Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Escobar Resignation

County Judge Veronica Escobar has stated that she's not running for reelection. So no reason to be coy about it, people only do that when they have a reason to, and in her case we all know what that reason is - to run for congress.

There's plenty of talk about who is going to run to replace her but no one has really talked about the ramifications of her impending resignation so lets lay it out there.

First of all, when she resigns it will be a decision of the entire court as to who her successor will be. No matter who that person may be, they will need 3 out of 4 votes of the remaining court. So it will be very difficult for Judge Escobar to really line someone up to replace her - so David K should probably not throw around Susie Byrd as a viable option just yet.

But think about what that really means to the Court. Generally they don't pick someone with aspirations to run for the office, although there is nothing that legally prohibits it. There are at least two members of the court that are interested in being the next County Judge - Commissioner Stout and Commissioner Leon.

Its hard to see how either of them would get the necessary votes. But lets say it happened. Lets say the court picked one of the two to be the interim county judge. At that time, Escobar would no longer be County Judge. There would be no "hold-over" period. And at that point, the new County Judge would effectively be able to pick their own successor because members of the court that are not the County Judge are replaced by the County Judge.

Or...

Another scenario could be that Stout or Leon would resign BEFORE the County Judge to run for the seat she's vacating. Then Escobar would be able to appoint their replacement. So in the case of someone like Stout, maybe a Susie Byrd pick to replace Stout wouldn't be out of the question. This scenario is as likely as any other at this point, if not more so.

Or the Court could choose to pick someone from outside the Court to be the interim County Judge. Talk about an interesting development there...

Because anyone they pick, assuming Escobar calls it quits in July or August like I assume she will, will automatically be a contender for the County Judge seat because the Court can't prohibit that person from running. Essentially that would mean that Leon and Stout would be picking someone that could potentially be better situated to defeat either of them in the primary.

And seriously, who the hell could they pick from the outside that could get 3/4 votes anyway? Maybe a former commissioner or former county judge? I can't really think of anyone else that doesn't come with a whole mess of problems.

Or...

And what I think is more likely, the Court just operate as a 4 -person body (in which case the hold-over clause would kick in) and they just wait until mid December when the filing deadline passes to appoint an interim County Judge. Right now that person would serve more than a year and a half before turning over the reins to the winner of the Democratic Primary.

At any rate, Escobar is going to be leaving one chingo of a mess for them to figure out when she leaves.

EPISD Travel Turmoil

Have you seen the El Paso Times' latest investigative piece on travel involving the EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera's extravagant travel?

If you haven't, you should click here to read it.

I don't know what is more frustrating about the story, the fact that he doesn't seem to care what he spends, the fact that Dori Fenenbock doesn't seem to care either, the fact that Bob Geske didn't fucking know about it, that Chuck Taylor not only knows about it but has the absolute dumbest justification for it in the history of dumb shit said by a school board member, or that they wasted time on some AIPAC meeting.

I know, that was one hell of a run-on sentence. But there's a lot to unpack here, so walk with me.

First of all, expect David K to have a total meltdown over this story because Dori Fenenbock is white and David K not only loves to defend white people, but white people his family has close ties to.

Moving on, lets make sure we have a little reminder about how much people have put Juan Cabrera on a pedestal previously. Now David K isn't going to defend Cabrera because he's not white, but a whole lot of you reading this were building up Cabrera for basically no reason.

Now you're starting to see that the vato is always traveling and never around at the office. Just exactly what the hell are you guys paying him for?

And trust me, this is a screw up of every single board member. They never should've approved the amount of travel in their budget that they did. And where is their auditor? Did he raise the issue that there was abnormal travel and that the super's travel budget was almost exhausted and there's still a whole fiscal quarter left in the budget?

You know for being a Republican most of her voting life, you'd think Fenenbock would be more attentive to spending issues. And while I'm talking about it, why the hell do elected officials suddenly think its okay to blow public money when they would be frugal if it was their own travel?

I'm curious how often Cabrera paid first class and how often he flew with us common folk when trips were on his own dime? Not all elected and appointed officials are like that by the way. I know several that try to be as frugal as possible for tax payers (this is the part where media should do a ORR on local government travel) often driving instead of flying (when practicable), and getting cheap hotel rooms and splitting them instead of gucci shit luxury hotels.

And AIPAC? Really?

Even if not one red penny was spent on that, why the hell is the super wasting his time on a pro-israeli organization? What in the blue hell does that have to do with EPISD?

Avoiding comment

So now Cabrera and Fenenbock are avoiding comment on the story and demanding that questions be emailed in advance.

Why?

If the travel is legitimate, why the need to be coy or hide out from the media on this. Something isn't right here and its an insult to their constituents when elected and appointed officials don't answer questions.

What do you mean you haven't heard?

Bob Geske was asked about this issue by the El Paso Times and he basically said he didn't know anything about it. I don't understand elected officials that don't know about specific issues affecting their governing bodies. Do they not get briefings? Does he not monitor the news?

That guy better get on the ball and be an engaged board member asap. That organization just passed the largest bond in the history of El Paso County, they damn sure owe it to tax payers and their constituents to be on top of the pocket-book issues.

Really Chuck Taylor, Really?

I know you guys are going to think I'm making this shit up, so click on the above link and read the damn story so you can see for yourself the dumb shit Chuck Taylor said. He said that Cabrera would be judged by others if he stayed at a cheaper hotel. "We know that in America, status or symbols of status is a must for the executives' travel and associations".

Get the fuck outta here.

"...status or symbols of status is a must"?

No its not.

Its a shortcoming - but it is most certainly not a must.

EPISD is once again a cluster fuck.

At least they are consistent, I'll give them that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

David Karlsruher Has His Orders...

It looks like David K's political boss and close family friend Jim Tolbert as given the Juice his marching orders.

Expect David K to be 100% in the pocket of Dori Fenenbock from here to Election Day.

It'll be all Dori all the time.

Because his daddy said so.


This is why David K is always talking shit about Susie Byrd and why he's straight-up obsessed with her and I lately - because Susie ran his opponent's campaign and because I didn't lie and tell everyone he's not under investigation.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cabrera & Fenenbock Travel Raises Eyebrows

The amount of money spent by EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera is obscene and there's no nice way to put that. He spent 4 times as much time out of the district as his counterparts.

He spent twice as much as YISD and SISD superintendents COMBINED.

And its not just that he's spending a lot of money, its how he's spending it. According to the story in the El Paso Times, Cabrera spent the money on First Class and Business Select flights, SUV car rentals and Uber rides in luxury vehicles.

You the tax payers are funding his fun time.

Look I'm not naive, a certain amount of travel is often necessary. People don't have a problem with that. But what they do have a problem with, and what undermines public trust, is when officials make bad decisions.

Cabrera doesn't have to take First Class flights. He doesn't have to rent SUV's. He doesn't have to take Uber rides in luxury vehicles. He gets a salary, so the District doesn't HAVE to foot the bill every time the guy eats out of town. 

Those are all things he does by choice. He can very easily make the choice to be more frugal with tax payer dollars.

And not only can he do that, the school board can make it a matter of policy. In fact, they should've done that a long time ago. They should make changes to travel policy to save tax payers money and maximize their travel.

What is more troublesome is EPISD Board President Dori Fenenbock's defense of her close political ally. She said the number one goal was to restore public trust. How is public trust restored when your super, who already gets paid a boatload of money, is taking first class travel on the tax payers' dime?

To say the least, the optics are terrible. You're struggling to pay teachers but your super is taking first class trips and staying in luxury hotels that the district is paying for?

Thats some serious waste and reforms are needed right away.

And I'll go ahead and ask the question everyone else wants to know...

Why do Cabrera and Fenenbock need to travel to so many events together? Why is that a priority or a necessity? I get it, sometimes the Board President and Super need to attend things. But to the extent that they do at tax payer expense? Surely there is a more efficient use of tax payer dollars.

Remember I wrote recently that anything Fenenbock and Escobar do from this point forward is going to have some sort of campaign ramification? This is exactly the type of situation I'm talking about.

And this mailer writes itself.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Still Working on Jail Thing...

But I had a funny observation.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Officer's Association spent a ton of money - I mean wasted a ton of good union dues - on trying to get rid of Sheriff Richard Wiles.

And they talked a lot of shit about him on Facebook. And even more shit at the polling places.

I mean a lot of shit.

But after blowing all the money, they got their ass kicked.

Which is why its funny to me that while I review the video of the meeting, its hilarious to me that the guy they spent so much time and money to destroy was the guy that stood up for them.

I mean he's wrong as the day is long, but he's the one that went to bat for them.

I think the jailers should form one big long ass line after their shifts to go and kiss the Sheriff's ass for going to bat for them, especially after the shit their leadership pulled in the last election.

Sit tight, I'll have a detailed post with video showing how the Court failed this community.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Election Post

I know, I know a lot of you have been waiting around for the election post. Sorry, got busy doing other things.

Winners & Losers - well you know the election results but there are always some extra important results that have a little more to talk about than others. Before I get into that - this is a note for candidates thinking about running for office in El Paso. When you hire a consultant or a firm, you better make damn sure you're the only client, or at least the main client. If the candidate isn't 100% focused on your campaign, don't pay them. Seriously. I mean that shit. Pay attention. Don't pay them! You might as well light campaign checks on fire.

Okay lets get into it...

This election cycle was mostly full of beat downs. 8+ points is a solid victory but double digits is a beat down. Anything in the teens and above and its a wipe-out. Most elections were around the neighborhood of 60-40 - a 20 point margin is usually unthinkable but happened a lot this cycle.

Dee Margo was a winner, and as a result - so was the GOP. The Democrats in town need to see this election as a wake-up call. We didn't even make the playoffs. The reality is that the GOP is more disciplined and more united than the Democratic Party who has spent years refining our capacity to eat our own young. Every election cycle since Beto's congressional bid the GOP has slowly but steadily made their mark and influence felt. This election just made Commissioner Haggerty irrelevant as the GOP standard bearer.

David Saucedo & Team were losers. And I don't just mean Chris Hernandez - although he had a terrible election cycle and its hard to see how candidates give him a seriously look going forward. He got his ass handed to him in basically every race and wasn't even competitive. Most candidates will rightfully wonder what they paid him for because it damn sure didn't show up in the results.

But he'll bounce back eventually, I'm sure he learned things like not taking on too much work at once. He got fired from Cissy Lizarraga's campaign and she upgraded to Mike Apodaca to run her field program in the run-off.

But the entire team failed miserably on this one. Carlos Sierra helped out on this one. He's trying desperately to be able to get back in the game but he has to volunteer or get paid under the table because the minute he comes up on a finance report, its problems for his candidate. He apparently was brought on to rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

Y'all remember Sierra right? He's the guy that said he was going to run Acosta, Vince Perez, and Escobar out of politics in El Paso. Well Acosta ran herself out, Vince just got reelected without an opponent and Escobar is running for congress. Good job there Carlos, looks like you're a smashing success!

An honorable mention is whoever the hell was in charge of messaging and communications from day one of this campaign. It was a disorganized clusterfuck of capirotada from the get-go. Hopefully this will mark the end of newsletter from a campaign. I sometimes feel like they exist to give someone something to do on a campaign.

I can't think of when they have ever been of benefit to anyone and in the case of Saucedo, they just provided a vehicle for absurdity, like his Mexican stand-off cartoon or the time he said he was going to fire people he doesn't have the ability to fire. Seriously, is there no one there to protect the candidate from their own stupid ideas?

Although I sincerely hope he puts some money into a sequel to his boxing commercial.

I need closure.

I can picture it, he's back in the locker room, huddled up in a little corner with some weird luchador putting frozen carne molida on the black eye and broken nose he got from Margo. And just when it looks bleakest, you start to hear "Hotline Bling" in the background and he looks up with a smile and a little tear running down his cheek from his swollen black eye - fade to black and the spot ends with the ghost of Aliana Apodaca telling him to get back in that gym.

Before I move on, David Saucedo himself gets on honorable mention on this one. The guy showed he will say and do anything to get elected like pretend to mop up coffee he spilled, act like a progressive Democrat, and dance, dance, dance, dance. Voters are smarter than that and see through it every time. He's going to ride off in to the sunset and end up sitting next to Jimmy Suerkin in some hipster bar in Austin some day.

But this guy didn't write a check to his own campaign, and that ladies and gentlemen is why he gets an honorable mention. Why wouldn't you put your own money where your mouth is and contribute to your own campaign? Making a run-off in that field isn't an accomplishment, no matter how badly you'd like to take a victory lap for it.

Jeremy Jordan also gets an honorable mention. Not that he did anything, but just because a guy who is completely devoid of any political talent has the nerve to invoice a candidate is hilariously stupid to me.

He'll probably never run for office again, and rightfully so.

Jaime Barceleau & His Boatloads of Cash

I hope candidates learn another lesson, when Forma tells you to go negative in the bottom of the 9th, don't do it. It never works. It just looks desperate and leaves you stained from the effort.

But seriously, I warned everyone about Barceleau. How bad of a candidate do you have to be that you have all that cash and you still get your ass handed to you?

Here's how bad...



Honorable mention goes to Norma Favela

Shame on her for making a personal attack on another woman, especially when she herself has had to deal with that as a candidate.

Barceleau is done in politics after that dismal performance. He now has to go back to being Favela's plus one. At least until she loses.

Jim Tolbert

Well I guess we can now get passed the absurd idea that Jim wasn't under investigation. He clearly was and the electorate booted him out of office very quickly. And they made a statement doing so.

Now he can go back to calling people an asshole and no one cares.

Also, word on the street is that he's been interviewed in that investigation he said isn't happening...

Ruby Ramirez

Girl, why are you still trying to do this? Seriously, you lost a community college trustee race? You worked on two of the three candidates in that campaign and still found a way to lose?
Come on!

Sprinkles

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. Sprinkles are for winners.

Apodaca gets sprinkles.

And the Yselta Teachers Association gets sprinkles for doing what they do every election cycle  - win!

They took out the last of the old regime from the bad old days at YISD. They have a good rapport going with the super and they've showed their muscle in several elections. Other than the fire fighter's union, they are the only union in town that can truly move an election right now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Taking a Knee

I have a lot to post about how our leaders let this community down on Monday at Commissioner's Court. Trust me, I have a lot to say about this and how some of them are flat out misleading the public.

I have a lot to post about the election. Winners, losers, and sprinkles.

I have a lot to post about the congressional race coming up. Someone else is trying to mislead people.

But for now, all of that can wait today.

A very tragic accident occurred recently and a good guy, Alberto Halpern, is in critical condition. Sometimes politics needs to take a back seat.

Y'all say a prayer for a genuinely decent human being. Worked with him when I was a staffer and he was a reporter. When he was a staffer and I was doing my day job. Drank some beers with the guy. Seriously a decent human being.

Oh, and treasure your loved ones - things like this are never planned or expected.

Monday, June 12, 2017

El Paso - The Huntsville of the Undocumented

For the most part, despite what people campaign on, local government is pretty mundane. You don't really change the shape of people's lives in a way they "feel it" very often. Most days are pretty routine. 

But today is different. Today is the day where Commissioner's Court discussing the continuation of a bad policy that directly contradicts our collective values of opposition to things like SB4 and a border wall. 

Today is pivotal and is one of those rare opportunities where local government has the opportunity to make REAL and MEANINGFUL change to policies that should eat at our collective conscience. 

An article in the El Paso Times over the weekend really puts the importance of this issue into perspective because it outlined County Judge Veronica Escobar's likely congressional bid along with Commissioner's Stout and Leon's interest in running for County Judge. 

Depending on how things flesh out today, all will likely be impacted by today's decision. But for Escobar, who has the most at stake right now, continuing a bad policy could be a mailer that writes itself. 

She undoubtedly has the most to gain, and the most to lose today. Especially when you consider Washington funding in a congressional race. 

People have given lip service to the image of El Paso for years, whether its in the context of economic development, attracting new talent to El Paso, or keeping our existing talent. Obviously, El Paso’s image has been raised in the mayoral election as well. We’ve wrestled with it for years. 

Now that Commissioner Perez has had his Sunday morning press conference, we may have yet another image problem to worry about - El Paso becoming the Huntsville of undocumented immigrants. Hunstville is Texas’ perfect example of the penal industrial complex at its worst. 

And the revelation of data is really going to challenge long-time advocates of immigration reform and their allies. Click this link to see all of the data of Commissioner's agenda item for today if you wanna take the time to peruse the data on your own. 

Perez laid out a lot of data and it can be a lot to chew on, so I decided to write this post to break it down as I understand it. 

And its probably going to make you mad as a tax payer, or someone who believes in immigration reform, when you read it. Bear one thing in mind as you read this data - no one else at the county has come forward to dispute the validity of the data. Perez would have to be completely wrong in their data for this issue to go away and not be one of the most important issues this county has dealt with in years. Seriously, he'd have to be REALLY off. 

Dual Messages & Morality

First, lets start with the most startling revelation - El Paso County is earning a lot of revenue off of the incarceration of the undocumented while at the very same time publicly opposing bills like SB 4, commonly known as the Sanctuary Cities Bill. 



There are members of the Court that have years of history being strong and vocal advocates for sensible immigration policy and have even testified before the legislature on the issue like County Judge Veronica Escobar and Commissioner David Stout. 

Frankly, they should be leading the charge to right this injustice. 

No matter how you slice it, the County is saying one thing and doing another. There is no way to spin in otherwise. The undocumented are going to be housed somewhere. The Feds can put them anywhere they want. Our community is unique in Texas in its desire to house them in such large numbers. 

So we say we reject bad policy like SB 4 that asks law enforcement to be defacto Border Patrol agents and enforce immigration law, but we are perfectly okay with profiting off their incarceration? Okay, I guess profiting isn’t the right word because a) (as if the principle of the matter weren’t bad enough) we are losing money and b) a government doesn’t make “profit” per say.

But you get my point. 

So lets look at the data Perez produced. This chart that looks like Pac-man shows a projection of the booking of federal inmates for FY 2017, based on 8 months of data from the El Paso County Jail. 

When you think federal arrests on the border, you naturally assume that most of them have to do with drugs. Contraband, trafficking, that sorta thing. The total pie represents the total number of bookings from FY 2014 to date in FY 2017 for a total of 15,216 arrests. 



Here’s the shocking part - of that number, the blue Pac-man part shows the amount of those arrests that are charges related to immigration. Yep, thats right - the lion’s share of the arrests totaling a projected 10,800 (a whopping 71%) are charges related to immigration. Less than 30% of the federal inmates we are holding are for drugs or other crimes. 

Seriously, what does that say about our collective stance on SB 4 while we are housing that many undocumented immigrants? 

This chart further illustrates how little of the federal inmates detained are even brought in by agencies other than Border Patrol or Customs who make up 87% of the arrests by agency. 



This leads to a question that the Court will have to wrestle with - is this the right thing to do based on their opposition to SB 4?

It is a betrayal of everything that groups like the Border Network for Human Rights that have basically said yes. Its like walking in on Cesar Chavez eating a big bowl of non union grapes and lettuce. 

BNHR other communities allies have long worked, to some degree in a futile effort, to shape border and immigration policy for mostly meaningless policies like municipal IDs. For the most part its an issue they don’t have much influence on. But whether or not this community continues to be the dumping ground of the undocumented - gives them, for the first time in a really long time, a local issue they can actually have a meaningful impact on. 

Not only do we make it a practice to house the undocumented we say we are against local law enforcement rounding up, but we do so more than ANY OTHER COUNTY IN TEXAS. According to the Perez data, our county alone makes up more 1/4 of all the undocumented housed in county jails across the state!



Pocket-Book Issue

Perez asserts that despite the amount of revenue we are generating from housing undocumented immigrants we are only getting paid $80 per day per federal inmate when it actually costs us $89 per day to hold them. Thats per inmate, per day. That means we are really bleeding money on this over the life of the contract - to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. How long would any business do something like that before they realized it was a mistake?



Sheriff Richard Wiles has always maintained that we aren’t losing money on the contract. This event is going to put a lot of pressure on Wiles not only because he’s long been an immigration reform advocate, but because he’s now in the position of having to show the Court that the County isn’t losing money on the contract. 

And frankly, he has no choice but to justify the cost. 

Because there’s a bigger pocket book issue at play - why the hell the jail was even expanded in the first place. 

If you read this article from KDBC, the Sheriff says that since we have 3000 beds in the jails that we should fill them because otherwise its a waste. Well…how the hell did we get the expanded space in the first place? Our capacity is twice the jail population. 

You know what that means?

It means we didn’t need the damn thing in the first place! 

But you the tax payers paid for that in a bond. At some point the media will likely parse the conversation about taking that project to the voters and what data was used to justify the need for it, but in the aforementioned article Sheriff Wiles appears to at least tangentially acknowledge that the county jail was well-below capacity to the extent he felt it necessary to fill beds. 

So now we have duplicate facilities. Sure, some things like centralized booking aren’t duplicative, but almost everything else is an example of the tax payer paying twice for the same thing.

Based on the data presented by Perez - and so far no one else has any data saying otherwise - we are not only housing undocumented immigrants at a loss and unnecessarily, but we are paying for unnecessary infrastructure. 

It means we have a lot of jailers that we don’t really need. 

Go back up and look for the data if you don't believe me, Perez put it all in the agenda item back-up.

Are You Kidding Me?

Which leads me to Commissioner Andrew Haggerty. I guess he forgot how to be a Republican, but he’s the guy that is supposed to be sounding the alarms for unnecessary spending. But not only has Haggerty apparently completely blown off this issue despite being part of a committee to deal with the issue, but he is now incredibly saying the contract is good because of the jobs it provides. 

Yes, you heard that right…a Republican is advocating for government subsidized jobs. Haggerty’s position makes no sense and it boggles the mind how he comes to that conclusion. 

And frankly the court should stop bitching about being “blind-sided”. By their own admission, this is an issue they have been looking at for three years. If you’ve been looking at if for three years, how in the blue hell are you being blind-sided? 

Commissioners, its your job to be looking out for the tax payers. Thats your job. How could this possibly be something you're blindsided when each of your offices have access to County data?

And you know what else blows my mind? Border Network having the audacity to talk about how not having immigrants in the county jail will make "the logistics of prosecuting immigration violations more expensive and time consuming for the Federal Government."

Are you kidding me right now? Who the hell cares? And more importantly - why would an immigration rights group care about it in the first place, much less use it as a talking point for keeping a terrible policy?

Thats completely contradictory to all they stand for - like a PETA advocate working in a meat factory. 

Today Commissioners have to decide if we really mean what we say when we take stands against harmful legislation like SB 4 or if our stand is just as worthless as a resolution written on paper. Whats the point of standing next to a border fence with a bullhorn at a BNHR event if you advocate a contract that makes El Paso the top place for the federal government to house undocumented immigrants in Texas. Is that really what this community stands for? 

Are we really going to say we are against local law enforcement enforcing immigration law but be completely okay with that same local law enforcement building an infrastructure around incarcerating those same immigrants? 

Today is the day to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.