EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Despite the differing ideologies of how to improve El Paso, the four mayoral candidates that participated in Friday’s Election Chats: Get the Facts 2020 Mayoral Forum keyed in on one main issue: improving El Paso’s economy.
During the livestreamed event, presented on Facebook Live by the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and KTSM 9 News, the candidates that participated discussed the economy, as well as COVID-19 and racial and ethnic injustice, among other key issues. EPHCC Board Chair EPHCC Chair Mike McQueen and KTSM’s Daniel Marin moderated the event.
The participating candidates were incumbent Mayor Dee Margo, former Mayor Oscar Leeser, businessman Carlos Gallinar and attorney Veronica Carbajal. There are two more mayoral candidates, Dean “Dino” Martinez and Calvin Zielsdorf, who did not participate in the forum.
The candidates were filmed during individual segments, which can be viewed in full below.
Margo said the City is making big strides in attracting more businesses to El Paso, but there’s more work to be done.
“We need to continue our growth here and attract more industry and jobs for our community,” Margo said, adding that the bulk of El Paso’s businesses are small businesses. “I think our greatest asset is that we are a region of 2.7 million people, counting Juarez and Southern New Mexico. … The value of the people we have, and the labor market we have, it has greater value than the oil in the Permian Basin.”
Leeser, who appeared via Zoom, said that during his tenure, the city’s unemployment rate went from 9 percent to 4 percent, many companies had visited El Paso and the community “was on the move.”
Leeser said that health issues curbed his plans to run for office after his first term.
One way to improve El Paso’s economy, Leeser said, is to ensure that El Paso’s growth stays within El Paso city limits. “It’s really important that we look at ways to reduce our taxes,” he said. “If we build 1,000 homes outside the city limits, those homeowners will not be paying taxes within the city limits.”
For Gallinar, part of improving El Paso’s economy means stopping El Paso’s brain drain, where highly trained or highly skilled workers move elsewhere for higher-paying opportunities.
“We know that we have to diversify our economy,” he said. “Our economy cannot just be suburban franchises and call centers.”
As part of his economic redevelopment plan, he suggested making El Paso a leader in renewable energy — particularly solar energy — and bringing more high-tech manufacturing jobs to the city.
Carbajal said her focus would be on keeping the cost of living low for El Pasoans, while also ensuring that small businesses can survive. She added that big companies are good for our economy but should not be prioritized if they will not provide more than just a paycheck to its employees.
“If we are going to use any tax incentive to attract outside companies, that people have the kind of benefits that I have,” she said.
Incentives and benefits like paid sick leave, student loan assistance can be helpful for El Pasoans to have more money overall. The city should also look at helping residents with access to Wi-Fi, affordable childcare and more, she said.
To see how the candidates stand on other issues, view each of the below segments in full:
Mayor Dee Margo