Monday, July 30, 2018

Records: EP Republican Candidate Filed for Bankruptcy 6 Times

Before I get started, I have been warned by several people (Republican and Democrat alike) that I should tread lightly when writing about Republican candidate Rick Seeberger because he is "litigious".

I get that a lot. People threaten to sue me all the time and I view it like I view any street fight - if you could, you would and you damn sure wouldn't talk about it, you'd just do it.

So Rick Seeberger doesn't scare me. I appreciate your concern but I took a look at what he has filed in the past and it was pretty laughable. Also, since he's a candidate for public office now its a lot harder for him to sue someone that writes a political post about a candidate for office, so good luck with that buddy.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way lets talk about what I've found out about Seeberger. He's taking on County Judge Veronica Escobar in the general election in November for El Paso's 16th Congressional District.

Despite the fact that he isn't a viable candidate, he is still the Republican nominee for the seat and as such he deserves some healthy scrutiny.

Seeberger's biggest problem appears to be finances - both personal and business. There appear to be at least 6 different filings for bankruptcy - 2 personal filings and 4 business filings. Mr. Seeberger appears to have filed for personal bankruptcy twice in the past 11 years in the Western District of Texas and four times for business entities since 2011. Three times were for the same non-profit entity called the 20-20 Leadership Foundation and the other was for an entity called ORSA, LLC.

None of the business filings appear to have been approved by the Court.

This link contains a copy of the documents filed with the Court relating to the various bankruptcy proceedings. 

Interestingly listed as creditors on at least one of the filings are the Seebergers themselves, the City of El Paso, and Doña Ana County in Las Cruces.

The most recent bankruptcy filing was in 2016.

The funds owed to the City of El Paso appear to be for property taxes and are a pretty hefty chunk of change.

Speaking of that 2016 claim - one of the creditors listed in that most recent claim was a lawyer who handled a previous bankruptcy claim!

Those are some pretty big financial issues facing the El Paso Republican Party's nominee. To add yet another layer of irony to this situation is a Facebook post I came across on his campaign page.

You've gotta admit that it takes a lot of nerve to have that kind of financial background and have the stones to make a list of things you want voters to think about when voting and the #3 thing listed is his business acumen.

Thats like Max Grossman giving advice on how to be humble or Norma Chavez telling someone how to be nice and act stately in public.

I know, crazy right?

There's also some problems with his FEC filings that I'll talk about in an upcoming posts.

Everyone has money problems from time to time. It happens, I get it. I'm honestly surprised that this bankruptcy thing didn't come up in the Republican primary. If you have this amount of finance problems, maybe you shouldn't be criticizing someone who managed a multi-million dollar debt.

And if you owe property taxes to the extent that he apparently does, I totally get why you're complaining about how high they are, but most voters with far less income pay theirs every year.

After knowing this information, it doesn't appear that "Think First" is something you really want to be telling voters because if they do, well it probably won't work out very well for Mr. Seeberger.

Seriously, only in the age of Trumpism does the party of fiscal restraint have the audacity to nominate a candidate with that level of finance problems to congress.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Seeberger still has not replied to my question about whether he is the same Rick Seeberger listed in an LA Times article I wrote about last week).

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sad Education Stories

I ran across this story on my newsfeed about El Paso ranking among the least educated cities in America. It was a story form KFOX.

The other day I ran across this story from the Houston Chronicle. showing the highest paid superintendents in Texas.

While we rank amongst the least educated communities, EPISD's superintendent is enjoying his spot at the 7th highest paid superintendent in Texas.

Now there is a lot of talk about how much accountability there needs to be on teachers. There is a lot of talk and focus on how students perform on standardized testing.

All under the premise that we need to focus on performance and accountability because after all, we should be good stewards of tax payer dollars right?

So if you don't see that there is a fundamental problem with an equation that ranks El Paso among the least educated communities and the superintendent of our largest ISD making almost $400 grand after salary and perks, then there is something wrong with you.

I believe you should pay for good talent. I am the first to say that. I don't fault anyone for making a buck. But when you are making that much money, you damn sure better be showing some results other than a budget in trouble, a top heavy administration, and schools being shut down.

And yet y'all are pissed about county commissioners giving themselves a small raise. If you're really that focused on money, you should be pissed at a super making that obscene of a salary and not having much to show for it.

Give him the same performance accountability we expect from our students and teachers. I don't think that is too much to ask, do you?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Margo Trading Ricks

It really didn't click to me how messed up Mayor Margo's move to kick Rick Bonart was until the White House banned a reporter from CNN yesterday.

Trump has made silencing dissenters all the latest rage - which is bad for Democracy.

Look, the Mayor has the authority to replace folks if he wants to. That is perfectly within his rights as the Mayor of the City of El Paso. But the reality is that it was, for lack of a better expression, a dick move.

First of all Bonart's term wasn't up and there is no real sense of urgency to remove him, other than the fact that he's going against what the mayor wants.

Second, he replaces Bonart with Rick Cabrera? Look I like Rick, and he's pretty decent at pick-up basketball, by why on earth would the Mayor risk the optics of appointing someone that works for a company that purchased a company Margo used to own and his son still works for?

And Rick...come on vato, you've been around news long enough to know that you'll be seen as the Mayor's boy on the commission from now until your term runs out.

I don't understand why either of them thought this was a good idea.

But back to my main point - this is a bad move by the Mayor and sets a dangerous precedent. Why would anyone but yes men/women want to serve on a commission if they know they are going to get booted out if they dare disagree with Heir Margo?

You can't ignore the timing on this move at all. Its the most transparent bullshit I've seen council do in a long time.

Now, if the removal was because he is running against Svarzbein, then the city needs to make a policy about holding commission seats and running for office. Absent a policy, there's no reason to remove an active and engaged member of a commission just because he's a dissenting voice. And oh by the way, he hasn't filed to run yet, so even if that was the reason, he hasn't filed yet.

Council - control your Mayor.

He's gonna keep bullying y'all until you grow a pair and put him in his place. This makes the city look bad. We want rigorous debate. We want a competition of ideas.

We don't want to be come Trumpistan where there is rule with an iron fist and dissenters are quickly disposed of.

What Do You Have to Lose? Part 2

Take note of this word. 
I love a good story. So gather 'round kids while Tio Jaime tells you a great story.

Everybody comfortable?

Cool. This is a story your ol' Tio Jaime came across on the inter webs. If you want to read it, just click this link to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Now kids, this is an old story - from 1985. But the latest chapters in the saga were just a couple years go.

Here we go.

Once upon a time in a far off magical land called California, lived a bunch of young students. These kids went to a school called Eshelman Avenue Elementary School. Their parents had formed a PTA and wanted to do a fundraiser for the kiddos. So some of the parents walked their first graders around their neighborhood selling holiday-themed items like chocolate Santa's and Christmas ornaments.

They did pretty well too, racking up about $17 grand in sales. That was supposed to net the PTA about $8,000 in profit - just in time for the holidays. But the company didn't come through with the money at the date they indicated they would.

Weeks passed.

Weeks turned into months.

At one point they were even given an unsigned check by the company and told that the company didn't have the money but would in a month.

According to the article above, the company's president was a man named Rick Seeberger.

But Tio Jaime, I've heard that name before.

Thats right mijo, you have. Now calmala and don't interrupt, I'm getting to that.

Where was I? Oh yes, months had gone by and the kiddos never got their cash.

So the Los Angeles Times did an interview with Rick Seeberger.

In the interview, "Seeberger said that he left the company in March, when its inability to pay bills--including Seeberger's salary--forced him to file for personal bankruptcy." 

But Tio Jaime, isn't that the guy with the big bill -

Hey, hey. Didn't I tell you to chata already mijo?


Yeah, chata hell up and let me tell the story.

Sorry Tio Jaime.

Its cool mijo, just let me finish and don't ruin it for everyone else. Where was I? Oh yeah, the vato is the president of the company, but said he left the company because they weren't paying the vato and he had to file bankruptcy.

This is where things get really interesting...

Turns out that the newspaper kept asking questions. They wanted to know who else worked for the company. Here's what the paragraph in the article said,

Seeberger would not name any other officers in the company, saying the information is "nobody else's business." Records filed in the secretary of state's office, dated February, 1985, list Seeberger as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, director and agent of the company. Huntington Beach resident Jenny Weddle, the only other person listed as an officer of the company, is named as secretary, but Weddle could not be reached for comment. The company phone number has been disconnected.
Thats cray-cray Tio! 

I know, huh?

So after they filed bankruptcy Seeberger said he still intended for the school to get paid and told the paper that he offered to have the kids do another fundraiser sale.

What? Tio, esta mas loco que la chin-

Hey! Watch your mouth cabron!

Sorry Tio, but does he think those people are stupid o que?

Hold on foo, let me get there. I'm telling the story here...

Anywho, the school district in LA had bad policies in place that opened the door for these kind of pendejadas to take place. The company was approved by the district to do business with schools. The district has since changed policies to make sure that schools get their cut first.

Now kids, that Rick Seeberger name sounds familiar doesn't it? Well there is a Republican guy running for congress here in El Paso with the same name right now.

Is it the same vato, Tio Jaime?

Good question mijo. I don't know for sure. Its not a common name. But, I did try to find out of it was the same vato. I sent a message to his official campaign Facebook page and asked if he was the same guy featured in the article and if so, if he wanted to give his side of the story.

Now, I don't know who Wesley Anthony Lawrence is, but that was the auto reply I got last night when I reached out in an attempt to verify if it was the same Rick Seeberger.

As you can see in this screen shot, someone has read the message this morning at 6:41, but no one has answered my query.

What's a query Tio?

Look it up.

While you're at it, read the article I posted above. After all, what do you have to lose?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Everything, the Answer is Everything

I saw this billboard a while back and I honestly just laughed aloud for a few reasons. First, I've said this before so you already know what I think about this but billboards are a waste of money. Its like the worlds largest yard sign.

But thats not what cracked me up the most. What cracks me up the most is the top of the sign - "What do you have to lose?"

If you recall, that is the same line that Trump used on "the blacks" when he was trying to convince the African American community to support him.

This comes across as a white guy asking "the browns" the same thing Trump asked the African American community.

And we all see how well that worked out, amirite?

So if you do what his sign says, Think First - it makes his line even more funny! You want us to think first vato? I got three words for ya.


Seeberger is your garden variety Trump supporting Republican. Interestingly though, I caught him during some of the debates during the primary and he tries very hard to not sound like a garden variety Trumpkin when he's in front of Democrats. When he was at a debate at EPCC he really went out of his way to act like he wasn't an extremist on immigration policy. He really pushed back on that idea - in front of Democrats.

I know, shocker right? A politician that will say one thing in front of one crowd and another thing in front of a different crowd.

His rhetoric on his Facebook page is your typical Trump-a-like lines and he is predictably an extremist.

If you look real close at his sign he even has a biblical reference on it.


For those of you wondering,

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;    they will run and not grow weary,    they will walk and not be faint.

But you know what reference isn't on his sign?

Who the hell paid for it. 

Even that fool Carlos Sierra - who still hasn't filed the required paperwork for his Keep El Paso Honest PAC - at least put that info on his shitty billboards.

That reminds me, I wonder if Sheriff Wiles has ended Chris Acosta's constant use of Carlos Sierra on campaigns yet?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Socorro Families Saved

Families in Socorro that live near Coker Road can breath a little easier thanks to a few items passed last Thursday night by the Socorro City Council. Councilman At-Large Rene Rodriguez put an item on the agenda to instruct city staff to explore the use of the area for a dual-use pond and park space.

That move would mean that the city can acquire the land via eminent domain, meaning that the home owners would at least get fair market value for their homes. Under an effort supported by City Rep Ralph Duran and Mayor Elia Garcia, the homeowners would not have received any compensation and their homes would have been taken via a nuisance ordinance.

Ultimately the measure to direct staff to come up with a public base plan by Rep Rodriguez passed with a 4-0 vote.

In other developments, Mayor Elia Garcia was removed as the city's representative on the MPO and council voted in favor of replacing her with City Representative Rene Rodriguez by a 4-1 vote, with Rep Duran voting to keep the mayor. Duran is a close political ally of Mayor Garcia and during the debate accidentally put his ally on the spot. Rodriguez had been arguing that Garcia had strained relations with members of the MPO and that she hadn't notified council of some possible changes that would have a major impact on the City of Socorro. Duran, wanting to save her seat, challenged Rodriguez asking him why he hasn't offered to help the Mayor and guide her on key projects and issues relating to the MPO. Rodriguez indicated that he had tried and that they mayor said she didn't need his help.

The mayor didn't deny saying that, which is likely what sealed the vote for the other members of council to replace her.

The other issue Socorro is still dealing with has to do with a dangerous media policy. Council voted to have a workshop on the issue so there is still some time for them to fix it, but as it stands right now the council is more focused on being nice to one another in the media. Duran even going so far as to talk about having a policy that has some "teeth". The issue is that there is a bid to create a media policy that essentially uses the mayor's office as the flow of information to the public. There are several problems with that, chief amongst them being the 1st amendment. But there are some other issues like the fact that under the Socorro charter, the mayor is not only a weak mayor, but thanks to the Gandaras wanting a death grip on power, the mayor is even weaker than in other models. The city has 4 single member districts and one at-large seat, meaning there are 5 voting members. So when the mayor only votes in the event of a tie, there simply aren't that many opportunities for the mayor to even vote.

The members of council aren't subordinate to the mayor, they all serve at the pleasure of the voters of Socorro. So each of them has a right - a responsibility - to keep their constituents informed through mass communications. Socorro shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it was a member of council that regularly spoke to the media and ultimately the authorities, during the dark days of the Gandaras. Had then-City Rep Maria Reyes not spoken out, the Gandaras might still be in office.

So Socorro City Council should keep all of this in mind while they are developing their media policy.

El Paso's Thin-Skinned Trump-a-like Dandy

Max Grossman is about the most entertaining thing in El Paso politics this side of the rumor of David Saucedo running for the Texas legislature against Lina Ortega. Yeah, that is actually going around - I've heard it from three different places and as much as I'd love for that guy to run for something again for sheer entertainment value, I doubt he actually does it. He's not a Democrat and no one would buy it if he tried to switch parties. And he can't win as a Republican - though he can't win as a Democrat either.

Anyhow, back to Max Grossman. He has become El Paso's version of Donald Trump and he wallows in it. Think about it, he's loud, obnoxious, rude, arrogant as all hell, can't stand not being the center of attention, and has a very casual relationship with the truth. Seriously all he's missing is a porn star beefing with him and a Twitter account.

But he makes up for the lack of a Twitter account for his middle-of-the-night rants in crazy town with his emails.

He recently sent one that is completely divorced from - of all things - history.

Which completely undermines a guy who is allegedly some guardian of history when he can't even get recently history right about his own life.

Check out this recent email where he goes on a rant about the fact that Dr. Rick Bonart was dismissed from a city commission recently. I don't know why the mayor dismissed him, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was related to the fact that Bonart is running for office. Or maybe its because he retained a lawyer in a matter relating to the city. I'm not sure what it was exactly, but the email Trump-a-like sent out was in reference to Bonart no longer being on a city commission.

The nonsensical Trumplike tirade is all over the place, drawing a nonsensical comparison between the removal of Sylvia Firth and the removal of Bonart from a commission. Anyone who knows city hall knows that Cassandra Brown really pushed the ouster of Firth more than anyone else. Don't get me wrong, I love when Grossman goes after the mayor, I'm a Democrat so I love me some Republican on Republican crime. Its like watching Saucedo go after Margo all over again, no matter who loses, I win.

No Laughing Matter

Okay, fun time is over. This email is actually something that is quite serious. I've long held the believe that Grossman is yet another in a line of bad actors on El Paso's political scene that is going to use money and influence for his own personal benefit. at the end of the aforementioned email, which I highlighted in yellow, he makes an absurd claim. He alleges he was removed from the El Paso County Historical Commission because of his opposition to the arena.

That is factually inaccurate. Or as us regular folks would say, he's lying.

Grossman's and Sargent's and terms on the commission were up. As he admits in the email, they had been there for over 25 years combined. It was time for some new blood. But lets not also forget another huge elephant in the room, pun intended because Grossman is a Republican.

Grossman and Sargent were under a cloud of controversy because they had sent out an electronic message trying to conduct commission business that was outside the parameters of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and the Court had instructed them to refrain from holding meetings until they were trained up on you know, how not to violate the law.

So the controversy magnets gave the Commissioners, which is was all of them not just the two he singled out in the email, that booted Grossman and Sargent.

Grossman's letter is a flat-out lie about the reason he was removed from that commission. Don't believe me? Well unlike Grossman, I offer proof. Read this, this, or this.

That is just one example of Grossman's very casual relationship with the truth, which is one of the many reasons I don't trust him or any of the candidates he's using to try to buy city council. And make no mistake about it that is exactly what Grossman is trying to do. He couldn't get a council that would bend to his will, so he figures he can just go buy one.

Hell Grossman even got caught lying about the result of the vote taken unlawfully by email when he said it was a unanimous vote by members of the Historical Commission to oppose the arena site. It wasn't.

After the ouster of Grossman and Sargent, revelations about some accounts the commission maintained that had not been reported to the county auditor's office surfaced. As a result of this revelation the county reorganized several policies related to commissions. Grossman also left that little tidbit out of his letter rather conveniently.

Grossman always loses his cool whenever he is critiqued and he recently sent a message that said, "If you stop lying about me, I'll stop telling the truth about you". I laughed at the plagiarism. But I also laughed at Trump-a-like having the nerve to challenge anyone on "the truth".

So Grossman should stop making himself out to be a martyr on the historical commission and tell the truth about why he was dismissed.

Yes Trump-a-like, the truth indeed.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grossman Attacks Beto O'Rourke

El Paso's big time conservative dandy Max Grossman has taken on Beto O'Rourke in his latest email tantrum. Grossman, a Trump supporter since he was a candidate, has often used monolingual Spanish speaking seniors as a media prop but hasn't ever been critical of the administration's attacks on the immigrant community or efforts to separate families. So his on-going effort to put on brown face for the purposes of his personal gain has demonstrated the level of hypocrisy Grossman is capable of.

But his email also shows another level of hypocrisy that I'll get to in just a moment.

First, take a look at how he attacks Beto O'Rourke, who is currently taking on another conservative - Senator Ted Cruz.

At a time when most everyone is getting behind O'Rourke because he represents the first chance at a Democrat unseating a statewide Republican, Grossman attacks one of O'Rourke's major policy initiatives when he was a member of city council.

Here's the email:

Now the hypocrisy here is that while out of one side of his mouth, the Dandy is throwing an absolute tantrum about the city's financial situation. He's done so in several of his emails, so its a reoccurring theme. The irony is that he is personally responsible for the fact that the tax payers of El Paso, you and I, are footing the bill to fight the lawsuits they have initiated against the city of El Paso.

So he cares about the debt El Pasoans have to bear - except when that debt provides a personal benefit to him.

Then he doesn't care about that debt.

And that ladies and gentlemen shows you the level of hypocrisy in which the Dandy dabbles.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

O'Rourke / Hurd Lame Award

Congressmen Beto O'Rourke and Will Hurd were awarded for being politically civil with one another.

There was a time, certainly before the Trump era, that this was common place. But thanks to Trump, we now award people with lame accolades for stuff that should be common place.

Don't get me wrong, I'm voting for Beto and support him 100%, its just a sad commentary on our political system that this lame award is actually a thing.

This award's lameness is so high I half expected it to be an award given out by Eliot Shapleigh.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Municipal Races: District 1

This is the first in a series of posts about the upcoming municipal races. 

City Representative Peter Svarzbein is up for re-election. He's the most-vulnerable of the incumbent city representatives up for reelection and its very difficult to see how he keeps his seat.

Svarzbein has a major image problem. First, people are going to rightly wonder What has Svarzbein done?

Now what most people care about is stuff like potholes, stop signs, parks, etc. Svarzbein had a major staffing problem for a large part of his term in office. His staffer, who is no longer with his office and rumor has it is now working in some sort of capacity with a potential rival candidate, probably didn't keep track of what was done. For the life of me, I don't understand why he even hired that guy in the first place with absolutely no real relevant staffing experience but that is water under the bridge.

The only thing I can think of Svarzbein marketing is the trolley, but that is problematic for him. First, I think the project was actually something spearheaded by Steve Ortega and second, its not a super popular project. Its got a huge price tag on it and a lot of the older don't-raise-my-taxes-you-kids-get-off-my-grass voters won't be supportive of it.

So Svarzbein has to run like he has a huge target on his back, because well, he does. There are at least three candidates running against him this time, most of which have a pretty good shot at being the next city representative - better shots than Svarzbein does.

Svarzbein isn't going to be able to raise anywhere close to the $90,000 he raised in the last election. And trust me, Svarzbein earned that win last time. That was the race were Forma Group was behind him, and then "had their strings pulled" and ditched him in favor of another candidate. So Forma screwed him before, he'd have to be really stupid to use them again and it would probably end up being a news story if he did.

Word on the street is Svarzbein has $30,000 sitting in the bank for this campaign. He better make that stretch because I'll bet that is going to be about 3/4 of what he raises for this campaign.

But Svarzbein is an incumbent now. He's got a record that can be scrutinized now. Showing up late to events looking like you just rolled out of bed worked when you were a plucky little campaign of an artist trying to overcome the odds and get a spot on city council isn't going to work in a reelection campaign.

Lets look at the rest of the field.

Richard Bonart, a prominent dentist in the area, ran last time and the buzz is that he has $20k ready to dump into the race. But Bonart is going to be Max Grossman's candidate. So Grossman will likely get his sugar daddy from Houston to dump some more money into Bonart. Grossman is out to buy himself a city council and so he's going to make sure his slate of candidates are going to be well-funded. Grossman's biggest problem is his mouth. He loves the spotlight and he is going to be a boat anchor around the neck of every candidate he runs. If Bonart is smart, he'll get the money and shut Grossman up.

Remember Grossman is a HUGE Trump guy and after all the anti-immigrant stuff the administration has done, Grossman is going to be an even bigger lightening rod than he was before.

Carlos Corral is another guy that is running against Svarzbein. He's another film guy, which is what Svarzbein was known as when he started to kick around the idea of running for office, so pardon the pun but we've seen this movie before. I think he's done some political commercials for candidates and he does something with the El Paso Film Festival or Plaza Theater or something like that. Honestly I don't know much about him so I have no idea if he actually knows anything about policy or if he's running because he thinks it would be cool to be a city representative. In this day an age with my email and phone number out there if he hasn't figured out how to send me info about his candidacy then that is a little strange. But who knows, maybe he'll read this and send me some info about him. Without any info, I can't really give you much analysis about him yet - but at the very least Svarzbein won't be the only candidate with a slick presentation with video and other campaign material. The question is how much Corral is going to rely on that medium.

He had a campaign announcement event last week but I haven't heard much about what kind of turnout he had. No idea what kind of money he is dealign with but not having Grossman to weigh him down and a slick presentation (I'm assuming he will have one given his professional work) means he's gonna be someone that should concern the incumbent.

Veronica Frescas is another name that is floating around as a candidate and it looks she's going to be making a formal announcement soon. Frankly, she's the one that should be keeping Svarzbein up at night - if she can get campaign funding. Latina, educated, REALLY smart and an actual track record, she's probably the most formidable candidate as of today in terms of being prepared to take office. She's worked for a ton of non-profits - C.A.S.A., United Way, El Paso Border Children's Mental Health Collaborative, the Empowerment Zone, US Mexico Border Health Commission, GEPAR (governmental affairs director) and a host of other things I can't recall at the moment. She was almost always the public relations director for those entities. That means she knows how to frame a message for media. She's another one that will have a well-packaged presentation. More importantly she's worked on a ton of campaigns. If she gets a handle on field operations and a little cash, she's probably the best positioned to defeat Svarzbein.

The Wild Card. I don't now if its still an option, but there was a lot of talk of Kathleen Stout running for the seat. Dr. Stout would be a very strong opponent. Super likable, well known, probably very little problem getting funding, street cred, etc. But I've heard that she's not considering a run anymore.

Svarzbein's Advantage - A lot of things that people on the westside are upset about, aren't his fault - namely traffic. The westside is the worst place in town to try to get around lately. Its a big flustercuck. But those are TxDOT problems. Svarzbein can overcome that. Most of Svarzbein's problems can be overcome with dressing like an adult who takes his job seriously instead of showing up to meetings wearing sneakers. Although I'll be honest, Svarzbein has really great taste in sneakers. His shoe game is strong.

His biggest advantage is field work. He won because of field work last time. He's the only candidate that has the ability to leverage a strong field operation, today. Everyone else will have to play catch-up or learn on the fly unless they hire someone who knows field, but most of the talent out there is tied up in other campaigns already, thereby multiplying Svarzbein's field advantage.

This will be the most hotly contested race in the city. D8, the other westside seat, also has the potential to get interesting, but not as competitive as D1. This will be the race to watch.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Things That Annoy Me: The Cassandra Hernandez-Brown Edition

If you've read my blog for any length of time you know that hypocrisy is one the many things that gets on my last nerve.

Especially with leaders and ideology.

So here is what annoys me about Cassandra Hernandez-Brown and Annie's List.

Annie's List is an organization that is dedicated to electing women leaders. They put a lot of money and resources behind women candidates. They very frequently conduct training sessions for future candidates and donate funds to their candidates.

Annie's List held one such training recently. As you can see, they tout City Rep Hernandez-Brown in this tweet:

So one would assume that such a candidate, when ascending to office, would be inclined to ya know, support other women leaders.

In the case of District 3 City Rep Cassandra Hernandez-Brown, you'd be wrong.

Remember a while back when the fact that a city with the civil rights record El Paso has still has a street named after Robert E. Lee came to light, there was an opportunity to change the name of the street.

I, at the behest of several Chicano leaders, approached Representative Hernandez-Brown to ask her to consider changing the name of the street from a traitor like Robert E. Lee, to a Chicana civil rights and labor leader, Dolores Huerta.

Well, Brown was never down for the brown on this one.

She was at no point, ever supportive of changing the street name to Dolores Huerta. Now the change would have meant a lot because it would have been changing the street name from a name we should collectively be ashamed even exists in El Paso, to the name of a civil rights leader and the first major Latina leader in the country.

It would have been a fairly easy thing to do. Normally when you change the name of a street its a big hassle because you have to get all the property owners on the street to agree to the name change and it costs a fair amount of money to change your address on all your accounts, ID's, records, stationary, advertising, etc.

But in the case of Robert E. Lee, there was only one address that actually fronted the road. It was a business. Track One Restaurant.

So three guesses who Hernandez-Brown sided with.

The fellow Chicana?

A fellow woman?

A fellow sister in the struggle?

Uh, negative Ghostider.

From the start, Brown was 100% in support of changing the name to what the business owner wanted the name changed to... Track One Road. (Could've been street, drive, blvd, etc I don't recall exactly).

It annoys me that she's touted as a "champion" when she sided with a business interest when given the opportunity to promote a woman who paved the way for Hernandez-Brown.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sad Socorro Saga Part 1

Socorro has been synonymous with corruption for decades, mostly because of the Gandara Clan and people like Dora Oaxaca that put them and kept them in office. Long after the Willies went to jail and Little Jessie Gandara was booted out, that shadow of corruption still haunts that city.

The latest controversy at the City of Socorro involves a new crop of names, but the story is still the same. Its about power and envy.

So here is the latest episode of the telenovela that is Socorro.

The City Manager position in Socorro has always been a lightening rod for some reason. The most controversial figure has been Lorenza Fraire, who apparently was so problematic that even the Gandara's thought she was bad for the city's image and they got rid of her.

I've written about her exploits many times, so use the search feature on the right if you want to go back and get more details but the short of it is that she has been wanting her job back as city manager now for the better part of a DECADE. So she lurks in parking lots and tries to drop information to anyone she can that she thinks will listen to her. Every election cycle she attaches herself to a candidate like a barnacle in an effort to get a majority on council so that she can get back on as the city manager.

Thats her quest.

So awhile back the son of the current city manger was pulled over in a Socorro traffic stop. Fraire saw her opportunity to pounce and so she is the one who leaked the story to the media that the city manager's son was in a traffic stop and implied that the city manager abused her authority to help her son in an effort to smear the city manager right around the time of her contract renewal.

But how did Fraire get tipped off about the stop and get a hold of the video and other info she dropped to the media?

Someone on the inside helped her out with that.

Someone with either a vendetta against the city manager or a compelling reason to get rid of the city manager.

Enter the "investigation" that was recently completed. Socorro Mayor Elia Garcia held a press event yesterday to discuss the findings of the report, though it wasn't released to the public. First, you have to be really concerned in Socorro if there is an "investigation" but the findings aren't made public.

The Mayor was asked about the report and if specific names of current members of council appeared in the report. A city employee acting in the capacity as a spokesman for the city intervened before the mayor could dodge the question herself and indicated that they couldn't release that information because it was a personnel matter.

That ladies and gentlemen is absolute horse shit.

If it involves elected officials, its not a personnel matter. The public has rights to ensure transparency and arguing that its a personnel matter when it involves an elected official is just another way to hide the truth from the public.

The mayor has instituted a new policy that all media is supposed to go through her office now. That should send up major red flags in Socorro anytime someone wants to control the flow of public information in Socorro.

Aside from that, I don't know where she thinks she even has the authority to do so. The members of council serve at the pleasure of the electorate and are NOT subordinate to the mayor's office. Hell, the mayor can't even vote unless there is a tie and there are an odd number of voting reps, so she's essentially powerless.

Stay tuned because there is MUCH more on this issue...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Socorro Mayor & Councilman Screw Coker Residents?

Socorro Mayor Elia Garcia & Councilman Ralph Duran
This is why people hate Socorro City Council.

Apparently Socorro Mayor Elia Garcia and Councilman Ralph Duran are pushing for a very controversial policy to deal with flooding in a specific area in Socorro. Its particularly controversial given that we are hitting the summer rain season and because of a controversial new policy relating to media at the City of Socorro.

Residents on Coker Road have had to deal with flooding for a very long time but the situation has gotten worse over the last few years. The current city council has tried to bounce around the issue for a while now, even kicking the issue down to their city planning commission at one point, rather than deal with the issue themselves.

The City of Socorro has the ability to use eminent domain to purchase the land at fair market value from the home owners, giving them the ability to move to another location. But word in Socorro is that Mayor Elia Garcia and City Councilman Ralph Duran are pushing a policy of using a provision in the law to condemn the property rather than use eminent domain.

What's the difference? Well I'm glad you asked. Under eminent domain, the families get some money for they land and that gives them the means to find another place to live. Under Mayor Garcia's plan, the land would be condemned and that would give the residents 90 days to fix the situation in order to keep their land. There's essentially no way feasible to make their homes overcome the condemnation by the city. Once the 90 days are up and the families aren't able to overcome the condemnation, the city can kick them out, bulldoze the property, and place a lien on the land.

In other words, it would completely screw over the residents who are already in a bad situation. ITs the absolute worst way to deal with the situation.

This is why people hate city council in Socorro. They go out of their way to do the wrong thing rather than do the right thing for the community.

Whats the motivation for Mayor Elia Garcia and Councilman Ralph Duran? So that they can say they saved the city money by not paying for the land.

But here is what makes BOTH of those elected officials look bad. Neither one of them seemed to care about how much money the city was paying out when they weren't members of council. Mayor Garcia tried to TRIPLE her salary as the municipal judge a couple of years ago.

An even bigger hypocrite is Councilman Duran, who has received multiple pay-outs from the city of Socorro, one for around $30k for wait for it...damage to his property!

Here's a screenshot from the settlement document proving he very happily took money from the city while he's trying to prevent others from having their property purchased by the City of Socorro.

Here's the bigger piece of irony. I did an open records request last month, which is how I acquired the settlement paperwork above, and it turns out that Duran had a complaint lodged against him because of the structural condition of his home!

Word on the streets in Soco-loco is that Mayor Garcia instituted a new policy relating to the media, which I can't understand how its legal. Essentially the policy is that all interviews relating to the city of Socorro are done by Mayor Garcia. Members of council don't answer to the mayor, they are independently elected officials that answer to the voters so there has to be major first amendment issues with this policy. But word is that Mayor Garcia usually asks for the questions from the media in advance.

She is apparently doing a press conference or availability later this afternoon on another issue. Lets see if she takes questions on the Coker Road issue.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Cop & Kids Video

By now most of you have seen the viral video of an El Paso police officer pulling out a weapon and pointing it at a crowd of kids during an arrest. The cops' actions were in no way reasonable or proportionate to the situation.

And as typical with these scenarios, Facebook and the rest of social media has simplified this incident down to its dumbest common denominator: You're either with cops or against them.

And as you'd expect there's an "I Support Cops" meme that everyone thinks shows what a great citizen and American you are.

But lets speak a little truth to power shall we? Identifying a mistake made by an officer doesn't mean you're against cops. It means you want better from them because we are the safest community in the country.

If you take that rationale out to its illogical conclusion, anyone who ever criticized the quarterback of their favorite NFL franchise for throwing an interception, or bumbling a play would therefore automatically be a fan of the opposing team.

Stupid, right?

But that is what all these "I heart Cops" memers are implying all over social media.

The reality is this - those little kids in the video need a good ol' fashioned ass-whooping for the way they behaved. Those kids are a reflection of their parents and their parents and the elders in their family should be completely embarrassed by their behavior. They have failed those kids and those kids need to learn a health respect for authority and need a lesson on how to comport themselves in society.

But they should never be taught to not question authority.

Those kids were awful and I don't know anyone that saw the video below that doesn't agree. The worst of the crowd was the mother, who is now all over television trying to rewrite history like she was some do-gooder. She was an awful example to her own children and an awful example of how a parent should behave in that situation.

I guarantee you if I was in that situation as a kid, I'd want the cops to get me in the back of a unit as quickly as possible because my parents would beat the brown off of me for acting like that. The cops would be pulling a gun on them because my dad would have his belt off and my mom would have a chancla in her hand and I'd be getting a Summer Slam-style beat down from my parents for acting like an ass in public.

However, the facts are what the facts are. There was a crowd of disrespectful little brats who were frankly playing off of each other and trying to show off (something you often do in the barrio to cement your place amongst your peers) and a mother who is, well, a terrible mother.

But as bad as the behavior of the children and the mother were, the facts are it was a group of unarmed children that were name-calling a police officer.

They are kids. They do dumb things because they are kids and are learning. There isn't a one of you reading this that hasn't done something as a kid that you don't regret.



The officer was in a situation he didn't want to be in. It certainly doesn't feel good when people are calling you names. It was probably hot that day and you've got kids calling you names and an adult female shouting at you.

But threatening deadly force was neither reasonable nor proportionate against a group of unarmed children that were name-calling.

If it were, then there would be a lot of kindergarten teachers pulling out heat every time their classroom gets unruly right around nap time.

Criticism of one cop doesn't mean you're anti-cop and if you think that, then there's something wrong with you. I mean that - there is something seriously wrong with you if you believe that you should blindly and universally support a police force under any circumstance.

Ask yourselves, what if he had discharged that weapon? Would you be okay with a cop shooting at unarmed children? Then why are you okay with him threatening to use deadly force?

Hell EPPD can't even use pepper spray on a minor deliberately. As a matter of policy they recognize the difference between a child and an adult.

But another disturbing thing in the video is the officer who goes after the person filming the video. He was recording the incident. That is 100% legal. Sure he was saying stupid stuff, but we have a little thing called the First Amendment. He wasn't breaking any laws and he wasn't interfering with the situation, he was far enough back to catch video.

The officer turns toward him only after the kid says he's going to "put a complaint" on them. Instantly he's grabbed by the officer and cuffed. THAT is something to be concerned about. Its abuse of authority.

Its also a sign that the cops had lost their cool. They are humans, it happens. But they are fully-trained peace officers. Their job is to deescalate a situation, not make it worse. At the end of the video, more officers arrive and frankly, they show the professionalism of the EPPD we are used to seeing. The situation was much worse when they arrived because the kids and mom were even more agitated because the officer had already pulled the gun on the kids. They arrived on the scene and were much cooler and immediately started to deescalate the situation.

If you don't think the officer that pulled the gun needs more training, then what do you think of the other officers?

Put your memes away, - being critical of a cop who pulls out a gun on children isn't being anti cop. I know a lot of officers who can count the number of times in their career they've pulled their weapon from their holster and it was never at a kid.

Believe it or not, you can be sophisticated enough to think the kids were being bad, the mom is awful, and the cop was wrong to pull a gun on children all at the same time.

The bigger issue, as pointed out by my friend Mark Alvarado, is how is that community repaired from this incident? There has to be a reason the crowd felt the way they did. And police should be able to do their jobs freely. Community policing is about trust. This is where leadership comes into play and that is what is needed right now.

Also I should acknowledge that EPPD is handling this better than they've handled situations in the past. Remember a while back when they were blocking people from their social media pages if someone was critical of the force?

They aren't doing that anymore.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Independence Day & La Jaula de Oro

I'm rounding third and heading toward the completion of another year around the sun. Being born on Independence Day means you grow up with a particular affinity toward the value of freedom. Hell, my parents almost named me Freedom - thankfully my grandmother intervened.

The separation of families - children robbed of their freedom for the acts of their parents - has been at the forefront of this community for weeks now ever since there was a kids internment camp opened in Tornillo.

Elected officials and celebrities have tripped over one another to get their photo-op. There has been demonstration after demonstration out there and in downtown El Paso about the separation of families orchestrated by the Trump Administration.

Trump is pushing threw more immigration judges so he can deport people faster. The absurdity of the immigration court system has gotten to the point where children aren't represented in court by an attorney.

These actions have been almost universally rejected by local leaders and Democrats and forward-thinking Americans across the country.

And at the same time that we have some of the same leaders pulling some pretty unbelievable political Yoga by contorting themselves to be simultaneously both for and against separation of families.

The County of El Paso has a $25,000,000 contract with the federal government to house undocumented immigrants. You read that number right. The largest enterprise in which the County of El Paso is involved. The largest contract the feds have IN THE UNITED STATES.

No matter how you dress it up, the argument for the proponents of separation of families at the county jail is that a) they are better off in our jails and b) it brings in revenue.

Both arguments are shameful.

First the They are better off argument is the same thing people said about slavery, moving Native Americans to reservations, and putting Japanese Americans in internment camps. Its for their own good was always what they said to justify those terrible decisions and history has not looked kindly on them for it.

But are they better off? I've heard Border Network for Human Rights's Fernando Garcia say that along with Sheriff Wiles and other advocates for keeping the contract to separate families while simultaneously holding rallies against separation of families, but where is the data to support that assertion? One talking point that has been used for at least a year now is that the inmates somehow won the immigration lottery by being in our county jail and are getting services and access to representation that immigrants aren't getting anywhere else.

Uh, wrong. Organizations like DRMS don't even serve inmates in the County jail.

Next the It brings in revenue argument - you are either part of the Immigration Industrial Complex, and therefore complicit with the administration, or you stand opposed to it. Eisenhower warned against the Military Industrial Complex as he was leaving office. Well we now have an Immigration Industrial Complex in which an entire cottage industry has sprouted up around our immigration policies.

Actually based on the money we spend, its more like a boutique industry rather than cottage. There is no middle ground, gray areas, or "complexities". This is a clear-cut conversation. If we are losing money on this endeavor, then that is downright terrible government. If we are profiting off of it, well then that is embarrassing as a community.

And quite frankly, the sheriff's officer's union is unashamed that this is about money for them. Their leadership was there and said that they had 300 jobs dependent on this contract. That is pretty eye-opening when you think about it. The union that supported a Republican in the last election and has at least one leader that is brown and pro-Trump, is saying we need to continue to separate families so that they can keep jobs.

How bad of a commentary on our community is it that they can argue that 300 jobs are dependent on the revenue generated by this contract?

You are against the administration or you are complicit. It really is that simple.

Personal Beef

Nothing drives me more crazy than when people make things about personality rather than policy. I like the sheriff and think he's been doing a great job. But I disagree with him on this particular policy. If you take a look at your social media feed, you'll see that a lot of people are in a debate about an issue but really, its more about a personality.

Thats when the political food fight starts.

The Sheriff appears to be taking this very personally. He went on a blistering personal attack on Commissioner Perez that I thought deserves some conversation. The Sheriff essentially said that Perez was an opportunist because he keeps raising the issue, which is true because Perez raised this issue last year upon the passing of SB4, which was the second time he raised the issue. The first was when the contract was set to expire and the third was the Tornillo internment camp for kids.

So yeah, Perez brings this up whenever immigration becomes a central issue in this community because he wants the contract to end. Not sure how that is a bad thing, but it sure pisses off the Sheriff. If you don't believe me that the Sheriff is taking this personally, just watch the last meeting and its pretty damn obvious.

The second point he makes, which I think is the more interesting one, is when he calls out Perez for bringing this issue up but mentioned that he's been to all kinds of events, rallies, and fundraisers calling for immigration reform and he's never seen Commissioner Perez there. He even mentioned that he's served as a waiter at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for immigration reform.

And he's right, he did. I know, I was there. I was serving spaghetti too. And Wiles is right, Perez has never been to one of those events. Neither have a host of other elected officials. No Norma Chavez, no Eddie Holguin, no Chente Quintanilla, Steve Ortega, Mary Gonzalez, Cassandra Brown, Alessandra Annello, Henry Rivera, etc.

Hell if you take away Tornillo's recent attention, I've only seen 5 electeds at immigration reform stuff consistently: Veronica Escobar, Susie Byrd, Jose Rodriguez, Richard Wiles, and Joann Bernal.

But that left me scratching my head. If Wiles is such an advocate for immigration reform, and I believe he is, then why is he such an advocate for a policy that separates families. So the greater point isn't why is Perez raising this issue if he's not slopping spaghetti at St. Pius, but rather why IS the Sheriff supportive of the contract if he's such a passionate advocate?

Honestly, who looks worse in that scenario? They guy that never goes to CIR events but puts forth a substantive policy solution, or the guy that is at CIR events all the time and simultaneously supports a policy that separates families?

But hey, don't take my word for it. Watch this exchange from the last meeting:

So I don't get why people are making this personal about Perez. Yeah, everyone threatens to run someone against him, the union has already said they were. Marco Camarillo, a pro-Trump officer in the union, posted this on Facebook recently: "Commisomer (sic)Vince Perez needs to go, membership 2019. Lace up the boots personal agenda he has. Commissioner Perez cares about mothers, children, and families, just not ours."

I know, a pro-Trump union guy but hey, its the same union that supported a Republican for sheriff last election so its not like you can take them seriously. They should ask the Supreme Court about how much good it does to be a union and back a Republican...

Speaking of pro-Trump guys that are making this personal, how about that Commissioner Haggerty, huh? He went on a tirade against Perez in the meeting saying "you cite yourself as a source" in his presentation. Essentially Haggerty, who voted against a resolution condemning the camp just a few days ago, is upset that Commissioner Perez's office did research.

Tell you what Commissioner, what has you accomplished as Commissioner? Why don't you get off your ass and actually do some sort of policy research on oh say, basically ANYTHING! Seriously, your beef with Perez is that they rolled up their sleeves and did some research? I know the Republicans have a war on intellect but Jesus, your up for reelection soon, you might want to get off your ass and do something.

Gilded Cage

Let me end by making one last point about La Jaula de Oro argument made by the folks that support the separation of families at the County Jail. The fact that both Commissioner's Haggerty and Stout agree on the perpetual separation of families through this jail contract speaks volumes.

The argument that nonviolent immigrants are held in our jail, often well above the minimum of 500 beds (for a while as high as twice that amount), are "better off" in our jail is shockingly offensive. Lost Tigres del Norte have written a lot of songs about the plight of immigration and immigrants from 3 Veces Mojado, Mis Dos Patrias, Somos Mas Americanos, Vivan Los Mojados, Pedro y Pablo, El Mojado Acaudalado, Ni Aqui Ni Alla, to El Emigrante, and others.

But I think the most poignant in this conversation is La Jaula de Oro, which is where I got the title for this post. Its a song that talks about how a guy feels like he's living in a gilded cage as an immigrant here in the United States. We aren't required to house immigrants for Trumps administration. We aren't required to fill our jail beds with non-violent immigrants, sometimes at a rate twice that of the contract stipulation.

Here's how the song ends (English translation for the bilingually challenged - in case you read this at a later date and Trump has made speaking Spanish illegal), and I think it punctuates the point about our community jailing nonviolent immigrants and participating in the separation of families:

From work to my house
I don't know what's going on with me
Although I'm the head of the household
I almost never go out
Because I'm afraid that they'll catch me
And deport me
What's money good for
If I live like a prisoner
In this great nation
When I'm reminded of this, I cry
Although this cage is made of gold
It's still a prison

When it comes to Commissioner Stout and others that twist themselves into a pretzel to be simultaneously for and against separation of families, who were also allegedly opposed to SB4 but still supported the jail contract, I think a movie character said it best.

As Doc Holiday said to Wyatt Earp in the movie Tombstone, "It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds."

Aunque la jaula sea de oro, no deja de ser prisión.


There's one thing I forgot to mention on this post. Commissioner Perez asked the Court to consider, if they weren't willing to end the contract with the feds to separate families, setting aside some of the funds from the contract to give to Annunciation House to help them complete their mission for the families.

The Court wasn't even willing to consider it. I think almost all of the members of the Court are Catholic, including Commissioner Perez who attended Georgetown University (a Catholic institution) and Commissioner Stout who used to work for the US Council of Catholic Bishops.