As readers may have noted we have made significant changes to our publication over the last couple of days. The El Paso Politics, the El Paso News and Border Politics are now one publication – the El Paso News. Over twenty years of covering El Paso is now archived under the El Paso News. El Paso News is the longest continuously running online publication in El Paso. But that is just the beginning.
Politico Campaigns came together to fill a much-needed void in El Paso’s political scene. El Paso ranks as the highest taxed city in the state and one of the most expensive cities to live in. The reason is that El Paso’s public policy agenda is led by a wealthy minority whose focus has been an economic policy of having the taxpayers pay for a baseball park, the gentrification of poor Hispanic neighborhoods, and now an attempt to build a multi-purpose sports arena from the 2012 Quality of Life bonds approved by the voters. The proposed multi-purpose arena – which has been in litigation for years – was expensively unfeasible when it was first proposed and is now more expensive to build because of inflation due to the economic downturn. In addition to the rising costs for gasoline and consumables, El Pasoans are also facing rising property taxes.
The city’s public policy agenda is managed by elected officials that are put in office with the help of wealthy donors who want their public policy agenda to lead the city’s economy. Although El Paso voters are partly to blame because of their electoral apathy, it is not fair to place the blame entirely on the voters. El Paso’s plutarchy – great wealth rulers – control the public policy agenda with their wealth. They buy elected officials through campaign financing. This is not solely an El Paso issue as this is the reality across America.
In 2004, the city moved away from a strong-mayor form of government towards a city manager form of government. It is this change in government that further empowered the oligarchy. Before the city manager form of government, those wanting to control the public policy agenda were forced to leverage their campaign donations each election cycle on multiple candidates, including the mayoral candidate. By running slates of candidates, they were able to muster the necessary votes towards their economic vision for El Paso.
Although running city council slates of candidates is still necessary, it is less so today because of the city manager. Before the city manager, the city’s public policy agenda changed from administration to administration making control of the public policy chaotic. Under the city manager form of government, the city manager shepherds the public policy from administration to administration. Although ostensibly it is the elected officials that make policy and the city manager implements it, under the system in place in El Paso, the city manager controls the flow of information. Adding to the control of information, the staggered terms of the city representative elections make it difficult for any activist elected official to challenge the status quo by the fact that their vote is often marginalized by an entrenched system, led by the wealthy through the city manager.
Case in point are the two recent mayoral vetoes and the successful overturn of the last one by the change in vote by one city representative – Claudia Rodriguez. Rodriguez will be running to keep her seat in the upcoming elections in November and her recent vote change regarding the city manager signals that she is preparing for challengers to challenge her for her seat.
Rodriguez must raise campaign funds to face her challengers. El Paso’s plutarchy is the single largest source of campaign funds in the city and thus it is easier for Rodriguez to change her vote in favor of the city’s wealthy for the funds she needs to run for office. The oligarchy needs to keep the city manager in place.
The Battle For The City Manager
There is a battle over the future of the city manager form of government in El Paso. The drivers of the high-taxes public policy need to keep the city manager form of government to allow them to continue to control the city’s public policy agenda. The mayor’s two vetoes of the contract changes for Tommy Gonzalez’ contract raise and extension are part of that battle. The other and not generally understood battle is whether El Paso’s voters should be allowed to choose whether to revert to the strong-mayor form of government or keep the city manager in place.
El Paso voters can have the choice on the November ballot, but the city’s Charter Commission has refused to add it to the charter elections. Although the Charter Commission has refused to add it, an activist city representative could bring the issue up for a vote at city council asking for the measure to be added to the November ballot. It is likely to fail but it forces elected officials to take a public position on the issue.
Voters can also force the issue through a petition drive to add the question to the November ballot.
However, the problem remains, how does a grassroots effort overcome the obstacles of wealth being leveraged in El Paso’s elections. How do the voters equalize the playing field? One way to equalize the election field is through technology.
Politico Campaigns merges the years of experience of Eddie Holguin and Lily Limón in running political campaigns with technology. Technology, the internet in particular, has been disruptive to generations-old business models. Uber disrupted the taxi industry by bringing technology to the business of private transportation. Amazon has disrupted the retail industry by moving purchasing away from large and expensive showrooms to online stores with deliveries, often overnight, right to the consumers’ doorsteps.
Political campaign firms still operate on the tired model of door-to-door canvassing and advertising on the airways. Many political consultants spend time convincing editorial boards to endorse their clients, as if a newspaper’s endorsement is the ticket to be elected. The business of political campaigns is stale and ripe for disruption.
I have joined the firm Politico Campaigns.
Over the last 30 years I have been in the technology sector focused on emerging technologies. I have also been reporting on El Paso politics for 22 years. This experience has led me to understand that technology can disrupt election campaign consulting like it has the retail and news industries. It is this disruption that can equalize the playing field for El Paso’s voters.
Holguin, Limón and I are committed to disrupting how El Paso political campaigns are conducted by merging time-tested expertise with technology. We have developed a holistic model that allows anyone wanting to run for office to leverage technology to allow them to challenge wealthy-backed candidates through the effective use of technology. Voters spend more time online then on television or going to debates. Although door-to-door canvassing and mailers remain part of the arsenal for those seeking office, the use of technology maximizes the campaign dollars by targeting specific reliable voters to vote for the candidate.
Our technology is based on our exclusive voter metrics going back to 2000. This allows us to identify the number of votes needed to be successful for a specific office and identify the voters likely to vote for a specific candidate. Our voter data predicted the outcome of the Dee Margo-Oscar Leeser race before the final vote was counted. Our technology provides 22 years of voter analysis no one else can leverage.
My involvement in Politico Campaigns raises the obvious question for my reporting on El Paso’s political scene. Specifically, the question of whether it is appropriate for the news reporter to be part of the news or just an observer of the news.
News Media Disruption
Politico Campaigns is a partnership between Eddie Holguin, Lily Limón and me. It is separate from El Paso News and neither Holguin nor Limón exercise any editorial control over what El Paso News covers. However, what does that mean for me? There is no question that my reporting can be influenced by our clients.
The reality, however, is that the news industry has always been influenced by the wealthy. There are numerous reporters who will attest to being told that a topic is off limits because a wealthy benefactor has threatened to cut off funds. Case in point is the ongoing controversy over the El Paso Children’s Hospital and how the local news media has chosen to ignore it. Moreover, so-called non-profit news outlets have been silenced by their donors. In addition to El Paso Matter’s refusal to report on the ongoing problems at El Paso Children’s Hospital, its largest benefactor who seeded the non-profit, Woody Hunt has been accused by long-time journalist Debbie Nathan of silencing her in 2013.
Thus, the idea that news reporters are only observers and not part of the news is only a façade of the reality. When wealthy benefactors control what is allowed to be reported it limits how voters understand the issues that drive elections.
Nonetheless, transparency is fundamentally important to news reporting. Transparency requires the full disclosure of any bias that may taint the report. To address this, going forward I will put a disclaimer on each of my articles pointing out my involvement with Politico Campaigns. In addition, any articles involving clients, or principals of the firm will have that disclosed in the articles as well.
This is in addition to what my reporting has been doing the last few months that is unique in the news business – adding well-documented sourcing for the articles that we publish. At El Paso News we believe that our reporting stands on how we document our reporting with sources that any reader can readily consult to verify our information.
In my opinion this is disrupting the old news model where consumers were simply expected to trust what was reported to them. But that is only the beginning of how we intend to disrupt the business of political consulting and the news media. I am now becoming involved in who is elected in El Paso through the leveraging of my technology and political knowledge with the expertise of Eddie Holguin and Lily Limón. But it is not simply electing our clients, it is about empowering the voters of El Paso.
Although we are bringing a disruptive business model to political campaign consulting, simply being a political consulting firm is no different from the others when we provide services only to those who can afford us. The three of us are committed to empowering the voters by supporting grassroots efforts with our experience and our technology to make a significant change in their community. Although we cannot support every grassroots effort due to time and financial constraints, we are committed to regularly taking up the challenge to help a small organization wanting to make an impact on their community’s wellbeing. We are also making our voter database available to all grassroots efforts.
We feel that our commitment to local community-based true grassroots efforts and our approach to political campaigning through technology driven strategies are the first step in empowering voters. In addition, my personal journey to offer reporting that no one else is willing to offer and a platform that allows the marginalized voices to express themselves will continue to disrupt El Paso’s news coverage just like I did on March 4, 2000, when I started reporting on El Paso’s politics through an online publication that is now the longest continuously running publication in El Paso – the one you are reading today.
Martín Paredes became a partner of Politico Campaigns, a political campaign management firm, in June 2022. The views and opinion expressed in our publication are those of Paredes and do not necessarily represent the views of the firm or its other partners. El Paso News is funded primarily by Paredes, in part by donations from readers and online advertisement. Politico Campaigns plays no role in our reporting. El Paso News has an open editorial policy encouraging any author to submit any article from any point of view for consideration to be published on El Paso News.