26,232

26,232 – That is how many El Pasoans voted in early voting. How many of us are registered?  400,504.  That means that 6.5% of registered voters have voted.  That is an appalling turn out and, unless there is a HUGE rush to the polls on Tuesday, El Paso continues the tradition of having a small minority of people making decisions for the large majority.  Way to go, El Paso.

There is still time – March 1st is election day.  GET OUT THERE AND VOTE.  You can find your polling station by clicking here.

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The Ross Fischer Report & The El Paso Times

This weekend the El Paso Times did a three part editorial on the Ross Fischer report.  Here are our summaries of those articles:

  1.  Wilson Must Answer Ballpark Bond Questions:  The El Paso Times is trying to simultaneously take Wilson to task while defending her and saying that the additional money doesn’t really matter because “The bonds are being repaid by hotel-motel tax money, not property taxes.” and because El Paso will have the opportunity to refinance the bonds.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?
  2. El Pasoans, Speak Up On City Government: In this editorial, the El Paso Times has decided that the solution to getting Wilson to talk is to ignore it completely and encourage you to contact City Council Members (obviously).They even give you email and phone numbers so that you can contact the Mayor and City Council members.
  3. City Actions Require Law Enforcement Review: District Attorney Jaime Esparza, who is up for re-election tomorrow, announced that he had asked the Texas Rangers to review the Ross Fischer report. They then provide a list of items outlined by the report that might be criminal violations.  Know what wasn’t in that list?  The recommendation that a subpoena be issued for Joyce Wilson.  Also, we agree with elpasospeak.com – this move by Jaime Esparza looks more like a desperate move to help his election campaign.  Where was he during the El Paso Children’s Hospital Bankruptcy and the IGT for rent discussions?

So there you have it, the El Paso Times’ take on the Ross Fischer report.  They clearly like Joyce Wilson and are having a difficult time finding the right tone with her refusals to cooperate.

Romero, Gonzalez & Wilson, Oh My!

So, while we were covering the different campaigns and early elections, things continued to move (and change) at the city level this week.  Rather than write several articles about it, we thought we would combine it all into one, HUGE post.  Ready?

  •  Although City Rep. Larry Romero has resigned for health reasons, he continues to be paid until his replacement is elected.  While we speculated that his resignation would end the ethics review against him, the Ethics Commission has decided to continue with the review.  “When I made the statement that Rep. Romero’s resignation would end the investigation of him, I assumed, incorrectly, that his resignation would be immediate,” Ethics Review Commission Chairman Stuart Schwartz said. “I have come to learn that he will continue to ‘serve’ until his replacement is sworn into office.” Romero still has not answered the 60 questions submitted to him by the ethics commission stating “I held a news conference. I was on ABC-7 Xtra for a half hour. I already answered all the questions. I left it all on the table, it’s all out there so why do I have to do it again?”  Here are links to articles:
  • The review of Tommy Gonzalez continues!  The independent investigator concluded that he did not violate state laws in the controversial attempt to replace the city’s financial advisers.  However, new questions arose on whether he withheld information on his required financial disclosure statements.  “If it were ultimately proven that Mr. Gonzalez failed to properly disclose sources of occupational income on his personal financial statement, or that he accepted an impermissible honorarium, it may constitute a violation of state law,” Fischer said in his findings. City Council will have another meeting on Monday to decide their next steps. At this point, does it feel like they are just looking for a reason to get rid of Gonzalez?  Links to articles:
  • Joyce Wilson doesn’t want to talk about it.  In his preliminary report to the City Council on Wednesday, Austin lawyer Ross Fischer said the City Council could use its subpoena powers to compel Wilson’s testimony, or ask the Texas attorney general to investigate the matter.  What do they want to know?  They want her to name the City Council members she has said asked her to delay issuing the bonds until after the heated election that focused heavily on the controversial construction of the Triple-A baseball stadium.  Under the advice of council, she has refused to cooperate.  However, Joyce’s lawyer is disputing this ‘misrepresentation’ of her advice stating that she and her client didn’t have enough time to review the facts in order to “intelligently respond to (Fischer’s) inquiry” in time. “I never said that I was advising her not to cooperate with your investigation… I very clearly stated that our obstacle was a lack of time, given the few days to respond to a complex issue that occurred three years earlier,” Stillinger stated in the letter.  However, Fischer is refusing to amend his report stating that Wilson was uncooperative and refused to provide the requested information. How long does it take to say (or write down) the names?  Is she carving them in wood?  This looks to be another stall tactic while Joyce decides if she is going to fall on her sword or if she is going to actually name names.  Links to articles:
  • And now District Attorney Jaime Esparza, who is in a three-way race to keep his job, has asked the Texas Rangers to assist his office in reviewing a report released Wednesday by a third-party investigator regarding possible misconduct by several city officials.  Why is this the case that Esparza has decided to investigate?  Is it because election day is next Tuesday? Links to articles:

Last Day For Early Voting

Today is the last day for early voting.  This week we’ve featured information on some of the various local races, you can read our posts by clicking the links below:

State Representative District 75

State Representative District 77

County Tax Assessor-Collector

District Attorney

Constable Precinct 1

Constable Precinct 2

So, get out there and vote! You can find your voting station by clicking here.

CONSTABLE, PRECINCT NO. 4

This is a 2 way race between FRANCISCO ALMADA  (147) and LUIS “LOUIE” AGUILAR (148).

Francisco

Francisco Almada joined the El Paso Police Department in 2002  working as a Specialist II at Identification & Records. In 2007, he graduated from the El Paso Community College Law Enforcement Academy and was the first person to ever have been awarded the Exceptional Law Enforcement Skills Awards. Later in 2007, he joined the El Paso County Constable’s Office Precinct 1 and served as a Deputy. After the tragic and untimely death of Constable White, he was appointed to run the Department and oversee Precinct 1 by the Commissioners Court.You can read his webpage here. He says he will focus on the following:  Public Trust, Transparency, and positive community contact.  “The constituents of Precinct 4 deserve the highest level of service, integrity, and consistency”

Louie

Luis “Louie” Aguilar is the incumbent.  Unfortunately, we were unable to find much information about him beyond that.  His only web page is the county one (here) that does not provide much information. He also has a Facebook page but, apart from urging people to vote for him, gives no specifics.  “For continued Efficiency, Knowledge, Dedication, Integrity & 40 years of Law Enforcement Experience in our community Punch #148 to Re-Elect me Constable Luis “Louie” Aguilar for Pct. 4″.

Early voting ends TOMORROW!  Have you voted yet?  For all of the races we have featured this week, Today, Tomorrow and Next Tuesday are the ONLY time you will get an opportunity to decide who fills these positions.  GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!

You can find your voting station by clicking here.

Pictures curtsy the individual candidate sites. 

 

CONSTABLE, PRECINCT NO. 1

This is a 2 way race between OSCAR UGARTE (137) and M.E. “MARC” CHAVEZ (138). The seat was left vacant when Constable Robert Parker White was killed in the line of duty last November.

Oscar

Oscar is a current Sergeant and Deputy Constable in Precinct 1 and has 14 years experience in law enforcement. After graduating from High School, he obtained his Texas Corrections Officer License and became a Texas Certified Police Officer at 21 years of age. More recently, he received his Advanced Police Officer License and have qualified for certification as a Texas Police Officer Instructor. He has served as a Corrections Officer, Police Officer, and Court Bailiff. You can view his website here. Oscar Ugarte states he will focus on three main issues:  increasing public trust, safeguarding neighborhoods, and administrative streamlining. “The constituents of Precinct 1 deserve no less than the highest level of service and integrity.”

Chavez

Marc Chavez is currently a Sergeant in Precinct 3 and has over 10 years of experience with the El Paso County Constable’s Office and over 20 years of public service experience.  He currently hold his advanced TCOLE Peace Officers proficiency license and has more than 1,400 hours of continuing Peace officer training.  He has served as a City Police Officer for Santa Rosa, Deputy Constable with Precinct 3, and a campus police officer with El Paso Community College.  We were unable to find a webpage for him, but you can view his Facebook page here.  His Facebook page does not tell us what issues he feels need to be addressed.  Also, we found it a little bit odd that he was running for precinct 1 when he has been working in precinct 3 and the precinct 3 constable is up for re-election (and is running unopposed). “For a Fulltime Leader with integrity and a proven record”.

Got an opinion on who would be the best Constable? Get out there and VOTE!

You can find your voting station by clicking here.

Pictures curtsy the individual candidate sites. 

UMC Chief Legal Counsel Jumping Ship

Image courtesy umcelpaso.org

In his Friday letter last week, Jim Valenti announced that Eddie Sosa, UMC Chief Legal Counsel, would be leaving effective March 14th.  Mr. Sosa has worked for UMC for the last 16 years and has left to take a “position as the First Assistant to the El Paso County Attorney, Jo Anne Bernal.”

Jim Valenti’s last day is quickly approaching.  Although we hear constant rumors (most likely started by him) that he will be staying, this is a strong indication that his time with UMC is over.  His failed vivavalenti campaign proved that El Paso is, at best, apathetic towards him with fewer than 70 people signing his petition to keep him at UMC.  The recent article in the El Paso Times about how he mislead the Commissioner’s Court about bonuses shows that he has few public supports there. Now we see the first of his management team leaving.

We predict that Eddie Sosa is just the first, not the last, of Jim Valenti’s management team to jump to something new. An interesting side note, Eddie Sosa was on the committee formed to find a new CEO for UMC.  Does this mean that they have found one and just haven’t announced it yet?

DISTRICT ATTORNEY

This is a 3 way race with YVONNE ROSALES (108), JAIME ESPARZA (109) and LEONARD “LENNY” MORALES (110).

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A native El Pasoan, Yvonne Rosales is a proud graduate of Austin High School, the University of Texas at El Paso and St. Mary’s University School of Law. Upon graduating from law school, Yvonne returned to El Paso to begin a career prosecuting dangerous criminals. In 2005, she co-founded the Al-Hanna and Rosales Law Firm, a successful criminal and family law firm. You can view her webpage here. Yvonne Rosales strongly supports using restriction methods, such as Ignition Interlock systems (which requires offenders to blow air into a device in order to start the vehicle) and other monitoring devices and programs to stop offenders from drunk driving while awaiting trial.  She also states that she will work to reduce the huge case backlog.  “It is her compassion and experience that makes Yvonne the best candidate for District Attorney of the 34th Judicial District, which encompasses the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson.”

esperanza

Jaime Esparza is the incumbent and is currently serving his sixth term for El Paso, Culberson, and Hudspeth Counties, having been in office since 1993.  Mr. Esparza is a 1979 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and, in 1983, earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. He was licensed to practice law in 1983 and is Board Certified in Criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.You can view his webpage here.  Jaime has most recently been in the news because of the Daniel Villegas wrongful conviction case, a case he has vowed to retry. “Experience + Leadership = Justice.”

Lenny

Leonard Morales started his career as a both a line officer and JAG with a mixture of active duty and reserve time. After 25 years of service he retired from the U.S. Army in 2014.  Currently he works cases before the State, Federal and Military Courts Martial for all services. He has argued before the appellate courts and has represented people accused of murders, intoxicated manslaughter, sexual assaults, drug conspiracy and domestic violence. You can view his webpage here.  Leonard’s biggest focus is DWI reform with stricter policies for drunk drivers. “A new vision and new direction for our community.”

This is a hard one for us to call.  Six terms in office is a LONG time to be DA and may have lead to some complacency.  Yvonne Rosales has been a lawyer for a number of years and has some good ideas about making El Paso better. Leonard Morales appears to have the most varied resume and his experience with the military could provide some added benefits to El Paso and how it deals with what is happening with the military personnel from Fort Bliss.

Got an opinion on who would be the best DA?  Luckily you have a way of making it know – VOTE!

You can find your voting station by clicking here.

Pictures curtsy the individual candidate sites. 

 

 

COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR-COLLECTOR

This is a 3 way race between SIRIA ROCHA  (127), RUBEN P. GONZALEZ (126), GREGORY XAVIER GONZALEZ (125).

Siria

Siria Rocha began her professional career in the public sector working at the County Attorney’s office where she served in various roles, made presentations, was instrumental in the recovery of “Hot Check Dollars” for merchants and the establishment of the “Million Dollars” award for collections.  She also worked as Chief Deputy Tax Assessor Collector, managing over 72 employees, overseeing a multi-million dollar budget, and assisted in focusing the Tax Assessor Collector office as dedicated to customer service.  You can read her webpage here.  We’re unclear as to what her vision for the office is as her page “Siria Rocha’s Vision for Tax Assessor Collector’s Office” is completely blank. “Siria Rocha stands ready to serve her community as County Tax Assessor Collector.”

Ruben

Ruben Gonzalez is the incumbent.  After his military service, he went to work with Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, rising through the ranks to Regional Manager. In March 2015 he was appointed to the position by the Commissioner’s Court after the current tax assessor announced his retirement.  You can view his web page here.   Gonzalez wants to streamline the process for title and vehicle registration, modernize the office by using electronic reporting, and provide kiosks at County Tax offices that will allow people to quickly pay their fines. “Working for TxDMV for 38 years, Ruben knows and understands the importance of efficiency, effectiveness and time management within the office environment, which results in improved quality service to taxpayers.”

Gregory

Gregory Xavier  is currently pursuing his bachelor degree in psychology and sociology while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Gregory is fluent in English and Spanish and has been working at the County Tax Assessor Collector Office for over 4 years. You can view his webpage here.  Xavier believes that their website needs to be updated and that customer services needs to be a priority (although he gives no details on how he would do this). “As a young and charismatic professional, Gregory will bring new and innovative ideas to the County Tax Assessor Collector Office parallel to the community’s needs.”

First of all, Bravo to Xavier for entering the race – El Paso could definitely use more young people who are interested in serving their community.  That being said, he is running against 2 other candidates who have more experience and, let’s face it, time.  Rocha has more varied experience and has also worked as the Chief Deputy Tax Assessor Collector.  Gonzalez has spent his entire career in the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and his stance appears to be “the County Commissioner’s selected me last year, so I’m obviously qualified for the job”.  If we were picking, we would go with Siria Rocha.

Have you voted yet?  Get out there and VOTE!

You can find your voting station by clicking here.

Pictures curtsy the individual candidate sites. 

 

STATE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 77

This is a 2 way race between ADOLFO LOPEZ (62) and EVELINA “LINA” ORTEGA (61) who are both running as Democrats to take over for  Marissa Marquez who announced she would not be seeking re-election this year.

adolfo4

Adolfo Lopez is  a 36 year old attorney who was born and raised in El Paso.  You can view his web page here.  In addition to having Marissa’s endorsement, he has also been endorsed by the El Paso Medical Society, the El Paso Firefighters, the El Paso Police officers and Oscar Leeser, to name a few.  After graduating from law school in 2009, Lopez was hired by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office in January 2010. Adolfo worked in the misdemeanor division as an assistant district attorney until he was promoted in 2012 to the felony division, where he handled cases from possession of controlled substances to murder. In 2014 Adolfo returned to El Paso to open his law practice and become a leader in El Paso’s community.  “As the District 77 representative, Lopez will work across the aisle to provide more affordable pathways to higher education; to strengthen middle class families and small businesses; and to increase access to comprehensive and quality healthcare.”

Lina

Evelina “Lina” Ortega, like Adolfo Lopez, has never held office. She commenced her legal career as a Texas Assistant Attorney General in the Law Enforcement Division and then became an Assistant Federal Public Defender in El Paso.  After several years of public service, she joined an El Paso law firm and began 30 years of private practice.  You can view her webpage here.  She has been endorsed by Beto O’Rourke, Susie Byrd, and Senator Rodriguez, to name a few.  Interestingly enough, Veronica Escobar has not publicly endorsed Lina but is working behind the scenes to raise money for her, or at least stop others from donating to Adlofo’s campaign. “Today in Austin, though, there’s a new breed of Republicans who would rather give tax breaks to the rich than restore cuts to our schools. They spend millions on border security while cutting health care for disabled children. And they protect corporate loopholes rather than invest in an innovative economy that would create more higher-paying jobs.”

 If we were to pick a candidate in this race, we would go with Lopez.  He’s young and energetic with a sincerity you don’t often see in politicians.  Also, he seems more likely to be able to work with the Republicans in Austin.  Lina’s position seems to be that she needs to fight them and, as she would be in the minority, that would only end up hurting El Paso rather than helping us.

It’s Saturday – have you voted yet?  If you get just 5 people to vote and then they each get 5 people to vote, imagine the turn out El Paso would have!

You can find your voting station by clicking here.