I forward this writing to announce my intent to seek the office of Congressman for the 16th Congressional District of Texas. My reasons are these:
So far we have an incumbent who - despite all the Fort Bliss political rhetoric and a billion dollars in stimulus money - has given us an unemployment rate that is higher than both the state and national average. He is abetted by a challenger from city council who helped produce these numbers as part of his tenure as a member of the city's legislative branch. They are legislative partners who - through their cohabitation in the 'house of representative government' - produced a jobless rate above 10 percent. Support of any type to either of these candidates is a down payment on status quo.
The challenger is also on record for dismissing the duly expressed desires of El Paso voters at the local level and now wants a chance to do it to use again at the national level. The issue is not whether or not certain subcultures of our community are entitled to equal protection and equal rights under the law. I can see that clearly. In the constitution that I swore to uphold and defend for more than 20 years --- the remedy for a perceived injustice is not to “disrespect the expressed will of the people” by dismissing the popular vote.
The rules for redress apply to the entire community and country. If Council did not like the outcome of the election, would the remedy not move to the third branch of government - the judiciary? When two opposing teams enter the field of [political] play, and one loses the game based upon an agreed set of rules, the rules of the game are simply not rewritten because one team conceivably loss the contest. Had the former District Eight representative remained on council, his name would undoubtedly be part of roster of those now facing recall. Don't 'count the votes and then tell the people their vote does not count.
We have deployed combat soldiers to Iraq twice. Desert Storm/Desert Shield was my last tour as a G-3 operations planner attached to XVIIIth Airborne Corps - from the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment when it was stationed at Fort Bliss. Almost 10 years later, we went back. We have been in Afghanistan for more than 10 years. Combined combat deaths are above 4000 and rising - with the worse single set of casualties suffered by the Defense Department's Special Operations Command (of which I was a member in the Army's version) last month in Afghanistan. Soldiers from Fort Bliss -- as well as military men and women of America's armed forces - deploy, fight and return in the name of democracy. Do we honor the living, the dead or the dismembered by dismissing the very principles for which we fight? What message did we send to our veterans with his vote?
He is on record as the co-author and advocate for legalization of banned substances which would result in the expansion of an already pejorative and inimical drug culture in the borderland as a way to curb the murder and mayhem in Mexico. As written by DW Valdez in the El Paso Times, we suffer an explosion of addiction and treatment in El Paso. Juarez is suffering a similar fate. “Legalization” comes with it a risk of “experimentation.” Ask anyone who is related to or a friend of a person with the affliction of addiction; ask any medical professional about the costs and challenge of treatment and recovery; ask the addict himself. If you were addicted to any substance - legal or illegal, and it became easily accessible, would you think our social circumstance would be better or worse?
Imagine legalization in the 16th Congressional District and consider surrounding states where such substances remain illegal. We have incubated a black market and turned El Paso into a staging area for sales into communities that still see such substances as “bad for the community where they have chosen to make a living, the place where they made their home, and community where they birth their children.
I would further challenge the judgment of anyone who would even consider legalizing, releasing into a community and proliferating any substance that would impair judgment, alter reality, delay reflexes or simply make you “high.” The last set of teens --as reported on Channel 1 -- were killed by impaired and distracted driving - from attempting to recover a dropped cell phone while driving at highway speeds. Marijuana was found in his system. Imagine anyone - especially teens--'driving under the influence' and then adding marijuana to the menu of choices to get high. Auto accidents are the number one killer of teens in America. Add marijuana to the mix, then do the math.
On top of that, do we really want federally-banned substances introduced into a community that surrounds arguably the largest and fastest growing federal military installation in the country? Consider the impact on family members of a currently - and for the foreseeable future - deployed military sponsor. Our current representative is part of a Congress that - during the debt ceiling debates - jeopardized the pay and benefits of the “forward deployed.” Soldiers have enough to worry about - with a congress distant and de-sensitized to modern warfare. Hell, Congressional members on Capital Hill work - and in some cases live within ten miles of the now de-commissioned and condemned Walter Reed Army Medical Center. So many claimed to care so much about soldiers, but did not care to go up to Walter Reed and check out the conditions of the facility until they read about it in the Washington Post newspaper. Our Congressman is part of that fraternity. Now, add legalizing banned substances to the mix and you give the soldier a 'divided focus' and jeopardize their ability to fight, win and return. We veterans - especially of modern warfare - understand that a solider must pay attention to so many other things; he/she should not have to pay attention to their “pay.”
Admit it or not, the American appetite for drugs has infected Juarez with a similar illness. Amidst the violence that we have abetted, certain social, political and business groups in El Paso seek “divorce” from -- and want to drop the characterization of “sister city” incident to the cartel drug wars and the violence it creates. The question we must ask ourselves is “have we become a fair-weathered-friend who likes you when things are good and loathes you when things are not? It reminds me of the good Samaritan story as told in the bible - and preached from the pulpit of Sun City Baptist church and many other congregations throughout El Paso. On the road to Jericho two strangers encountered a man lying in the road. One posed the question, “What might happen to us if we stop to help this man? The other reversed the question, “What will happen to him if we don't?
The United States locks up more people than any industrialized country on the planet. Texas is second only to California in the number of people we put behind bars. A number of them / us are there incident to substance abuse and possession and -- in many cases -- for resale. Our state legislators cut $4 billion from the Texas public education in the last budget cycle. Our state suffers among the worst high school graduation rates in the country. I believe I read that America - as a whole - has less than 40% of its population with high school degrees. Have you ever wondered why we struggle to find money to educate our children at age 10, but always find enough to lock them up at age 20? I was in the audience during the community meetings and participated in the debates - challenging the legislative and fiscal wisdom of such draconian cuts. I did not see nor did I hear one word about the plight of public education during those meetings. As “the two” tout their impact, neither of them addressed the core problem of El Paso County and this country - an undereducated work force. The socio-economic and political future of this community and this country rests in America's classrooms - not in bridge fees and drug legalization. By the way, we will not incarcerate this problem away. Our recidivism rates indicate that for every 10 we lock up and then release, seven will return.
As in times of war, I too am a foot soldier in the war on ignorance in America. Like many other professional educators, we in El Paso's public schools feel and face the challenges of educating America's future labor force. Not only are we fighters - we are coaches in the global Olympics called quality education. There are 193 countries in the UN General assembly and each a likely contender in any one of the dozens of sporting events. Those take place every four years. America's teachers are coaches in an Olympic event that takes place with every graduation cycle and ceremony. He who under values, discounts or dismisses the value and impact of an educated workforce will suffer the byproducts of their neglect. If we ever want to return to the glory days of gold, bronze, and silver; if we ever hope to hear our national anthem play while the American flag is hoisted, we had better get more serious about supporting the coaching staff administratively as well as in America's classrooms.
Our unemployment and under employment in this district - as well as Congressional districts throughout the country -- is a byproduct of an under educated labor force and an under funded public education system. I believe we are a better community - I believe we are a better country than one that makes incarceration an enterprise of economic growth. As an educator and an advocate for quality education and the people who do the job - I understand as well - if not better than most-- that the root issue
and challenge for the borderland is not BRAC and bridge fees - its cultivating brain power. Business will always come fishing where the brain power and talent pool is deep. Businessmen, like fishermen don't look for big fish in shallow water. Neither the Congressman nor the challenger mentioned “education” as our universal “salvation.” With our medical school as an example, we have “dumped some fish in the pond.”
But a stronger voice and emphasis on improving literacy would help us “grow our own.”
The deeper our talent pool, the more business - especially high wage business - will come fishing in the depth of talent we are capable of spawning in El Paso. Neither of the candidates breathed one word about education. As one of my radio buddies is fond of saying, “The FBI calls that a clue.” Now you have a career soldier, now a civilian, with experience in both the public and private sector - with tangible evidence of producing quality results, is a positive communicator, facilitator, consensus builder and macro thinker with more formal education than both challengers; a man who can speak, English, Spanish, Soldier, Civil Service, civilian, and Veteran. I am a cum laude graduate from the 'university of adversity' with a resume to match my claim.
In terms of priorities, the scenario I put to the voters and citizens of El Paso is this. Our current representative is part of a congress that paid for part of an American fleet to sail across an ocean under a flag of humanitarianism to help Libya, but would not encourage America's Congress to cross a river with similar assets to help Mexico. Approximately 40,000 are dead. Brutalized by a drug war that recruits its soldiers from the ranks of the poor, the undereducated, the disillusioned, the desperate, the disrespected and the despised, they search for a way out. They are hungry - not for bread, beef, and fish or foul. There is a famine in the borderland--a famine of courageous, compassionate, common sense leadership. We need not be fed or represented by the “privileged” among us, but the “principled” among us. I ask you, where is the greatest American interest and where is the greatest humanitarian need? Before his departure, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told us that there is no great strategic value for U S involvement in Libya. Large investment; little dividend.
Our representative is part of a Congress who - after putting two wars on America's credit card authorized another “swipe.” With a fighting force already swimming in red blood and a government bathing in red ink, we went/spent anyway and now have “boots on the ground.” By the way, in my 21 years of service, I have never heard of a humanitarian mission led by launching over 100 tomahawk cruise missiles - 97 percent of those used on Libya were bought (charged) and paid for with American tax money. And, though he is a former member of the Intelligence Committee, our congress has not shown the intelligence to fully determine if the people we befriended and bank-rolled in this civil war will be friendly to us when the smoke clears and hostilities are finally over.
While the Congressman and “the Challenger” argue over the wisdom and worth of increased fees to cross to and from Mexico, I heard no discussion about the weapons that might cross the Red Sea into Yemen or other volatile parts of Southwest Asia. Real, experienced soldiers and veterans think about the big picture. In case anyone forgets, we surely have military and civilian constituents in that part of the world and live in harms way - day after day - with death tugging at their elbow. Two of us entering this race know what that's like. One of us does not and likely never will. Absent any controls or influence over the newly formed de facto government in Libya, large caches of weapons were seized by the rebels - with many unaccounted for. My theory and fear - based on experience in the byproducts of war fighting - is that American soldiers might face those very weapons on other - distant battlefields in the Middle East. This is one of among several reasons why the job of congressional representation is better suited for a person who is among the truest reflections of this civil/military community. Congress is about bigger and more diverse issues than bridge fees. And so am I.
I think we should always think hard about choosing a person who is willing to apply for a job that will send people to war -- to do a job -- that the applicant has never done and likely will never do himself. Even among our past and current presidents, and especially members of Congress -- those who are in Congress and those who want to be, I am often curious about people who want to lead and legislate a country for which they have never fought and would not fight.
I say as much as I can today because media and money might not seek me out. I need both, but above all I need you, the people of the borderland's 16th congressional district. So please, hear me now and remember me well.
Hay dos lados en la frontera, pero somos una familia - con la misma sangre. En la guera de drogas o en la guera de educacion - en todas las batallas -- nececitamos un capitan con un corazon grande por toda la gente. El gobierno nunca puede reclamar ser la voz de la gente, has que los representantes escuchen lo que la gente quiere. Nececito su voz; su enerjia; su corozon y su ayuda para ganar esta oficina. Vamos a placticar un plan para mejorar nuestras vecinos y vencindarios en los dos lados de la frontera. Cuando tenemos un espiritu unido, no puede ser vencido! Por favor, ayudame.
I have been to several Border Security Conferences. Congressman Reyes invited the last two keynote speakers. He ostensibly endorses each of their positions and views on border issues. The 2010 conference featured the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner - Alan Bersin who, after calculating that the murder rate -- averaging about 7000 per year says -- we should “stay the course” in terms of strategy regarding Mexico and the drug war. He said it would slowly extinguish over 10 years - somewhat akin to America's timeline and effort to de-glamorize cigarettes in America. He was vigorously applauded -- about the same as when presidential hopeful - Rick Perry who announced - on a recent road trip --the number of death row executions in Texas before a partisan crowd (BTW…Texas has put more people to death than the other 49 states combined). I challenged him with a question, asking that if he thought we could watch and that Mexico would suffer the loss of 70,000 people over a period of 10 years to wait for America to lose its appetite for illegal drugs. His answer was evasive, and , as he left the podium, he was shielded from the crowd - escorted to a media scrum for a brief Q&A and left. The Congressman apparently agreed with and lauded his speech. I was shocked.
In 2011, Mr. Reyes' featured speaker was Alejandro Poire - Spokesman for the National Security Strategy and National Security Council and Cabinet of Mexico. After his speech I got to ask one of three questions presented from the floor. After my question, he answered one other and left. I asked him about the number of people/refugees who have fled Mexico because of the drug war and taking up residence in the United States -specifically El Paso. He faced me squarely and said “there is no drug war in Mexico…” and “ there are no refugees entering the United States. “ I heard no comment, no words of rebuttal or even 'spin' from our congressman. One of his staffers tried to 'spin it.' That was a short conversation. Here, another tacit endorsement and agreement with the text and context of the speech by Mr Reyes. I was shocked. My question and comments later appeared in the Spanish language newspaper El Diario - El Paso. Our own District 29 State Senator Jose Rodriguez was there, was interviewed on record and agreed with me. There is a drug war in Mexico and El Paso is challenged with many of its byproducts.
There are a near 40,000 dead and voiceless Mexicans and Americans. There are surviving relatives on both sides of the border who largely suffer in silence mostly out of fear of expressing their true feelings. Along with this candidacy, I am planning a Peoples' Border Security Conference to give voice to and discuss solutions with the everyday workers, victims, survivors and veterans of the drug war. To give balance to the conference of the border's political, business and civic elite, we need to hear from the people who run into the bushes and dark shadows between the checkpoints as well as those who screen our visitors and citizens looking for the criminal element who seek to hurt rather than help this nation. BTW…we need sponsors!
We have built schools, our own Mayor Cook was featured in the El Paso Times at one of the ribbon cutting ceremonies. We have sold homes and made space for businesses fleeing “J-town” and seeking refuge and relief from the extortionists, execution/Middle Eastern-style- murder and dismemberment. Mr. Poire' said that there is no war and I heard Mr Reyes' say nothing.
Just about every really bad thing happening in America today can be traced back to the Congress and the doorsteps of the US Capital. I grew up in Washington, DC and, as a little kid- with tattered jeans, a dirty shirt and a few of my young look-alike friends visiting the Capital Building, we were escorted off of the premises. They way I took it, we tainted or tarnished the image of the nation's capital and needed to be swept away through one door as the tourists came in another. To guess why, I will leave to your imagination. Though I have visited several times as an adult - I always wanted to return and fix that problem. I had no idea that it would ever get this big or this bad. In Chocolate City as it was called back then, you had to be - or at least act - big and bad in order to make.
Intractable political types, those who think we work for them instead of the other way round, have produced a dysfunctional mob - of zealots. We have a deficit of $14trillion, an economic growth rate that matches our infrastructure investment - less than 2 %. Education is part of that infrastructure and we let our state government cut education by $4billion dollars - when, more than ever, it is the great equalizer - the salvation of this nation. We suffer the shame of a reduced credit rating globally, a congress with an approval rating equal to the median age of a middle school student - 12%. There are two wars on America's credit card and we swiped it again, twice to pay for Japan-relief and Libyan grief. We have been at war almost longer than my students have been alive. They really don't know war because one percent of America' best are not in America - they are deployed. I think it was Ross Perot who said something to the effect that, first get a committed nation to support the war, before you commit the soldiers to fight it. One percent of us are at war; the rest of us are at the mall. A super committee to do what the full body of the House of Representatives could not, does not show much signs of up. Fewer players - same mindset. You will not solve any problem with the same thinking and thinkers that created it. The budget axe will fall dangerously close to Fort Bliss if not into Bliss itself. Anyone who has been in Congress more than two terms is a parent the problems and perils we face.
About two years ago, the Army considered moving the Sergeants' Major Academy to Fort Leavenworth. Money is tight. Absent a skilled negotiator, facilitator and one who speaks the language of the armed services; if a person known to advocate drug legalization and a resume that includes dismissing the fundamental pillars of this democracy by disrespecting the voter and overruling the vote, if we send the same guy who helped create this problem to then go in and solve it, one can almost surely write the conclusion. If we send one who owes his loyalties to contractors and distant contributors above the will of the El Paso constituency, we will get what we deserve. Because we have not reconciled our immigration, we continue to bleed funds from social security via reducing taxes on wage labor. Our workforce needs to be expanded. If we can attach a green card to every immigrant college graduate's diploma, we will not have to compete with them when they become a productive member of another nation's economy. The majority of new inventions and patents are filed by immigrants, whose creativity was fueled by and oft times paid for by an American higher education system. It is senseless to invest in such education endeavors only the watch the dividends become realized by another country. State governments have been forced to draft policy for themselves absent any common-sense-for-the-common-
Heard enough? There is more.
Well, it been a few years since high school, adolescence, military college, finishing grad school - twice, Command and General Staff College, several deployments overseas, Director of Personal and Communities overseas in the predominantly Hispanic community of San Juan, Puerto Rico, tag-team rearing two sons (Irvin High School & Rice and Notre Dame grads, respectively), who are married, self sufficient, successful and productive members of their respective communities, successful resumes in both the private and public sector, mini-careers in radio, television, and professional writer for both the El Paso Times and the [former] Herald Post, 10 years a professional educator at the secondary and post secondary level, and blessed with life long enough to be called “granddaddy.” When you need to send a powerful message, you need to send a powerful messenger. If you think I can address the needs of this community with heart and health - I'll go. Send me. I'll go. But I will not go alone. By voice, by visit, by text by skype, e - or snail mail. Smile and dial. Nights and weekends are free.
I said I would say a lot because a chance like this might not come again. Money, media and a mean streak of citizen commitment will help me get the message out. It's time to stop writing, at least for now. In the spirit of Flight 93's passengers and crew -- who stormed the cockpit to retake the plane and commemorating the 10th anniversary of September 11th, we need to storm the cockpit of Congress; the pilots need to be replaced. We also need a Peoples' Border Security Conference where there is dialogue between and among the workers - where the voices of the average citizen are heard; the people who turn policy decisions into reality; people who live with the consequences of policy decisions instead of scripted speeches from the borderland's social, economic and political elite.
We need a community conference room with knowledgeable facilitator - who knows how to cultivate an environment of consensus in a diverse community such as El Paso, Fort Bliss and the borderland.
- A facilitator who speaks common sense to and for the common person and for the common good.
- A facilitator who is a combat veteran of modern warfare who understands the life and times of multiple deployments, departing / returning soldiers and the families who stay behind; who understands challenges of educating their children amidst the distractions of an uncertain future - not knowing whether or not parents will return in the same condition as they left.
- A facilitator who understands the scars of the returning veteran ; wounds both seen and unseen - who understands the role of the survival assistance officer
- A facilitator who knows the' feel' of a tightly folded flag and passing it to a surviving spouse or family member who will never feel the touch of their loved oe gain.
- A facilitator who doesn't seek a divorce from Juarez but a desire to help Juarez. Hay dos lados de la frontera pero somos una familia con la misma sangre. Nececitamos un espiritu unido.
- We need a facilitator who will storm the cockpit of a dysfunctional and failing congress; with 88 out of every 100 Americans dissatisfied with our legislature, how can any of them say they are the voice or the representatives of the people. Of the 300 million Americans, 264 million give our congressmen a failing grade.
- This congress that is in the cockpit has put America on a glide path toward destruction. They have run out of altitude, airspeed and ideas; they have put us on the brink of bankruptcy and we not only have the power, but the responsibility to vote in great numbers to change the current trajectory of our government.
Before the cockpit controls were retaken, there was an uncommon command from an ordinary man. Two words - words that were intensive began America's counteroffensive. He simply said, “Let's roll!” And a songwriter sang “…Ordinary people; aren't you glad God uses ordinary people?”
Citizens of the 16th Congressional District, its time to storm the cockpit, its time to change the pilots and, spoken in the words of an ordinary man on flight 93, I say, “Let's roll.