I have to hand it to Claudia Ordaz. She made a very politically savvy move that politically and personally benefits her. As you know, tomorrow, city council is set to revisit Tommy Gonzalez’s pay raise because Claudia Ordaz put it on the agenda. By putting the item on the agenda, Claudia Ordaz scores some significant political points, gets her revenge on certain council representatives and has no political downside to her actions. Let me explain.
Likely, the most satisfying result of her agenda item is the revenge she is exacting upon her colleagues.
As you remember, Claudia Ordaz was ostracized by most city council representatives and the mayor as a result of her MPO item. Her MPO item put Cortney Niland in an uncomfortable position and although Niland did not publicly engage Ordaz on the item, it was clear that Niland took it as a personal attack upon her.
Oscar Leeser, for his part, put Ordaz in her political place by pointing out the obvious – that Claudia Ordaz had brought the MPO item up in an attempt to help her boyfriend, Vince Perez, out. Leeser’s actions embarrassed Ordaz.
One of the two proponents for Tommy Gonzalez’ raise, Michiel Noe, is the one that gave Leeser the ammunition with which to embarrass her.
All three have been put in a very uncomfortable place by Ordaz’ agenda item and all three will suffer no matter the end result.
How The Votes Will Likely Go
Ordaz’ item will not only allow the taxpayers of the community the opportunity to show their displeasure, but it will publicly force the city representatives and the mayor to displease either the city manager or the constituency.
The voters are overwhelmingly against the pay raise. That leaves Tommy Gonzalez in the cross hairs and it will be very difficult for him to accept the end result regardless of the outcome. Obviously, if the pay raise is rescinded Gonzalez will take it personally. He may even sue. Even if he keeps the raise, it will forever hurt his relationship with city council.
Lily Limon and Carl Robinson, along with Claudia Ordaz are the clear winners on this item. Both Limon and Robinson voted against the pay raise and both get to sit back and enjoy the political fireworks. Ordaz will obviously vote against the pay raise this time around and however the vote comes out she would have her revenge and the perception that she is constituency friendly.
Emma Acosta and Larry Romero will likely vote to keep the pay raise in place. Romero originally championed the pay raise and Emma Acosta has advocated for it. Michiel Noe understands why he is in the position he is in now and is unlikely to change his vote. Noe is not about to allow Ordaz to dictate to him.
Cortney Niland has future political ambitions and she has changed her public persona as a result of the stinging results of the last election. Niland has obviously toned down her posture and is likely trying to reinvent herself for a political future. This was very obvious during the MPO discussion item as Niland responded via a reasoned and measured tone. She has made it clear that she will vote to keep the pay raise in place.
Therefore, we know that the vote will likely be three to four in favor of keeping the raise in place, leaving Peter Svarzbein in the hot seat.
Svarzbein has had some trouble with his vocal constituency recently because of the historical overlay issue and the city manager’s pay raise. He likely had a very difficult weekend.
Peter Svarzbein is the lynchpin for Oscar Leeser.
If Peter Svarzbein votes against the pay raise, that will force Oscar Leeser to cast a vote to break the tie.
Oscar Leeser loses in all aspects because the fact that Ordaz put the pay raise item on the agenda destroys Leeser’s attempts to create the illusion that all is well at City Hall. No matter how the vote goes, the result for Leeser is that the public clearly knows and understands that city council is dysfunctional at best. This reflects baldy upon Oscar Leeser’s ability to lead the city. Coupled with the Ann Morgan Lilly/Cortney Niland public fights against Lily Limon and his attempt at chastising Claudia Ordaz publicly, the community is starting to question whether Leeser can keep control of city council.
Although Ordaz’ agenda item is already bad for Leeser it could end up being worse for him if he is forced to cast a tie-breaking vote. Publicly Leeser has stated that he was against the pay raise but he could hide behind the fact that he did not have to cast a vote. Thus it allowed him to placate Tommy Gonzalez behind the scenes about his rhetoric being nothing more than political grandstanding, something Gonzalez can relate to.
However, forcing Leeser to cast a vote will force him to pick the constituency over Gonzalez, which is something he has avoided to date.
However, Oscar Leeser votes, it will hurt him politically.
Tommy Gonzalez is center stage in this fiasco, and however the results end, he will not be happy even though he clearly understands it is political. Gonzalez left his previous public position under a dark cloud and this public salary humiliation only adds to the mystic that Gonzalez is not an effective city manager regardless of any accomplishments he can demonstrate. Even if he is able to keep the salary increase, the public debate will become part of his persona.
If the salary increase is ultimately denied, Tommy Gonzalez will be forced to seek a new job if nothing more than to retain some dignity.
If the rumors of his wife’s displeasure are true, that will add even more pressure for him to leave El Paso as quickly as possible.
Regardless of the outcome, Tommy Gonzalez will no longer be an effective city manager for El Paso.
Ordaz’ Original Vote
Claudia Ordaz has already started to mold her excuse for voting in favor of the raise originally. She has masked it as a rushed vote “sprung” on her at the last minute. On the surface, she will take some quick hits for being unprepared but she has negated those by placing the item on the agenda and pointing out that the council’s agenda item did not specify the significant raise. She has admitted she made a mistake and by doing so, she gets to excuse her vote in the eyes of the electorate. As a matter of fact, voters like politicians that admit mistakes and offer solutions. She wins before the voters and gets to walk away from her original vote.
Claudia Ordaz clearly won this round and scored some significant political points regardless of the outcome. It is the best political strategy I have seen yet in El Paso. Ordaz gets her revenge and scores some serious political points, at the expense of those who humiliated her.