What do you think is the most pressing issue El Paso is facing right now? How do you plan to mitigate?
Vigilant COVID monitoring …the fact is COVID is here and will be here for a while. We have an added challenge as a border community. Until we get control of COVID, it will be difficult to satisfactorily address debt, taxes and jobs. Social distancing and masks are key to saving our economy so that El Pasoans are healthy, our businesses can fully reopen and our students can safely go back to school. The City has a responsibility to lead by example. We won’t see full economic recovery until people are comfortable that it is safe to resume activities.
The state law allows for the release of statistical information about clusters including the number of infectious disease cases at a specific location (that does not identify individuals). I believe that El Pasoans have the right to make informed decisions about where they go.
I support the release of cluster information.
Under what conditions would you impose a COVID-19 related shut down of the city?
As Mayor I would do everything in my power to encourage all sectors of our community to come together and take the necessary actions to keep infection numbers low enough to prevent that.
How would you have responded to the killing of George Floyd if you were the mayor of Minneapolis? How will you improve community relations with law enforcement?
I would gather the facts, be transparent and hold the responsible parties accountable.
I think it is imperative to keep El Paso one of the safest cities in the country. I am not in favor of “defunding” the police. I am in favor of providing those working on the front line every day to keep our community safe the necessary tools and training to deescalate conflict whenever possible.
The anniversary of August 3rd recently passed, how are you planning to protect the city from race-related violence?
I was very proud of how quickly law enforcement responded and how our community came together. Hate crime prevention requires persistence and vigilance. Our law enforcement deserves continuous updates to training to recognize hate crimes and collaborate with community organizations and educational institutions to create a climate of support and safety for those reporting hate crimes.
What will your strategies be to combat the flu and COVID-19? How will you work with school districts to protect students, faculty, and staff?
As the father of eleven grandchildren I share everyone’s concerns. While there are some major cities where Mayors have some control over schools El Paso is not one of them. The school districts in El Paso are managed by elected school boards.
The Mayor does have the ability to exercise considerable influence and encouragement and I’m highly motivated to do so.
Social distancing and masks are key to saving our economy so that El Pasoans are healthy, our businesses can fully reopen and our students can safely go back to school. We won’t see a full economic recovery until people are comfortable that it is safe to resume activities. The City has a responsibility to lead by example.
How will you work to invigorate the local economy that has taken a hit amid the pandemic?
It’s more cost-effective to first work to stop the loss of existing jobs. Job retention is important because if you’re losing existing jobs, job creation numbers don’t give you a real picture. We have a responsibility to help retain jobs and support growth of businesses and owners, large and small that have already invested in our community. Today, many have been hurt by COVID.
Proactively targeting likely prospects to invest in El Paso has to be a constant on-going effort that includes coordinating with UTEP and EPCC to make sure we have the ability to provide the training for incoming jobs.
The COVID crisis exposed inequality across people from all groups: migrants, the poor, families and the elderly were hit hard. To close the gap and address structural inequality in the recovery period, it’s going to be important to take inclusive measures, especially for local business support and employment, affordable housing, and support to vulnerable households. Beyond the initial short-term responses we have to think of long-term recovery.
The longer we are required to social distance to avoid infection the longer the economy will be slowed. That means coming together as a community to take every step needed now to protect our loved ones and friends and begin building a new future.
What makes you the best candidate? Why?
I am deeply concerned about the direction of our City. Our City budget is almost a billion dollars and we are $2 billion dollars in debt. El Paso has more CO debt than any other city in Texas. El Paso has more Certificate of Obligation debt than any other city in Texas. Property taxes continue to rise. Population growth is virtually stagnant. These are serious danger signs.
Considering the unsustainable burden of debt that we now carry we have to be very careful moving forward. The next Mayor faces a serious fiscal crisis.
Still, I believe that together there are solutions to our problems. They aren’t always easy and they aren’t always popular …but a lot of problems can be solved with common sense and an attitude of cooperation. Together our problems are manageable. It is the job of your elected officials to manage them.
As Mayor, I took our story directly to the decision makers. El Paso has a lot to offer, but we are not the first name selection firms and Fortune 500 companies think of. During my term I created 5,365 jobs and retained another 7,730. Job retention is important because if you’re losing existing jobs, job creation numbers don’t give you a real picture.
I instituted “Hire El Paso First” because we want businesses to locate within El Paso, but it is also important to our economy and work force that local companies be considered as a purchasing preference for bids and contracts. I amended and improved the zoning application process to ensure that people receive sufficient notification to respond. I prioritized lowering bridge wait times to help increase bi-national traffic and commerce. I restructured and accelerated debt service that saved millions of dollars. I created the first “no kill” animal shelter.
I successfully negotiated with ballpark ownership to pay additional costs up front. It is important to have a Mayor strong enough to balance pressure from investor interests with the needs of the taxpayers.
Due to this unique time, we must have someone as Mayor who has demonstrated experience. I am ready to lead the City Day One. I am committed to deal head-on with our debt. I have the strength and judgment to balance pressure from investor interests with the needs of the taxpayers. I will not sacrifice your interests for special interests. I will stand up for all El Pasoans regardless of race, income or zip code. I have a deep love of all things El Paso and I believe in our future!