Battle on the Border

By Armando Castellanos, El Paso Metro

Greg Freyermuth, talk show host for KTSM, challenged Paul Strelzin, talk show host for KROD, to a debate, recently and a war of words has ensued.  Strelzin warned on his morning show on KROD on Friday that if Freyermuth raised any further questions regarding his (Strelzin’s) delinquent property taxes or the nature of his departure from the El Paso Independent School District that he would “have his attorney,” do the talking for him.  Freyermuth, on the other hand, said he wanted to debate the Strelz and “wanted it bad…I am right he is wrong.  End of Story.”  By the end of the day, Strelz had agreed to the debate. The brouhaha is making for animated talk radio and no doubt will serve to increase ratings for both shows.  An unintended beneficiary of the debate is Jaime O. Perez who has been substituting for Barbara Perez on KROD’s mid-morning show, “Talk of the Town”.  Perez is widely seen as a progressive Democrat with fiscal conservative views consistent with some Republican planks regarding property taxes. He has been suggested as a possible moderator for a Freyermuth/Strelzin debate.

On the surface, the debate is about Republicans vs. Democrats but the reality is that it is about business, ratings and dollars.  Controversy and acrimony make for good media ratings.  Jerry Springer learned the lesson early and has become extremely wealthy as a result.  G. Gordon Liddy and Rush Limbaugh know that hyperbole and innuendo are keys to important ratings points and long-term success.  No reason why the local radio talk show hosts shouldn’t do the same.

What this debate is about beyond ratings is the clash of opinions regarding a staunch supporter of Mayor Caballero’s policies and a staunch opponent to Caballero policies including a tax increase.

What this debate is NOT about is political platforms.  It is important for everyone to distinguish a battle for pre-eminence among the morning talk shows from dialogue regarding the position of political parties with respect to the important issues of the day.  The fact is that there is a serious battle raging within the Democratic Party.  The so-called Luis Mata-Bob Neil Democratic (Liberal) and Tejano Democratic (Hispanic Liberal) camp, the centrist Reyes camp (Center) and the John F. Kennedy camp which includes Perez.  The JFK camp is described by some Republicans as the “Liberal’s liberal” camp because of its Libertarian views on social views although it has conservative fiscal planks.

No doubt the radio hype will continue as well it should.  It will help both radio stations and all three current talk show hosts but make no mistake.  This “drama” is not about serious discussion about the issues or about the positions and platforms of serious people with the Republican and Democratic Party but about ratings.  One would hope for a side benefit-namely, a critical analysis of the current City policies.