Pay No Attention to the Veronica Behind The Curtain

In his is blog this week, Max Powers wrote about how there is no Veronica Escobar endorsement on Lina Ortega website, but that Escobar is working behind the scenes to raise money for Ortega’s campaign. According to Max, the fundraising isn’t going as well as expected because ” once reliable donors for anything that Escobar asked for are telling Escobar, “No.” When this happens, Veronica then asks them to stay out of the race completely. Isn’t it a little odd that she expects that the people who have refused to give her money would yield to her wishes to not donate to Lina’s opponent, Adolfo Lopez? We wonder if Lopez will get votes just because Escobar is NOT supporting him.

In other news, Barbara Carrasco has filed an ethics complaint against City Rep Claudia Ordaz. The complaint states that Ordaz violated state law by discussing executive session information. Who was she sharing information with? Veronica Escobar. According to the El Paso Times article, “Carrasco’s complaint said that on June 1, during an executive session at an agenda-review meeting, Ordaz texted Escobar — a political ally and mentor – on the status of economic incentive requests from a company wanting to build medical facilities in El Paso.”

So, now we have two instances of Veronica working behind the scenes. This made us wonder, are there other places where Veronica Escobar is trying to pull strings from behind the curtain? We still have unanswered questions about her role in the initial setup of and subsequent bankruptcy fight with the El Paso Children’s Hospital. Will those questions ever be answered or will she continue to work from the shadows?

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Lack of Oversight Corrected?

“This ruling is also a victory for the taxpayers of El Paso County, who will now have greater oversight over the Children’s Hospital. The lack of accountability in the past, I believe, is one reason this whole situation was able to metastasize in the first place. However, with diligent work and stewardship, both UMC and the Children’s Hospital, which provide immeasurable services to this community, can continue to flourish and offer our residents the highest quality of healthcare.”  Commissioner David Stout in his January Newsletter.

Anyone else concerned about this new oversight?  This debacle happened under the current County Commissioner’s watch and, as we have proven time and again, UMC was able to enter into contracts with EPCH that were widely inflated and a way to bilk money from the Children’s Hospital.  Where was the oversight there?  Are the County Commissioners committed to doing something to correct the obvious problems with UMC as well?  Finally, how much oversight do they really have?  When Jim Valenti got a bonus in 2013, the County Commissioners could do NOTHING about it, they couldn’t even remove the board members.  This is a victory for someone, just not necessarily the tax payers.

How Fast is UMC Paying Down the EPCH Bond?

UMC has finally posted their audited financials for 2015 and we thought we would take a look at how quickly the El Paso Children’s Hospital Bond was being paid down.  The bond was issued in 2008 for $120.1 million dollars.  Seven years later, care to guess how much money is still owned?   $114.3 million!  That means that UMC has paid down $5.8 million or $.83 million,less than 1 million a year.  At this rate, it will take UMC 145 years to pay off the Children’s Hospital.  Why aren’t they paying this down faster?  Why aren’t they using the rent money from Children’s to help YOU get out of debt?  Next time you see Jim Valenti, why don’t you ask him.

Which Streets Are Getting Fixed?

In June 2012, a $218,400,000 street infrastructure plan was put together.  As of April of 2014, here is how much had been spent:

streets

Source:  http://legacy.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/meetings/sccm0512140930/051214%20Street%20CIP%20Only%20May%2012%202014.pdf

Here we are, January 0f 2016 and City Council is upset that more hasn’t been completed.  According to the KFOX report, nearly 100 street projects have stalled, and nothing has been done on more than 70 projects approved four years ago.  Additionally, the plan called for 90 streets to be reconstructed and only ONE street can be considered complete.  Despite the poor management so far, “Council members asked for an additional $51 million in projects to be added to the list.”  It only makes sense, when someone has proven that they can’t get the job done, give them more money and more projects… that will fix the problem.

You Can Now Recycle Glass… Kind Of

In case you didn’t know, El Paso doesn’t recycle glass.  All of those glass bottles that you’ve been throwing into your blue bin, they shouldn’t be there because El Paso doesn’t recycle glass… until today.  According to the El Paso Herald Post residents will be able to take their dry, empty glass bottles and jars to the nearest Citizen Collection Station, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.Tuesdays through Saturdays. What will the glass be used for?  “Pulverized glass can be used for garden landscaping and other home projects.”  So, if you want some pulverized glass in your yard, you can now get it at the Pendale Citizen Collection Station, located at 1034 Pendale, free of charge.  There is no limit on the amount of glass residents can take home.

City Council Makes Some Decisions

It would appear that El Paso City Council made several decisions this week:

  • The City Council has approved “an 8-year roll out for the next phase of the 2012 bond issue projects totaling $416 million included $204 million for the three Downtown signature projects (arena, children’s museum and cultural center), $155 million in parks and parks improvements, $46 million for the zoo, $10 million for libraries and $1 million for museum and cultural arts.”  (You can read the El Paso Times article here).
  • The West side pool that had its groundbreaking in May of 2015 and then was delayed is back on!  “After lengthy discussion, the council voted unanimously for the 8-year bond issue roll-out and the use of cost-savings from 2015 for the swim pool funding gap and to pay for up to three new spray parks.” (You can read the El Paso Times Article here).
  • The road project that had been approved is… approved.  “After long hours of debate between City Council and city manager Tommy Gonzalez, the city finally decided to continue the already approved street resurfacing project.” (You can read the KVIA story here).  It is going to cost $5.9 million for resurfacing.  However, it is unclear when the project will begin:  “City Council is asking for a full layout of the project in six weeks. Once the plan is presented, council will then vote to do a pavement condition index study.”  The pavement study is going to cost $1 million.
  • The Abraham Chavez Theatre has been selected for the Mexican American Cultural Center.  “The design concepts presented to council include an addition to the existing theater that would create a separate entrance as well as space for center specific activities. As the center progresses, the city will also be able to complete much needed updates to the Chavez Theatre that will help it function better as a performance space and cultural center.”  (You can read the El Paso Herald Post story here).
  • The Pope is Coming!  “City of El Paso is preparing to impose traffic control and operational changes in the interest of public safety, health and welfare as a result of Pope Francis landmark visit to the border.”  (You can read the entire El Paso Herald Post story here). There are some meetings that you can attend to find out about closures at the Armijo Recreation Center gymnasium at 700 E. Seventh Avenue. Meeting time and dates:
    • 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 27, 2016
    • 10:30 a.m. Thursday, January 28, 206
    • 6 p.m. Monday, February 1, 2016
  • They may have lost you $22 million by delaying issuing the bonds, but now they are trying to save you money!  “The council voted unanimously to allow city staff to work with First Southwest to determine if there are any cost savings possible by restructuring the debt on the ballpark given the current low-interest rate conditions.”  (You can read the El Paso Times Story here). So, fingers crossed?

Voter Fraud Alleged

Early voting starts on February 16th.  If you have been following any of the news about past elections, you know that El Paso voter turn out is embarrassingly low.  That creates a breeding ground where ‘shenanigans’ can occur.  The El Paso Times reported today that the Texas Attorney General’s office is investigating possible voter fraud that occurred last year.  In the story, it states that the following: “Specifically, it’s alleged several individuals unlawfully assisted voters, possessed carrier envelopes without providing information required by law, and coerced voters to vote for a particular candidate by threatening retaliation in court,” the report states.  The specific candidates involved? Former State Rep. Inocente “Chente” Quintanilla (who is currently running for the District 75 state representative seat) and Justice of the Peace Enedina “Nina” Serna.

Of course, these may be isolated incidents perpetrated by 2 officials.  However, why take the chance?  Stand up, El Paso!  Let these officials know that you don’t support corruption in any way, shape or form!  If they are willing to do things like this to get elected, what are they doing once they get in?  Get out there and vote.

Want to see if you are already registered to vote?  Click here.

Is Tommy Gonzales On His Way Out?

Most companies will use your performance evaluations to justify giving you a raise or to justify letting you go.  In theory, having your performance written down will help ensure that the company can’t be sued.  If you’ve had a good performance review, they can’t justify firing you.  A bad one, however…

According to an El Paso Times article, the City Council wants another shot at reviewing  Tommy Gonzales’ performance. “We had HR concerns,” Ordaz said. “It’s best for council to address HR issues with him (Gonzalez) in a performance evaluation so we can document everything.”  Is this the first step in the process for getting rid of Tommy?

Pothole Spotters

Did you know that there is a hotline to call if you see a pothole?  Any potholes seen by drivers can be reported to (915) 757-5900.  According a KVIA article, on average city crews fix about 300 potholes a week :  “I’d say, on a weekly basis, it’s about 300 potholes a week,” said Chris Forti, the streets and maintenance department operations supervisor on the West Side.
If you have any other questions or issues (graffiti, sidewalks, etc), you can find answers and lodge complaints at the City of El Paso Streets & Maintenance site.