Why You SHOULDN’T Vote For The EPISD Bond

We don’t deny that many of the EPISD schools are old or that they need repairs.  We understand that the number of students is declining and that EPISD could benefit from consolidating schools.  Could EPISD use some new school buses?  Probably.  Here are the items we do have issues with:

  1.  EPISD says that they need money for consolidations and that, regardless of whether or not the bond passes, they are going to consolidate schools.  Have they looked at other ways of financing some of the updates that are needed (selling property, cost cutting, etc)?  As far as we can tell, the answer is “NO”.  All they have done is told us that the consolidations need to occur and that they need to spend $237 million to save $9 million.
  2. It’s been 9 years since the last bond passed for EPISD and they still haven’t completed the projects from that bond.  In fact, they still have money left over from that bond that they have “reallocated to other projects.”  That was a MUCH small bond, and they did a horrible job of managing it.  We’re going to give them three times as much money and cross our fingers that they get it done this time.
  3. There are things included in the bond that are not part of ‘educating our children’ or ‘repairing old schools’.  The neighborhood wifi, for example is asking tax payers to provide internet for ~50 neighborhoods.  That is just one of the extras that they have disclosed, what else is included in the bond that we don’t know about?
  4. Bond Accountability is a very large concern.  The current board would have you believe that they can be trusted because.. well, they can.  But, rather than show us that they can be trusted by taking a smaller bond and effectively using it, they are asking tax payers to jump off a cliff and just trust that nothing bad will happen.
  5. EPISD has communicated very few plans about the closed schools.  Other than saying no to charter schools, they have given us no information.  Most likely, because they don’t have any plans.  So, as they consolidate and close schools, buildings are going to sit empty and possibly devalue property values in those areas.  We feel this lack of planning is indicative of how they are going to run the overall projects – lots of ideas and little planning and execution.

We agree that something needs to be done.  However, we don’t agree that throwing a HUGE amount of money at the issues are going to fix them.

Early voting has started and goes through November 4th.  You can find your nearest location by clicking here.  428,619 of us are registered to vote, get out there and let your voice be heard!

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This is How the EPISD Bond Gets Passed and It’s Easier Than You Think

$669 Million is a HUGE number.  For an average homeowner, it is going to raise property taxes by over $200.  Considering that El Paso already has high property taxes you would expect that it would be an uphill battle for EPISD to get the bond passed.  However, EPISD has several things going in their favor:

  1. Last week the EPISD Board of trustees guaranteed that the $9 million “excess” they get from the school consolidations would go back to the teachers and EPISD employees.  This means that teachers are going to follow the County Commissioner’s example and vote themselves a raise.
  2. Once you hit age 65 your property taxes are frozen as far as payments to EPISD as long as you apply for the exemption.  That means that anyone over the age of 65 who has applied for the exemption WON’T HAVE TO PAY the additional money for the bond.  This group of people consistently votes and, since they don’t think it impacts them, of course they are going to vote to spend more money on EPISD to “help the children”. In reality, those who have not already applied for the 65+ exemption are going to think that they will not see an increase in their property taxes and may vote the bond through only to be hit with a HUGE tax increase.
  3. Last year State Senator Jose Rodriguez started an initiative to get eligible high school kids registered to vote.  This year that initiative is in full swing at EPISD.  “As of Sept. 19, volunteers and members with the student registration program spoke to nearly 2,000 high school students and registered more than 200 eligible students.”  Between Oct. 24 and Nov. 4, EPISD will be have several mobiles sites to make it more convenient for voters. This is another group that has nothing to lose by voting the bond in; they don’t pay property taxes.  Even though this group is not a large voting block, every vote counts.
  4. Voter turnout in El Paso is AWFUL.  In the primaries this year, 21% of registered voters actually voted and that was quite a bit higher than the previous primaries in 2012 (8.9%) and 2008 (16.55%).  Few people vote, so they actually need a very small number of people to vote “Yes” and the bond wins.

So, here is your chance.  If you heard that someone was going to charge you $200 (or more) a year and all you had to do was show up and tell them “No”, wouldn’t you do it?  Because that is what you need to do here.  If you don’t like this bond, if you don’t trust the people who are going to be managing over 1/2 billion dollars, then you need to respectfully decline.  And, don’t wait until the last minute.  Do it during early voting, get it out of your way, check it off your list.

There is still time to register to vote, you have until October 11, 2016.  Not sure if you’re registered, click here to find out.  If you are not registered, you can register to vote by clicking here (English) or here (Spanish), downloading and filling out the application, and mailing it in (they don NOT accept emailed applications).

Early voting period will be from Monday, October 24, 2016 through Friday, November 04, 2016.

Election Day will be Tuesday, November 8, 2016 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Find an early voting station by clicking here or a mobile voting station by clicking here.

 

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.

 

Updated District 2 Candidate Information

Monday is the beginning of early voting for the District 2 seat vacated by Larry Romero. There are 8 candidates running, we provided information on them in this post.  However, not all of them had Facebook or web pages at the time, we’ve included those below. Additionally, the El Paso Herald-Post did a nice write up on the Social Medial Alliance asking questions of the candidates, you can read the story here.

Cemelli de Aztlan:  Facebook Page, Web Page

Abraham Monteros: Facebook Page

Gordon Ray Thatcher: We have been unable to find either a Facebook Page or  Web Page

David Navarez:  Facebook PageWeb Page

Jim Tolbert: Facebook Page, Web Page

Rene Abilez: Facebook Page

Angel Del Toro: Facebook Page

Early voting starts on MONDAY, APRIL 25TH and goes through May 3rd.  To find a list of early voting centers, click here.  Good Luck, District 2!