Monday, January 31, 2011

Socorro vs. Horizon – Pipe Dreams

There was a hearing today for a case that sounds a lot like a plot to a movie.

Picture this:

A poor Latino community that is in the throws of an identity crisis trying to feel its way in the world and torn between being known as a city or rural community, takes a powerful, all-Anglo, utility district to court.

Sounds like a movie, but it isn't.

The City of Socorro and Horizon are locked in a battle over, of all things, waste water. Not for who gets it, but essentially who gets stuck with it.

According to the arguments made in court, here's how things transpired. In 2006 the Horizon Municipal Utility District (MUD), an elected board, planned for a $2.2 million expansion of their waste water project. In 2009 MUD applied for and obtained a permit to do so from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The project was to pipe waste water from Horizon through some county areas and the city of Socorro in to an area in Socorro and eventually in to the Rio Grande.

That's pretty much what the two sides agree upon. There is quite a bit of dispute from that point forward.

The city of Socorro says that Horizon MUD wants to pump their waste water in to an open ditch, technically called the Mesa Spur Drain, that runs through Socorro. They say its often used by children for swimming, farmers for irrigation, and many animals drink from the ditch. One member of city council in Socorro says that the ditch eventually empties in to the Rio Bosque, an environmentally sensitive area.

Socorro also alleges that Horizon MUD didn't follow rules and give the city of Socorro notification that they intended on piping their waste water in to an open ditch in Socorro, despite notification to El Paso County, the Lower Valley Water District, and Texas Tech, nor notify Socorro of their filing for a permit with the TCEQ. Socorro says because they weren't properly notified, they weren't given the opportunity to contest the permit at the state.

Earlier this year a member of the Socorro City Council and the Police Chief noticed a new cell phone tower out in an agricultural part of the city. The two went to investigate the new cell phone tower and went along a dirt road that is adjacent to a ditch.

On their way out, the found a couple of manhole covers in the middle of the desert. Upon further investigation, the ran across a few more manhole covers and an area with partially-constructed rock wall and there were cement improvements to the ditch. The concrete was meant to reinforce the opening where the Horizon MUD water would empty in to Socorro.

This construction was done within the city limits of Socorro, within the line of sight of City Hall in Socorro (about a half mile).

The proceeding held today was to hear motions for Summary Judgments from both sides in the case. They also wanted to argue three Motions to Strike. They essentially wanted to dump a few witnesses from the opposing side. Horizon wanted to strike the Socorro City Manager and another individual and the Socorro wanted to dump the affidavit of Jesus “Chuy” Reyes.

During the hearing, of which we are still waiting on a ruling, an interesting allegation arose. The attorney for Horizon MUD alleged, and I'm paraphrasing here, that Reyes' statement says that we was told by the Mayor of the City of Socorro, Willie Gandara, Sr. that four members of city council were conspiring in a scheme to get some money from Horizon.

The ditch is not lined or sealed and only has the concrete improvement at the opening of the pipe that would empty in to the ditch. The rest of it is just earth and the attorney representing Socorro said that the area has a high water table. Their argument that a high water table along with waste water being dumped in to an unimproved ditch is a bad thing for the residents of Socorro.
If the project comes online, it would empty about 3 million gallons of waste water in to the area per day. I interview Yuri Calderon, the attorney representing the City of Socorro in the case if the Spur Drain was capable of handling that amount of volume and he said, “We don't know. No one knows. It's never even been studied.”

Stay tuned, this one is going to be a pretty big fight...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Isela Castanon Williams' Fundraiser & Campaign Kickoff

Sorry this one was a little late, but I've been a little busy.

I've been to many fundraisers over the years in politics. El Paso fundraisers are usually pretty sad affairs. The real money in most campaigns doesn't come from people who show up to fundraisers. The big money guys prefer to donate in private.

But nonetheless they are still fun to attend because who how shows up, who doesn't, and all the info you can usually find out about.

Usually the fundraisers are a big flop and quite often, they end up costing the candidate more money than they raise.

But Isela Castanon-Williams, who is running for re-election to the EPISD school board had the most successful fundraiser in terms of attendance that I've ever been to. It was held at Andale's Restaurant on the Eastside and the place was packed. There was no room to sit.

She doesn't have an opponent yet, and judging by who was there to support Castanon-Williams, it wouldn't be advisable for anyone to through their hat in to the ring unless they have a few thousand dollars burning a hole in their pockets.

There were so many Democratic Party big shots there that I thought it might have been the Hall of Fame Dinner. Noteworthy Democrats from Queta Fierro to SDEC Don Williams to Ken Sutherland, to County Commissioner Sergio Lewis were all in attendance.

Truth be told, there were even several Republicans in attendance. Former City Rep Alejandro Lozano (who mumbled something that sounded like a cuss word to me, but who can tell with his accent. I cussed back at him just in case) Rene Diaz, Manny Hinojosa, and Zulema Lazarin showed up. I didn't cuss at the rest in case you are wondering.

Antonio Williams, Castanon-Williams son, was the host for the evening. He's away at Law School at Texas Tech, but when and if he decides to come back to El Paso, I'm hoping he runs for something because he's an intelligent and gifted human being.

One smart and well-spoke vato.

The evening was a big success and it wouldn't surprise me if his mother didn't draw an opponent.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blog Updates Coming Over the Weekend...

Wanna see a wrap up of Isela Castanon-Williams announcement and fundraiser?

Wanna hear which Latino elected official in town said they were supportive of UTEP's decision to eliminate Cesar Chavez as a holiday?

Which city council rep candidate is afraid to answer a few simple questions?

Which city council rep worked for a non-profit and got in trouble for losing a laptop and sending political emails from her work email address?

Find out this weekend on The LionStar Blog...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brooks Vandivort & a Big Rumor

Brooks Vandivort, who is a member of the City Planning Commission, has said that he was going to take the weekend to decide if he was going to make a run for city council.

Vandivort lives in District 1 and if he made the decision to run, it would be against City Rep Ann Lily who is the incumbent and Manny Hinojosa.

So whats the big rumor? Well its been going around in Republican circles that my co-host Greg Freyermuth would be running for city council.

Here's what I know in terms of facts.

Freyermuth has made no announcement to run for anything.

But I do know that he has received invitations from people in the business community to discuss issues important to them. Let's face facts people, business people tend to be conservative and Greg is El Paso's arch-conservative, so naturally he would be someone that they would like to have conversations with.

Stay tuned.

Eddie Holguin: The Running Man?

City Rep Eddie Holguin has an opponent that has confirmed she will be running against him. So I wondered what the incumbent had to say about having a challenger.

I called Holguin and started the interview by asking him what he felt about having an opponent in his upcoming re-election bid. “I think its great. I think anyone who wants to run should run.”

I asked Holguin what he thought about running against a Republican and he replied, “I think its great to have a Republican like Lazarin and a Democrat like myself run. The voters get to decide whether they want a Republican or a fiscally conservative Democrat.”

When asked about the fact that his opponent originally though she lived in another district and whether he thought it would be an issue to voters, Holguin's answer was “That's something the voters will have to decide on.”

Holguin reminded me that the official filing window hasn't even opened yet which is why he hasn't had an official announcement yet, but it appears his announcement isn't a matter of if, but of when.

Candidate Drops Out of Race in District 5

Omar Macias has dropped out of the District 5 race citing the fact that he is not living in the District at this time. He is currently in District 6 because he is house-sitting for a friend.

Macias says he's lived in the district for over 10 years but due to the fact that he is currently house-sitting, he didn't want it to be a distraction.

This is now the second candidate who originally wanted to run in District 5 but actually lives in District 6. Macias is not planning a run for District 6. The other candidate that didn't live in the district she wanted to run in, Zulema Lazarin, has announced that she will be taking on Holguin.

She may not be in the position to quit at this point. Sources at city hall indicate that she made an interesting revelation when she was on the 10th floor.

Apparently she revealed that she had to run because she had already recieved contributions. At the time she allegedly made this comment, she hadn't filed for a treasurer for her campaign yet.

I checked around with members of the GOP and several had confirmed that she received a check from a realtor who was enthusiastic about Lazarin's bid for city council (district 5 back then) at a meeting of the Greater El Paso Republican Women.

The departure of Macias from the District 5 race leaves Maria D. Mejia as basically the only candidate in the race so far. Mejia has sewn up some key supporters, has been to at least one neighborhood association meeting, made some calls, and will be doing some door-to-door campaigning this weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zulema Lazarin Takes on Eddie Holguin

Zulema Lazarin, former Secretary of the El Paso Latino National Republican Coalition has decided to take on City Representative Eddie Holguin for his positon in District 6, which is made up mostly of the Lower Valley and does have a portion of El Paso's Eastside. That's a decision that has several people, some in her own party in fact, questioning the decision.

Lazarin lives near the very upper boundary of the district.

I ran in to Lazarin at a fundraiser for a Democrat, Isela Castanon-Williams who is running for re-election to the El Paso ISD Board. Lazarin with sitting with her spouse and Manny Hinojosa, who is a Republican precinct chair and candidate running for District 1 against Ann Morgan Lily.

I wasn't expecting to see the Republicans there but since they are running in non-partisan races it makes sense that they would make the rounds at as many events as they possibly can.

In light of the fact that Lazarin was going to file to run for the seat in District 5 until she was informed that she doesn't actually reside in that district, I decided to check with Lazarin to see if she was going to run for the seat in which she does reside, District 6.

She said that yes, indeed she was going to be challenging Representative Holguin. I think its pretty much universally accepted that Holguin is probably the most conservative member of city council. They don't call him Dr. No because he likes to raise taxes and fees.

I wondered why a Republican would take on the most conservative member of city council. So I asked her that very question.

She replied, "Because its my time."

Not exactly sure what that means, but hey, I asked.

I checked around with several members of the GOP, including some in leadership, and they weren't exactly supportive of her candidacy, but they are not really in a position to stop her.

From The Lion Star Blog by Jaime Abeytia
Here are some of the concerns that her candidacy raises and she will have to overcome as the campaign advances.

#1 - In addition to filing this week, she also filed a modified reporting. The operative part of the filing is that section she signed that says, "...I do not intend to accept more than $500 in political contributions or make more than $500 in political expenditures (excluding filing fees) in connection with any furture election within the election cycle. I understand that if either one of those limits is exceeded, I will be required to file pre-election reports, and if necessary, a run off report."

I called her to ask about the report and if she intended to limit herself and she said, "After I sign it I realized what...I like to think big. By signing that paper I was thinking small."

She said she intends to correct the paperwork soon because she wants to be able to collect and spend more than $500.  So that issue will be fixed, but combined with the fact that she didn't know what district she lives in, it wouldn't surprise me if Holguin questioned her decisions during the campaign trail.

#2 - Why would a voter want to choose her over Holguin if they are both conservative. She can't really be more conservative on economic issues than Holguin? She can't be more liberal than Holguin and still call herself a Republican.  Does she try being socially more conservative than Holguin? Thats another tough situation because Holguin has really only had one controversial vote recently. The anti SB1070 resolution, which Holguin insisted wouldn't contain boycott language. So even when he's being liberal, he's being conservative. If you recall, I was critical of Holguin for the move.

That district isn't one that would be very receptive of an anti-immigrant message and there's not even an indication that Lazarin is anti-immigrant in the first place.

Holguin is lukewarm on the domestic partner benefits at best...something else I've been critical of. He voted to "respect the will of the people" on the ordinance and wanted to change the language of an ordinance that the Pastor Brown crowd was not supportive of, and they cheered for his changes to the language.

#3 Holguin will likely, and probably rightfully, hammer the fact home that Lazarin didn't know what district she lives in when she attempted to file. That means she's likely not voted in previous municipal elections. That makes it hard to ask for a constituent's vote if she's never voted in those elections herself. If she has voted in a municipal election, she would know what district she lived in, and its quite possible she may have in fact voted for Holguin in the past. (Note: Only Lazarin knows if she voted for Holguin, but it is possible to find out what elections she's voted in during the last few years, so I will track that information down and update you later).

The fact that she lives north of the freeway and most of the district is south of the freeway, and quite a bit different than the area in which she lives will also likely be a question in the mind of voters.

Does she know the district?

Does she know the needs of the district?

What are her specific plans for the district?

This might have been a pretty easy set of questions for her back when she thought she was running in District 5, but not that she's running in that district, voters may have real concerns about how much she knows the district and what specific plans she has as a candidate.

When I spoke with her earlier today she was on her way to a meeting for candidates. If its the same one the other candidates were at, then it was with a group of business people. She's likely answered their questions and I would assume that they are probably close to the answer's Holguin would give since they are both conservatives.

But, in a bit of good news for Lazarin, I don't think Holguin has ever won an endorsement. He always predicts the wrong winner in races, so if the pattern hold true, Holguin will lose if he predicts he will win. Just kidding.

On the brightside, its early and if she works really hard, who knows what can happen?

Rip Van Winkle & The El Paso LNRC

Apparently my buddy David K takes issue with the fact that I mentioned that the Latino National Republican Coalition has made an impact in elections in just a short period of time.

Of all the stuff I've said on my show that he could take issue with, considering he's a Republican and I'm a Democrat, I figured it would've been something of more significance, but oh well.

Let me just say that the LNRC has made an impact, more so, at least I would argue, than the other auxillery clubs in town. Maybe Senor Juice was busy with his own campaign to really notice but the group went from nothing, to being an established and contributing club in really just a matter of weeks.

The LNRC is a new group and it has allowed people that haven't normally participated in Republican politics in a meaningful way to contribute. David says they aren't knew, but since most of the members of the LNRC don't know David K, I doubt he can say that with any certainty. Plus, I know for a fact he hasn't been to any meetings, so I don't know how he would know who the members are in the first place.

Frankly, I've been to more meetings of the LNRC and I'm a Democrat.

Yep, Sammy's my homie. Probably one of the best friends I have in the world. Which is why we don't let a little thing like political differences get in the way of a friendship. I know that might be hard for someone who's spent time in the Beltway to wrap their head around, but there are people that are married that come from different political backgrounds pal.

As for Sammy's conservative credentials, spend 5 minutes with the vato and you'll see they are solid. He's wrong about almost everything, so there!

But don't take my word for it, ask around DK. I'll bet everyone in the GOP thats ever met him will vouch for his conservatism. Check with your Party Chair, some of the donors, Dee Margo and the rest of the candidates, the College Republicans, & the Republican Women.

He and the LNRC rolled up their sleeves and did for those guys. You are pretty much the only consipiracy theorists that things he's my "plant".

But facts are facts.

Their membership has played a key role in several campaigns.

They have spawned new candidates.

They have hosted the LT Gov, and Governor and several other Republican elected officials.

This is the one that is the most interesting, they have allowed people who haven't really had a chance to participate in a meaningful way previously, to participate in the Republican Party. Before the LNRC came along, the El Paso Republican Party looked like a collection of old, rich, country club or religious fundamentalist white people (for the most part).

Now they party has a presence in the Latino community that was non-existent previously. If the GOP ever wants to win seats outside of the westside, they will only be able to do so by convincing more Latinos to be Republicans.

Trust me, Sammy is better equipped to do that than David K.

Frankly, I don't understand the Republican on Republican crime going on, but it is fun to watch. Republicans, you have arrived! Now you guys are fighting with each other, who do you think you are, Democrats?!?!


The mother's of a couple of prominent El Pasoans have passed away recently and I thought it would be appropriate to pass along the information.

County Commissioner Anna Perez's mother passed away last week after having been ill for quite some time. Services were held on Monday, which is why there was a late start to the Commissioner's Court meeting and I am told that many of the judges from the courthouse were in attendance.

George Ybarra's mother has also passed. Here's an excerpt of an email announcement that was sent to members of the Democratic Party, along with information about the services.

"It is with a heavy heart that I deliver this message. My mother, Magdalena R. Ybarra, died this morning (1/26/11). "Maggie" as friends called her has run her final race. The services will all occur on Friday January 28, 2011. It all had to be done in one day because that was the only time available this week. Viewing will be from 9 to 11 am at Funeraria Del Angel Harding Orr, 320 Montana (corner of Kansas and Montana). Celebration Service will be at 11 am at the same location. Burial will be at Evergreen Cementary 4301 Alameda Ave.

Thank you all for your warm wishes and Beverly thank you for singing to my mother.

George Ybarra was the Director of the Unity 2010 Campaign, is an active member of various democratic clubs in El Paso.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Former Moody Staffer Now with Pickett

Amy Morales, formerly a staffer in Joe Moody's district office has landed on her feet following the November 2nd election.

She is now working in the office of State Rep Joe Pickett. Morales, a graduate of Texas Tech University is the Legislative Director for Representative Pickett and will be working in Austin during the legislative session.

Morales is also a founding member of the El Paso Young Democrats and has worked on campaigns for El Paso Democrats.

Quick Wrap-Up of Last Nights SOTU Watch Party

By Jaime Abeytia

My two favorite chants last night..."Farley, Farley, Farley" and "Fredo, Fredo, Fredo".

Last nights State of the Union watch party at the McCall center was a packed house and there were a few notables in the room. Representative Eddie Holguin (he was lost, he thought it was a Republican event. Just kidding.), Joe Moody, Eliot Shapleigh were the current or former electeds in the room.

Shapleigh sporting his trademark denim and UTEP hat had a somewhat awkward reunion with his former communications director, Claudia Ordaz, who is now the deputy press secretary for Congressman Reyes' office. If you don't understand why its awkward allow me to explain. Leaving Team Shapleigh to work for Team Reyes is like leaving the Yankees to play for the Red Sox. (I know, that things happens all the time now, don't even get me started on free agency, but you get the point.)

Jerome Tighlman, one of my colleagues at Talk Radio 1150am, who once considered running as an independent against the Congressman was in attendance, along with Victor Houston. I was surprised to see Houston there considering he talks more shit about the President than my Republican Co-host Greg Fryermuth and Hector H. Lopez combined.

Also in attendance were the El Paso County Democratic Party Chair Danny Anchondo and State Democratic Executive Committeeman Don Williams.

Surprise moment of the night: El Paso State Democratic Executive Committee Woman Yolanda Clay and Blanche Darley were not in attendance. Okay, I'm joking, its not a surprise, they never go to Obama events.

Other notables include Alfredo Longoria, President of the El Paso Young Democrats, Rebecca Robles of the West El Paso Tejano Democrats. I think her Vice Chair is planning on running against Ann Morgan Lily, but I didn't get her name. Doctor something or other. Jeannette Walker of Organizing for America and every other Democratic group in El Paso was there along with Xavier Miranda of El Paso Grassroots.

There was also a Republican who decided he was going to crash the event. Republicans seem to like the confrontational style, which is cool, but we don't crash their events. Anyway, it was the guy that's always bitching at city council because he hasn't received enough attention in life, Sal "Poor Man Walking" Gomez.

We played a fun game of coming up with alternate nicknames for him, I think I'll share them at a later date. The reason I mention it is because I thought it was funny that he sat in the front row, closest to the cameras in order to feed his need for attention and then went around begging the reporters to be interviewed. I was asked to be interviewed and he watched my entire interview so that he could go beg for an interview as some sort of rebuttal.

The point is, when the story ran it gave the impression that people at the event were divided about the President's message.

We weren't.

He's a Republican and didn't tell anyone, though I made sure I did.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

City Council Meeting is a Real Snoozer

David K is at City Hall right now and told me that the meeting is a real snoozer.

To back up his claim, he took this picture of a lady in the audience that is in the middle of nap time.

I don't blame her, without crazy people at council, it can often be like watching paint dry.

Potpourri Around Town

Couple of quick notes:

Omar Macias has made it as official as anyone can in terms of an election bid for city council in District 5. He filed paperwork for a treasurer for his candidacy. The other opponents, Michael Noe and Maria "Mayela" Mejia will presumably join him on the ballot.

District 5 will likely become a crowded race and expect voters to have a tough time trusting the candidates. After the last few years, voters will likely be looking for a candidate that they can trust with the office, not just in terms of integrity but with the intellectual tools to do the job.

State Democratic Executive Committeeman Don Williams lost his camera, allegedly in a cab though Danny Razo of the Mexican American Bar Association and the El Paso Young Democrats joked about an alternate theory, during a recent trip to Austin, Texas.

For most of you thats not a big deal, but for those of you who travel in political circles, you know that it was somewhat of a crisis for Don Williams and explains why you've gone more than 24 hours without a slideshow from Williams in your inbox.

Luckily he has replaced the lost camera and hopefully upgraded. He should, he's a big shot lawyer and can afford it, though his last one was a gift from one the political clubs in town. On a serious note, Don Williams makes it a point to take a picture of everyone who attends a given political event and then sends them out in a slide show. Trust me when I tell you, that is often a valuable resource because it allows you to see who was at a given event even if you weren't able to attend.

On a personal note, I was a little worried because I have often joked that Williams would be buried in a position holding his camera one day otherwise people wouldn't recognize him. Now that he has replaced the camera, he can still have an open-casket service.

Just kidding Don...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Norma Chavez is Still at the Capitol

Apparently former State Rep Norma Chavez has some extra time on her hands today and has spent the day at the Capitol in the House Gallery.

She has been there monitoring the day's activities for several hours. A staffer at the capitol says she's been sitting by herself most of the day playing with her cell phone though she was seen speaking with Moises Bujunda for a short while in the gallery. He's a lobbyist that is originally from El Paso.

Word around the capitol is that she was shouting (presumably greetings) to members on the floor from the gallery, though there is no indication if the House was in session at the time. See Republicans, Democrats can break decorum in the House too!

No one was surprised that she was in attendance for the opening festivities but a few legislators have made some comments about Chavez's day-long visit. Some remarked that it was "sad", some just laughed, and others joked to particular members to just keep moving because its harder to hit a moving target.

I spoke with a rep from San Antonio and a rep from the Valley, who asked not to be identified, and they said it was very unusual that a former member spend the entire day in the gallery.

Maybe she does't wanted to see how things were going but it is an indicator that she is still interested in state issues. The question is her motivation.

Is it because she wants to be a lobbyist?

Is it because she's a wonk and just loves politics?

Is it because she might consider another run for her old seat?

Stay tuned.

I can confirm one thing for sure though. She wasn't wearing a trench coat holding a boombox above her head.

The Golden Parachute

Like I said before Gary Larcenaire's contract isn't all that big a deal with me. I think we should be paying a competive salary because we deserve the best talent out there.

But there is one part that I think is troublesome and hopefully their board will re-examine it, or better yet, perhaps he will ask to have it changed himself.

There is a claus that Larcenaire gets paid big money if he is let go, even if its for a felony.

I know he would never do this, but for sake of argument, what if he were to someday be involved with embezzlement? Again, not alleging this at all, just trying to examine a potential sticky situation.

So if he one day, hypothetically chose to go down that road and was fired for it, wouldn't he in affect be getting paid for the transgression?

Just wondering...

Cortney Niland Making All the Right Moves

Cortney Niland, candidate for the seat that will be vacated by Beto O'rourke and who is celebrating a birthday today, seems to be doing all the right things so far, despite being “too busy” to answer a few questions about her platform and candidacy.

But like I said, I'm sure I'll get a chance to ask some questions of substance along the campaign trail, perhaps at a forum.

She tossed her hat in the ring early. Right move.

She apparently has associated herself with two skilled political operatives in Mark Smith and Rick Armendariz. Right move.

It now appears that she will have the financial backing of two big Republican donors, Woody Hunt and Bob Hoy. Let me clarify what I mean by Republican donors. They are donors who are Republicans but they frequently donate to Democratic candidates and don't exclusively fund Republicans. Sources close to the two have indicated that they intend to contribute to Niland's campaign.

Its early, but Niland appears to be ready to hit the ground running when the actual campaigning starts.

Again, its early but Niland looks like she's going to be a real candidate. Really wish I knew what she stood for and what her platform is though...

Republican Congressional Wanna-Be Raising Profile

The Republicans aren't exactly competitive in many races and that has led to some pretty interesting and eccentric candidates over the last couple of years from the El Paso GOP.

But there are plans in motion within the Republican party to have more party discipline. Personally, I think its a little too Big Brother for me, but the GOP doesn't like having absolute control over candidates and circumstances. I understand their argument too, they aren't very competitive and certainly want to save their powder for winnable battles.

So when a member of the College Republicans took Tim Besco to task during a candidate forum near the end of the general election campaign season, he was “spoken to” about it.

Apparently there has also been some discussion about people that they don't want to see run for office again under the GOP banner like Tim Besco, Dan Chavez and Jaime O. Perez. I think that's a mistake for two reasons. Number one, in the long run some people will rebel against that much control over who can and can't run. That's going to turn off some people and they aren't likely to remain silent. The other reason its a mistake is because the future viability of the El Paso Republican Party, and possibly even nationwide, is having active participation by Latinos.

I don't know if Barbara Carrasco's name has been added to the Do Not Run List, but in my opinion, they might want to add it.

Carrasco is a member of the El Paso Latino National Republican Coalition, which is a group that has probably made the biggest splash in the last round of elections of any political club in town. She has deep pockets and owns a business here in town. She's not afraid to spend her money on political causes either. In addition to a few political contributions, Carrasco has also shelled out some big feria for billboards along I-10 during the last election.

She also believes that carpet-bombing the El Paso Times with letters to the editor will matter, but nonetheless the Times seems to publish them on a regular basis.

Carrasco has stated in a few circles that she would like to run for Congress. Her letters to the editor published in the El Paso Times will be great resources for people to get an idea of what she's like. Point blank, in my opinion, she's pretty much a right-wing extremist with all the credibility and viability of Tim Besco.

The letters to the editor will ultimately hurt Carrasco because it will be hard to walk-back some of the comments she's written.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Napolitino to Visit El Paso

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will be in El Paso at the University of Texas at El Paso on Monday, January 31 at 10 a.m. MST. Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks on the Department of Homeland Security’s southwest border security efforts. The event is open press.

“Communities such as San Diego, El Paso, McAllen, and Brownsville are safer than most American cities due to outstanding law enforcement work and the dynamic border security strategy in place at the federal level,” Congressman Reyes said. “Secretary Napolitano and other top administration officials have made it a priority to visit the border region often and engage the community to enhance our border security efforts. I look forward to joining Secretary Napolitano once again, as we continue working to address the many complex issues facing our region.”

Congressman Reyes and Secretary Napolitano will be joined by UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio at the event, scheduled to take place at Magoffin Auditorium on the UTEP campus.

Big Story Tonight with Political Implications

There's going to be a story airing tonight that will have some pretty interesting and potentially big political ramifications.

Keep an eye on the news tonight and by Sunday it will likely be all over the place. Just a heads up.

Homegirl of the Week / A-Hole of the Week

Its been a while since I've given these awards but I think its time to start again. This weeks Homegirl of the Week goes to Ouisa Davis. She wrote a great column in today's edition of the El Paso Times about Cesar Chavez.

This weeks A-hole of the Week Award is a tie between City Rep Carl Robinson for having the worst voting record on social justice of any rep on council while having the nerve to talk about being discriminated against, and every Latino elected official in town that has been silent on the exclusion of Cesar Chavez Day as a holiday at UTEP. Not only did many of you go there, teach there, etc, but as Latinos they benefited from the trails blazed by Cesar Chavez. They have a unique responsibility to be a voice for our community. But then again, it should come as no surprise becuase they don't even attend the Cesar Chavez march!

I'd name them all by name, but that would take too long. Its every single one at every single levels of government in El Paso. You people know who you are.

Honorable mention to all those who aren't Latino but believe in social justice and have been silent on the UTEP Cesar Chavez issue.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's All in the Numbers

Sources in City Hall indicate that Zulema Lazarin, former secretary of the El Paso Latino National Republican Coalition intended to file candidacy papers to pursue the office being vacated by City Rep Rachel Quintana.

Her desire to pursue the office was also written about it in my homie Sammy C's blog a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, according to multiple sources at city hall, Lazarin couldn't file to run for District 5. Turns out there was a little problem along the way for Lararin...she doesn't live in the district.

Lazarin in fact lives in Representative Holguin's district. According to sources she spent some time on the 10th floor yesterday after finding out she lived in the wrong district.

There was no indication as to what she was doing but I'm told she was in the Mayor's office and Representative Holguin's office. I don't know for sure, but I'm betting she went to inquire with Holguin if he intended to run for re-election.

Lazarin was in the building after 5pm, so its likely Representative Holguin was not in the building at the time.

In a related development, former assistant to City Representative Steve Ortega, Mayela Mejia, also announced her candidacy for the seat being vacated by Rachel Quintana. Mejia previously ran for the office but was among several candidates that lost to Quintana.

Mejia made her announcement at a restaurant Wednesday and resigned her position with the city as of last Thursday. Mejia ran the office of District 3 following the resignation of Alejandro Lozano when he chose to run for Commissioner's Court and prior to the election of Emma Acosta.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Refreshing Change

So the Governor was inaugurated today. The session starts soon.

I noticed something I haven't hears around here in a long time...peace and quiet!

So far, we've been spared the infighting and turf wars that made our community the joke of the state in previous years.

No ridiculous photo ops and fake ass press releases feigning unity when there really isn't any.

I'm glad to see that it looks like things are getting better in terms of how the delegation gets along. Its a sad commentary on previous delegations that we've ever had to make that observation.

Plastic Bag Ordinance is Stupid & Punitive

Wow city council. Way to show some moral courage.

Turn your back on mental health, but take a firm stand on disposable plastic bags. Way to make a political stand and be focused on what's really important to this community. I'm glad that city council put aside the trivial stuff like mental health in order to focus on the most important issue to El Paso, the evil scourge of plastic bags.

I hope city council starts a Plastic Bag Awareness Month. Maybe we can find some ecologically friendly material to make commemorative ribbons as a reminder of how vigilant we must be to combat the various evils of plastic bags. We must combat the convenience of plastic bags. We must stop the poor from saving the bags and re-using them for a range of other uses. We should not let that happen!
In fact, the ribbons should be white, just like most of those cursed bags!

Okay, if you haven't caught my sarcasm, let me just end with this. I hope people pay attention to some of the decisions of city council and start making decisions accordingly. They turn their back on the mentally ill of this community but want to take on plastic bags?

This tax they want to impose will be passed on to customers. Poor people feel the affect of these taxes to a greater degree than anyone else because it makes up a significantly greater part of their income.

Way to watch out for the little guy city council!

Pa$tor Brown and Discrimination

He's irritated and doesn't want people to know the truth, his crusade against domestic partner benefits is a manifestation of discrimination.

Its also interesting to point out that the good pastor knows that people will not be inclined to vote against equality or vote down a charter amendment that mandates equality.

I can't help but think about the fact that yesterday was Martin Luther King Day and I am reminded that he was a man of God who fought for equality. Fast forward to this century and we see Pastor Brown, a man of God his is fighting against equality.

Carl Robinson & Equality

Again, more comments on the reflection of Martin Luther King Day. On Sunday, the Times got a quote from City Representative Carl Robinson about a food drive in observance of MLK Day.

I think its admirable that Carl Robinson, who has been doing this since before he was elected, spearheads the operation. I like that he has framed it as a day of action.

But let's be honest here. Its not like Representative Robinson has the best record on social justice issues since he's been on City Council. In fact, he has the absolute worst record on social justice in terms of his voting record. Martin Luther King, Jr began the civil rights movement and the struggle for social justice.

When we say that we honor Dr. King in our actions, then we must be complete in that sentiment. That means not only feeding the hungry in Dr. King's name, but it also means being on the right side of social justice when you are one of the few privileged to be in a position of being able to cast a vote that has the impact that his votes against social justice have.

Robinson voted against the resolution in response to Arizona's SB 1070 and he has voted against domestic partner benefits. What's worse is that he refuses to comment publically on his reasons why.

I find this very disappointing about Representative Robinson.

Perhaps another King, Coretta Scott King, says it best. “I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance, and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.”

She further stated on an other occasion, “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity, and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all to easily to victimize the next minority group.”

If you still aren't convinced, please ponder the following quote from Martin Luther King, Jr himself.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Escobar, Ortega, & Larcenaire Debate MHMR

What the hell city council? Okay, not all of you, but post of you!

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy, when people are finally understanding the need for improved mental health care, you people decide to pull a Pontius Pilot and wash your hands of mental health?

Last night Darren Hunt of ABC 7 Extra hosted a great conversation between County Judge Veronica Escobar, City Rep Steve Ortega, and Gary Larcenaire of the El Paso MHMR.

Essentially the city of El Paso has decided that mental health care in El Paso is a broken system. I don't think too many people would debate that fact. But rather than endeavor to being part of the solution, the city has said they want to walk away from mental health and would just rather pay $100K a year in chump change (guilt money).

Larcenaire says that for every dollar that is put in to mental health resources, that saves $23 later.

Ortega makes a good point about dispersed accountability and government agencies. Its' hard to argue against his central point that government agencies that are shared responsibilities with more than one entity in charge tend to be the agencies with more problems. But I take issue with the city walking away and paying $100k a year in to the pot. PD will likely use more than $100k a year in responding to cases in which MHMR could be a big benefit.

Representative Ortega, why haven't you guys tried to fix the problem? Even worse, if it is as broken as you say it is, what the hell are you doing dumping more money in to it then? That completely undermines your argument.

Know what else undermines your argument? The fact that you and other members of council seem so passionate about fixing the drug problem and don't mind sticking your neck out or furthering the dialogue on the examination of legalization of drugs while at the same time walking away from MHMR when we are in a mental health crisis.

That is a little too Marie Antionette, “let them eat cake” for me Representative Ortega.

County Judge Escobar I think got sucked up in to a separate and less-important debate. I think contract of Larcenaire is a separate discussion. She made the point of explaining that how the contract was done was something that bothered her, which is certainly worth looking in to, but the amount of the contract really shouldn't be the issue. We all agree that MHMR issues are at a critical point, but now we are talking about doing it on the cheap?

You get what you pay for in terms of talent. Good people don't work out of the kindness of their hearts and a competitive salary is ultimately good for EP MHMR. It ensures that we have the best talent money can buy, and it puts Larcenaire further on the hook in terms of accountability. Now we can tell him, look pal we pay you a lot of money and we expect proportional results. If we don't get it, hit the bricks and we'll find someone else who can.

If there are issues about how it was done, secrecy, etc, then fine, we should deal with that in a public and transparent manner. But it shouldn't be the driving conversation about mental health when we have reached a crisis to the degree that we have.

Sidebar #1

Larcenaire came off as a total slick politician during the discussion about his salary. That immediately makes me suspicious, but if he gets the job done, I frankly don't give a shit what he makes. But for God's sake, take away the stupid allowances. Pay for his own gas, etc. Give him a competitive salary and get us off the hook for the silly extras.

Sidebar #2

I think its great that you have two people who are close friends, debate opposite sides of an issue with passion and vigor. The progressives have a lot of haters out there, but of all the factions in town, only that team could debate issues and it not affect personal relationships. That is how politics should be in this town, instead of all the bullshit infighting.

I bet when Steve was the Master of Ceremonies for Vero's inauguration on New Year's Day that he didn't think they'd be on opposite sides of an issue just a short couple of weeks later.  

Pa$tor Brown'$ Late$t Book

Wow, Pastor Brown has a book signing over the weekend. I'm so shocked by that. Yes, that's sarcasm.

Does it surprise you that the good pastor would like to make a little money out of his notoriety? If it does, it shouldn't. All you have to do is check out his website and you don't have to look hard to see the For Sale signs. In fact, on the home page alone, you will find more references to what is for sale, rather than references to God. 

Go ahead, check, I counted. 

I don't care that he wants to make money, I just find it worth a discussion that he appears to want to be WEALTHY off of it.

It also reminds me of Jesus' righteous anger towards the money changers. The Gospel of John says that Jesus was so angry that he said, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"

The bottom line here is that if he is in the business of peddling wares, then free positive press is in his best interest. If you know you are releasing a book soon, I bet manufacturing something you can get some free press out of sure wouldn't hurt book sales would it?

From what I am told, it appears that Pastor Brown's book sale didn't go so well and his eastside book signing was cancelled. According to the Barnes & Nobel staff, it appears there were more people demonstrating against Pastor Brown than books he actually sold. 

Ironically, Barnes and Nobel will be participating in No Bullying Week later this month with authors and book selections. 

Apparently Brown is now trying to rebrand himself as almost a modern-day martyr. It appears the Pastor is talking up needs for security, particularly at his last book signing. Interestingly he's not really articulated where that supposed need arises from. 

Is he afraid the gay community is going to do him harm? Is he mocking hate crimes? Quite frankly, I think Pastor Brown's starting to show a little desperation these days.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Victor Houston's Hypocrisy

Victor Houston, alleged Original Black Panther apparently knows no bounds when it comes to hypocrisy. After having the nerve to say we need to remember that words have power (said the guy fired from talk radio because of inflammatory remarks) he called in to the show this morning and said something I found equally ignorant.

He said is this "the beans and rice show"?

Give me a break!

Imagine what his reaction would've been if I'd made a similar remark about food and his culture?!?! He'd shit his pants.

How does a guy supposedly join an organization that advocates against people disrespecting his people turn around and make such an ignorant statement?

But it gets better. I guess he thinks that I don't stand up for the "left" as good as he thinks I should. Well, I'm a Democrat and I stand up for those values. Houston is a Communist or Socialist or something like that. I don't subscribe to those ideas and so I don't have to defend those ideals. Why in the hell would I defend something I don't believe in?

And its not like Houston is consitennt in his beliefs either. He supposedly fights against bigotry...unless he's making bigoted statements and unless its toward gays, and then his religious conservatism kicks in.

UPDATE: The captain of conspiracy fantasy world called in to another show and started talking about Cesar Chavez. Dude, light up more of that special medication you use and drift off because you are the last vato that should be talking about Cesar Chavez especially after your beans and rice comment this morning!

POTUS & Palin

Wednesday was a tale of two messages. In the morning, Sarah Palin released a free pre-taped message with all the dignity of a middle-of-the-night injury lawyer's television commercial. Despite the Tucson tragedy and the fact that she has removed controversial images from her Facebook page, Palin has decided to stick with her guns on the rhetoric.

Rather than take this opportunity as a chance to step back and reexamine the political dialogue in the country, she'd much rather stick her head in the sand and pretend that there's nothing wrong.

She actually went in the opposite direction and made her now infamous anti-Semetic remark about blood-libel. She either did that purposely as some sort of sick grab for controversy and attention, or she is ignorant to the meaning of the phrase. Bet she understand that words have power now!

The main thrust of her message was one of defensiveness and division.

In the evening, the President gave a stirring and dignified speech that moved America forward and was an attempt to unite our country.

I'm Not Buying It

I'm not taking sides in this one because I'm not exactly a member of either's fan club, but I'm not buying my buddy David K's last piece about the Ballad of Charlie Garza.

Yes, I agree that Garza's sudden move to jump in to the middle of the personal beef between Eliot Shapleigh and Dr. Garcia is ill-advised and no, I don't see a benefit to Garza in the move. I have sort of come to the conclusion that Garza just wants to take the bull by the horns to make a name for himself and set the tone of his administration.

And maybe, just maybe, he thinks it will help him in the next election win some more votes in El Paso. It won't, but its a good try nonetheless.

But the Juice's notion that he's doing it to get in good with Garcia so that Garcia can make him a superintendent somewhere else doesn't make any sense at all.

He's a member of the State Board of Education with credentials to be a superintendent. If he wanted to take advantage of a situation to get a better gig, don't you think he's better position to do that all by himself as a member of the SBOE? I'm not sure I understand how DK thinks that a superintendent with a fair amount of baggage of his own somehow has more stroke than an SBOE member in terms of finding a job with a district? At some point, they will probably compete for jobs, I don't see Garcia being Garza's meal ticket.

Plus, Garza lives in my part of town and has a young child. It's doubtful to me that he would just pick up and take a job in another part of the state for sake of career advancement at this stage of his career. He's retired military and seems to be doing fine in his second career right now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are You Kidding Me Part II

This one isn't about Theresa Caballero.

I was listening to Jerome Tighlman's show the other afternoon and I heard something that again, almost made me spit soda on my computer monitor.

Victor Houston, who touted himself as an Original Black Panther, called in to admonish people about the intensity of their political rhetoric. He said that people need to remember that words have power.

This is coming from the vato that lost his show because of what he said about police officers!

Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Low Down on City Council Candidates (So fFar)

As we continue in this election season, more and more people are starting to throw their names around for consideration as candidates, let me give you a quick summary of what I now about the candidates that are in the hunt (so far).

District 1 – Ann Morgan Lily is the incumbent. She's filed for re-election. You basically know her already. Her only opponent so far is Manny Hinojosa. He describes himself as a “watch dog” but its unclear what he's watching other than the Domestic Partner Benefits issue. He's a minister, but not a very strong speaker as ministers go, which is a shame because his opponent isn't the greatest speaker either.

Hinojosa has a bit of a temper and is sometimes prone to getting frustrated. He's also pretty defensive so if someone turns up the heat on him he's likely to give us a little entertainment. I've had discussions with Hinojosa, mostly about the Bible, but we've also talked a little about policy. I think he should hit the books for a while and get up to speed on issues and develop a stronger understanding of policy before he ventures in to public forums. He's a reasonably intelligent guy and if he hits the books hard he might do okay in a candidate forum.

One small problem with that though, campaigns in El Paso are rarely won or lost in a candidate forum. Hinojosa has to develop a base of supporters along with some financial backing in order to be competitive. Despite the fact that he's a Republican Party Precinct Chair, he doesn't have much direct experience with campaigns so he better surround himself with people that know what they are doing and can run a campaign. If I were him, I'd get on the phone with the college Republicans. Except the College Republicans aren't really to into the whole Jesus thing to the extent that Hinojosa is and his tendency to get frustrated easily may also be an issue for the College Republicans, especially after the Besco meltdown. He better play nice if he's going to court them because they don't take anybody's shit just because they are College Republicans.

District 5

Quintana's not running for re-election. A doctor, Michiel Noe, has filed to run, but I honestly don't know much about him. He's a doctor, so one assumes he has a little dough and that alone will be helpful in a race that will likely be a crowded field. But the eastside doesn't vote very strongly and so the question will be if there will be more candidates than voters!

From what I can tell, I don't think he has any measurable political experience in town, so there will be questions left unanswered about experience, political savvy, knowledge of grass roots campaigning, and oh, what his platform will be.

Omar Macias is a former Customs and Border Patrol employee who is considering the run. After retiring he opened a business and has some pretty well-rounded experience. He looks good on paper so far, but has limited campaign experience, which isn't necessarily a deal breaker in city races given the low voter turnout. Resources and organization will be something he will have to solidify pretty soon as the race starts to kick up.

Once I know about positions and platforms of all the candidates, I'll fill you in.

District 8

Jorge Artalejo is going to run. He is a perennial candidate and will likely take the bus to all of the forums and not do any real campaigning. He'll sputter something about leadership and taxes, but won't ever gain any traction, put up a sign, or knock on any doors. He will get the lowest number of votes in the entire election.

The other two candidates are interesting prospects. 

From The Lion Star Blog by Jaime Abeytia
Courtney Niland is known for charity work on a range of causes. Very admirable. Most people talk about doing charity work, she actually does it. Good for her. I'm told she's pretty progressive, but in all fairness, the people that told me that were all Republicans so that might be a relative term.

I tried very hard to reach her and called and text messaged her several times so that I could get to know more about her candidacy, what she thinks about CO's, eminent domain, annexation, and all the other city issues, but she was always “too busy”. But I'm sure I'll catch up with her at some point on the campaign trail.

From what I can tell, it looks like Rick Armendariz and Mark Smith will be helping out on her campaign. Maybe they'll get in to the win column for city elections because they have had a pretty bad run of luck in a few of the races. If memory serves one or both worked with Naomi Gonzalez, Jimmy Suerkin, & Gus Haddad in their recent to semi-recent bids for city office.

But they are fresh off of a big win with Dee Margo and their experience in that part of town will be pretty valuable to Niland.

From The Lion Star Blog by Jaime Abeytia
Ernesto Villanueva is the last candidate in the District 8 race. For Niland and Villanueva, they will have to start kicking things in gear soon because despite the fact that he's going to lose, I think most people in political circles know Artalejo's name more than theirs at this point. But that's really easy to over come.

Villanueva has been involved with the street car initiative and downtown revitalization and is a bit of a political novice, but has started to be involved in more and more city initiatives so he's about as seasoned a campaigner as anyone else in the races so far (that isn't an incumbent). He'll need to out-hustle his opponent. Niland, through her charity work, is used to raising money and has Armendariz and Smith around to help with the other stuff, so Villanueva has to start wearing out some shoe leather if he wants to pull off the win.

Niland and Villanueva are both pretty young and dynamic. Villanueva has the (somewhat) advantage of being bilingual.

Okay, that's it for the intros of the candidates so far. I'll get back to this once I get a chance to talk with the candidates and ask them about actual issues. 

Stay tuned.  

Charlie Garza & Eliot Shapleigh

Generally you don't see elected officials other than governors and presidents use their investiture as an opportunity to make a long drawn out speech about policy or tone of their administration.

Charlie Garza has visions of grandeur and treated the event like he was just elected to congress. I guess I can understand why. He's tried to run and usually loses, but he chose a Republican district to run in this time and he was finally able to win this time. So of course, he treated it like it was being enshrined somewhere.

As far as speeches go, it was one of the most boring I've ever heard, and that's saying a lot because I have heard some really bad speakers in my day. He spent a great deal of time patting himself on the back, but if you know Charlie Garza, that doesn't surprise you.

But there was a certain level of genius in Charlie's speech. He did something that I personally think isn't advisable, but it will still have an impact. He basically decided to step in front of the bullet for the EPISD Board and Dr. Garcia.

Ultimately its Dr. Garcia that will be on the hook for what's going on over there, but Garza decided he was going to put himself between Eliot Shapleigh and the the district. Garza produced a report from the Texas Education Agency that says that Shapleigh's allegations are unfounded.

So the State of Texas is basically saying that Sentator Shapleigh is full of it.

But, there is a federal investigation going on in to the allegations and it remains to be seen what, if any findings come from the feds.

Frankly I don't know why Garza jumped out in front of this one because if Shapleigh turns out to be right, Garza is going to have some big time egg on his face.

Nonetheless, it signals that Garza plans on being a hands-on kind of guy. It also shows a little bit of character on his part. I mean, I don't think anyone would blame the guy if he decided to focus his time on the rest of the very large district he represents. After all, El Pasoans didn't support his bid. He lost in El Paso county by a pretty wide margin. So kuddos to him for putting that aside.

Interestingly, sources on the EPISD school board indicated that Senator Shapleigh wants Dr. Garcia fired as the Superintendent of EPISD. Garza is now stepping in and taking a bit of the pressure off of Garcia.

Just about everyone I've talked to at EPISD say this is largely just a personal beef that Shapleigh has with Garcia, but with Garza jumping in the fray, it gives Shapleigh something else to shoot at for a while.

Once the dust settles and the feds come out with findings, we'll see who ends up being the last man standing. This was always on the gamble of part of Eliot Shapleigh. If he's right, he can milk it for all its worth and use it to position himself for whatever he wants to run for. If he's wrong, he risks looking like a bitter ex-politician out to settle some scores and pursue personal vendettas.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Political People to Watch in 2011

The El Paso Times did a piece over the weekend of people to watch in the next year. They only had one politico on their list, so I compiled a quick list of people I think to keep an eye on over the next year.

1. The Delegation – We have a pretty new delegation and we have a Republican in the delegation again. So all political eyes will be on the delegation, how they get along, and what they get done. I'm not sure why the Times chose to put the spotlight on Rep Naomi Gonzalez, other than shameless self-promotion because she will be blogging for them. Given the number of Republicans in the legislature in this session, there really won't be a substantive vote for Gonzalez and its doubtful she will have any major legislation. But she does represent a much needed change. The people I'll be watching will be Dee Margo, Chente Quintanilla, and Joe Pickett. Pickett because I'm interested to see how he herds the cats, Quintanilla because I want to see what kind of use he makes out of his seniority, and Dee Margo because I want to see if his campaign argument of having a Republican in the delegation would be a benefit to El Paso holds water.

2. County Judge Veronica Escobar – With budget challenges and an ever-present public corruption scandal looming, I'm curious to see how she leads the county. Her political enemies will be looking for any opportunity to make hay and she will have to get used to that, although she's been dealing with that since she was elected to her first seat on Commissioner's Court. Theresa Caballero will likely run and lose for something else again and will likely run against not just her opponent, but will more than likely run against who she perceives are her enemies, which would include Escobar (and a shit load of other people).

3. Pastor Brown & El Paso for Equality – The two groups will likely be the dominant discussion over the campaign season for the municipal election. It's very likely that the two groups will eventually spawn a couple of candidates, if not in this election, then in the next. Actually, one key member of the Pastor Brown faction is already planning a run against Ann Morgan Lily.

4. Silver & Beto ¬ The two most commonly know by their nicknames will be having a year to watch. The Congressman because he will be in the minority but will likely stay in a leadership position. He no-doubt has his eye on a potential challenger in the near future. That challenger is likely to be Beto O'rourke who thought about it in the last election and then changed his mind. But the fact that he's not running for re-election says me might be gearing up to take on the Congressman in the Democratic primary.

5. The Staff – Probably one of the most under-reported political developments over the last few years are the staffers of the various elected officials, particularly on the Democratic side. They are, again to steal a lyric from Radio La Chusma, Young, Gifted, and Brown. The El Paso Democratic Party should pay attention to these people, and how they are treated, because in the very near future, they are going to be the leadership around here. And guess what, they are smart, progressive, and not at all interested in business as usual. Its a new world, get used to it and get used to them. I should note here that the Congressman's office is the one that is the most stacked with this type of talent and there was a dust-up late last year about a veteran staffer toying with the idea of running for a legislative seat. That has since been put to rest, but it supports my point about keeping on eye on future leadership from staff.

6. The Has Beens – El Paso has turned the page on a lot of the personalities that weighed heavily in our local political scene over the last 10+ years. These former heavyweights will likely stick around and try to influence the local party structure and stay relevant until they decide to try to make a political come back or advance an underling. Lets see who does what.

7. YD's & LNRC – Both parties have an auxiliary to keep an eye on. Why? Because they have the volunteer base to influence an election and they will likely birth a few candidates in the very near future.

8. The Chairs – Danny Anchondo and Tom Homesley, the Chair of the Dems and Repubs respectively, have a lot on their plate. Anchondo needs to regroup, re-energize, and reload the coffers. El Paso always delivers for the TDP, its time he start grabbing them by the short and curlies and demanding some more resources out here. Homesely needs to continue to expand the influence of the GOP and continue to push for higher caliber candidates.

Theresa Caballero on El Paso for America with Hector H. Lopez, Part I...

Prominent El Paso attorney, Theresa Caballero was on the air with Hector H. Lopez a couple of times over the last few weeks and basically led Hector H. Lopez around by the nose.

I'm working on a more extensive piece that breaks down some of the things she says and alleges along with some analysis. Frankly, its a lot of material and I'm still working on it.

But in the mean time, she said something on Friday that almost made me spit my soda all over the computer screen. Take a listen, take a look...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Local Reaction to Assassination Attempt on Congresswoman Giffords

I have plenty to say on the Giffords assassination attempt earlier today in Tucson. As you know, the story is all over the media and will be for the next few days.

People will no doubt be trying to decipher what the guys motives were over the next few days and I am saddened by what I know will be the inevitable, this event will become politicized.

But because there is a huge political subtext, I will be forced to comment about it over the next few days. For now, here is some local reaction to the shooting.

From Congressman Reyes:

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic act of violence in Tucson that has claimed the lives of several victims, including Chief Judge John Roll, and has left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life. Carolina and I are praying for Gabby, her staff, and all those affected by this national tragedy.  I ask all El Pasoans to keep Congresswoman Giffords, and all of today's victims, and their families in their prayers.

"Congresswoman Giffords is an outspoken and hard-working public servant, and I have had the privilege of working with her on issues important to the border region.  Gabby is a fellow colleague on the House Armed Services Committee and the Congressional Border Caucus.  She is a tireless advocate for our region.

"Acts of violence against our government representatives undermines our democracy, and I hope justice is served to those responsible for this senseless and cowardly act."

And from the Border Network for Human Rights:

"The Border Network for Human Rights, a human rights organization in El Paso and Southern New Mexico, with more than 13 years organizing communities, is deeply saddened to hear about the shooting of Representative Gifford. We reject all forms of violence on the border and take a principled stand for peaceful change and seek policies that protect all human lives.  Border communities stand together in mourning this tragedy and hope the best for all those injured and their families."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rachel Quintana Won't Seek Re-election

According to News Channel 9, Rachel Quintana will not seek re-election.

Quintana says that her decision was not because of the pending charges against her.

I obtained a copy of her statement and it says the following:

“It has been an honor to serve my community. I would like to convey my appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity. I have given this decision paramount consideration and it is in the best interest of my family and community for me not to seek a second term...Whether in office or not, I will continue to work for positive change.”

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Former Shapleigh Staffer Joins Congressman Reyes' Office

Claudia Ordaz, former Communications Director for former Senator Eliot Shapleigh has been named the Deputy Press Secretary for Congressman Reyes' Office. She will serve with Press Secretary Vince Perez who works primarily in Washington for the Congressman. Ordaz will serve in the El Paso District Office for the Congressman.

Other employment developments in the Congressman's Office include the hiring of Desirae Manzanares who will serve as a Staff Assistant and the promotion of John Aguilar to Legislative Assistant. Aguilar replaces Alexandra Sifuentes who left to work at the US Department of Agriculture.

"I'm pleased to welcome these talented El Pasoans to my staff," Congressman Reyes said. "Desirae, Claudia, and John are passionate about the community and have a strong desire to help make El Paso a better place through public service. I know they will serve the community well. I also extend my appreciation to Alexandra for her deidcation and hard work as Senior Legislative Assistant in my office," Reyes added. "She will certainly be missed, but I wish her the very best in her new position at the USDA."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Attention Candidates for City Office

I'm working on a profile piece for the candidates running for city council and I have been trying to you. Some of you are playing hard to get.

Whoever is advising you of that is giving you bad advice. You want your message out to voters, so make yourself accessible, nobody wants to elect someone who is too busy to talk to them. They want someone they can talk to and learn about.

Seeing how pitiful voter turnout is in this town, you know every vote counts. So return my calls so that the people can get to know you. Its really the only free way you will have to get your message out considering the local media won't give much coverage, no in-depth coverage, and you'll have to pay for commercials.

I already ran one piece on Manny Hinojosa. Jorge Artalejo has run for several offices so you probably already have a sense of the guy, but there are a couple others out there that are ready to run and I haven't heard from.

Now is the time people, the questions are about issues so you should be able to answer them, they aren't hard.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Memorable Moments of 2010

So as we enter the New Year I thought I'd recap some of the more memorable moments of the last year. There's no scientific formula for how I compiled the list, its just my list of shit I remember from last year. No particular order here I either.

Onate Rides Again! - I often refer to former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh as Onate because he reminds me of Don Juan de Onate. A white guy who speaks Spanish and likes being in charge of Mexicans. Many thought he would ride off in to the sunset, but I had a feeling he had bigger plans. That remains to be seen, but he has decided to go for one last ride. Onate is now crusading against the EPISD and the Superintendent Dr. Gar-sea-yuh. Funny thing is, Shapleigh might end up being right and could end up having the last laugh.

Norma Chavez Destroys Her Own Political Career – The once seemingly unbeatable Norma Chavez was defeated by a candidate who was coming off a loss for City Council in a race for an open seat in a smaller district who didn't go anywhere near anything that looked like an issue. She essentially beat Chavez by not talking about issues and talking about Chavez's track record for not getting along with people. As much as it irritated me that Gonzalez got a total pass for not talking about issues and being almost completely funded by a Republican organization, its an indicator of just how unpopular Chavez had become.

While many might point to the now infamous Ramona Elementary Forum as the actual moment when Chavez's political career died, I would disagree. First, I don't think its dead. She might become a lawyer, work for some kind of advocacy group, become a lobbyist, or run for office again. I'm not saying she'll win, I'm just saying I'm not convinced she knows its over yet. And secondly, I don't think that's the moment she lost the election. She lost the election slowly over the years and 2010 was the year that enough people had decided that they would vote for someone else as long as they were given the option.

Gonzalez did it. She knocked out Joe Frasier and I had to eat crow. Gonzalez is now starting to take some positions on issues and is sounding like a Democrat. She might turn out to be a good legislator and I'll have to eat crow again if that's the case. Time will tell.

Running Man – Jorge Artalejo ran for office...again. He's run for several offices and appears to be poised to run for another office. What was memorable about his run this go around is that he ran for Chair of the Democratic Party but he doesn't really have strong credentials in the party and never seemed to be interested in winning the election. He spent more time campaigning for Naomi Gonzalez than he did on his own campaign.

Whistle Blower – Ben Mendoza, another perennial candidate had a funny campaign gimmick that was silly even by El Paso standards. Mendoza seems to go through “characters” when he runs for office. When he ran for Congress a couple years ago, he was El Paso's answer to Yosemite Sam. In 2010, he ran as a boy scout with a whistle. He would literally blow the whistle during candidate forums. He's a nice guy and means well, I just don't think he should be a candidate. But it was memorable.

You're Young, You're Gifted, & You're Brown – It's a lyric in a Radio La Chusma song, but it also describes the emergence of a couple of new auxiliaries to the two parties in town. The Young are the El Paso Young Democrats. The Brown are the El Paso Latino National Republican Coalition. Both clubs represent the expansion of both parties in to demographics that are key to their long-term effectiveness. Both clubs also represent a turning of the page in the old style of El Paso politics that was very exclusive and both clubs' primary goal is the inclusion of people who are often on the outside looking in.

You're a Good Man Charlie Brown – One of the truly good guys out there in politics, and there aren't a lot of them, is Joe Moody. He lost to Dee Margo, who has often been pretty good at positioning himself as the proverbial “bad guy”. Moody, who was recognized as Freshman Legislator of the Year by more than one organization, lost to Margo. Moody is a young guy and he'll be back. Probably soon.

Cirque Du Socorro – The Mayor of Socorro, Willie Gandara Sr, a member of city council, and a few colorful residents of the City of Socorro have turned the city council meetings in to public spectacles. While its extremely entertaining, the real loser in this big drama has been the residents of Socorro. Their genuine concerns and real efforts to progress have been over shadowed by egos and silliness.

Larry, Larry, Larry, and Larry – Former City Rep / County Commissioner Larry Medina had a pretty eventful year. He makes the list for four separate events and its fitting he appear multiple times as one of the only multiple winners of the Conquistador Award.

First, for getting in to a one-way shoving match with Sammy C because he wrote a piece on his blog that Medina didn't like.

He received is 37th Conquistador Award.

He was indicted in the on-going Public Corruption Scandal and made an appearance at the El Paso office of the FBI.

And he fired his lawyer, said he'd represent himself, and then said he'd hire another.

The Walk of Shame – Several more prominent El Paso leaders were indicted in the on-going Public Corruption Scandal. A few names came as a surprise to El Pasoans, including Larry Medina and Willie Gandara Sr.

Interestingly if the Public Corruption Scandal were a child, it would be heading off to college soon. Not really, but it really has been a long time and would certainly be school-aged by now, possibly close to starting puberty.

Fightin' Judge- I've never personally seen one candidate do so much to alienate voters and still win an election, but Monica Teran, who is a Justice of the Peace in the Lower Valley some how pulled it off. She won a run-off election against John Chatman. Oh yeah, ad her to the list of people that got in to shoving matches last year with Sammy C, along with Larry Medina and one of Norma Chavez's Biker Supporters. Poor Sammy, for such a mellow vato, he ends up being a magnet for overly aggressive people.

Tim Besco's Email & Dion “El” Dorado's Super Power – Who could forget Tim Besco's now infamous letter to several Republicans? It was hilarious and even more funny than his campaign manager's My Space page. For a guy who was never a credible candidate to begin with and couldn't get people in his own party to pay attention to him, he seemed to be pretty good at getting everyone's attention via email. Talk about going down in a blaze of glory!

Not to be outdown, Dion “El” Dorado did his level best to show off his famous super power. He had the power to instantly bore an entire audience the minute he took a mic. He's so boring he should come with a warning label telling people not to operate heavy machinery while listening him speak. I was warned to not let go of the mike when I introduced him at a rally. I should've listened.

After finally letting go of the microphone and resuscitating the audience, Dorado would go on to get his ass whipped at the polls by a guy who was even older than Dorado and has been a Republican since the Civil War. He also decided to take a parting shot at the Democratic Party as well. Not on the scale of Besco and the Republicans, but certainly close.

Theresa Caballero on the Campaign Trail – And finally, Theresa Caballero on the campaign trail. Who could forget how upset she got when I was called up to ask her a question at a campaign forum. I've never asked her a question that wasn't point or relative to the campaign, but nonetheless, she obviously didn't want me to get my question out. In case you missed it, here's the video just one more time!

I guess to summarize the year, it looks like 2010 was the year that we started to turn the page on some of the old politics that have plagued this town. Starting in 2008 with the defeat of Paul Moreno, Pat Haggerty, and Theresa Caballero and finishing in 2010 with the defeat of Norma Chavez, Theresa Caballero, and the retirement of Eliot Shapleigh and Anthony Cobos, it looks like we have finally started to move past the politics of personality and are moving toward substance and results.

Let's see if that holds true in 2011.