The thing about Rep. Cortney Niland switching seats with Rep. Ann Lilly and then Lilly altogether moving to a new spot is that it’s both meaningless and very meaningful in different ways.
First, let’s talk about this works and what effort it takes to move.
If you’ve never been behind the dais, then you probably don’t really have the ability to perceive how it works. Each station – and there are 11 total – is set to provide the person sitting there a computer, microphone and buttons to cast their vote. When you hear a call for the vote it’s always followed by a display on the video screen showing how everyone voted. This is an automated feature that is much easier than taking a voice vote. It's also not magic... just in case you were wondering, Martin Paredes.
Each spot is wired specifically into the computer to reflect both the name and the vote of the person sitting there. If Rep. Carl Robinson was to sit in Rep. Larry Romero’s seat and cast a vote, it would still show it as Romero’s vote. I hope this is easy for you to understand.
So when Niland switched spots with Lilly a few months ago there was a small amount of reprogramming that had to take place. It’s not like Lilly and Niland got together five minutes before the meeting and decided to switch. Some planning and help from city staff was needed to make sure that Niland’s votes appeared correctly next to her name and that Lilly’s votes were connected to her name. This also means the mayor was involved. He deemed the move necessary.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking – “Niland and Lilly always vote the same way, so what would be the difference?” Ha ha, you’re funny. I hope I saved you the time it would take to write that comment below. Hell, I used to joke with people asking if Eddie Holguin only had a “no” button on the dais in front of him. It was mildly funny in year one – by the end it was a real knee slapper.
My mom and I have argued about the original switch a lot. Like a lot of you she has some fixation on the order/position the city council members behind the dais. They used to be in numeric order with district one on the left and district eight all the way on the right. You guys, and my mom, are old fuddy-duddies who can’t stand to see something out of order even if that order is meaningless.
My mom keeps saying “Cortney should be sitting where she’s supposed to be sitting!” I ask her “why?” And she says “because that’s where she’s supposed to sit!!!” And that’s not a valid reason.
You see, their function is to debate and vote on agenda items. Where you are sitting only affects the digital vote tallying and amplification of your voice. If they wanted, they could sit in the audience and record their votes via the traditional voice call.
The numeric order they originally sat in was not done with some idea of function behind it. It was likely just a logical thing to do to keep the bloated fatheaded politicians from arguing over which seat they wanted. I mean, you can imagine that debate at the beginning of each new council would take weeks!
So, it doesn’t matter where they sit. If you care about the order of seat, then you are focused on the wrong thing – believe me. You’re also likely OCD and you need to read Who Moved My Cheese? and get over it.
My mom will always end her opinion on the seating arrangement by claiming that Niland needed fight back with Limon if she was hand-checking and saying nasty things to her. Others have said the same thing as my mother. I have to ask – is that what you taught me to do as kid? NO!
I was told to walk away from bullies. There’s no need to engage them. I was told to put myself in another place where I could function without their interference whether that be by taking a new route home from school or sitting at another desk during class. Why all of a sudden are all of you asking Niland and Lilly not to follow that rule?
Privately both Niland and Lilly have said to the Mayor and others that they can not do their jobs effectively when sitting in close proximity to Rep. Lily Limon. It’s no secret at city hall. Hell, before the mayor started taking control of the mics, you could hear her nasty comments on everything over the live feed if you were wearing headphones. I witnessed her verbal behavior and more than few people in the audience saw Limon hand-checking Niland. And, if you don’t believe me, believe the mayor. He’s the guy who had grant Niland permission to move and he hates her guts. Why would he do something for Niland unless he knew that the situation was creating a problem for when trying to do her job? I can’t make this shit up – it happened!
Now you have Ann Lilly who has moved to a once vacant expansion spot away from Limon because she couldn’t take it either. Again, the mayor hates her guts as well and not only granted her permission to move, but ensured that the spot on the dais was programmed so she could cast an electronic vote! If you don’t want to believe me/listen to me, just look at what actions the mayor has taken.
Of course, Niland and Ann Lilly have done the right thing by taking the high road here. There’s no functional reason to sit next to Limon other than to appease a bunch of old farts who can’t stand the slightest bit change. Niland and Ann Lilly have to put themselves in a position to do their job. Their job isn’t to physically fight Limon even though that’s what most of you want to see.
I think the blame here is easily put onto Limon. Both Niland and Ann Lilly have sat next to other council members not named Lily Limon in the past and never had a problem. Lily Limon has sat next to a total for four different people at council and two have moved. What does this tell you? If you’re stupid, it tells you nothing (and that covers most of you reading this). If you’re smart, you’ll realize that Limon is the problem.
Lisa Turner’s lectures about council behaving need to be more honest. She needs to be lecturing Limon.
You have to read Martin's latest and greatest grand conspiracy HERE. He is hedging his entire conspiracy theory that Illuminati are paying me to blog on the idiotic assumption that city council's dais isn't made for expansion. Nevermind that I have gone against Niland on the budget and the new water fee... he doesn't seem to see that truth.
I wonder if the home builder who pays all of his bills is laughing at him right now. I mean, Paredes, who was sued successfully by Larry Medina of all people, doesn't even know that Niland switched place with Lilly months ago. He thinks it happened last month. He's so wrong it's laughable... and then sad... and then funny again.
I think you all ought to head over to his blog and give him some page views... God knows if Max and I didn't go there to read his comedy he'd have no traffic. Do please leave him a comment letting him know how ignorant he is. I've never seen somebody walk off so many cliffs in my life.
Thank you Martin Paredes for being El Paso's biggest political joke since Jaime O. Perez became a Libertarian.
In Max Powers’ latest post he wrote something that is likely true and all very interesting when you think of El Paso’s lack of political spectrum.
“It probably is more out of the fear that if it does not support Escobar that somehow the political ghost of Luther Jones will haunt the County Courthouse and City Council.”
He was being funny, but there’s a lot of truth in his comedic premise.
Before the FBI stormed the courthouse and Martin Paredes’ personal Messiah, Anthony Cobos, dared them to bring it on, there were at least five viable political factions. Turnover, from a political perspective, was normal and frequent and at times very healthy. Unfortunately, the big corruption scandal reduced El Paso political spectrum to Shapleigh’s Campers and Not Shapleigh’s Campers.
Now, that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so obvious that everyone not on Shapleigh’s team is flat out corrupt. The choice you have at the ballot box is to elect an ultra-liberal progressive or a person looking to steal taxpayers dollars to pay his buddies off.
Powers was aiming his satirical sword at the El Paso Times with his post. I think the El Paso Times gets it in the way Powers suggest. They know that they can’t push back on the progressives for fear of giving the corruption party a foothold. I’m sure they’d love to scream loudly about the county stuff, but know that doing so would just push their readership into elected another Cobos.
Without a healthy alternative, people who have the power of swaying opinion are going to stick with the lesser of two evils. And do look for the newspaper and other opinion outlets to move even further into Shapleigh’s pocket as the demise of city manager form of government looms only months ahead. A Cobos at the county is one thing…. A Cobos at the city is municipal book of Revelation type stuff. Nobody wants that.
So, if you’re tired of everybody giving the Shapleigh’s a pass – recruit candidates who only answer to their constituents and not the leftover criminals from the corruption era.
It's been a crazy 24 hours for Representative Emma Acosta.
First, word gets out that she's putting an item on the council agenda to dissolve the PSB.
Then we hear she wasn't in town to put the item on the agenda.
Now we hear the item has been pulled.
Dora Oaxaca is involved, so who knows what the real story is.
I do know that after word go out that there were at least two groups with money looking to recall not only Acosta, but everyone else on council that fell into the category of recall eligible (you can't recall at beginning and end of terms). The number from one group being thrown around was $500,000 to recall them all. The other group was calling around looking to raise around $100,000 and looking for a campaign consultant (not Forma).
It appears that the uproar got back to Acosta and she politely declined to pursue the matter further.
The fact that city council won't cut what needs to be cut will be the death of them. Had the mayor not fired the city's real estate agent over his objection to them being paid for their services, the city could have sold off $10 million in real estate to cover the shortage. Why nobody on council is chiding the mayor for that is beyond me.
If you read the paper of the weekend you know that the PSB made a smart, and smart ass, play to protect their customers. They proposed paying for the street improvements out of their own pocket to make up for the $3.5 million budget hole.
If you're smart... you laughed your ass off.
Everybody knows that the city is there at the returns counter of the department store looking for a cash refund. Everybody knows that the PSB offered them store credit. Everybody knows that's hilarious.
Everybody knows that the city can't prove-up the fee/tax and it will be litigated.
The city wanted to dump their unwillingness to do the right thing onto the PSB. That's obvious. Consumers/homeowners get in the back in the name of preserving the bureaucratic nightmare that is the city.
So what does a council member do?
The recently reformed and impressive Representative Emma Acosta decides to dissolve the PSB and put all of their billions under the direct control of council. Yes, you read that right - Acosta wants to dissolve the most successful water utility in the history of the State of Texas. She wants to give the Yankees to the Kansas City Royals for free. She wants to give the Steelers to the Browns for free... she wants to wreck your entire life. And she wants to do it over a measly $3.5 million that the city could sell in real estate holdings!!!
The entire reason the PSB was setup, was to dodge a council that wanted to raise water rates every time they didn't feel like cutting back on the bullshit. The PSB was setup to protect itself from fly-by-night politicians who'd sell it's strategic assets and raise consumers rates at the whim of a lizard fart.
Now you have a member of the progressive bloc on council - the bloc that wins every vote - suggesting we dissolve the best utility El Paso has ever had.
You've got to be kidding me.
Do that and you will see businesses and people leave town in droves.
Call Acosta and set her straight - she was doing so well. We can't annex the PSB because those on council won't cut their bloated government staff.
At yesterdays city council meeting there was an item on the agenda that aimed to give local businesses an advantage when bidding city work. This is something that has been discussed for years. In fact, just a few months ago the city council adopted the first part of the buy local plan by ordinance. Yesterday's item was brought a little later because it was a little more complex - however not at all different than what the original ordinance called for. Kudos to staff for making sure it was right before they threw it out there.
Of course, Rep. Carl Robinson had no idea what this was about. He claimed he had no knowledge of any part of the buy local ordinance. In typical Robinson fashion, he kept repeating the same thing over and over again while every other member of council looked at him like he was crazy. Somehow Robinson thought this was some ordinance that was being railroaded through that he had no idea of... even though it was clear he had plenty of knowledge of it.
Mayor Leeser had to step in and gently remind Robinson that this issue was thoroughly vetted with staff and there were multiple public, private and in between discussions about the buy local effort. I stress the word "gently" here. The mayor should have said "Look, dipshit, you're either lying your ass off or your dementia is so bad you can't remember anything and you need to step down for the good of your constituents. We beat this God-damned issue to death a few months ago and this is just the last part they had to figure out. Shut up, and stop wasting our time."
Robinson didn't back down because stupid is always stubborn. The vote was called for quickly and the only two voting "no" were Robinson and Rep. Lilly Limon....
Now, I see why Robinson voted against giving local businesses a leg-up - he's an idiot who got confused on the item... and stubborn. What I don't understand is why Limon would vote against the item.
It appears that Limon has become Eddie Holguin. She's going to vote against everything even if it is helpful to her constituents.
It would have been one thing had she spoke on the issue, but she didn't. She flat out is against local El Paso businesses doing business with the city. Don't ask me why - it's such a weird stance to take that I can't begin to explain it. Although, "stupid" and "stubborn" again creep into my mind.
It should be noted that Limon has grabbed a hold of the ADA crowd that comes to complain often at council and turned them into her force against Rep. Emma Acosta. As you know, Acosta has emerged as the voice a reason and has shown leadership since this new council has started. Limon has been after her and is now using the public comment period and the crazies to bash Acosta. It's sad. I can't believe the mayor lets this crap go on.
And it's not like I'm guessing who put these people up to their shenanigans - they all thanked Limon for her inspiration to attack Acosta.
As you can see - the aggressor on council is Limon. It's about time the council exercise the part of the charter that allows them to remove her from meetings.
On today's council agenda you'll see that item 3.5 is a contract for a DC lobbying firm to
"provide outside counsel in connection with the City of El Paso's federal legislative program." It's on the consent agenda, so you likely won't get an explanation of what this means. I can help you.
McBee Strategic is just one of about 1,000 boutique lobby/public affairs/etc.. firms in DC. Run by white men, populated mostly by white men with a sprinkle of white women for just the right mix of diversity. Seriously - look at the team. I hate to play the race card here, but not many firms in DC of this size are this egregious in their lack of diversity. (We could chat for hours about this issue, but I don't have the time.)
Apparently the City of El Paso has a "federal legislative program." I think it would be a little more honest to say "we want money from the federal government and have no way of making our case ourselves." That's why they need McBee. They are specifically interested in McBee's "Goverment Capital" services. And by looking at McBee's client list - El Paso isn't the only one. It seems McBee excels in this arena.
McBee does nothing YOU couldn't do yourself. They've done it longer and know the system better, but it's not something you are incapable of doing. You'd just have to put out the effort. Obviously the city doesn't want to put out the effort.
If I were sitting atop a big nonprofit association that had major funding stuck in the house budget process - I'd likely hire McBee... or a firm like McBee... to babysit the item through whatever process congress decided to fund the government (they can do it several ways... and have). In any other case, I don't see the need to have budget lobbyists on retainer.
Even if I was going to have budget lobbyist on retainer, I wouldn't be their lowest paying customer. The City of El Paso wants to pay them less than $98,500 a year. That's pretty much what a junior lobbyist in DC makes... what in the hell are they going to get for that small sum of money?
Let's look at McBee's $15,640,000 haul so far in the 113th congress (that goes back to January 2013). Here's their client list and how much they are getting paid:
I'm sure each of you will have something different catch your eye. A lot of your will notice that the Borderplex Alliance is already paying these guys. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I can't rule out that there's some kind of connection.
All the other clients look like entities that have an interest in the budget (federal, not El Paso's).
El Paso will make up less than one percent of McBee's business in terms of revenues... well that's revenues tracked through the federal lobbying database. Who knows what McBee makes from clients they don't lobby congress for. And that $15.6 million figure doesn't include third or fourth quarter filings for 2014. It seems that the City of El Paso is small player... smaller than the cites of Everett and Hillsboro. Those cities exceeded the $100 thousand mark with McBee in 2013.
Now, some of you who know the business will tell me that McBee will only be telling the city what grants to go after. Well, that's a stupid waste of money. You can buy a list. You can look through the list. You don't have to hire a lobbyist for $98,500 a year to do what equates to reading a book. Even a volunteer could do that work. The secret to grant writing is that you never get the money you don't ask for. Ask for everything!
Anywho... this is just something I caught. It won't solve all the budget problems (selling the City's vast real estate portfolio would more than do the trick), but it would help.
With the vote on the budget going the way it did... any of you still believe Mayor Leeser is any different than Steve Ortega? Do you really think you cast a vote for a guy who had different ideas than Ortega? YOU DIDN'T. You voted for a guy who refused to take a stance on just about everything. It turns out that he'd do what Steve would do if given the chance. You can stop with your 74 percent bullshit now - he won on name ID.
The only real difference is that Ortega would own his vote on the budget. I wouldn't have been surprised. He would have been transparent. From day one I would know that Ortega would side with not cutting the budget and raising taxes instead. I may not agree with that stance, but I would know from Ortega's own mouth exactly how he felt about the issue.
The PSB Board took a vote on a resolution against the fee being added to their subscribers' bill. Council ignored this. I'm even tracking down where the community advocate on the board, Judge Chris Antcliff (he will always be "judge" to me), had a statement on the matter read into the record. I'm working with a guy to get a copy. I hear it's poignant.
With most rate increases or fee increases assessed by a utility, there's some kind of excuse to do so. In many cases there's a process where regulators rule on whether or not the increase is warranted. This means who is asking for it has to prove up why they need and it has to do with something they provide - in this case it's water, sewer and stormwater.
If the city was in the red on funding water, sewer and stormwater projects, then an increase makes perfect sense. However, the city is simply has a busted budget due to the fact they spend too damn much money. How does squaring the budget relate to the water utility? City council obviously felt that they couldn't pull this trick with the electric company, so what makes it okay for the PSB?
I have a feeling there's a way to fight this increase because the city can not prove a tax/fee is needed to cover something related with what that utility provides. This was simply a way to fix a budget that didn't work - an unrelated matter to what the PSB does.
I have no idea why the budget couldn't have shrunk to fit revenue. I hear the city manager suggested cuts. Yes, cuts. When you can't generate enough revenue to cover the services you currently provide, the next move is not to increase the size and scope of services nobody wants to pay for. You cut them.
Council took the chicken shit way out (well, not all of them) and it may come down to a legal battle where they look like fools.
The PSB does a pretty damn good job at doing what they do. They've got millions in cash reserves and hundreds of millions in assets and other goodies. Maybe the city should have them work up the budget!
The progressives have always benefited from an opposition that is not only angry, but laughably stupid. It's easy to win elections and keep your voting bloc when the people looking to take it away from you are not considered serious adults capable of shaping public policy. The progressives could have lived on for decades had they thought to bend their idealism just a little here and there. This last budget at the city is where they should have bent.
The big story is that there's a new water tax... the tax that is only on commercial accounts - i.e. businesses. Businesses are owned by people. Most of the businesses in El Paso are owned by people in El Paso. Most of those business owners are very political. They make or break campaigns. They fund the machines that turn out the vote. If you don't have the business community, then you don't have a chance.
Instead of levying new taxes, the progressive bloc should have voted to cut personnel and services at the city. For some reason they are terrified of doing this. It's as if they don't think anyone can ever lose their job because their boss fails to take in as much they spend. It's the easiest solution and yet they find it so hard to implement.
Voters now have all the reason in the world to give the whackadoos a shot at holding office.
If you don't make the hard decisions, you'll be fired for making the easy ones.