Carlos Gallinar, who is running for mayor in the upcoming elections, wrote an opinion piece on Bob Moore’s El Paso Matters a few days ago. In his piece, Gallinar argues that although municipal races are non-partisan he nonetheless wants to be “honest” about his “political affiliation”. Gallinar wrote that being “transparent” in campaigning will lead to transparency in how someone will govern.
Obviously, Carlos Gallinar is running as a Democrat and wants everyone to know.
Why is this important?
There are several reasons.
Dee Margo, the incumbent, is a well-known Republican.
The mayoral election, along with some city representatives, is on November 3. It is the same day America is voting for the next president. As readers may know, there is some discussion about whether Texas is in play. That, however, is unimportant because El Paso generally votes Democrat. Carlos Gallinar wants the voter to know he is a Democrat even though the office is non-partisan because he is hoping to siphon votes away from Margo just on party affiliation.
But there is more at play here.
Carlos Gallinar needs to distinguish himself from the other challengers. In addition to Dee Margo, there is Veronica Carbajal, Oscar Leeser and Dean Martinez. The final day to register to run is next Monday, August 17, so there may be a last-minute contender added to the list.
Carlos Gallinar is lost in between Dee Margo and Oscar Leeser. Veronica Carbajal seems to have a strong social media and ground game going on. Therefore, Carlos Gallinar understands that he needs to be one of the two candidates left standing on election night if he wants to be mayor.
Apparently Gallinar has set his eyes on Margo with his framing the race as a Democrat versus a Republican.
Carlos Gallinar wants to parlay the mayor’s race into a referendum on who is against Donald Trump to garner El Paso votes. Gallinar goes on to write in his editorial that Democrats facilitated his father’s immigration to the United States.
However, the facts do not hold this to be true.
The last pro-immigration legislation was the 1986 so-called amnesty program pushed for and led by a Republican – Ronald Reagan. What is important to note is that the historical record is clear in that Reagan was a champion of Mexican immigrants.
On the other hand, it is the Democrats that have stymied immigration reform over the years and imposed draconian legislation against legalized immigrant workers. The reason for this is simple, the base for the Democrats is labor and they do not want to compete with the immigrant labor.
Gallinar spends the rest of his editorial espousing his “values” focusing on key issues like police reform and immigrant issues.
However, the question remains, why is Carlos Gallinar so focused on framing the mayoral race as a partisan race?
The problem Carlos Gallinar has is that he is the face of Plan El Paso.
In 2012, the City of El Paso adopted Plan El Paso, a policy guide for development in El Paso for the next 25 years. It is the genesis of the attacks on Duranguito and Segundo Barrio to make way for the downtown arena.
Unlike Dee Margo who is the incumbent and Oscar Leeser who was also a mayor, and Veronica Carbajal who has a proven public record of being against the gentrification of Segundo Barrio, Gallinar must thread a narrow narrative between coming across as looking at protecting Duranguito while reconciling with his past record.
The Problematic History of Carlos Gallinar
As Deputy Director for Planning at the City of El Paso, Gallinar was advocating for urban renewal that concentrates people into clusters where living, working and entertainment are clustered together. In El Paso, the urban renewal process is focused on downtown redevelopment. The El Paso urban redevelopment scheme was originally spearheaded by Ray Caballero around 2000 and shepherded forth through different incarnations along the way. The scheme looks at creating economic clusters around medical sciences and technology to revitalize the El Paso economy and reverse the so-called “brain drain”.
To keep young El Pasoans in El Paso, proponents of the urban redevelopment around clusters want to create spaces where young people can enjoy entertainment without having to drive. Thus, for the clusters to work there needs to be large-scale entertainment centers like museums, restaurants and sports facilities like the ballpark and the arena.
The ideal of an economically feasible new living paradigm has been labeled Smart Code but it has nothing to do with smart, but rather with changing the way people live. The label is sometimes changed to Smart Growth. However, both labels are used to make “urban sprawl” the negative to community prosperity. The labels also distracts away from the need to displace communities to make the vision come true.
Carlos Gallinar said in 2015 that “young professionals, want to live in a place that’s ‘cool’”, underlining the central thesis to the urban renewal vision. But how do you pay for it? According to the proponents of clustered housing, young people like to spend money and thus they make more money. To attract these wage earners, the city needs to create an environment to entice them to pick El Paso over other cities.
But El Paso’s income level is one of the lowest in the nation. To make urban clustering viable there needs to be an uptick of the income levels in El Paso. That requires a critical mass of higher wage earners. That means that the low-income earners need to be removed to make way for the target demographic that clustered housing is after.
Under their vision, a successful urban cluster is one where residents work, live and entertain themselves without having to leave the cluster. A “walkable” community cluster is the central ideal of the urban redevelopment scheme. This vision of urban renewal requires two things, first a sustainable economy where ample amenities are paid for. For example, a ballpark was required for the urban package, but it was not feasible without public funds and thus public monies were leveraged to pay for it. Likewise, a sports arena requires public monies to be economically feasible.
The hope of clustered urban renewal is that the amenities offered by the clusters will result in large concentrations of highly educated professionals that would have the disposable incomes to keep the amenities available. This creates the second necessary item for the clustered urban renewal project – making way for the amenities and for the hoped-for high-wage professionals the project is attempting to attract.
Thus, people need to be displaced and buildings need to be razed to make way for the urban renewal project.
This is the underlining reason behind the debacles of Duranguito and Segundo Barrio – which are nothing more than the gentrification of the poor. Therein lies the problem for Carlos Gallinar, his advocacy and support of an urban renewal project that is removing people to make way for the dream of clustered living and working spaces.
Gallinar calls this cluster concept a “third place” where home, work and entertainment provide a citizen with everything they need.
What Carlos Gallinar is doing by focusing on his Democrat label and tying the idea that he represents a “Latino” win for an El Paso dominated by White leadership is to put himself on the side of those opposed to gentrification and saving Segundo Barrio and other communities without having to address his involvement over the years with the plan that is forcing gentrification in El Paso.
Carlos Gallinar is playing a distraction game.
Gallinar, La Fe and Veronica Escobar
Carlos Gallinar, in addition to working at the city as the face of Plan El Paso, has been involved with the attacks on Segundo Barrio since it was first proposed by Ray Caballero. In 2005, Carlos Gallinar was a board member of El Paso Counts, a voter turnout program. According to Gallinar’s 2010 resume, he was also president of El Paso Counts from 2005 through 2006. Among the board members of El Paso Counts were Lina Ortega, Micheal Pletters (immigration judge married to Veronica Escobar) and Steven Yellen, the Morgan Stanley stockbroker who purchased Twitter stock for Beto O’Rourke in violation of ethic rules. Last year, FINRA suspended Yellen for a year for “unauthorized trading”.
In May 2005, Gallinar was appointed the Director of the La Fe Community Development Corporation. His duties included “urban planning initiatives”. Gallinar left in 2010. While at La Fe, Gallinar worked with Amy O’Rourke, the first superintendent of La Fe Prep, a charter school she developed for Segundo Barrio. O’Rourke is married to Beto O’Rourke who was at city council when the Glass Beach Study was developed, funded and presented to the public.
Her father, Bill Sanders, is generally believed to be the driving force behind the efforts to redevelop downtown El Paso by razing Segundo Barrio.
Carlos Gallinar told the Texas Tribune on April 4, 2019 that he “worked side by side with Amy O’Rourke” at La Fe. La Fe was also behind the Magoffin Park Villas that were built around Gallinar’s concept of urban revitalization. Sal Balcorta, the CEO of La Fe was also a Paso Del Norte member, along with Sanders, Paul Foster and the other proponents of razing Segundo Barrio to make way for downtown redevelopment.
When the Segundo Barrio community rose up to protect their neighborhoods, Sal Balcorta opposed their efforts.
Thus, Carlos Gallinar tries to position himself as a supporter of the Segundo Barrio’s right to protect themselves from the bulldozers while having to reconcile his history of pushing forth their removal to make way for Smart Growth.
Carlos Gallinar’s major campaign contributors are the same individuals who have backed the destruction of Segundo Barrio since the beginning. Among them are Eliot Shapleigh, Veronica Escobar, Amy O’Rourke, Beto O’Rourke, Mary Hull Caballero (Ray Caballero’s wife), Ray Caballero, Miguel Fernandez and Lina Ortega who have contributed over $15,000 to his campaign.
Their significant campaign contributions betray the façade that Carlos Gallinar is trying to build around the notion that the historic neighborhoods have nothing to fear from him.
That is why he wants to distract with the Democrat label.
The EPISD Audit
In 2016, Carlos Gallinar was appointed the director of planning and innovative schools at EPISD. In November 2018, he abruptly left his position overseeing the El Paso Independent’s School District $668.7 million bond.
In 2019, an audit of the school bond found that “more than $8 million” in construction costs did not go before the board for approval. The audit found that $8.17 million in unauthorized expenses were approved by one person – Carlos Gallinar. [Bond Program Management Audit, Final Report, August 9, 2019]
In addition to the expenses, the audit also found that Gallinar did not get board approval in five instances for services contracts over $100,000. The auditors state that they were unable to interview Gallinar for the audit. Gallinar told the El Paso Times that he did nothing wrong but has yet to provide information about how the audit is wrong.
As the reader can see, Carlos Gallinar has a history of supporting a public policy agenda that drives the destruction of communities such as Duranguito to make way for a sports arena. His campaign contributions further show how Gallinar is dangerous to communities fighting gentrification to re-envision El Paso as an Hispanic community absent the probrecitos – those that cannot afford the Smart Code principals that demand higher-wage earners to make it sustainable.
His questionable actions with $8 million of taxpayer EPISD monies makes it even more difficult for Gallinar to distinguish himself from Oscar Leeser and Veronica Carbajal. Thus, Gallinar has one tool at his disposal, create the illusion that the non-partisan race for mayor of El Paso is really a referendum between Republicans and Democrats.
Carlos Gallinar is hoping to be one of two contenders left when the dust settles on election night.