Not Just A Monday Off

Today we honor all of those who have died while in military service.  Graves are decorated and families solemnly and proudly remember those they have lost.  In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember at 3:00 P.M.  So, amidst your shopping and swimming, please take a moment today at 3:00 P.M. to stop and remember those who died in “pursuit of freedom and peace.” 

Tick Tock – Jim Valenti’s Clock is Running Down

The UMC Board met yesterday in Executive Session to discuss their new CEO.  While UMC says they won’t release any details about who they have interviewed or to whom they might offer the job, they have said that they are three to four weeks out.  According to the El Paso Times, UMC Board Chairman Steve DeGroat said, “I think we should have somebody on board by July 1.”  Additionally, DeGroat stated that Jim Valenti’s last day is expected to be sometime in June:  “He’ll stay some days of the month of June — whether that’s a week, or two, or three or four. But I would say no longer than July 1.”

If UMC is expecting their new CEO to start in July and Jim Valenti is expected to leave in June, so much for the contract extension to “be used in case the former CEO needs to mentor the new leader and help in the transition process.” (You can read the El Paso Times Story here).  Given that the “hospital district will send Valenti a letter notifying him about his last day on the job. The letter will be sent 30 days in advance,” they must already know when his last day will be (and have already told him) and are just not releasing that information.

It would appear that Jim Valenti’s time at UMC is coming to a close.  We wonder what this “new era” for UMC is going to look like.

El Paso Run-Off Election Results

Early voting statistics were REALLY low with only 2.39% of registered voters voting.  Overall, 18,598 voters (4.55% of registered voters) voted in the run-off election. Here are the results from the races we were following:

Winners:

County Tax Assessor-Collector: Ruben Gonzalez (incumbent) beat Siria Rocha 53.66% to 46.34%.

District Attorney: Jaime Esparza (incumbent) barely beat Yvonne Rosales 51.3% to 48.7%.

Justice, 8th Court of Appeals: Gina M. Palafox beat Maria Ramirez 59.3% to 40.7%.

Congratulations to all the winners. You can see full election results by clicking here.

Time to Vote!

Today is the day to vote in the run-off elections.  Just as a refresher, you can read your article on the candidates for Tax Collector-Assessor, District Attorney and Justice on the state’s Eighth Court of Appeals here.

To find your voting location, click here.

 

 

 

County Commissioners to Issue More Debt for the County

Last week the County Commissioners met to discuss issuing $7 million in certificates to cover aging infrastructure.  Just to be clear, the certificates of obligation issues in 2012 were specifically to cover infrastructure and, according to the El Paso Times, “Escobar said the money left over from the 2012 certificates of obligation will help address some of the needs.” However, this left-over money isn’t enough.  So, the County Commissioners are looking to issue a certificate of obligation, ” A certificate of obligation is debt issued without voters’ approval.”  The County Commissioners are patting themselves on the back because issuing this debt won’t raise the tax rate because it is “equivalent to what the county refinanced and paid off earlier this year.”  Doesn’t that make you feel better?  They managed to pay down some of the BILLION dollars in debt burdening the  El Paso taxpayers and now want to take that money out again so that they could spend it.

The County Commissioners are going to spin this as a good thing – they are able to fix and improve things without raising your property taxes!  Yeah, you’re still paying and, as they issue more debt, you’ll be paying for a long time to come.

Police Asking For Help To Find Missing 97 Year Old

Celest Rice, a 97 year old resident of Montevista at Coronado went missing last night.  According to KVIA, she was last seen at 9:30 last night and she suffers from Alzheimer’s.  “Rice is described as a white female with grey hair, brown eyes, approximately 5-feet-4-inches tall with a thin build. She was last seen wearing a white night gown. If you spot Rice, you are asked to call 911 immediately.”

Early Voting In Run-Off Races Starts

Early voting started this week with election day on May 24th.  The run-offs are for District Attorney, El Paso County Tax Assessor-Collector and Justice on the Eighth Court of Appeals. Here are the details on the races:

District Attorney –  this is a race between incumbent Jaime Esparza and first-time candidate Yvonne Rosales.

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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.  Jaimehas been in the news because of the Daniel Villegas wrongful conviction case, a case he has vowed to retry. He was also in the news because of his refusal to do anything about the EPISD scandal. “Experience + Leadership = Justice.”

El Paso County Tax Assessor-Collector – this is a race between incumbent  Ruben Gonzalez (who was not elected to the position, but rather appointed by the County Commissioners last year) and Siria Rocha.

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.  Siria wants to cut waste in order to stop aggressive property tax hikes. “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. Recently, there Siria Rocha has accused Ruben Gonzalez  of unethical leadership by allowing his employees to campaign for him while still on the clock. “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.”

Justice on the state’s Eighth Court of Appeals – this is a race between Gina Palafox and Maria Ramirez. Neither one of them is the incumbent.

Gina Palafox

Gina Palafox has taught business law and ethics to MBA and undergraduate students at UTEP.  She has served as a Commissioner and attorney on the El Paso County Ethics Commission, and currently works in the compliance office at University Medical Center “to improve public healthcare through initiatives that deliver the right care needed, at the right time, and at the right place.”  She received the endorsement of the El Paso Times (not sure if that will help or hurt her). You can view her webpage here and her Facebook page here.  “Independence, fairness and competence in interpreting and applying laws are founding principles of our judicial system.”

Maria

Judge Maria Bertha Ramirez has a private law practice in El Paso along with serving as an Associate Municipal Judge. She received her law degree from Indiana University after competing undergraduate work at the University of Texas at El Paso, earning a B.S. degree.She lists her practice areas as Criminal, Family, Wills, Trusts, Probate and Appellate. She made news in March over a run-in she had at the courthouse.  You can view her Facebook page here. “Qualified & Ready for the Job of Justice.”

Early voting period will be from Monday, May 16, 2016 through Friday, May 20, 2016.  Election Day will be Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can find your polling station by clicking here.

 

Claudia Ordaz Claims “Personal attacks and dysfunction at City Hall” When Police Report About Her Is Leaked

There is a storm brewing that is going to jump from blog to blog and news outlet to news outlet.  In case you missed it, Martin Paredes at elpasonews.org has been talking about an incident that happened with Claudia Ordaz and Vince Perez at a fast food restaurant last year.  He originally uncovered the incident through a Freedom of Information request and had been trying to get the full report with no success.  Yesterday, someone leaked the full report to him and he, in turn, shared it with the El Paso Times.

This is the basic story:  Ordaz, Perez and another individual (it is unclear what this individual’s name is since Perez claims that the police report is wrong) were at a Whataburger on the east side where they “were becoming aggressive and causing disturbance in the parking lot” of the restaurant.”  Additionally, “Perez became verbally uncooperative by repeatedly questioning the officers regarding what penal code statue gave them authority to do that.”  Ordaz identified herself as a city representative and a supervisor was called. In the end, Perez and Ordaz were given the opportunity to file a citizens complaint and they declined, no police report was created, just a report for informational purposes.

In the El Paso Times story, both Perez and Ordaz were given an opportunity to respond.  Ordaz has classified this as a political attack against her:  “Each of these attempts to undermine my integrity have failed and will not intimidate me from standing up for the people who elected me to represent them. This latest attempt is an underhanded tactic that demonstrates the type of personal attacks and dysfunction at City Hall that only hinders the city’s ability to address pressing issues facing our community.”  Perez has just stated that Ordaz never identified herself as a city representative and that the police report is incorrect – it even got the name of their friend wrong.  Yeah, that could show how inept the police are OR, it could show that your friend lied about his name to the police.

As for Ordaz and these ‘political attacks’, you were at the Whataburger and the police felt they had to intervene.  You weren’t upset enough to follow through with a citizen’s complaint and you wanted the whole thing to go away.  Now it is back and you are making this about your constituents and how their issues aren’t being addressed when this is really about how YOU conduct yourself as a private citizen.

We were going to say something about Freedom of Information requests not being answered and how Paredes only got this information because it was leaked to him – but we feel confident that he is going to cover that in great detail himself.

John Cook Settles With Person Who Tried to Recall Him

In July of 2011, a recall effort against John Cook (then Mayor of El Paso), Steve Ortega (then District 7 Representative) and Susie Byrd (then District 2 Representative) was launched.  The recall was initiated by El Paso pastor Tom Brown of the Word of Life Church through an organization called El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values.  According to ballotpedia, “Brown initiated the recall after the El Paso city council voted to return health benefits to the unmarried partners of homosexual city employees. A May 2011 voter-approved ordinance had stripped these groups of their benefits, while also inadvertently taking benefits away from a number of unintended groups such as retirees. When the mayor and council overturned this ordinance, Pastor Brown called for their recall.”

Initially, the recall was halted because of a restraining order filed by Mayor Cook barring recall supporters from submitting petitions on grounds that the effort potentially violated Texas election law. Cook claimed that recall organizers used Pastor Brown’s church as a platform to circulate petitions in violation of a state statute prohibiting corporations (including nonprofits and churches) from contributing to recall elections.  Then the recall was allowed to move forward, then halted again.  Jaime Esparza even jumped into the fray in 2012 when he considered bringing charges against El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values on allegations that the group violated a state law that prohibits accepting more than $100 in cash contributions (ultimately he didn’t do anything). Both sides filed lawsuits, with John Cook having to cover his own legal fees because “the recall election was a political process and as such, the city is not supposed to take sides.”

Well, it appears that the whole affair has finally come to an end.  KVIA reported today that Cook has settled with Brown for an unspecified amount.  Brown’s attorney, Jerad Wayne Najvar, told ABC-7 in March, “It’s outrageous to have a situation where you have a powerful political official, who’s going after a group of people who stepped up and said we want to recall this political official.”

Whether or not you agree with Brown and his group, as a citizen of El Paso, aren’t you worried about what happened to them?  According to Brown in his piece in the El Paso Times:  “The city as a whole is responsible for stripping us of our constitutional rights….Do you think we feel we have a right to ever circulate a recall petition? Not me, not after what I went through.”

Congratulations to Jim Tolbert, District 2 New Rep

Well, everyone was wrong, District 2 did not end up in a run-off.  Instead, Jim Tolbert took the District 2 seat by 59.93%.  A total of 1,889 people (or approximately 3% of the registered voters in that district) voted in the special election. This win means that Tolbert will finish out Larry Romero’s term and will be in office until May 2017. According to KVIA, the certified results should be available on Monday, May 16th  and Tolbert could be sworn in to take office within two weeks following those results.

Congratulations, City Representative Elect Tolbert!  Congratulations District 2 on your new representative!  Although, we have to say, 3% is a pretty poor showing.