Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Annello & Hernandez Push for Tax Increase

In a vote that left a lot of people scratching their head yesterday, the El Paso City Council voted 6-2 against raising a tax on utilities. The proposed increase would have affected residential electric and gas rate payers.

Only two members of council voted to keep the tax in place in order to capture more revenue for the City of El Paso, City Reps Alexsandra Annello and Cassandra Hernandez.

Annello has been largely ineffective as a city rep, having had difficulty passing much of anything and usually ending up in the minority of most votes.

Hernandez is now facing talk of a recall and most of her votes will now likely face a higher level of scrutiny, which is why this vote on her part is so surprising. The backdrop of the petitioners has been partially centered around tax increases.

The duo on council are BFFs and argued that the vote was more about public safety, Annello going so far as to characterize the city's action yesterday as "irresponsible".

Had council voted in favor of the Hernandez-Anello plan it would have meant an increase to rate-payers.

Recall Update - Who's Next?

A source indicates that the recall effort is well on its way to collecting the required number of signatures to force a recall of Mayor Dee Margo.

Multiple sources have also indicated that the plan is to go for a recall against two other city representatives. I'll tell you who the other two are in a minute.

A source close to the recall effort told me last night at an event where signatures were being collected to recall Mayor Dee Margo that they have exceeded 1,000 signatures so far. In order to successfully recall Mayor Margo, the petition circulators have to collect 7,000 signatures in 60 days. That means the effort has to get 117 signatures per day for the next 60 days. So they are off to a pretty strong start and if they can sustain that effort, they should be able to make some history.

My sources also indicated that following the attainment of a sufficient number of signatures to recall Mayor Margo, they will then focus on a recall effort against City Rep Cassandra Hernandez Brown and Dr. Sam Morgan.

It looks like their plan is to get the required signatures against all the candidates so that the next election is a gonna be a recall election for at least three members of council.

Former Mayor Oscar Leeser still has a term of eligibility to be Mayor and is a presumptive mayoral candidate. Its hard to see how anyone else would stand a chance against him - certainly not David Saucedo or Emma Acosta. That reminds me, I have a fun story about Acosta in a future post.

The real question is if the sufficient number of signatures are collected for the recall, does Margo fight for his seat in an election against Leeser? I think he has to and Forma Group will likely push him hard to do so. But its gonna take a lot of money to fight Leeser. A lot.

Getting way ahead of ourselves here but City Reps Cassandra Hernandez wild Dr. Morgan would have to fight for their seats. Hernandez's ego won't let her just walk away and Jeremy Jordan will likely run her campaign. Jordan couldn't campaign his way out of a paper bag and Hernandez protected the street name of a Confederate traitor over naming a street after Dolores Huerta. I'm sure any potential opponent would pounce on that.

Dr. Morgan is former Special Forces soldier. People that are special forces aren't known for quitting or having a hard time with adversity. He had to run twice for his seat before he was able to win it. Its unlikely he'd just hand it over to someone else.

Its all about who runs in those elections.

Providing that the petition efforts are successful in the first place.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Margo Recall Effort

The move was almost genius.

Petitions are now going to go out to recall Mayor Dee Margo. The circulators of the petitions have 60 days to gather 6,000 signatures to force a recall of Mayor Margo. That means they have to get at least 100 signatures a day between now and October 9th.

Had they pulled the trigger on this sooner, they could've been collecting signatures and had time to get on the November ballot. Had Margo been on a November ballot - especially this November - he would have been trounced.

Bigly.

The hill to climb would have been gathering the signatures.

Recalls are rare, as I recall only one has been successful in the County - and that had to be in Socorro and involve a Gandara.

But based on the timing now, the gathering of signatures will now be a lot easier for the circulators. The Democratic Party is likely going to help circulate petitions because, well, Margo is a Republican.

There is an obvious and pronounced anti-Republican sentiment in town that has been building to a crescendo and frankly, if the signatures can't be gathered now then it'll never happen.

The only thing that might stop them from gathering the signatures is the reasons they chose for circulating the petition. They mention taxes and CO's etc.

They are essentially recalling a Republican mayor for acting like a Democrat. Their other argument is an alleged violation of the First Amendment with the stupid stance Margo takes on public comment. Its not a violation of the First Amendment by the way. It has a chilling effect on speaking out - sorta - but its not a violation. Government bodies don't even have to have a public comment portion of a meeting.

But the one thing they mention that probably is the STRONGEST argument for their cause is Margo's transparency problem.

That, quite frankly, should be the main push for the recall. Its something anyone can wrap their head around.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Margo did this to himself. The public comment thing is stupid. He shouldn't have done what he's done with public comment. Give people their three minutes. Let them have their say. People that speak in public comment are always pissed off about something. Let them vent and have their say. I say that as someone who has been to public comment. Remember when Emma Acosta and her imp Dora Oaxaca made an agenda item about me? I do. I'll never forget that.

Anywho, Margo has no one to blame but himself for people being pissed at him for the public comment thing. No on likes to be criticized but if you can't take it, don't run for office.

The email thing is just straight-up pendejo of Margo. Talk about embarrassing for the people of El Paso. Its not like personal communication hasn't been a thing in the public or anything. Come on man, you really screwed up that badly on transparency knowing full well that personal communication on issues is ROUTINELY requested.

Its hard to feel sorry for Margo when he goes out of his way to be a villain. And the email thing wasn't just an embarrassment to the Mayor, it was an embarrassment to the City.

Next in Line

This election, assuming they get the signatures, won't be until next year. It'll be next May. That is plenty of time for Margo to get his crap together. It works to his advantage having that much time to fix things before a recall.

But David Saucedo shouldn't look at this as his way back into the politics. He should continue to smoke whatever it is that he's smoking that makes him think he's viable for a state rep seat and not embarrass himself again. Because Saucedo is not viable for mayor.

Especially because I'd be willing to bet the farm that Mayor Leeser will come back and run again. I know some of you may have forgotten, but the former mayor still has another term of eligibility. It would be the prefect opportunity for him to come back and make another run.

And he'd win.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

District 8 Race

The other westside seat also has several candidates running. The incumbent City Rep Cissy Lizarraga is facing four opponents, which will likely mean another run-off election. Lizarraga is in a decent position right now, even though she hasn't been in office long.

She has far more name ID than her opponents. She won a tough special election that was made necessary when Cortney Niland vacated her seat. Back then she faced candidates with some money and name ID, namely Gilbert Guillen. She won handily thanks to a strong ground game run by Mike Apodaca.

So there are some things for Lizarraga that are different than they were when she won this seat recently - Apodaca is out of town right now working on Beto's race, she now has a voting record she can run on, she now has a voting record her opponents can run against and the field of candidates she's facing is pretty different than it was previously.

Unlike the District 1 race, there aren't any candidates that are well-funded to my knowledge, there aren't any with any proven proficiency in field work, and there is only one with any name ID.

The opponents are Rich Wright, Nicholas Vasquez, Dylan Corbett, and Gregory Baine. At this stage of the game, even though I don't think he's officially on the ballot, Rich Wright is the main opponent for Lizarraga. Wright has the most name ID of the field of opponents. He's been around for a long time and he's got the most voting history of field of opponents.

He's collecting signatures to be on the ballot. That is one of the ways to get on the ballot. The other way to get on the ballot is to pay the fees. Gathering signatures is a good dry run for field work, lets you talk to some voters and get a feel for what they are paying attention to, and work on your pitch to voters.

But the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot is really, really small. Its seriously small. In District 6, George Eric Stoltz needed only 25 signatures to get on the ballot.

Thats nothing.

You should be able to get them in a day, two tops. If you can't get them really quickly, then your campaign is already in trouble.

Its possible that Wright already has the required number of signatures to get on the ballot, which is more in D8 than in D6, and might still be collecting signatures so that he has a lot of signatures to turn in to send a message to the incumbent about the level of his support.

Of the opponents, Wright is likely to be the most well-rounded on issues and he has a pretty clean logo. If he has money and can get a field op going, he's gonna remain the head of the pack of the opponents. But with 89 days to go to election day, whoever has the best field op going has a shot for the run-off.

Which brings me to Nicolas Vasquez. He has some field experience and he's already turned in signatures to get on the ballot. Looks like he tried to get a little cute with his logo that cleverly tries to make an outline of the mountain as the N in his first name and the star on the mountain as the A in his middle name.  He's one of the Duranguito Boyz running for office this cycle. He lists his occupation as "student" and he's 27. According to the application he's only lived in the area for about a year and half. Those are some things that could be leveraged against him by any of the other candidates, but being young and hungry goes a long way. He's a dark horse but has a shot. He might be able to out-work everyone else and sneak into a run-off.

Dylan Corbett lists being a non-profit executive as his occupation. I've never heard of him and he has a pretty thin voting history. He doesn't appear to have a base to work from, but if he has money and decides to do a mail campaign, who knows. But less than 90 days is a short period of time to get people to know how you are and vote for you.

Greg Baine is retired military. Until the last primary election Baine has only voted in municipal and general elections. But in the last primary cycle he voted Republican.

Bottom line in this race is that there are 5 candidates and only one of them has a demonstrated base. If the four opposing candidates can get enough family and friends to vote then its a matter of who is going to be in a run-off with Lizarraga, mostly between Wright and Vasquez.

But a run-off isn't as forgone a conclusion as you might think in a race with this many people in it. Hell the same is true for D1 now that I think about it. This municipal race is going to be on a general election cycle. its a name ID race because you're going to have more than your regular municipal voter come out. The base will be more Democratic than in previous years. There are more races that are pushing people out to the polls than previously. More campaigns are touching a wider range of voters. So its a steeper mountain to climb for the opposition to pull Lizarraga into a run-off.

With under 80 days to go, if you aren't walking on the westside, its too late.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Revenge of Armando Rodriguez?

Armando Rodriguez apparently is taking the fact that I questioned the appearance of a conflict between his participation in statewide education boards and his employment pretty personally. Unfortunately for him, he didn't think things through and likely got on the bad side of the wrong person as a result.

Rodriguez, who is a bit of a controversy magnet but goes by the motto "Mandito can", apparently really wants this seat on the Texas Association of School Boards pretty badly. He's facing EPISD Trustee Al Velarde and Tornillo ISD Trustee Marlene Bullard for the position. Rodriguez has been calling trustees all across the county kissing ass to get their votes.

Mandito can what, is beyond me. I can't honestly tell you anything of note that he has accomplished for his community while a trustee in Canutillo.

But Rodriguez did something that was pretty petty, which I guess underscores his character issues, that either shows just how badly he wants (needs?) the seat, or it shows just how terrible his judgement is. Either way, it demonstrates why I don't think he's a good choice to represent the area on that board.

Check out this screenshot:



Rodriguez had apparently been set up to be a regular donor to State Board of Education Representative Georgina Perez, who is a bit of a rock star in education circles. She's accomplished more in a couple of years in the post than her predecessors have in a couple of decades - whether its reforming policy to ensure thousands of Texans can get the high school diploma their entitled to, single-handedly stocking the soon-to-be library in Socorro, speaking out against separation of families, helping a mom get permission to cross the border to see her daughter graduate, getting Dolores Huerta back into Texas text books, or bringing Mexican American studies to Texas high schools, Perez walks the walk.

And when she was elected, she didn't lose a single precinct in El Paso County. Don't believe me? Go look it up.

And trust me, thats just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she's done. She's one of the few elected officials I saw this about, but its absolutely a compliment - she's chingona.

Rodriguez also knows that she's a good friend of mine. I first met her more than a decade ago when I was doing some union work in EPISD and she was a loud hell-raising teacher in YISD. She spoke at an event I was at and we started chatting during some down time and we've been friends ever since. She mentioned the idea of running for SBOE once and I helped her out with her campaign.

Armando Rodriguez made the mistake a lot of people have made in the past. He knew I was writing a piece that was going to discuss his potential conflict of interest and he tried to apply pressure to either stop me from writing it or influencing how I was going to write it.

During one of our conversations the day before I posted my piece on the topic, he'd mentioned that he'd called Perez. Seriously, you people don't learn. No one tells me what to write. No one can tell me what not to write. Not Vince, not Georgina, not Susie, Vero, Eddie, Claudia, Beto or anyone else you people have thought over the years influence me.

Not even Kathryn.

Ask Norma Chavez how trying to tell me what to write works out...

Long story short, that never works out well for someone when they try to tell me what to write about. I'm my own vato. I stand on my own beliefs and by my words.

The fact that he cut off a monthly donation to Perez because he's pissed about what I wrote is childish and immature. Its not about the money, it was only a few bucks a month. She's not going to miss it. Its about the idea that he was trying to "punish" her for what I wrote.

Honestly, knowing Perez she probably just laughed it off. But I called her anyway just to get comment from her on this and this was her response. She took the high road but still had a pretty strong message:

"I think its an unfortunate reaction from Trustee Rodriguez. I think its important for Mr. Rodriguez to learn that representing El Paso is largely about cultivating relationships. Criticism comes with the job and there was a more mature way for Mr. Rodriguez to react to a policy-based critique. I don’t know if it will impact other trustees making their decision on who to support for the Texas Association of School Boards, but I look forward to working with whomever is elected to the position by their colleagues."

But frankly, I think its a stupid move. Mando has enough stuff hanging over his head. He's constantly in the news for something bad and I am not the first person to question his ethics, conduct, or perceived conflict of interest. At this point he should be more concerned that Gina doesn't start picking up the phone on her own and calling trustees and giving them her two cents about Rodriguez.

The last thing his little effort to get on TASB needs is to have the SBOE calling Trustees and weighing-in on his conduct. Hell, the fact that he even tried to play hard ball with her in the first place should make trustees thing twice about voting for him. You really think he's going to be effective on that board while having an adversarial relationship with the most popular and accomplished State Board of Education Rep this county has ever seen?

You know she accomplished everything she's done all while being in the SUPER MINORITY on her Board? You really think she won't eat you for breakfast Mando?

Hell, Perez went to a board meeting in Canutillo once to stop a bad policy that was going to hurt poor brown kids in the area. For a guy who says "Mandito can", he sure couldn't stop that policy.

So Georgina went over there and went to bat for those kids.

But hey, I figured out the answer to my question early about what exactly "Mandito can" do.

Looking for a trustee that knows how to blow a critical relationship for his constituency?

"Mandito can."

Dude, Where's My Pants?

In other adventures of Armando Rodriguez, this is a picture of him at last nights special meeting at Canutillo ISD where Rodriguez is a trustee. The agenda including some pretty important stuff like sale of properties, elections, and audit items. Mandito apparently didn't think it was important enough to wear pants. This is the guy that wants to represent El Paso on the Texas Association of School Boards.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Republican CD 16 Tickets Go At It

Williams (L) - Seeberger (R)
The two Republican candidates facing Congresswoman-Elect Veronica Escobar in the November general election have apparently turned on one another.

Obviously that brings me great joy.

But its actually really funny.

Let me back up a bit and explain what is going on. Samuel Williams is an ultra-conservative Donald Trump fan. He's running as an "independent" but he's not independent at all. He's a Republican. He just didn't get his Party's nomination.

Trust me, he's the right of just about anyone that has ever run for office in El Paso.

The other guy is Rick Seeberger, the guy who actually won the GOP nomination. But make no mistake about it, they are both Trumpters.

As you may recall, I wrote about some of Seeberger's dirty laundry, which consisted mostly of bankruptcies but there is also that issue that some have called colloquially, taking candy from babies.

Which despite how some have characterized it, isn't exactly what happened. Seeberger allegedly was involved with a fundraiser activity with a school PTA and the proceeds were allegedly never paid to the PTA.

Allegedly.

Anywho, that article was in the Los Angeles Times. Samuel Williams decided to pay for a sponsored ad on Facebook and placed a link to the article.


Thats some gacho stuff right there.

Its something we Democrats would have no problem doing, but the Republicans usually keep a modicum of civility in local races, which is funny because, well, Donald Trump and all.

This is likely going to escalate.

Personally, I can't wait to watch it blow up. The comment section is already pretty damn interesting.

District 5: Shallow Waters

Politically speaking Eastsiders have a reputation of being fat, dumb, and happy. I don't mean they are actually fat and dumb, I mean that in generally they don't have much to complain about. Generally speaking you have a lot of younger families that tend to be upper middle class and more educated.

Their persona is very different than say the westside, where everyone pretty much thinks their entitled to every thing and the Northeast, where everyone seems to hate living there and complain about everything.

Like people in Fabens.

I'd like to be able to give some in-depth analysis about this race but frankly there's not much there. And trust me when I tell you, there really isn't much there.

District 5 is hands-down the weakest field of candidates, even by El Paso standards. There are four candidates and between the four of them, they have almost no voting history.

John B. Hogan is an older guy at 62. He's only voted in two general elections (2016, 2017) and the Democratic Primary (2018). Thats it. No other voting history in Texas. That surprising because seniors usually have a much thicker voting history. I presume he voted for Fenenbock in that 2018 primary election because I've seen him on social media and that guy is no Democrat. He's a Trump supporter and pretty conservative. He's campaign page has a lot of info about his views on issues, which is a good thing. He's pretty much ahead of the rest of the field in terms of policy. So far he's the only one running that looks like he has anything in the neighborhood of a platform.

Kizito Ekechukwu has apparently never voted. There is zero voting history for that guy. I hate when people run for office that have never even voted. I don't know how they can ever expect anyone to take them seriously. I thought this guy was like a motivational speaker or something, but his paperwork says he's an auditor. Don't know anything else about the guy because, well he doesn't appear to have been involved in anything political yet, though he's only 28 so that isn't uncommon.

Benjamin Miranda, Jr is the only identified Republican in the field. He also has the most voting history of any of the shallow pool of candidates. He's about my age and he's voted in four elections. Thats really poor voting history, but hey its more than everyone else. He's voted in two generals and two primaries, both of which were Republican primaries.

Jason Osborne, not to be confused with the cool spy movie character from The Borne Identity franchise, is the latest to file. Osborne appears to have voted in one election, that being the 2018 primary. He voted Democrat in that primary. I got nothing on this guy other than what is on his paperwork. He lists "Security Consultant" as his occupation. His application says he's been at his current address in the district for 4 years, but not long enough to change his cell phone to a "915" area code. He is 35 years old.

Eastsiders are hungry for a good candidate and from what I've heard from a lot of them so far is that they are unimpressed with the field, those that even know who is running. If someone with any amount of name ID jumps in the race they will likely jump to the front.

There have been at least two really good candidates that were going to run and ultimately decided not to run. Both are young, educated, professionals with degrees. Both very photogenic, both Latino/a candidates with experience in government. Frankly, either would have won in a cake walk.

Do you know why they both chose not to take their talent to city hall?

Money. They simply couldn't afford the salary.

Its really popular for people to be against a decent salary for elected officials. But your city council reps are likely the ones that have the most impact on your daily life. And we don't pay them a decent wage, so that is why we have the type of people we have on council. The only people that can afford to serve on council are the independently wealthy who usually have business interests that take them away from the office, or people that are retired and have a second income. They have the time to commit to the office, but neither group really look like your average El Pasoan.

If there was ever a field of candidates that demonstrates why you need a wage that can attract good talent to city council, District 5 is it. There were two candidates with experience in government, managing big budgets, managing public funds, and understand the complexities of policy. If you were hiring someone to do the job, they'd be your finalists.

But the electorate doesn't want to pay for quality talent.

And here we are with the shallow pool of candidates.

Monday, August 6, 2018

District 1 Field Expanding

Westsiders apparently have a pretty low threshold for their elected officials. Both westside city reps are facing a lot of opponents, which makes a run-off election more and more likely. Incumbents in elections generally lose, although lately that trend isn't the political death sentence it used to be.

Late last week two more opponents for Svarzbein made it official by filing at the city clerks office. Richard Bonart - who is said to be sitting on $20k - filed is paperwork late last week. Svarzbein isn't going to raise anywhere near as much money as he did in the first election so the fact that Bonart has that much starter money is pretty significant.

If that is ALL the money Bonart is going to have, then its not so significant.

Enter, Veronica Frescas. "Roni" as she is commonly known as - if she can get funding - is the one to watch in this race. The only Latina running for the seat, Frescas has deep policy knowledge which is going to be a huge advantage over Carlos Corral.

Roni has been involved in the El Paso political scene for a long time, and she's helped out on a lot of campaigns. The challenge for her is moving from behind the scenes type of activism and campaigning, to being an actual candidate. Frescas has the most upside to her and in a field of men she's not gonna have a hard time distinguishing herself.

Svarzbein is the incumbent. He's the one with a record that can be scrutinized. He's the one they are trying to unseat. So he's going to face the most heat from everyone else and from the public.

I think if Frescas gets some funding and as committed to a strong field operation, I think she's most likely to make a run-off with Svarzbein. People that didn't want to elect an artsy film guy with no political experience, or regret that they did, aren't going to be too hot about electing Corral who is essentially a browner version of the incumbent before he was elected.

Although Corral appears to be more willing to dress like an adult and wear a suit. If he packages himself more as a businessman instead of an artist, that will be more successful for him.

Bonart is the X factor for two reasons. One - he's run and lost before. He's got name ID in that area and he's sitting on some money. He's also got a great reputation for being a stand-up guy, which is something you can't buy, only earn. If Max Grossman gets his Houston Sugar Daddy to kick in some money, that could be even more Bonart has in the war chest (which should have all the bottom feeders like Jeremy Jordan cold calling him). The downside is of course, being associated with Max Grossman. Especially because Max Grossman doesn't know how to shut up, so his big mouth is likely going to be something that will be a boat anchor around Bonart.

One day in his efforts to buy a city council, Grossman will realize its better to help quietly and not become a distraction. Just kidding, his ego is too big for him to ever learn that.

Tomorrow, D5.

Friday, August 3, 2018

TASB Election Heats Up

Normally no one cares about the Texas Association of School Boards.

Actually, you probably still don't care about them after reading this. Nonetheless there is an election for the local representative to the TASB and its between three people - Marlene Bullard from Tornillo ISD, Al Velarde from EPISD, and Armando Rodriguez from Canutillo ISD.

Bullard has a steep hill to climb in this one primarily because she has a smaller base to work with as a trustee in a rural community, so the race is really between Velarde and Rodriguez. In the next couple of weeks most of the school districts will be voting on this issue, with several of them voting on the same night. Both Velarde and Rodriguez are working the phones to try to get support from the various trustees in the county.

District trustees vote on who they want to represent the area by passing an agenda item in favor of their choice. So unlike most elections, you can get a sense of who is winning and who is losing before the election is finalized.

Bullard works at Fabens ISD and they voted previously on the issue, voting to support Rodriguez. But there was some procedural confusion so they brought the issue back and are voting on it again on the 15th. If Bullard doesn't win Fabens, she's basically done and not viable.

Question of Conflict

The real issue in this election is the conversation surrounding the appearance of a conflict of interest involving Armando Rodriguez. Mando is employed by Hellas Construction. They build stadiums and sell turf, so school districts are a major part of their sales. Rodriguez is in Business Development, in other words, sales.

The question of a conflict of interest with Rodriguez working for a company that does business with schools came up in the media previously and the concerns were put to rest when Rodriguez assured the board that his company doesn't do business with Canutillo ISD, where he is a board member.

Frankly, that is pretty open and shut. If his employer doesn't do business with the district, its not a big deal.

But things aren't so clear when you're talking about TASB or the Mexican American School Board Association. Those are statewide entities in which Rodriguez holds an official position.

Here's the big question for the trustees voting and the media reporting on this issue - Rodriguez indicates that the has attended education conferences as a vendor for his company. Is that an appearance of a conflict of interest?

Personally, I think its pretty obvious that it is. He sits on educational boards with statewide membership. That gives him relationships with trustees across the state of Texas. He admits attending educational conferences as a vendor, to which trustees are very often attendees. Trustees make the ultimate procurement decisions.

You're telling me that isn't problematic?

I spoke to Rodriguez to give him an opportunity to tell his side of the story.

Me: My question is about who you work for, not about the fact that you have a job. 

Mando: Its a job I applied for on LinkedIn and was able to get.

Me: Your employer is involved in school construction projects among other things. They also sell artificial turf to schools. Do you feel there is a conflict with your employment and if not, why not?

Mando: Nope. I've asked legal council of TASB and she said none at all. My goal on the TASB board is to make sure they understand the issues of a border community so we can help legislation in equity and set the direction of the organization as it relates to goals. 

Me: So one key component of conflict of interest is the appearance of conflict. Are you concerned at all about the perception of a conflict of interest of you being on a statewide board while working for a company that does business with Texas schools. 

Mando: Nope I don't mix the two. 

Mando (about two hours later): I am not concerned. My role as a TASB board member does not include or involved decisions made related to purchasing at the local school board level. TASB promotes policies and educational objectives designed to assist Board in the delivery of quality education to students. 

My point wasn't about whether as a TASB board member he was making purchasing decisions at the local level. Of course he doesn't, that isn't the issue. I don't know if he didn't understand my concern or if he's just giving me a red herring argument, but the questionable situation is the fact that he is a sales guy for a vendor that does business with schools. Serving on these statewide boards with other trustees gives him an inherent advantage at performing his sales job.

The question isn't if he's making the actual vote at a school district level, its about him making the pitch for the product to trustees who do make the actual vote, that know him through relationships that he's cultivated on boards like MASBA and TASB.

I was told by a school board trustee that Rodriguez attended at least one education conference wearing something that had the name of his employer on it, though the trustee wasn't clear as to whether it was a name tag or a shirt with the company name on it. I found out Rodriguez attended education conferences as a vendor - that is to say he attended education conferences like the coach's conferences in his official work capacity as a salesman.

In a bit of whataboutism, Rodriguez raised the question about whether Velarde had a possible conflict. So I asked Velarde about his work as an Executive Director of a non-profit. V

ME:  ...he raised a legitimate question. Does Paso del Norte health foundation have contracts with schools or districts and in what capacity do you work with them?

VELARDE: First, we are not the Paso del Norte Health Foundation so I don't know what they have in place if anything. We are the Paso del Norte Children's Development Center. We do provide space to EPISD for them to operate a PK3 and a PK4. We have an MOU in place but we get no payment from EPISD. This was set up before I got here. We provide a teaching assistant for the EPISD teacher at our cost and get no cost to the district. The only thing we get is that a few of the kids stay with us for childcare before or after their class. We did an analysis on it and we are loosing approximately $3,000 per month on this arrangement. We do it because we are the best option for children with special needs because we bring therapy into the classroom for them.

Rodriguez believes that Velarde is running against him because his enemies on the Canutillo Board of Trustees put Velarde up to run against Mando and he further believes that Velarde is bad mouthing him to other Trustees. The reality is that I was the one who questioned the conflict issue because of his employment when I had heard he was calling trustees to solicit support for his candidacy.

Sources also indicate he's been trying to do some damage control over the phones in anticipation of my post.

I don't particularly care who is going to represent the area on a board of limited influence. I'm asking a legitimate question about his potential conflict because a compromised member is not an advantage for the El Paso area.

Controversy seems to follow Rodriguez pretty regularly. Here is an editorial by the El Paso Times calling into question transparency. And this isn't the first time that questions have been raised regarding Armando Rodriguez' possible issues with conflict. Click here to read that story.

I'll update you in a future poll about the eventual outcome of the race later this month.