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PSB Insanity?

El Paso Politically - Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:58pm
What is that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? If that is the case, then, regarding awarding contracts, the PSB is insane. Just look at tomorrow's agenda. Items 16 and 12 should be switched around.

In Item 16 the PSB is being asked to "ratify an emergency contract with Jordan Foster Construction, LLC in an amount not to exceed $3,000,000, for the construction of the Gateway West Stormwater Pond." The emergency arose because CMD Endeavors couldn't finish the project. They had to bail out because - forgive me - they couldn't bail the water out from the stormwater pond. The project proved to be too "challenging" for this low bidder.

Now go to Item 12. It reads: "Consider and award Bid Number 65-15, Partello Street 30-Inch Water Transmission Main Phase II from Hayes Avenue to Pollard Street, to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder, CMD Endeavors, Incorporated in the amount of $792,820, and authorize the use of commercial paper."

Wait a moment! PSB is going to award a job to the company that couldn't complete another job just because they are the "lowest, responsible bidder"?

I do not know if this is true or not, but the word on the street is that CMD has a number of bonding claims against them. Whether these are claims against purchase or payment bonds or both I don't know. Either way, it means that they are probably in financial trouble. PSB could call its own bonding agent to get more information.  One would think that they check on bond claims as necessary background on any bidder.

So, PSB goes to the lowest bidder, gets burned and still goes to the lowest bidder, CMD Endeavors. Insane. I'd feel better about rate hikes if the PSB would better manage their bids.

Categories: Local Blogs

Gonzalez to Get Paid Administrative Leave?

El Paso Politically - Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:06pm
At Carl Robinson's weekly Friday morning breakfast meeting yesterday, Times editor, Bob Moore said this: "The City Manager [Tommy Gonzalez] may end up going on paid administrative leave."

Hmmm. The city would probably come to a complete standstill because staff has been bullied into not even taking a bathroom break without the dictate of Tomás.

Categories: Local Blogs

The Irony ISN'T Lost on Everybody

El Paso Politically - Wed, 12/09/2015 - 1:51pm
David K makes a very good point on his Refuse the Juice post today. Good reading.

Categories: Local Blogs

Svarzbein's "Is It Fair" Speech

El Paso Politically - Wed, 12/09/2015 - 9:56am
I have written about the El Paso Electric Company rate case extensively on elpasonaturally. The highlight of the public hearing last week was an extemporaneous speech by Rep. Peter Svarzbein. I am calling it the "Is It Fair" speech. It should go down in the annals of El Paso Council history as one of the greatest oratorical moments. You can hear Mr. Svarzbein at the beginning of the following video. Be sure to hear the Mayor's response.


The rest of the video contains public comments against EPEC's rate hike proposals. If you have time, they are worth hearing. In my post about that hearing, I wrote: "When do solar users, Western Refinery, El Paso Association of Builders, environmentalists, a Roman Catholic priest, the City of El Paso and home owners come together? When El Paso Electric proposes ridiculous rate hikes and a new classification for solar users. That's when."

Yesterday, City Council voted unanimously to reject those proposals. EPEC and the City have until next Tuesday to work out a settlement. I predict that they won't and that EPEC will take the matter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a litigated settlement. That has been their intent all along. 

Categories: Local Blogs

Petition Calls for Romero's Resignation

El Paso Politically - Tue, 12/08/2015 - 4:35pm
In an interview with ABC-7 Xtra Maria Garcia, Larry Romero insisted that people in District 2 are happy and the only complaints are coming from westsiders. Really, Larry?

A neighborhood leader of District 2's Grandview Park/Dyer Street area began telling people one month after Romero's election that he had made a mistake supporting him. Less than a year later he stopped by my house and told me the same thing.

Precinct chairmen/women in District 2 have been voicing the same complaint now for over two years. 

People have been coming up to me at grocery stores and other places saying the same thing.

Adam Gurrola supported Larry in the run-off and recently filed a recall petition which he quickly withdrew after pressure was put on him.

As is now well known, I myself filed an ethics complaint which Ms. Garcia asked Larry about when she questioned him regarding the pavement of unapproved streets. He responded by saying that what I won't tell people is that my side street was paved. So? I don't remember asking for it, approving it, or having any say in it.

A petition is now beginning to circulate in District 2 calling for his resignation. It reads in both English and Spanish: 

"Resign Larry Romero/Exigimos a Larry Romero que renuncia su puesto - We demand the immediate resignation of Larry Romero as City of El Paso District 2 Representative. He has become a disgrace to our city and an embarrassment to our district. Concejal Municipal del Districto #2 - renuncia su puesto inmediatamente. Se ha convertido en una desgracia para nuestra Ciudad y una vergüenza para nuestro Distrito."

One last thing before moving on. It was curious in the same interview that Romero insisted that there was no conflict of interest regarding his having worked for Noe Hinojosa 10 or 15 years ago and his prodding the City to fire First Southwest and hire Estrada Hinojosa as the city's financial advisor. Later in the interview he said that, had there been a vote about the city financial advisor, he would have recused himself. Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

Finally, prior to Ms. Garcia's interview with Romero, a short interview with part-time City Manager, Tommy Gonzalez, recorded the night before was shown. Gonzalez said that he found the ethics complaint against him offensive since he was raised by good parents and that he was an officer in the military. So everyone raised by good parents has never done anything unethical and/or immoral and is above reproach? Also there has never been a U.S. military officer who has done anything wrong and is above reproach? Indignation as a defense always raises a red flag with me. Want a big red flag? When Gonzalez was being interviewed for City Manager, the committee making the recommendations could not contact his former employers because he had non-disclosure agreements with all of them. They paid him off, told him that they wouldn't ever talk and sent him on his way. And, of course, he walked away above reproach, and into the arms of the City of El Paso.

Categories: Local Blogs

Ethics Complaint Filed against Gonzalez and Romero

El Paso Politically - Thu, 12/03/2015 - 3:38pm
Just after eleven this morning I filed an ethics complaint against both City Manager, Tommy Gonzalez, and City Representative (District 2), Larry Romero.

Below is a copy of the complaint with attachment. (The copy lacks my signature and the notary's stamp since I had the form notarized upon filing in the Municipal Clerk's office.)
Ethics Complaint against Gonzalez and Romero

Numerous people have called for a recall petition. A recall is just not practical now. After notifying the Municipal Clerk, the petitioner has 60 days to collect signatures. (About 2,000 for a Romero recall.) Then, the petition is returned to the Clerk who must certify the validity of each signature. This takes time. Then an election date must be set and that can take weeks. We are looking at a recall election in late spring and, by charter, a City Council member may not be recalled in their last year of office.

A petition calling for Romero's resignation makes more sense.

Since I ran against Romero and was narrowly defeated in the run-off, some may see my filing as a case of sour grapes. I cannot control what someone may think. I can, however, make some effort to see that our City government is more honest, transparent and ethical. Filing today gave me no pleasure. It is sad and serious business.

El Paso Times online story HERE.

Categories: Local Blogs

Reversing the Call on the Field

El Paso Politically - Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:17am
You know that, in football, some calls on the field can be challenged and a referee will review the instant replays to see if the call stands or is reversed. Here was my call on the field this past week in the $22 Million Bond Fiasco Bowl:

"Fingers have also pointed at Tommy Gonzalez and City CFO, Mark Sutter. If anything they should be thanked for stopping the firing of First Southwest and being upfront about almost making such a mistake. No Tommygate or Suttergate here as well."

After reviewing the play on the field, I am reversing that call. Gonzalez and Sutter didn't save the day by deciding that it would be a mistake to fire First Southwest. Oh no. It was City Attorney, Sylvia Firth, who intercepted Larry Romero's pass to key receiver Tommy Gonzalez.

Had Firth not raised some issues, Gonzalez and Sutter would have succeeded in firing First Southwest and selecting Romero's buds at Estrada Hinojosa. Ties between Noe Hinojosa and Gonzalez and Romero were reported by the El Paso Times:

"The El Paso Times last week discovered an audio recording in which Noe Hinojosa, the president and chief executive officer of Estrada Hinojosa, told the Canutillo school board that he and Romero were former business associates. Hinojosa revealed his relationship with Romero — and also boasted of his ties to Gonzalez — during an ultimately successful bid presentation to the Canutillo school board in October 2014."

Once the light of day fell upon the Romero-Gonzalez cabal, Gonzalez and Sutter took cover and said that they had almost made a terrible mistake and decided to keep First Southwest as the city's financial advisers after all. 

So, we have two "-gates". First, Joycegate because former City Manager Joyce Wilson held up the bond sales counter to the repeated advice of First Southwest to sell. That hold-up cost us $22 Million.

But we also have Romero-Gonzalezgate. In an attempt to hire cronies Estrada Hinojosa, First Southwest was almost fired. 
Categories: Local Blogs

Joycegate

El Paso Politically - Wed, 11/25/2015 - 4:50pm
I'm sure that you have been following the story about the delayed issuing of bonds for the ballpark that cost us $22 Million. There are at least two scandals involved.

No. Steve Ortega wasn't behind it. He's not that kind of guy. Nor is former Mayor John Cook or former City Rep Ann Lilly. Joyce Wilson claims that she spoke to both and Ann made her do it. (First Wilson throws Jane Shang under the bus and now Lilly.) Ann admits that she had no expertise in the field and, besides, she just isn't that kind of person either. Truth be told, Joyce has already told others that she delayed the issuance of the bonds. Not Steve, not Ann, not John - Joyce Wilson. This is Joycegate clear and simple.

Fingers have also pointed at Tommy Gonzalez and City CFO, Mark Sutter. If anything they should be thanked for stopping the firing of First Southwest and being upfront about almost making such a mistake. No Tommygate or Suttergate here as well.

Yet, when Mark Sutter was explaining all of this to City Council, Niland threw one of her tantrums blaming Sutter and First Southwest. El Diario reported (roughly translated):

According to Niland, this bond issue was done with bad financial advice; "when you have financial advisors and make recommendations to issue a bond, the parameters are laid out.  They knew the market had changed but did not tell us. This is bad, very bad."

Niland argued that the advisors hide information. ". . . they assured the community that something would be financially possible…because they did not respond to us, I am going to say something.  What was missing was an advisor who said “'just a moment, the variables are bad, you need to redefine these variables right now.'”

Mark Sutter, in his role as head of the Financial Office of the City, contradicted Nilland:  “the contract says that the advisors report their arrangement to the city, the next time it can be arranged. . ." He tried to report to the full council.

"However", Niland exploded, "if you all think for a second that I am going to keep quiet without telling the truth about from the outset for an error of $22 million that is not mine, you are wrong."

Sutter had done the right thing. The record shows that First Southwest begged Joyce to sell and Joyce held up the sale. So why was Cortney ranting other than the fact that she has a habit of grandstanding and impulsive emotional outbursts?

Some say that she was trying to protect Ortega. Yet, she never really was a supporter (or, at least, a tepid one) of Ortega's. In fact, two of Ortega's top supporters called her out about her lack of support. So, why the rant? Word is that Joyce Wilson has one friend left in town - Cortney Niland. This, of course, tells us something about Cortney's bent for the Machiavellian. It also means that Niland was protecting her bud, Joyce Wilson.

Of course there is one more scandal besides Joycegate and that is Romero's unethical use of his office to attempt to get First Southwest fired and replaced by his buds over at Estrada Hinojosa. That scandal too is unfolding and, as I have written, it along with a whole list of other things cries for Romero's resignation.

Bottom line with the late bond issuance: blame Joyce and nobody else. It's Joycegate. My advice to her is to quit Workforce Solutions and pack her bags. I hear there is a good City Manager position in Resume Speed, Texas.

Categories: Local Blogs

An Open Letter to City Rep. Larry Romero

El Paso Politically - Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:33pm
Larry,

When you and I both were candidates for District 2 City Council Representative, you boasted that, in a crowded field of candidates, you were "head over heels" better than any of the rest of us. We all now know that is true. You are head over heels the best when it comes to cronyism and corruption. Let's just cite the record:

As a financial services professional, you first spoke out as a Council member in favor of payday predators.

You paved streets (and an alley) not on the approved list and one street was your own and the alley benefited restraunteurs who supported you - one of those establishments being your usual haunt. Two blocks from there is an alley that services many more businesses which had never been paved. You paid no attention to that. You ignored and continue to ignore many places in your district with broken sidewalks, real dangers to our senior citizens.

You unilaterally removed a traffic circle. Result: a serious accident.

You favored your Cathedral High cronies with illegal speed humps when any number of those Cathedral alums could have paid for flashing warning signals. Soon, someone will have to pay for those signals since those humps will have to go when the trolley line gets installed going up Stanton.

You tried to appoint to the City Plan Commission Carlos Aguilar, a crony of and an unindicted person in the whole Anthony Cobos bribery scandal.

Your brother was hired by City Manager Tommy Gonzalez at the same time that you were forcefully pushing for a ridiculous $60,000 raise for our part-time City Manager.

You had the job and the community service of a young man threatened so that he would withdraw his recall of you. You know, I know, and many more people know that this is true.

Now this - you tried to replace First Southwest, a bond counsel that had given the city sound advice, with your buddy's firm of Estrada Hinojosa.

You must know that support for you has seriously eroded. Word on the street is that even your business supporters can no longer support you especially since the Carlos Aguilar fiasco.

I cannot begin to tell you how many people have come to me almost immediately after your election and said that they made a mistake voting for you.

We have so many fine city workers who serve El Pasoans with honesty and dignity. El Pasoans are hardworking and friendly. Larry, El Paso has had enough of your kind of politician who isn't there 24/7 for the people but who is there for himself and his cronies and spends most of his time at his private business. You were elected to be 24/7 for us. This is our District and our City and not yours. El Paso has had enough of back room good-ol-boyism. 

You have been disdainful of and unresponsive to those who do not agree with you or who did not support you. Everyone deserves to be heard. The poorest person in El Paso must be treated with the same respect, dignity and degree as the richest. The poorest person must have the same voice in city government as the richest. No one should have more political influence than another. 

Our El Paso business people need support as do our over-burdened property tax payers. People need good jobs, food, a clean environment and a beautiful mountain unmarred by companies such as Cemex whose public relations is handled by your buddy, Carlos Aguilar.

Although I seriously doubt that you have the moral compass to do it, the right thing for you to do now is to resign. 

Resign because you have let down your constituents in District 2.

Resign because you have fed a cancerous corruption in city hall.

Resign becuase the people of El Paso should not have to bear the costs of a recall election and then a follow-up election.

Do the right thing, Larry. Do the right thing. Resign effective immediately.

Your constituent in District 2,

Jim Tolbert

P.S. The monied people who put you in office and pull your strings have probably already told you that you can't run again and they are already looking for someone to replace you. To them I say this: your time is over as well. El Paso is and shall be for all El Pasoans.  

Categories: Local Blogs

Embarrassed or Frustrated?

El Paso Politically - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 6:10pm
Back in early May, according to an ABC-7 (KVIA) story by Andrew Polk, Rep. Cortney Niland said this about the then 6-month late San Jacinto Park project: 

"'Unfortunately, at this particular time, it's not quite ready,' said Cortney Niland, city representative for District 8, which includes downtown. "'And instead of rushing the process, and delivering a product that is not up to the standards of which we negotiated with the contractor, we are making sure that the investment that this community is making in this park is exactly what they're expecting.'"

On October 6th when it was "discovered" that new welds had to be made on the canopy, Niland said that Council should have known about this problem weeks earlier in spite of the fact that she was reported by the El Paso Times to have said that " [o]n a weekly basis I ask for updates . . . "

This morning the Times reported that the completion of the park project will cost El Pasoans even more money and time in order to have the SWA Group monitor the project. They also reported that City Rep. Cortney Niland "has been openly frustrated with the project delays" but called the delay a "formality."

Frustration is not what we heard back in May or even earlier when the first signs of problems appeared. Certainly calling an extension a "formality" does not show frustration. San Jacinto Park in downtown El Paso is part of Niland's district. Throughout the entire fiasco, she seems never to have done her homework but she can act indignant, even frustrated.

Question: Is she frustrated or just embarrassed?

Categories: Local Blogs

EPWU's Rate Hikes Are Reasonable and Needed

El Paso Politically - Tue, 11/17/2015 - 5:48pm
I'm sure that EPWU's rate hikes will generate some discussion and have some people quite unhappy. Please read yesterday's elpasonaturally post.

Also read David K's 11/10 post. I commented further about it HERE.

Bottom line: EPWU's rate hikes are reasonable and needed.


Categories: Local Blogs

Tx Capitol Report blog moving

The Tx Capitol Report blog has moved. Please visit this blog at blogs.elpasotimes.com/capitol.
Categories: Local Blogs

Media Buzz blog moving

Media Buzz - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:51am
The Media Buzz blog has moved. Please visit this blog at blogs.elpasotimes.com/mediabuzz.
Categories: Local Blogs

Chia update: Another heart-warming story from El Paso-area animal rescue

Media Buzz - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 4:46pm

By Robert Moore / El Paso Times

For those of you who were touched by the Sunday El Paso Times story about Chia the Chihuahua, here’s an update courtesy of ESPN’s Keith Olbermann.

Brandy Gardes, who runs the From the Heart rescue that cared for Chia, learned of a veteran in need of some help, a man who was dealing with emotional and mental health issues. Brandy was asked if she could help find a canine companion for the man, and she said she’d keep an eye out for him. We’ll let Olbermann take it from here:

“Sunday the article comes out, and the caretaker for a man who died recently of Alzheimer's contacted Brandy. The man who passed had a beautiful 6-year old German shepherd, trained as an emotional support dog, who cared for the old man and was now heartbroken - literally not eating - because there was nobody to help.

“She put man and dog together yesterday morning. By nightfall they were watching TV together and both were reported ravenous.”

There a lot of great groups doing animal rescue and welfare work in El Paso. From the Heart focuses on the harder cases, dogs and cats who are seriously injured, missing limbs, etc. If you’d like to help in their work or perhaps adopt a pet, get more information at their website, www.fthar.org, or call (855) 236-7823.

 

Categories: Local Blogs

Mexico “Walks the Talk” regarding Climate Change

The Catalist - Thu, 09/27/2012 - 7:10pm

In an unprecedented move, on May of this year the Mexican Congress approved a Climate Change Law. The law sets specific targets and country commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. With it, Mexico will gradually, but surely, reduce its carbon print and with it, its contribution to global warming.

The only similar legislation to have been enacted so far elsewhere in the world was introduced by the UK government. It is truly a worldly example of unilateral commitment, and shows the commitment that these countries, and their people, have with taking measures to avoiding climate change. As a developing country, Mexico has clearly taken the lead on this matter. The main difference with so many other multilateral agreements is that this legal action forces Mexico itself to comply it.

The Mexican Government is now legally required to follow a portfolio of actions to prevent climate change. Under this law, Mexico is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 and by 50% by 2050. As well as setting a target on greenhouse gas emissions, it stipulates that 35% of Mexico’s energy will have to come from renewable sources by 2024, and that government agencies will be obliged to use renewable.

In terms of structure, the Climate Change Law establishes the need to create a commission that will supervise its compliance, as well as providing what’s necessary for the establishment of a trading scheme for greenhouse gas emissions permits.

It has been no secret that Mexico has played an important Leadership role at multilateral forums, like COP16, in order to foster reaching legally binding agreement. But this Law is a step further. The Mexican Government is taking individual responsibility and walking the talk, without waiting to take action until an agreement is reached. Besides the actions it is taking, it is being a promoter of individual responsibility showing that it is the place where true difference is made.

This legislation consolidates many of the significant efforts that have been put in place lately, without sacrificing economic growth. These efforts include the reduction in fossil fuel emissions, the implementation of low emissions transportation systems, a significant boost to wind power farms, the leadership in new generation biofuels, the improvement in air quality and a renowned environmental performance within the Americas.

The latter is just one more proof of Mexico’s commitment with climate change and with becoming an effective example for the world. How fast a stable climate would be a near possibility if all countries would “walk their talks”?

Image: NASA

Categories: Local Blogs

Mexico is One of the Most Complex Economies in the World.

The Catalist - Wed, 06/13/2012 - 9:42am

In Harvard University’s recent study “The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity”, Ricardo Hausmann and Carlos Hidalgo found that Mexico is within the select group of countries with one of the most complex economies in the world. According to the authors, there is a group of countries that manufactures products requiring a superior level of complexity in theirproduction chain, compared to other type of goods (such as commodities). Economies become more complex as they require more diverse types of competencies and specific knowledge to produce more sophisticated products with greater value added,and are not just growing by trading on increased quantity. From this point of view, economies with more complexities will be in abetter condition to compete in the XXI Century.

This study looked at 128 countries and Mexico holds the 20th position. A surprising place, by the way, making it is the best positioned country in Latin America and placing it far ahead of Panama in 30th place. In addition, Mexico is the only one of the Eagles countries that is within the first 20 places; none of the BRICs appear before 29th place, which is held by China. Within North America, the United States has 13th place and Canada is way down in 41st place. It is also surprising to find that, for instance, a country with a reputation for having high tech manufacturing,  Israel, occupies only 19th place. Even countries like Ireland, Denmark and Italy are barely above Mexico in this classification. And even though this might be a surprise at first glance,it is consistent with other results that point to Mexico as one of the most creative economies within Latin America and amongemergent countries in general.

And that is not all!  Regarding growth potential of its per capita income moving towards 2020 , Mexico occupies 10th place, and is only surpassed by Panama in Latin America. Conversely, when reviewing GDP total growth, Mexico occupies 22nd place, surpassed by both China and Panama. Furthermore, when comparing the advance in complexity of the economy during the period 1964 – 2008, Mexico stands out in 12th place among the economies with the greatest change in the development of their complexity.

These results are certainly not by chance, but are the consequence of a consistent progress in the Mexican economy’s growth and its orientation toward  development of even more sophisticated products with greater value added. Mexico’s development as a world power in engineering production has created significant results, as has its rise to the world’s fourth place within software exporters in only 10 years. Mexico has also become a champion in the global automotive industry and is now in 5thplace in that category;  it has become the world’s capital in aeronautic manufactures with a state-of-the-art manufacturing cluster, and of course, it has now added this step forward in the Atlas of Economic Complexity. Mexico also holds fourth place worldwide in development of engineers, and if adjusted by population size, it is in first place in that category.

Mexico’s progress has been intentional and structured, certainly learning from several countries that went before it who started manufacturing and copying others, subsequently jumping into becoming the owners of technology development. This is inexorably Mexico’s path…  a future it is walking towards with purpose and pride.

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by Dr. Radut