Friday, August 28, 2015

What Happened to Balls?

Or ovaries. Whatever fits the situation.

I've noticed something I find kinda disturbing lately and its the increase amount of elected officials that won't comment.

Look if you're an elected official and under indictment then by all means protect yourself and keep your mouth shut.

But if you're an elected official and you don't want to give comment on a vote, position, or an agenda item you freaking posted in the first place, there is something wrong with you and the community should be suspicious of them.

In multiple media outlets, on multiple stories, several elected officials primarily at the city level have refused to give comment on stories. You're an elected official. You have a job to do. If you aren't willing to communicate with the public about a vote you took on their behalf, you have a problem.

And I don't just mean the whole I-gotta-go-talk-to-my-mommy thing.

I'm talking about not wanting to answer questions about issues before the city, county, or state.

Representative Ordaz went on Xtra the other night and Maria Garcia mentioned that multiple member of council didn't want to go on the show. She took a lot of tough questions not only from the host but from calls and tweets. I'm sure it wasn't a pleasant experience but she had the ovaries to show up and take the questions.

But council members that won't even respond to questions from media outlets on issues relating to their job is a terrible commentary on them as elected officials.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Medina Eyes State Tejano Chair

Othon Medina, member of the Paso Del Norte Tejano Democrats, is seeking the post as the state Tejano chairman this weekend at their convention.

Media has served on a variety of local boards and commissions and has a lot of clout in the local chapter of the organization. 

However, he has ruffled more than a few feathers statewide for his confrontational style and many find him difficult to deal with. He caused quite the scene at another convention.

Perhaps his biggest obstacle is the fact that he's vying for the job of being chair of the largest Latino-based Democratic auxiliary but has been very critical (publicly) of the first Latino state chairman of the TDP, Chairman Hinojosa.

One of Medina's rivals is a man named Joey Cardenas. He's a teacher in San Antonio.

Voting is complicated for the Tejano chair. It's based on chapter strength and so the more people your chapter has the more weight their votes will carry.

That explains why there has been such a big membership drive on theeir part of the PDN Tejanos.

Medina is also known for paying the tab from travel and lodging of supporters to the convention.

More to cover on this...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Svarzbein Spiraling; Video Confrontation Surfaces

Representative Svarzbein has been having a hard time getting is sea legs since being sworn in after he defeated Al Weisenberger in a run-off election earlier this year.

He seems to be so worried about saying something wrong that all of his public statements are a lesson in someone who talks but never says anything. And when he is actually saying something, he appears to be a gaffe-machine.

Case in point, yesterday. It was basically a bad day for Svarzbein. First there's an article in the paper about the budget and a tax increase.

Svarzbein along with Ordaz and Limón voted against increasing the tax rate. Ordaz said she voted against it because the tax increase was higher than it needed to be.

Svarzbein said this:

I did a face palm when I read that in the paper. He didn't have much time to review the budget in detail? Wasn't he participating in the budget process since oh I don't know, June???

He basically said he hasn't had time to do the most important part of his job.

But the day got worse for him. Apparently last night there was some sort of community meeting and a community member approached Svarzbein with a question about why he voted for the City Manager's raise and what he based it on.

The vote was done, and all the reps that voted for it are going to take heat for it. That is a given. But its all in how you deal with that heat. Svarzbein found the worst possible way to deal with the it.

The constituent, a man named Victor Santana-Melgoza, asked him the question and Svarzbein became defensive and dodged the question. Svarzbein told him he had to go and talk to his mother, then mentioned something about his father being ill and walked off. The Santana-Melgoza followed him. Svarzbein had actually gone to speak to a couple of other people. Santana-Melgoza asked him if the woman he was speaking to was his mother.

It wasn't.

So Santana-Melgoza took to Facebook and published the video.

Here's the text of his post:

And here is the video.


I don't think I have ever seen an elected official with worse public relation skills. Svarzbein really needs to find a seminar or conference or something on public relations and media management because he is really terrible at it.

It almost painful to watch.

Having been on the other side of the camera I can give all you electeds a little piece of advice. Stop and answer the questions. As long as the person behind the camera is asking you something issue-based or related to the job, there's no reason to avoid them. If they are just being a jerk, thats a whole other story.

The person asking you the question isn't going to look bad, you are. No elected official or candidate looks good running away from a camera. It never works out for them. Stand there, answer their question and wait for your staff to come and bail you out.

You're welcome everyone.

Council Moves Toward More Transparency

After the recent complications at council having to do with a range of issues the El Paso City Council has apparently decided to be responsive to the community.

Perhaps because of a rash of complaints having to do with the lack of a public discussion about City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's raise, it looks like council decided to take transparency in government to the next level.

Sources indicate city council ordered this display of Tommy Gonzalez's raise to be put on Piedras, again in the interest of being transparent.

Now that is responsive government.

Sources indicate the raise will be on display until it kicks in on September 1st and the city encourages people to take selfies with it.

Well played city council, well played.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Final Thoughts on the CM Raise

Sorry been busy and haven't been able to really sit down and put my thoughts down.

I'll try to make this one short and sweet.

No matter what strategic rhetoric is being put out there, the community is not happy with the city manager's raise. Members of council can stare in the morning for hours and tell themselves that the community supports it but they don't. Just check any social media comment section of basically any story that was run on the topic.

But speaking of public sentiment, the people that spoke in favor of the city manager's raise yesterday were largely staged. There's nothing wrong with that, but lets not pretend it wasn't. The city council offices were getting bombarded with phone calls and emails against the raise and they wanted to give the media an impression that there was wide support for the raise.

There isn't.

Again, there's nothing wrong with that and Ordaz and Limón probably should've done the same thing. But hey, I give credit where credit is due and I know what its like to be a former staffer. So well done Dora.

Rep Niland had a multi-page script she treaded through that was based on the premise that Ordaz was going to make this about Gonzalez' performance on the job. Ordaz framed the debate around the process, not the person.

Personally, I think with so many projects that are behind schedule, over-budget, bad communication, lost opportunities for funding, that the community is sort of ahead of council on this one. I think a large part of the opposition is based on their perception of his job performance. Although some think you're stupid and that the opposition is based on the lobster mentality. You know, the one that says Mexicans are stupid and would rather pull one lobster getting out of the pot than see them succeed.

It also amazes me that people who spend 90% of their time bashing a town they don't even live in all of a sudden give a shit about how El Paso looks to other cities.

Me thinks thou dost pro- ah fuck it, I think they're full of shit.

This was a sneaky move to try to get this one through with the minimal amount of attention possible.

That is why there was such vague wording on the original item. And then there's the whole market study issue.

There wasn't one done and Limón busted them on it. City Reps Acosta and Romero tried to say that they called other cities and asked what their city managers made. They looked silly when you consider that is not what a market study is. That is not even close to a market study. There are so many other factors to consider like size of budget, number of employees, projects, etc.

But its the level of quality that has become synonymous with the city lately.

The point is City Attorney Firth was directly asked if a market study was done and incredibly she said that what was done by council constituted a market analysis. Until Limón had a little bit of a Did-You-Order-The-Code-Red moment when she put Romero on the spot and asked him directly if the City of El Paso had done a market analysis for salary.

He admitted that city had not.

The last point I want to make here is about the fact that Ordaz even put this back on the agenda in the first place.

A few, but loud critics, have said that her desire to revisit the issue meant everything from she is a dumb brunette to the second coming of John Kerry. Hell some have even written her political obituary.

Puro pedo!

Politics is the only arena in which people find for some strange reason that it is acceptable to make a mistake and stick to that mistake even when you know its the wrong course of action. I don't know who the genius is that came up with that steaming pile of stupid, but whoever it was is an idiot.

In basically any other scenario if you made a mistake and stuck with the mistake even when you knew it was a mistake, people would say you're either stupid, crazy, or a total asshole.

In business - if you made a mistake you'd fix it as soon as you found out about it. In the classroom, if a teacher's class all failed the same test, then that would mean that something had to be done differently. If your kid is drowning in the bathtub you don't just sit there and watch just because they slipped on their own. In your relationship, if you or they, aren't happy you do something about it.

But what you don't do is stick with a dumb ass idea because you don't want to be seen as a flip-flopper. And most of the community doesn't look at it as a bad thing either.

It takes a hell of a lot more integrity to publicly admit you made a mistake than to privately know you did and publicly stand by it for the sake of not flip-flopping. The public appreciates when someone takes responsibility rather than try to save their own ass.

As for her political career being over, remember that everything comes down to elections. So threatening that her funding will be cut-off is silly. You know what big donors fear the worst?

A candidate that can win without their money.

I also found it interesting when Rep Svarzbein talked about doing what he campaigned on, which was absent just a couple weeks ago during the historical study for downtown debate.

Gotta love politicians.

By the way, most of the same members that voted for the City Manager's raise also voted in favor of the budget he submitted to council that called for a raise in your taxes.

Tidbit About Acosta Comment

I've got plenty to say about yesterday's city council meeting about how city council doubled-down on stupid and voted for the city manager raise.

All you have to do is take a look at the comment section of any of the stories from media outlets about it on Facebook and you will see that the community is overwhelmingly upset about it, which makes yesterday's little staged event during public comment that much more obvious.

Some of the people are getting creative about it too. Here's a screen shot I took of one of the comments:

When the Straight Outta Compton meme is being used for politics, it means the meme has officially jumped the shark. (Note to self, change profile picture from Straight Otta Compton meme on Facebook)

But I wanted to clarify something that Acosta said during the meeting that I think crystalizes what people don't like about council lately. Its the lack of accurate information.

Either deliberately or through incompetence.

Here's what I mean. During the debate yesterday City Rep Emma Acosta mentioned that she had a community meeting shortly after the raise and that at the meeting only three people spoke in opposition to the raise. She then chided the media by saying that they didn't run comments in favor of the raise by the over 40 people in attendance. (More on that in a minute)

So to hear her tell it, almost everyone was in favor of it, save three people.

Except that's not what really happened at all.

I know because several people had asked me about the meeting during the day and I know they attended the meeting. I wasn't there because I was in the Ysleta Bond Committee meeting which Acosta missed because of her community meeting, but I was checking in with them to see how it was going.

I'm kicking myself for not going and taking my video camera, but thankfully someone recorded the audio of the meeting.

Since I'd heard the meeting, I was surprised to hear Acosta tell her version of the story. But I didn't have the audio with me yesterday during the meeting and didn't have my laptop either since I was working in the field. Thankfully you can stream the meetings over your phone, so thats how I even caught Acosta's comments in the first place.

When I heard her version, I sent a text to a friend of mine that was at the meeting to verify since I remembered the audio differently. Basically the messages speak for themselves. Acosta's account at council wasn't accurate. You decide whether it was an honest mistake or purposely misleading:

Now remember I mentioned I would get back to the part about her criticizing the media about the people she mentioned that were there at the meeting that were allegedly in favor of the raise?

The people she mentions in the video from yesterday's meeting are all either her friends or donors to her campaign.

She failed to mention that part.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Favorite Press Release

Sorry vatos and jainas, been a busy couple days at the office and haven't had much chance to blog. 

But here's a quick one that made me laugh. It was unintentionally funny. Which makes it funnier.

City Rep Svarzbein sent out a press release to the media yesterday and a couple of them sent it to me because they thought it was funny. 

Electeds usually send out press releases about a lot of things, especially important events or issues facing the city.

So in the midst of questions about transportation and mobility funding, a big pay raise for the city manager, privatizing an entire city department, projects that are over budget and behind...

What does Rep Svarzbein send a press release about? What is the big issue of the day his office is tackling on behalf of the fine folks on the west side?

The Archie Comic. Well the passing of the author.

I bullshit you not.

Gotta love the focus on what really matters, Jughead and Veronica!

Good to know he never stops thinking about his, constituents.

Bernal Fundraiser

I haven't even heard of a rumor of an opponent. I doubt she will have one either. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

HD 77 Candidate Lopez Throws Fundraiser

Anyone thinking about running for the HD77 race better start soon because the ball is already being moved down the field.

Adolfo Lopez, a Dallas-area attorney until recently, is throwing a fundraiser soon. Here are the particulars. 

The only other candidate Lina Ortega, hasn't had a formal announcement or fundraiser yet.

A Reasonable Post on City Manager Raise

Rich Wright to the time to be reasonable in his blog post here. I may not agree with all of it, but at least his his reasoning isn't "because I'm tone deaf to reality" like other bloggers.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Poll: Ordaz Agenda Item to Reconsider Raise

Okay, take the new poll. Its on the left side where they usually are.

What do you think about Ordaz putting an item on the agenda to reconsider the city manager's raise?


Breaking: Ordaz Places Item to Revisit Raise

Not many details yet, but there is a buzz around City Hall right now that City Rep Claudia Ordaz has placed an item on the agenda to discuss the raise for Tommy Gonzalez.

I haven't seen the item but I was able to confirm that it has been filed, so I don't know what the exact language is but I'm told it is essentially bringing the item back to council.

More to follow.

Rep Limón Sends Letter to Engineering Staff; All Employees

City Rep Lily Limón sent a letter to the staff of the engineering department and all city staff.

The letter is in regards to the fact that she, along with most staff, found out that the City of El Paso was going to outsource work from the engineering department in an article published Sunday in the El Paso, Inc.

I will have more on this later.

In the mean time, here is the letter.