Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Council Should Change Street Name to Honor Huerta

In light of the recent events in Virginia that led to the death of an innocent person all because a bunch of racists wanted to keep a statue, I think its time El Paso City Council change the name of Robert E. Lee in east central El Paso.

And I think the best thing to do is use the opportunity to honor a Latina civil rights leader and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who doesn't have any major thing named after her in El Paso, Dolores Huerta.

We shouldn't be honoring confederates. They were traitors to their country and took up arms against the United States. There's no getting around that basic fact. You can spin it anyway you want, but confederates were the enemy. The cause they fought for was to preserve the ability to enslave other human beings.

As a veteran, it has always bothered me to see statues and street names after confederates. Fort Bliss has several, including confederate General Jeb Stuart. And that is on a military installation! They were the enemy,

While being a slave owner was certainly not unique to confederates at one point of our history, and yes most of our Founding Fathers were slave owners. But only confederates actually took up arms to preserve the ability to hold their fellow man in bondage.

It is an insult of the highest order that a predominantly Latino community and a military community like El Paso has a street named a traitor to his country. Its brings dishonor upon us.

Especially when one considers we are home to the first all black team to win an NCAA championship in basketball and were one of the first communities to desegregate.

We can't deny, nor forget our collective history.

But we don't have to honor bad people or portions of our history. We should learn from it to better ourselves.

The impact of changing the name in practical terms is minimal. The street is small. There are no residences on it and very few businesses.

Rather than honor someone who killed patriotic American soldiers to protect the economic institution of slavery, ensuring the subjection of African-Americans and ensuring they had no rights as citizens, we should turn the name change into a positive and honor someone who was a civil rights leader.

We should honor a woman who was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from our first African-American President, Barack Obama. That is the most poetic way of correcting a wrong that is long past due.

City Representative Cassandra Brown represents the area where the street is located and sent me the following:

"I'm currently meeting with the businesses on Robert E Lee Street to determine their support for a citizens initiative to rename the street.  There may be unintended consequences to the businesses and their support to agree to absorb any costs to their businesses is critical on my decision. There are three business I was able to identify. I'm going door to door this morning. Several members of the public are interested in following the city's process to rename a street and efforts to fundraise to cover the street renaming costs are underway by the interested parties. If all stars align, I'll be reaching out to African American organizations to assist with the renaming.
I'll keep you posted on any progress if this happens.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Understanding the County Pay Raise

Considering two commissioners used to work in communications (Commissioners Perez and Stout for those of you playing Commissioners Court - The Home Game), you would think they'd do a better job of explaining to the public the logic behind their new elected officials salary policy. The fact that Commissioner Haggerty and Commissioner Perez voted on same side and actually got a 3-2 majority (for a pay increase of all things) says a lot. 

Before we go any further, understand that the County PROBABLY is not gonna raise your taxes. So you most likely aren't paying more taxes for this raise specifically.

For years, the commissioners court and all other county elected officials like county court judges, Justices of the Peace, the District Clerk, County Clerk Tax Assessor, etc, viewed themselves like other county employees. 

Problem is they aren't. 

Regular county employees and department heads are on a step plan with pay grades. 

Elected officials aren't. 

Their salaries have to be set by commissioners court every year. (It's state law). But without a salary policy how in the hell do commissioners know if they're paying too much, too little or just right? 

For years, if county employees got a step increase and/or a cost of living adjustment, the commissioners court would grant elected officials the same, as if they were similar to county employees. Regular employees can max out their steps and not qualify for a step increase, even if the commissioners court approves one. 

Here's the really bad part - for elected officials, there is no cap. So, commissioners courts in the past would add the step and cost of living increases together and grant it to all elected officials, thinking they were being fair. But since there is no step plan or caps for electeds, it was a stupid practice that led to judges, and other county officials getting increases every year. 

So if you're mad a bloated salaries, there are plenty of electeds to be mad at who for years made a whole lot more than Commissioners and the County Judge. Commissioners courts were more concerned about their elections that they would exempt themselves or give themselves smaller increases that they would give county employees, mostly because they didn't have the balls to put up with complaints or media attention. 

Now this is REALLY gonna piss you off. Up until last year, District Clerk Norma Favela, County Clerk Delia Briones, and Tax Assessor Ruben Gonzalez all made more than the county judge! 

So you wanna be mad at someone, be mad at them for having the audacity to take that pay for years and get mad when it comes to light they have been getting paid more than the market (read over-paid)

Wrap your head around that. Those are glorified department heads...and they were making more than the freaking County Judge. Thats a perfect example of how bad the old policy was. You think for one second Norma Favela does anywhere near what the County Judge and Commissioners do? Do you think she has anywhere near as much responsibility? She basically makes sure papers are filed correctly. Important work, but nothing compared to the responsibilities of the court. 

Trust me, she ain't out until 2am or 4am in the valley in the pouring rain helping out with the flooding.

Justices of the peace (who marry and evict people, and deal with traffic tickets) had higher salaries than commissioners who oversee their budgets! It was a practice that made absolutely no sense.

For the first time that I can remember, this is the first time a commissioners court has tried to make sense if elected officials' salaries. They took the ten largest counties in Texas (four are smaller than El Paso), got the average salary for each elected position, and made it a policy to pay all elected in El Paso 30% less. By comparison, for regular employees, their salaries are near or at 100% of the ten largest counties. 

So what's happened? 

For two years in a row, while county employees got steps and cost of living increases, the majority of elected officials got ZERO. 

Why? 

Because after years of increases, most are above the new policy (and still are). Trust me, Favela was the main elected that was PISSED! 

While commissioners granted a 1.6% cost of living adjustment for all county employees, based on the new policy, salaries for elected officials in the Texas counties rose 1%. While commissioners could have taken the easy way out and punted for themselves they stuck to the policy. 

Unfortunately for them, the headlines will focus on their 1%. Which is entirely their fault because, well they suck at explaining things. 

With about three dozen other elected and appointed officials (most with significantly higher salaries), that got ZERO, I'm willing to guess the county saved well over a quarter million in salary increases under the new policy in the last two years. But commissioners court have been lousy in communicating that. 

Oh yeah, County Judge Escobar voted against the 1% increase (slow clap). She voted for the big increase for commissioners last time, but hey, she's running for congress now...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Source Accuses Carlos Sierra of Infamous Robocall, Sierra Doesn't Deny

A source reached out to me recently leveling some strong allegations against controversial local political consultant Carlos Sierra. I made repeated attempts with Sierra to get his side of the allegations.

The source alleged that Sierra was operating covertly with several campaigns recently, misrepresented himself, was in a fight at journey concert that left him with an injured arm and a black eye, and further accused Sierra of "bypassing election laws, anonymous robocalls to get his hitlist".

After further conversation with the source, he identified several robocalls that Sierra allegedly created and sent, independently of an actual campaign against a group of people he identified on his "hit list".

If you recall an article from the El Paso Times a few years ago, Sierra ends it by identifying several elected officials he wanted to get rid of in El Paso politics included both County Judge Veronica Escobar and then-City Rep Emma Acosta.

Escobar was the target of a robocall of a disguised voice that was very negative. That robocall came from a PAC headed by Mike Armstrong. Sierra worked on Armstrong's subsequent city council campaign.

In the recent mayoral election Acosta, who was an out-going city rep and mayoral candidate was the target of a now infamous robocall that took a personal shot at Dora Oaxaca's physical ailment. Oaxaca is missing an eye, which was referenced in the call.

To refresh your memory, here is the call:



The call was reported in local media and was widely criticized for its negative and personal tone, but no one took responsibility for sending the call. Then City Rep Limon, who was running against Oaxaca's spouse was accused by some of being behind the call but she had long before disavowed and disassociated herself from Sierra. Sierra had previously worked on Rep Limon's first campaign along with former Mayor Oscar Leeser's and several others.

Around that time Sierra had several legal issues pending and was facing felony charges for multiple DUI. When the news broke, most politicos distanced themselves from Sierra but after a few years he made a return to El Paso politics and has been working, or pitching services to several candidates.

The source indicated that Carlos Sierra had teamed up with a new partner and he and the other field guy were allegedly working on getting on board the Dori Fenenbock congressional campaign, which makes sense because a large portion of Sierra's work has been for Republican and Libertarian candidates. For the sake of the other field organizer, I'm gonna leave his name out of this because the source said many people were unaware of Sierra's past.

Here's a quick look at some of the conversation between my source and I. My comments are in green.





In order to ascertain the validity of the allegations made against Sierra, I contacted him and asked him directly about a couple of the issues that were raised. I asked him directly, multiple times, if he was involved in the aforementioned robocall and all three times he passes on the opportunity to deny the allegation.

Below are screenshots of our conversation so you can judge for yourself.






I was unable to get details on any of the other allegations because, well this:


So I guess he didn't want to chat any more. I'm sorry to report that I was unable to confirm whether or not he was in a fight at the Journey concert.

I spoke to former Rep Limon about the conversation with Sierra and she expressed relief that the information had come to light and reaffirmed that she had disavowed Sierra long ago.

When the infamous robocall went out, I asked Carlos Sierra if he was involved in it. I asked him because he was previously with Limon's campaign and hadn't heard if he was with her on this campaign or not. I honestly didn't think he would be stupid enough to do something as bad as that robocall because I know he looks at campaigns as his profession. People that do this as a profession know that their work is a reflection of them. They also know that when someone makes an anonymous call like that, it will lead to others doing it as well. Carlos Sierra and his background could be easy fodder for one of those style of robocalls and used against whatever campaign he is with. So I guess I'm guilty of being a little naive in thinking that someone like him wouldn't want to start a robocall war that could hurt candidates he's affiliated with.

Back then he obviously had a different tone. But again, you'll notice that he didn't come out and deny being behind the robocall then either.


I can at least partially confirm some of the allegations from my source regarding some of his campaign activities.

The sources also alleged that Sierra "doesn't make sense, he drunk buys domains to hang it over candidates heads that he is better than their current consultant."

Websites for campaigns are what they used to be say back in the late 90's and early 2000's. Social media has minimized their importance but I found out and wrote about Sierra doing just that a few months ago. He purchased a URL of her name and I asked him about it and he fully acknowledged doing so. He apparently does make a regular habit of doing so because he brags about being "a Go Daddy VIP member" and getting "them super cheap".

Here's that conversation.




What is really interesting about the website domain thing he does is the address he uses when he registers the domains. I got hip to this when I was reading this article from the Tucson weekly in Arizona. Most of the article outlines an investigation relating to Sierra with the Federal Elections Commission about possible rule violations with a mailer Sierra did for his congressional candidate client.

They mention is address and that the address is an empty lot.

Sure enough, its the same address used for securing the domain names, and yup, its an empty lot.



Now why Carlos Sierra uses an empty lot as his address I don't know. Its not on CAD. He clearly doesn't live there, unless he sleeps outside under the stars. I know that address has been used on other documents like campaign finance reports. I don't know if its illegal to use an address that is an empty lot on those documents.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Carlos Sierra was recently separated from a campaign as a result of information from his past being revealed.

This article in Roll Call outlines another time Sierra was let go from a campaign when his record came to light. In the Roll Call article the writer indicates that one Democratic insider was interested in becoming involved with the Draft Biden campaign until they learned Sierra was involved. The publication includes this quote form the Democratic insider:

"I remembered the name...I looked him up and got chills."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quick Hits From My Notebook

Here's a few tidbits that I have written down in my notebook that are probably not worth their own blogpost so I'm just gonna bunch them up here for you:

Emma's Consulting - Former City Rep and opponent to open government Emma Acosta apparently now fancies herself as a campaign consultant. I don't know how the only major Latina candidate and Democrat who didn't even make a run-off to two lame ass Republicans has the balls to actually try to get someone to hire her to consult on a campaign, but Acosta is apparently pitching herself. Remember how terribly she did with Aliana Apodaca? Seriously, who in the hell is going to hire her?

Speaking of Emma, Dora Oaxaca is out trying to poach judicial candidates as a consultant now too.

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D8 - Ya know, in all the excitement of the big come-from-behind win for Cissy Lizarraga that was quarterbacked by Michael Apodaca, I forgot to really talk about how shitty of a job the Cormel campaign did. What a lot of people don't know is that once again, El Paso's favorite shadowy consultant Carlos Sierra, was involved. Not sure who is going to pay the guy to run a campaign now after losing a race that he should have won in his sleep. That is a failure on the part of the campaign consultant if you have a huge money edge and went into the run off in anglo, conservative west El Paso with a white Republican and still manage to lose. Come on man, how the hell do you lose that one?

Sorry Chuck, you're no All-Star.

Oh hey, speaking of Carlos Sierra, I hear he's quite the Journey fan. Its a cool story, but that one most definitely will have its own post. I'll get to it a little later, trust me you aren't going to want to miss it.

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County Judge Candidate Richardo Samaniego tripped out of the gate. The candidate who appears to be basically running on the last name of El Paso's former Sheriff, sent out an email for his campaign to government email addresses.

Big no-no.

Probably going to lead to an ethics complaint, which is bad for a candidate who is relying on a law and order family name.

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There is another candidate running for Congress. Not really noteworthy and doesn't have a support base, but the crowded field is starting to look like the sheriff's race a few years ago when there was like 8 people running for the same position. Enrique Garcia is the guy's name. Nice guy, but no batch to victory.

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Socorro Run-Off

The mayoral race in Socorro's run-off should be a no-brainer for voters. It features Elia Garcia, an attorney and municipal judge for the City of Clint, against Ivy Avalos. Avalos is a subordinate to another City Rep Yvonne Colon-Villalobos. Garcia understands government and the law, is educated, and has served on the Civil Service Commission for the City of Socorro.

Avalos' boss is a city rep.

Basically they aren't even comparable in terms of experience.

But here's an interesting little fact. It looks like Avalos has almost no voting history prior to being asked to run for mayor by her boss.

Ah yes, say it with me everyone..."Only in Socorro".






Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fenebock Files: The Socorro Edition

What could be more fun than a Republican running as a fake Democrat for congress visiting a disaster site?

That's easy, the same thing that makes anything more fun...make it happen in Socorro!

Ah yes, our favorite faker took a little trip (probably her first) out to Soco-loco to go survey the flood damage.

Obviously this is political grandstanding at its finest/worst. If you would've included a press conference with the visit, I would've thought it was coming from Escobar.

But any who, Fenenbock went out to visit the county's second-largest municipality and took a tour. The picture below is probably Interim Mayor Rene Rodriguez explaining to her that Socorro isn't actually in the 16th Congressional District.

But I doubt Fenenbock is going to let a little thing like a disaster that didn't happen in the congressional district she's running for get in the way of a good ol' fashioned photo-op amirite?

However, Fenenbock's trip to Soco-loco, despite being the fakest thing I've seen this side of Pamela Anderson's boob job, does underscore something pretty interesting. If you read the complete text of Fenebocks sponsored post (yes, because it wasn't douchey enough to go, she needed to make the fake photo-op a sponsored ad) she gives County Judge Veronica Escobar a little chinga quedito.

Fenenbock says, "I am deeply committed to jobs and growth, but we must manage our growth by bringing together communities, in both incorporated and unincorporated areas, to understand everyone's needs and protect everyone's interests.
All of our communities and residents matter. Everyone deserves a safe neighborhood."
Obviously that is a shot at the County Judge who in fact does represent the citizens in the City of Socorro.  One Socorro city leader said they haven't seen the judge at all during the flooding. Or the flooding before that, or the one before that. The Socorro city staff and electeds tell me that her staff has been there but the Socorro city leader said they hadn't seen the actual judge in Socorro in at least four years except one time at a wedding reception last year. 

In fairness to the judge, the commissioners of a given area typically take the lead on these types of issues (unless it involves a press conference) because they and their staff have a better grasp of the area and the problems, but still - she's the County Judge, she should show up every once in a while. At least she didn't pull a Mayor Cook and say "I'm not your plumber". 

Going back to the Fenenbock Photo-Op, you'd think with all the money she has that she'd pay someone to mind her social media. Does she not know the subliminal message that is being sent when a candidate is sponsoring a social media ad to pain them in a good light that actually features a sign that says "Dead End"?

I swear, this campaign is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Mira lady, esta es el área donde estás tratando de ser congresista y esta es donde esta Socorro.  Entiendes?

Cabrera's Payback

Well, like I said a long time ago...Cabrera's little trip to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee shin dig had no educational purpose an the tax payers of EPISD shouldn't have had to pay the bill.

Remember how David KKK was swearing up and down that it was anti-Semitic to even suggest that it wasn't related to education? Remember the shovels full of bullshit he was staking to defend that one?

Yet again David Karlsruher looks like an idiot. But lets be real, we are all pretty used to that.

I can tell you that he will come up with some Trumpian nonsensical theory of why the auditor said it was inappropriate and that he had to pay it back. I don't know what exactly that will sound like, but I assure you it will include me, Bob Moore from the Times, Susie Byrd, and the chupacabra.

So can we now stop pretending that Cabrera isn't campaigning for Fenenbock since they both went to this non-education related shin dig?

Oh yeah, speaking of Fenenbock...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mayor Margo's Millions

Remember that whole argument about businessmen being good government leaders? No, I'm actually not talking about Trump this time.

But just wanted to very quickly remind you all that taxes in the City of El Paso are going up under Mayor Margo.

Mayor Margo is the same guy that applauded the veto done by Mayor Leeser over the Certificate of Obligation earlier this year.

Now Margo is not only pushing for the Certificates of Obligation, he is actually wanting to raise the amount.

Also, and maybe more importantly, keep an eye on the new D3 City Rep Cassandra Brown. She was pretty adamant about holding the line on Certificates of Obligation as a candidate and appears to have flipped. Lets see how that works out.

Yeah, those things happen. Just don't recall seeing it happen so quickly.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Other Candidates for Congress

You'd think by the blogosphere that there are only two candidates running for the 16th Congressional District of Texas. Interesting tidbit for those of you keeping score at home - the 16th District of Texas has never been represented by a woman or a Latina. There are currently 4 women running for the position, and one is Latina. 

There are in fact at least 5 total candidates - two "other" Democrats and an independent. That isn't counting whatever sacrificial lamb the GOP puts up or JOP who will inevitably run for a little attention again as a Libertarian. I put quotation marks around "other" Democrats because lets be real, Fenenbock is a Republican.

There's a reason I haven't really written about the other candidates...they don't matter and aren't going to win.

Relax people, I know the term "they don't matter" is a little harsh, but lets be real, you don't come here because I sugar coat things. 

What I mean is that they aren't going to get a significant portion of the vote and probably won't even force a run-off. 


Jerome "Community Conference Table" Tighlman - is running for congress...again. He's not going to do anything different than before and will leverage eloquent soliloquies that don't really contain substance via his main campaign vehicle - Facebook. Jerome is a great guy and always a good conversationalist, but he has no money compared to the other campaigns, he has no base of support, and he's far more focused on how he looks than on policy. At some point someone is going to talk about who is a show horse and who is a work horse and Jerome is going put right into that show horse category. He lists driving people to the polls during Bill Clinton's elections as part of his qualifications, so that gives you a sense of where he's coming from. He means well, and he is getting closer to showing some substance, but it is still hard to see how he's just not chasing another title. He'd be the least qualified candidate if Dori Fenenbock weren't in the race, but she is, so he isn't. 




Nicole LeClaire
 - is another candidate. She's witty, sharp, educated like Jerome, and solidly liberal. Those would normally be something to build on, but she's not going to have any money behind her. Without any money behind her, its going to be hard to introduce her to El Paso voters because well, no one knows who the hell she is. There's a reason they don't know who she is. SHE DOESN'T EVEN LIVE IN EL PASO. At some point she's allegedly moving to El Paso, allegedly, but the reality is that while she is from El Paso, she hasn't lived here in a long time. No major connections to the business groups, community organizations, political entities, etc. She lives in Houston and is running for a seat in El Paso. Again, in terms of politics I'm probably most closely aligned to her beliefs along with Escobar, (when she's not being a complete ideological hypocrite on immigration) but she's naive to think that voters, the ones who will even know show she is, won't take issue with her living in Houston. But frankly, even if she had moved from Houston 6 months before she decided to run, she's still not a serious candidate. Nice lady, but no base, no money, no name ID, no chance.



Jessica Kludt Allala - is an attorney who practices law focusing on seniors. She probably going to be pretty well versed on healthcare and several other issues. With the exception of Escobar, she'll be the most deep in policy knowledge. But she has the same problems the rest have - lack of financial support, name ID, and a support base. Her claim to fame is being Stephanie Townsend Allala's daughter, which is a double-edge sword. Some really like STA, some despise her, so that is probably a wash. But she made a bad political move which will guarantee she will not win and will lose pretty badly. She's a lifelong Democrat (by her own admission) but is running as an independent. She made a nonsensical comment about appealing to all El Pasoans as an independent. All that means is that if   Republican also runs for Congress, Allala will have the same single digit support of non-serious candidates like Jaime O. Perez. Trump is going to push Dems and Republicans to the polls in November and an independent is going to get trounced more than usual. She would likely have done much better running as a Democrat. Its going to be hard to explain in the Trump era why a lifelong Democrat would run as an independent. 

Up next - we'll talk about the County Judge's race...