Thursday, July 30, 2015

Charter Amendment: November Municipal Elections

Another item that council will be putting forward to voters is regarding municipal elections being held in November.

Putting the municipal elections on the same ballot as all the other elections was a well-intentioned attempt to get more people to vote on municipal issues. Sure, more people theoretically will vote but does it make anything better?

I think you'll still end up with a significant number of undervotes because its so far down the ballot and November elections are partisan affairs. That means you have a significant number of people that will vote straight ticket and not stick around for the rest of the ballot.

At least when you have the May elections you have school board elections, also nonpartisan affairs, and you have a targeted group of people who at the very least care enough to vote on municipal elections.

Opponents to having the elections in November for the city have raised several other issues like run-offs being in December. I don't think that is really that big of a deal, I'm more concerned with the fact that people barely pay attention to municipal elections as it is. Putting it at the bottom of a crowded presidential or gubernatorial ballot damn sure ain't helping anything.

Whatever the language of the item ultimately says, I'm voting for May elections.

Yvonne Rosales' Campaign Announcement

Yvonne Rosales had her announcement event yesterday in the downtown area. I grabbed a quick interview with her after the crowd of supporters left and asked her some basic questions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

DA Challengers Both Have Events This Week

Both challengers for the District Attorney seat currently held for the last two decades by Jaime Esparza are having events this week.

Yvonne Rosales has her campaign announcement today at 5:30pm at the Arts Festival Plaza next to the Plaza Theater. 

Leonard Morales has a campaign kick-off event/fundraiser tomorrow at Nolita's Corner Bistro downtown. 

I haven't seen or heard of any new events for the incumbent although he did have a fundraiser earlier this year when word got out that he had opponents.

New Candidate Files for Office

I don't know much about this guy but he recently filed.

Sources say he is a bit of a salty character. 

Whatever that means. 


Ha ha, got'em

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Historic Commission Question No One is Asking

Well I whacked Svarzbein earlier today and mentioned Grossman too. However lets look at this issue a little more deeply.

There's a glaring question that is not being asked in this conversation about the grant.

Why isn't the El Paso County Historical Commission applying for the grant themselves?

The EPCHC is its own county entity. They don't NEED the city to make the survey happen. They have the authority to do it themselves or partner with a private entity or the County. Its all legal.

The reason that the EPCHC wants to hook up with the city is the fact that its a hell of a lot less effort on their part if they are with the city on this.

A quick google search and this document pops up and lays down everything that can be done. Its the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook of the EPCHC.

So if the EPCHC wants to save a building downtown there needs to be a preservation plan. You can't have a plan until after you have a study, which requires some cash. And here is exactly how they can do the survey themselves.

The challenge for the EPCHC is to try to rebuild the relationships they have lost over the last couple of years. The only way they do that is to reverse the current course they are on, which will likely require a change in leadership. The EPCHC is FAR TOO politicized. A County entity should not ever call an elected official in another level of government a liar in public. In fact, I'm a little surprised that  Commissioner's Court hasn't bent the ear of the EPCHC and told them to cool their shit.

Sargent is a little compromised by how he interjected himself in the conversation about the cultural center. There is also a perception that the commission is really only interested in saving Trost buildings because someone's girlfriend is the president of the Texas Trost Society.

The ship has to be righted as quickly as possible. The County should look at adding some new blood to that organization. And ensuring that EPCHC actually looks like the community would help to. Surely there are some Latinos interested in serving.

The Many Faces of Svarzbein on Preservation

Photo Credit (Left) Richard Baron
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rationalize City Rep Peter Svarzbein's campaign rhetoric and his vote to kill acceptance of a grant for historical designation of the downtown area.

Candidate Svarzbein said one thing - he was supportive of, and even participated in, historical preservation projects, while Representative Svarzbein votes against it.

He has no cover for that vote. It was a bad vote.

He took the easy way out the minute there was a little, and trust me when I say a little, adversity. Svarzbein the candidate would've backed that grant every day of the week and twice on Sunday. For whatever reason Representative Svarzbein didn't.

Critics have said that he sold out.

That is probably one of the worst criticisms that can be laid out against an elected leader.

Is it true? I don't know. All I know is what Svarzbein actually said on the record during an interview on ABC 7 Xtra last night and that was essentially this - no one had mentioned political donations to his campaign in the conversation about the grant except Max Grossman from the Historical Commission.

I'll get to Grossman and the contributions in just a second. But let me wrap up my point about Svarzbein and taking the easy way out.

Svarzbein was the only member of council that wanted to have a deeper and more thoughtful conversation about the grant and he proposed a committee to bring people together on the issue. The fact that Svarzbein actually thinks that is a good idea demonstrates his political naiveté. Creating a committee is how council kills things.

And creating a committee for the two sides to come to an agreement on this is completely unrealistic. The two sides will never agree on it. Negotiating the Iran nuclear deal was an easier task.

Svarzbein likes to please everyone and that is a huge flaw for an elected official. It means they are prone to try to make the "safe" political decision rather than take a hard stand on an issue. You can hear it in his political rhetoric. He likes to use phrases like "bring people together" "build consensus", etc. Its just how he is wired.

The problem is when you try to appease everyone, you usually appease no one.

His fear of being criticized led to what he feared the most...being criticized. Its the political equivalent of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man scene at the end of Ghostbusters.

Svarzbein is right to be upset about people challenging his commitment to historic preservation. He has demonstrated a commitment to the issue. Which makes his vote all that more confusing and frankly, disappointing.

I know Svarzbein's rhetoric is hard to keep track of so let me sum it up for you.

He was for historical preservation.

Then he voted against it.

Then he apologized for voting against it.

Then he said the easy way out was voting for it.

Svarzbein & ABC 7 Xtra

Frankly, I don't know why he even agreed to go on the air. Niland was the main opponent to the issue, so why would he be so willing to take a place that clearly should've been hers on the show?

Svarzbein took at shot at the reps that voted in favor of the grant by saying that it was the easy vote. Not sure who Svarzbein thinks he's kidding. He makes it sound like he was standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Svarzbein, you're the one that took the easy way out.

And if you are going to go on television to discuss this issue, how about dressing like an adult and wear a suit? Look like you care about your job. Look like you take the vote of the public serious enough to actually dress like a city representative not a hipster that reluctantly threw on a suit coat. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to give them a reason to.

Max Grossman

Speaking of giving people a reason to take you seriously, Max Grossman has almost single-handedly derailed this issue which is a shame. The business community expressed concern about Grossman being difficult to work with etc. Following the vote Grossman took to social media and set people's balls on fire with spittle-producing rhetoric about Svarzbein and Niland. That little stunt undermines the issue and reduces the conversation to an insult trading post rather than an important dialogue this city needs to discuss.

For whatever reason everyone was really delicate about him during the Xtra segment but the reality is that Grossman has had a negative impact on the credibility of the organization. He needs to completely disappear for a while and let Bernie Sargent be the voice of the issue for a while so that he isn't a distraction.

The Bullshit that is Gentrification

I think its time to go down to Segundo and have a talk with some of my gente about the load of bullshit they are being fed about gentrification.

That is a word being used by rich white people to scare poor raza into supporting their position in support of the business community. They are basically telling raza in Segundo Barrio that historical designation grant money will somehow lead to white people and Starbucks in their neighborhoods and drive the property values up so high that raza won't be able to live there anymore.

Too bad its not actually based on any hard data. Its just simple fear-mongering.

The truth is that El Paso is the only major city in the state of Texas to say no to a project like this. And frankly, I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what the reason for the opposition even is in the first place.

Not enough buy-in from property owners is just code for saying the rich business folks don't want it. People should at least be honest about the fact that rich business owners don't want to have to do anything more to their properties than they have to. If they actually cared about taking advantage of historic value you they would do something on their own instead of waiting until they are compelled to do so.

Apodaca Likely Candidate for Democratic Party Chair

Despite only being in his 30's Michael Apodaca has years of experience as a party activist for the El Paso Democratic Party and sources indicate that he is ready to run for chair of the El Paso Democratic Party.

Apodaca probably has more street cred within the Democratic Party this side of Queta Fierro. 

There was a sense of urgency to draft a good candidate since rumors first surfaced of former city rep Eddie Holguin considering a run for Party Chair. 

Holguin was elected chair of the Tejano Democrats recently. The original information I had received was that he narrowly defeated former city rep/county commissioner/JP Barbara Perez. A couple of people closely aligned with Holguin - Dr. Anna Perez and Othon Medina - took issue with my characterization of the narrow defeat and sent me an email regarding the issue. Dr. Perez was (mostly) polite but Medina was his usual confrontational self. But he quickly backs down whenever anyone shows those tactics don't work.

Good luck trying to bully me Medina, that has never worked for the countless number of people who've tried it before you pal. 

Speaking of Medina, word around the campfire is he is going to try to run to be the state head honcho of the Tejano Democrats at their upcoming convention. 

Getting back to Apodaca, he is a strong candidate because he knows how to run campaigns. The race is a down-ballot race and Holguin won't have the advantage of being the only Hispanic surname on the ballot. 

Apodaca will likely have a strong presence of support from El Paso's elected officials since he's helped many of them and has a good rapport with basically all of them. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Your Dose of Disturbing Poetry

Who doesn't love a little sexual innuendo with their morning coffee, am I right?




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All You Need to Know About the Environment at the City of El Paso

In the circus freak show that is El Paso City Council these days there is a pretty toxic environment and trust me, anyone who spends any amount of time there at city hall can see it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the current incarnation of city hall described as "dysfunctional" "toxic" and all other manner of non-flattering adjectives.

But I saw this on FB the other day and it really says something about the environment there.

This is a Facebook post from Maria Garcia at KVIA:


That in itself isn't all that remarkable.

That is remarkable was the last comment. Its just a sad, sad commentary on politics at council.


Diocesan Legal Services at Odds with Gay Marriage

In certain circumstances gay couples are denied legal assistance from the Catholic legal services and referred to outside legal resources despite the fact that the program receives federal dollars and that has some attorneys and immigrants up in arms.

The Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc is the largest provider of free or low-cost immigration services in the borderland and is now struggling with a major social issue.

The DMRS is affiliated with the Catholic Church, specifically with the Diocese of El Paso. The DMRS operates through the financial support of the diocese, non-profits, and grants from state and federal entities.

According to the Executive Director Melissa Lopez, an attorney who specializes in immigration law, the organization's board has not made an official policy regarding the provision of legal services to gay couples who would otherwise qualify for legal assistance from the organization. The organization therefore does not provide those services to gay couples and instead refers them to other legal resources in the community.

In essence their lack of a definitive policy on this issue serves as a defacto policy against providing legal services and assistance to gay couples. The board that oversees the DMRS is made up of the Bishop of El Paso, priests, an attorney, and prominent members of the community including the spouse of a city representative.

DMRS provides assistance and services across a range of legal issues and are broken into units including residency, citizenship, removal defense, crime victims, refugee resettlement, religious worker, and legal orientation. In a border community with a shortage on community and legal resources DMRS obviously provides a much-needed service to the community.

But because the organization receives federal funding, which Lopez says makes up a significant portion of their overall operating budget, their legal position may be compromised. Organizations receiving federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against members of a protected class.

Based on my conversation with the Communications Director for the Diocese of El Paso Elizabeth O'Hara, the Church seems to have a very nuanced position on sexual orientation and the provision of legal services. "..if you are a gay individual and you are to be seeking help from DMRS, DMRS will help you. You are never really asked about your sexual orientation. The only time that that comes up is...if in the context of an interview at DRMS it appears that the couple is a same sex couple, the Church's position on that has been that they are not recognizing civil marriages...to provide services to a gay couple would then be an endorsement of something the Church does not support."

DMRS does not require someone to be Catholic to receive services and if an immigrant sought assistance from the organization that was an unwed mother or a divorcee, situations that are also opposed by the Catholic Church, they would not be turned away.

The Catholic Church isn't obligated to change their recognition of marriage. But the Church can't have it both ways either. They can't benefit from public funds and discriminate against gay couples.

The solution for the board that governs DMRS is simple. They can either choose to not take federal funding and they are choose to provide or deny services to whomever they wish, or they can provide services to all regardless of sexual orientation.



DMRS provides a valuable service to the community and has helped numerous numbers of immigrants and their families. The recent decision by the Supreme Court has obviously caused a lot a necessary changes and as a result this is an issue the Church will have to deal with.

However this isn't an issue that happened just recently following the SCOTUS decision. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been a part of this discussion for a couple of years now so the federal government has recognized gay marriage for quite some time.

The challenges for DMRS on this issue are plenty. They may not be in compliance with federal rules regarding the prohibition of discrimination, they could possibly be sued, and federal funding makes up a significant portion of their operating budget. The reality is that the Diocese of El Paso doesn't fund DMRS to a very significant degree which is likely what has prompted the group to have to pursue public dollars to be able to leverage much-needed legal resources to the community.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Poll Question

I forgot to mention earlier today that I posted a new poll question on my blog.

Its in the usual place. Have fun with it.

KVIA Shows Transportation Woes for City Just Get Worse

At this point someone might want to unionize all the drivers of the buses people are getting thrown under at the city over the last few weeks. The apparently have a fleet on stand-by.

In case you missed it, here is a story done by Maria Garcia of KVIA on even more issues with transportation dollars at the city.



There's a couple of things I think are worth pointing out in this video. First of all, notice how staff is actually pointing the finger at council for pushing the projects that were not ready?

So can we stop pretending that the members of council on the MPO are blameless?

Mathew McElroy is actually echoing the sentiments of the City Manager that I posted yesterday. This is interesting because of what Rep Noe said in last week's council meeting. He said part of the reason that there were screw ups at the city is because staff are afraid of the city council reps.

He never said which members or if he meant all.

Either way Noe is in a bad spot because he's saying they are afraid of all council members or he is saying that they are afraid of just certain ones. One problem with that...when it comes to MPO issues staff doesn't have to fear reps that don't have anything to do with the MPO or have any projects at the MPO.

Let me be more clear - Noe can't say they are afraid of Limón because she doesn't have a single project at the MPO. So who are they in fear of? The MPO delegation?

What about the issues they vote on? Are their votes on the MPO influence by their fear of council members?

And another thing that is interesting, McElroy doesn't throw council under the bus without permission from his boss. The City Manager is putting the blame back on the members of council. I don't know that I've ever seen that before, especially in such a high-profile situation like this one.

Another thing of note is the fact that Garcia highlighted something I mentioned a while back. The city was used to having their way on the MPO and basically being able to dictate who got the money from the honey pot. When Commissioner Vince Perez was chairman of the MPO he instituted reforms that made the process for awarding the funds more competitive and objective.

The result essentially is that now that the city has to have their shit together they don't seem to be able to actually get their shit together.

It now explains why the members of council are so sensitive about Ordaz raising questions about the problems at the city.


Well, That Was Fast...

If there is a record for how quickly a city rep steps in it, City Rep Svarzbein may be the new record-holder. Ideally you want to spend your election honeymoon going on the offense on something. Svarzbein is already having to play defense thanks to being at the intersection of campaign donors and his support of preservation.

The El Paso Historical Commission is having a bit of a public meltdown over the fact that the city turned down grant money.

I tried to reach the commission by messaging them through Facebook to see if their social media posts are the official position of the commission or if its just one member posting. Without hearing otherwise one would have to assume that this is their official position since its on the organization's Facebook page.

For those of you who are living under a rock and somehow missed it, here is a screen shot of what they had to say about Rep Svarzbein following yesterday's meeting ahead of today's city council meeting.

I don't know that I've ever seen another entity in town react that way in public to an issue like this and it begs the question about whether or not it will impact their effectiveness in the future when it comes to persuading members of council on a given issue. 

It also underscores a critique that many in the business community made about the ability to work with members of the historical commission. This is actually a text book example of why they don't like to work with them. 

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago I think people should be more upset at the fact that it was a city staffer that turned down the grant and not a decision made by policy makers. That is the bigger issue, but what do I know?

Clearly the commission lays a fair and accurate critique and its very difficult to see this as anything other than Svarzbein selling-out to big money campaign donors. 

But I think he misplayed his hand and had the perfect opportunity to advocate for the grant and let Niland be the bad guy. Rep Niland sticks to her guns on policy issues and was certainly not shy about where she stood on the issue. Her philosophy was pretty much, bring-it.

The votes weren't there on council to pass it. This would've been a perfect time for him to force an up or down vote on the issue and it would've died and he would've been able to say he tried but was out-voted. 

And trust me, I get the position he is in too. Those are big financial contributors breathing down his neck. But he has four years to kiss and make up with them. Caving in so quickly to them sets a bad precedent because now they are going to figure that all they have to do is lean on him hard enough and he'll go with the flow. 

Svarzbein sent out a statement on his position and I'm posting it below so that you can see what both sides had to say. Svarzbein posted a comment that he had released a statement on the issue to the Historical Commission's Facebook page and there was a somewhat confrontational response left by the page.

Gotta love El Paso politics. Here is Svarzbein's statement, my favorite part is where he invites people to his first community meeting. That should be very interesting:

On Monday, I voted to continue dialogue between downtown property owners and those El Pasoans interested in historic preservation. Since there was not enough support for the current grant application, I am concerned about building long-term solutions that create results. There was a lack of community support and consensus that outreach efforts by City officials managing the survey grant project needed time to build awareness. In many cases, even El Pasoans with long roots in downtown never even knew of the survey until very recently. 

The solution I offered urged fellow council members to support the creation of a downtown citizen's task force to review historical survey grant findings, and make recommendations to Council. This body would be comprised of preservationists, developers, and downtown stakeholders to establish common understanding for sustainable downtown development and restoration. This approach is currently being explored by city management. Specifically Council assigned the Economic Development team to reach out to preservation groups and building ownership on historical designation efforts.

Historic Preservation and our downtown is not a cheap slogan to me. It is something that I have been involved in and have invested in since I moved back to El Paso. I am a member of the Paso Del Norte Streetcar Preservation Society and have fought tremendously to bring our Art-Deco PCC Streetcars back to life which will have tremendous economic and cultural impact on our city and our Downtown.

We are closer than we were three months ago...or even last month. This survey and possible nomination of a national register district would not prohibit demolition of buildings. But we need far more buy in and stronger dialogue for downtown and El Paso to move forward. Name-calling and demonizing people on both sides of the issue, does not bring us closer. In fact, it had a large part to do with the delay of this grant.  No plan, survey or historic designation will work without robust support from the folks who live and own property in that district.  When we have only private or public special interests pushing forward a plan or designation, time and time again, we as a city have seen resistance and failure.  This is the way things have been done in the past, and we deserve a fresh approach.

Politics is the Art of the Possible, and we need to have everyone on board if we plan to think bigger about the future of El Paso. This will take time, patience, and a lot of communication. We are closer today than we were yesterday and El Paso’s past must be part of El Paso’s Future.

Sincerely,
 
Peter
 
P.S. Please join me tomorrow Wednesday July 22 at 7:30 am for our first constituent meeting at Village Inn at 2929 N. Mesa St., El Paso, TX, 79902. This is a great opportunity to come out and discuss any ideas and concerns you have for your neighborhood.  You may also contact me directly at 915-212-1001/2 or email district1@elpasotexas.gov.

Charter Amendment Series: Raises for Mayor & Council

One of the issues, and likely to be the most controversial, is whether or not to give the mayor and council a pay raise.

Currently the city representatives make $29,000 a year and the mayor makes $45,000. To put that in perspective, staff members for commissioners court make more money than the mayor. The proposed increase would raise the city council members to $39,000 and the mayor to $55,000.

This would be a total increase to the budget of $90,000 annually.

Even after the increase, those salaries are significantly less than what the County Judge and commissioners make. The increase would put them in the middle of other Texas and regional municipalities.

Why I'm Voting for it

Hear me out. I know that city council isn't exactly giving me a lot to work with in terms of advocating for this position right now, but it makes sense.

Ultimately city council will probably lose out on this one and it will be their own fault because of the constant and unnecessary drama presentation they put on every Tuesday, but let me lay out my argument.

El Paso's city council doesn't even begin to look like the rest of this community. The current salary virtually guarantees that only retirees and the wealthy run for office because people of working age or those with kids almost can't afford to work for the city at that pay. There really isn't a delicate way of putting this so I'll just rip off the bandaid - council is older, whiter and richer than El Paso really is. A big reason that council doesn't look like the rest of El Paso is the fact that the positions don't pay shit.

Here's the break down of city council. You basically have three categories on council right now - the Upper Crust, Jurassic Park, and the kiddy table. The Upper Crust is made up of the wealthy members of council, Mayor Leeser and Reps Noe, Romero, and Niland. They are rich, what do they need more money for?

Jurassic Park is made up of the retired members of council - Reps Robinson, Limón and Acosta. They all have their pensions so what do they care about a raise?

The kiddy table is made up of the only two members of council who were born after The Beatles split up - Reps Svarzbein and Ordaz. They are the ones sacrificing the most because they can make more money doing something else that pays better. Especially Ordaz, she took a sizable pay cut to serve.

Right now the pay they get is actually lower than the average El Paso salary. The raise would put it just above the average salary. Our council doesn't look like El Paso because of this very reason. There is no economic incentive for working class people to choose elective office. Anyone in business knows if you want good talent you have to pay for it or that talent will go bye-bye and find somewhere else to work that will pay them what they are worth. Its the challenge of government, they are constantly losing talent to the private sector.

So let me address a few things that the opposition will argue. The first is the Carl Robinson and Lily Limón philosophy that says that elective office is an honor and service to your community. I don't disagree entirely with that argument and I think there is some merit to it. But lets also be real about something - neither of them are returning their salaries to the general fund. They very happily spend their pay checks. I would also argue that its very easy for them to say that as they accept their tax-payer funded pensions. Robison is a retired senior NCO and has a pension from the Army. Limón is a retired administrator and has a very nice pension.

The other argument is that city council gets some nice perks. So far as I can tell they get a cell phone allowance and a gas allowance. Neither of which make a dent in paying bills. That is probably the silliest argument because they need the money for their phone bill to actually do the job and they need the money for gas for the same reason.

Voters ultimately decide who they want to serve in office to represent them but the way things are now, they don't get the option to be able to send people that look more like the rest of this community.

Sure voting against it sends a message, but its short-sighted because you are ensuring that the pool of candidates is always shallow.

(Sidenote: According to ad hoc committee member, of the 70 or so members of the public that went to the meetings about the issue, not a single one expressed opposition to the raise)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Charter Amendments Series

I'm going to do a series on the Charter Amendments to lay out what they are and then give you my own opinion about where I stand on the issues and why. I'll take each issue individually so that I can be thorough about them.

Tomorrow we start with the pay raise for city council because it is by far the most controversial.

But I wanted to briefly talk about an issue that was first raised by City Rep Lily Limón.

During the presentation made before council by the ad hoc committee set up to look into a few charter amendment ideas, Limón pressed former Mayor Joe Wardy, who was presenting, on whether or not the committee looked into creating a charter amendment issue to change back to the strong mayor form of government.

To my knowledge the only people on council calling for this change has been Limón and former city rep Eddie Holguin. There was more of a conversation to revert back to the strong mayor form of government back when Joyce Wilson was the City Manager but that was pretty much just during the ball park discussion days.

Mayor Wardy indicated that the committee only had a few issues it was tasked to review and that wasn't one of them. However that does not mean the idea is dead. The city council can indeed vote to include that item in the election if they so desire, so Rep Limón will likely be able to start that conversation with her colleagues in a meeting. I'm not sure I think there are enough votes to get it on a ballot, but she will certainly have her chance to start the community discussion on the issue.

After his presentation last week before city council I had a chance to ask Mayor Wardy about the idea of putting an item on the ballot to revert back to the strong mayor form of government. Interestingly the former mayor is opposed to the idea. Here is audio of our interview and you can hear exactly what is rationale is.

City's MPO Woes on Xtra; City Sends Staffer to the Slaughter

Maria Garcia hosted ABC 7 Xtra last night and dedicated the show to the discussion of the MPO problems the city of El Paso seems to be having as of late. It was a year ago to the day that Rep Ordaz was first elected to represent District 6 on City Council.

You remember those problems right? The ones that when they first surfaced most of the rest of the blogosphere reacted like the Wizard of Oz when Toto moved the curtain?

Based on news coverage late last week it looks like the problems are even worse than they were when Ordaz first raised the issue. 

And when she did raise the issue, the Mayor and Rep Noe claimed Ordaz was doing all of this to get on the MPO. 

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain that missed out on $40 million, thats not important. 

But leveling a counter claim is a classic distraction move straight out of the kindergarten sandbox playbook. 

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and City Rep Emma Acosta began tap dancing for the city and acting like there were no problems at all. And the Honey Badger, well she managed to make it about her by saying she doesn't understand why she is put at the "epicenter" of this issue.

So all of them had plenty to say during the city council meeting when the Mayor could control the conversation, but when it came time to step up on camera and take responsibility for this issue with the community they were all AWOL.

When they felt they had the upper hand they all to happy to get on a microphone but instead of one of them stepping up on Xtra what do they do? They send a staffer.

More double talk from the Administration that on the one hand says they are looking out for staff but on the other hand are having them do their dirty work. 

Event Maria Garcia was perplexed as to why the city sent him. She gave the line of the night when she said, "Why are you here?"

Which reminded me a lot of this line from Mean Girls. (I have daughters, of course I've seen it. Don't judge me)


One quick side note. I didn't really want to take McElroy to task because I thought it was chicken shit that the city put him in that spot, but he did say one thing that I thought needed to be addressed. Garcia asked him about a particular project failing and he said that there were other good projects out there and it didn't get selected for funding. The truth is the project from the city couldn't compete for the funds because it was submitted in the wrong category. Ordaz clearly let him off the hook on that one. 

Unanswered Questions

At last week's council meeting when Ordaz's item was discussed Rep Noe said something to the effect that Ordaz was twisting facts in order to make the city look bad. Media tweets from that day also make reference to Noe being pretty heated about the city looking bad. 

Two questions I have about that.

#1 - After almost a week, Rep Noe has had plenty of time to substantiate that claim and identify specifically what Ordaz said that was twisting facts to make the city look bad. It seems if he was that upset about it and if Ordaz was indeed inaccurate in her presentation that there would be an imperative for Noe. He should either substantiate that claim or apologize for making it. 

#2 - Why is Noe more concerned with how the city LOOKS rather than the fact that we missed out on a ton of funding? Actually, its probably more than just Noe that is upset about how the city LOOKS but he is the only one that had the guts to say it publicly.

Here's another question I have. Rep Limón very appropriatley asked the question during the presentation about why the city was submitting projects that weren't ready to be funded. Genevieve Curtis of KFOX asked the city manager the same question and both Matt McElroy and the city manager basically said the same thing. 

They threw council under the bus. They both said it was because council made those projects a priority. 

Oh you don't member? Allow me to refresh your memory...


So was it staff's fault or was it council's? 

Because the City Manager very clearly said it was council. 

With Rep Noe and McElroy both alleging that staff is afraid of council, why are staff allowed to be voting members of the MPO? Doesn't that point, if its true anyway, call into question how those very staff members vote on issues at the MPO?

Why are there all these distractions about changes in rules, and TxDOT, and MPO Seats, and Caitlyn Jenner instead of a real conversation about the fact that city staff filed paperwork wrong and it cost the tax payers, as we say in the valley, un chingo!

All of these points further beg the question - why was a staffer sent in lieu of someone voters can hold accountable?

The fact that Mayor Leeser is now the Chairman of the MPO further underscore the fact that a policy-maker wasn't sent to address the issues that are very clearly about accountability rather than technical explanations from staff. 

B-T- Dubs, props to McElroy for being a good soldier and doing the job the policy makers didn't want to do. He is in a terrible position but he did the job that was given to him. 

This whole thing, in the words of the Rep Niland, is a "hot mess". 

There seems to be a lot of that going on right now at the city. I'm surprised #hotmess hasn't caught on yet or isn't trending on Twitter.

Guest Post: Mayor Maya Sanchez - ONEOK to host Public Meeting on Roadrunner Pipeline

This post is to invite and ENCOURAGE your participation in a public meeting, hosted by ONEOK Partners to present their plans for the Roadrunner Pipeline. The meeting is Saturday, July 25 at 1pm at the Clint Community Center located at 200 North San Elizario Rd - Clint, Texas 79836.
As a reminder, this is one of two natural gas pipelines headed our way. It is a 30-inch steel pipeline from Cayanosa, Texas, that will connect to the Tarahumara gas pipeline in Chihuahua.
I have learned the format of the meeting is to be held in workstations. The preference is town hall so that we may collectively hear from them and they from us. Town hall would better allow us to understand our neighbors concerns because we'd all hear questions but more importantly, it would require them to give clear answers that in theory, should all be the same.
I reached out to a contact in the Big Bend region who has gone through this type of presentation and in her experience, the workstation approach was a bit confusing and left room for lack of accountability. Thus some advice has been offered to help our citizens make the most of this opportunity.
Tips to approach the meeting:

1. Visit workstations in groups of at least two so that accountability is harder to question. If it is one rep and one constituent, the potential exists to become a matter of "he said, she said".
2. Have a set list of questions you ask each of the stations. This will help determine if the info received is consistent or varies from station to station. I will email a list of questions that may be helpful but again, be sure you ask what is important to you.
3. Have media present. The media will help inform the public and will better help keep these private companies accountable to our community. These companies don't want negative media attention.
4. Draw as big a crowd as possible. If people do not show up, we'll send a message that this issue is not very important to our community. In reality, this affects more than just the landowners whose land may be directly affected. These lines will be mighty close to both Clint and San Elizario high schools and densely populated neighborhoods.
Thank you in advance for making plans to attend AND for bringing neighbors and family with you!

More info to come... But should you wish to be removed from these types of email, please let me know and I will remove your contact info.

Thanks to state representative Mary Gonzalez and her team for arranging this public hearing.
Best,

Maya Sanchez
Mayor of San Elizario
P.O. Box 1723
San Elizario, TX 79849
(915) 974-7037
"Strong Roots are the Foundation of Growth"

Hector H. Lopez Likely a Candidate for HD 77

With the revelation of the first candidate to throw their hat into the ring to place State Rep Marisa Marquez there's been a buzz in political circles about who else is going to try to make a run at the seat.

But sources close to Hector H. Lopez, who previously ran for mayor and was a former colleague on talk radio, indicate that Lopez is pretty close to making a decision.

If you recall several years ago Lopez lived in another part of town and was considering a run at the HD 75 seat now held by State Rep Mary Gonzalez but changed his mind and he was ultimately the guy who shopped Gonzalez around locally because she was living in Austin at the time.

Lopez, a Democrat, attended Cathedral High School and went on to Georgetown University and Villanova.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pickett Declines Freeway Naming

So State Rep Joe Pickett declined to have a portion of the Loop 375 named after him. The city council should do what Pickett asks and remove the item from consideration.

If Pickett doesn't want it, don't give it to him.

Pickett has certainly earned it. The man is synonymous with transportation in this town along with Ted Houghton.

Let be real about what this is though. Pickett hates Ted Houghton.

The city passed a smiliar measure last week to honor the work Houghton has done for El Paso. Its hard to see how we shouldn't look at this as just some political gamesmanship meant to embarrass Houghton.

Personally I think the members of council that sit on the MPO should be more concerned about ensuring the city has its collective crap together when it comes to securing funding for mobility that naming portions of roads after people, but thats just me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Possible HD 77 Candidate

Thought this tweet was of interest. Looks like we may have the first candidate in the race to replace Rep Marisa Marquez.



I know nothing about him so far other than he popped up on the courthouse scene a few months ago. You can add him to Lina Ortega as the latest names that have surfaced as candidates.

Cultural Center Committee's Perfect Suggestion

 courtesy of fusion magazine

The cultural center committee released a suggestion for the location of the Mexican-American Cultural Center and I think it's perfect.

I haven't done an open records request but I'm betting the Abraham Chavez Center doesn't make much money, if any, for the city of El Paso. It's just not booked enough.

So the idea of using an existing structure like the Chavez Center and investing the budgeted money (which was really under-funded to begin with and isn't respectful of the will of the voters while the soccer moms of the pool get too much money for westside pools) into upgrades and changes was a stroke of brilliance. 

Nestor Valencia should be credited with the idea. 

It really makes the most sense to use a structure that is already built and can be more effectively leveraged. The location is already downtown and is an excellent addition our growing downtown area.

It was really smart to use that location because it has the most minimal impact on voters. After all the hits taxpayers have taken lately it's great to see a project that had so much thought put into it like this be a possibility. 

I'm sure there are a couple members of council that won't be supportive of the idea but from a policy and fiscal perspective it makes the most sense. Any decision to kick the can down the road in favor of any other location will negatively impact tax payers because they will get less for their money in tomorrow's dollars.

No one wins when that happens. 

I hope this great idea doesn't get killed by either city politics or community leaders fighting over institute versus center. 

Let's make this happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fundraiser Tonight

The Cat is Out of the Bag

Stacey.

The cat's name is Stacey. 

When I was at city council the other day I spoke to Diana Washington Valdez of the Times and she explained to me that cat in her tweet the other day is her house cat.

Since so many of you were asking about the cat, you now know his name!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MPO - The Politics

It was pretty sad to see that Chairman Houghton was getting recognized for bringing billions of dollars to the El Paso region for mobility on the very same day that a conversation about the inability of the city to get their shit together happened.

But lets rip the band aid off and get right into the politics of the MPO. The MPO is competitive and the city of El Paso has always enjoyed a big advantage on the MPO by having the most members of any entity. The only other entity that has a number close to the city is the County of El Paso.

Lets deal with a reality. Most of the city representatives don't think regionally. They think of their districts and pretty much nothing else. Occasionally they might get together on something and think in terms of the city but that is pretty rare.

So amidst all the bullshit coming from the city folk that sit on the MPO is a steady drum beat of what basically amounts to whining because they game isn't 100% rigged in their favor anymore. You heard it yesterday when they all talked about how the rules are different now and how things have changed at the MPO.

So here is what the city is doing. They screwed up $40 million and are pointing over to Rep Ordaz and Commissioner Perez and saying, "Oh look, they are kissing" and we are all supposed to fall for the distraction.

The reality is that the city of El Paso has had a built-in systemic advantage at the MPO for years and now they are upset because someone has flipped their little house of cards.

This is a growing region and El Paso is no longer the only place people live, work, and do business. Socorro, Horizon, and other areas are growing at a fast rate and the infrastructure needs are great in those areas. So reforms have been set in motion over the last year or more to create a more, as Representative Niland put it, "a more level playing field".

All the other municipalities still only have one member to the MPO, but things are getting a little more equitable and the city now has to do something for transportation dollars that they have never had to do before, compete.

They didn't have to compete before and previously there was some leeway given, from what Rep Niland said yesterday anyway, and she called it "wiggle room". Now the city has to be treated like everyone else and they are screaming to the heavens that they are being treated differently.

Boggles the mind.

Yes, Commissioner Perez is the Chairman of the MPO. If memory serves he made Vice Chair within his first year of being elected. He and others on the MPO have guided through some reforms to level the playing field for the County of El Paso and other outlying communities.

And the city doesn't like not having all the advantages.

Essentially they are pissed because he did his job as an elected official and for the communities he represents. God forbid right?

The city is mad because Perez plays MPO better than they do. I'll also let you in on a little secret most people outside the MPO don't know. Oscar Leeser was supposed to be the Vice Chair of the MPO before Perez. The city and State Rep Joe Pickett had a little movida set up to make that happen and it was derailed when State Rep Marisa Marquez nominated Commissioner Perez.

And so because they can't win, they turn on his girlfriend on council? Real mature city of El Paso.

Does Ordaz want to be on the MPO? Well according to her statements yesterday she does. Who the hell sits on city council or commissioner's court that DOESN'T want to be on the MPO?

She, along with several other members of council have asked to be on the MPO and were denied by the mayor.

That leads to another line of bullshit they are trying to sell. They would have you believe that this is all a conspiracy against Niland to get her off the MPO. Okay, for what advantage? Is she such a force on the MPO that she needs to be eliminated? No, she isn't.

Ordaz was pretty clear what she was trying to do. She raised the issue that Rep Acosta basically didn't understand, that the bylaws allow for a minimum of three appointed members of council and that wasn't the maximum amount allowed. So she thought why not replace operational appointees with an elected official. And her argument is based on what this community has shouted from the roof tops that it has wanted.

Accountability.

Operational members of the MPO don't need to actually sit on the MPO. They mayor can make them go to the meetings and sit in on everything and they can advice the mayor and other elected. There is essentially no good reason to have someone who is not accountable to voters sit on a policy making board.

None what so ever. So Ordaz wasn't trying to get on the MPO at the expense of any of the elected officials.

Ordaz asked to be on the MPO and the Mayor said no.

Ordaz asked to be on CAD and the Mayor said no.

The mayor assigned her to some bullshit committee and took her off that one and ultimately put her on some committee for resolutions for the Texas Municipal League.

That leaves me to a point my buddy David K made earlier today about being careful not to piss off her allies.

Lets keep things in perspective. There is power on the council and there is public support. Two different things. Ordaz was reelected with a really strong mandate. Larger margin than anyone else.

And she's younger than everyone else. Time is on her side.

If you really believe she's going to lose allies over this then you don't understand city council. There are no allies. No one trusts anyone there. Its a fucking shark tank over there.

Its straight-up Game of Thrones.

Trust me, within a couple of weeks the little temporary alliance of the Mayor, Niland, Noe, and Acosta will splinter. That is the new norm for council. Rather than clearly defined voting blocks there are temporary alliances that ebb and flow based on what shit storm the city is dealing with next.

That leaves me to the conspiracy theorists. Look everyone in the world knows Ordaz and Perez are together. Its not a secret and they have been very open about it. News stories have been done about it. Hell, Perez went to public comment and brought in mariachis for Ordaz during a council meeting.

Its not a secret.

Perez's term ends on Friday. Hate to break it to you all but there is no plot to make the city look bad in order for him to get a second term as chair of the MPO. The city does that all by themselves and SPOILER ALERT... the new chairman of the MPO will be....



Mayor Oscar Leeser.

Ordaz Asks Questions About Money, Council & City Manager Cant' Keep Story Straight

I purposely waited a while before I posted thoughts on yesterday because I was watching what was happening and laughing to myself. Politics makes strange bed fellows indeed.

Its funny to watch people who aren't really about issues try to find a delicate way to support people they spent the last year talking smack about. Even Hector Montes, my favorite little internet munchkin has come to the defense of Cortney Niland.

But lets back up a minute and call a spade a spade. Representative Ordaz raised an issue about the city losing out on over $20 million in funding.

C-mon all you ball park people, this is your kind of issue isn't it? Oh yeah, it was never really about the money right? That's why you're so silent on this issue.

For whatever reason Ordaz raising this issue has created an alliance between Mayor Leeser, the City Manager, and Representatives Noe, Niland, and Acosta. Lol, just kidding. By "for whatever reason" I mean, they all sit on the MPO and are trying to cover each other's asses over a now almost $50 million screw up.

The city can't seem to make up its mind on which story it wants to feed the public about screwing up on such a grand scale.

Last week city leaders said mea culpa and admitted the problems. Yesterday they reversed themselves and it was all about how it was the fault of the MPO, oh wait, not it was TxDOT and their environmentals, no wait, its because staff is afraid of city reps, I mean no, we didn't lose any money...

So first things first. The idea that the city, and by city I mean you the tax payer, hasn't lost out on any money is flat out ridiculous.

This was a failure on the part of the City of El Paso. Anyone saying otherwise is either lying or stupid.

You know how I know it was the city's fault? Because most of the city of El Paso's delegation to the MPO said so.

"...we did the process wrong. We failed at it" were the words of El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser in this clip below. Those are his words last week during the budget hearings when this issue came up.



During that meeting, Representative Ordaz posted an agenda item about the issue. Since all the city reps have their city mail accounts linked to their phones and tablet devices, just ask Stephanie Townsend Allala, they all got an email notifying them of the item once Ordaz had posted the item. And then bingo, the conversation came up.

Representative Acosta, another member of council who had a different story yesterday can be heard in this video saying "unfortunately we wanted to advance some of them, we just didn't submit the right documentation, we didn't submit the right category". Another admission of wrong doing on the part of the city.



And event the Honey Badger herself, Representative Cortney Niland, says its the city's fault as well in this clip. She referred to the city being the "laughing stock" of the MPO because of the mistakes and said that the "process wasn't followed properly".



Everyone said it was the city's fault last week. Yesterday they all changed their stories.

Until it was TxDOT's fault and their environmentals.

And then Representative Noe said it was because staff was afraid of council members.

And then Noe said it was because Ordaz wants on the MPO.

And then Niland said it was a deliberate effort by some entities on the MPO to undermine the city of El Paso.

But this all started by some implying that the reason the city engineer was retiring was because of the fact that these mistakes happened under her watch. Another high-level city employee is on leave, presumably because of mistakes like this as well.

Tommy Gonzalez acknowledges that some projects were submitted when he got here that shouldn't have been submitted. Later in an interview with Genevieve Curtis from KFOX, she asked him why projects were resubmitted if they weren't ready.

Gonzalez implicated council in his response, "...the process that was in place, council made it a priority..."



Y'all remember Harry Truman. Former President of the United States? He used to have an old saying, "The buck stops here."

This city council apparently knows nothing of that mantra. Yesterday bucks were being passed around you almost had to duck to avoid getting hit by the excuses of why this community lost out on over $40 million.

So the party line with council now is that we didn't lose out on any money. That is a load of shit. Several of the projects ended up being put into a longer-term phase of projects. Those projects do not have guaranteed funding. The process to apply for funding will have to start all over again and there is absolutely no guarantee that there will be funding for those projects at a later date.

The members of council should, in a genuine way, accept responsibility for their screw up. I can guarantee you that had it been other members of council that screw up they would be the first ones to raise hell about it. Especially Representative Noe.

The truth is this is the second time many of these projects were denied because of the incompetence of city staff. Because its the second time, its on the shoulders of the elected leadership that represent the city on the MPO. The buck stops with them.

And seriously, they can't pretend they didn't know about it sooner. I went digging around and found the minutes from the meeting where the vote to deprogram the money happened, May 2, 2014.

Guess who was there and voted for it?

Representatives Noe and Niland.

Mayor Leeser, Representative Acosta, Jane Shang were not present at the meeting.



So now can we get real and stop with the excuses? Because there are some serious problems here and instead of turning the city council meeting into a whine festival, Mayor Leeser, and City Reps Noe, Acosta, and Niland should've spent the time talking about how they should take responsibility for the mistakes and figure out an effective path forward. Instead what they did was try to grandstand in front of cameras.

Especially Dr. Noe. He was more concerned about the city looking bad than the fact that there was a seriously problem that occurred. Your job is to make sure the city is doing a good job, not to make sure the city is LOOKING like they are doing a good job. Constituents count on you guys to find stuff like this and fix it, rather than coming up with excuses so that no one looks bad.

And avoiding looking bad is exactly what they were doing. That is why they tried to have this conversation during an LRC instead of the main meeting. That was a ploy to avoid public criticism for their mistakes.

Its funny to watch the mayor have to work together with at least two reps that were at one time, potential mayoral rivals.

Gotta love El Paso politics.

Its time for city council to fix the problems. The projects that were denied had real problems. That is what happens when staff waits until the last day possible in order to be eligible for the funds to apply for the money.

That would be bad enough if it weren't for the fact that they literally turned in one project 15 minutes before the deadline and all the other projects 1:48 minutes before the deadline, another 1:30 minutes before the deadline, and another 29 minutes before the deadline. 



Up next, the politics behind the MPO and killing stupid talking points...


Gandara Declared Indigent; Probation May End

Jesse Gandara was in the 210th court yesterday to ask to be declared indigent in order to get an attorney for free and pursue an appeal of his conviction. 

If he is able to get the appeal going, his probation will end, at least during the appeal process.

This is going to make a lot of people in the valley furious when they find out. 

Gandara hails from one of the most wealthy families in the valley but from what public records indicate, Gandara doesn't have much personal wealth. Property he lives in is actually in his father's name. During the hearing Gandara mentioned going to college but not having any income and being supported by his wife. 

People in Socorro and San Elizario already feel like he got off light, so if his probation ends an entire community will not be happy about it. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

City of El Paso: It'd Be Funny if it Wasn't So Embarrassing

The city of El Paso that can't seem to get its administrative shit together strikes again.

If you read this article in the Times ("El Paso City Council abruptly postpones meeting on $20M transportation funding errors"
http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_28477904/el-paso-city-council-abruptly-postpones-meeting-20m) you'll notice that they screwed up and agenda posting. 

Ironically it was to discuss the administrative shortcomings of the city that have led to the city missing out on $20 million in mobility funding. 

Today's meeting should be fun!

It's like the keystone cops over there. Jesus, get it together! 

The Martin Paredes & Theresa Caballero Connection

Since the discount blogger Martin "Fallas" Paredes loves to live in the Land of Make Believe and create all manner of imagined connections I thought I'd write about an actual connection that is real, as in the world and dimension we all live in.

The Flying Monkey is a close friend and associate of Theresa Caballero and the guy who created and maintained her now infamous website. If you go to the old rules there is a place-holder for his business.

It explains why he always hammers that same old tired drum beat of the Ray-Caballero-is-the-devil dialogue. It also explains why he zeros in on the elected leaders he targets. It also explains his beef with the El Paso Times.

He is taking orders.

He does what he is told, like a good little puppet. 

Fallas Paredes is also being a big hypocrite. He's guilty of what he blames everyone else for. Sound familiar? 

I might also add that he's been trying to get campaign work from candidates in the upcoming election. I know at least one candidate that was going to go with him until the candidate found out he was who he was. 

Womp,womp. 

Consider the dots connected.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Replacements

There will be a bunch of people line-up to take a stab at Marisa Marquez soon to be vacant seat in the Texas Legislature.

Expect everyone who has ever run for city council in the area to run.

Not sure what the new Chairman of the El Paso Republican Party is thinking, but there is no way in hell that seat is going to be competitive for the Republicans. Not sure if he was just trying to be optimistic so we will chalk it up to a rookie mistake. I hope someone pulls him aside and shows him voter data. The GOP have the Precinct 4 seat on commissioner's court and a JP seat...thats it. And that is all they are going to have for the next few years. Until they lose those too.

Anywho, back to the replacements.

Their will be a clown car of candidates to replace Marquez so ridiculous it will rival the GOP's current stop of presidential hopefuls.

There will be several people who aren't your usual suspects of candidates that also throw in their hat. Pretty sure the next rep will come from that group of candidates. There's no way Marquez kept a wrap on her retirement and didn't plan a successor with Forma and the TLR.

But here are a few names that I think you might also hear get thrown around. I'll list the most-viable two first, then the next two most-viable, and then the dark horses.

TOP DOGS

Susie Byrd has won multiple elections in the area both as a city rep and as a school board member. None of her elections have ever been close either. She'd be an absolute contender for the seat. But I spoke to her and she is not interested in the seat and is not running. So you crazies can stop running with that one, she is not going to run for it.

Jose Landeros has quietly been the guy behind a lot of races in town. All winners I might add. Super smart, usually the brightest person in the room on policy, is someone the money people would get behind, life-long resident of the district, not afraid to take on any opponent, and most importantly, knows how to win better than any other person even thinking about the position.

But he also knows how shitty of a job state rep is. You get paid next to nothing unless a company or an institution gives you a fake job but is really just paying you to be a state rep. Plus, you're relevant every two years and when you are relevant its on Planet Austin. Might as well be Pluto. (Is it a planet again? I can't keep up with that stuff)

VIABLE

The next two most viable are Lyda Ness and Sergio Lewis. I'd put Aaron Barraza in this mix if he were still in town but I'm not sure if he is. Relax before your heads explode and hear me out. Yes Lyda has had some difficulties and those haven't gone away and yes the black-eye and police report thing happened. But there has been a lot of money put into sending mail with her name and face on it to residents in the district. In a race that is assured to be a run-off, someone with a lot of name ID with voters will get a substantial chunk of voters. Especially if she can get the same financial support behind her. That is a big if, but as the herd starts to thin out, Ness becomes more and more of a viable option. Same for Barraza.

Lewis is slightly different. He has name ID and would also be positioned to get a lot of voters.But name ID only gets you so far. Its doable but a lot of things have to happen in order for him to be a viable option. First, lets be real. He's always faced marginal opposition at best and when he was faced with real opposition he lost. But his name has been on a ballot in that area for years. He has the ability to finance a lot of the campaign on his own, although state races are usually triple-digit. So he might need some financial help. He would also have to actually work hard at campaigning. An incumbent with name ID in the area for years didn't get beat by a white guy who has only been in El Paso for a few years and didn't put up a single sign because Lewis worked hard. But if he hard the right work ethic, ground game, and team behind him he could be a factor.

DARK HORSES

Alfredo Longoria, former head of the El Paso Young Democrats and long-time Democratic Party operative, has the ability to completely self-fund a race for the state house. He lives in the district and knows that you need a good ground game, mail program, and team to win. Doesn't have the name ID the others do but he's smart enough to make something happen.

Mike Apodaca, another big presence in the Democratic Party (actually more so than Alfredo and I put together) is also a dark horse candidate with the capacity to win. He's run successful campaigns for years and has won a state rep race. Yes, he's one of the people that ran for city council previously and lost but the timing wasn't right for him. He has more credibility than any of the other municipal candidates that will no-doubt throw their hat in the ring. The fact that Longoria and Apodaca know how to win races make them a really big factor. But, I am personally hoping Apodaca runs for the El Paso County Democratic Party Chair because while that job sucks too, he would prevent Holguin from taking over the Party and I think Apodaca would make the local Party more relevant than it has been in the past.

Hector H. Lopez. Okay bear with me for a minute. I know what you're thinking. He doesn't have a snow ball's chance in hell. Too hoity-toity, too sweater-vesty, too "big idea" "vision", etc etc. And yes, he really under-performed in a mayoral bid. Terrible idea to run citywide when you have no name ID, experience, base, or money. And yes, he killed himself by surrounding himself with people who wouldn't know how to win a campaign if their life depended on it like Hector Montes. Who's record for futility remains intact, like his toothbrush.

But Lopez is a smart guy and I'll bet her's learned more form a defeat than anyone else has. Sure its an uphill battle and he is in danger of being portrayed as a title-chaser, but if you put Hector Lopez in a room with the TTLA and Sergio Lewis, you know Lopez would walk out of that room with a check. He has to ditch his previous campaign team, get rid of directors of internal and external communications, and get some block-walkers to chew up some turf and he could be right in the mix depending on the field of candidates.

THE X FACTOR

There are some unknowns everyone should consider before they get too excited about the races though. For starters, you don't know if anyone is going to move in the district to run. Maybe a Niland or a Julio Diaz move in the district to run. Both would be game changers because Niland has put a lot of money into her brand and since mayor is out of the picture now a stab at state rep wouldn't be so far fetched. Although moving might be. Julio Diaz has shown he knows how to win a contested Democratic Primary and he beat an Hispanic female to do it. That vato block-walked a' madre for that primary. He was 50 Shades of Brown by the time he was done. He started off around Alejandro Fernandez and he ended up somewhere near Celia Cruz when he was done block-walking. And he did it on a tight budget.

No matter what happens, you'll start to see people get their ducks in a row and by late August or Labor Day, they will be coming out of the wood work to run.

Socorro Mayor Pops the Question

Socorro Mayor Jesus Ruiz asked his girlfriend to marry him over the weekend in front of a group of friends and family. 



Lidia Valadez, the girlfriend, said yes.

No date has been set as of yet but if it's anytime soon she will become the First Lady of the county's second-largest municipality. 

Looks like the attention-starved Jessie Gandara, who can no longer vote but really wants attention on his not-so-anonymous Facebook account, is going to be even more upset now. Looks like Socorro's answer to John Boehner is going to have to find something else to insult the mayor about.

Gandara, who keeps showing up like a bad case of hemorrhoids, has been insulting the mayor and others who ousted him from power in Socorro on his little Facebook page for months, calling him "Tutti-Fruitti" for quite some time now. 

Looks like Mayor Ruiz has the last laugh.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Perez Calls for Valenti's Ouster

For the second time now County Commissioner Vince Perez has called for UMC CEO's Jim Valenti's head.

The first time was when Valenti accepted a big bonus after letting several employees go. 

The latest vote of no-confidence from Perez came this evening after word came from the El Paso Times that UMC lost accreditation in a unit.

According to Bob Moore of the El Paso Times, "The accreditation issue involves the 7-person sterile processing unit, which prepares instruments and equipment for surgery to prevent infection."

This is a rare step to be taken, happening in only 3% of accreditations.

In a statement released earlier this evening, Commissioner Perez didn't hide his displeasure with UMC. 

"Once again, the UMC administration failed to communicate with the commissioners court - this time regarding the decision to temporarily suspend elective and non-emergency surgeries. The court (as a whole) received no advanced notice of this decision. This is yet another example that underscores the need for new leadership at UMC once the CEO's contract expires in 2016." stated Perez who represents the Mission Valley, Montana Vista, Far East El Paso and most of the colonias in El Paso County.

Incredibly several of the commissioners learned of the problem through social media posts from media rather than from the UMC administration.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Marquez Resignation

I've been bugged all day long about when I was going to write about the Marquez resignation so he is the first of a couple of posts about it.

No I didn't know ahead of time that she was going to retire and no I don't know why. There are plenty of rumors already floating around because of the abruptness of the decision, much like Senator Shapleigh. But that is assuming it was abrupt to begin with. Just because we didn't know about it doesn't mean it was an impulsive thing on her part.

People are wondering aloud a number of scenarios from avoiding a scandal to running against Senaotr Rodriguez.

She's a newly-wed, which I'm sure breaks Ali's heart since all he does is talk about her boobs, so maybe she just got tired of the legislature. Maybe she wants to start a family and possibly run for something else in the future like County Judge or Congress someday.

Who knows. Critique her all you want, and there are plenty of things to critique her about, but she was an effective legislator and advocate for El Paso.

If I had to put my money on it, I'd guess a shot at the senate like everyone else is thinking. She's taken on popular Democratic incumbents before, so it wouldn't be a new thing for her. Her statement said she was going to be active in Texas politics so outside of county judge the only job I think she cares about is being in the senate. 

I think it's spotting Forma a lot of credit doing so considering they have been losing more often than the Tampa Buccaneers in the 80's. 

The timing makes sense. Go after the seat now before it becomes an open seat. Her retirement from the house now gives her time to get ready for a race starting around Labor Day. And she can raise money. Senator Rodriguez is another long-time incumbent that hasn't faced meaningful opposition in years, so why not give it a shot if you're Marquez?

Up next, the replacements. Who is likely to run and who are the top five front runners? That's later on the LSB.

City Staff Over-Stepping Bounds?

The big story, other than Marquez, is the city's apparent decision to turn down a grant for the downtown area. If you have Facebook you have no doubt seen the post floating around from the Historical Commission regarding the matter.

I know what you're thinking, what is up with the city lately? First they lose a grip of money to the tune of $20 million and now they are going to turn down free money. 

I'm afraid it's likely worse than that.

It appears that the decision to not go forward with the grant never made it to policy makers and instead was made at the staff level. 

In an email from Jessica Herrera, the Redevelopment Manager from the City of El Paso, it was staff that clearly made the choice to not go forward with the grant.

My question is why?

It makes no sense at all that the elected leadership wasn't left to make a decision involving money. I've included the operative part of the email but the justification for the decision was basically not enough buy-in from the property owners downtown.



No shit.

Of course the property owners don't want the historical designation, it means they have to jump through a few more hoops. God forbid.

But that debate really isn't my point. My point is that we elect policy makers to set policy. Staff making policy decisions circumvents the voters and is a dangerous precedent.

This should have been up for a vote before council, not decided by staff.

The city manager is clearly aware that this transpired but it's unclear if he was okay with it.

This is likely to be an issue that will end up at council, as it should. 

Another real important question for the community is this...

How often has this happened in the past and the people never knew about it?

Today's Fun Tweet

Well maybe this will become a thing on the LSB. If you come across a cool one text it or email it to me.

Today's tweet is Rep Noe making things clear to another Twitter user. 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

DA Challengers Hit the Pavement

The two challengers against District Attorney Jaime Esparza were hitting the pavement on Saturday.

Leonard Morales and Yvonne Rosales were each at a 4th of July parade over the weekend.

Morales hit the bigger of the two parades on the west side while Rosales hit the Eastside parade run by the Lions Club, of which she is a member.

Fun story - during the Eastside parade an old convertible carrying Commissioner Leon and his wife Bonnie over-heated and broke down on the parade route with about a 1/2 mile to go. The Commissioner and his wife took a page out of Jimmy Carter's playbook and walked the rest of the way.


Weird Tweet

AEl Paso Times reporter Diana Washington-Valdez posted a strange tweet yesterday.  Well the tweet itself wasn't strange so much as the image. 

Here's the tweet:




Like I said it's not so much the tweet. 

Or the fact that the taxpayers lost out on a whopping $20 million. 

Or the fact that the headline should actually say Ordaz since she's the one that really raised the issue in the first place.

It's the cat pic...



I have no idea why there is a brown furry pussy cat in this tweet. I don't know if it's a subliminal 
thing, an unintentional thing, or what.

Is this DWV's kitty, a stunt kitty, or does she just collect random cat pics? Or perhaps it belongs to a member of council?

Let's come up with a narrative shall we? Craziest, most Martin-Paredes level of stupid conspiracy-level of lunacy wins a prize. 

Ready go!