of money into big parks, but hadn't taken care of the necessities first. So this administration has been working on the infrastructure. Not the most politically popular thing to do because people just bitch and moan about traffic during construction.

The Public Works Department for the City of Socorro has done about 30 streets so far during this years paving plan.

One city rep, Sergio Cox, has pushed through two paving projects that directly benefit property he owns.

Generally the way the streets are prioritized for paving in the county and other municipalities is based on the wear and tear of the street and the amount of traffic on the street. The streets with more traffic and in poorer condition are allocated the funds as a priority.

For example, if you want a street paved that isn't paved, generally what happens is a traffic study is done. A sensor is placed in the ground for a period of time to establish how much traffic flows through a given area over a period of time. That data is collected and analyzed to determine the cost-benefit of investing public resources into a paving project. So obviously the streets with more traffic have a greater need for paving. The streets with very little traffic, well there just isn't the public need to pave an area that gets little traffic.

BTW, if you're wondering about the conditions of the major roads in Socorro, most of them are state roads and belong to TxDOT.

But incredibly, one road that was pushed by Sergio Cox has only TWO properties on the road. It is going to be paved and provided an outlet that was basically just a make shift dirt road outlet previously.

What is the public benefit of paving a road with only TWO properties that front the road? Why the necessity to push the project through? Because Sergio Cox is one of the two property owners on that street.

Fray Olguin is a road that has several properties on it that has absolutely no paving on it. Its a dirt road and all the other roads around it are paved and when it rains, that road is in terrible condition for the residents. The city is trying to acquire some right-of-way to pave it, but it underscores the fact that there is real need in that community, but a road with only two properties on it, one of which is owned by a council member, represents that not only are there misplaced priorities, but real institutional reform needs to take place in order to prevent that kind of crap.

I'll post maps and some very interesting email exchanges on all of this soon. But someone needs to be asking some questions on behalf of the community. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You Know What Would Could Provide Tax Payers Some Relief?

The Children's Hospital stuff has us all talking about relief for tax payers. 

Well here's something that could capture some money for the county...have the Justices of the Peace fork over some of the revenue they make off of performing weddings.

Talk about a racket! The JPs are only able to perform the weddings in the first place because of their positions with the county. And trust me, they make a LOT of money off of it.

It's so lucrative that the former JP Barbara Perez started a business marrying people after she was recently defeated. It's not hard, if you recall I became an ordained minister a few years ago. That reminds me, you people are supposed to refer to me as Reverend LionStar. Or was it Bishop? I forget. But I also became a Jedi Knight through the same website.

Anywho, the JPs make a chingo of feria off of it and we tax payers don't see a dime of it. They use our resources to do it too. 

In fact, I'll bet they don't even track how many they do or how much they make off of it so it would be hard to even submit an open records request for the info. But they have to file personal financial statements so maybe that info is there. Or it should be anyway. Hmm, that sounds like something someone should look into.

At any rate, it would likely be a good chunk of change. At least one of the JPs that does it even has a little set-up for photo ops of the special occasion. 

I wonder how much revenue that would be for the County tax payers?


El Paso GOP Taps New Chair

The El Paso GOP has a new Chairman. Here are the details.


Tejano Tornado

The Paso Del Norte Tejano Democrats are in a flat-out tail spin at this moment.

Barring someone drafting a candidate to run against him like Yolie Clay or Frank Ortiz, Eddie Holguin will likely be the next chair of the organization.

To make things more complicated, Chris Acosta is likely to be a Vice Chair. She turned their biggest fundraiser of the year into a money-loser for the organization. It was a huge flop.

Chris Acosta has been controversial in her role with several campaigns because she's closely tied to Sheriff Wiles. While working as one of his key staffers, Acosta was a figure in several campaigns including Oscar Leeser, Eddie Holguin, and Aliana Apodaca. Many were critical of the fact that she played that role in campaigns that were against some of Wiles' allies.

So rather than having leadership that would appeal to a wider base, the Tejanos are going to be stuck with leadership what appeals to a ever-smaller group of people that are the remnants of the old faction wars.

That is in no way a benefit to the Tejanos. Their club is literally ageing by the day. They have done absolutely zero to include or recruit newer and younger membership. They have become synonymous with controversy and in-fighting and this new likely leadership does nothing to improve that situation.

The reality is that the organizations within the Party that are the ones that are expanding and gaining credibility are the ones that are tied to geographic areas, not color. Black and brown dems' influence is being replaced by East and West Dems. Westside Dems is the organization in town that seems to be the most active and least drama-filled. That appears to be the new model for the Party, but it needs to be duplicated in other parts of town.

A Storm is Coming

Video of an active duty soldier who suffers from PTSD who eventually died while in custody of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office is on the KFOX website. You can see it here.

It is going to be a big political storm for El Paso and for the Sheriff. The video is already showing up on Fox News but it will likely be a national story very soon.

Nothing underscores the need for more investment in mental health services.

First, lets just rip off the band aid and be straight up about why this is going to be a big deal. It is yet another African American man that has died allegedly because of an incident with law enforcement.

He was active duty military. He was not arrested on a violent offense. He turned himself in to the SO's to do a weekend sentence.

For whatever reason, possibly having to do with PTSD, SGT James Brown, injured himself. An extraction team went in to remove him from his cell. The video shows the incident.

I'm not offering commentary on how the SO's proceeded. I don't know enough about the process to offer any commentary on that, so this post isn't me saying the SO's were right or wrong. I don't know if they were.

All I am saying is that this is going to be a story that catches on and will have El Paso in the headlines in a very negative way. It is going to be a pressure cooker for the Sheriff because of the circumstances of the incident.

Trust me on this one.

Children's Hospital Out to Screw Tax Payers (Editorial)

Divorce yourself from what the Children's Hospital does for a moment and look rationally at the actions of the CH board.

They screwed you and they apparently meant to all along.

Months ago the passed a resolution authorizing the pursuit of bankruptcy all the while negotiating with the UMC Board like they were going to have some kind of payment system worked out in the end. The bottom line is, they weren't negotiating in good faith.

When you think about it, why would the CH board even care? They aren't accountable to the tax payers because they are not elected by the people nor are they appointed by a governing body. The UMC board is also not directly accountable to the tax payers. They are appointed by the members of commissioners court, but once they are on the UMC board, they can basically do whatever the hell they want and really can't be removed.

So you have two entities who have zero direct accountability to the people who are playing with a ton of tax payer monopoly money.

And we are shocked by what they did?

The CH doesn't even list UMC as a creditor. They have them listed as someone to go into mediation with. Do you know what that means? It means that they want to pay less than what they owe, thats why they want to go into mediation. No one goes into mediation because they want to pay the full amount. The CH owes the tax payers a big chunk of money and rather than work out a system where they work more closely with UMC, and organization that at least has somewhat more accountability, in order for the tax payers to be made whole again, they want to go into mediation so that they can find a way to pay us less than what they owe us.

Forget all the legalese, that is essentially is what is going on here.

All so that they can stay "independent". Look at how well they are doing acting independently thus far...

Children's Hospital had other options. They are the bad guys here and if you don't understand that you not only haven't been paying attention but you probably don't understand the role of the three bodies involved here.

Now I know the other side of the coin is to say we never should've done this at all, "I knew it was going to fail", etc, etc. Maybe that is true, that really isn't the point. The point is that the CH board had other options and chose the option that screws the tax payers the most. They didn't negotiate in good faith.

However there doesn't seem to be a mechanism to hold them accountable for this course of action.

The peoples' voice in all of this is the County and they have little to almost no say-so in how this is going to play out at this point. This all appears to be in the hands of a judge and two un-elected bodies.

Interestingly the reaction from local elected officials that was outlined in the El Paso Times is actually pretty revealing. The state delegation all made very general statements that really didn't say much. Except State Rep Marquez who broke ranks from all the other elected officials and went so far as to say that CH had "very competent hands".





But the County elected officials, each of them, sounded like they were furious. I think the reason the County elected officials are furious and why they have such a sharper tone than the state delegation is because updates on the CH issue have pretty much been a standing issue in their executive session agenda items for months. So for months they have been getting updates on the situation and based on the tone of their remarks, this move caught everyone by surprise.

Obviously they are pretty angry at Children's. And you should be too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When a Non-Story is Used for Political Purposes

There was a story in the El Paso Times over the weekend that I couldn't figure out how it made it to print.

The story was written by Diana Washington-Valdez and I attempted to reach her for comment but she did not return my email. I'll get to that part in a bit.

Word on the street is that Al Weisenberger allegedly pitched a story about an alleged campaign finance violation by his opponent in the District 1 run-off Peter Svarzbein to Washington-Valdez.

Washington-Valdez called me not so long ago trying to fish for a quote to build a story around. There was no story, but she really wanted to see if I'd give her something to write about. Nice try, I'm not stupid. I have the emails and I'll post them if necessary to prove my point. It irritated me because that's bush league shit and she was freaking rude. I don't play that shit. Reporters don't scare me. 

Anywho, Washington-Valdez did this story and it was focused on the candidates allegedly trading accusations about wrong-doing in their finance reports. 

At first I was a little surprised that Weisenberger would want to make a thing about finance reports considering how incredibly inept he appears to be about filing pretty simple documents. Seriously, the number of mistakes he has made in his finance reporting has reached punchline level status.

Underscore that with the fact that he's an attorney and it makes his blunders look even worse. But then I realized why he pitched the story. And frankly it makes a lot of sense. He and his boys from Forma know that in a run-off you go balls to the wall. So it makes sense to try to pitch a negative story, find a nice bad quote from the story and slap it on a piece of mail and use the fact that it was in the El Paso Times to add credibility to the negative statement.

David K has been all over this since day one. That's been his main negative push against Svarzbein. After reading Washington-Valdez's piece I read a lot of innuendo and allegations. But it was missing something that was never really stated in the article other than alluded to in a quote from Svarzbein.

What I didn't see in the article about alleged ethical violations was whether or not there was actually a violation alleged with the Texas Ethics Commission. 

Here's her paragraph I'm speaking about:



....sooooo....was there actually a complaint filed about the allegations from Weisenberger? Because if there wasn't, what is the story?

Whenever someone pitches me something I always ask myself what's their angle? What is in it for them? Because people don't do stuff for no reason. So I'd ask myself, why is this guy pitching me a story about an alleged ethics violation without telling me if he filed a complaint? And if he didn't file a complaint, why wouldn't he if he was an attorney and felt so strongly about it? 

So I actually called the Ethics Commission to find out. They said that they could neither confirm, nor deny whether an allegation has been filed to anyone other than the party. So I checked with the Svarzbein campaign and no complaint has been filed.

So where is the story?

Blogworthy? Sure.

Printed story in the newspaper of record?

You decide.

Again, I emailed Washington-Valdez to ask her if she actually attempted to reach the Ethics Commission to find out if a violation was alleged and she has not responded. But hey, I don't blame her for ignoring me, I'm just a blogger.

When I spoke to the Ethics commission and gave them the scenario of the alleged violation they indicated that it didn't sound like there was a violation but they only agreed to speak in very general terms and wouldn't get into specifics.

Perez Statement on Children's Hospital Bankruptcy

Commissioner Vince Perez had some strong opinions about the filing of bankruptcy protection by the El Paso Children's Hospital.

This will be the big story of the day.

Here's what he had to say:

“Today’s reckless decision by the El Paso Children’s Hospital board is a slap in the face to all El Paso County taxpayers who have been financially supporting the children’s hospital for months by providing critical services to help keep the hospital open.

“Taxpayers (through UMC) were the largest financial supporters of the children’s hospital. Yet, the fact that the EPCH board did not even list UMC among those entities that are owed funds (in today's bankruptcy filing) further demonstrates their irresponsible disregard for the taxpayers of our community.”   


More to come.

Republicans Wrong on Fracking Ban Ban

Yet again the GOP in Texas shows that their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

The Texas Legislature passed a bill that would ban any bans on Fracking in Texas.

Forget their rhetoric about "smaller government" and "local control". That's their mantra especially when it comes to public education.

But apparently the GOP thinks it's knows what's best for local communities better than the people who live there.

Forget We The People. For the Texas GOP its Show Me The Money.