Pretty Vacant; Reviewing Latest El Paso Times Empty Editorial 'Guidance for Mayor Runoff'
A Review of the May 28th Sunday edition of the El Paso Times
by Mari A. Gomez
A few days ago, I happened across the El Paso Times Sunday edition in the recycle bin at my mom's house. That is, I had to rummage through recyclables because the paper had already been discarded earlier that morning and I was curious about the Times' coverage on the 2017 mayoral runoff election. I thought I'd take a close look and what they had going on here.
On pg. 5A there is an editorial titled:
The piece begins by stating that the E.P Times had refrained from endorsing any one candidate during the May 6th election because:
“None of the candidates provided any clear sense that they could be an effective voice for El Paso and the border region at a crucial point in our history.”
The editorial then proceeds to endorse (kind of) Dee Margo, after they just stated, in the opening paragraph, that they had not previously endorsed anybody because NONE of the candidates were qualified. This begs the question: what did Dee Margo accomplish between May 6th and May 28th that all of a sudden qualified him, in the eyes of the Times, to be El Paso Mayor?
Nothing, that’s what. They are a little shaken Saucedo has gotten as far as he has or they don't have anything better to do. That first paragraph kind of renders the following reluctant and uninspired endorsement particularly ineffective.
They go on to say that Saucedo “lacks the temperament...”
Anytime someone says that a candidate lacks “temperament” basically means they don’t like their personality. It indicates the candidate is saying things they don’t like, not policy things, but things like calling out city council’s incompetence rather openly, referring to it as “toxic leadership” etc.
Saucedo has not worried about veiling any of it in niceties. He speaks directly about the fact that both the council and city manager Tommy Gonzalez have made egregious mistakes, are lying to people about the arena, and have exhibited ineffectiveness that has cost the taxpayers money and trust. Saucedo said forthright that he intended to oust the entire city government, which is precisely the kind of thing that will get the establishment to categorize your ‘temperament’ as, very bad.
Of course the cartoonish portrayal of Republicans in this city has led to an image of a bumbling bigot stumbling to disguise his racism while he takes away your healthcare. That is really the extent that many people in El Paso understand a candidate with an R in front of their name, which makes it difficult to have a productive discussion about ideas and policy.
Part of the main recommendation in El Paso Times piece is that Margo fight false portrayals from Republican leadership in Washington about the border region. They write, "It is critical for El Paso that its next mayor be a forceful advocate for our region, fighting back against false portrayals from Republican leadership in Washington ..."
How does one fight a portrayal? Going around talking about how great the city is? There is a constant concern in this city for our “image,” that interestingly enough, through downtown revitalization efforts, is being modeled after a city that is not El Paso. This manifests in the city trying to force projects down our throats in order to construct said image. In the case of the arena, they are willing to erase El Paso historical buildings and neighborhoods and almost completely bulldoze public opinion, for an "image" of El Paso they are enamored with. In the case of joining the SB4 lawsuit, it's wasting tax payer money, possibly hiring a San Antonio law firm, to a fight a law that we are supposedly not breaking anyway, all to make some kind of statement about what kind of city this is.
There is a faction that insists on making El Paso some kind of tourist destination and putting that ahead of basic needs for the people living here. Svarzbein's trolley is an example of this: nobody cares about a trolley when they're making $8.00 an hour on a stagnant retail job. Perhaps we may concern ourselves with El Paso's rising property taxes, our mediocre, some might say pathetic, median income, hiking utility rates, and little opportunity for the young and educated. These issues are frequently discussed by Saucedo and Margo, to some extent, yet somehow what seems to preoccupy the conversation is the concern for our "image." I don't think the Times actually outlines their disagreements with Saucedo; they simply reduce his candidacy to the fact that he is inexperienced and lacks "temperament."
I did enjoy how they refer to city government’s inefficiency and corruption as “..a City Hall culture that has discouraged transparency.”
This E.P Times editorial ends saying that Margo has “talent” but often lacks “skills.” What does talent mean in a politician? A talent to obfuscate? To work with others? To veil problems with language and political rhetoric? Before they go on to recommend Margo, the Times admits that he “seemed to coast his way through the runoff…refused invitations to any mayoral forums.” So they admit, that he's kind of phoning it in, but they go on to say he is the "clear" choice. They previously also stated that Margo would bring plenty of “relevant experience," but later they state he will have "to demonstrate skills that sometimes elude him." So which is it? He's experienced but not skilled? He's talented, but unskilled?
This recommendation/half assed endorsement is incoherent. It feels forced, as if whoever wrote this had never really considered why someone would vote for Margo. Why did they even bother with this? There is no mention of Dee Margo's vision for El Paso (he doesn't have one), or maybe a strong approach he's taking on a particular issue. Instead, they give Margo 'recommendations' of what he needs to do. Frankly, it suggests the Times reluctantly sided with Margo simply because he is an establishment choice, is predictable, and backed by some pretty big players.
Let’s flip back to the front page of this same Sunday edition, the headline story was:
An Illustrated Summary of E.P Times Story
So in a city of notorious low voter turnout and a rather disengaged electorate, the first page of the paper, the first story people see before they get to the "guidance for mayor runoff" is a story that explains how you don’t, in fact, need to vote.
The entire story is centered upon the fact that these two candidates are Republican and how that’s kind of enough to withhold your vote, even though it's a nonpartisan race.
We hear from Chairwoman of the El Paso County Democratic Party who says:
“Both are Republican and don't hold the same values as Democratic values. We are trying to inform people and educate them that there is a third option. We are not encouraging people to not vote.”
The story then proceeds to tip toe around the fact that the third option is well, essentially not voting for mayor. I get it, it's a 'protest vote,' which ultimately achieves nothing. And I don’t know about you, but when someone says they are trying to “educate” me about how I can not vote, it's a little irritating.
I would like to ask Ms. Holguin what those Democratic values are she speaks about.
Then we meet an El Pasoan named Tia Johnson, who says, “I can’t believe El Paso would be so stupid to allow two people from the same party to represent the city. This is absolutely wrong for the people of El Paso.”
She clearly means Republicans. I don't believe she'd have the same reaction if both of the candidates were Democrats. If your chief concern in a non-partisan race is the party of the two candidates rather than their proposed solutions to specific issues, then no lady, you're stupid.
The real question is, what was the purpose of placing this story in the front page? What was the purpose to do an entire story about how these two candidates are both Republicans, have voted Republican in the past, and how there is such a thing as not voting?
Did they not consider the placement of the story?
It's not productive and it seems to perpetuate this simplified understanding many El Pasoan's hold about any Republican. There is a large spectrum on the right, from conservatives to libertarians to moderates and to straight up mad men like John McCain, but lumping them all together and vilifying the name itself just makes it easier to dismiss them.
It just so happens that the solutions to many problems El Pasoan's face today are coming from candidates that identify as Republicans because it has been Democratic tendencies that have led us to where we are. In addition, there is no clear cut party solution to certain issues unique to El Paso, like the arena. So why does the conversation seem to always revert back to party affiliation?
It has been clear from the coverage of David Saucedo that the city establishment does not hold him in high regard. That’s why all them city council losers endorsed Dee Margo. They don’t want to have to deal with a young guy with the energy to challenge, expose, and hold them accountable.
I imagine Saucedo knows this and that’s why he’s circumventing the status quo media and going directly to the people via every other possible avenue: Facebook Live, radio shows, interviews, door to door conversations.
He understands what he’s up against. He got onto the front page of the El Paso Times on May 25 by saying he would do everything possible to oust the city government. The E.P Times story tried to paint this as irrational and coming from a candidate with a reckless temperament, but the headline was enough to earn Saucedo some street cred. Anybody who knows the doings and blunders of city council, even passively, would have agreed with that sentiment.
Saucedo understands that in order to get his name out there he needs to boldly differentiate himself from his bland opponent. Saucedo has put out specific plans, has knocked on doors incessantly, participated in forums, interviews and through all of that, one sees the underlying ideas, a deep understanding of the city and its culture and mentality, and a coherent energetic vision fueled, not by cliches, but by realistic solutions of cutting taxes and encouraging business. Meanwhile, the El Paso Times is more concerned about the city's image and the fact that he’s a Republican and so they allow a good opportunity to initiate valuable political discourse to go straight into the recycle bin.