On October 18, 2016, 7 City Council members voted to approve the project site for the new arena. They also approved the POSSIBLE use of eminent domain to acquire the land. Reps. James Tolbert, Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson, Michiel Noe, Claudia Ordaz, Lily Limon and Cortney Niland voted in favor of the site.
In the last 24 hours, a recall has been started against Rep Cortney Niland and now Rep. Lily Limon is backing away from her vote. She told the news that she is worried that people are being forced out. Um, YOU VOTED TO USE eminent domain – what, exactly, did you think that meant? Her concern prompted her to post a comment on Facebook:
As far as announcements go, this is a pretty lame way to go about it. It is a comment on a Facebook post (not even her own Facebook page). Will she now join forces with Cortney Niland push forward an alternative? Who knows. It will be interesting to see if any other City Reps start changing their votes as the threat of a recall is hanging out there.
Michael Patino, a Union Plaza resident has filed paperwork to recall City Representative Cortney Niland. According to El Paso Proud, the paperwork cites 7 reasons:
- Failure to listen to the concerns of her constituents
- Lack of respect for residents
- Failure to keep the highest ethical standards
- Failure to respond t constituents of District 8
- Failure to protect her constituents in Union Plaza from displacement and demolition
- Failure to protect her constituents in Union Plaza from the threat of eminent domain
Now Cortney Niland is walking back from the arena. According to KVIA: “So when they are saying to me they are upset and maybe there are some unintended consequences that maybe staff did not factor into the equation, we maybe need to take stop and listen,” Niland said. She is also saying that there are some alternatives: “I think we might have something pretty exciting to talk about on Tuesday. Where we can still do it in that fiscally responsible way, save the taxpayers money, not displace anyone and make everybody happy,” Niland said. If these alternatives were available, why weren’t they considered in the first place?
News reports are saying that it is possible that other City Reps could also face recall. It is incredibly difficult to recall someone in El Paso, largely because nobody votes! Here are the steps required for a recall:
- File notice of the recall effort with the City Clerk
- You have 60 days from filing to collect signatures of 20% (more than 700) of registered voters who voted in the last election for that position (in this case, the last election for District 8 representative). If you are a registered voter, upset at Cortney Niland BUT didn’t vote in that election, it doesn’t matter how many petitions you sign, your signature doesn’t count.
- Signing the petition has some pretty strict rules: signatures must be in ink, signer must enter their address, voter id number and date petition was signed.
- One signer on each paper must make an oath that each signature is that of the person who it purports to be.
- Within 10 days of filing the signed petition, the City Clerk and determine if it was signed by enough qualified voters. If the petition is insufficient, then an extra ten days to get additional signatures.
- IF the petition is adequate, then it goes to the City Council. If the person doesn’t resign, then a recall election is scheduled.
For the recall? Against the recall? Let us know!
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.”