Opinion

Opinion: The 2022 Elections Are About The Downtown Sports Arena

As a reminder: the words in blue are links to articles that provide more context to the topic.

The upcoming 2022 elections are not only very important to the nation and to Texas, but they are even more important to El Paso’s taxpayers. The national importance is obviously the control of Congress as the Republicans are fighting to regain control. For Texas, the importance for the Democrats multiplied at the state level with the legislation enacted in Texas limiting abortion and changing the way Texans vote. Not so obvious for El Paso taxpayers is that the 2022 elections are about whether the downtown sports arena gets built. In a later article we will explore how the arena is the end game for the 2022 local elections. For now, it is important to understand how political power is positioning itself for 2022.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke is block walking, as a deputized voter registrar, adding registered voters to Texas’ voter rolls. Currently, O’Rourke is not running for office, but rumors have circulated around him that he may run in 2022. For now, O’Rourke is running his Powered by People PAC recruiting volunteers across Texas. The O’Rourke PAC, formed in 2019, registers Texans to vote according to its Federal Election Commission (FEC) paperwork.

The PAC became known in El Paso when it announced earlier this year that it was collecting information on Segundo Barrio residents ostensibly to register them for the Covid-19 vaccine on behalf of the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC). The collection of social security numbers became controversial.

Although Beto O’Rourke’s PAC was publicly stating that it was working for UMC, we showed through open records that UMC had not authorized O’Rourke’s group to seek patients on behalf of the hospital. It has been speculated that the data collected by O’Rourke’s volunteers in Segundo Barrio were for determining which residents are registered to vote.

O’Rourke has lost his two recent political races, the 2018 race for the Senate against Ted Cruz and his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for 2020. His two losses have not silenced the rumors of another run in 2022. The question is, is he running again, or does he have another plan with the data he is collecting on Texan voters?

Beto O’Rourke isn’t the first politician to lose an election and pivot towards helping to register voters. The most recent successful example is Stacy Abrams who flipped Georgia towards the Democrats. Is O’Rourke looking to help the Democrats flip Texas or keep control of Congress? Is it a plan to run in 2022? Or is it something else altogether?

Beto O’Rourke isn’t the only El Paso politician positioning themselves on El Paso’s political board. To answer the question of O’Rourke’s future political plans it is important to understand who else is positioning themselves on the political board.

The Rodriguez Couple

There are four other individuals making political statements in the run up to the 2022 elections. The first is Jose Rodriguez and his wife Carmen. Jose Rodriguez is the former county attorney who oversaw the county’s contracts when over 40 elected officials and businessmen went to jail on public corruption charges, many of which involved the county. Although Jose Rodriguez had the oversight authority over the county contracts, it was not him who prosecuted the bribery schemes. His wife, Carmen, is one of four authors of the Community First Coalition’s book; Who Rules El Paso? The book argues that Woody Hunt and Paul Foster are who dominate El Paso’s public policy agenda with their money.

The problem with the book is that it ignored important context in its coverage of El Paso’s historical record of threatening Segundo Barrio to make way for downtown economic development. It ignored the battles over the TIF districts in 2002 that are central to the targeting of poor Hispanic communities to make way for economic development. More important is that it ignored the rampant corruption exposed by the FBI’s Poisoned Pawns investigations that showed corruption at the county when her husband, Jose Rodriguez was the county attorney.

Carmen Rodriguez has a history of attempting to position herself politicly.

In 2016, there was a dispute in Juárez with Lexmark workers. Many local activists tirelessly worked to help the Lexmark workers in their dispute. Carmen Rodriguez was not among the activists, however, once it was an obvious victory for the grassroots efforts, Carmen Rodriguez attempted to take ownership of the victory by making the news media rounds as the leader of the activists. (Follow this link for the full story)

When Carmen Rodriguez misused some Lexmark images created by the Lexmark activists to create the illusion that she was one of the major leaders behind the labor win, she was called out by our sister publication’s editor Miguel Juárez on Facebook. The dialog on the Facebook group, Chucopedia, revolved around the dispute over who deserved credit. Absent in the online discussion was Carmen Rodriguez. Instead of defending herself on Chucopedia, her supporter Debbie Nathan took down the post to protect her, only to bring it back after the censorship was pointed out. We have previously demonstrated how Nathan censors posts on Chucopedia that does not fit the narrative she considers acceptable.

Jose Rodriguez is not new to the controversies over Duranguito and by extension Segundo Barrio. He used the term “gringolandia” in the October issue of the Texas Monthly. His use of the term was in response to eradicating Duranguito to make way for the downtown sports arena. On the surface it looks like Jose Rodriguez is challenging the so-called oligarchy of El Paso. But is he really?

History says otherwise. The genesis of the controversy is the Glass Beach Study in 2006 that exposed the Paso del Norte Group (PDNG) and its attempts to gentrify Segundo Barrio for economic development.

However, the first attempt to gentrify a poor Hispanic neighborhood for economic development was in 2001 when Ray Caballero wanted to raze the neighborhood around the proposed Border Health Institute (BHI) to make a medical campus. The BHI today is known as the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA). In an upcoming article we will explore the BHI in greater depth. What is important to note today is that both Rodriguezes were instrumental in the attempt to gentrify the poor community to make way for the BHI. Jose Rodriguez supported the BHI, while his wife, Carmen Rodriguez was Ray Caballero’s campaign manager for the election. Coincidently, the book blaming Hunt and Foster as El Paso’s oligarchy conveniently ignores the BHI neighborhood battles which resulted in the community saving their homes. Thus, the MCA exists today and not the BHI as envisioned by Caballero.

More important is the fact that it was Ray Caballero who “tasked Jack Cardwell, Myrna Deckert and Gilberto Moreno to form the PDNG.”

Bob Moore And Sito Negron

The battles for the BHI were supported by the news media by how their reporting slanted the dialog away from protecting private homes towards inhibiting El Paso’s economic renaissance by individuals like Jaime O. Perez abusing the poor people of the BHI footprint. Two news media personalities stood among the rest. They are Bob Moore and Sito Negron. Bob Moore, as the recent book Bombshell in the Barrio alleges, magnified the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) cheating scandal that wasn’t, targeted Perez and others, including the author, to silence dissention about the BHI through the El Paso Times.

Likewise, through the Stanton Street & Newspaper Tree online publications, Sito Negron wrote several articles about how Jaime O. Perez was allegedly criminal in his interference of the BHI project. Negron, like the Rodriguez’s is now positioning themselves as activists against the oligarchy. Sito Negron has bestowed himself as the savior of the neighborhoods around the freeway. But it is important to note that the publications that Negron worked for were first funded by Beto O’Rourke and then by Woody Hunt. In addition, according to a recent El Paso, Inc. article, Negron was funded by the El Paso Community Foundation while he worked at the El Paso, Inc. before going to work for Jose Rodriguez. (El Paso, Inc., August 8, 2021)

Eliot Shapleigh Rises

With Beto O’Rourke, Sito Negron and the Rodriguez couple the question is why? Why now? To better understand we need to look at Eliot Shapleigh. Shapleigh not only was an instrumental supporter of Ray Caballero and his attacks on the BHI footprint neighborhood but was named in the book Bombshell in the Barrio as starting the EPISD cheating scandal to allow for the use of eminent domain against Bowie High School to make way for downtown redevelopment.

Eliot Shapleigh announced in 2006 that he was giving up his seat for the Texas Senate that he held for about 14 years. At the time of his announcement, it was rumored that he would run for mayor. But he did not and largely remained in the background, except to occasionally meet with Susie Byrd, Veronica Escobar, Beto O’Rourke and Steve Ortega to discuss politics.

But the silence ended earlier this month when Reyes Mata published an article in the El Paso Inc. on August 8, 2021. As the El Paso, Inc. article, states, Shapleigh “was the political architect and frontman [sic] for a swath of populist campaigns that riled the Texas status quo.” The article reminds readers of Shapleigh’s EPISD cheating scandal and his part in the launching of the Community Scholars to cultivate future politicians. The Community Scholars is a case study on how philanthropy is used to manage the public policy agenda.

The important part the article exposed is that Eliot Shapleigh is currently advising Veronica Escobar and supporting people for elected office. Shapleigh also acknowledges speaking to Beto O’Rourke “all the time”. He goes on to tell Mata that he advises “25 elected officials” including ten office holders, meaning that there are 15 individuals that Shapleigh is cultivating for office in upcoming elections. Shapleigh is now back where he was when the BHI neighborhood was threatened by economic development for the BHI to make way for a medical campus. Back where Susie Byrd, Carmen Rodriguez and Veronica Escobar were behind terrorizing poor people to make way for economic development in El Paso by gentrifying the poor Latinos out of their homes.

Reyes Mata, like the others named here is also part of the public disinformation on behalf of Woody Hunt.

The Newspaper Tree

Reyes Mata established the Dos Pueblos Press in 1998 and has worked for several entities. In 2012, Mata was appointed the Newspaper Tree’s managing editor by the El Paso Community Foundation. It was the Community Foundation that shut down the Newspaper Tree in 2010. With funding largely by Woody Hunt, the Newspaper Tree was being brought back to life only to be shut down again in 2014. The Newspaper Tree has a long history in El Paso’s political landscape. It was first brought to life soon after Ray Caballero lost his reelection by Emanuel Anthony Martinez. Martinez worked for Ray Caballero in 2003. The first iteration of the Newspaper Tree was shuttered after Martinez went to work for Eliot Shapleigh. It was then brought back a second time, only to be shuttered again only to be purchased by the El Paso Community Foundation.

The Newspaper Tree was an offshoot of Beto O’Rourke’s Stanton Street Magazine (1999-2002). Sito Negron worked both at Stanton Street and the Newspaper Tree. The last iteration of the Newspaper Tree was largely funded through the El Paso Community Foundation that is largely funded by Woody Hunt.

The newest news media project for the El Paso Community Foundation is Bob Moore’s El Paso Matters. How Bob Moore will factor into the 2022 elections will be explored in an upcoming article. What readers may wish to consider is whether at play is Hunt’s downtown sports arena.

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