Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Problem with the Electronic Communications Ban

I was thinking about the stupid electronic communications ban that was a poorly planned reactionary public policy enacted by city council recently.

And there's a big fat hole in the policy that needs to be addressed.

Wearable technology.

Smart watches for those of you that don't know what I'm talking about.

Smart watches let you view your calendar, read your email, or even send and receive text messages.

Right now council members have to turn in their cell phones to Richarda's easter box during the meeting. But your cell phone only has to be in range of your watch for you to send and receive messages. Most smart watches have an option set up for default replies.

You can basically set it up to give you the option for just about any reply to a text message you want in addition to the default replies that already exist like "yes""no""brb"on my way""talk later" etc.

So you could customize just about anything like this for example:


See how easy that is?

And no one would be the wiser because its on the wrist like a watch. Now I don't know if anyone on council even has a smart watch yet, they are kind of expensive, but it wouldn't surprise me if any of them did.

You might want to re-work that policy there city council.

Taxpayers Shouldn't Foot the Bill for Wealthy Judges

Let me tell you, there is no group of elected officials in this town that hate being questioned about anything more than judges. Anytime someone questions what they do one of two things happens, their heads explode in rage or they run and hide saying they are not available for comment.

Thats bullshit, they work for us.

Too many of them have forgotten that they work for us.

What happened with Judge Mike Herrera, and the subsequent approval by Judge Patrick Garcia of public funds to be used to file motions on Herrera's behalf - essentially defending his actions - was found to be improper. Here is coverage from KVIA on that issue.

Improper my ass, its complete and total bullshit. There was no reason that public funds should have ever been used to pay for an attorney to file motions on Herrera's behalf. Herrera can afford his own lawyer and should have paid for the attorney himself.

He should pay that money back to the public.

Frankly Judge Patrick Garcia should be held accountable and at the very least he should make himself available to speak to the public about his actions in approving that expenditure. And the argument that its been done before shouldn't be a defense because it damn sure doesn't work when you're trying to get out of a parking ticket.

The tragedy in all of this is that Judge Garcia is running unopposed for his seat. So not only is he running unopposed, but he isn't available to answer questions about why he felt it was necessary that the TAXPAYERS have to pay for an attorney to file motions for a judge who makes several times the salary of an El Paso family?

That is justice?

There are people who have probably been accused of a crime but are just above the line when it comes to eligibility to get a court-appointed lawyer to represent them and were ultimately denied a court-appointed lawyer but a wealthy judge has the taxpayers foot the bill for his lawyer?

You gotta be shittin' me.

And now on top of what he was already reprimanded for, Judge Herrera has campaign finance reports that are murky to say the least. Here is coverage from the El Paso Times on his campaign finance report issue.

Its not illegal, but it damn sure ain't transparent either.

No matter how you look at his actions, there is no way that his own divorce case shouldn't have been immediately thrown out of his court. Anyone with integrity would've done so immediately just for the sheer optics of the situation.

This is why elections matter. This is why you should pay attention to judicial races. This is exactly what can happen when people don't care enough to do their research on a candidate and just keep sending the same judges back to the bench.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

D2: The Last Minute Filings

As expected the field of candidates for the District 2 race is now the size of a small kindergarten class.

Prior to yesterday I think Tolbert was going to walk away without a run-off election because there weren't really any formidable opposition nor anyone that has any field experience.

In fact, had one particular candidate not filed, it would probably still be the same scenario although having a lot of candidates in the race inherently makes it more difficult to win without a run-off, though not impossible.

Cemelli De Aztlán joins Jim Tolbert as the real credible candidates in the race. She's raza, younger, and more liberal than Tolbert.

The other candidates are basically one-issue candidates that don't really have a base, campaign money, or a grassroots infrastructure to be real competitive.

Ultimately this comes down to Tolbert Vs. De Aztlán.

If Cemelli can raise money, and I think the developers might look at her as a viable alternative to Tolbert, then this could get real interesting. Right now, Tolbert is going to have the edge on everything - money, organization, name ID, time, etc.

The good thing with Tolbert V. De Aztlán is that it will guarantee a good debate. I wanted to see a rigorous debate about policy and it looks like that will happen at least with those two candidates. The others will likely speak in very broad terms about issues, but at least those two have enough knowledge of policy that you can expect a good debate, which is one of the things I was looking forward to happening.

D2 is in a better place with a rigorous debate about issues now.

Let the games begin..

(PS - I'll start on candidate profiles and interviews soon so that you can hear a little bit from all of them about their policy positions.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Filing Deadline Approaches for D2; Candidates Needed

The filing deadline for the race for District 2 to replace Larry Romero is quickly approaching.

So far there are a few candidates in the race and I am normally not one who enjoys seeing a small kindergarten-size field of candidates for a race, but this is a different scenario.

Turn-out is going to be really tiny, and so right now you have one candidate that has all the campaign talent behind him, Jim Tolbert. So if the election were held today he'd likely win without a run-off.

And guess what? As the campaign goes forward that is more and more like to be the case with each passing day because none of the other candidates in the field have any real campaign talent behind them.

Tolbert is a good guy, heart is in the right place, and he's a smart guy.

But he shouldn't walk away from this campaign without a rigorous debate about the issues. The conversation needs to be more than conservation. It needs to be about a range of issues affecting the City of El Paso right now. And frankly from what little I've seen of his competition, that is exactly what is going to happen.

No one is entitled to this seat and I'm hoping one or more good, qualified candidates with ideas about government and the direction of the city get in the race. The district will benefit from it. And it is what is sorely needed in D2 right now and to a greater extent, it is what is needed in El Paso right now especially given the current make-up of council.

And honestly, right now the field of candidates is basically made up of one-trick ponies.

Don't expect whoever the person elected to the D2 office is to have magic beans that will change city council in a meaningful way. Its just not likely to happen. But it is the opportunity to have the city move in the right direction.

D2 needs to elect someone who understands one very important point - city council needs people with the vision that El Paso is more than just a collection of 8 city districts. The protect-my-district syndrome is rampant on council and we need leader who understand that El Paso needs to have a regional relationship. Yes, some on council think that means focusing on the relationship with Juarez.

Those people are stupid.

Having a regional relationship means focusing on where El Paso fits into the scheme of things here on the US regional side first. Focusing on making transportation and economic development an effort for the entire region in the El Paso area. Sure, you need to advocate for your district, but you also need to think about the entire region.

Its like baseball, everyone gets an at-bat and a chance at individual achievement. But the also play for a team.

You'd think a bunch of people who paid for a shiny new ballpark would understand that.

The Perez Proposal

An event that was 5 years in the making finally became official last night at a small family event in the Lower Valley.

County Commissioner Vince Perez proposed to long-time girlfriend and City Representative Claudia Ordaz at a family Easter gathering at the home of Perez's parents near Bel Air High School.

Normally this would be the part were I would insert a video, or at the very least a picture of Perez making the proposal to Ordaz but truth be told, I went inside to grab another beer and when I came outside Perez's father and grandmother were clapping along with the rest of the family that was present. So I missed it.

Perez and Ordaz started dating after Ordaz left Senator Shapleigh's Office to work with Congressman Reyes' Office.

The First Couple of the Valley each represent portions of the Lower Valley and Eastside of the respective areas and have been dating for over 5 years.

By the way, Ordaz said yes.

There has been no official date set so far.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Text Message Release from Acosta, Noe, "Et Al"

The City of El Paso has finally released information to me regarding my open records request. And what was released is a piece of work that only could happen at the City of El Paso.

What was ultimately released was unresponsive to my request, included only 15 text messages, and was redacted so much it looked like a CIA document from the Cold War that was just recently declassified.

This release crystalizes what is wrong with the people who demand "transparency" from their colleagues but clearly don't practice what they preach.

This might take awhile so walk with me...

The operative part of my request is as follows:

"...Provide any and all communications and accompanying records of text messages on a public or private electronic communication device, between Representative Michiel Noe, Dora Oaxaca, Camilo Jimenez, and Representative Acosta pertaining to any and all city business, to include the Metropolitan Planning Organization and subcommittee work between February 25, 2015 and February 25, 2016."

Pretty clear right?

The city gave me a document along with my request that not only quotes my request, but mentions that have removed personal information "from the enclosed information we are providing to you".

In other words, they are redacting phone numbers. Which I might add underscores the fact that Acosta's item today is completely unnecessary.

And that is one of the things that is very interesting to me. Here's what I mean:







































As you can see, there is a hand-written note in the margin that says "All redactions are 'Not Responsive'".

But the city's letter to me only mentions the redaction of phone numbers. Take note of the two arrows that are near the bottom. It appears that two different methods have been used to redact information. The cell phone number appears to have been redacted via computer. It is more uniform and is a darker shade of black. The other parts that are redacted appear to have been redacted by a magic marker and a ruler.

Now in the words of 90's rap artists Onyx, "But, but, but wait it gets worse!"

The document, which you can read in its entirety by clicking on this link, is unresponsive to my request. First of all, I requested text messages from 4 people having to do with any and all city business, to include the MPO.

The City gave me a total of 15 messages.

Do they really expect me to believe that 4 people exchanged text messages having to do with any and all city business to include the MPO only 15 times in an entire year? How many times have you exchanged text messages with your boss, subordinates, or colleagues just today?

And did I mention the fact that the messages are ONLY about the MPO?

Where are the messages between the boss and staff having to do with stuff like, Hey boss, I got a call from a constituent that would like a pot hole fixed, or Hey staffer, can you set up a meeting with Scrooge McDuck so we can talk about Launch Pad McQuack landing is plane on Scrooge's lawn instead of the airport?

Yeah, its noticeably absent.

But hey, maybe its all that stuff was actually redacted.


Seriously, what the hell are they hiding here? This pic also shows the different forms of redaction again. 

I obviously have major issues with this release and the veracity of it, but let me show you what undermines my faith in the document released to me the most.

Its this text message on the second-to-the-last page. 

Apparently Acosta and Noe found a way to retrieve text messages from the FUTURE!

Don't believe me? Check out the date.




This release is also indicative of the fact that the very people who pound their chest and demand transparency from their colleagues release a document that in most places has more redacted information than actual released information. 

When it was Ordaz that went through an ORR for text messages the only thing that was redacted was phone numbers. This document has a lot of stuff that was redacted. My question for the City Attorney is why are there two different forms of redaction in the same document?

This is important because in the last city council meeting a rep asked Firth if they could redact information themselves if there were concerned about personal information getting out. Firth indicated that they couldn't because it would get into reps without holding information from the public. 

It begs the question, was the document partially redacted for content before it was given to the city attorney's office? If so, how does that square with the legal advice given in open session last week?

And why such a different way of redacting information? That doesn't make any sense. 

Noe was asked during the press gaggle about why I was given such little information and he indicated that I only asked for information relating to the MPO. As you can see above, that is a lie. He produced an email from the City Attorneys Office that says (I didn't see it) that based on my response to their request for clarification letter, that I had indicated I only wanted text messages related to the MPO. 

That isn't even what their clarification letter to me even asked. Here is the letter, just click here

This is what I responded, and as you can see at no point do I limit my request to just text relating to the MPO.



The bottom line here is that taking one look at the documents that were released to me shows what they really mean by "transparency".

This release is a reflection of the systemic problem the City of El Paso has not only with Open Record Requests, but also with transparency as a whole. 

But come on, be honest... you just KNEW they were going to screw this up right?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Acosta - Doubling Down Dilemma

City Rep Acosta seems to have now resigned to the fact that her political career after this term is essentially over. Why else would she double-down the ridiculous agenda item that she put forward at the last meeting?

So now she wants city council to take up a discussion that hopefully doesn't actually violate the Texas Open Meetings laws and will allow the city to push for state legislation that will essentially ask them to change the law to allow for things that are already allowed for.

This is because Acosta is trying to recover some sense of credibility in all of this and is trying to make something out of nothing here. Which is the real problem. The agenda isn't for that purpose.

But as a practical matter it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't fix a problem what exists and it doesn't fix a problem that doesn't already have a solution.

And really the biggest thing it does is draw attention to the hypocrisy of Acosta's effort. Acosta never had an issue with any of this when it was her colleague that was facing this issue. She didn't seem to care one bit. Again, she only began to care when I made a request to her office.

Don't believe me? Well there is no documentation existing anywhere that shows that this was a concern for Acosta prior to my request.

So far.

Who knows what will pop up when I get my open records request back asking for text messages between her, City Rep Noe, Dora Oaxaca and Noes' staffer?

Interestingly Acosta hasn't consulted with any members of the legislative delegation about her misguided bid.


I noticed this comment from State Rep Joe Moody on his Facebook page.












I don't know about you but it seems pretty clear to me what Rep Moody thinks about Acosta's initiative.

City council should take this into consideration tomorrow when they hear Acosta's attempt to save face at tax payer's expense.

El Paso County Democratic Convention

Eight years ago when there was a contested primary involving Hillary Clinton and most of the supporters who were at the convention Saturday, it was a screw job of epic proportions. The Hillary delegation was rude, ugly, mean-spirited, and unethical.

Luckily they got what was coming to them at the state convention and everything that was wrong at the County convention was fixed at the state convention.

Saturday's convention was a completely different story. I could write all day long about it the short of it was that it was actually pretty well-run and smooth, compared to conventions in the past. Most of the people that attended that had never been to a convention before and probably thought it was a big cluster-fuck.

It wasn't. It may have seemed chaotic but most of the convention work was done early with the exception of nominations committee. But that wasn't even their fault. There was a problem with the fact that the state party sent them forms that were missing a key element that would've made things go along a lot faster.

The only real thing that marred the convention was Hillary supporter and local party celebrity Pee Wee Meir being obnoxious to the young Bernie supports. If you know Pee Wee then you know she is famous for being obnoxious. Its what she does. She has a potty mouth. She curses like a bilingual sailor on leave or a Tourettes patient that hasn't taken their meds.

But she had a little more of an edge than normal and was calling the young Bernie supports stupid. Which is funny because she was trying to kick me out of the nominations committee meeting because I wasn't part of the committee. But Norma Chavez who was chair of the committee set her straight. You can't call people stupid and then not know the rules yourself.

Personally I was concerned about the nominations committee because it was Murders Row of people who screwed over the Obama delegation 8 years ago, including the architect of the screw job, former Chair Danny Anchondo. But myself and a couple of other people from the Bernie delegation were able to monitor how things went and everything was smooth and no one screwed us over.

There were a couple of times people tried, but it was blocked. No one wanted a repeat of what happened when Anchondo was the chair.

The Bernie delegation ended up with far more delegates to the state convention than the popular vote reflected because the participated strongly. I was proud because 8 years ago I was one of those young idealistic kids with no gray in my hair and hope for a stronger Democratic Party. Some of the people that were the young Obama kids are now the veteran members of the party that have stuck through some rough years under the Old Guard and its important to keep all that new blood in the Party.

The Bernie delegation made its biggest mark in resolutions. They passed a lot of good progressive liberal policies.

Although you can fully expect them to be chased off by the Old Guard and their movidas soon. But there is a concerted effort to ensure that doesn't happen like it did 8 years ago.

Alex Burnside, Ashley Rodriguez, Eric Stoltz, Lyda Ness, Antonio Williams, and Xavier Miranda did a good job filling leadership roles for the Bernie delegation. They showed what a mix of young blood and experience can do successfully.

Norma and I sparred a few times during the day, but nothing ugly. Just spirited discussion over interpretation of rules because we were each fighting for our candidate. Neither of us are afraid of the other and both of us over the years have grown a healthy respect for the other's skills, so it was spirited but not ugly. And I must admit, Chavez was fair as the chair of the most important committee at the convention. Side note - she's very healthy and has lost a lot of weight. She does some diet thing and she's probably in the best shape of her life, so rumors of her declining health are not true.

All the Chairs were Hillary people but they were all very fair. Trust me, it takes a lot for me to say that because of how things went down 8 years ago but I have to admit it was fair.

There was a big push for "unity" at the event. The reality is that the push is one-sided because the Hillary people feel like Secretary Clinton has things all wrapped up, so its a lot easier for them to talk about unity because they feel like its over and that they won. But I remember 8 years go, and they weren't so much for unity. We will see as things get closer to the national convention and they start to tighten up a bit.

But there was good intentions there, and that was mostly being pushed by the top Hillary Guy, Aaron Paz. But hey, you expect good intention from a vato who's last name means peace.

There was one funny part of the convention that Paz isn't too happy about. They had a big banner on the wall that said "I support Hillary because..."

And someone wrote this:


A lot of us were offended by the sentiment, but that started a little finger pointing. The Hillary people accused us of putting it there and we thought to ourselves, leave it to a Hillary supporter to put something like that.

We also laughed because we all know Hillary is trying to sound like that older guy from New York, but she sailed over Bernie and landed on Trump!

All in all it was a great convention and the Party leadership executed well (Butch Maya, George Ybarra, Michael Apodaca, and Iliana Holguin).

There's been some comment that the lack of elected officials at the event was noticeable. Senator Rodriguez, Commissioner Stout, Rep Limón, and a couple of judges including Judge Strathmann were present but that was it.

The reality is the Party has chased off a lot of good people because they didn't like the outcomes of elections. But those elected officials shouldn't be scared off by a few old crazy cooks. Have some huevos, show up, and be part of a change if you don't like the current status quo.

I learned something from Don Williams years ago when asked why he was a member of every Democratic Party organization. He basically said they can't talk shit about you if you're in the room.

Thats mostly true and our local Democratic elected officials should take note of that and show up to events, even if a few people are jerks. Showing up shuts them up. Being a no-show gives them ammo.

Hats off to Butch Maya. This was his last event as Chairman of the Party and despite having a lot of health problems, he ran the best convention I've been a part of. He went out on top and in charge.

Frankly, I was proud of him.

And when the convention was over, he asked me to make the motion to adjourn. An unexpected surprise and honor.

Thanks Mr. Chairman.

Friday, March 18, 2016

There's Something About Marisa

Everyone seems to have taken their turn writing about Marisa Marquez lately and I have basically refrained.

I refrained because the Times piece basically said everything that needs to be said. Sure, she dispatched her lapdog to write several pieces defending her or drawing a false equivalency to other elected officials that dabble in consulting.

Interestingly Emma Acosta's name wasn't mentioned. She also is a 'consultant'.

The reality is they are different from Marquez because they aren't lobbying subordinate levels of government and if were a big deal then you'd hear experts and colleagues calling them out on it like you do Marquez.

But you don't. Because it isn't.

However, I want to be totally clear about something. I don't think Marquez is breaking the law or committing a crime.

That is the important take away from all of this.

What should be a crime, is the fact that people actually pay Forma Group, the firm she's now a major player in. I'm not talking about funneling money to candidates through "in-kind" donations either.

I just mean that it should be a crime to pay them when they can't seem to actually win an election.

They are on a serious losing streak and they don't even have any candidates in run-offs which is interesting because all three run-off elections feature Hispanic females.

On the serious tip, what annoys people about Marquez is the campaign stuff and the fact that she is just so hard to believe.

Let me explain what I mean. She's given a lot of lip service to fighting for her constituents and how working for Forma won't interfere. Well there was an MPO meeting today. Guess who wasn't there?

Thats right, Marisa Marquez. But hey, she's keeping her streak alive of not having attended a meeting in a year and a half!

Which is hilarious when you consider that Forma dropped a piece of mail against Mary Gonzalez for having a shitty attendance record at the MPO. Which is true by they way, she does.

In fact she'd be in the running for the worst attendance record of the delegation if it wasn't for the fact that she is exceeded only by...you guessed it...Marisa Marquez.

Since the legislature isn't in session, I'm just curious as to what was so important that neither of the two decided to show up. Maybe someone should ask Price's Creamery to put them on the back of a milk carton.

But of course we are supposed to believe that in a 7 person firm that includes two of Marquez' legislative staffers that the Director of Client Acquisition has nothing to do with campaigning against Gonzalez.

Sure she didn't...we believe ya!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Games the City Plays

The City of El Paso is really starting to get on my nerves with their little games. I can only imagine the crap that goes on with average El Pasoans who don't have a platform to air some of this crap out.

So time to shine a little like on the crap the City is pulling. Nearly every time I file an open records request, not matter how clear the language, they send me a clarification letter. For those of you keeping score at home, its a request they send to clarify something that is unclear in the letter and it essentially buys the City 10 more days from the day you respond.

If you respond. If you don't, then they are off the hook.

So here is the letter I received from the City. Stick around for my response at the bottom:




This was my response (I have a screenshot of it at the end but I thought I'd paste the text here to make it easier to read):

Ms. Leyva,

Please consider this email a response to the attached letter regarding your request for clarification. I thank you for bringing to my attention that there is a similar request in the works, but while that request may have similar elements of my request, it differs substantially from my request. At least as it was relayed to me. 

I will NOT accept the other request as it is insufficiently responsive to my request. 

The language of my request was very clear. In your letter you set forth two provisions for the time frame and search terms. These provisions, which include a time frame and search terms are not relevant to my request. The language of my request very clearly indicates what information I am looking for and since your letter actually quotes what I requested was anything “related to the development, implementation, and consideration of City Council Agenda Item 16.2 (council meeting 3/8/16)” then the time frame is very clear. 

Since I am looking for more than just emails, a point I also made in my request that you also quoted, the provision of search terms is unnecessary. This appears to be yet another tactic to stall, delay, and impede the release of documents relative to my request. 

Let me be abundantly clear, I don’t personally care what search terms are used, or if they are used at all, or what method is used to collect documents and records responsive to my request. I want any and all documents and records that are responsive to my request. I don’t care how you do it, so long as what is provided to me represents any and all documents and records that are responsive to my request. The language set forth in my request is clear and concise. There should be no need for further delay.

If you have further questions as to the substance or my request, please do not hesitate to contact me at (915) 694-5714. Rep Acosta has published that number at a city council meeting, so it is certainly available to anyone. You may also reach me via email at thelionstarblog@gmail.com.

I DO NOT consider this matter closed until my request is fulfilled in accordance with the Texas Open Records Act. 

Your Pal,

Jaime





Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Firth Things Firth: Legal Advice Questionable

With all the attention on Tommy Gonzalez at the city, I think a lot of people are missing some major issues with the city's lawyer, Sylvia Firth.

I realize that we are in Lent at all, but the Mayor's effort to pull a Pontius Pilot with Firth didn't go unnoticed. At the start of the meeting he engages in an effort to imply that Firth doesn't have the power to remove something from the agenda, namely Acosta and Oaxaca's punitive response to my open records request, and she deeply bellows into the microphone that she can't discriminate against any member of council that wants to put something on the agenda.

Uh, thats bullshit.

The attorney's job is to protect the legal position of the city and ensure council is complying with the law. That is her MAIN purpose for existing.

Lets press pause for a moment and rewind a bit.

Remember text-gate? Back them the rest of council was wanting to burn Ordaz at the stake for all the text messages that were released. Really they were just pissed that she showed you could actually RECOVER deleted texts which screwed up their long-standing culture of "read and delete".

Hell Niland even went on Buzz Adams on whined about why a rep would release all those texts.

Its simple, she didn't.

It was the City Attorney that released them.

Frankly I don't understand why no one called for her head back then. Think about it, she released texts that were not responsive to the request, and its my opinion only, that she did so in order to embarrass Ordaz.

So back then when it was against a member of council they didn't like, they wanted to be open and release shit even if it didn't have anything to do with request. But when I make an open records requests for THE SAME INFORMATION from another city representative, text messages having to do with city business, her office sends me a letter asking me to clarify if I meant text messages in the part of my request that reads the words, "text messages".

Yeah, that shit really happened. Here its, I bullshit you not.


















Well no shit.

Okay, back to the last regular council meeting. This open records request is what led to Acosta and Oaxaca's ridiculous agenda item. But when the conversation on the agenda item started Acosta's presentation wasn't anything like the agenda item at all. It was substantively and substantially different. So much so that, rather than the city attorney who's job it is to prevent this kind of stuff in the first place, a member of council had to point out that they were discussing something that wasn't actually on the agenda.

They violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. And the El Paso Times rightfully called them out on it.

Right in front of the city attorney. And she didn't bat an eye. Rep Limón and the Mayor had to be the one to set everyone straight. What the hell do they have a city attorney for in the first place?

Now the city council waits until only one of the three members of council that are critical of the city manager was in attendance to completely change the performance improvement plan to this goals bullshit.

And of course, Noe, Svarzbein, Robinson, et all are unavailable for comment. Maybe Svarzbein had to talk to his mommy again.

What happened yesterday is absolutely awful, especially for a council that loves to wax poetic about transparency. They made a back-room deal and there is always a tell when they do something like this - they try to make the mayor be the only person from council to address the media.

Aren't these the same people that at the last meeting said they didn't want to sensor any member of council? What happened to that sentiment?

By any measure this drastic change from a performance improvement plan to a goals plan should've been done in the open, in public. The public should have had an opportunity to discuss the issue and they most certainly should've waited until all members of council were present, as they have done for other issues in the past.

This is why no one trusts city government.

The city attorney should not have let this happen.

By the way City of El Paso, tic-tock people. My open records request should've been responded to already...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hey Emma Acosta & Dora Oaxaca...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2016
FOI Foundation of Texas joins Attorney General’s Office in El Paso Open Government Seminar
AUSTIN _ The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas will host an Open Government Seminar in El Paso in May featuring training in the state’s public meetings and public records laws.
The non-profit FOI Foundation, in cooperation with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, will offer the one-day seminar on Tuesday, May 10. It is designed for government employees, journalists, attorneys and members of the general public who want to learn more about the Texas Public Information Act and Texas Open Meetings Act.
“This seminar highlighting Texas’ open government laws helps to inform citizens of their rights and responsibilities as they participate in our democracy,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. 
Supporting the FOI Foundation as sponsors of the seminar are the El Paso Times and the law firm Windle, Hood, Norton, Brittain & Jay, LLP.
The event will take place at the El Paso Independent School District’s Professional Development Center, 6500-K Boeing Drive, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Attorney General’s Office will begin the day with training on the Texas Public Information Act at 9 a.m. followed by training on TPIA cost rules. Those sessions are free.
The FOI Foundation will present a session on the Texas Open Meetings Act by attorney Thomas Williams, the foundation’s vice president, starting at 1 p.m. Admission for this session is $50.
Participants may attend either or both sessions, which are approved by the Attorney General’s Office as meeting the state requirements for open government training for public officials. The seminar also qualifies for Continuing Legal Education through the State Bar of Texas.
To register, visit the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas website at www.foift.org and go to the “Activities and Programs” tab, then locate “Open Government Seminars.” For further information contact the FOI Foundation office at 512-377-1575.
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Only 3 More Days Until Opening of the Plazita!

By my count, today marks day 7 of the we'll-have-the-plazita-open-in-ten-days boast from the City of El Paso.

So only three days to go and we can all (finally) enjoy the plazita again right?

Just kidding, no one actually believes a sentence from the City of El Paso that starts with, "We expect completion of the project to be..."

You know what we should do while we are waiting for the plazita to be done?

Watch cat videos!

Judicial Issues, "Bad day" Underscore Importance of Voting

Events that have transpired over the last few days involving two judges underscore exactly why it is so important to vote in elections.

Judge Mike Herrera and Municipal Court Judge and current Court of Appeals candidate Maria Ramirez are text book examples of what happens when judges have no scrutiny and almost no opponents.

Ramirez was featured in the El Paso Times lately for an event that ultimately led to three citations, two of which where dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to one.

Ramirez attempts to explain it away by saying its a ticket and everyone has gotten a ticket. Maybe, but it was actually a Class C misdemeanor. I have been raked over the coals for a misdemeanor so I know how bad it can get.

But the reality is that most people aren't running for a court of appeals job either. But the ticket isn't the issue, its the events surrounding the issue. It was an altercation at the federal court house involving security.

Ramirez let her emotions get away from her and that goes to one of the few things a voter can actually judge - no pun intended - a judicial candidate on; temperament.

But Judge Herrera's recent public reprimand is a bigger demonstration of why voting in judicial elections is so important. Herrera has largely ran unopposed during his career and he was recently publicly reprimanded for something that defies belief, he kept his own divorce proceeding in his own court.

How that didn't make the evening news when it first happened is beyond me, but he was finally reprimanded for it.

Word around the campfire is that Herrera is considering a jump to another court in a couple of years. From what I hear if he went for a county judicial seat the retirement would be a little sweeter.

That is why judicial elections matter.

Truth is that when it comes to judges in the courthouse, most of them will recuse themselves in a case at the APPEARANCE of a conflict, just to err on the side of caution. Herrera's case is an example of a judge that had an ACTUAL conflict and not only didn't recuse himself and transfer the case, he KEPT the case in his court and even petitioned the judge/himself in the matter.

I know, that sounds like an outrageous set of circumstances on Last Week Tonight, but no its real and happened on San Antonio Street.

These cases are lessons for voters. Don't undervote in contested judicial elections. Make and informed and thoughtful choice for who you want to support for a judicial seat. Its a reflection upon our community and a good reminder that the judges work for us.

Trust me, they forget that all too often.

Monday, March 14, 2016

EPSOA & Perpetual Political Ploys

I saw something over the weekend that blew my mind. Democrats sit down for this one.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Officer's Association - a labor organization - endorsed a Republican for Sheriff.

The boys at the EPSOA are notorious for making bad political decisions. They almost always back the losers in political campaigns. They recently supported a guy against Commissioner Vince Perez that didn't even live in the precinct he was trying to run in. That was a major face-plant for the EPSOA because they were careless in their endorsement.

At least in the past when they endorsed a candidate, even a terrible one like Dora Oaxaca, you could at least understand why. Dora and Marrufo, the head of the union at the time, went to Socorro High together.

But their decisions lately, despite not having Marrufo in charge anymore, defy logic. Lets set aside the Quintanilla endorsement. Lets chalk it up to old-fashioned payback.

But endorsing a Republican is not only stupid, its an embarrassment to labor. Labor has no friends in the GOP. Republicans are not union friendly. Sure, they'll happily accept the support in this circumstance, but there's a reason unions only support Democratic candidates.

You got issues with the boss? Of course you do, labor and management rarely get along all the time. That is natural. If things get really bad, you support someone in the primary against him. But supporting a Republican over Sheriff Wiles is beyond stupid.

I don't know what their process is like, but with other unions I've worked for there is an established process. Sometimes a guy like me is brought in to do some opposition research on the candidates, poke them with a stick, and kick the tires. Its called vetting a candidate.

A recommendation is made and that is taken into consideration along with the decision of board members after consultation with membership. The point is, someone with an ounce of political sense is usually involved to prevent unions from pulling a Hector Montes and AFSCME, you know - completely destroying the credibility of the union.

I don't know anything about the Republican that is running other than what I have seen in videos he's posted online. I certainly have questions that I will be asking about important policy matters when I come across him on the campaign trail, but does the EPSOA actually think they will be better off under a Republican?

There is no defense for the endorsement either. The argument that you have to send a message just doesn't hold any water. Not in a general election. The only message it sends is that the EPSOA will cut off their nose to spite their face.

The EPSOA always puts money behind a candidate. That is hard working union member money. They might as well take the boys out to a gentlemen's club, light cigars with it, or pass out cash at the Sun Bowl Parade. It would be just as useful as using it to back a Republican.

Now all of this puts their political contact, Chris Acosta in a weird position. She is part of Wiles' staff and she almost always runs a campaign with the EPSOA money. So that is a little awkward knowing that they are supporting someone against her boss.

Political karma.

The reality is that they are throwing away any credibility that they may have left, which honestly isn't a lot. From a labor perspective its obvious they are going to have issues with Sheriff Wiles. But when you endorse a Republican, you are endorsing policies that aren't in-line with the community. And lets be real, how credible is the EPSOA when they endorse someone with no law enforcement experience. The guy has never been a detention officer, written citations, testified in court, or been on patrol.

Sure, he was a Special Forces Sergeant Major and all, but its not comparable experience no matter how much he dresses like a cowboy. Wiles has walked in the shoes of a line officer.

But now they are the union that backed a Republican. A union with the ability to raise money and have a lot of bodies should be king and queen makers.

Backing a Republican makes them look like the court jester.

Holguin Takes Telles to School

I've been skeptical of Iliana Holguin as the chair of the Democratic Party for a while. But last night on ABC 7 Xtra she blew away the chair of the El Paso Republican Party.

I don't think I've ever seen a chair of the Party that could so eloquently debate an opponent.

She clearly outclassed Telles.

Actually, let me be more accurate...she gave him a beat down.

I got the impression that Telles is a Trump supporter and he spent the entire time on the show defending Trump while Holguin very methodically laid out the case of why he's bad for America.

Telles seems to forget that even El Paso Republicans have rejected Trump. He came in third behind Rubio and Cruz.

So tip of the hat to Holguin, job well done.

Ugarte Off Base

I don't know what it is about Constables that make them think they are generals of small Central American countries but a lot of them have egos like Manuel Noriega.

At the county today there is an agenda item to basically let Oscar Ugarte take office several months early.

And it's a pointless and unnecessary item that does nothing but serve ego.

There is zero practical need for Ugarte to assume office early. It's a false sense of urgency. Sure he's a great guy and all but that is beside the point. He's a Constable, it's not a mission-critical office that requires him to assume it early. 

And seriously, he really needs to stop invoking the name of Robert White after every sentence. It's tacky. 

Ugarte should just wait to take office in January like every other elected official. It sets a bad precedent. Now every elected official that doesn't have an opponent in November will be asking the court to take office early.

Commissioners should delete this item.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Un Chicano, Sin Fin

Joe Olvera was a friend and mentor. I, like many people, was saddened to hear of his passing and have struggled to put the words together that would be a fitting tribute to Joe.

We became friends several years ago when he sent me an email about something I'd written. I was surprised he even knew I existed and truth be told, a little star struck. He had the voice that a vato like me could only aspire to, but never achieve.

The highest compliment I can pay a man like Joe is to call him exactly what he was, a Chicano.

Most of you reading this don't understand what that means. Sure, you're probably familiar with the term, or consider it a label with either good or bad connotations. But only a few actually know what it  means to be a Chicano.

When someone calls themself a Chicano, it's more than an ethnic identifier. It's a political badge of courage. When you call yourself a Chicano it means you are politically active and culturally proud. It means you have shed the yoke placed upon you by mainstream American culture and that of first generation Mexican culture and have embraced what it means to be different than both, but rooted in each.

So when I call someone a Chicano, it's a compliment of the highest order.

Joe was also pretty critical of me. The voice of my conscience is my Dad's voice. But if it wasn't my old man, it would be Joe's voice. He pushed me. He challenged me. He used to email me or call me and tell me when I wasn't raising enough hell about an issue. And every once in a while, he would email me a piece I wrote that he liked and the email would only have the phrase, "Te aventaste."

I used to print those emails out.

I wish there were more of them.

Later he would send me articles he'd written for Rio Grande Digital before they were published. It was my own personal VIP reading of his work before anyone else got to see it.

I often fell short of his expectations and disappointed him. During one heated exchange about a campaign we were on opposite sides of, I actually apologized for not living up to what I thought he wanted me to be. He responded firmly, but affectionately in a way a father does when he's correcting a son and told me, "Don't be sorry vato. Be stronger. Don't let an old man like me get under your skin. If I had a nickel for everyone I've pissed off over the years I'd be Paul Foster."

When I went through some hard times following my arrest, Joe was one of the people that reached out to me. He told me to ride it out and that I'd be stronger for it on the other side.

He was right. And I am.

It has been a long time since I got an email from him, but it was "Welcome back. Kick some ass. Keep raising hell. Sin Fin"

Every email ended with Sin Fin.

The Times described Olvera as quixotic.

For a man who made his living with words, that was the perfect personification of Joe. It's exactly what he was, exceedingly idealistic and often unrealistic and impractical.

And I'll be damned if that isn't what I loved most about the guy. It's those figures we often see as quixotic that are the ones the change the world. The world was never changed by vatos that go along to get along.

It's the guy that stands in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, the woman who won't move to the back of the bus, and yes - the brash and idealistic Chicano who takes on the rich white banker.

Those are the people that change the world.

Joe wasn't just Chicano, he was fist-in-the-air Chicano - like a lot of people from my dad's generation. It's a lot easier to be Chicano in an era where there are Chicano studies courses taught in universities, when people are now claiming their brownness instead of denying it, and when raza is finally taking baby steps toward realizing our place in board rooms and ballot boxes.

It was a whole lot harder for that generation when they were punished for speaking Spanish in school, weren't American enough when they joined the military and weren't Mexican enough for people from the other side of la frontera.

Joe is gone now but he is one of the few people that you can actually say left a legacy. He left a mark on this community.

His voice will live on.

Sin Fin.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Prominent Family Court Judge Reprimanded; Ordered to Additional Education

According to documents recently made public, long-time family court Judge Mike Herrera who presides over the 383rd Judicial District Court, was reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Follow this link for the document.

According to the documents, Judge Herrera filed for divorce from his wife in 2012 and was made aware that the case was assigned to the court he presides over the very day that it was filed. The documents go on to say that Judge Herrera allowed the case to remain in his court for several months. Herrera says in the document that he did so because he didn't want the case to go forward.

In a rather interesting quote coming from a family court judge, Herrera said,
  1. I did not care to place my family in the same position as other litigants find themselves, in conflicts and court hearings, which, for the most part only benefit the attorneys financially. It is really sad and embarrassing to see the reputation of some of the litigants being dragged in the mud in these court proceedings. 
In addition to the public reprimand, the long-time judge was ordered to get additional hours of training. He must do so within 90 days.

Further details of the reprimand can be found in the document link above.



Rep Acosta: Untruths & Mayoral Aspirations

Representative Acosta has had mayoral aspirations for quite some time now. And for quite some time that has basically been a pipe dream. She never really had the support for that aspiration in the community.

Anyone who thinks what little support she had still exists are probably the same people who believe that she wasn't aiming the now-infamous agenda item at me. As someone who has seen a lot of politics in this county, I figured that the train-wreck was going to stop at the posting of the agenda item. I figured Acosta and Dora had the skill set to gauge public reaction and would realize the error of their ways and very quietly delete the item.

Just kidding, I knew Dora didn't have that skill set. She has made a career out of being completely disconnected with the views of the community. But I figured Acosta did.

But there are several things Acosta said during the meeting that I want to draw attention to because when elected officials say things that aren't true its important that the community know about it.

First, lets start with something that may or may not be true, but certainly doesn't sound like it is. During the discussion of the item Rep Acosta said that security issues as they relate to releasing phone numbers of third parties was something she has been concerned about for a while.

I'm calling bullshit.

If she was so concerned, then why didn't she raise this issue previously? Why wasn't an issue when Ordaz had the exact same situation come up? Why, in the subsequent 6 or 8 months, has Acosta not uttered a peep about those concerns or put up an agenda item to discuss the issue sooner?

Because I hadn't sent in an open records request to her office yet. Its that simple.

Now, lets go into what Acosta said that is simply not true.

Untrue Statement #1

During her response to me Rep Acosta said, "now as far as open records, I never said don't give anyone open records, I never said go do a background check on anyone, I never said any of that."

Which is comical because in this piece on KVIA's website, Acosta actually says, "I don't think we should be releasing that kind of information to someone who is convicted with charges of moral turpitude."

Untrue Statement #2

As part of her denial that the agenda item has anything to do with me, Acosta says "I don't know when you submitted your open records request Mr. Abeytia".

This is perhaps the most bold of her statements. She's denying that she had knowledge of the open records requests made to her office prior to posting her item.



The only problem with that statement is that the city uses an automated system when you make an open records request. When a request is made, notification goes out to the offices that the requests relates to. My request was made February 25th. I received the first response from the city the day after the city council meeting (Wednesday) - so the idea that she didn't know about my request prior to placing the item on the agenda is easily substantiated by the city's notification system.

In fact, Dr. Noe's office was part of the request, so I wonder if he would corroborate Acosta's story that she didn't know prior to receiving my request?

Untrue Statement #3

Well this one may be half true. Acosta indicates that she didn't have knowledge of my ORR because she doesn't handle them in her office. Which means Dora Oaxaca handles them. So I guess she expects us to believe that Dora Oaxaca received an open records request notification regarding Oaxaca's pay, and an open records request regarding communication and Dora just never told her about it? And then Acosta had her staff put the item on the agenda, Dora didn't read it and therefore had no clue what the issue was and never spoke to Acosta about it?

Yeah right. I don't think there is anyone in City Hall that believes that Acosta had no clue I'd submitted my request before she posted her agenda item.

But wait a second, my second request, filed one day later, was for text message communication for Representatives Acosta and Noe, and their staffers. So even if Acosta expects people to believe that had no knowledge of the first request, she'd have to know about the second one because it would require her to turn over text messages.

Waxing Poetic About Transparency

So I think I'm just going to ignore the fact that Acosta is trying very hard to say that the agenda item had nothing to do with me despite the fact that she didn't raise any concerns until after I sent a request involving her office, and that her staffer put together materials for the agenda item that mention crimes of moral turpitude, highlights my misdemeanor in red, and includes both my name and cell phone number in the material.

And also ignore the fact that she likely violated Texas Open Meetings Act by discussing something that wasn't on the agenda.

Which leaves us with waxing poetic about transparency. After all this discussion about electronic communication devices and transparency this latest development at City Hall exposes the fact that not everyone is all that sincere about transparency. You see you can talk about being transparent and demanding that text messages be turned over, as long as its not your office getting the request. Here's the ugly truth about council, not all of them have a city-issued cell phone and that is for a reason.

Because a city-issued cell phone is a lot easier to get text messages from than a personal cell phone.

But the fact that Ordaz went through the trouble of retrieving deleted messages means that now when a request is done, a city rep can't simply hide behind "no responsive documents" because messages were deleted for whatever reason because Ordaz showed that if you REALLY want to be transparent, you won't just stop at the bare minimum legal requirement.

It will also be interesting to see what the City Attorney does now. Will the same standard of filtering text messages that are responsive to an ORR be applied to other city reps that were applied to Ordaz? Because there was basically none applied to Ordaz. The City Attorney just released everything.

One final note. I'd like to point out what I affectionately will not call the Acosta Shuffle. What is that? Its when you post an item that is one thing, and in the end you talk about something else, and ultimately vote against your own item. Acosta did that with the Pope item. And not only did she vote against her own item, she damn well took the VIP tickets to go see him up close and personal in Juarez.

Just like this agenda item about me that she posted, she ultimately voted to delete her own item. The Acosta Shuffle.

District 2 Candidate - Angel Del Toro

A new candidate has filed for District 2, Angel Del Torro.

I have never heard of him before and so I only have a few details.

To my knowledge he's not a guy that has been around political circles and I don't recall him being at city hall for anything noteworthy but a lot of people go to city hall so that doesn't really mean anything.

He's from the Austin area and is a retired Financial Analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank. He's in his late 60's.

More details as I get to know him.

Del Toro joins Jim Tolbert and David Nevarez as candidates that have formally announced their candidacy for the seat left vacant by City Rep Larry Romero who has resigned due to health issues relating to a stroke.

Mr. Romero is still under investigation for an alleged ethics code violation through a complaint filed by Tolbert.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Comments at City Hall Yesterday

I spoke yesterday at city hall against an agenda item that City Rep Emma Acosta put on the agenda that was not even a thinly veiled attempt to try to intimidate and impede me from accessing documents that are available to the public.

I haven't written about it publicly sooner because I was saving my remarks for the public comment portion of the meeting. I felt it was better to show Acosta and Dora Oaxaca that no middle school playground tactic was going to work on me.

But let me be clear, my anger about this item wasn't about me. I have plenty of people that talk bad about me. I've had plenty of people who have tried to intimidate me and push me around. Not sure why people haven't learned this yet, but that shit doesn't work on me. I have literally taken all that people can throw at me and I'm still here. So get it through your heads hater-nation, I'm not going anywhere. I've already weathered a rough storm with more negative press than a Gandara. I'm still standing.

However, just because it didn't actually work on me doesn't mean that the intent wasn't there. My anger was that Acosta would actually have the audacity to try to intimidate anyone at all. What about all the people that would be scared off by that kind of tactic?

Also, let me be clear about something else. Acosta wasn't alone on this one. I'm almost positive this was the brain child of Dora Oaxaca. When you have a move that is clearly based in emotion rather than logic and has no legal basis, that has Dora written all over it. The fact that the discussion Acosta had was so very different from what the language on the agenda underscore the fact that this was all about trying to intimidate and impede me.

But Dora and Acosta probably weren't expecting the reaction they got from the item. Hell even my haters were coming to my defense. So Dora probably is the one who got her into this and they likely spent the weekend trying to figure out a way out of this and try to save face somehow.

Fail.

The entire nonsensical argument Acosta made floated from the Apple/FBI/Terrorist case to someone getting medical care at a hospital through hacking a cell phone. I suppose somewhere in there Dora meant for her boss to have a salient point but if she did, it was no where to be found.

I have much more insight on this coming, including several times where Rep Acosta said things that are just flat-out untrue, and one thing that if true, says a whole lot about Acosta. And I don't mean in a good way.

But before that post, I want to point out one thing very important about what Acosta said. She raised all these "concerns" that she has had for "awhile" about supposed security threats with open records requests. And she went to great lengths to say that her item had nothing to do with me or my request to her office.

So if she had all these concerns, why didn't she raise a single one of these concerns when Ordaz had to deal with an open records request for text messages? Where was Acosta's concern then?

Better yet, where was her concern in the following months?

The truth is Acosta never once publicly raised a concern until AFTER she got my open records request.

That leads into my next post.

For now, here's what I said.

Monday, March 7, 2016

DA Run-Off Update

The District Attorney's race is pending the results of counting of overseas ballots and provisional ballots.

A source indicates that there were less than 50 ballots from overseas pending.

The official results will be released at 5pm on the Elections Department website. Barring some strange statistical anomaly it it's unlikely the vote total will change.

Meaning that there will be a run-off between Esparza and Rosales.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Election Winners & Losers

By every measure possible last night's biggest loser was Forma Group. A close second was the people of House District 75 that re-elected Mary Gonzalez. More on her later, but for now let's talk about Forma Group.

For a very long time Forma Group has been the Donald Trump of political consultants. Didn't matter what they said or did, the people with deep pockets were still going to dump a bunch of money into them. 

But the reality is that in the world of politics you are defined by you win-loss record and Forma was annihilated last night. All of their three major candidates not only loss, but they got their asses handed to them. 

Despite a TON of money going to Forma Group, an entity that profited more from this election than anyone else in town, they only had one candidate even break 40%. When Chente Quintanilla is your highest performer you know you got issues. 

Adolfo Lopez, who could ultimately live to fight another day in another office, was blown out by Lina Ortega. Representative-Elect Ortega actually did something pretty interesting, which leads to another person on the list - State Rep Marisa Marquez. 

Marquez lost a lot last night. She publicly denied having anything to do with the only race in which her firm struggled to break 40%. She took heat from her colleagues for being a political consultant while still in office and her debut as a consultant was a total train wreck. The race that she went "all-in" for was the race to replace her in the legislature. If Marquez was going to be effective anywhere, it would be in her own district. She's walked it and won in that district multiple times, including when Norma Chavez won her seat for her in the first place. 

In 2012 Marquez cruised to victory over Aaron Barraza by winning with 62% of the vote. She defeated Lyda Ness in 2014 with 66% of the vote. Both impressive performances and one would assume that Marquez would be able to guide her young Padawan to victory.

But it was a explosive defeat. Ortega ended up with almost 70% of the vote. That is more than Marquez herself ever got in a contested election in that district. That has to sting a little. 

Georgina Perez basically won her race with one campaign manager and the help of some key endorsements. The Mighty Forma came through with $15k in in-kind services for Joe Fierro and he not only got trounced, but I don't even know where the $15k in in-kind services even went. He had a website, a few push cards and a Facebook page. Perez won with 56% of the votes in a race that featured a total of three candidates and spanned an area of almost 40 counties.

That made a total of two of their candidates that didn't even win a single precinct in El Paso County. 

Not one.

Now it will be interesting to see if Forma continues to get candidates to sign with them. Their fees are steep to begin with, but its hard to show the value when you don't have the win record to close the deal. This election performance may hurt them more than when they broke a contract with Peter Svarzbein to sign with his opponent. 

Sure they got paid like a #1 draft pick in this election cycle, but after a terrible performance in a string of races now, they are more like RG3 now. 

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Other election night losers?

Obviously the District Attorney. No matter how you look at it, the DA has a problem on his hands. I have been looking in records all over the county and here is a very sobering thought for the 20+ year incumbent - incumbents that end up in run-off elections lose.

A lot of people saw this one coming because of the pattern. What happens to long-serving elected officials in El Paso? Eventually they find themselves in a campaign with a younger candidate, in this case, candidates plural, and they end up losing (Paul Moreno, Norma Chavez, Silvestre Reyes, Chente Quintanilla, etc). And for whatever reason a lot of people downplayed that under some completely unfounded notion that the DA is different. 

Clearly not. 

Lets have some honest talk about just how bad this is for the DA. First, its quite the indictment of him, no pun intended, when his race is the only major race in the county and he ended up not getting the majority of votes. No matter how you look at that, its bad. 

He never really got hit by Rosales. Sure she attacked his record in debates, but there was no clearly negative message against him. No one was really selling a negative message against the DA effectively and he was still under 50%. 

Rosales has no money, no name ID, and basically no workforce behind her. And the DA was still under 50%. Rosales relied on a ground game and knocked on doors. From what I hear, it was basically just her and her law partner doing all the work. 

Imagine what would've happened if she had money and volunteers helping her.

But relax Esparza fans, there is a development.

The big development of note is that word around the courthouse is Esparza is bringing in some big campaign guns from out of town. Esparza is apparently going to be tapping some campaign guys that have won races around the state. I couldn't get a name yet, but based on what I was told by a friend, it sounds like either Roger Garza or Jose Borjon. 

Garza has won a lot of races around the state of Texas. That is sort of what he does in the "off-season" from the legislature. Borjon used to work for Esparza's mentor Silvestre Reyes and just ran a white guy over a Latino candidate in a part of Texas that is mostly raza and won. That is the kind of talent Esparza needs to pull this off. So clearly Esparza has learned from some of his predecessors that found themselves in similar positions. 

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Siria Rocha

Seriously...how in the hell do you a) not win without a run-off when you have absolutely every advantage possible and b) end up getting the lesser amount of votes of the two in a run-off?

Remember I said that if she didn't win without a run-off it would be the biggest campaign failure in El Paso County? 

It is.

Terrible, just terrible performance. 

Now she is in a run-off and the odds are now against her.

***********************************

Jaime Barceleau. His best hope to win the precinct chair race was to win it outright without a run-off. Now he's in a run-off and screwed. He's the most high-profile person to run for a precinct chair race and he has future political ambitions.

And he didn't even make it to the run-off with the most votes. If he can't even win a precinct chair race he has no hope of winning an election for a real race. And now I hear that Castoñon-Williams is going to get some campaign support to seal the deal for the win in the run off. 

***********************************
El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise

Her first big election in El Paso County and it was a flop. First, lets be honest and say that part of the long lines and delays weren't her fault. They were the voters' fault. Some asshats let the entire early voting period go by without voting. They have two freaking weeks to get it done. But no, these idiots wait until after 5pm the day of election day and decide to go vote - then have the audacity to be upset that there are long lines because every other dumbass in their precinct had the same idea. 

But there were a lot of avoidable issues. Staffing is an avoidable issue. The bottle neck of not enough machines for the Democratic Party and too many for the Republican Party left a lot of voters really frustrated at standing in a line while there were empty voting machines. In one example, there were an equal number of voting machines in Socorro. Four fucking voting machines for Republicans in Socorro?

There aren't four Republicans living in Socorro! 

That kind of mistake can affect an election if people stand in line to use a small amount of machines while other machines go unused. Sometimes they get pissed and go home instead of voting. 

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Winners

This one is pretty easy.

The biggest winner of the night was Michael Apodaca. Yes, Apodaca isn't a candidate, but he did what I didn't think could be done. He took a candidate no one knows, in a race no one cares about, who had two challengers, one who is younger and has the same last name, to a run-off. I have been writing for a long time now how that was basically impossible. Privately I teased him about how his opponent's campaign team would almost have to TRY to screw up that race. 

So because of Mike Apodaca, Ruben Gonzalez is in the run off and went into the run off with the most votes. Gonzalez isn't an incumbent, he was appointed to the position. He's a very unassuming guy, so much so that I didn't event recognize him at a polling place in the Cielo Vista area on election day until he came and spoke to me. 

The race is now Gonzalez's to lose. Rocha does have one big weapon though, she has deep pockets. She lent herself $40,000 during the last month of the campaign. She can probably go back to the well.

Honorable mention here is District Clerk Norma Favela. She has campaigned almost as hard for Ruben Gonzalez as she has for Best Elected Official for Whats Up Magazine. She even stood at a polling location for him. 

The other reason Apodaca is a big winner is personal. Rosemary Martinez was one of several of the extremists in the El Paso County Democratic Party that tried to oust Michael Apodaca from the Party because they got their little feelings hurt because Apodaca showed something they apparently balk at...integrity. They tried to manufacture some issue about an expenditure that was really just a front for the real reason they attacked him, which was the fact that County Commissioner Vince Perez's opponent couldn't be on the ballot because he wasn't eligible for office. 

Rosemary Martinez is a precinct chair and was running for re-election against former precinct chair Ruth Williams for Indian Ridge. Williams was behind in early voting. Apodaca jumped in to help Williams and she ultimately won. 

Is it a big win that matters in the grand scheme of things? No, absolutely not. 

But is it one of those wins that makes you smile more than the big ones?

Hell yes. Cuz paybacks are a bitch. 

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Matt Leahy and Chris Hernandez.

Their candidates did well on election night and that is because of the work that those two vatos did. Ugarte cleaned up a la madre! (Although his signs are fugly. Actually both of them have fugly signs.)

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American Federation of Teachers 

My old friend Lily Ruiz came off the bench after being out of the game for a while. Welcome back Lily and job well done. 

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Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar

They played a key role in Ortega winning by such a large margin. Escobar hosted a fundraiser for her and Byrd did her usual campaign thing. That translated into the largest win in HD77 in years and all the other candidates the two supported won. 

Honorable Mention - Ashley Rodriguez. She is a local Bernie Sanders organizer. Sanders didn't do so well in El Paso, but Ashley beat Yoli Clay for the precinct chair for her area. Thats a big deal because Clay is part of the Moreno clan, high profile leader in the Democratic Party, and a big time Hillary person. 


Detention Officers Put the D.O. In D'oh!

Yesterday was Texas Independence Day.

And some genius at the County Jail did this.

 
Flying the Texas flag upside down on any day is a major faux pax in the Lone Star State. 

But doing it on Texas Independence Day is libel to get us kicked out of the state.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Endorsement Battle

So let's see who carries more weight with voters.

The Congressman and the Senator or the State Rep and the Mayor.

Early voting numbers will be released after 7pm. If anyone is up more than 10% points it's probably going to stay that way. 

Turnout looks low.