Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ah, Soco Loco During Campaign Season

Leave it to Socorro to be the epicenter of crazy during campaign season.

Not that that is anything new.

Apparently Lorenza Fraire, the former city manager is running a slate of candidates so that she can get her old job back as city manager in Socorro.

Leave it to Lorenza to single-handedly get all the campaign workers kicked out of Las Ventanas. And it's for the usual campaign stuff that happens every election. People are pushy with voters, they electioneeer beyond the area they are supposed to and stuff like that.

So apparently Fraire's behavior was so egregious that everyone was kicked out. That location is private property so they can give people the boot any time they want to.

But seriously, how annoying do you have to be to get booted in Socorro?

Well the cops were called on Day 1 of early voting.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why it's called Soco-loco.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Guess Who Voted in Socorro...

I knew this was gonna happen and I got wind of it yesterday but I had to wait until the county released voter data today to confirm it.

Little Jessie Gandara voted in Socorro. They have a mayor's race, councilman at-large race, and a city council race going on in the county's second-largest municipality.

Gandara has a felony conviction and as far as I know isn't even eligible to vote anymore because of the felony.

That apparently didn't stop him.

There is also the sheriff's race to consider. Gandara HATES Sheriff Wiles.

Any bets on who Gandara supported for sheriff?

Final Thoughts on the EPISD Bond

The biggest argument for the bond by supporters is actually one of the problems with the bond. The argument is that its behemoth size (2/3 of a ba-ba-ba-billion dollars) is that there is tremendous need in the district in terms of infrastructure improvements.

The problem is this bond doesn't distribute the funds equally. An editorial cartoon broke it down nicely by showing that a huge chunk of the money is divided into two schools, one on the westside (shocker right?) and Burgess. The remaining amount of money is split among nearly 80 schools.

As I've mentioned, the district is contracting.

Next door in YISD, a bond was passed in which the lion's share of the bond money goest to Eastwood High School. In fact the bond had to be revamped to account for the extra students in Eastwood High School.

Where are the students coming from? You guessed it, EPISD.

Burgess is actually closer to Eastwood High School than it is to Jefferson High School which is the next closest EPISD school. I know, I didn't realize Burgess was kind out there on its own either until a friend and Burgess alum pointed it out.

Burgess as you probably know, is in a pretty affluent area of the eastside. EPISD knows that students there have the means to attend another high school and YISD loves to poach kids from EPISD. Its all a numbers game with attendance and funding.

So yes there is need district-wide in school improvements but funny how you don't see the big investment in places like Irvin, Austin, or Andress like you do at the school that borders YISD huh?

And that is what frustrates people about the bond...

Show Me the Money

Sure are a lot of rich fat cats dumping big loads of cash into the bond race isn't there?

Speaking of Money

I don't think the opposition has realized that at some point most of them are going to have to file campaign finance reports because they are spending money against the bond as well. Certainly not nearly as much as the pro-bond folks, but certainly enough that you can easily see expenditures above the reporting threshold that would trigger the filing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm for their opposition to the bond and I think some of their sponsored ads are pretty exceptional, but they are indicative of the fact that they has been money and resources invested in that cause that need to be reported as well.

I'm looking at you Facebook James No Bond guy...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Downtown Arena Part 3

The railyard is a bad location for the stadium because it screws the valley.

The stadium doesn't have to be downtown. The ordinance language says it does, but not the ballot language. An ordinance can be changed, therefore council could decide that downtown isn't the best place for it.

Frankly, it is the best place for it.

Now back to the railyard.

Union Pacific is willing to sell the railyard spot to the city but there is some major horse trading involved. In traditional form, it's a deal that would screw the valley. And that's not hyperbole, it would be a major screw job to the valley.

Thankfully the two valley reps drew a line in the said and protected their constituents.

At stake is a maste plan that Union Pacific has for closure of 31 crossings. That is their ultimate goal in order to maximize the use of their fancy new Santa Teresa railyard facility. UP is planning to double, perhaps triple the train traffic in and out of the hub. UP is sort of treated like a political subdivision in that they have right-of-way and eminent domain powers as well. I know, that seems weird but it's left over from the days when rail was king.

There was some dealing done for right-of-way and other stuff between the City and UP for the ballpark. UP's trains have to slow up when they approach a crossing. They are also responsible for the maintenance of the crossings. As you might guess, overhead eats into profit. Slowing down impacts their efficiency. Overhead impacts their profitability. So they have a really big stick to negotiate with over that parcel of land.

If you take a look at where the tracks are located, where would the lion's share of the crossings that UP wants closed?

The Valley.

Closures would mean that the trains don't have to slow down as much and they don't have the maintenance costs, but the valley gets screwed in the process. Closures of railroad crossings mean that the valley would literally be cut off from the rest of town in certain areas.

It's not just added commute time, more gass, and more time to get around, but it is also a major problem for first responders. The police station in the valley is north of the tracks. There is one hospital south of the freeway and none south of the tracks.

UP told multiple officials at the city that crossings would be on the table for a stadium land sale bid.

The railyard location would negatively impact thousands of El Pasoans. Interestingly one of the places that is most coveted by UP for closure is the crossing at Zaragoza. I can't begin to tell you what a major problem that would be to life and business in that area.

So when you take a look at the bigger picture, the reason for the unanimous vote for the current location comes into focus and makes complete sense.

Council collectively made the right choice for the city, and it's been a while since I said that and meant it.

Sheriff Candidate Buchino Didn't Comply with Texas Education Code

Republican Sheriff Candidate Tom Buchino participated in the Ysleta High School Homecoming Parade. Buchino is in the cowboy hat and you can clearly see his campaign signs and Ysleta High School in the background.

According to an internal document in the Ysleta ISD, the district's general council "reviewed Texas statute and determined that the candidate's participation in the parade was inappropriate and did not comply with Texas Education Code..."

This however is not the first time Mr. Buchino may have violated the Texas Education Code that forbids Unlawful Use of Public Funds for Political Advertising (Texas Education Code 255.003). Earlier in the year Buchino participated in the Del Valley High School Homecoming Parade.

Violators of this portion of the code are officers of political subdivisions or employees thereof that allow the Unlawful Use of Public Funds for Political Advertising and are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. It is unclear if the participants (Buchino) are also guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Homecoming parades are school activities even if they are not conducted in their entirety on school grounds.

The internal document not only acknowledges that the district was aware of the participation before the start of the parade but failed to pull the candidate from the parade, but it also acknowledges that this occurred previously at Del Valle High School.

Other points of note from the document include:

- the district conducting an inquiry into the process utilized to establish participation in the parade
- initiation of an investigation into whether staff ignored a previous memorandum on this matter
- looking into whether the Buchino campaign submitted the proper documentation to participate
- the sending of a letter to the Buchino campaign notifying them that it is inappropriate to use school district resources, including events to promote his candidacy.

The next document shows the Superintendent actually sent a reminder to employees BEFORE the second violation very clearly reminding employees what they can and cannot do as it relates to campaign activity.

EPISD is being very careful with political activities right now because of the bond election.

It appears from social media that campaigning at local high schools is a particularly favorite practice of the Buchino campaign. As you can see from these screen shots from his own campaign Facebook page, Buchino has not only participated in other homecoming activities but has used Canutillo, Franklin, and Coronado High School for the purposes of taking photos to promote his candidacy.

So it is possible that EPISD and CISD may also consider taking action in the wake of the Ysleta Homecoming Parade incident.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Downtown Arena Part 2

Hold your horses people, wait til all the information comes out before you start lighting your torches and finding your pitchforks.

I still have questions about the ballot language and the ordinance language but that is sort of irrelevant at this point because the vote on Tuesday was a first step, not a last step.

Now the city can start negotiating with the property owners for the parcels of land that they are wanting for the arena.

Personally I think they are doing a terrible job of getting the facts out to the public and media, but the reality is this is really the first step and not the last. I think the city needs to clearly articulate what their plans are for each parcel of land and explain how many property owners, commercial and residential, we are actually talking about here.

Eminent domain isn't at play yet. They are attempting to buy the property first. So there is a good chance that the homeowners especially, are going to make a bit of a profit. Maybe a handsome one.

Eminent domain doesn't happen until much later in the process and only after a land owner has declined the offers. Its very litigious to actually engage in eminent domain. I don't know if the city is really looking forward to that big hassle.

At that point, the property owner is given fair market value for their property.

But that is a long way away and frankly not even likely.

The Rail Yard

There is a reason I think the rail yard would be a terrible location for the arena.

In my next post I'll explain why I think its a terrible idea and why thousands of El Pasoans would be screwed in the process.


Lets keep some things in perspective here. Its been known that there was going to be an arena in the downtown area since its passed several years ago. That isn't a new thing.

Historical designations should've been made then, but the history folks keep getting caught with their pants down. And that surprises me considering those history folks seem to focus on the downtown area and ignore the other parts of town.

Remember when a Trost building was torn down in Fabens a while back? Where were the history people then? Because it wasn't a building in downtown, they didn't even know it was a Trost building or move to do anything about it until after the property was sold to someone else and torn down.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Downtown Arena Part 1

I'm gonna make this quick because the downtown arena is obviously the thing every one is talking about lately.

We have known there was going to be an arena downtown for years, since we first approved it.

So issue number 1 to clear up is that council didn't just suddenly come up with this, we as voters approved this several years ago with the QOL bond.

Issue number 2 to clear up is that it has to be downtown. It is part of the ordinance language.


Its NOT part of the ballot language as a friend of mine points out.

Some will argue that ballot language is general because there simply isn't the space to put the entire ordinance language on a ballot so they just include the big stuff like amounts and what the projects are - you'll notice the Westside pools aren't mentioned by site in the ballot language either.

So whether it indeed needs to be downtown is now in question. However I don't think that is the real issue at this point.

Here is where the city gets itself in trouble with the people - they didn't disclose to the public the exact location of the arena until Thursday and then voted for it on Tuesday.

The real issue for me is that the city apparently has learned nothing from past controversies and in their haste to get things done that they almost always screw up.

Its that rushed stuff that gives the appears to the people that this was a done deal, they have no say, now swallow it and like it.

Whether the ballot language does or does not say it needs to be downtown doesn't matter as much as the fact that it doesn't say the community gets to decide exactly where to put it.

Just because that isn't in the ballot language doesn't mean that the community can't have some say it where it goes. Good government would dictate that you give the community ample time to weigh-in on the location of the site and two business days just isn't sufficient by any measure.

This is a self-inflicted wound on the part of the city that was completely avoidable. Unless someone can explain why it was necessary to reveal the location on a Thursday and vote on a Tuesday, it just seems like the city unnecessarily rushed the vote on this one.

That is what gets on people's nerves. That is the kind of thing that makes them not trust their local government.

I want a new arena. I knew what I was voting for and knew it was going to be somewhere downtown. Since downtown is only so big, I'm wasn't ignorant to the fact that something was going to have to be moved, bull dozed, or eminent domained for it.

This kind of move, especially one that could potentially displace the people that it is easiest to victimize (poor brown people who can't afford a lawyer), is what undermines the faith of even people like me who support a strong and vibrant downtown.

Frankly the timing of this issue couldn't be worse for EPISD because it wouldn't surprise me one bit if people took their distrust out on the bond because they will be leery about another high dollar public investment that always seems to be problematic.

The reality is we voted for it and it needs to be downtown somewhere. The longer we wait on this project, the more it is going to cost us.

So we need to pick our poison at this point.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Buchino Dwarfs Wiles in Cash; Unions in Big

Republican candidate for sheriff Tom Buchino had a significant advantage in fundraising over incumbent Democratic candidate Sheriff Richard Wiles.

Buchino raised more in one report that Wiles has raised in the entire campaign so far. In his last campaign finance report Buchino raised $40,583 and his total contributions for this election so far are at $58,571.

The El Paso Sheriff's Officer Association and Municipal Police Officer's Association with are both mart of CLEAT contributed $14,500 on this report. When you add that to the $10,500 they have contributed on a previous report, that brings their total investment in the Buchino campaign to $25,000.

That is more than they have ever contributed to a single candidate in an election cycle.

For comparison, the unions gave more to the Republican candidate than the Republican Party of Texas, West El Paso Republican Women, Midland County Republican Women, and the Republican Party Chairman...combined.

In the 30 Day report Wiles raised only $12,740. The total amount of contributions he's raised for this cycle so far is $37,765.33; totals for both candidates are really small considering its a countywide race.

Most of the noteworthy contributions are on Buchino's campaign report.

The Republican Party of Texas actually kicked in a decent amount of money. They almost never kick in a large amount of money into local Republican campaigns so its noteworthy that they did in this election cycle.

Republican women auxiliary contributions aren't a new thing, but it was interesting to see Midland County's organization kick in some money to the Buchino campaign. That demonstrates a certain level of confidence from the GOP in Bucino's chances, however unfounded it may be.

Almost as interesting, but much more inside baseball, was another contribution that I saw on the report from Michael Surratt. He comes from a farming family down in the valley. On the Make Fabens Better Facebook group he had been acting as though he was an objective arbiter for Fabens to get a town hall meeting of the two candidates. Turns out he had given the largest contribution to the Buchino campaign from an individual donor even before they were calling for a debate (check the date).

Ruh-roh, busted!

He's also the guy that says the crime in Fabens is comparable to that of Chicago. Even though that event was likely an ambush, I still think Wiles owes it to voters to have a debate with Buchino.

Since no one in the media is asking, a debate would be an excellent time to bring up Buchino's stance on immigration enforcement. For all the videos he's released, there is no indication on how he stands on that issue other than to tout the family's endorsement of the late Leo Samaniego.

He's even including Samaniego's image on his campaign material now despite the fact that he passed away several years ago.

A couple of other interesting contributions on the Buchino report were from Jim Fashing (used to work at the county) and Yvonne Rosales' (recent District Attorney candidate) law firm - the contribution is in the name of the law firm but not her individually - and several members of the sheriff's officer's union. I didn't add their contributions to the total of the union donations.

Wiles' campaign report showed contributions from the usual political contributors like Enrique Moreno, Ralph Adame, Dusty Henson, Queta Fierro, etc.

Notable contributions included a contribution from Bobby Bowling IV and the El Paso Fire Fighter's Association.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

EPCSOA Campaign Stunt

Sometimes I watch a story on TV and my eyes just roll in my head, but a recent story about Sheriff Wiles left me scratching my head.

Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) has sent a letter to commissioner's court to ask them to investigate Sheriff Richard Wiles.

Frankly it sounds more like the union wants the sheriff to do something that is impractical, inappropriate and probably illegal. I'll get to that later. Lets start with some context.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Officer's Association is all-in for Republican candidate for sheriff Tom Buchino. To date they have donated more than $10,000 to Buchino's campaign, which is the majority of the political contributions he has received. Even more if you count the individual members of the union that have also contributed to his campaign.

And that figure is just as of July. When the 30 day report comes out, the EPCSOA will likely make up an even larger portion of his campaign contributions.

Thats important context because now CLEAT is now trying to get El Paso County to participate in what is basically an overtly political act. In a letter dated October 12, 2016 CLEAT is calling upon Commissioner's Court to investigate Sheriff Wiles for violating an employee policy.

The reason you know its a political stunt from the Association is the fact that there exists no authority for the Commissioner's Court to order an investigation of anything. An attorney would know that. The Commissioner's Court has no law enforcement authority in terms of ordering or conducting investigations.


Most especially for an office policy. That Code of Conduct policy manual that they are asking the Court to intervene on also covers stuff like dress code, being tardy, missing JP court without an excuse, cheating on a spouse or person you're in a relationship with, using profanity, chewing gum and being rude.

Seriously, I'm not making that up.

So not only are they asking the court to do something they don't have the authority to do, they are also asking the court to essentially intervene on labor dispute issues, which is a big no-no. That would violate the union contract.

One of the ways that county government is different than city government is law enforcement. At the city, the Chief of Police answers to the City Manager who serves at the pleasure of City Council. At the county, the Sheriff doesn't answer to an administrator or to commissioners court. The sheriff answers to the voters of El Paso County and no one else.

Commissioner's Court has no role in investigations and its pretty scary that the union would be even asking for them to intervene in the first place.

Now if the union believes that a law was broken, they should know they have an avenue for a remedy. They simply need to contact the DA or any range of other law enforcement entities like the FBI or Texas Rangers.

So the question is simple. Why haven't they done so?

Well there are two answers. The first is simple, even they aren't alleging a law was broken. The second answer is that when you make a complaint to law enforcement to conduct an investigation they generally don't make it public.

However, sending a letter a couple of weeks before early voting starts to commissioner's court will get some media to bite and it helps the candidate to whom they have donated large sums of money.


Union Assertions

At issue is Sheriff Wiles' attendance at an event in a home in Tornillo. The home turned out to be that of Ricardo Hernandez, a community leader in Tornillo. Hernandez has a felony drug conviction for weed going back 21 years ago.

 There are some claims made by CLEAT and some union supporters on social media and the blogosphere that are shockingly inaccurate to the degree that you can't help but think they are purposely trying to mislead the public. First, the assertion that event was a fundraiser for Sheriff Wiles. I don't know of a fundraiser ever being held in Tornillo.


Like in the history of Tornillo.

No one has ever uttered the sentence, "You know where would be a good place to raise some campaign cash? Tornillo, amirite?"

The event was a community meeting. The very type of event he was being criticized for not attending on the Make Fabens Better Facebook page for a couple of weeks because the administrator of the page likens the crime rate in Fabens to that of Chicago.

Seriously, I'm not making that up either.

Is it fair to criticize Wiles for attending a community event in Tornillo instead of Fabens? Sure, if you feel Fabnes is more important than Tornillo then absolutely people should question why he went to one and not the other.

The second thing the Union and supporters have been asserting is that Wiles violated a policy that his own deputies have been fired for violating.

If that were true, how come the union can't come up with a single example of that ever happening? If anyone would know, its the union because it would be their job to fight that termination. Can the union produce a single example of that occurrence? Can anyone? Even you anonymous employee commenters. Do you guys have one single example of that ever happening?

Your lawyer alleges people have been terminated for violating this policy in his letter calling for an investigation.



The Policy

Lets take a look at the actual policy that the union is asking for an investigation to be ordered from a body that doesn't have the power to order an investigation in the first place, shall we?

That is the section referred to in the letter from CLEAT. Now the fact that the lawyer from CLEAT specifically mentions Mr. Hernandez's criminal record is an indication that they were specifically referencing 3(b). Other parts of this policy were referenced but are vague and don't mention criminal records, 3(b) is the only part of the policy that actually does.

Sidebar - I'd like to point out that the union's lawyer uses the phrase "widely disseminated over social media" as back-up for his assertions. Other things "widely disseminated over social media" include the fake death of Sylvester Stallone, pictures of a sick child or animal that try to guilt you into typing the word "Amen", and Facebook invites to events you aren't the least bit interested in attending.

Anywho, back to the policy...part "a" is so ridiculously broad that it should be reworked into something tangible. Frankly, I'm more upset at that part of the policy handbook than anything else because it could so easily be massaged into basically anything. You could really railroad an employee with that policy and the union should fight to get rid of that portion or reword it into something less vague.

Part "b" is the operative policy and its important to read the policy, you know, like lawyers are supposed to. I underlined two words that are really important to the policy. First, you have to have knowledge that the person you are associating with is in custody, on probation, on parole, or under indictment or bond for any felony. If you don't know, you aren't violating the policy.

I'll get to why this is so important in a minute.

The other operative word in that policy is the word currently. Mr. Hernandez's crime was more than 20 years ago, which is hardly currently.

Now, back to why the part about having knowledge of the aforementioned circumstances is a critical part of the policy. How would anyone have knowledge of given person's record? Well the only way to know would be to do a background check on the person. Essentially the union is advocating for the sheriff to run a background check on everyone he meets, stands next to at a public event, or is in the same restaurant with.

The Secret Service doesn't do that for the President. If POTUS decides to duck into a 5 Guys, no one knows anything about who is in that restaurant at the time.

Its completely impractical to run around doing background checks on people all day to see if they sheriff or deputy can interact with that person. Its also an improper use of tax payer dollars to waste all those man hours doing background checks on people just so the union doesn't have a reason to gripe. But I'd argue, its also illegal. You generally need to meet some legal threshold to even run someone's background.

We don't want a sheriff who will arbitrarily just look people up for no reason. We have personal liberties in this country and law enforcement doesn't get to invade our privacy without a reason.

The last line I underlined in blue is there because it shows that exceptions to the provision can exist and that the approving authority is...

wait for it...

the sheriff.

So I don't know that this policy would even apply to him in the first place. Especially because he's an elected official and answers only to voters.

By the union's logic, their own members that feed an online publication who's author freely admits to multiple felonies rumors and gossip, would be violating said policy. They wouldn't actually be violating it unless he was currently under indictment for a felony by the way, but you get the point.

The Person

The win-at-all-costs mentality of the union that is ultimately going to do more damage to the credibility of the union than anything Maruffo ever did when he was running the show is becoming embarrassing. Its one thing to blow union dues on candidates that have no business being in office like Dora Oaxaca, but its a whole other thing for the union to be disparaging a resident of El Paso County in the process.

I don't know Mr. Hernandez well enough to speak to his character as a person so I'm not going to defend him other than to comment on what is public record. Not "widely disseminated on social media" but public record. Hernandez has a felony drug conviction. I don't know the amount it was, but I know it was weed and I know he did a year in prison for it. So that means it was likely a very small amount of weed, but enough for it to be a felony.

He served a year in prison and got out and hasn't committed another felony since then, which is now more than 20 years. Hernandez has a home, I assume pays his taxes because I have no reason to believe otherwise, and votes regularly. Your voting record is public - you can't see who you voted for but you can find out when someone did and did not vote. Mr. Hernandez is a regular voter and has been for some time now.

When you have a felony, your right to vote is taken away. Only after you have completed your sentence are you able to go through the process to have that right reinstated. Mr. Hernandez has.

And he serves as a leader in his community. Having done a lot of work in Tornillo I can tell you I have seen Mr. Hernandez take a leadership role in a range of issues from school board to parks.

Essentially, Mr. Hernandez is the ideal ex offender. He stays gainfully employed, contributes more to his community than most people who have never gotten a speeding ticket, and participates in the electoral process and responds to jury duty calls like a good citizen.

Isn't that what we say we want out of people released from prison? I'm still trying to figure out why the union thinks a crime that was paid for by Mr. Hernandez more than a generation ago is more relevant to voters than an alleged assault by their candidate against another citizen after a car accident just a couple years ago.

I mean lets be real, its not like he was running drugs like a Gandara or something. And this is the guy that the union tries to vilify?

And lets talk about why this is even a subject in the first place...because some off-duty union officers got pissed because he took pictures of them and their vehicles in a public place at an event open to the public and confronted him about it. That is by CLEAT's own admission by the way.

Sounds like an intimidation tactic by off-duty guys against an old man because they didn't like him doing what he's allowed to do, take pictures in a public event on public property.

In conclusion, the union really messed up on this one and they are really trying hard to destroy any credibility they had left by this latest stunt. Commissioner's Court doesn't have the authority to order an investigation of an elected official, much less for violation of the employee handbook. The union's lawyer should've told them that they can go to another law enforcement agency if they think wrong-doing has taken place, they could even try an ethics complaint if they felt they had grounds.

But instead, they ask commissioners court to do something they don't even have the power to do and have never done before in order to score political points for their candidate.

This move wasn't just silly, its scary. We should be worried when law enforcement officers want the power to arbitrarily run checks on people.