(This post was edited on April 8, 2017 at 12:30ET [10:30EP to correct an error I made in regards to Alexsandra Annello, please read below for more information ) Some of you have let me know that you are upset with my lack of coverage of last Saturday’s El Paso municipal elections. The reason I spent very little time on the election is that nothing has changed. The election was a referendum on the proposed arena and the displacement of the Duranguito neighborhood. Some of you are continuing a valiant fight to contain that damage, but, unfortunately, you are up against a controlled electorate managed by vested interests. Those interests need the arena to stay in business. They won on Saturday.
As I have written various times before, the issue is that the electorate, those that cast votes in the municipal elections aren’t voting for better government, instead they are voting for paychecks. Not all, but most of those who cast a vote in the latest round of elections are ensuring that their paychecks keep coming from the taxpayers of the community.
There are those of you who still do not believe that, so let me give you some more examples from this last election.
Clear proof that this election is a referendum on the arena is demonstrated by the loss of Lily Limon to Henry Rivera. There are those that will argue that the ongoing Texas Rangers investigation into Limon and others regarding the alleged violation of the open records meetings laws was a factor. Although, it was to some extent, as well as the previous issues between Limon and Niland, but Limon was a staunch supporter of the Duranguito faction and she needed to be gone. Rivera, a government employee, is in full support of completing the arena as quickly as possible in downtown.
I would argue that he was drafted to unseat Limon to bolster the city council votes in favor of building the arena downtown.
But this is not an El Paso only issue. It plays out across the country every election day. Voters are not voting for good governance but instead for paychecks, i.e. those candidates that promise taxpayer-funded projects that line the pockets of the land speculators, the engineering firms, the architects and all those who depend on public projects to stay in business.
Although not as acute as in El Paso, where most large projects are government funded, other cities are facing the same issue. Take, for example, San Antonio, they also had a municipal election this week. According to the San Antonio Express (mySA), the 52 candidates running for mayor and city council positions “received about a third of their $1.55 million” in campaign donations from land developers.
San Antonio voters also approved the largest public bond in its history by approving $850 million for infrastructure and urban renewal. Unlike in the El Paso election, many of the incumbents, 10 out of 4, were reelected. Voter turnout was about 12% in San Antonio. El Paso’s turnout was 8.33%.
What brought my attention to San Antonio was a call from a reporter at the San Antonio Express trying to confirm some details about the Poisoned Pawns investigation in El Paso a few years ago into public corruption. Of the many politicians and companies involved in the public corruption investigation, one has made the news again recently.
On April 26, the FBI raided the offices of Dannenbaum Engineering across Texas. According to news sources, the FBI raids were regarding an ongoing public corruption investigation in Laredo. Dannenbaum was mentioned in the Ketner information where Dannenbaum was listed with a pseudonym allegedly giving Anthony Cobos bribes disguised as campaign donations. As you might remember, Arturo Duran was described as the “bagman” providing Valley Risk Consulting and Dannenbaum access to politicians in El Paso for future county contracts. Dannenbaum was not charged in the El Paso case, but Cobos was convicted on public corruption charges.
Dee Margo and David Saucedo are in a runoff for mayor of El Paso. Margo is pro the arena in downtown, while Saucedo has stated that he does not support the displacement of the Duranguito neighborhood. Emma Acosta, as usual, vacillated on the arena and thus for the proponents of the arena, Margo could be counted on and thus they supported him. Although the Duranguito conservation group is banking on Saucedo, the runoff will come down to who can mobilize their voters, the people with money against those who want better government. Unfortunately, money always wins.
The Northeast district, as usual, almost elected Sam Morgan who is against the destruction of the Duranguito neighborhood. For my thesis of who is casting votes, it makes perfect sense when you consider that most the Northeast voters are retired fiscally conservative voters with no major commercial interests driving their votes. Shane Haggerty, who is in the runoff against Morgan supports the proposed location of the arena.
District 2 is the interesting race. First, let me address the issue of the vested voters who voted for their paycheck. Jud Burgess ran on a platform centrally focused on opposition to the displacement of the Duranguito community. Burgess was unable to muster the voters, barely squeaking out a third place by six votes. Clearly, although there is a loud opposition to the arena project location, it did not translate to votes. It never does – thus nothing has changed.
Jim Tolbert, the incumbent and Alexsandra Annello are in a runoff for their respective office. Tolbert has been playing games with the arena project, vacillating on where it should go. Tolbert, however, has also shown a propensity for corruption. Tolbert is currently under investigation for violating the open meetings laws and previously insinuated that he wanted a free steak to consider the needs of a local steakhouse.
(Corrected on April 8 2017 at 12:30ET to remove reference to working for O’Rourke) Alexsandra Annello, for her part, seems like a wildcard, but make no mistake, she will vote for the arena project as needed. She fully supports the arena but did not articulate that because she only needed to spend her campaign pointing out Tolbert’s ethical dilemmas to win. Annello also wrapped her campaign around the issue of transparency but it is nothing more than one of the tools in the arsenal used by Veronica Escobar cohorts in elections. (Note: I inadvertently confused Annello with another candidate and originally wrote that she previously worked for Beto O’Rourke. To be clear, Alexsandra Annello has never worked for Beto O’Rourke. Annello contacted me to clarify the record and to let me know that she has “been very outspoken about the Durangito/Union Plaza site from the beginning of this campaign“. I have left my original analysis about her lukewarm support for the Duranguito community because her webpage does not emphasize her opposition to the destruction of that neighborhood to build the proposed arena. I have asked Annello to submit a guest editorial should she wish to clarify her stance further.)
I have previously demonstrated to you how Byrd, Escobar, O’Rourke and cohorts used the Shapleigh Community Scholars as an incubator to prepare like-minded candidates for future political office. Think Vince Perez and cohort Jose Landeros to see how it works. Annello was likely incubated to run for office. She will vote to build the arena on the backs of the taxpayers.
All of this this leads us to the modus operandi of finalizing the arena project for the benefit of those who voted the politicians into office. In tomorrow’s post I’ll show you how the modus operandi has been deployed again.