Wednesday, January 28, 2015

American Flag in Canutillo

I'm just gonna rip the band-aide off.

Screw the Home Owners Association. 

Paint Reyes school as red, white, and blue as you possibly can. I have my issues with the former congressman but thats his community and he is a Vietnam veteran and a patriot.

In fact, Canutillo should man the hell up and make it a theme at the whole school. We need to stop bowing down to HOA's. Its ridiculous.

And before you crazies out there start talking about smart code, thats not the issue. Canutillo is unincorporated to begin with, but this is about an HOA gone wild. 

We aren't talking about an offensive image, we aren't talking even about a religious image being shoved down someone's throat. We are talking about the American flag. The same flag the kids whos parents run the HOA pledge allegiance to every weekday morning. 

Canutillo ISD better show some freaking backbone and not back down on this one. Its a public display of the American flag in a community that has a strong tradition of service. I hope every veteran's organization in the county shows up to support Canutillo ISD on this one. 

So Dan Longoria is in...

Word on the westside is that Dan Longoria, the Mattress Firm guy, is definitely going to be a candidate for city council in District 1.

Even with the domestic violence thing still out there he is apparently still going to run. He's loaded so I guess his assumption is that a ton of money will over shadow the other thing.

He may be right. I'm also told he's going to be a Forma candidate. So I'd expect them to roll out the wife and have her go to bat for him and talk about how everything was a big misunderstanding and that there's no problems in their marriage.

If thats the case, good for her and good for them. Family stuff is none of our business.

The question is, will voters buy it?

Put your money on "no'.

That race is gonna get rough. Forma likes to play rough, so they'll go on the attack. The other candidates are going to have to respond in kind.

Who loses? The family unfortunately.

And if a female candidate gets in the race, its really going to change the dynamic.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Former Diaz Campaign Manager is Mexican Congressional Candidate

Julio Diaz's former campaign manager is now a candidate for the Mexican Congress.

Alma Lopez-Molinar has been active in Mexican politics and with the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) for quite some time now. She is currently a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District of Chihuahua. 

The PAN is the Mexican equivalent of the Republican Party with a strong emphasis on Christian Conservatism as you can see echoes of the Party line in her Twitter account. 

No indication as whether she will return to American politics if her congressional bid is unsuccessful. 

Lopez-Molinar is currently seeking her party's nomination as the candidate for congress. It's similar to our primary election.

YISD - Good Intentions, Bad Execution

I know I seem to be on a rant about school boards lately and I certainly don't want this blog to become a blog about school boards. Politics is my thing and I'll keep it there. But school boards in town have a lot of horror stories going on and since they are the biggest part of the tax bill, well someone needs to keep an eye on them.

Ysleta ISD had an agenda item last week that was very well intentioned. They decided that instead of throwing out food, to give it away to the needy. Why waste it if its already paid for right?

I think we can all agree that is a good idea.

The only problem I have with the idea is the fact that I think the food should go to students in the district first. Arlinda Valencia, who heads the Ysleta Teachers' Association actually summed it up best. There are students in the elementary level that get a cheese sandwich for lunch if they don't bring their lunch money or if their families don't have money to pay the bill.

High school students in the same predicament frequently just go without.

Teachers have asked for the non-perishable left-overs to be stored in their classrooms so that they can give their students in tutoring a snack. Why that specific policy is not reversed right now is beyond me. We are tax payers, we pay for that food. There is no legitimate reason that excess non-parishables are not kept for kids in tutoring. Any parent with a kid knows that when a kid comes home from school, they first thing they do after tossing their backpack in the middle of the floor instead of putting it away, is head to the 'fridge.

From a policy perspective, that makes much more sense. Take care of our own first, and if there is any left after that, then give it away.

Congressman O'Rourke's Townhall

The Congressman's town hall has be moved due to circumstances beyond their control.

My guess is Bill Belicheat and Tom Shady had something to do with it.

Here are the new details:

Congressman Beto O'Rourke Town Hall Meeting
*Thursday, January 29, 2015*

General Town Hall
El Paso Community Foundation Room
333 North Oregon Street, El Paso, TX 79901
5 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Screwed in Tornillo Part 1

Tornillo ISD is the school district furthest away from a hospital in El Paso County. Tornillo ISD has gone without a school nurse the entire school year.

A Tornillo community member alleges the reason why is that the position is being held open for a particular individual to finish the nursing program at UTEP. The community member indicates that the individual in question is the spouse of the Tornillo ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Mesa-Chavez.

Her spouse is Dr. Jesus Chavez. If you recall, Dr. Chavez was the principal at Bowie High School during the now-famous cheating scandal at EPISD. Here's an article from the El Paso Times that should refresh your memory about Dr. Chavez.

According to this document, the Texas Education Agency filed a petition with the courts to revoke his teaching credentials.

The matter has not yet been resolved in fairness to Dr. Chavez.

I questioned the veracity of the claim because I assumed there are nepotism rules in place that would prevent such a hire. But I wanted to first see if Dr. Chavez was even in nursing school in the first place. I called Dr. Jesus Chavez to confirm if the allegations from the community member were true. Specifically I asked him if he was enrolled in the Nursing Program at UTEP.

"Uh, why is that important, or what?", responded Chavez. I explained that I was following up on a tip from a community member in Tornillo, to which he replied, "Uh, its just uh, I'm just not open to answering any questions. You can call my attorney if you want."

Dr. Chavez then hung up on me before giving me the name of his attorney.

Aside from the issue of who the nurse would be, lets discuss just how bad of a situation it is to not have a school nurse.

A common occurrence in schools, especially elementary schools, is an outbreak of lice. There are protocols to follow that the nurse has to implement to contain the spread.

An RN is also necessary because you need someone who can actually dispense medication.

Have a student who takes ADD medication to help focus in class? Sorry, no one to administer the medication.

Getting over an ear infection and have to take antibiotics a couple times a day? Sorry, can't do that either.

In an economically distressed community like Tornillo, the school nurse is often the extent of any medical coverage they receive.

I checked with an official with Life Ambulance who has the contract to provide ambulance service for El Paso County. They indicate that the response time is around 15 minutes to Tornillo from the time they receive a call.

The closest facility for medical care to Tornillo, Texas is located in Fabens, Texas. But that is just a UMC clinic. The closest hospital to Tornillo is Del Sol Medical Center and Sierra Providence East. Both facilities are about 30 miles away. That is a 1/2 hour drive without traffic, after the 15 minute response time. So in the case of an emergency, its likely to be about 45 minutes before the individual even arrives at a hospital.

It not only makes good sense from a policy perspective to always have an RN on staff, but its actually a requirement under the Texas Administrative Code [Title 19, Part 2, Chapter 153, Subchapter CC (a)(D)]. I won't bore you with the entirety of the language but you can look it up with the link I just provided, but essentially it says the district has to have an RN on staff who license is in good standing in the State of Texas.

The district currently has one Certified Nursing Assistant performing the functions of an RN position. The CNA covers all four schools in the district. The district currently has 1,276 students and 192 employees. The last school nurse left the district in June of 2014.

There is no contact information for any of the board members on the Tornillo ISD website so I was unable to reach them for comment at the time of this post as to why the position has remained vacant.

I submitted an open records request to find out how many applicants have applied for the position since last June and will provide an update when that information is provided by the district. This screen shot shows the opening but appears to have only been open since December 18, 2014. The annual salary range for the position is $52,664.00 - $70,983.12. There is no information available as to why the position was only opened in December 2014 if they have been without a school nurse since June 2014.

(NOTE: For the bilingually impaired, "tornillo" means screw in Spanish. Thus the title of this piece.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

City Council Rumor Mill

So there have been few candidates that have actually filed for the upcoming city council races so far, which is a huge mistake on their part.

I'm gonna assume that everyone on council wants to keep their job and will be running for reelection. 

Since no one has actually started a serious campaign other than the one person who has filed, there are a lot of rumors floating around about people who might be running.

Three names keep popping up. I've made attempts to confirm with them but was unable to reach any of them.  

In the valley the name that keeps coming up is Dr. Anna Perez. She'd be taking on Rep Claudia Ordaz who won last spring in a special election. Perez was formerly the interim Superintendent of YISD.

Rosa Arrellano is rumored to be considering a run for city council against Dr. Noe who represents the eastside on council. She runs the non-profit organization Dame La Mano.

Julio Diaz has hinted on social media that he may be a candidate for another office. He lives in district 1 on the westside and that is an open seat, so that may be a race Diaz is interested in pursuing. He recently ran for commissioners court in the area, so he's already walked the turf and voters already know him. That's a plus for him.

Speaking of district 1, Dan Longoria is also rumored to be a candidate. He owns the mattress firms in El Paso. When you google his name an arrest for domestics violence a few months ago is mentioned in an El Paso Times piece but the story is no longer available on the news site so there is no indication if charges were filed or if the case is still pending. The media will likely report the details once he becomes a candidate so you'll have more details then.

I imagine activist Rick Schector will also run but no one is really talking about him as an actual candidate yet.

EPISD Imperial Board of Managers

School closures is one of the main topics going on with the freak show that is EPISD.

No one is going to want their favorite school closed, but as one of my homies is fond of saying, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

I'm not going to delve into the school closures, but I do have two things I take issue with. Since I cover a lot of local government, I see a lot of public comment. People that serve on boards have a tool at their disposal to stifle public comment.

That should infuriate you as a member of the public. Boards are supposed to be responsive to the individuals that elected them. Unless you're a board that wasn't elected, so you basically can tell everyone to go fornicate themselves.

I will tell you this and its the straight-up truth. We should all be suspect of any group that screws with public comment unless they are making public comment longer or making a minor change to accommodate a large group of speakers.

EPISD's new Board of Imperial Managers has all but dissolved the Old Republic if you get my Star Wars metaphor. Public comment is now at the end of meetings. So they completely gotten rid of even the appearance that they give a damn what the public thinks. After action has been taken on their agenda items, then they allow the public, who ever has decided to stick around that long, to give public comment. should be asking why. Members of the Imperial Board, you should stop acting like you really give a damn about the community you're supposed to be serving.

I'll be I know why public comment was moved, which leads to the other thing I take issue with. EPISD has one of the biggest health care contracts in town. HUGE potential for profit for anyone in the insurance business.

EPISD Imperial Board of Managers is headed by Darth Margo...oops, I mean Dee Margo. Anyone remember what kind of business he's in?

Three guesses, but you'll only need one...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Demonstrating Gandara Politics

So little Jesse Gandara has been belly aching around Socorro and on his anonymous Facebook page everyone knows he runs, about how much he, and I assume the rest of G-Unit, hates the term Gandara politics.

So I thought I'd give an actual demonstration of what Gandara politics looks like and why it was so easy for the voters to kick him out.

First some background. I spoke to little Jesse after the debate in Socorro featuring all the candidates for Precinct 3 Comissioner's race a while back. I asked him who he was supporting and he wouldn't tell me but he did express to me his displeasure with then-candidate Vince Perez's coining of the phrase Gandara politics.

So I'll tell you what he told me. Since I recorded the conversation, I can tell you verbatim what he said. I guess little Jesse never really figured out how many people record conversations with him for their own protection. Well, he knows now for sure, lol.

"It sorta pisses me off. I mean he's painting my family with a broad brush. We all aren't corrupt like my uncle or my cousin."

Ironic and funny at the same time.

Remember a while back when I wrote about the forensic audit done by the City of Socorro? As I previously wrote, there was mention of the Public Works Director raising the issue of public dollar construction happening beyond the city's right-of-way. The audit says that when the Director raised the issue he was called by little Jesse and told that he wasn't to be involved in the project anymore.

Which is strange when you consider its the Public Works Director's job to oversee public works.

That's a big deal because municipalities are not allowed to use public dollars to improve private land. The forensic audit specifically mentions the residence of little Jesse Gandara having more concrete driveway construction than was intended for the public as part of the project.

So I was in Socorro the other day and happened to be driving near little Jesse's house. This is a perfect example of what Gandara politics means and why people area tired of it.

This picture is of little Jesse's house. You may recognize it from the news coverage of the raids by law enforcement on his property to collect evidence.

The red line shows the approximate right-of-way of the city. Public dollars cannot be expended beyond the city right-of-way. The red arrow points to a concrete slab that was allegedly installed using public dollars on his private residence.

That is a physical manifestation of Gandara politics.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Last Night's Socorro City Council Meeting

Last night's city council meeting was as fun as they normally are.

It was the first meeting that included Anthony Gandara, Socorro's newest member of council. His first agenda item and major policy push? The re-introduction of Mauro Rosas Park. Under the previous Gandara regime the council ear marked almost $2 million for the park. Even on the eve of being kicked out of office the previous regime was trying to push through some expenditures that a recent forensic audit called into question.

The new Representative Gandara used the same rhetoric to try to sell people on the park that the old Representative Gandara used, right down to sayings how people would "be able to see the rings of Saturn" and how the park will make people in Socorro smarter.

Essentially the agenda item the newest member of G-Unit was pushing would've been one giant do-over. After the old Gandara regime was vanquished, the clean council went in and reprogrammed a large portion of the money that was going to go to the park and directed it toward other projects.

Last December the current council went in and allocated $300,000 toward the park. But apparently that wasn't enough for Gandara. He was trying to bring up the funding back to the level allocated by his cousin Little Jesse.

Earlier in the meeting that city council had allocated some funding for street paving. Mayor Jesus Ruiz explained to Anthony Gandara that 180 streets in Socorro could be paved with the amount of money the Gandaras were wanting for the park.

And let's be clear about just where this park is located. It's not like this is a park off of Dindinger in an underserved part of Socorro. The park is next to a newer subdivision. Oh you remember the subdivision, it's the one that the Jesse Gandara council named all the streets after themselves. Interestingly enough, little Jesse had the longest street in the subdivision named after himself.

The park project at the more conservative funding amount would already be started if it weren't for the fact that the previous contractor that was selected for the project, who is allegedly a good buddy of little Jesse, closed its doors. He allegedly wasn't receiving as much work now that little Jesse was kicked out by the voters.

Once the agenda item was read, Representative Rene Rodriguez made a motion to deny the item. It was seconded and after discussion the item was voted down. Only Anthony Gandara voted in favor of the item.

Rodriguez explained that the commitment to the community was to focus on infrastructure first and then work on quality-of-life further down the road. "We owe it to our constituents to do the right thing and keep the money in infrastructure projects".

Representative Victor Perez explained to Gandara that focusing on a park when Socorro has so many infrastructures needs is like having a house that's falling apart and then buying a pool.

I was sorta expecting to see little Jesse at the meeting but he was not in attendance. His buddy Refugio "Fugi" Orta was there for a little while. But left a few minutes after I arrived so I didn't get a chance to ask him about Jesse or say hello.

The thing I was wondering the whole time was what was the urgency of having a budget amendment for a park? I mean I really enjoy the investment the city made in Bulldog Championship Park. My daughter loves that park and we go regularly, especially in the summer. But why couldn't this conversation take place during the budget session? What was so pressing that it had to be dealt with now?

So I asked Mayor Ruiz after the meeting.

Football Pools

I'll be brief with this one. While we are all for law and order, surely there is a better use of the sheriff's office resources than taking down the societal "scourge" of football squares.

I don't know too many people that don't participate in a little Super Bowl $unday fun. 

You can probably start in law enforcement offices, the county, the city, and every school district in town.

Good luck with that.

You're going to have to go after a big part of this town if you do so. If not, let's just be honest and say it's a witch hunt after certain people.

It'll be really interesting for all the folks that live out in unincorporated parts of the county. Those resources would really be appreciated in patrols out there. 

But hey, I guess $uper Bowl $quares investigations are a higher priority for the community...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

City of Socorro Fails to Comply With Open Records Request.

I made an Open Records Request with Sandra Hernandez of the City of Socorro.

She is the City Clerk. I made two requests. One requesting the video surveillance of the administration building. Since the public funds that system, I didn't think it was out of line to request the footage. I was looking for it because I saw Jesse Gandara go into the building with his cousin and I wanted everyone to see that they are aligned with one another.

I also made a request for the policy regarding signing in to the building. Gandrara just walks in like he owns the place. We the common folk, have to sign in. I wanted to see what the city's policy had to say about that.

The City has UP TO 10 days to respond to the request. It's been more than 10 days and I have received no answer from the City. Not even a denial of the request.

I called the office two days ago to see what the status of my request was and I still haven't received an answer.

Socorro needs to tighten up the screws... The public should not have to face difficulties in making requests.

What is Art Fierro Running For?

I've noticed Art Fierro (El Paso Community College Board) at a few events lately and it got me to thinking that he might be considering a run for another office.

He was poised to run for State Rep for HD75 a few years back and even had an announcement event. But redistricting put him in a different district and so he ended up not running.

Then I thought he might be gearing up for a run for city council. He lives in Lily Limon's district so unless there's a recall that race seems a bit far off. I wouldn't rule it out, but I think I figured out what he might be interested in.

Since he's been all over the place lately, both in and out of the city limits (mostly the valley), I'm guessing he's gonna run for something countywide.

Probably something like Tax Assesor Collector. Word on the street is Victor Flores won't be running again and may be looking to retire. If that's the case, it'll be an open seat. So maybe that's what he's thinking about.