Sound Off

The El Paso Police Department - DEFENDing the Blue Budget

I’m against defunding the El Paso Police Department budget. I’m for DEFENDING the El Paso Police Department (EPPD) budget and increasing it. There are three components in improving the El Paso Police Department and other police departments in our country. This includes federal, state, county, municipal and local law enforcement agencies.
1. Effective recruitment and retention of police personnel
2. On-going training that is current, relevant and informative
3. Increased supervision of police personnel
The EPPD needs to change its hiring and background check practices to eliminate the low credit score ratings and polygraph examination as methods for selection into the police academy andthe police service. These two components eliminate a large number of competent potential applicants every year. Example – A former neighbor applied for the EPPD many years ago; however, he had a very low credit score and debt. He was passed over for EPPD employment. This same applicant then applied for the U.S. Border Patrol and was accepted. He has since become an instructor at their academy, a supervisor and a mentor to other U.S. Border Patrol agents. The EPPD needs additional police officers and additional personnel will increase the EPPD budget.
Just like maintenance is forever, so is training. Policing is an ever-changing profession and
police field operations and investigations need to utilize improved technology, i.e. body
cameras. Regarding body cameras, the initial purchase cost is significant. Post purchase of the body cameras, the storage, retrieval and records retention of video / audio is extremely costly which results in an increased EPPD budget.
Police supervisors need to be out in the field ensuring their personnel are following department procedures, properly enforcing state and local statutes. The current EPPD ratio of span of control probably exceeds set standards and should be reduced. If this recommendation is followed and practiced, the promotion of additional police supervisors will require additional personnel and an increased EPPD budget.

Code Compliance

Recently, the Code Compliance section was transferred to the El Paso Police Department. This included approximately 50+ Code Compliance officers, their marked fleet and their budget. In essence, the El Paso Police Department and the public safety budget increased significantly. During this campaign, I have heard from many District 4 constituents that Code Compliance officers are often observed driving around neighborhoods where there are clear Municipal Code violations and they are not taking any enforcement action. This would be similiar to police officers driving around and only taking calls for service and not doing any self-initiated work. Once elected, I will fight for these Code Compliance officers to become a proactive section versus being reactive and receiving their daily work orders. This may result in improved quality of life issues in different communities.

The Negative Northeast Image

Where exactly does the Northeast begin? I have often heard the Northeast begins on Fred Wilson Avenue, Hercules Drive and of course, Hondo Pass Drive. In my sole opinion, I believe the Northeast begins at approximately Fred Wilson Avenue going north. This issue is very important when the media begins to report a motor vehicle accident, a homicide or a very disturbing public event. It seems the media (both print and broadcast) are quick to point out the Northeast as the sole area of El Paso where "bad things happen" which is totally inaccurate reporting and false. Many reporters will frequently repeat "Northeast" in their reporting of negative incidents. This is in direct contrast when a reporter typically states the "Westside" or "Eastside" only once in a negative story line. This image problem results in many El Pasoans talking and believing the Northeast as the only crime-ridden part of El Paso. Many people refuse to visit the Northeast. Instead, they may utilize the major arterials such as U.S. 54 and Spur 601 to travel and continue on their way. This negative image continues impacting in potential housing rentals and sales and lowering property values. Once elected as your District 4 City Representative, I plan to meet with the media and hold educational sessions with them on improving the negative reporting which affects Northeast El Paso. These meetings will hopefully include the District 2 City Representative who represents a significant portion of the Northeast as well. This screenshot is from CBS Channel 4 news website dated September 11, 2020 at 5:03 AM. You can see two (2) negative events identified as occurring in Northeast El Paso. Also a raid was executed in El Paso, but does NOT identify which part of town. In addition, on the same screen shot you see a POSITIVE event occurring in Northeast El Paso without the location being identified.

This screenshot is from CBS Channel 4 news website dated September 11, 2020 at 5:06 AM. You will notice the under the headline “MORE TO EXPOLORE” has a caption discussing an arrest at an El Paso YMCA. There are multiple YMCA locations in El Paso; however the headline does not specify which part of El Paso.

These are examples of the news media only providing information on a negative event by not specifying which area of town unless it occurs in Northeast El Paso.

The City Manager's and City Attorney's Merit Increases

Recently, both the City Manager and the City Attorney received merit increases. The public outcry was "why" which has been stated loud and clear. -Why did they receive merit increases when there were employees being furloughed? -Why during a pandemic? It's helpful to remember, that both the City Manager and the City Attorney are appointed positions by the Mayor and City Council. Hopefully, these appointments are completed after a thorough and exhaustive search for the right person for these positions. As appointed City officials, they received a written contract which included their salaries and benefits. A component of these contracts is an annual performance evaluation conducted by the Mayor and City Council. After the performance evaluation is completed, if the appointed employee receives a certain performance rating, they merit a salary increase. With the City Manager's current salary of approximately $360,000.00 that includes a contractual five per cent merit increase generating an approximate $18,000.00 pay increase. This applies whether or not we are in a COVID-19 pandemic or other circumstances. Therefore, the only way to change this merit pay increase is to change the language of their contracts in reducing the five per cent to less than one per cent or providing other incentives. This also provides a continuum of substantial base salaries for future City Managers and City Attorneys.

Please describe your personal and professional background.

Personal background – A caring person and citizen Professional background – A retired law enforcement professional and an active community leader

What motivated you to run for this position?

In April of 2019, I decided to run for city office because I care about the City of El Paso. In addition, I care deeply about Northeast El Paso. I’m discouraged at the lack of respect given to El Pasoans by our current city leaders. We as a community, deserve more and better. City Council needs to stop the blatant decision making that benefits only a few wealthy families here in El Paso.

How do you earn a living? Do you plan to continue if elected?

I’m retired from both the City of El Paso and the Texas Teacher Retirement System.

Please describe your education. Where did you get your high school diploma? What higher education degrees and certificates have you earned from where?

I graduated from Andress High School. I earned a bachelor of science degree in Criminal Justice administration from Park University.

What experiences in leadership do you have that qualify you for this position?

Family – I had the honor and pleasure of personally observe both of my parents in leadership positions within the family, our community, veterans’ groups, non-profits, etc. My father, the late Gilberto Molinar, initiating VFW Post 8919 and served as its first Commander. Then he continued serving in other leadership roles. My father leading, planning and executing the Lone Star Chapter 393 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart here in El Paso. Our father continuing to serve this veterans organization as the Region V National Vice Commander. My mother serving as the president of the women’s auxiliary for VFW Post 8919 and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Borderland Chapter 10. My mother volunteering with the American Red Cross, the March of Dimes, and working with the returning wounded Viet Nam soldiers at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. U.S. Marine Corps – I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1978 and I observed leadership in its finest hours and terms on a daily basis. In turn, I was able to achieve rank and personally evolved into a leader of Marines. I was on duty in Quantico, Virginia when President Ronald Reagan was shot by a deranged individual in Washington D C. I personally observed and participated in what our squadron’s mission was really all about. I was on duty in Quantico, Virginia when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in Cairo. Once again, although I didn’t deploy, I assisted in the squadron’s mission to send personnel, aircraft, parts, tools, fuel, etc. on a moment’s notice to a foreign country. HMX-1 was in Cairo Egypt in less than 24 hours and mission ready in the air and land to serve former President Jimmy Carter and others paying their respects to a fallen world leader. The unit’s executive officer eventually rose to become a general and serve as the Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. I had the pleasure to work with this man, fly with this Marine and observe his fine leadership and mentoring skills, etc. Community – I joined the El Paso Police Department and became one of two platoon leaders for my class. As a police officer, you are a leader within your patrol shift, the station and the community you serve. This was evident, when our neighborhood organized a Neighborhood Watch group and I was selected as the block captain for many years. I continued serving in a leadership position on the El Paso Police Department as follows: Field Training Officer (FTO) Detective (Homicide) Detective (Internal Affairs) Sergeant (Field Supervisor) Sergeant (Baker Shift – acted in the role as both a sergeant and a lieutenant) Lieutenant – Patrol Lieutenant – Special Operations Lieutenant – Crimes Against Children Neighborhood Associations – From a neighborhood watch group, I and others formed the General Maloney Neighborhood Association (GMNA – now defunct). I was elected to serve as the first president of the GMNA. The Castner Heights Neighborhood Association (CHNA) emerged from the GMNA. In January of 2012, I was elected as the president of the Castner Heights Neighborhood Association and have served in this capacity for past seven years (I took a one-year hiatus in 2017). In September of 2014, CHNA was selected as the neighborhood association of the year. I consider myself as a community leader who prioritizes my work for others and the community above self. As the CHNA president, I chair a board of directors, review and provide input into the association budget, plan and organize worthwhile projects that serve our community, etc. I have been doing this type of work for over ten years and I’m deeply proud of our efforts and results.

If elected, what would be your three key priorities while in office? How would you fund  these priorities?

Priority #1 – The Sean Haggerty / Angora Loop Extension Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #13 is currently in effect for this area but nothing is scheduled to begin until 2023. Priority # 2 – Cohen Entertainment District (CED) Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #11 is currently in effect for approximately 50 acres of land. Since its inception in May of 2018, TIRZ #11 has actually increased in size absorbing nearby additional acreage. An aquatics area to include pool, water slide, etc. is currently under construction; however, it certainly doesn’t look like the proposed plans that were previously presented at community meetings. The latest change now includes the building of a new El Paso Police Department headquarters on this property. Once again, these changes were not included in the original development plans but somehow passed. Priority #3 – Metro 31 Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #7 is currently in effect for these 31 acres of land. The Sun Metro transit terminal is currently built and in operation; however, it’s not functional. The buses currently enter and exit on Wren Street which is very narrow causing delays for the buses and other traffic. A better alternative would be to utilize Diana Drive to connect to Hondo Pass, Dyer Street and U.S. 54. The City of El Paso purchased this property well over cost from wealthy Mexican investors. What did the land survey reveal about the flood plain status? Metro 31 currently sits on a flood plain and has practically laid dormant for many years. In comparison, Monticello on the west side of El Paso was planned and executed in a shorter amount of time and it’s presently fully functional with other amenities currently under construction. Once elected as the new District 4 City Representative, I would review these three TIRZ locations to ensure if the plans are commensurate or not in budgeting and time.

With more calls to improve policing in America, should El Paso make reforms with its  police department? If so, what kinds of reforms do you support?

No, El Paso should not make reforms within the El Paso Police Department. The El Paso Police Department has initiated internal changes occur over the years with recruitment/retention of personnel, equipment, resources, training, technology, etc. Accountability begins with the individual citizen and following the laws that are currently in place. Resisting arrest is a crime in Texas.

What are your values when it comes to a citizen’s access to government and  transparency? Would you take calls from the media and agree to interview requests?

I believe all American citizens should take an active interest in access to government and transparency. Yes, I would take calls from the media and agree to interview requests. However, I have personally observed the media demonstrate bias in their reporting. In addition, I’m not very happy the way the media promulgates a negative image in their reporting of Northeast El Paso in relation to other parts of the city.

How would you rate the city/county’s response to COVID-19? Do you feel our restrictions  came soon enough, went far enough? What work do you feel needs to be done to continue  responding to the pandemic?

The city/county’s response to COVID-19 was adequate for two public government agencies never having experienced a pandemic. We now have lessons learned and possibly some best practices to consider for future issues (I hope not). I don’t agree with labeling the cause of death in numerous deaths as “he / she died of COVID 19”. I believe the city should disclose the location of COVID-19 clusters as long as the information is accurate and timely. Misinformation could lead to additional problems

El Paso experienced one of its hottest summers on record in 2020. What, if any steps, should the region take in combating climate change?

The city of El Paso should continue to strive for quality and effective mass transportation in order to reduce vehicle emissions.

If you are elected to the city council, will you recommend the Mayor and City Counsel release the city manager’s evaluations compiled by each of the city representatives? If yes, why? If Not, why Not?

Yes, once elected into Office, I will recommend the Mayor and City Council release the City Manager’s performance evaluation notes, input, and the final performance evaluation with their signatures on them. However, prior to this occurring, City Council would need to amend both the City Manager and City Attorney’s employment contracts in order for this information to be released. Since it’s presently written into their employment contracts that their performance evaluations won’t be disclosed to the general public, the Mayor’s hands are tied by this binding agreement. “…the evaluation of the Manager / Employee shall at all times be conducted in closed session of the Council and shall be considered confidential to the maximum and full extent permitted by law.” (December 11, 2018 City Manager and December 15, 2018 City Attorney employment contracts). Although an annual performance evaluation is considered a personnel issue, we (the taxpayers) are currently paying the City Manager and the City Attorney’s significant salaries and benefits and the public has a vested interest in how their taxes are being utilized. I have issues with evaluating both the City Manager and City Attorney together. We have two different people, two different positions and two different job descriptions. An employee’s annual performance evaluation should rate solely one employee and no one else during a rating period (six months, one year and or unscheduled). As a City Representative, one of the components of my position will be to evaluate my subordinates (both the City Manager and the City Attorney) because I will be their supervisor. I work for them (it’s my responsibility to provide training, equipment, resources, technology, etc.) in order for them to do their jobs correctly and professionally.