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On October 10, El Paso News asked all city council candidates running for city council in the November 8, 2022 ballot to answer our questionnaire for our Voters’ Guide 2022. Out of 17 candidates, two did not respond to our request. One candidate for District 1, Freddy Klayel Avalos announced on October 12 that he was suspending his campaign. Although Avalos is no longer running for office, his name remains on the ballot. As such, we have listed him on our Voters’ Guide as having withdrawn.

Four city council seats are open in this election cycle. They are Districts 1, 5, 6 and 8. Two incumbents, Isabel Salcido (5) and Claudia Lizzette Rodriguez (6) are facing challengers.

El Paso News is profiling each candidate by district. Their profiles are the answers they provided us. We are publishing their answers, in full, without any editing.

We are only publishing the profiles for the candidates that answered our questionnaire. Download our Voters’ Guide for a complete list of candidates running for office.

Our printable and downloadable one-page Voters’ Guide is available for download at the bottom of this article. We have also created one-page profiles for each of the candidates. They are available for download as well after each of the candidates’ profiles.

Today we are publishing the profiles for the District 8 candidates.

Rich Wright

Rich Wright

Age: 65

Telephone Number: (915) 820-1628

Email Address: elrichiboy@gmail.com

Campaign Website: elchuqueno.com

Education: BA Economics, UTEP, 1981

Current Occupation: Blogger/City Council candidate

Arrest Record: I have had a rich and robust life and have been arrested, but in the last 20 years I haven’t even gotten a parking ticket.

Previous Political Office: None

Current on city taxes: Yes

One sentence message to the voters:

I have been studying City Government for the last 10 years and I’ve come to the conclusion that the City doesn’t represent the interests of El Pasoans.

Top Three Issues:

  1. Taxes
  2. Eliminating wasteful spending
  3. Fiscal responsibility

What motivates you to run for office: The lack of fiscal responsibility of the current City Council is leading us to insolvency.

How will the candidate vote, as a trustee or as a delegate:

I think that there’s a middle ground between the two.

The 2012 Sports Arena:

I think the “arena” is a bad idea and a money pit that will only raise taxes without providing any benefit to the citizens of El Paso.

How do you plan to stay in touch with your constituents: My phone number is the some number I’ve had for more than 20 years. Also, I’m approachable. I’m a regular guy without any airs.

Open narrative to the voters:

Taxes are killing the local economy. They hurt small businesses two ways: by taking money away from the small businesses, and taking money away from their potential customers and clients.

For me, quality of life means good roads. It means good infrastructure. It means more money in our pockets, and in our bank accounts. We pay for those Quality of Life projects and then we have to pay to get into them. That’s not right.


Chris Canales

Chris Canales

Age: 30

Telephone Number: (915) 224-0238

Email Address: chris@canalesforcouncil.com

Campaign Website: canalesforcouncil.com

Education: I grew up on the Westside, attending Kohlberg Elementary School, Hornedo Middle School, and Franklin High School. At Franklin, I was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, captain of the soccer team, competed in Quiz Bowl (and twice earned a place in the National Championships), and served as a student representative on the EPISD Superintendent’s Advisory Council. I was named All-Franklin Boy and was a National Hispanic Scholar, an AP Scholar with Honors, and a National Merit Finalist. I then attended Columbia University in New York City on full need-based scholarship. My studies at Columbia’s Earth Institute (now part of the Columbia Climate School) focused on sustainable infrastructure and planning, responding to climate change, futurism & forecasting, and development economics, and I graduated with a degree in Sustainable Development.

Current Occupation: I am currently the Chief of Staff in the District 8 office. I also moonlight as a referee of professional soccer.

Arrest Record: None

Previous Political Office: None

Current on city taxes: Yes

One sentence message to the voters:

My experience across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors has prepared me to advocate for progressive, people-focused, community-driven public policy that responds to needs of the district and has the power to transform the lives of El Pasoans.

Top Three Issues:

  1. Street Conditions and Resurfacing –
  2. Most of our streets were built without storm drainage, so they are designed to channel water from the mountain into canals and arroyos. This means that they take a beating when it rains. Time and time again, City Councils of the past deferred repairs and needed maintenance in favor of lowering the tax rate. The effect on our streets is evident today. Recent evaluations of our street conditions have revealed that we need $40 million every year to bring all of our streets up to a good condition. In order to meet this goal in the longer term, we will need to find a funding source for street resurfacing that lasts into the future. This is a big priority of mine.
  3. Functional, Beautiful, and Accessible Parks – If you read my bio on my website CanalesforCouncil.com, you’ll know that I spent time working in the Natural Resources Group at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Simply put — I love parks! A big factor for me in choosing where to live is the quality of nearby parks. El Paso has many beautiful parks, but there is room for improvement. I have been working with the non-profit organization Moms On Board (also known as MOB Families for El Paso) to propose increased funding for parks in general and also changes that make it easier to deploy those funds to parks that are most in need of some TLC. We’ve had a lot of success getting these changes approved by the City Council. Our parks need features that enable everyone to use the main amenities. They need more shade and working water fountains to help people combat the hot sun. They need adequate seating for those who want to keep an eye on their children or simply enjoy the surroundings. They need accessible playground equipment so that everyone is able to play. We also need more dog parks. They don’t have to all be large dog parks like the one at the Westside Community Park. I think there is a place for neighborhood-scale dog runs.
  4. Smart City Planning, focused on supporting El Paso’s core neighborhoods – We need a greater focus on bringing back the vitality of El Paso’s core. EPISD is closing schools because people are moving out of the City’s original core neighborhoods, and we need to reverse that trend through smart city planning policy. We don’t need so much expansion at the edges of the city at the expense of support for our historic core. Taxpayers and utility ratepayers pay the cost of this expansion out into the desert because it is expensive to extend all of our infrastructure out further and further. Instead, we can focus on incentivizing people to fill empty lots with new homes, rehabilitate older homes and buildings in the core, and even renovate historic buildings that have great cultural value. This supports our schools, supports the existing local businesses in the core of the city, and helps keep all of our utility costs lower.

What motivates you to run for office: I moved back to El Paso because I wanted to make a difference in my hometown and give back to the community that raised me, and I see this as the best way to accomplish that. I want to build an El Paso that works for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of if someone is a homeowner or a renter, regardless of disability or health situation, regardless of what part of town you live in or what you do for a living or who your family is. Achieving this will be my most important objective for El Paso and the guiding principle for all of my decision-making on the City Council, and it is what motivates me to run for office.

How will the candidate vote, as a trustee or as a delegate:

I’m grateful that, in most cases, the beliefs and desires of the majority of El Pasoans seem to align very well with mine. I believe strongly in governing as a delegate; the very nature of the title of “Representative” suggests that representing the will of the people is the correct way to carry out the duties of the role. I have heard arguments to the contrary that say that the average person doesn’t know enough about the issues to have informed opinions, but I believe that it is the responsibility of an effective representative to share information about relevant issues in a clear, digestible, informative, and engaging way in order to keep their constituents up to date on important topics.

The 2012 Sports Arena:

I would not support allocating additional funds to the project beyond what was approved by voters in 2012. While the City has already acquired properties within a planned footprint for this project, I would be open to a change of location should the City be able to identify a new location through a good faith effort and there be a way to ensure that the taxpayers are made whole through the sale of those properties to someone with a plan to sensibly and sensitively restore or redevelop them.

There is clearly a lot of nuance and complexity when it comes to this proposed project, which is evident given that it has been tied up in litigation for half a decade. Voters approved the construction of a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility in the 2012 election, and data still shows that there would be high demand for a medium-sized arena/concert performance type facility in the vicinity of downtown El Paso. The big question now, as it has been for some time, is the exact scale and precise location of the project. Regardless of where this project is built, the context and economic situation has changed since 2012, and that needs to be carefully considered as the City Council makes decisions about what can and/or should be built.

How do you plan to stay in touch with your constituents: Transparent government means being available for constituents at every turn. It means making my positions on the issue clear for all to see. It means hosting regular community meetings both in person and with options for people who may not be able to easily leave their homes. It means holding a variety of different types of engagement events where I can speak with the people I represent and listen to their concerns – I envision events like a Café con Chris, a Tamales with Canales, a mobile town hall style meeting on the Brio bus. It means responding quickly and honestly to all emails, phone calls, and letters. It means publicly explaining my votes and decisions and the rationale behind them. It means speaking with journalists whose job it is to bring El Pasoans the news – they are the watchdogs of democracy. In this day and age, it also means connecting more directly with constituents online through social media, and I plan to create a series of videos to show people as directly as possible what various City departments are working on day-to-day and how their tax dollars are being used to provide services. I plan to do all of these things and more.

Open narrative to the voters:

I am a native El Pasoan, a public servant, and a local homeowner and property taxpayer. I’m a pragmatist, a realist, an optimist, and a futurist. I’m a consensus builder, an advocate for those who need a hand, a proponent of science, and a believer in the fundamental good of people. I believe that strong, people-focused public policy has the power to transform people’s lives, especially when it’s implemented at the local, neighborhood, community level. I want to ensure that we build an El Paso that works for all El Pasoans. This is also one of the reasons why I have decided to limit individual campaign contributions to $1000 — so that no one voice outweighs another. Favorable outcomes come from hard work, and I am ready to work hard towards a better future for our vibrant Sun City.

I am an unabashed progressive, a lifelong registered Democrat, and also a member of the Working Families Party, who I align with very closely. I plan to run my office with openness and transparency, to get regular and meaningful input from the people I represent when making decisions, to explain those decisions publicly, and to speak candidly to the media who hold us accountable. I am very grateful to Rep. Cissy Lizarraga for allowing me to serve the residents of District 8 for the last five years I have spent working in city government, and I hope everyone can relate to the idea that nobody agrees with their boss on everything all the time – I plan to navigate the office differently than she did in many ways. After these years of living and working within District 8, I have learned how to be effective within the complex bureaucracy of local government and have built the important relationships with City employees and management, neighborhood leaders, government agencies, and other elected officials that empower a City Representative to be effective from their first day. I plan to hit the ground running with the quick introduction of policy changes in support of my key platform priorities, which you can read more about at my website http://www.CanalesforCouncil.com.


Bettina Olivares

Bettina Olivares

Age: 35

Telephone Number: (915) 308-7058

Email Address: bettinafordistrict8@gmail.com

Campaign Website: voteforbettina.com

Education:

Graduated from Jefferson High School
Graduated with Bachelors from the University of Texas at Austin, Government Major

Current Occupation: Chief of Staff, City of El Paso

Arrest Record: None

Previous Political Office: None

Current on city taxes: Yes

One sentence message to the voters:

I have been serving communities throughout my career in government and will be ready on day one to serve in this leadership role with good policy making, high constituent responsiveness, and pride for El Paso.

Top Three Issues:

  1. Taxes – I truly believe the key to lessening the burden on homeowners is to diversify our tax base. I will support City efforts to attract new businesses, entertainment venues, and create an environment that supports businesses to be successful. This creates a city that will have new taxing sources- commercial property, hotel revenue, and sales, revenues that fill our general fund so we aren’t increasing taxes, which disproportionately affects homeowners. We need to stay focused, and continue to improve our inner City and downtown so we can have a balanced tax base.
  2. Streets – Our city streets are in the state they are in because their maintenance has not been adequately funded for decades. I will prioritize funding for street resurfacing and traffic safety, now and for the future. El Paso is a transportation hub, we need improved and maintained streets that can withstand traffic and most importantly be safe for drivers, cyclists, buses, and pedestrians alike.
  3. City Job & Services – We need to get City services back to pre-pandemic levels. We need to fill job vacancies so we can have enough drivers so our buses and streetcar are running on time, maintenance workers to fill potholes and upkeep medians, a full Animal Services staff to ensure animals are getting humane care, and ensuring we have adequate staff to run our parks, recreation/senior centers.

What motivates you to run for office: So much of what we do in our daily lives is guided by the policies and actions set by government and leaders. It has been my life goal to make a difference in people’s lives and sincerely better communities, especially the underrepresented neighborhoods, since I grew up in one. Public service has been the path for me. I am motivated to serve my community (my beloved hometown) and to improve El Paso’s quality of life through economic development.

How will the candidate vote, as a trustee or as a delegate:

I would vote based on the collective information I have gathered from all: my constituents, stakeholders and City staff. If I am listening to my constituents, then their input will be a part of the decisions I make, along with the experience I have and the new knowledge I’ve gained on the subject.

The 2012 Sports Arena:

I support this voter approved initiative that should be sought through and like many, I am excited about the prospect of the center igniting our downtown development and in creating more jobs and revenues for the City. I want El Paso to have a lively downtown and a better quality of life. Downtowns are the heart of every city and when downtowns thrive, it is indicative of a vibrant and prosperous City. I do want to ensure we have as much resident and local business input as possible. I am appreciative of the current efforts the City is putting forth through community meetings and surveys. I believe the success of the arena/center is dependent on the City and stakeholders working together to create a project that works for the space and future development that so many will come to enjoy.

How do you plan to stay in touch with your constituents: A City representative needs to be available for the people they serve. I will strive for myself and my office to be as responsive to the district as possible. If you have concerns- I will hear you out, if you need assistance with City services- I will be your liaison, even if it is not City related- I can provide resources. I will commit to attend community meetings, host meetings, put out a newsletter and share information on social media. These are all ways I will communicate on what actions are taking place at the city, policy I have voted on, and provide resources on City services. I will be present in the community so residents are able to easily communicate with me and hold me accountable.


Martin Paredes

Reporting on public corruption, border politics, immigration and public policy in El Paso since 2000.