Friday, August 19, 2016

Socorro Mayor, Rep At-large File for Reelection

Mayor Jesus Ruiz and At Large Rep Rene Rodriguez have filed to run for reelection. 

Both were elected in a special election to replaced the previously disgraced regime that was booted out of office by a judge.

Under their administration Socorro has seen unprecedented growth and millions of dollars in infrastructure projects that benefit the entire Socorro community. 

Under the Gandara regime project work was largely district based and when to supporters and cronies. 

Ruiz and Rodriguez spearheaded an initiative to allow the community of San Elizario to incorporate into its own city. The Gandara regime attempted to annex San Elizario and that ultimately led to the bribery attempt made by Jesse Gandara.

Gandara was convicted and sentenced to 10 years probation. He has appealed the ruling of that conviction with the 8th Court of Appeals who are expected to rule on the conviction soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The County Raise

Since there is a lot of misinformation going around I thought I'd finally chime in and explain a few things about the raise the El Paso County Commissioners Court gave itself recently.

First let me be clear about one thing. And I want to say it while I still have your attention because sooner or later one of you fools is going to screw this up, so here goes:

I thought the raise was too much at one time and should have been phased in. 

I underlined it and italicized it because you people have a bad habit of changing what I say to fit your own narrative sometimes.

Now let me hit you with some facts that some of you clearly don't understand.

1. There is no way the raise could have been voted on by the public. The ONLY way the Texas constitution allows a raise for commissioners, or any of the other El Paso County elected officials, is by vote of Commissioners Court. So for all of you saying it should have been taken to the voters, it couldn't have by law. You might want to stop demanding something that the law doesn't allow for. Especially if you are a City Rep like Cortney Niland. You just make yourself look ignorant of process when you call out another entity for something that you yourself actually want. In short, Commissioners Court doesn't have the AUTHORITY to take it to the voters.

2. El Paso was, and still is, the least paid commissioners court of the urban counties. Yes, that is true even after the raise.

3. There was an actual calculation that went into establishing the salary. They took the median salary of the urban counties and subtracted 30% to mirror El Paso's economy, meaning EP commissioner's make only 70% of the median salary of urban county commissioners courts. And that is AFTER the raise. By contrast, the city's process for establishing how much of a raise to give Tommy Gonzalez, which was more than double, close to triple the amount the commissioners got, was basically Rep Acosta calling some other cities and asking what they paid and then Rep Niland created a list of reasons why he deserved it. So at the very least, there was a method to how they established the number at the county.

4. Low salaries mean El Paso elected officials don't look like El Pasoans. This is an important point and it explains why our electeds don't reflect our population. When such an important job pays basically nothing, then the only people who CAN AFFORD to run are the people that don't need the money. That is not El Paso. So think about city council. You have mostly really old or really wealthy people who are making the decisions for everyone else because they are rich or have a pension. Of the members of council that aren't wealthy and look somewhat closer to your average El Pasoan, none of them even have children.

At commissioner's court you have a wealthy guy, a guy with a pension (those were the two no votes because they don't need the money) and you have two lower middle class guys and one upper middle class woman. And a majority of the court has minor children. Much more reflective of El Paso than the city which is essentially made up of upper-cruster elites and retired old people. For some on council like Cortney Niland, a raise just means a new Coach bag or Prada shoes, but for others it would make it a position worth seeking. Lower salary means less talented people vying for office. Look no further than El Paso City Council to illustrate my point.

5. The notion that there was no notice to the public is absolute bullshit. And frankly a terrible story on KFOX is partially to blame for putting forward this narrative. Commissioners Court publishes their agenda online. That device you're reading this on is the same device you can access the agenda. They are required by law to give the public 72 hours notice of any official action they take from closing a road to approving a raise. Also, the commissioners court has been holding hearings on the budget for WEEKS.

But I get it, maybe you don't have time to take off work and go sit in one of those meetings. Well, the County has a solution for that. They stream the meetings online you can watch from everywhere, including on the toilet where you are probably reading this post. But I get it, maybe because of work and other obligations you can't devote your entire day to watching the live stream because your boss won't let you or because you gotta get shit done. Fear not, the County has a solution for that too. The meetings are archived and you can go back and watch any or all of the meetings at your convenience. Now, if you choose to binge-watch Game of Thrones or Ballers instead of keeping up with your local government, well the County can't help you there. If the public didn't know its because most of the time they are blissfully ignorant and don't take it upon themselves to actively monitor their government.

Oh yeah, before I forget, the KFOX thing. There was a KFOX story done on this and one of the elements of the story centered around the ridiculous notion that the public didn't have adequate knowledge of the proposed raised. Despite all the methods of notifying the public I outlined earlier, the reporter from KFOX chose, of all things, County Judge Escobar and Commissioner Perez's twitter feeds as his measuring stick for public notice. He made the very dramatic point that neither of them had tweeted about the agenda item! Cue the Law & Order sound effect. The problem is, they never tweet about agenda items before a vote. Its not used as a notification system. They reporter just completely made that shit up out of the clear blue sky. Frankly, I think Escobar and Perez should grow a pair and call that guy out for it, but thats just me.

Bottom line is that with all the methods of notification that are utilized by the County, and the media attention that happened before the vote (that was actually on MONDAY, not last week, if someone didn't know about the proposed raises, its because they failed as a citizen.

6. Commissioners, after the raise, now make an amount similar to what the Fleet Manager and the IT Help Desk Manager make for the County. The County has done a great job of taking care of their employees which is why county jobs are so much more sought out than their city counterparts. Think about it, the County Clerk, District Clerk, County Manager, and almost every department head, who's budge the Court is responsible for, make more money than the commissioners. Significantly more. Even after the raise. Seriously - CONSTABLES have more more money than Commissioners. And there are just CONSTABLES!

7. Every level of legislative government has the power to either give themselves a raise or put it on a ballot similar to what commissioners court did, and what Congress does ALL THE TIME.

8. In the private sector, businesses pay more for better talent. Its part of business. You want the best talent available? Offer a competitive wage and give the talented people a reason to compete for the job.

More on the raises later...

Friday, August 12, 2016

Fun Family Fact

We all have that relative that we hate talking politics with, am I right?

I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a familiar name in a story about Trump's Wall. The reporter interviewed the Chair of the Hudspeth County Republican Party, Maria Guadalupe Dempsey.

The name might ring a bell to you as well. 8 years ago she ran as a Democrat for sheriff along with enough other candidates to field a little league baseball team. 

Dempsey was speaking about how she's pro-Trump and anti- immigrant in the story and underlining why she felt it was important to have a wall along the border. 

This isn't just interesting because she flipped parties or because she's from El Paso. It's also interesting because of who her daughter is...

El Paso County Democratic Chair Iliana Holguin.

Holguin is an ardent Hillary supporter and known and very well respected for her work in immigration law with the Diocese of El Paso and now in private practice. 

So you have a mother and daughter in neighboring counties that are both chairs of a political party - one Democratic and one Republican. 

In case you're wondering - I'm the relative that my family hates talking politics with. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

PD Twitter Feed is Open Again

I heard from a couple of city hall people that Tommy Gonzalez was pretty pissed at the Chief of Police for the whole Twitter-blocking caper.

Someone asked me earlier today if I was still blocked by PD and so I checked and it turns out, I'm no longer blocked. It'll be interesting to see how long that lasts. I bet there's an even chance I get blocked again today.

But the greater question for me is whether there is now a specific policy in place that makes sense and is a guide for PD Twitter account managers for future use.

Its a good thing that they ultimately started to unblock people. So if you are one of the many people that were blocked, you should check to see if you still are blocked.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Margo's Mayoral Miscue

El Paso has a history of electing old white guys. That isn't anything new for the Sun City.

Dee Margo's non-announcement announcement was typical Dee Margo. I want to announce, but not really officially announce. Essentially he wants to make sure that other people that the money guys might back won't get in the race.

Margo's a different animal and it doesn't surprise me in the least that there will be a desire to overstate his candidacy. So let me tell you some real problems for Margo that people are trying to gloss over.

First, lets talk about math. There aren't a lot of Republicans in El Paso. Sure, the municipal electorate is a bit more conservative in general than other elections, but it doesn't even begin to close the gap for Margo in a very partisan town like El Paso.

Wait, I know what you're thinking. This is a municipal election and party affiliation means nothing.

Hahaha silly goose. Its an entirely different animal when you're an old white guy who is KNOWN as being a Republican. He's been a Republican state representative for the westside and has a voting record. Do you guys not see how badly the GOP brand is going to be damaged by Trump's presidential bid? Are you guys seriously that out of touch?

So before you all get all excited over-stating Margo's chances, here are some important things to keep in mind.

#1- Margo has already lost on a race more comparable to the mayors race and he lost decisively. And that was BEFORE he had a voting record.

#2 - When Margo did win it was under the most narrow of circumstances in a gubernatorial year in a district carved out for him to win.

#3 - The westside votes at a higher proportion than the rest of town, but you'd have to be ignorant to believe that the westside alone carries any citywide race. Especially when you consider that...

#4 - Ted Houghton is also an old white guy. He would also do well on the westside. But for the sake of argument, lets say that Margo's name ID gives him the edge on the westside and he takes it 60%-40%. Thats only 60% of the vote on the mighty westside? That severely limits his chances because lets be do EITHER of them relate to people in the near east, far east, central, or the valley? I don't think either of them do that very well.

And don't underestimate the value of appealing to those parts of town just because you think they don't matter in election math. They do. Especially because the valley and central vote so solidly Democrat. You think they won't remember Margo? Shapleigh is also an old white guy. But he is a guy that can relate better because he speaks Spanish fluently. Houghton and Margo sound like bad Tommy Lee Jones impersonators.

And the two will duke it out over who the other rich white guys end up funding. That opens the door for a Latino candidate. But it has to be one that is universally liked considering we tend to be very tribal in the Latino community and it has to be someone who can likely self-fund a race or has a good household name.

Which leads me to the big rumor we have all been hearing but no one has really taken very seriously lately... Estela Casas.

Someone like her would be ideal because like Mayor Leeser, she's a household name and doesn't need to introduce herself to voters. She's relatable, Latina, bilingual, smart, poised, etc...

She'd win hands down. What's Forma gonna do, negative campaign Estela Freaking Casas?

No way.

Margo's big problem is what a lot of people in the GOP whisper but won't say aloud...he's not well liked. Its the Theresa Caballero rule of politics, before they vote for you, they must first like you. He's going to suffer the same fate as Steve Ortega. A big name everyone knows that the electorate doesn't particularly like (although I personally like Steve O).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bad Bid & Haggerty Haggles

If you missed the Commissioners Court meeting on Monday there was a dust-up which essentially was the Public Works Director's screw-up that led to a vote that Commissioner Haggerty never should have taken.

Before we go further you should understand that most people don't fully grasp that words like "corruption" and "nepotism" have to meet specific circumstances. But all too often the public throws them around incorrectly. That'll make more sense in a minute, walk with me for a second.

Here's the short of it, staff recommend approval of a bid that never should've been recommended because the Public Works Director Pat Adauto missed a major flaw in the process - the cost of transporting materials.

Public Works has some of the best employees I've never seen and worked with. Like any organization you have some that aren't stellar, but the vast majority are good employees. Somewhere along the line someone completely overlooked the cost of transporting materials into a bid and staff made a recommendation on incomplete information.

What followed was a big cluster eff of a presentation with county staff and department heads not know answers and contradicting one another. 

It was pretty embarrassing.

That mistake falls on the department head, Pat Adauto, who is supposed to review that stuff before it goes to commissioner's court.

Jobe was essentially pissed because they didn't get the bid and went to the meeting and raised hell about it. 

Jobe was right.

And since he was right, the court voted to go against the recommendation of staff, which is pretty rare in a bid because of all the structural solutions they have built into the process to avoid previous funny business.

The problem is that Jobe has contributed to every member of the court. Obviously they aren't required by law to recuse themselves just because of the contributions alone.

But members of the court can CHOOSE to recuse themselves if they feel there is an APPEARANCE of a conflict.

County Commissioner Andrew Haggerty not only has received contributions from Jobe, but his uncle is Jobe's lobbyist.

He should have abstained from voting. It's the small avoidable things like voting on an item like this that slowly chips away at public confidence. Especially because he didn't have to vote on it.

It's a little quirk of government most people don't catch, but the city and county vote differently on items. The city uses an electronic method and they all vote at once. The county does so by roll call vote and for whatever reason the order isn't 1,2,3,4 and then the County Judge. It's predicts 3,1,2,4 and then the Judge. Either way, Haggerty is always the last Commissioner to vote and already knows the outcome of a vote. 

The vote to go against staff recommendation was 4-1, with Judge Escobar sticking by staff's recommendation. No clue why, but she did. 

Anywho, the point is to rebid the contract, Haggerty didn't have to vote. He knew Jobe was a contributor, he knew his uncle was Jobe's lobbyist and he knew they had the votes to rebid. 

But he CHOSE to vote anyway.

Not illegal, but it does cause a reasonable person to question the need to vote on the issue. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lesser Not Seeking Reelection; Bring on the Crazies

So Mayor Leeser announced that he's not going to run for reelection and you can expect a big crop of candidates to come out of the woodwork.

I'll go into some of the names that have been popping up but that is a post for another day.

When there is a municipal election El Paso produces several "types" of candidates. The community candidate, the business candidate(s), the religious conservative, and the crazies.

I'm expecting a lot of the crazies and community type candidates to run this time. I hate to be the dream crusher, but most community candidates, and all the crazies should stay home and not bother.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a community Chicano/a type candidate run and win. But the problem is money and field.

You can win an election with a ton of money and no field, like how Niland beat Dagda.

But most community candidates don't have money to run. And it takes a lot to run a campaign because you need materials. As much as a lot of people erroneously believe, you can't Facebook your way to a win.

This is especially true of the crazies. How many times have you seen them run and never break more than a small percentage of the electorate? The answer is always.

Jaime O. Perez, has that guy every done anything significant in a campaign? He doesn't really even shape the debate in a meaningful way. Same thing for the Manny Hinojosas, Ben Mendozas, and Daniel Lopezes of the world. They aren't serious candidates but still run and ultimately accomplish nothing more than making a few fun blog posts. They almost never even offer concrete ideas. They usually just have a big word salad during their speeches and campaign by attending forums.

Since its an open seat, I think we are going to see more of these type of candidates that we have in the past.

And El Paso will not be the better for it. Although I will find it thoroughly entertaining.