By Jaime O. Perez
All eyes are on Cobos and Sariñana. Thrown together by circumstance, both men have displayed an uncommon courage and conviction. Despite strong pressure to conform to the playbook presented by a newly elected Mayor in a strong Mayoral system and despite the acquiescence if not subservience of the majority of other District Representatives, Cobos and Sariñana have maintained their opposition to the Caballero administration’s double digit tax increase. They have openly questioned the channeling of millions of public dollars to projects that have not been adequately presented and explained to the public and they have openly criticized the political climate that denies citizens the right to vote on important public policy and denies access to public information. The new political climate has been symbolized by the support for the completion of a Juan De Oñate statue created by noted sculptor John Houser. El Pasoans of native American heritage and many Mexican Americans have protested the glorification of what by all accounts was a cruel fanatic. He displayed the worst characteristics of the Spanish invasion and inquisition and was ultimately removed as head of the New Mexico territory by the King of Spain for his excesses. Said Lupe Weaver, “I can’t believe the City Council completely ignores us when it comes to these things. How would people feel if we were throwing tax dollars down the tubes building a statue of Santa Anna and placing it in front of the Austin capitol or a confederate flagpole at the NAACP library or a statue of Hitler in front of the holocaust Museum? What is the Caballero administration thinking?” Norma Chavez, state representative, weighed in on radio asking for an amendment that would complete the statue sans a foot to recount history as it truly happened.
In similar fashion, the new political climate at city hall is Oñatesque. The current administration argues that they have been elected to office and they are going to carry out their duties according to “their conscience”. They argue that the citizens have no right to vote on important public policy because they are the “public voice”. Cobos referred to this political climate as the reign of a “click” or gang and stated that Medina has signaled the intention to punish District #8 and #7 by suggesting that those that did not support the increase should be last in line for public improvements.
Gang politics aside, Cobos and Sariñana are a new breed of politicians that are very close to the average citizen and are highly responsive to them. Expect to see strong advocacy for the constituents in 2002.