Thursday, December 31, 2015

That Time an Inventory Clerk Showed Why Some Offices Should Be Appointed

There is an unprecedented amount of screw ups in the local Democratic Party this season. Which is saying a lot because the local Democratic Party is typically a case study in what not to do in elections and campaigns.

Trust me when I tell you I will have some really great stuff to make you hip to in the coming weeks that will be equal parts hilarity and stupidity. You're gonna love it.

But I have also been doing my homework on all the candidates while I've been taking a little holiday break and found out some interesting things about all of them. I'll share the relevant stuff as its appropriate to.

In the mean time I want to talk about the Tax Assessor Collector race again because its just so hilarious to me. That is the race in which the appointed Tax Assessor Collector Ruben Gonzalez was running for a full term against Siria Rocha who pretty much ran the tax office while she was there. Beating an Hispanic female countywide who is younger than you is always tough but given the fact that he was the sitting Tax Assessor Collector he had a shot.

He had already filed, had signs out and knowing his campaign manager Mike Apodaca, there's a good chance he had already started walking some turf. (If you don't know what the last part of that sentence means and are a candidate, congratulations you're going to lose.)

Then along came a guy named Gregory Gonzalez. Turns out all three candidates have some experience in that office - Ruben Gonzalez as the current TAC, Rocha as the former #2 in that office, and Gregory Gonzalez as well.

Turns out he's the inventory clerk.

Which leads me to my point.

I don't fault the guy for wanting to run and be of service to his community. Really I don't. I like smart young raza that run for office.

But it underscores the fact that there are many offices at the County that shouldn't be elected positions. They should be appointed.

Tax Assessor Collector, County Clerk, District Clerk, Constables.

Appoint those people. Just like other department heads like Public Works and Elections.

Why? Because you need people that know what the fuck they are doing to be department heads, which is what those offices largely are.

For the record, I'm not saying the current County Clerk and District Clerk aren't doing their jobs. They are both very good at their jobs and County Clerk Briones has had a lot to deal with this year considering the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

Point is, those are administrative jobs that should be appointed, not elected.

Why? Because you never know who can win an election.

Gregory Gonzalez isn't going to win, but if he did you'd have someone who was the inventory clerk one day be the department head the next. If you think that is a formula for good government you need your head examined.

He basically killed the chances for Ruben Gonzalez, who seems to be very popular with the county electeds, to be reelected. I'm not completely sold on the guy myself though, I mean the vato spent a really long time as the head vato in charge of the DMV.

And we all know the model of efficiency the DMV is right? Seriously, have you ever met anyone that went to the DMV that had prompt, friendly, accurate and efficient services there?

Stop lying, no you don't. Why? Because the DMV might be the epitome of all that is wrong with government bureaucrats. How bad is it?

It so bad that in this preview of an upcoming cartoon release there is a joke in the scene where the DMV is run by sloths!



Not sure you want to hang your hat on your experience running an office that is so inefficient that its a punchline Mr. Gonzalez.

Ruben, not Gregory.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, races like those should even be run. They should just appoint those offices.

At this point, Siria Rocha would actually have to TRY to lose this race. She would need the worst campaign team in the history of El Paso to screw this one up.

To Mr. Gonzalez - Gregory not Ruben - politics is the intersection of timing an opportunity. Keep that in mind next time.

End of Year Blog Post

I know, I've been away for awhile. You'll have to excuse me, I've been off on a water planet living on an island becoming one with the Force.

In my absence I have been catching up on some reading of my blogosphere adversaries. Since the only one I read regularly is David K it took some time to catch up to some of the stuff thats been put out there, especially considering Martin Paredes might be the most boring person in the galaxy to have a conversation with given how long-winded and pointless his posts are.

Any who, I'm sure you all are expecting some end-of-year list or something from me and I'm really sorry to disappoint but I just sorta don't have it in me this year.

I mean if I wanted to, I could probably do a list of Top 10 Times DK, Ali Razavi, and Martin Paredes promised some sort of major controversy story and it didn't pan out. What ever happened to this big "Watergate" style story at city hall, or this huge YISD thing the Persian answer to Chewbacca was supposed to have? (Ali never wrote about how he filed an ethics complaint against the teacher's union in Ysleta and the Ethics Commission basically told him he was a dumbass)

Or I could've done a piece about the Top Ten times they wrote a piece about me that involved some sort of plot, movida, or conspiracy but seriously, they write that shit every other post and I don't have the time to narrow all that crap down.

Or I could do the Top Ten Times Martin Paredes tries to pretend he's not Bobby Bowling's flying monkey. I mean for goodness sake, the guy stays at his house when he comes in from his self-imposed Florida exile. Seriously, he sleeps under Bowling's roof but I like to think he plays man-servant, cuts the grass and makes mojitos for everyone in exchange for the room and board.

So sorry guys I don't have any lists.

All I have is a heart-felt wish for my readers to have a prosperous New Year with your friends and family and I hope you're all blessed with happiness and fortune.

Except my haters and the rest of the blogosphere.

You can all go fuck yourselves.

Happy New Year.

PS - There will be more posts later today.

Oh, almost forgot my cat video!




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Gonzalez Rant

Stick around until the end and I'll tell you why a lot of people are wrong about this Jim Darnell thing. You are missing a big point and all jumped to the wrong conclusion.

I almost don't know where to start so this post is likely going to be all over the place. The fact that council hasn't put the city manager on administrative leave represents a complete failure on their part to start rebuilding the trust with this community that has been damaged.

But the fact that Gonzalez has the nerve to go on vacation now, is an embarrassment. When your bosses aren't happy with you, the last thing you should be doing is going on vacation. You should be the star employee until it all blows over. You should be the first one in and the last one out.

This is Marie Antionette "Let them eat cake" and Nero fiddling while Rome burns all in one.

There has to be a reason council is not putting Gonzalez on leave and I think the reason is fear. No I don't think that Jim Darnell is the reason. Council and their middle ground approach aren't what is in the best interest of the community.

I think there are members of council that have some compelling reason to protect Gonzalez's position. Why else would they stand idly by while scandal after scandal keeps happening right under their noses?

We should take note of who is, and who isn't, protecting Gonzalez.

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Romero Resignation Requests

To further underscore my little theory about why Gonzalez is being protected I present the fact that council appears more than willing to take unprecedented steps when it comes to their embattled colleague Larry Romero.

I've never heard of council asking any of its members to resign from a responsibility that they have as a member of council.  That is a new one.

So they feel there's enough questionable activity to ask their colleague to step down from some of his duties but they can't managed the ONE employee they over see between the 8 of them?

Seriously?

Asking Romero to resign some of his responsibilities is the one good thing council has done. 'Bout time they should some balls.

But doing so without explaining why is not fair to Romero or the community. The truth is, if you have the dirt to do that to Romero you have the dirty to do the same to Gonzalez.

Bottom line is Romero is in trouble. Whenever this council pulls their head out of their ass and gets an ethics commission together they will get a baptism of fire. They will immediately have to tackle a tough and controversial issue that would impact the political life of Rep Romero and Tommy Gonzalez.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I don't see how Romero actually survives this term and I stand by that. Council all but asked him to resign over the ever-mounting scandals involving Romero and Gonzalez.

Remember when this all started and he downplayed his connects with Romero? Then after the roads thing we found out his brother worked for the city manager. Then hump gate. Then after that the financial manager thing. Now we hear how Romero was doing his taxes.

Quick sidebar. Romero did his taxes for less than $200. Most people I know that make big money, which admittedly aren't many, use CPA's, not book keeping services. But hey, what do I know, I'm not rich.

But it reminded me of another parallel to the county corruption scandal that also involved an elected official that inexplicably and suddenly wanted to change to a new financial manager from the very same one the city has over a ballpark construction project. The elected official, one Anthony Cobos, was also a book keeper guy that did people's taxes.

Any who, back to the rant.

Rep Romero hasn't commented about whether he is going to comply with the request to resign. If he does, he looks weak. If he doesn't, he looks obstinate and the mayor can replace him anyway. He's at that point in the chess game where all he has left is his king and he's just making moves to get out of check but the loss is inevitable.

He has no effectiveness left. If he truly believes he was elected to do the best he can for his constituency then he should take the holiday season to reflect on whether he really has any ability to be an effective representative for his district. Their needs do go away just because he's compromised.
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Gonzalez and Darnell

So a lot of people think the appearance of prominent attorney Jim Darnell at a council meeting was a big deal. And I guess it is, sorta. I mean I've never heard of a city manager retaining a lawyer that wasn't the city attorney. So yeah I guess its newsworthy.

Some have suggested it was meant to be a shot across the bow at the city council. Sort of a show of strength on the part of Gonzalez as to say look who I got on my side.

The reality is that all roads lead to the same place.

Litigation.

I think its a matter of time before Gonzalez is gone and he's the second coming of Jim Valenti. He can't afford to leave El Paso because no one else will hire him at the ridiculous amount of money we put up to sign him.

But I don't think Darnell was meant to show council that he had a fancy schmancy lawyer and they had better make sure they do things right because he's gonna make sure Gonzalez gets paid.

If it were one of the more well known employment attorneys in town I might think that. But Darnell isn't a lawyer that specializes in employment law.

What does Darnell specialize in?

Criminal law.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jeb Bush Coming to El Paso Friday

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush will be making a stop in El Paso on Friday.

I don't have too many details but sources indicate its just a fundraiser event at 10am at the El Paso Club.

This would be the first Republican candidate to stop in El Paso during this presidential cycle. Typically the local GOP tries to keep a lid on visiting Republican dignitaries to El Paso so I haven't been able to get details on the event yet.

Jeb Bush's son George P. Bush is the Texas Land Commissioner and he has been to El Paso several times during his tenure.

More to follow.

Candidate Filings Highlights

Well the fact that the District Attorney, Tax Assessor-Collector, and constable races may be the most lively races in this election cycle, demonstrates just how nothing significant happened yesterday as the filing deadline expired to appear on the March Primary ballot.

Several of the judges that are up for re-election showed up to the Democratic Party headquarters waiting to see if they had opponents. There were no surprises on the judicial front.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza is facing two challengers in the race, Yvonne Rosales and Leonard Morales. Esparza has been in office more than 20 years and both candidates are older than Esparza was when he replaced a long-term incumbent. His challengers are stronger than his previous ones. Neither of his candidates are certifiably insane and at least one has been working hard and started pretty early. Obviously both Rosales and Morales have a steep hill to climb but a run-off is possible if a few things bounce their way. Its a long shot, but Esparza is facing a stronger challenge than he thinks he is.

Perhaps the filing (it wasn't yesterday) that has me scratching my head the most is that of Gregory Xavier Gonzalez. He is a young man that, according to his website, is still a student pursuing a degree in psychology and sociology. He filed to run for the Tax Assessor Collector office.

I think he's the step-son of a prominent lawyer here in town that once ran for a seat on the bench. Gonzalez is young and on his website describes himself as a "charismatic professional". But I think he's making the same mistake Hector H. Lopez made in thinking charisma will help him win a countywide election without a support base. Its always hard for young candidates to start off by running for a countywide race first.

But the bigger problem for GXG is the fact that there is already a candidate with the same last name on the ballot running for the same seat.

The appointee to fill the rest of the term is Ruben Gonzalez and he is running for the full term. RG (I really want to call him RG3 but haven't found a reason to yet) has been running for this seat for months along with Siria Rocha. So why GXG would roll the dice and run against RG on the same ballot boggles the mind. Both candidates are going to have to work that much harder to get their share of a vote they are likely going to split.

Its hard enough to get a voter to remember your last name when you are a down ballot race that no one understands nor gives two shits about. No one knows who RG is - fewer know who GXG is. No one knows Siria Rocha either for that matter. But when you have two candidates with the same name it causes confusion for voters and one of two things will happen - they will either under vote so that they don't vote for the wrong Gonzalez, or they will vote for Rocha.

Both scenarios benefit Rocha.

The problem for GXG is that both candidates have been working on this campaign for many months. RG and Rocha are both veterans and both have a degree. One important advantage RG has over GXG is the fact that he has one of the best campaign managers in town running his ground game. RG is the current office holder and his campaign manager very skillfully added the word "Keep" to RG's materials.

So who wins when the two male candidates with the same last name split their vote? The Hispanic female candidate Siria Rocha. Rocha was just pushed to front-runner status because of the happy coincidence of both male candidates having the same last name. She also has all the boxes checked. Hispanic (check) Female (check) Business Owner (check) Degree (check) Experience (check) Veteran (check). The interesting thing about the last one is that I don't know of any other female veteran ever elected in El Paso unless it was a really long time ago.

I don't know GXG - he could be the most qualified person for the race and the smartest kid in class when it comes to office policy.

But having the same name as the office holder and knowing that the office holder has been campaigning for months and then still throwing your hat in the ring defies logic.

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That is probably the most that will ever get written about that race which underscores my point about this election cycle.

Moving along - HD 77 and HD 75 are the races that will get all the money and produce all the mail. HD 77 feature Lina Ortega versus fellow attorney Adolfo Lopez. If Lopez gets enough funding he should win. He's the Forma candidate, he's smart, does really well with people one-on-one, and is extremely likable. But I'm hearing the funding from the traditional sources might not be there like it has been in the past.

HD 75 is the valley's main event. This time the Forma candidate is at a disadvantage. Anytime you are expecting a 70 year old to defeat woman in her 30's its a tall order. Forma's candidate in 77 has already highlighted his opponents age. The From a candidate, Chente Quintanilla, is open for that attack.

You have the former state rep Chente Quintanilla, who many in the valley still think is the state rep versus the current state rep, Mary Gonzalez, who is probably the candidate from the valley that is the most beholden to special interests of any candidate who has ever represented the area since Texas joined the Union.

Thats not an exaggeration.

In short, the race is hers to lose. She may not lose this election, but her vulnerabilities will be exposed and the next time she gets an opponent it will likely be an Hispanic female who is closer to her age.

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The St. Jude Candidates

A couple of the people that filed I am going to affectionately refer to as the St. Jude candidates. Because they better buy velas for the Patron Saint of Lost Causes if they expect to not get completely waxed.

Congressman O'Rourke will be facing a perennial candidate for office, Ben Mendoza. Mendoza runs all the time and last ran against O'Rourke in 2012. This is going to be another beat down for Mendoza and is proof that anyone can run. O'Rourke is going to win big.

A guy named Tony Quintanilla filed to run against County Commissioner Vince Perez. I'm sure he was put up to run by some interest group who's profitability was affected by Perez' policy reforms at the county. But they should've done a better job of fishing out a candidate though. Quintanilla doesn't appear to have any voting history.

Like at all.

Ever.

Anywhere.

And certainly none in the valley. And no one seems to know him in Socorro. He apparently lived on Yandell in a home that I assume is his parent's home but there is a Socorro address listed. I checked with former State Rep Chente Quintanilla and he made it clear that Tony is not a relative and that he is supporting Commissioner Perez.

And now, today's cat video:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Filing Deadline is Today

Today is the filing deadline for candidates wishing to appear on the March primary ballot. On the GOP side there is no excitement. No one cares who is going to be the sacrificial lamb selected to run for congress or any other office they make a feeble attempt at campaigning for.

Except me. I'm crossing my fingers that Barbara Carrasco runs for something. I can't wait to highlight that lady's policy positions for all the world to see, although that won't be fun until we are in the general election cycle.

Don't expect any major surprises on the Democratic side either. Anyone who is a legitimate contender for an office already started campaigning months ago. People who have a real legitimate chance of winning always start early, unless you're the once-in-a-lifetime type of candidate like Mayor Leeser with lots of money and years of name ID.

The only place you might, just maybe, see a surprise is with a few of the judicial seats. Like I said, the male judges are pretty vulnerable to younger Latina candidates so if, and I haven't really heard of anyone, a candidate fits the bill and can self-finance a race, that would likely be the only meaningful development.

I was talking with a friend about this yesterday because in previous years the last day to file was always something people waited anxiously for in anticipation and there was always a dramatic surprise or two. But now that campaigns are more sophisticated there is no value in waiting until the last minute. There is no "sneaking up" on an incumbent.

I know that there has been a lot of talk among attorneys about finding an opponent for Judge Mike Herrera in the family courts. But that has been the talk for many years and no real contenders ever step up and get the job done. I suspect that this cycle he skates by with no opponent.

Few incumbents have a challenger and the only incumbent that has a challenger that I think is in trouble is the eastside constable race. Other than that, it doesn't look like are any exciting things that are going to happen.

It'll be boring, but I'm still going to go to Democratic Party headquarters and pass along any info about last-minute candidates. Follow me on Twitter for those developments and video broadcasts of anything interesting (there won't be).

Oh yeah, and today's cat video:

Noe Alleges Info Withheld from City Council by City Attorney

Last night on ABC 7 Xtra there were two things that were alleged that I don't think have been mentioned before and at least one of them has the potential to be yet another problem that has to be fixed at city council.

First lets look at the dramatic part. In the video below at around the 13:00 minute mark City Rep Ordaz is being questioned by host Maria Garcia about a meeting between Ordaz and City Manager Tommy Gonzalez regarding Noe Hinojosa. I haven't heard this story before but from the conversation it appears Ordaz is basically saying Gonzalez has been less than truthful about when he met Noe Hinojosa. Garcia understands the gravity of what is being said and from what I gather in the piece she's asked Gonzalez about this before so she pretty much corners Ordaz about whether she is 100% sure of what took place.

Ordaz elaborates about a text message that was allegedly mistakenly sent to Noe Hinojosa instead of Representative Noe and herself from the city manager. Ordaz says she wondered how is it that Gonzalez said he didn't know Hinojosa but he had his phone number saved in his phone.



Insert dramatic sound effect in your head here.

For me that wasn't the biggest issue raised last night. Far more troubling is what Rep Noe alluded to in the early part of the broadcast.

Representative Noe, who later outlined some of the real problems that council is having with the City Attorney's Office like not being fully responsive to ORR's, basically alleged that the City Attorney either doesn't divulge, or doesn't completely divulge information to the city council because she doesn't want the media to get it.

That is a huge bombshell. City Attorney Firth is NOT elected like the County Attorney is. Frankly I'm with Rep Noe on this one, I think there should be some clarity on exactly who is her boss, council or the mayor.

But under what authority would a city manager even have to withhold information from council? Her job is to advise council. Furthermore, withholding information, if that is in fact true, is influencing policy in a way that exceeds her job description.

Her job is to advise them if what they are doing is legal or not. Her job is not to advise, nor shape the outcome of policy decisions through the exclusion of information, them on matters of policy or what they can or cannot release to the media or public outside of legal considerations.

To me, that is the bigger issue and one that, if true, is a big problem.

Politically I think Noe has a big problem on his hand. He's going to go down as the guy that went to bat for this city manager. He's termed out and isn't viable for another office, but you still don't want to go down as the guy that defended Gonzalez.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

GOP & The Trump Problem

I rarely comment on national politics because well, I'm a progressive liberal Democrat and you all pretty much know where I stand on a lot of national stuff.

But obviously Donald Trump has made me make an exception.

Here's the reality about Trump. Right now, he is the Republican Party. I know its pretty shitty that after all the real leaders that party has had over the years, the Party of Lincoln has been hijacked by Trump.

The real problem with Trump isn't just that he says such stupid things and gets all kinds of negative attention for the GOP brand that will not likely rinse off before next November.

Its not even that he may decide to take his ball and run as an independent in November either, although I acknowledge that is a major concern for the GOP leadership.

The real problem for the GOP with Trump is that so many people right now actually LIKE him in their party. That is a scary thing for the GOP when you think about it because it exposes all the idiots and racists in the GOP. Basically everything we liberal members of the Democratic Party like to point and laugh at every chance we get.

I know, its kinda messed up of us that we do that, but hell its your fault. Clean your house and we won't think that.

And so many in the GOP are partially at fault for the Trump Factor. So many people say "well he'll never be the nominee anyway, so why worry?" Well aside from the fact that he exposes all the nutcases in your party, the problem is Iowa is just around the corner and he's still the front-runner in a crowded field. This guy could win Iowa for the mere fact that you still have a ton of other candidates running.

So the name with the most ID wins in a big field unless someone really organized can go in and win the caucuses. Except the only candidate that has the organizational experience to pull something like hat off is well, Rand Paul. The Pauls do really well in caucuses. Well I should say, his dad did.

Rand is running in the low single digits right now. Somewhere behind a basket of fruit and a pee-stained mattress.

Only now, this late in the game, has the GOP establishment started any kind of push-back and it took Trump saying some really stupid shit that would make Hitler proud in order to make things happen. Seriously, the establishment had NOTHING to say when he basically said the same thing about Mexicans. Your silence actually spoke volumes about your party.

Why?

Because Trump speaks for a larger part of the Republican Party than they are comfortable admitting.

And that is the real Trump problem for the GOP.

Here's today's related cat video:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

City Manager on the Way Out?

I wouldn't put it passed this council, but it appears that an item on the agenda for the next city council meeting is marking the end of City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.

Based on Tuesday's city council meeting and these articles in the El Paso Times and the El Paso Inc, its pretty freaking difficult to see how the city manager survives the recent developments having to do with the financial advisor.

A few months ago the very same reps that are expressing disappointment in the city manager were the ones pushing for his raise.

That led to some going to city council and calling an agenda item to revisit the raise "an embarrassment".

I wonder where those people are now.

But back to my point, when City Rep Cortney Niland, who was once one of Gonzalez's biggest supporters is now openly critical of the city manager and seems to be on a quest to find out who is responsible for several developments relating to the RFQ for a new financial advisor, you know the city manager is in some trouble.

Now I've heard several people say that the city manager is "going to take the fall" for the fiasco but frankly I don't see that as his intention at all. Niland very bluntly pointed out the CFO "falling on the sword". I think several high-level staffers will take the fall before the city manager does.

Why?

Because the city manager is essentially the city's version of Jim Valenti. He's become a lightning rod for a lot of things and has had a lot of negative coverage. Ironically, both of them over how much they get paid.

The reality is that both guys know its going to be difficult to find another job comparable to what they are doing now when they leave El Paso no matter what the circumstances.

El Paso is the city of second chances. It always has been. But if you did any searching of Gonzalez before he was selected as the city manager you would've found countless number of news stories that should have at the very least, raised some eyebrows. Which is why I couldn't, and can't, understand the raise.

But now that it appears council is going to get rid of Gonzalez, the question is what is the future for Romero?

Also there was a suspicious package found in front of city hall today that was at one point reported to be a briefcase. There were unconfirmed reports that the briefcase contained City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's future in it. It was going to be detonated as a precautionary measure. 

But it turns out it was an old worn out seat cushion. Word around the camp fire at city hall is that Gonzalez is going to see it back together and add it to the total amount of money he has "saved" the city.

Just kidding, I made those last two paragraphs up. 

Here's a cat video:




Situation at El Paso City Hall

More to follow. Stay tuned to local news outlets. 

Honey Badger on Point About El Paso Electric

Gotta give props to City Rep Cortney Niland for her comments regarding the fee hike El Paso Electric is going after.

During yesterday's meeting when the agenda item was being heard Niland laid out the numbers and essentially destroyed the utilities argument for a raise.

She stood up for El Paso families, rate payers and users of solar energy. She even called them out on trying to go over city council's head and called on the El Paso legislative delegation to protect the rate payers. 

Which means she just made it an campaign item for HD 75 and 77.

All that was missing was for her to drop the mic.

So I give credit where credit is due and Niland earned it yesterday. 

Well done.

UPDATE: I forgot to add today's cat video. Here you go...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Maybe I Should Lay Off the City of El Paso for Awhile

So I was trying to monitor the city council meeting today and found out that after several weeks they are still not set up to let people with an Apple device stream the meetings.

They can't even get that right.

And out of frustration I got to thinking about all the crap they seem to mess up on. Seriously, its enough to make even a progressive liberal like myself start thinking like a crazy "government bad" Frankenstein's monster from the GOP.

But then I thought to myself, hey its the Christmas season or Channukuh or Hanukah - not sure what the correct spelling is there, and maybe I need to let a little more kindness in my heart. So I decided I was going to write down a list of all the things the city is really good at.

Without further adieu, here is a list of all the things I think the city does really well:




















































Shit, I got nothing. I'm sorry, my bad. I can't think of anything.

Oh wait, I have something!

Parking tickets! When you go downtown and visit your city hall they charge you to park at a meter now. They didn't used to, but they do now. Apparently all that revenue from the 10 people that use the meters on the one day of the week that they meet was a big chunk of revenue they just couldn't do without.

So their meter readers that are so out of shape they make me look like a svelte Olympic athlete are really great at writing parking tickets.

Oh well, here's a cat video:

Monday, December 7, 2015

What's the Big Secret?

Last night City Representative Larry Romero went on KVIA for ABC 7 Xtra with Maria Garcia. So let me start by saying kudos to him for actually going on air and facing the questions. That took guts.

There are many take-aways from it but the main one for me is that Romero is indignant about what has been unearthed, he essentially blames the Times for his woes, and is completely detached from reality. Romero believes most of his constituents are happy with him and that anyone not happy with him either lives outside his district or is the product of the imagination of the El Paso Times.

But there were a couple of things that I think were really important during the conversation last night. I've heard the city manager and Romero both refer to the displeasure of Rep Romero "and other members" of council toward First Southwest as the City's financial advisor.

But no one ever says exactly who. No one has come and and named names.

Garcia read my tweet asking that question on the air and Romero wouldn't answer the question. He dodged it and now I'm even more curious because he now says those comments were made during executive session so he didn't want to talk about them. I guess for fear of getting in trouble for divulging information about executive session.

Which is hilarious because just because you don't actually name names doesn't mean that you aren't divulging. Saying what someone said, even if you don't mention who, is probably already violating the rules.

But that doesn't concern me as much as the secrecy. Think about it, if you were Romero and taking all the heat and if there really were other people on council that also gave some sort of indication that they were displeased with council wouldn't you want everyone to know?

So either its not true, or there is some really compelling reason that people are so on the down-low about this one.

Something just doesn't jive.

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Romero Running Rumors

Personally I have my doubts about whether he even finishes out his term, but I've heard whispers around town that Romero has said he's not running for reelection. Well we didn't hear anything straight from the horse's mouth until last night.

Sorta.

Garcia asked if he was going to seek reelection despite an abrupt end to a recall attempt and an ethics complaint leveled against him and the city manager.

Romero said he hasn't made up his mind yet.

Which sounds a lot like "no".

Speaking of the abrupt end to the recall effort, Garcia made it sound like they would be looking into the abrupt end of the recall effort, so things could get real uncomfortable around town if anything comes of it.

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Man of My Word

One of my readers assured me that my blog would be vastly improved if I included more cat videos. I was inspired by his words of encouragement and I therefore present this video:

Educator/Businesswoman Files for State Board of Education

Educator and businesswoman Georgina Perez has filed with the Texas Democratic Party to run for the State Board of Education.

In an election cycle that has thus far been pretty safe for incumbents Perez tossed her hat in the ring for a position currently held by Martha Dominguez.

Dominguez will be familiar to some because the last time she ran, she actually tried to withdraw from the race but because of filing errors was unable to be removed from the ballot. She ended up winning the election and has been the area's representative to the State Board of Education ever since.

"The SBOE is an important entity that has been hijacked by extremists that are more concerned with advancing an ultra-conservative agenda and rewriting text books than they have been overseeing the education of Texas youth. El Paso needs a strong voice to advocate on our behalf and I think I bring that tenacity to the table", Perez said.

Perez said running a family business and her years in the classroom have given her the experience necessary to be an advocate for the community. Over the last few years Perez, in addition to running a family business, teaching and pursuing higher education, has been coordinating a project to get books into the hands of students in the rural areas around El Paso.

Perez went on to say, "Most kids who live outside of the city of El Paso don't have regular access to a library. Reading is one of the building blocks of education and is one of the few means to escape the cycle of poverty. Through the generosity of many businesses and community members we have been successful in getting over 20,000 books into the hands of thousands of students in the rural communities."

Dominguez has given no indication as to whether or not she will be seeking re-election. The filing deadline is a week from today. The SBOE district covers several counties in west Texas.

Friday, December 4, 2015

We Can't Get Anything Right

The fact that Jim Tolbert had to file an ethics complaint and that it didn't come from members of council themselves sends a terrible message to the community.

It either says we are incapable of fixing our own mess and need a citizen to do it for us - or it says we are in complete denial that there is a problem and don't think there is anything to fix in the first place.

But yet again we demonstrate our complete incompetence as a city.

Somehow, according to Tommy Gonzalez last night, El Paso is ranked somewhere as the 3rd Best Managed City in Texas. That is fucking incredible when you consider the failures on the part of the city as it relates to the MPO, the engineering department, street paving, the financial advisor, and the biggest city screw up of all...the plazita.

More on that in a minute, but now we can add another example of how the City sucks worse than Tony Romo on a Sunday...the city's Ethics Commission.

If I'm not mistaken the commission has the power to actually IMPEACH a member of council. So a complaint to the Ethics Commission would normally be a big freakin' deal. Except for the fact that the city can't even get that shit right.

The Ethics Commission needs a quorum of 5 members to even meet and I think they only have 3 right now. The city reps were supposed to appoint new members but I guess there just wasn't an urgency for it previously. So far only one city rep has submitted a name for consideration to the commission and that is...as is only possible in El Paso...you guessed it, City Rep Larry Romero.

You seriously can't make this shit up.

So even if they wanted to hear the ethics complaint that should've come from the city reps but came from a citizen instead, they can't because they don't have enough members to meet.

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Speaking of How Great the City Is Managed

I had a chance to ask one more question of the city manager last night and I asked him about whether the city's legal position was compromised by Rep Niland's admission of culpability during a council meeting as it relates to the delay in construction at the plazita, especially given that the city is charging the contractor $1000 a day for every day the project is delayed.

Here's his answer...sorta.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez's Remarks at Acosta Community Meeting LastNight


Embattled City Manager Tommy Gonzalez kept a speaking date with City Rep Emma Acosta's community meeting last night despite an ethics violation being filed against him and City Rep Larry Romero yesterday.

I had a chance to ask him about it. My beloved camera is dead, so I only have audio but you can hear his response a little further down in the post, along with a hilarious response to a question he asked the audience that I'm guessing he wishes he hadn't asked.

He asked what people think of when they think of El Paso and people started to itemize a bunch of negative stuff including several people saying "corruption".

Before we get into that let me say this about the city manager. He showed up, he knew he was going to be asked tough questions, and he stood there and took it like a man. He was poised and never appeared to be too rattled. He also had to put up with something that annoys the crap out of me that happens with Acosta's meetings more than any other city rep for some reason, though its not her fault.  For some reason everyone that asks a question feels they need to give a long effin' speech before they get to their damn point.

Shut up, no one cares about young long boring speech. Just ask your freakin' question and shut up so we can hear the answer.

But I will highlight one person in attendance that annoyed me more than most, some lady named Diamond, but I'll get to her in a bit.

I learned a few things about the City Manager I didn't know before this meeting:

- He apparently played ball in college.

- He is a retired colonel, but didn't say if he was full-bird or a LTC and didn't say what branch but I still was unaware of that before.

- He has a black belt in 6 sigma.

- He and his wife lost twin boys.

The short of it is that Gonzalez basic stock answer to the many questions that almost all seemed to float around the stuff that has been reported is to essentially say he does favors for all the city reps and that he's simply being responsive to the will of council members.



I guess he thinks we don't know the difference between city reps bringing constituent issues like potholes and broken sidewalk complaints and circumventing established city procedures to install speed humps, pave alleys, and replace the city financial advisor.

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A Diamond is Tommy's Best Friend

So there was this lady that I thought was working for Acosta because she was signing people in when I arrived at the meeting but it turns out she doesn't. She looked familiar but I couldn't quite place her at first. But later during the meeting when she spoke thats when I remembered her.

Her name is Diamond something or other. I didn't catch the last name.

She stood up in the meeting to basically chastise the audience and defend Gonzalez. She implied that the people in the audience don't know how city government works and said that we should actually attend meetings to learn how it works and what the city manager does. But she proceeded to try to explain to the audience what the city manager does and said that he only does what he's told to do.

Here's her little speech.



Which was hilarious because she was basically wrong. She's a huge cheerleader for the city manager. I remembered where I'd seen her before when she started defending the city manager. She's the lady that went to the microphone, along with Dan Olives and a few of the rich guys in town, to say City Rep Ordaz raising the issue of the city manager's raise was "an embarrassment".

Her lack of knowledge about what his role is was astonishing. There's a reason its called the City Manager and not the City Guy-Who-Does-Only-What-He's-Told-To-By-Members-of-Council.

He's the highest level employee in the city.

Capo dei capi.
The Head Vato in Charge.
The big Kahuna.

All the city employees other than the city attorney's office answer to him.

Hell, he's getting heat for ordering an RFQ without authorization from council. Maybe she missed that part.

Now that I think on it, in light of all that is coming out now, I wonder if all those people that went to council to advocate for the raise and called the conversation about the reexamining the raise and embarrassment still think the raise was a good idea.

Meh, I guess thats a post for another day.

But I was trying to think of just the right phrase to capture Diamond's defense of Gonzalez last night and the only one that comes to mind is "an embarrassment".

Setting the Record Straight on Wastewater and Mary Gonzalez

I struggled with myself a bit about whether or not to write this post because its about a project I care a lot about and had a front row seat for most of it.

The fact that the project had been stalled for so many years and has finally come through is extremely satisfying - but State Rep Mary Gonzalez taking credit for it is extremely annoying. So despite the fact that I agree with most of her politics and I have supported her in the past, and consider her a friend, I feel I wouldn't be honest with you readers if I didn't set the record straight.

Several hundred residents in the Montana Vista area, the poor part, not the rich part, have been without sewer service for many years and over time many of their septic systems have failed. Some have open cesspools and others leak. Its a terrible situation to have to live in.

State Rep Mary Gonzalez is taking the credit for a project going through that she shouldn't be taking credit for. Well, not to the degree that she is. And it saddens me because its more of the same old type of politics that many of us thought we had turned the page on. Here's a screen shot from her FB page:



And its not the first time she's done it either. Which I guess bothers me as well. But Representative Gonzalez sent out a press release and is taking credit for $2+ million in funding to alleviate a big problem in the area.



If she was intellectually honest, the press release should've been giving credit for the project to the people who really deserve the credit.

Namely a resident and community leader Tina Silva who organized her community and made it her life's mission to get fix a bad problem in her community. She was a pain in the neck for every elected official that represented the area over the greater part of the last decade and she was relentless.

That press release should have given credit to the Ombudsperson for the Secretary of State's Office Kathryn Hairston who busted her ass, held electeds accountable, advocated for every single home in the area individually with state inspectors, and helped the community navigate a complicated process.

That press release should've credited Munzer Alsarraj. He works for the County of El Paso as an Infrastructure Program Manager and is one of the greatest assets the County is lucky enough to have working for them. His tireless dedication and attention to detail was an important part of making the project a success.

That press release should have given credit to Commissioner Vince Perez and his staffer Jose Landeros for working on a plan to organize pre-inspections of septic systems in the area and then went out to personally help with the inspections along with Hairston and one other person that really deserves credit for busting their butt...

Gonzalez's former staffer Arlina Palacios. Hairston and Palacios, two single mothers with small kids at home, not a single state rep with no kids to be taking care of, were the ones that frequently put in 12-16 hour days working out in the dusty community in the far east part of the county that frequently looked more like Tatooine than Texas when the winds picked up. The two literally fought and cried out of frustration from working so hard on the project. They, along with Landeros, were the ones that had to face the community and deal with their questions, concerns, complaints, and frustrations, work with the inspectors until late in the evening, and then start all over before the sun came up the next morning.

Truth be told, many residents thought Palacios was the state rep.

Did Gonzalez acknowledge any of those and other county and water utility staff that worked hard on that project in her little election-time press release?

Hell no.

The only name she included in that press release was her own.

Where was Mary when all this planning was being done?

I don't know - Austin, riding a horse somewhere, taking selfies with a puppy, dancing at Wild Horse - Who knows?

But she damn sure wasn't there doing the work. She never advocated for a resident like Palacios, Hairston, and Landeros did. She didn't ever have to worry about getting bit by a dog or have to lift a large concrete cover off a cess pool (like the one shown in her FB post) only to see a ton of roaches come crawling out just so that an inspector could visually inspect the system.

The only elected official that was actually out there getting their hands dirty and inspecting failing septic systems, which sounds as nasty as you can imagine, was Commissioner Perez. But only one constituent even knew it was him and thats only because they were appreciative of the effort and asked who we (Landeros and I) worked for and we told them we worked for Perez, who was standing right next to us. They asked us to thank him for them.

We pointed to Vince and said, "El es."

Do you think Mary got her hands dirty? Hell no. Not if there wasn't a news camera around to catch her doing it.

Look I know many of you think I might be being too hard on her but the reality is the project could've gotten through quicker but frankly Rep Gonzalez didn't push the state agencies very hard at all. I know all the details of the project because I worked on it, so I feel pretty justified in this critique when I say that Rep Gonzalez personally could have done a lot more. She did the least of anyone involved.

It wasn't until Senator Rodriguez's office got involved that things started moving at the state level. Hell he and his staff deserve as much of the credit as anyone else.

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Where's Mary?

Look, I'm really letting you guys in on some inside valley stuff but damn it, it needs to be said. One of the biggest critiques of Rep Gonzalez from community members, and I've personally told her this already so she already knows, is that she has almost no regular presence in the district. I wrote about this when she was a candidate if you recall, but prior to running for office she hadn't lived any of her adult life in HD 75. She left to school when she turned 18 and hadn't been living here until she decided to come back from Planet Austin and run for office.

She STILL hasn't changed her number from an Austin number. Her cell phone number is still a 512 area code.

Sure she comes back occasionally and will make it a point to have a meal at Cotton-Eyed Joes or a drink a Mammacita's just so that people know she's around, but on the few occasions she is actually in town she doesn't spend much of it in the district. Which I guess isn't that big of a deal if her constituents don't care, but she shouldn't give people the impression she's here a lot because she isn't.

And when she should be...she isn't.

The valley had some really bad flooding a couple years back. It flooded really badly on September 13th a couple years ago, I remember specifically because I had plans that day but all hell broke loose in the valley. So Commissioner Perez and I drove out to the Fabens Road and Bridge Yard and picked up sand bags and delivered them to people in San Elizario that were hit particularly hard. We spent most of the afternoon doing that and we didn't stop until close to 10:00pm that night.

Here are some photos I snapped on my phone to give you an idea of how bad things were. The Old County Jail was literally falling apart.






I know, you probably don't think the scrawny Georgetown college boy with suspenders would be out on the back of a pick-up truck in a rural community personally unloading and stacking sandbags with community members but he did. (He wasn't in his suspenders by the way.)

And where was Rep Gonzalez when her district was under water? Handing out food or bottled water to residents? Working diligently directing state resources in some make shift command center on a farm in Clint?

Nope.

She was all lipistickiada at a 16 de Septiembre event at the Consulado partying it up. I snapped this photo and took this screen shot because it annoyed me that she would run around the valley saying Vince doesn't really represent the valley, and that she did.



But when her constituents needed her, where was she? No where near where the help was needed.

She sure as hell makes time to show up on MSNBC for stuff that has nothing to do with her district though.

Look, Vince is a terrible politician. He's socially awkward and shy. I remember one of his very first campaign efforts was at a library in his neighborhood and I physically nudged him to go talk to a voter. (I wonder if remembers that) Any who, my point is that if he was a good politician, he would've made the most mileage possible out of that photo.

And if I had my way, he would've. But you didn't see this photo until now and its only because I'm annoyed that Gonzalez is taking credit for something she had very little to do with.

Had it been the other way around Gonzalez would've called a press conference and included a photo of her in some rubber boots wearing a life vest that says FEMA and a hard hat, riding a horse pulling a canoe of supplies down FM 1110 delivering it to someone in Clint.

And what about when Tornillo had a major water disaster recently? Was Mary there passing out water or coordinating relief efforts?

Negative Ghostrider.

She was on Planet Austin again and yet again, Vince was the one out there slave-driving his staff to help support Tornillo water board folks and all the other people helping out.

But when its time to take credit for a project that is going to help a lot of families that took the sustained effort of several different levels of government and various entities, she pops up in Montana Vista in front of a TV camera.

Look, I'm not stupid. Its election season and she's facing a challenge from the former state rep of the area. Its the first time she's every really had an opponent so I get it, you gotta capitalize on what you can.

But taking credit for something you weren't really involved in is just not right. Gonzalez missed a golden opportunity to recognize the hard work of others. Thats what leaders do.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Romero Interview

If you haven't seen the full interview on KVIA of City Rep Larry Romero by Maria Garcia of KVIA and Elida Perez of the El Paso Times, click here to review it.

Romero understandably hasn't wanted to talk much about the series of controversies he's been facing lately so the two basically had to wait him out and catch him before he went into the agenda review meeting the other day.

Just a tip for you electeds out there, don't avoid the media even if its uncomfortable. You look shady and you will inevitably get stuck with a camera in your face at a time that is not of your choosing. Make yourself available and if you're smart, do it on your turf at a time of your choosing so that you can at least be prepared for it.

Obviously Romero is hostile to the reporters because he doesn't want to answer any questions. None of the questions asked were out-of-bounds, unreasonable, inappropriate, etc. There were all on-point and frankly they could've even been sharper.

And before some of you start whining that the reporting is biased, get over yourself. Having reporters be adversarial to elected officials is common and goes back to the days of the American Revolution. Electeds have had it too easy all to often in this town. They get let off the hook and won't answer questions so its high time the media started asking the tough questions. Media bias is usually the first thing an elected cries when they are asked a question they don't want to answer.

So let me navigate you through this interview and zero in on a few things Romero says that are noteworthy. First, he makes the argument that he only worked for the firm for a few months several years ago and therefore it isn't a big deal. Well Maria Garcia puts that to rest by asking him something along the lines of disclosure being a basic tenant of transparent government.

Next Romero goes into a narrative that people are acting like he's the most powerful member of city government and proceeds to essentially through City Manager Tommy Gonzalez under the bus. I'll say this, he's partially right in that the City Manager needs to get a lot better at telling City Reps "no". But Romero must think we are all stupid if he thinks for one minute the public doesn't know that as a city rep he has a lot of influence over staff and if he says something to staff, its not unheard of for them to take it as a directive.

Nice try Representative Romero.

Then Romero tries to underscore his point by saying "you all are blaming me for the city manager raise" and makes the point that he is only one member that voted for it. Yeah thats all well and good, but you're the vato that proposed the raise in the first place! You advocated for it. Now you want to pawn it off on everyone else that voted for it? That's called accountability Representative. It was your agenda item. Interestingly the media hadn't actually asked him about the raise. He brought that up himself.

Romero makes that same point when it comes to the topic of changing financial advisors. He says he wasn't the only member of council that was unhappy with the performance of First Southwest. One problem, there's not actually a record of anyone OTHER than Rep Romero voicing any concerns about First Southwest.

None at all.

Romero attempts to deflect and talk about the $20+ million that was lost by the city because of a delay in a vote because of the election. Thats a solid point except that he's full of it. Garcia rightfully calls him on that and said she has done multiple stories on that point.

I also find it funny not NOW you people care about losing $20 million? I think you only care about losing $20 million when you can pin it on people you don't like because many of you reading this didn't give a shit when the city lost almost $60 million due to fuck ups at the MPO.

Exactly, thats what I thought. 

Any who, back to the interview. Why doesn't Romero himself say who the other members of council were that were upset with First Southwest?

Eventually Romero goes to the default settings electeds have when its a topic they don't want to talk about and starts claiming biased reporting. Specifically he said to Elida Perez that he talks to her for 5 or 10 minutes and only a small quote is inserted into the story. Well, thats true of just about every interview ever done in the history of interviews.

But Perez also calls him out on his rhetoric and reminds the representative that she's only spoke to him once before for two minutes. She's new to the city hall beat for those of you at home.

My favorite part of the interview is where Romero says that the El Paso Times is lying because twice in the same article they say that he still lives at an address on Polk Street and then has a shit attack because they gave the address. This was likely in a story about how he had that street paved and the alley adjacent to his property as I recall.

So maybe Romero moved. Okay.

But does it change the basic point of the story that property that he lived at at some point while he was city rep had its street paved? I'm pretty sure he still owns that property, which would really make his point irrelevant. The underlying issue is that its adding a benefit to his property at public expense. In fact, if I recall correctly I think he even made some comments about how his neighbors there didn't even know who he was and defended it saying that just because they live on the same street doesn't mean that they should be disqualified from street improvements.

That completely negates his point.

Incredibly Romero demonstrates that he's either completely disconnected with reality or he's lying to himself when Garcia asked him about what he would say to constituents who have lost faith in him. Romero, with a straight face no less, says that they haven't. Uh...there are people shouting recall all through his district and if one guy hadn't allegedly been pressured by some business big wig, there might be a signature collection effort already taking place. Given all the negative information that has come out its not like that would've been hard to collect all those signatures either.

Then he contradicts himself and says that so many people are blaming him for the street stuff when other city reps allegedly did the same thing. Well which is it? They are congratulating you or they are complaining about you? You might want to keep your story straight representative.

This leads to the final discussion - Cathedral speed bumps. Why in the blue hell is he even involved in that effort if it isn't even his district in the first place? So he thew Niland under the bus.

Someone outta do something about all those flying buses at city hall that Romero keeps throwing people under.




Ortega V. Lopez

The race that will get all of the attention in the March Primary Election is the race to replace out-going State Rep Marisa Marquez in HD 77 that pits Lina Ortega against Adolfo Lopez.

In terms of their candidacy the two are pretty evenly matched. Both are attorneys. Shapleigh held a fundraiser for Ortega, Dee Margo held on for Lopez.

Lopez has a Cesar Blanco quality about him. Smart, very likable, dynamic good-looking guy that will do well on a doorstep. I should say does well on the door step because he's been walking.

In terms of personality, he's just more likable than Ortega. I've met her three times now, she never remembers which is kinda funny to me, but is also likable. But she's not dynamic. You almost get the sense that she's reluctant about running.

Lopez released a campaign video that features him in a sweatsuit straight out of Beat Street running around HD 77 which half reminds me of Rocky but also sorta reminds me of Forrest Gump. The point of the ad is essentially calling Ortega old. She's old enough to be his mother but she's not exactly old enough to put out to pasture.

Besides Forma stablemate Chente Quintanilla is older than Ortega by quite a bit. I think he's 70 and he's running against an incumbent in her early 30's so its somewhat of a gamble for Forma to have even created the ad in the first place. But the cinematography of the ad is pretty chingon.

This race is going to come down to which of the two candidates ends up with the most money from their respective teams. The Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) are going in pretty big for Ortega from what I hear from my Austin sources. One would assume that the Texas for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) or the Texans for Education Reform (TER) are going to go in for Lopez.

Here's what I find most interesting about their race.

I think who ever loses that race is perfectly positioned to run for City Rep Larry Romero's seat. Its really difficult to see how Romero stays on council long enough to finish his term and impossible to see this guy getting re-elected to the seat.

But either two of the candidates in the HD 77 race would make good city reps.

Speaking of Romero, later this morning...dissecting Rep Romero's comments to KVIA and the El Paso Times...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Acosta Does the Right Thing & City Needs to too

The reality is that accepting the feria from Estrada Hinojosa through Carlos Aguilar was a mistake no matter how you look at it.

The optics of the transaction alone were bad and Acosta is an experienced city rep with arguably the most politically experienced staffer of anyone on council.

They should have known better.

But the did the right thing in returning the money. I'm confused as to why she's defiant to the media about accepting the money in the first place but is still returning the money. I mean look, you're either defiant and you don't return the money, or you acknowledge a mistake and return the money. She seems to be wanting to do both at the same time.

Its the Donal Trump school of politics that dictates you can't admit to being wrong because it somehow shows you're weak. Thats just silly. People are forgiving, but you have to acknowledge a mistake.

A better way to have handled the situation would've have been for her to say that in light of recent developments and in order to reassure her constituents that she was going to return the money. They should could pivot back into what the money was for and how great an event it is for the community.

Because those events really are great.

Bottom line is, she did the right thing and returned the money. And good for her.

Now the City of El Paso needs to do the right thing.

There is ab-so-fucking-lutely no reason that there isn't an outside entity looking into what happened with the attempt to fire the current financial advisor. It is the height of irresponsibility to have the city look into its own potential problems. Having both the city manager and the auditor look into the matter separately is nothing more than the appearance of due diligence.

It would mean a hell of a lot more if they auditor didn't answer to the city manager and the financial committee that is chaired by, you guessed it, City Rep Larry Romero.

The auditors at the county don't answer to commissioner's court. They answer to an independent body, the Council of Judges for that very reason. It makes no sense to have someone who works for you keep an eye on you.

They Mayor needs to have an outside firm look into this issue because this development has shaken the public's trust. Their trust isn't going to be earned back by having an internal investigation with all kinds of potential problems.

The only smart way to approach this is with an outside firm with no dog in the fight. If there are findings, then act accordingly. If there are no findings, then Mayor Leeser did the right thing and can tell the public everything was on the up and up.

We can't go backwards into the dark days that hung like a cloud over our community for so many years.

Now the mayor has put himself in a tough spot. Because if the internal investigation comes back squeaky clean, which its almost guaranteed to do because you have inherent conflicts of interest, and the public pressures for an outside firm and the mayor decides to go with an outside firm that comes back with findings...well then you have quite the mess on your hands Mr. Mayor.

Oh, and one more thing. In this piece in the El Paso Times, they make mention that the move to replace First Southwest was done after Romero and other unnamed members of council raised concerns about the performance of First Southwest.

The mayor should insist on naming names. Who where the other members of council that raised concerns along with Romero? Why hasn't that come out yet?

The public has a right to know who they are.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Safe Election Cycle for Incumbents

Its pretty interesting that with a big primary coming up in March it looks like there really won't be much fireworks on the local scene and so races that no one gives a shit about will actually take center stage.

So far there are only two incumbents with challengers, although the filing deadline is still a couple of weeks away. I haven't even heard any whispers of anyone thinking about taking on an incumbent either. And frankly, that doesn't even matter because unless you're taking on an incumbent judge its sorta already too late.

I know there are some politicos that like to slide in at the last moment to surprise people and think its gonna make a splash and help propel them to victory but it doesn't. And they aren't going to catch an incumbent by surprise either.

The only person that it worked out for was Oscar Leeser and Leeser was a unique situation. There had been talk about him running for mayor for a long time. Hell it was the worst kept secret in El Paso since Judge Escobar ran for County Judge. But unless you have 20+ years of experience on local television where you've built up a brand and you have a ton of money, guess what? You aren't going to be the next Mayor Leeser.

Anyone serious about mounting a real campaign doesn't wait until the last minute. They start early to reach out to people, volunteers, groups, donors, etc.

Only State Rep Mary Gonzalez and Constable Aguilar are facing opponents.

Not exactly sure what that says about the currently slate of elected officials but its not hard to imagine that any elected official without a challenger will take it as a sign from the community that they are doing okay.

And its hard to argue against that point.


Most Reps No-Shows at Sun Bowl Parade

Every year the Sun Bowl has a Thanksgiving Parade down Montana that features a couple area marching bands, some people dressed like cowboys shooting off guns that are blanks but much louder than the real thing, a couple floats etc.

Its also the one time a year where El Paso does its best Soviet Union impression by rolling out a series of law enforcement agencies in this town as they drive down the street in all their tactical stuff.

The other thing you see every year is a bunch of elected officials in the parade. That happens every year and its usually all the members of council and all the members of commissioner's court. Or at the very least, the vast majority of them.

This year most of the county commissioner's where there. But interestingly only two members of city council showed up. Which is interesting when you consider there are so many more members of city council than there are commissioner's court.

The Mayor was at the start of the parade and actually had a pretty good reception. He walked along with his wife.

The other member of council in attendance was City Rep Ordaz who rode in a pick-up truck with Commissioner Perez.

Thats it. No one else from council was in the parade.

Council is obviously not the most popular group of folks in town these days so its understandable that they wouldn't want to be in a parade and potentially get boo'ed. Before the excuses start flying around there are two things to consider. One, its plausible that some of them chose to be with their families and I know at least one of them was out of town. Two, most if not all of the members of council that were on the council last year, where in the parade last year but for whatever reason aren't this year. Who knows, maybe its because there was a municipal election on the horizon last year.

Especially after a scathing Op Ed last week by the El Paso Times calling for the resignation of City Rep Larry Romero. Its apparent that when Rep Romero said he would have a conversation with the community he didn't mean at a parade in his district.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rep Romero Responds to Times; Tolbert Responds to Romero & Deja Vu

Apparently the media went to Rep Romero's office to get comment about the El Paso Times calling for his resignation and yet again, he declined comment.

But he ultimately sent in a statement to KVIA and they ran a story on it last night. Click here to check it out.

By the way - we've seen this movie before people. More on that in the last segment of this post. 

In his statement alleges that the Times is "jumping into the campaign business". He goes on to say that "enough is enough" and that he's going to have a conversation with the community about this etc.

No he isn't. He is avoiding media.

They are going to be at every public meeting he has in order to get comment from him on camera. What's he gonna do? Hide out forever? If he has a conversation with the community as he says, he will inevitably face news cameras. Then he will have to answer specific questions and if he wanted to deny the allegations laid out by the Times, he would have in his statement.

Its a case study in how not to respond in the media. At the very least he could have challenged the credibility of what was alleged or the source or something. He did none of that. Even his feeble attempt at implying its a witch hunt falls flat because the Times can't be involved in the "campaign business" when Romero isn't in a campaign!

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Jim Tolbert responded to Romero with an open letter. Click here to read it. Tolbert lays out a series of critiques against Romero and then calls for his resignation.

I think Tolbert has to put his money where is mouth his. I think he needs to do more than write a blog post about it. He came in second place. I think he has an obligation to do with Adam Gurrola couldn't if he wants to have any credibility with the electorate. Otherwise Tolbert should step aside and support another candidate willing to step forward if he really feels there is an urgency to change the leadership.

Also, take note of what Tolbert says about what happened to Gurrola when he tried to recall Romero. If that is true, then I personally think it reflects more negatively on Romero than the streets thing.

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In the words of of the late Yogi Berra, "Its deja vu all over again".

This situation with Representative Romero has happened in this community before. Right down the street from the current city hall back in 2007 to be exact.

Lets all climb into the DeLorean, adjust the flux capacitor, and floor the gas until we hit 88 mph and go back to 2007.

Familiar territory right? A governmental body has the financial advisor firm First Southwest and things are going along just fine. The topic of bonds and a ballpark is before the County. It was also a bit controversial if you recall.

You memmer, memmer?

There was a sudden move by one of the elected officials to oust the financial advisor in the middle of a contract and send it out to rebid amid sudden allegations of displeasure with the firm's performance?

The difference was it was the County, it was the Sports Park, the elected officials was Anthony Cobos, but the contract went to a firm that didn't score as well in the bid process yet was favored by the elected official, and the transa wasn't done behind closed doors.

Sounds familiar right?

What's that sound? Its Doc in the DeLorean again. We have to go with him back to the future.

No, its not because we become assholes or something.

Its the Sports Park Marty. Something has got to be done about the Sports Park. Its still not done!

David K is Getting Paid or Played

When Ali Razavi, Martin Paredes, or David K write about me - which is pretty often - I normally just roll my eyes and laugh whenever I find out about it. Actually with David K I usually find out right away because I read his blog daily.

The other two I really don't bother with but eventually someone tells me about it.

But David K is straight up getting paid, or played, in his latest piece. Please read it so that you can be up to speed with his lunacy. Click here.

Normally when these fools write shit about me I don't even bother trying to dispel whatever it is they wrote because honestly its usually pretty entertaining and I'd be lying if I told you I didn't get a kick out of all the magical powers they assign me.

To hear them tell it, I am the all-powerful behind the curtains sentient being that runs this town. Which truth be told, if I was in charge around here the first thing I'd do is fix public transportation in the valley and then focus on UTEP football.

Seriously, this is Texas. We need a good football team to root for in this town.

Any who, now that you've had a chance to read DK's latest piece let me tell you what he won't tell you.

First of all, I was never a supporter of Larry Romero. I was rooting for Michael Apodaca. He's a friend of mine and we've worked together on a lot of things over the years in the Democratic Party. David K is a fucking idiot for saying I was supporting Romero. Its another one of those times where he just makes shit up out of nowhere. I think I might have said I thought Romero was going to win in the runoff once it was down to him and Tolbert, but thats about it.

I was supportive of Mikey all the way. I attended his campaign kick-off event. Five Points Bistro as I recall. Yet again, David K shows he doesn't know what he's talking about.

And opposed to the ballpark? Are you fucking kidding me? I love that place. Anyone that knows me, or follows me on social media, knows I've been all for the team and stadium since they unveiled the uniforms. That alone shows you how full of shit David K is. If he can't even get that shit right about me, there is no reason to believe anything else he says.

David K was fed that stuff about Ordaz's staffer, only its a far more embellished fish story from when it was first pitched to me. How do I know?

Because the same member of council that pitched it to him, tried to pitch it to me. And while DK loves to blame Ordaz for everything from Starbucks' Red Cup to Ben Carson plummeting in the polls, I was unaware of her staff change until I was informed by the same city rep that pitched the story to him. I was actually late to the party because from what I have now gathered since then, it was like a full week after it happened.

It was also pitched to media.

And no one bit.

Why?

Because when something is pitched to media and they don't bite on it, its the universal sign in the media that something is bullshit.

Only now David K gets to be the pendejo that wrote about it and ultimately looks like a fool for going with a fabricated story to help a city council ally. Which is funny because its the very same thing he frequently accuses me of doing.

How very Martin Paredes of him.

But what does he care what the truth is? I'm guessing that the facts aren't anywhere near what David K claims them to be. And its pretty smart what he and his click do when you think about it. Start a whisper campaign that you can walk away from and say "well thats how I heard it" when it all blows up in his face, but will never really go away because its on obvious HR issue and because of privacy policies almost never come to light.

I'm betting he will owe a lot of people apologies too, but I'm also betting they won't get them either.

Although his allies should probably thank their lucky stars that HR issues don't come to light and that other bloggers don't spread unconfirmed innuendo about their staffers right?

But that's David K's turf, not mine.

The rest of his piece is essentially accusing the Times of participating in a grand conspiracy to take down Romero over something that was old news. Which is weird because confirmation of a business relationship between Romero and the big shot from the other financial advisor firm only recently came to light.

And of course David K is still pushing his narrative of there being absolutely nothing wrong with the City Manager's raise. This guy is has his head in the sand or this is a willful effort on his part and others to create an alternate reality.

Its entertaining, but damn he's looking like a total fool right now.

But one thing is for sure, when the dust settles on all of this, as sure as someone will die in a Walmart being trampled during a Black Friday sale, David K will find a way to spin it saying he knew it all along.

Sure you did David, sure you did.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Times Editorial Calls for Rep Romero's Resignation

"Romero has breached the public trust, and must resign."

In a bold and unprecedented move yesterday, the Editorial Board of the El Paso Times called for the resignation of a sitting elected official, City Rep Larry Romero.

At first I thought it might have been the first time they called for the resignation of an elected official that wasn't under indictment. Hell I don't even think they called for the resignation of any of the Gandaras, which is saying a lot, especially considering former Socorro City Rep Jesse Gandara had been arrested multiple times in about a month time-span. So the fact that they called for Romero's resignation is certainly noteworthy.

KVIA reported on the call for the resignation of City Rep Romero but they received no comment from Rep Romero. City Council's meeting for this week was canceled due to the holiday, so unless media call him or visit him at his home or office, its unlikely Romero will have to face the media on this issue until next month.

Talk about waiting out a news cycle.

The only other time that I can recall the Times calling for resignations of sitting elected officials was EPISD during their cheating debacle.

But this is the first time I can recall that a single member of an elected body as high up the food chain as city council has been asked to step down by the newspaper.

I'm sure some will down play the significance of such a move but as a community we should take this recommendation seriously. The Times has done several stories over the last few weeks that have underscored several actions taken by Romero that were at the very least, a sign of the fact that he very frequently circumvents established procedures set by the city.

In an editorial that ran on Sunday called An Awful Mess at El Paso City Hall, the paper outlined several recent problems and focused primarily on an effort to replace the city's financial advisor. The paper said they'd done an investigation that revealed that Romero was a business partner of the firm that was going to receive the city's contract for financial advisor services.

The editorial piece says Romero directed that the current contract which was only about half-over be terminated and the city was all set to give the contract to a former business partner of City Rep Romero.

And Romero notified no one of his connection to the firm. Also included in the piece is mention of an effort by Romero to set up a meeting with former city manager Joyce Wilson, whom he hadn't disclosed his financial relationship with the firm to but the paper says Romero had better luck setting up the meeting with city manager Tommy Gonzalez.

The same Tommy Gonzalez that has a business relationship with City Rep Romero's brother.

The same Tommy Gonzalez that City Rep Romero pushed through a raise that is more than twice the annual salary of an average El Pasoan.

The same Tommy Gonzalez he went to in order to get streets paved that weren't on the council-approved plan (a move that was first characterized as "corruption" by one of his closest allies on council before it was walked-back) and the same Tommy Gonzalez he turned to in order to get speed humps installed on streets that shouldn't have them in front of his alma mater.

Part of the role of journalists is to keep government in check and the El Paso Times has had a big focus on the failings of local government over the last few years. That is healthy for our community.

So what happens to Romero from here? My guess is nothing. I highly doubt that Romero will resign. His political career is over. There is no way he would survive a re-election bid which is still a couple of years away so in essence District 2 will have a lame duck representing them for the next couple of years and his effectiveness is now severely compromised.

The best hope for the district was a recall effort that had a lot of potential but was abruptly abandoned by Adam Gurrola the day after it was filed. That botched effort has probably eliminated Gurrola as a potential candidate for anything now as well, which is a shame but something he must have deeply considered before abandoning a cause he was pushing.

But in retrospect, I would imagine the circumstances leading to Gurrola's sudden reversal will also likely get scrutiny from the media now.

Unless another recall effort happens District 2 will be in limbo for a couple of years.

The $22 Million Question

Earlier this week we learned of yet another costly screw up at the city - this time costing tax payers $22 million.

There was a delay on the project that was made for obvious political purposes - to avoid then City Rep and Mayoral hopeful Steve Ortega from having to take another controversial vote on the issue. The delay ended up costing the tax payers millions. 

This issue came up last week during the city council meeting but no one seemed interested in asking the very obvious question...who made the call to delay the vote?

Thats a serious problem because it wasn't an issue that was acted upon by council. So it was someone who made the call administratively. That would either be the former city manager or the former CFO. 

This should be making all kinds of alarms go off. First, the current members of council that were part of that administration should be answering questions about whether or not they had knowledge this was going on. 

Second, if they did have knowledge, why didn't the raise the issue? Third, if they didn't have knowledge, why didn't they? Is administration really that free to operate and no one on council is the wiser or even asking the tough questions? Is that still the case?

There is an easy temptation to just let it go because its water under the bridge. While I applaud the fact that there is a big focus on fixing the city's many current screw-ups, this council has a bad habit of not holding itself or individuals accountable for screw ups. That needs to change if you want the confidence of the constituents. 

Hell no. This is one of those situations where someone needs to be held accountable and the public should have full detail on what went down. Anything less is an injustice. 

Someone knew went down but no one is talking. That is a bad sign and frankly this current council can't afford to have any more lapses in public confidence.