Friday, September 23, 2016

Depth of D3 - Two Really Good Candidates & Jaime Barceleau

The residents of District 3 are about to have a very interesting problem on their hands. They are about to have to choose between more than one qualified candidate.

I don't recall how long its been since that has been the case.

Previously District 3 residents would at best have one clear choice and then Lozano. So that is why the races where never close and why its been so long since they had to choose between more than one candidate.

The quality of candidate for District 3 has improved by leaps and bounds in this election cycle and is going to give District 3 residents something to think about come election time. Essentially the race looks like it is going to come down to two really smart, qualified, dynamic, experienced,  and educated community leaders and Jaime Barceleau.

Jaime Barceleau, who is using the EPISD Bond Election as a platform to launch his political career and probably learn how to campaign, was the first candidate out of the gate. He is essentially known for being District Clerk Norma Favela's "plus one" at political events and is a self-described "conservative" (along with some other interesting self-descriptions).

But recently Cassandra Brown announced her candidacy for the D3 seat. She's previously worked at city hall for both Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd. She currently works in the employment development sector and has a Master's Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. She displays a pretty deep knowledge of the machinations of city government and is the President of the Rosedale Neighborhood Association. She's married with two children and is in her late 20's.

Word on the street is that another candidate will be getting in the race. He's in his mid 20's, an attorney and has done a lot of government work. He's another candidate with a strong command of city and local government and has an impressive resume of community involvement. From what I hear, he will be announcing in the next couple of weeks.

Back when El Paso faced the serious Brain Drain problem, these are two young professionals that would've left El Paso in their rear-view mirror. Thankfully for the community's sake, they haven't and are choosing public service when they could be choosing careers that pay them both boatloads of cash.

Its obviously still early and there could be some other candidates that jump in the race but its unlikely any will join the Brown and the lawyer as top-tier candidates. At this point, again still early in the race, its hard to see how Barceleau makes a run-off.

Sure, he's going to have a lot of money to run, but he's the guy that is pushing the bond. That bond is going to raise your taxes in EPISD by 15%. The self-described "conservative" is going to have a hard time explaining to voters why he raised, or attempted to raise if the bond fails, their taxes by 15%. That is not going to play well in areas around Cielo Vista, which Barceleau probably presumes is his base.

I think Barceleau also has an over-inflated sense of name ID. I think he believes voters know who he is. And that is the problem when you exist in El Paso's political class, its easy to confuse being known as Norma's plus one amongst politicos with name ID in among the electorate. Essentially all three candidates are going to start off with basically the same amount of notoriety among the electorate, which is basically none.

So all three have the opportunity to define themselves to the electorate. But only one wants to raise property taxes by 15% for most people that live in District 3...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Charter School Movida / Anti - Bond People Behind the 8 - Ball

While the EPISD Bond is having some trouble gaining some traction in terms of support, understand that they knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to put in on the November ballot. They know most people that vote are going to vote for the Presidential or at best, vote straight ticket.

So that means they won't be voting AGAINST the bond. All they have to do is identify the people that most often vote in bond elections and make sure they GOTV the shit out of them. GOTV means making sure they actually show up and vote.

The group of people that normally vote in bond elections will be receiving all kinds of attention from the bond PAC, who apparently has a big budget. They were soliciting for people to work for the bond, which means paid block walkers for my buddy Mike to hit all his targets.

You know who those voters won't hear from?

The anti-bond people.

Why?

Because they are behind the 8 ball.

No matter how flawed the bond is, and it is, if the only message those voters are getting is to vote in favor of it, they are most likely to vote in favor of it.

The anti-bond people have a lot to overcome. Number one, they don't have a lot of time if they are just getting started now. The pro-bond people have already had positive press and have started working on the campaign.

Hell, you've probably seen the signs pop up over the weekend. Even if you live in the Ysleta Independent School District (because some Steeler fan didn't look at district boundaries).

They've been soliciting for paid campaign workers as well.

There is a political action committee in place. And its well funded, which is why they have the budget for signs, paid campaign workers, a headquarters and likely a couple of pieces of mail going out to voters.

What do the anti bond people have? No money, no organization, no one with campaign experience, a terrible message, and Daniel Lopez - which is almost redundant of me to say.

Lopez likes attention and will likely be the person who will take the campaign lead, mostly because he likes to pretend he knows what he's talking about and will likely tell everyone he should take the lead because he's the only one who has been in a campaign before. Which is likely true, but he got his ass handed to him and was even beat by Manny Hinojosa.

Let that marinate in your brain for a second.

Bottom line is that they have no one that can even identify the bond voters, no money to send mail, make phone calls, or put up signs. And the message they are going with is ineffective and won't resonate.

Any message that hinges on not enough money going to south El Paso when you only have a couple of feeder patterns south of the freeway, neither of which vote very much, its not a winning strategy.

Their message should've been something the average voter across the district can identify with like the amount of money the bond is for, the fact that they are building new building while losing a thousand students a year, a wide-open door to charter schools, etc.

That is where they need to get started, but they are late, broke, unorganized, and lack a leader with campaign expertise. The bond may indeed fail, but not because of anything they are doing.

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The Charter School Door

The District is doing a really good job of scrambling to make sure that they quell any conversation about ability of charter schools to gain a foothold in EPISD as a result of the bond. That is how they duped the teachers association to go along with the bond.

And for all the facts the district tries to set straight, there is one dirty little secret not too many people know about.

Charter schools are on the horizon, and we aren't even talking long-term. They are right around the corner.

Don't believe me?

Check out this job posting I came across.


In case you can't read it well, it appears that there is a plan to open 20 charter schools in El Paso, with 4 schools opening as early as 2018.

So the charter school threat is real. Its not made up. Its not a figment of someone's imagine and its not overstated.

Its a very real problem.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

EDITORIAL: Temperament is Important ; The Trouble with Tom

Yesterday I wrote about the results of an open record request that showed a police report that chronicled an alleged assault involving Republican candidate Tom Buchino as the alleged assailant.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, which could've been answered but the guy who is clamoring for a debate really only wants questions on his own terms. Sorry Tom, but that isn't how democracy works.

So we don't really know how serious the car crash was or how badly anyone was injured. We don't have any other mitigating circumstances because Buchino won't take an interview. So we are left to make a judgement based on facts.

The facts are you have a Republican candidate who has a very militant posture who has a documented history of resorting to violence when he loses his cool in a tense situation.

If you don't believe me, lets go to the video!

Here is one example of Buchino playing dress-up with echoes of George W. Bush. All that is missing is a big banner that says MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on it. Maybe he should've draped it over the horse from the other video that had his bumper sticker.



Not militant enough for ya?

Okay, how about the time he actually fired is gun in a campaign video? No, I'm not making that up.



We seriously need to ask ourselves if this is the militarized posture we want in this community?

NOT BEING A STRAIGHT SHOOTER

But behind the dress-up and the props, there's a lot Mr. I'm-Not-A-Politician and I'm-a-Straight-Shooter doesn't tell the voter.

I mean aside from the fact that he's a Republican.

What he doesn't tell voters is that he lacks the training that your average patrol officers have in the Sheriff's Department, to say nothing of detectives or veterans of the department. You're required by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to have 643 hours of law enforcement training and pass a state exam to be a peace officer in the state of Texas.

Tom Buchino does not have that training. Yes, many law enforcement agencies will hire a deputy or officer off the street and then put them through training.

But Buchino isn't applying to be a rookie cop or deputy or even jailer. He wants to be sheriff but he lacks the experience necessary to do the job. Maybe he has some transferrable skills, maybe. But being a Special Forces Sergeant Major is not law enforcement experience. If the guy went on a ride along he'd learn a lot because he's never had that type of experience. Least of all law enforcement experience in a border community.

So he wants to be the man in charge of a department that manages jobs he has no experience in completing. To put it in terms he would understand, you'd never put an AG Sergeant Major in charge of an infantry unit.

Why?

Because experience matters.

And Buchino doesn't have any.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Police Report: Sheriff Candidate Involved in Assault?

Documents obtained through an open records request with the El Paso Police Department indicate that Republican candidate for Sheriff, Tom Buchino, was involved in an assault against an employee of the city's Health Department back in 2011.

Documents can be seen in their entirety here and here.

According to two separate documents the incident occurred on the morning of August 7, 2011 at almost 9:00am.

There was a vehicle crash involving the privately owned vehicle of current Republican candidate for Sheriff, Tom Buchino and a vehicle owned by the City of El Paso and driven by John Charles Mitchell, who worked for the Health Department at the City of El Paso.

The report does not indicate if Mr. Mitchell was in a uniform or if he was in a marked city vehicle so it is unclear in what capacity Mr. Mitchell worked for the Health Department. The report does however indicate that he works for the Health Department and that the vehicle belongs to the city of El Paso.

As you can see in this Crash Report it shows that the accident happened near the address of 5700 Upper Valley Road on the aforementioned date/time. Toward the bottom of the document Mr. Buchino and his wife are identified as the other two individuals in the other vehicle.


There is a separate Incident Report (link above, screen shot below) it identifies the same location, time, date, responding officer, and victim in the report. For some reason, and it was never made clear to me why, some information was redacted in the report, but if you read each report it is clear it is the same event.


According to the narrative of the report (screen shot below) that is provided in the link above, Officer Lopez indicates that the victim stated that after the accident Mr. Bucino allegedly exited his vehicle and ran towards Mr. Mitchell (identified in the report as Victim 1).



Mitchell says he back away from "Of-01", which stands for offender. The report then indicates that "Of-01 then struck Vi-01 on the left side of the face with a closed fist." 

The narrative closes by indicating that "Vi-01 stated that he felt pain and does desire prosecution." However, no charges have ever been filed against Mr. Buchino for the incident. There are no documents available that indicate why charges were never filed in this incident.

As mentioned in a previous post, I attempted to reach Mr. Buchino for comment on a range of issues but he declined to participate in an interview.

To be clear, Mr. Buchino was not arrested and has not been charged with a crime.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sheriff's Race

Next to the justice system, the sheriff's office is the largest part of the County's budget. The office is the primary law enforcement entity in the county and oversees the county jail system. This November the incumbent Sheriff Richard Wiles will be facing challenger Tom Buchino.

Wiles is one of the more popular Democrats in El Paso county and has a pretty long track record of his position on issues facing the community and the department. His opponent, other than being supporting by the El Paso County Sheriff Officer Association, is somewhat of a mystery.

In fact, he's a bit elusive.

I've tried for a couple of weeks to get an interview with Buchino through contact on Twitter and via email. Mostly its gone ignored but eventually some of the contact was answered and to summarize the email conversations Buchino was essentially doing what ever he could to dodge an interview. He kept putting up strange caveats like wanting to wait until after there was a debate between he and Wiles and other conditions. The funniest is when he tried to tell me it wasn't going be video recorded. Maybe its because he's a new candidate and never run before but sorry Sergeant Major, it doesn't work that way. You're the candidate that wants votes, we get to ask you whatever we want and used whatever medium we want in public forums. Freedom of speech is protected in the constitution, you might want to look that up...

Speaking of a debate between Wiles and Buchino, it doesn't appear that one is going to happen soon. Frankly if I were advising Wiles I'd tell him to take the debate. Anytime, anywhere. Wiles is a long-serving incumbent. He knows the issues facing his office very well. Buchino, not so much. I think, from what little I've actually heard of, that Buchino is extremely scripted. That is why he makes so many videos. Its a controlled environment where he controls the narrative, no one is asking a question, and no one is there to scrutinize his rhetoric.

I also think Buchino feels comfortable in a debate because the answers are generally pretty short and can be scripted. Plus, having the support of the EPCSOA means he can probably pack the room with supporters and give himself another level of comfort. So personally, I'd take the debate, bring him out to the deep end of the policy pool and watch him drown.

But I can see the rationale of the Wiles campaign. Why give a challenger who isn't likely to win more than a handful of precincts, if any, an opportunity at any unearned attention? I get it. If you're the powerhouse school with a chance at the BCS, playing a small polytech with a big lead in the 4th quarter, you start benching your stars. No sense in getting anyone hurt for a game you're going to coast to win.

THE ISSUES

There are a few important issues that need to be discussed in this race, which is why its unfortunate that Buchino is camera shy. The community should hear the candidates' position on the budget, operations, detention processing, and enforcement.

Sheriff Wiles' position on these issues are well-documented over the years. Some of them, I fundamentally disagree with the sheriff on, like the fact that we house federal prisoners.

The budget is important because of how much money we spend on keeping this community safe. What are the candidates' plan to cut spending while not negatively impacting our safety. We have deputies doing a lot of jobs that could be done at a bigger savings to tax payers by civilians that don't have to make the large salaries of deputies and those deputies would be free to be deployed on the streets.

Operational conversations are important for this community to have. One of the interesting things that has com forward during the campaign out of the Buchino campaign has been a palpable desire to further militarize the sheriff's office. Guess what, that costs money. And Buchino can't really shake off the notion that he wants to militarize the office when he actually advertises his campaign with a military posture. Like this:


There is also a pretty easily identified parallel to the Trump campaign in Buchino's rhetoric. Following the Paris terrorist attacks earlier this year, Buchino referred to it in a video. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if there is a video in the works to take advantage of the latest event in New York  over the weekend.

Sticking with costs, the downtown jail is a huge part of the budget because of the layout of the building the fact that its an older building. Its an inefficient layout and as a result, it costs tax payers more because you have to have more jailers on the payroll. That is a big place to save tax payers a real large amount of money, the question is if either candidate has the political will to take on the issue.

Perhaps where I'm guess, because one can only guess when Buchino won't answer questions, is where the two stand on the enforcement of immigration law. Buchino has made several references to his endorsement from the Samaniego family. Samaniego had a very troubled position on immigration and received a lot of criticism for his checkpoints. Obviously that begs the question of what Buchino's position on the enforcement of immigration law would be if he were elected sheriff.

By contrast Wiles has had a great relationship with the immigrant community and has been recognized for his work with immigrant communities.

THREE PROBLEMS FOR BUCHINO

Buchino has three issues that his campaign has to deal with, one is minor but the other two are potentially really problematic for Buchino.

First, the minor problem. Its honesty. He's pretty much being deceptive with voters by not including his party affiliation on his campaign literature. He put out a video where he tries to fend of the criticism by saying something that sounds like he announced he was a Republican in an elevator of a vacant building once. But in the most-visible representation of his campaign, the medium most likely to attract the attention of voters, Buchino doesn't include the fact that he's a Republican. Its problematic for a couple of reasons, but mostly because for a Republican he doesn't really seem to concerned about the financial obligations of the office. And because he's the union candidate, he doesn't really have a lot of leeway to even examine much in way of cost-cutting for tax payers.

One of the biggest problems for Buchino is the potential conflict of interest due to his business. He runs a tactical training facility. The questions he has to answer are has he ever solicited business with the county before? What are his plans for the business after the election if he wins? Does he close it, or keep it open? If so, what impact does that have considering he solicits business to train security personnel.

All questions that will go unanswered for now.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the biggest issue facing Buchino. I'll post that one tomorrow. Trust me, you don't want to miss it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Seriously Commissioner's Court? Seriously?

Lots to talk about with yesterday's Commissioner's Court meeting. I was all set to go on a rant about why in the blue hell is the Public Works head honcho presenting a bond plan to the court that has (shocker) even more funds dedicated to Ascarate Park in the form of storm water improvements for a park that has a FREAKING BODY OF WATER ON IT, while not including any such improvements for the plazita in San Elizario.

But then I see this bullshit of cutting COLA from County retirees.

Obviously the math is no where near the same, but the optics of VOTING FOR THEIR OWN FREAKIN' RAISE and cutting COLA from retirees IN THE SAME FREAKIN' BUDGET just looks absolutely terrible.

Yes, they have to do something to fix the cost to the taxpayers for the pensions. No disagreement there. But you can't give yourself a raise and take away from someone else in the same budget.

This is a self-inflicted wound and everyone that voted for it deserves every bit of criticism they get for it. Its probably the most tone-deaf decision I can think of in recent history in terms of local government.

Circling back to stormwater, someone please explain to me the logic of spending money for stormwater improvements to a park that a) has an actual body of water on it and b) has lots of grassy areas that would benefit from a good flood of water every now and then. While you're at it, explain to me why money isn't spent to abate flooding at the plazita in San Elizario that is a) much smaller than Ascarate and therefore MUCH cheaper to do, and b) has actual historic assets that NEED to be protected from flooding.

Come on commissioners, you can do better than that.

Clueless.

I'd need interns if I was going to respond everything stupid said by the out-of-town bloggers with blogs about me, but sometimes their stupidity floats to the top and I'm forced to deal with it like an over flowing toilet.

Case in point, David K's latest spin around the conspiracy theory crazy-go-'round.

So I'll keep this one short.

David K doesn't live here but seems to think he knows who is involved in what. He's wrong. I haven't made up my mind on who I'm supporting for mayor because the election isn't until FUCKING next year.

Morris Pittle is David K's buddy.

David K's family does business with the city of El Paso so they absolutely have a dog in the fight, no matter how much he pretends they don't. If they didn't, then all his stories about how people complain to his mom about what he writes wouldn't matter.

David K wrote his piece before that in an effort to prevent criticism of his buddy Morris' candidate. I don't fault him for it, but I also don't want to hear him pretend that transparent little movida of his wasn't obvious.

I don't know Saucedo and have never spoken to him. I just know what I have seen of his social media posts, his media quotes, and what he says at the podium from time to time during call to the public. In other words, I know slightly more about him than the average voter.

David K is a Republican. So is Saucedo. I am not. I disagree with those values and I'm not a Santorum supporter. So Saucedo isn't someone I'm like to support. David K just likes to substitute his own reality sometimes when it doesn't fit his scheme.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Charter Schools & The EPISD Bond

I'll get more into a rant about charter schools and why they are bad for public education and tax payers in a later post, but for now watch this video if you haven't seen it already.



Here's the bottom line that I think is important for people to understand about the EPISD Bond. The very same people that are trying to pave the way for more charter schools into El Paso are the same people behind the bond. That should at the very least, be cause for concern.

CREEED, which is an education PAC that is a love child of Texas for Education Reform, essentially the same people behind Texans for Lawsuit Reform, put a bunch of money behind candidates in the last round of school board elections at both EPISD and YISD.

Their candidates at EPISD all won, their candidates at YISD all lost.

And now EPISD has a bond going out to voters. Board President Dori Fenenbock has taken a position of participating in the PAC, which isn't something that has normally been done in the past, was a CREEED candidate.

There have been some blog posts and news stories about teachers' union support of the bond being conditional on a few things, one of which was the prohibition of charter schools going into the empty buildings that would be a consequence of school consolidation.

That defeats the purpose of the bond to begin with because central to the argument in favor of the bond is the fact that EPISD is shrinking in population. Regardless of whether or not you think charter schools are a good thing, one thing for sure is that they take students away from public schools. And less students means less money, which therefore increases the costs on tax payers.

Charter schools like to go into existing structures so that their budget isn't eaten up in construction. So rather than a former nightclub, zumba palace, or generic office suite in a strip mall, what could be more ideal than an existing empty school?

Hell Zavala Elementary could become Zavala Charter School over night. Hell the surrounding communities of the closed down schools would probably then turn around and WELCOME a charter school to open in the old facilities. Frankly, that would be a brilliant move.

The district really hasn't ruled that out as a possibility either because the only thing in writing in terms of assurances against charter schools weaseling their way in to old buildings is a resolution. For those of you that don't know, A RESOLUTION DOESN'T MEAN SHIT.

Its non-binding and almost always ceremonial. It doesn't have the power of policy. Its just flowery language no on reads all the way through but the person getting one.

The bottom line is simple, there is nothing legally preventing charter schools from occupying real estate in ideally located spots left vacant by a bond passed with the support of the PAC that wanted more charter schools in El Paso.

Thus Woody Hunts guy, Mark Smith, being involved in the bond at the behest of ...EPISD School Board President Dori Fenenbock.

Don't just blindly follow the "for the kids" argument. Ask questions.

And vote accordingly.

UPDATE: Let me make a correction here. I was told that the resolution contains language called a Contract With The Voters that allegedly is legally binding. Meaning after the fact, theoretically the district could be sued if they don't keep their word on the bond. So the district, which has legal staff would have to fight a lawsuit from Joe Citizen, who likely doesn't have a legal team and a huge budget to fight in court. Doesn't make me feel any better, but in the interest of being accurate, I wanted to correct what I erroneously said earlier in the event that this new information gives any of you a warm and fuzzy.