Author: Theresa Caballero
Every other week we are told that the mayor is in Washington D.C. or in Mexico City onbusiness. Lately, the explanations for the trips to Washington D.C. are that the mayor is getting federal grant monies “for us.” No one asks what grant monies? How much? No one asks the mayor to produce a report. With whom is he meeting over there? What is it costing us? These are basic questions that the citizenry has a right to ask. It is also curious that in August there was an agenda item fiercely pushed by the mayor and his executive assistant, Charlie McNabb, requesting money to extend a contract for a lobbyist firm, Bracewell Patterson, out of Washington D.C. City Rep. Anthony Cobos asked what we needed the firm for and what issues they were working on. The mayor sliced in and told Mr. Cobos that if had bothered to read the report issued, he would know the answer to his own questions. Cobos said he had not received a report. Jan Sumrall quickly rushed into say that she had. And she would gladly vote to extend the contract with the firm and that $75,000 was peanuts anyway. Cobos reiterated that he would like to know what the firm was working on and I as a member of the public in attendance seconded that question. The mayor’s answer as to what the firm was working on was, ”Don’t you read your e-mails Mr. Cobos?”
The next week the issue of the firm came up again because Mr. Cobos had looked into the matter and as it turned out there never had been a report, e-mail or otherwise. He again asked what the firm was working on. After much debate there was still no answer. This time the mayor did not belabor the issue of whether or not Cobos had read non-existent reports, because the mayor was not there. The mayor had gotten up and left and never come back. The next week I put the firm issue on the agenda again, because, as it turned out, the firm was costing us $180,000/year and NOT $75,000 as the city attorney, Rita Rodriguez, had told us. This $180,000/year did not include reimbursement for expenses either. It also turned out that the firm was in violation of its contract with the city because it never submitted an itemized list of how it was billing out as required by the contract nor did it submit monthly reports as required by the contract. The city attorney of course said nothing on the issue of the firm being in violation of the contract. Again, the question as to what the firm was working on and why we had hired them was never answered. And once again, the mayor had left the meeting and not come back.
Also keep in mind that since the mayor has taken office he has hired a host of “grant writers.” As a matter of fact, he has an item on the agenda this week to hire another grant writer. The question then becomes, what is the mayor doing on an almost bi-weekly basis in Washington D.C.? If he is going to get federal grant monies, what do we have the grant writers for? If he is going to get federal grant monies what do we need the $15,000/month plus expenses D.C. lobbyist firm for? Why does the mayor refuse to answer the question regarding what the firm is working on? The firm is paid with tax payer monies and we have the right to know what they are doing. And any lawyer for the city worth his salt would put the job description of the firm they are contracting and the expectations of the firm in the contract. The contract with the D.C. firm is conspicuously devoid of job duties.
The next question is, why is the mayor constantly in Mexico City? He told us that it has something to do with transportation issues between El Paso and Juarez. Something to do with a light rail. He has paid a lawyer in Juarez $20,000.00 out of our tax dollars, he says, to work on this issue. We have heard nothing regarding the progress of her work. The interesting issue in regards to a rail between Juarez and El Paso is that this is an international matter. It would require a treaty between the U.S. and Mexico. The mayor has no authority to negotiate an international treaty. That would be the purview of Congress. Also, with whom is the mayor speaking when he goes to Mexico City? In Mexico, a Mexican official will only negotiate with his/her counterpart, i.e. president to president, ambassador to ambassador, congressman to congressman, minister of transportation to minister of transportation. Are we to believe that the minister of transportation of Mexico is dealing with a mayor from El Paso? That would be like the Head of the Department of Transportation in the U.S. negotiating with the mayor of Juarez. Where are the reports from these trips documenting meetings? Or is the mayor meeting with bus drivers down there? It seems like the easier the question, the harder the answers. And when the easy questions beg hard answers, hmmmm, somebody must be lyin’.
Lastly, the mayor has missed several council meetings. We hear from his office that he had to leave the council meetings early because he had trips to take. Last week, in preparation for another trip, the mayor again requested that a city council meeting be moved from Tuesday to another day, like he did last week, because he says he is going to be in, guess where, Washington D.C. He says he needs to go because it will be very important for him in terms of getting more, guess what, federal grant money. Never mind that the city is geared and people’s schedules are geared to having council meetings on Tuesdays. Should we reschedule council meetings for representatives who are going to be out of town? Heads of departments?
The mayor went into a long explanation into how he has NEVER missed a meeting and he was elected to do the business of the city and he is not going to start missing meetings now. And therefore the meeting in November needs to be moved from Tuesday to Monday or he will NOT go to D.C. and “we” will just lose out on the grant money. (It is interesting that the mayor can get federal grant money by attending a meeting. He is pretty effective if that is the case. Maybe we should we fire our grant writers and those lawyers we pay $15,000/month plus expenses to in D.C.)
So what is the truth? Has the mayor missed meetings or not? He has walked out of at least three meetings since May that I have been present for. Saying that he never missed a meeting is a perfect example of how the mayor manufactures “evidence”. Showing up for roll call and then ditching out once his name is down, to create “a record” that he was present, is nothing more than a fiction. The man missed the meetings. He missed all the city business conducted in those meetings after he left. And from what I saw, he missed some very important things. Watch the reruns and see who was there for the meetings and who was not. We do not speak Clintonese ANYMORE.
With whom is the mayor speaking in Washington, D.C.? With whom is the mayor speaking in Mexico City? What is the firm in D.C. working on? Why does the mayor dodge that question? Why did we pay the lawyer in Juarez $20,000.00? What are the trips and all the lawyers really costing us? The mayor spends a great deal of time out of town, on our dime and we are given no explanations as to where he is, what he is doing and what we are paying these lawyers for. And no one says a thing.