EPISD Bond Passes

There were so many surprises on election night:  Donald Trump won as president, 50.33% of registered voters in El Paso cast ballots, and the EPISD Bond passed.

We predict trying times for El Paso in the coming year.  Donald Trump has firm stands on immigrants and walls, both of which will have a large impact on our City.  Additionally, the citizens of El Paso just voted themselves a HUGE increase in property taxes.

“We’ve got a long way to go rebuilding trust,” Cabrera said. “This is a big step in the right direction.”  We disagree.  The rebuilding of trust should have happened BEFORE we gave EPISD the largest bond ever in El Paso County.  However, unlike the County Commissioner’s raises, we were given an opportunity to decide through our votes and the majority voted ‘yes’.

While EPISD is gleefully meeting this morning to start their plan to spend the money, we hope that they will be accountable.  We hope that they will be truthful and efficient.  The one thing they now no longer need to be is frugal.

Below is how the different parts of town voted on the bond:

episd-bond-final2

To see full election results, click here.

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Early Voting Monday, October 24, 2016 through Friday, November 04, 2016 – Have you Voted Yet?

What could possibly go wrong on November 8th?  Well:

  • You could wake up late
  • Have a family emergency
  • Have a late day at the office
  • Your child or spouse could get sick
  • Your car could break down
  • You could get picked for Jury Duty
  • You forget that it is election day

Rather than hoping that everything goes perfectly on one day, why not make sure you get a chance to vote by voting early?  The nice thing about early voting is that you can go to ANY of the locations (as opposed to only going to an assigned location on November 8th).  Click here to find your nearest early voting location.  In fact, go do it now!  Why are you wasting time reading blogs when you could be out there making a difference?!

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.

 

EPISD Needs More Buses Because the Penny Swap Didn’t Buy Enough

Last November voters passed an initiative that gave EPISD the ability to do a “Penny Swap”. Basically, they moved three cents from debt services (money used to pay down existing debt like bonds) over to maintenance and operations (money used for day-to-day activities).  According to EPISD, “Penny Swap would give the District access to $14 million in matching state funds and local revenue that would be used to address funding priorities like instruction enrichment, teacher salaries, school buses and academic technology.”  Do these items sound familiar?  They should, many of them are ALSO included in the $669 million bond they want you to vote on this year.

According to KVIA, EPISD has a “fleet of new buses is already in use to take students to school everyday.”  We’re not told what a “fleet” is, but we are told that they currently have 315 buses in service and they want to use the bond to replace 81 of them at $100,000 per bus. These new buses will run on propane, which EPISD Transportation Director Oscar Anchondo said should save the district money.  Of course those savings are not documented anywhere, so we have no idea if we’re actually getting a good deal.  A study done by the US Department of Energy in 2014 indicated that propane “…fleets have saved between $400 and $3,000 per propane bus per year, with the range of savings dependent on the fuel prices and the maintenance cost savings realized.”  The EPISD bond information was quick to tell you how much they could save annually from school consolidations but have included NO information about savings from converting these buses to propane. If we believe the US Department of Energy, they would be saving between $32,000 and $243,000 annually on these new 81 buses.

So, we have voted in the penny swap that helped pay for buses (that, apparently, were NOT propane buses) and now we’re going to pay for more buses. But the EPISD has given us no information on how much money they are going to save with these new buses or what they plan to do with that money.  They aren’t going to use it for teacher raises, they’ve already committed to using the ‘excess’ $9 million a year for that.  They aren’t going to use it to off-set other programs (like laptops for students and teachers), they’re going to finance that through the bond. Are they going to use it for maintenance on the older buses?  We don’t know because we weren’t told.  All they did was throw out a HUGE number attached to their wish list and then try to stick their hands into your pocket.

Should we have new school buses?  Sure.  Propane looks to be a good and cost-effective choice.  But that isn’t how it was presented to the voters.  In fact, this entire bond includes little to no information on how EPISD is going to be fiscally responsible or even use this money to cover costs and maintenance in other areas.

 

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.

 

 

 

850 People Have Voted in District 2

Early voting for the special election to replace Larry Romero in District 2 is over and the numbers are in:  850 people have voted.  According to KVIA, this election is costing the tax payers at least $40,000 and as much as $80,000 (if there is a run-off).  County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise estimates that as low as 2000 people are going to turn-out to vote, so taxpayers (all tax payers, not just District 2 tax payers), could be paying as high as $20 per vote.

Election day is this Saturday, May 7th.  To find your voting location, click here.  If you need a refresher on where the candidates stand, you can read our blog post about it here. Get out there, District 2 and vote!

 

Paleta Power Getting People To Vote

We all know that voter turn out in El Paso is embarrassingly low. A new initiative, Paleta Power, is trying to change that.  According to Amanda Formica, Paleta Power Project Director, “We want to find out what issues are most important to people, help them understand how they can make a difference, and use the information we collect to make it easier for people to participate in the civic process.” (You can read the El Paso Herald-Post story here).  Paleta Power has residents vote for their favorite flavor with the majority flavor winning.  It will also ask people their opinions on how to improve their neighborhoods, answer questions about the election process and register voters.

This new initiative is being supported by Commissioner Stout, who read a resolution of support from the Commissioner’s Court on May 2nd, and Senator Jose Rodriguez who passed a similar resolution at the Texas State Senate.

You can attend the first El Paso Civic Participation Collaborative meeting on Thursday, May 12 at 1pm at Café Mayapan or get involved by going to their next volunteer training on Wednesday, May 18, 5-7pm at the Glasbox, 210 Poplar St. To find out where you can get your free popsicle and vote for your favorite flavor, visit www.votepaleta.org.  You can also see their gofundme project by clicking here.

What do you think?  Will giving you a Popsicle get you out to vote?

Is Jaime Esparza The Best Choice for District Attorney?

Media outlets have gone crazy in the last 24 hours covering the latest arrests in the EPISD scandal and Former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh’s role.  Not only does this reopen a chapter in El Paso history that many had thought was closed, it also puts elected officials under the microscope.  Namely, incumbent District Attorney Jaime Esparza.

As you’ll recall, Jaime Esparza is in a run-off election this month against Yvonne Rosales for the District Attorney position.  Jaime has been in office since 1993.  We knew about the Daniel Villegas wrongful conviction case and we have yet to see anything from Mr. Esparza about the Ross Fischer report (other than a request to the Texas Rangers to look at the report, a request that was made 2 days before the election).  What we didn’t know is what role he played in uncovering and investigating in the EPISD scandal.  Know why? Because he didn’t do anything.  Former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh in the KVIA report: “It was very difficult to make things happen. I went to Jaime Esparza, he didn’t do anything. I went to the TEA, they didn’t do anything. I finally went to Barack Obama and wrote him a letter,” Shapleigh said, “It took that letter and the Department of Justice getting involved, which got the FBI involved, which made everything happen,” (emphasis added).

Given all that we know, is Jaime Esparza the best choice for District Attorney?  You be the judge.  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!

Crowded District 2 Race

According to the El Paso Times, there are now a total of eight candidates running for the District 2 seat:

Dolores Garcia Baca – a housewife and writer who unsuccessfully ran against former city Rep. Larry Medina in 1999.  She also lost to former District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez in 2002. (We were unable to find a webpage or Facebook Page for her campaign).

Cemelli de Aztlan – a community organizer and a religious/women’s studies lecturer at the University of Texas at El Paso.  You can read more about here here. (We were unable to find a webpage or Facebook Page for her campaign).

Abraham Monteros – a student and research assistant at UTEP who will graduate from UTEP in May with a bachelor’s in philosophy and French, he also spent five years in the U.S. Navy and served in Guam and Japan.  You can read more about his campaign on his Facebook Page: Abraham Monteros for City Council District 2.

Gordon Ray Thatcher – served two years in the Army Reserve and seven years on active duty, having medically retired in July 2014 to battle cancer. He was stationed at Fort Bliss in 2008 and then in 2014 when he was assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit for wounded soldiers. (We were unable to find a webpage or Facebook Page for his campaign).

David Nevarez – a disabled veteran who served 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm.  He is currently unemployed due to his disability, but has worked as a plumber. He chairs the city’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.  You can read more about his campaign on his Facebook Page or on his webpage.

Jim Tolbert – a sales representative and environmentalist who has served on several city advisory boards and lost the run-off election against Romero in 2013. You can read more about his campaign on his Facebook Page or on his webpage.

Rene Abilez – a substitute teacher. (We were unable to find a webpage or Facebook Page for his campaign).

Angel del Toro – a retired financial analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in El Paso. (We were unable to find a webpage or Facebook Page for his campaign).

There you have it, District 2.  Who are you going to choose?

Early voting: April 25 to May 3

Election Day: May 7