As the political season gets fully underway the political shenanigans are starting to make their appearance. I call them shenanigans because although not illegal, they nonetheless border on unethical behavior, if not outright corruption.

El Paso has been dealing with numerous criminal investigations around the notion of public corruption for the last seven to ten years, and by my most recent research even longer. The phrase “public corruption” is in everyone’s vocabulary yet the political gamesmanship continues unchallenged.

Case in point, yesterday I received my El Paso water bill. Besides the fact that an empty house in El Paso, with no winter grass watering actually costs me more than a fully occupied house with grass watering in Florida, there was an insert from our illustrious El Paso County Tax Assessor-Collector, Victor Flores.

Flores’ does not break any rules or laws as the brochure provides information about the “vehicle registration program”, one of the services provided by the County agency. But the timing and the design clearly serves an ulterior motive.

The brochure’s cover is a glossy, full color picture of Victor A. Flores, the current incumbent, along with his full name, the seal of the County of El Paso and other contact information. In politics there is one primary goal that needs to be accomplished to get elected. Create positive name recognition.

This is especially true for political offices that are overshadowed by other more glamorous offices or controversy. Most voters are too overwhelmed to pay attention to all of the political races so for the smaller competitions the voter just goes down the ballot and picks the name they recognize over the one that they don’t.

This is why elections are so expensive and why the “pay-to-play” mentality came into being.

I have two significant problems with Flores’ glossy insert. First is the fact that it was paid for by public funds, money that the taxpayers of the community paid through registration and other fees. Second, and more important, is the fact that it is a thinly disguised politically motivated, self-serving shenanigan that serves only one person; Victor A. Flores. Contrary to what Flores may claim, the fact is that the information contained therein is of little interest that most water utility customers will, at most, open the brochure to peek inside and then discard of it. That is after being bombarded with the image of Flores and his name, in the midst of an election campaign.

In other words, the taxpayers of the community paid twice to help Victor Flores get elected. First they pay taxes, or fees, to Flores’ entity which then takes a portion of that as an administrative fee to run his office. This money was used to design, prepare and print the insert. To add further insult to the taxpayer, the brochure is inserted into the water bills of the very same taxpayers that already paid for its production so that the taxpayer can once again pay for its deliver to their mail box. The postage and envelope were paid by the water utility, another taxpayer funded entity.

As with all political shenanigans, follow the money. In this case who stands to benefit the most from this insert?

The taxpayer?

Stop laughing as that is what Flores is arguing. How about Victor Flores? Does he stand to gain from the name recognition he has just reinforced with the insert?

Of course he did!

It is no wonder the general public is apathetic and uninvolved in the political process. Too many games are played with the public’s money they are forced to pay for that they have become disenchanted with the system.

This is an issue that is played by most, if not all political stakeholders one way or another and by all political parties. Not one is immune. The political system is a self-perpetuating corrupt machine that skirts the intent of the law, sometimes crossing it, all in the name of election results.

And for what? To get a pay check from the taxpayers of the community.

It’s disheartening and destructive for the taxpayers but unfortunately as disinterested, un-participating spectators each election cycle, we only have ourselves to blame because we know better yet we are not willing to demand accountability. We keep electing them either by not participating or voting based on a specific issue important to us rather than for the betterment of the community. We see the corruption, and the corruption is us.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...