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Alberto Tomas Halpern

Alberto Tomas Halpern is a Far West Texas native and was raised in the small town of Marfa. He is a graduate of American University’s School of Public Affairs and holds a degree in Political Science and a minor in International Studies.

While a student, Halpern spent half a year living, studying and working in Nairobi, Kenya. He was an intern with a Nairobi-based non-governmental organization that focused on political and economic empowerment in Nairobi’s informal communities.

Prior to reporting for Newspaper Tree, he reported and photographed for The Big Bend Sentinel and The International newspapers in Marfa and Presidio, Texas and BigBendNow.com.

Halpern won a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for breaking news photography in 2007 and has recently won news and feature writing awards for The Big Bend Sentinel and The International from the Texas Press Association.

Government

DHS: No 'credible information' that terrorists have entered U.S. through Mexico

DHS: No 'credible information' that terrorists have entered U.S. through Mexico

Border security debate abounds in House committee hearings

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 18, 2014

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials for the second week have said that there is no evidence to suggest that Islamic terrorists are attempting to enter the United States through the southern border with Mexico. More…

Business & Technology

NAFTA 2.0: A North American Union

NAFTA 2.0: A North American Union

Gross domestic product of NAFTA about $19 trillion

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 15, 2014

U.S. federal lawmakers at a border conference in El Paso on Friday discussed the possibility and need to not only expand and integrate U.S.-Mexico trade further, but also strengthen North American trade by better linking commercial relationships between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. More…

Government

Impact fees spur debate over who should pay for new growth

Impact fees spur debate over who should pay for new growth

City council to vote on proposed fee increase on Tuesday, March 4

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 27, 2014

A political battle over who should pay for new growth is brewing at city hall. On Tuesday, March 4, city council will vote on whether to increase impact fees for water and wastewater. The vote comes as the result of an El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) plan to expand a water treatment plant that the utility says is needed to service new growth expected over the next five years. More…

Government

Mayor Leeser releases city manager “profile”

Mayor Leeser releases city manager “profile”

City council is expected to select a new city manager in May

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 19, 2014

Mayor Oscar Leeser released today a city manager “profile,” which will serve as a job description guiding the hiring process for the city’s next top administrator. More…

Government

O’Rourke supports federal shield law for journalists

O’Rourke supports federal shield law for journalists

Legislation would protect journalists from disclosing confidential source

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 19, 2014

O’Rourke told Newspaper Tree this week that his motivation for supporting the bill was the Obama administration’s “heavy handed” attitude towards journalists. Such actions, O’Rourke said, imperil democracy. More…

Interviews

A conversation with Ellery Schempp

A conversation with Ellery Schempp

Plaintiff in Supreme Court case to speak at UTEP on Sunday, February 16

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 15, 2014

Ellery Schempp was a high school junior at Abington School District, just north of Philadelphia, in 1956 when he filed suit against his school for requiring students to read versus from the Bible each day. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Abington School District v. Schempp that Pennsylvania’s law established a religious practice and was unconstitutional. More…

Neighborhoods

Rodríguez: TxDOT to demolish Lincoln Center, neighboring homes and businesses

Rodríguez: TxDOT to demolish Lincoln Center, neighboring homes and businesses

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 14, 2014

There was no love for the Texas Department of Transportation at a Valentine’s Day press conference during which State Senator José Rodríguez criticized state plans to demolish the Lincoln Center and adjacent homes to build a traffic ramp. More…

Government

Debate highlights differences between Democratic candidates

Debate highlights differences between Democratic candidates

Early voting begins Tuesday, February 18

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 12, 2014

Local Democratic candidates seeking county and district offices in the March 4 primary election debated last Thursday night at a forum hosted by the West El Paso Tejano Democrats and Eyes on Government. More…

Government

Abbott: “Does corruption occur across all of Texas? Absolutely.”

Abbott: “Does corruption occur across all of Texas? Absolutely.”

Texas gubernatorial candidate pitches "Securing Texans" plan; clarifies that corruption is a statewide “third world” problem

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 11, 2014

Abbott has faced criticism from border lawmakers over the past week for remarks he made on February 4 at a Dallas event, during which he said public corruption “resembles third world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities and destroy Texans’ trust and confidence in government.” More…

Government

El Paso Housing Authority commissioners award CEO $5,714 bonus

El Paso Housing Authority commissioners award CEO $5,714 bonus

“As our CEO, he’s our head motivator and executive and visionary. And he’s doing what we’ve hired him to do.”

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 5, 2014

Commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso (HACEP) voted unanimously at a special meeting on Tuesday to give its CEO, Gerald Cichon, a $5,714 annual bonus, worth 2.5 percent of his $228,568 salary. More…

Education

Legal historian and immigration law scholar speaks as part of UTEP’s Centennial Lecture series

Legal historian and immigration law scholar speaks as part of UTEP’s Centennial Lecture series

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 5, 2014

“What we realize is that in recent years, we have close to quadrupled the number of deportations,” Tirres said, adding that the reasons are complex and involve economic, political and demographic shifts. More…

Government

City manager search firm holds community input meetings behind closed doors

City manager search firm holds community input meetings behind closed doors

City spokesman says private meetings needed to facilitate candid discussion

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // February 4, 2014

As the city of El Paso continues searching for a new city manager, the private search firm hired by city council in November, Affion Public, L.L.C., is holding closed meetings with select members of the community for their input on shaping the search. More…

Neighborhoods

Graffiti vandalism mars the city

Graffiti vandalism mars the city

Rise in graffiti tarnishes city image, results in economic and social costs

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 30, 2014

City records show that graffiti incidents in El Paso have increased 102 percent over seven years, from 8,599 in 2006 to 16,790 in 2013. Last week alone, from January 20 to 25, the city reported 239 graffiti incidents throughout the city. “Like litter, people driving through a city notice graffiti and it creates a negative image, harmful to economic development,” city manager Joyce Wilson said. ”/articles/2014/01/30/graffiti-vandalism-mars-the-city">More…

Government

El Paso Housing Authority charges Newspaper Tree $504 for public records

El Paso Housing Authority charges Newspaper Tree $504 for public records

Charges are in response to Jan. 10 Newspaper Tree request for HACEP CEO’s contract and financial documents

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 27, 2014

According to a letter received today from Housing Authority of the City of El Paso (HACEP) attorney Bob Blumenfeld, HACEP is charging Newspaper Tree $504 for copies of the HACEP CEO’s employment contract and certain financial documents. More…

Government

El Paso Regional Mobility Authority nixes ACE Cash Express as retail toll collector

El Paso Regional Mobility Authority nixes ACE Cash Express as retail toll collector

CRRMA working with city’s One-Stop-Shop to begin offering toll tags to cash-paying customers

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 22, 2014

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority’s board of directors voted unanimously at a meeting on Wednesday to drop payday lender ACE Cash Express as their retail cash collection agency for toll tags.

“I’m going to ask for a motion that we issue notice to the CRRMA back office service providers to end their acceptance of cash payments at the local retail locations, which are currently just ACE Cash Express,” CRRMA board chairman Scott McLaughlin said. More…

Government

CRRMA to discuss payday lender at Wednesday meeting

CRRMA to discuss payday lender at Wednesday meeting

North Texas Tollway Authority partnered with ACE Cash Express to cut costs

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 21, 2014

As the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority prepares to decide on Wednesday whether to keep ACE Cash Express, a payday lender, as the cash collection agency for El Paso toll lanes, documents obtained by Newspaper Tree shed more light on the North Texas Tollway Authority-ACE agreement. More…

Government

What does change in FBI’s mission mean for El Paso’s public corruption investigations?

What does change in FBI’s mission mean for El Paso’s public corruption investigations?

FBI shifts mission from law enforcement to national security

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 17, 2014

With the FBI’s central role in investigating public corruption in El Paso over the past decade, a recent change in the agency’s primary mission from a law enforcement agency to a national security agency raises questions over whether its new focus will affect ongoing and future corruption investigations. More…

Government

El Paso Housing Authority files suit to keep CEO contract and financial documents from public view

El Paso Housing Authority files suit to keep CEO contract and financial documents from public view

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 14, 2014

The Housing Authority of the City of El Paso filed suit in Travis County in late December 2013 to keep its CEO’s employment contract and records of reimbursements from public disclosure.

Gerald Cichon, an attorney, is the housing authority’s chief executive officer. More…

Government

Payday lender received no-bid contract to take cash payments for Texas toll roads

Payday lender received no-bid contract to take cash payments for Texas toll roads

CRRMA to decide future of ACE Cash Express contract at January 22 meeting

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 9, 2014

Two new automated toll express lanes are set to open on the Cesar Chavez Border Highway at midnight on January 10. Toll road users can pay their tolls by mail or by purchasing a toll tag online through the North Texas Tollway Authority.

But, drivers who want to buy a toll tag with cash have to do so through an NTTA partner: ACE Cash Express, a payday lender. More…

Government

Former county judge Cobos, architect Aguilar sentenced to four years in bribery scheme

Former county judge Cobos, architect Aguilar sentenced to four years in bribery scheme

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // January 3, 2014

Former El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos and architect Lorenzo Aguilar join a growing number of public figures who have been sentenced in federal court for their involvement in public corruption schemes throughout El Paso. Cobos and Aguilar were each sentenced to four years in prison by U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo for their roles in a 2007 scheme to steer a $40 million county debt refinancing contract to global investment firm Bear Stearns. More…

Government

Congressman calls for review of CBP policies following allegation of vaginal and rectal probe of U.S. citizen

Congressman calls for review of CBP policies following allegation of vaginal and rectal probe of U.S. citizen

‘Border Search Exception’ excludes border crossers from Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless search and seizure

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 21, 2013

The lawsuit alleges that CBP agents and UMC staff violated Doe’s Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure and right to due process when she was subjected to: a visual and manual inspection of her genitals and anus; an observed bowel movement; an X-ray procedure; an insertion of a speculum into her vagina as she was handcuffed to an examination table; a rectal exam; a bimanual cavity search of her vagina; and a CT scan, all against her will. More…

Government

Former EPISD trustee Sal Mena and former banker Chris Pak sentenced in corruption cases involving bribery

Former EPISD trustee Sal Mena and former banker Chris Pak sentenced in corruption cases involving bribery

Mena placed on suicide watch

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 16, 2013

Of all the individuals involved in widespread bribery and corruption cases throughout El Paso, former El Paso Independent School District or EPISD trustee, Salvador “Sal” Marcos Mena, Jr., gained the most, U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo said in court today at Mena’s sentencing. More…

Government

The War at Home: Report documents physical, verbal abuse of migrants by Border Patrol

The War at Home: Report documents physical, verbal abuse of migrants by Border Patrol

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 14, 2013

Javier is one of many recently repatriated migrants from Mexico who have detailed physical, verbal and psychological abuse—including beatings, sleep deprivation and racial slurs—by Border Patrol officers after being apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border. More…

Education

Century-old school educates Mexican and U.S. students across national lines

Century-old school educates Mexican and U.S. students across national lines

Lydia Patterson Institute prepares students for college, raises funds for next 100 years

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 11, 2013

The Lydia Patterson Institute, a private nonprofit Methodist school in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio neighborhood, stands eight blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border, in the shadow of El Paso’s downtown government buildings. The century-old school is located in a two-story, red-brick building on south Florence Street in a poor neighborhood that, despite its modesty, has a long history of educational success. More…

Government

El Paso groups work to educate public about human rights

El Paso groups work to educate public about human rights

Human Rights Day celebrated December 10

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 7, 2013

Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10, is a worldwide celebration of the basic rights of every human being. The date coincides with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or UDHR, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in Paris, France.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the declaration’s adoption. More…

Interviews

Narco Cultura: A conversation with Shaul Schwarz

Narco Cultura: A conversation with Shaul Schwarz

Documentary filmmaker discusses his film on Ciudad Juárez violence—as reality and entertainment

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 6, 2013

Award-winning Israeli-American photojournalist, Shaul Schwarz, began documenting the violence in Mexico in 2008. After two years photographing the death and heartache, Schwarz decided that still photographs alone couldn’t tell the story. In 2010, he set out to make a documentary that showed the sights and sounds of drug violence in Juarez, resulting in his new film, “Narco Cultura.” More…

Government

Ruiz, Telles sentenced for bribery in public corruption scheme

Ruiz, Telles sentenced for bribery in public corruption scheme

Ruiz engaged in illegal activity for 15 years; US District Judge calls Ruiz the “tip of the spear” and Bear Sterns “the spear”

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // December 4, 2013

When U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo sentenced former Bear Stearns manager Roberto “Bobby” Ruiz for bribing public officials and other crimes against multiple public entities throughout El Paso, he suggested that the global investment bank Ruiz worked for stood to gain from Ruiz’s crimes. More…

Education

Hear no evil, see no evil: TEA fails to hold public schools accountable

Hear no evil, see no evil: TEA fails to hold public schools accountable

Drastic cuts in funding and monitoring at TEA preceded EPISD public corruption scandal

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 27, 2013

The public school system in El Paso was shaken in 2009 and 2010 when allegations of public corruption by superintendent Lorenzo Garcia came to light at El Paso Independent School District or EPISD. The former superintendent plead guilty and was sentenced to prison in 2012 for orchestrating a years-long cheating scandal that intentionally kept low-performing students from taking state and federal mandated performance tests. More…

Government

Border fence to be built at Juan de Oñate crossing, site of Hart’s Mill and the first Fort Bliss

Border fence to be built at Juan de Oñate crossing, site of Hart’s Mill and the first Fort Bliss

Federal and local officials cite historical and environmental concerns

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 22, 2013

The Department of Homeland Security or DHS, which oversees the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection or CBP, will build approximately 0.6 miles of additional border fencing near the historic Hart’s Mill area of El Paso.

Federal and local officials oppose the fencing, citing historical and environmental concerns. More…

Government

Three Stories One Juárez: an evening with Corchado, O’Neil and Ainslie

Three Stories One Juárez: an evening with Corchado, O’Neil and Ainslie

Noted authors discuss Mexico’s drug violence, raise funds for Villas de Salvarcar

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 22, 2013

Three authors on drug cartel violence in Mexico discussed on Wednesday El Paso’s neighboring city, Ciudad Juárez, and their views on a country mired in organized crime, public corruption and a weak rule of law. More…

Government

City selects city manager search firm

City selects city manager search firm

Representatives vote to create citizen advisory committee

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 18, 2013

City representatives voted 7-1 on Monday to select Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Affion Public, L.L.C. as its executive search firm to begin the exploration for a new city manager. Current city manager Joyce Wilson announced on October 10 that she will step down from office when her contract expires on September 30, 2014. More…

Government

Immigration reform unlikely to pass this year, El Paso officials react

Immigration reform unlikely to pass this year, El Paso officials react

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 14, 2013

At a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner ended any hope of immigration reform passing Congress this year. Boehner said he will not compromise with the Democratic-controlled Senate on its immigration bill, S.744, which was approved in June. More…

Government

Experts say drug war has failed, alternatives must be found

Experts say drug war has failed, alternatives must be found

More UTEP events planned this week to discuss the drug war

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 12, 2013

A symposium on U.S.-Mexico drug policy held at UTEP on Monday, November 11 brought together journalists, professors, a former Drug Enforcement Agency officer and a congressman, all of whom agreed on one conclusion: the U.S. and Mexican governments’ war on drugs has failed. More…

Government

Broken spokes: Despite broad community support TxDOT withholds federal funds for bike share

Broken spokes: Despite broad community support TxDOT withholds federal funds for bike share

City and MPO support smaller first-phase program as an alternative

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // November 7, 2013

Cities across the U.S., including in Texas, have embraced bike share programs as a way to reduce traffic, improve air quality and foster a healthier quality of life. But El Paso’s nascent bike share program, which the city, the University of Texas at El Paso, the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO, and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority or RMA have supported, will be reduced to a much smaller program.

The issue: the Texas Department of Transportation or TxDOT has withheld much of the funding. More…

Interviews

A conversation with Joyce Wilson

A conversation with Joyce Wilson

City manager will stay in office until the end of September

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 31, 2013

Wilson sat down with Newspaper Tree this week to discuss her long career in El Paso city government, the controversial Triple-A baseball stadium project, public corruption, her accomplishments, and where she sees the city headed in the future. More…

Health & Environment

Train derailment highlights rail safety in El Paso

Train derailment highlights rail safety in El Paso

Union Pacific representative to present findings of investigation at MPO meeting on November 1

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 24, 2013

A Union Pacific train derailment on Friday, October 18 in central El Paso was the first derailment in El Paso County in at least a decade, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration. While no injuries were reported as a result of the derailment, the incident highlights the ever present potential for disasters caused by trains and the cargo they carry. More…

Government

Computer system failure at CBP causes delays at international crossings

Computer system failure at CBP causes delays at international crossings

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 22, 2013

The national computer system for Customs and Border Protection or CBP went down this afternoon, causing delays at international crossings throughout the United States. More…

Government

Early voting begins in constitutional amendment election

Early voting begins in constitutional amendment election

El Paso lawmakers rally for Proposition 6

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 21, 2013

On October 21, members of El Paso’s state delegation held a press conference in front of the El Paso County Courthouse to urge voters to support Proposition 6, one of nine propositions being considered in a state constitutional amendment election currently underway. More…

Government

Shutdown ends, CBP officers to be paid for time worked

Shutdown ends, CBP officers to be paid for time worked

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 18, 2013

The 16-day government shutdown ended on Thursday, October 17. Federal employees on temporary unpaid leave began coming back to work, including non-uniformed Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees in El Paso and along the border region. More…

Government

El Paso’s international bridges: Lack of federal investment leaves locals to support international trade and security

El Paso’s international bridges: Lack of federal investment leaves locals to support international trade and security

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 16, 2013

For most Americans, the international bridges between the United States and Mexico represent a nexus in the national debate on international trade, immigration, national security, drug-control policy and U.S.-Mexico relations.

But, for the residents of El Paso, these bridges are also a local budget issue. More…

Government

CBP officers work without pay during government shutdown

CBP officers work without pay during government shutdown

Public information officers placed on leave, unable to comment on effects of shutdown

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 15, 2013

Only essential federal employees, including military personnel, federal law enforcement officers, and airport traffic controllers, continue to work through the shutdown. Nonessential federal employees are on temporary unpaid leave, or furlough. More…

Government

City manager announces resignation, will stay in office until late 2014

City manager announces resignation, will stay in office until late 2014

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 10, 2013

El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson announced at a press conference on Thursday, October 10 that she will resign when her contract expires on September 30, 2014. Wilson had handed Mayor Oscar Leeser a letter of resignation the day before. More…

Government

New city administration sets priorities at day-long planning session

New city administration sets priorities at day-long planning session

City Manager hopes to formalize and adopt goals by the end of year

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 9, 2013

City officials, managers and select staff meet Thursday, October 3 for a day-long planning session to develop the city’s strategic goals. A new mayor and city council took office on June 24 and the planning session allowed representatives to sit down with senior city staff to discuss the city’s goals as they move forward into 2014 and beyond. More…

Government

Out of sight, out of mind: Capitol news clips keep El Paso stories below the fold

Out of sight, out of mind: Capitol news clips keep El Paso stories below the fold

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 4, 2013

In the fast-paced, chaotic environment of the Texas capitol, even lawmakers need help staying up-to-date with the state’s news. Journalists help frame the discussions taking place in Austin and around the state and legislators rely on state and local news publications to make sense of the issues taking place throughout one of the largest geographic and populous U.S. states. More…

Interviews

A conversation with Oscar Leeser

A conversation with Oscar Leeser

El Paso mayor marks first 100 days in office

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // October 2, 2013

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser marked his first 100 days in office on Wednesday, October 2. Leeser was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and became a U.S. citizen in 1974 after his family relocated to El Paso. He has lived in El Paso ever since. More…

Government

Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to exclude El Paso congressman

Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to exclude El Paso congressman

More than 560,000 Hispanics on US-Mexico border excluded from representation through Hispanic lawmakers organization; la frontera at the crossroads of identity and political power

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 30, 2013

Despite representing a predominantly Hispanic congressional district that borders Mexico and running on an immigration-reform platform, O’Rourke is barred from becoming a member of the caucus. More…

Interviews

A conversation with Juan Cabrera

A conversation with Juan Cabrera

EPISD superintendent discusses the public trust, team building and a way forward

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 19, 2013

Newspaper Tree sat down with Juan Cabrera in his office on September 12 to discuss his new role as superintendent, the public corruption and cheating scandals, school finance, and what he expects from the district, students, and the community as EPISD moves forward. More…

Government

Congressional Border Caucus gives voice to El Pasoans on immigration reform

Congressional Border Caucus gives voice to El Pasoans on immigration reform

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 18, 2013

Grijalva said the Border Caucus’ priority is to steer the immigration discussion in Washington, D.C. away from a discussion solely on border security.

“If we just talked about additional enforcement and additional militarization and we don’t talk about humanitarian issues, we don’t talk about economic security and we don’t talk about how the quality of life needs to be preserved, we’re missing the boat,” he said. More…

Government

El Paso lawmakers united on local, state issues

El Paso lawmakers united on local, state issues

Lawmakers work to advance El Paso priorities

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 14, 2013

Pickett, the most senior member of the delegation, said the group of lawmakers performed beyond what he had expected prior to the session’s start. He said that despite representing different districts throughout El Paso, the delegation always found a way to focus on El Paso priorities. More…

Government

Lax enforcement of lobbyist ordinance creates uncertainty at City Hall

Lax enforcement of lobbyist ordinance creates uncertainty at City Hall

Newspaper Tree investigation finds AT&T lobbyist may have violated rules

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 5, 2013

When asked if she was familiar with the city’s lobbyist ordinance, if she had met with elected officials on AT&T matters, and why she was not registered with the city as a lobbyist, Bocanegra referred Newspaper Tree to Adrianna Bernal, a public affairs representative for AT&T. Bernal, also a registered lobbyist with the Texas Ethics Commission, responded by email on August 28: “We have no comment at this time.” More…

Business & Technology

O’Rourke, CBA welcome border-crossers on Paso Del Norte bridge

O’Rourke, CBA welcome border-crossers on Paso Del Norte bridge

Congressman and downtown business group highlight importance of US-Mexico trade

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // September 2, 2013

On a typical Saturday afternoon at the Paso Del Norte international bridge in downtown El Paso, the area where pedestrians exit the doors of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection station, and enter into the United States, is solitary and quiet. More…

Government

County sets public hearings on tax rate increase

County sets public hearings on tax rate increase

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 29, 2013

The El Paso County Commissioners Court will hold two public hearings for a proposed property tax rate increase as they begin working on their budget for fiscal year 2014. The first public hearing will be on Tuesday, September 3 at 6 pm at the commissioners court meeting room. The second hearing will be on Monday, September 9, also at 6 pm in the same location. More…

Government

Updated: El Paso lawmakers to discuss impacts of 83rd legislative session

Updated: El Paso lawmakers to discuss impacts of 83rd legislative session

Newspaper Tree and UTEP to co-host Sept. 12 legislative wrap-up up

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 23, 2013

Newspaper Tree and the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP will co-host a wrap-up of the 83rd Texas Legislature with the El Paso state delegation on September 12 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center on the UTEP campus. The event is free and open to the public. More…

Government

City approves $801 million budget, increases tax rate by 2 cents

City approves $801 million budget, increases tax rate by 2 cents

Police force to grow under new budget

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 22, 2013

Leeper added that the police force will grow by the end of the next fiscal year as the police department anticipates adding 69 officers through two academies that will graduate cadets in October 2013 and January 2014. Other academies are scheduled to begin in February and June of 2014, each with about 30 cadets. More…

Interviews

A conversation with Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria

A conversation with Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria

Chief Financial Officer for the city of El Paso provides insight on the budgetary process

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 22, 2013

Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria is the city’s Chief Financial Officer. “Newspaper Tree” interviewed Arrieta-Candelaria this week in her office on the 16th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown El Paso. She spoke about the budget-making process and upcoming changes to the finance department. More…

Government

Acosta appoints Walmart competitor to City Plan Commission

Acosta appoints Walmart competitor to City Plan Commission

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 16, 2013

Loweree told Newspaper Tree this week, “I’m not a paid lobbyist. The fact that we were talking to the city, I had to file as a lobbyist. We had met with some officials on a topic. We were just following the rules.” Loweree said he was instructed by counsel to register as a lobbyist prior to talking to city officials about the Walmart zoning issue. More…

Government

New law requires County of El Paso to run Water Improvement District elections

New law requires County of El Paso to run Water Improvement District elections

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 16, 2013

A new law set to take effect on September 1 will require the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 (EPCWID) to contract with El Paso County’s Elections Department to run its elections. In addition, the new law, Senate Bill 856, authored by state senator Jose Rodriguez, mandates that the water district maintain a website and make available online: campaign finance reports for each elected board director, meeting agendas and minutes, archived video and audio for each meeting, the water district’s budget, and any audits of the district. More…

Government

El Paso City Council passes resolution to promote transparency

El Paso City Council passes resolution to promote transparency

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 15, 2013

City representatives passed a resolution Tuesday requiring city employees and officials to forward any electronic communication sent from or received on a personal device or email address to the city server. The resolution was made in an effort to strengthen the city’s open records policy and make city business more transparent. The new policy also restricts city employees, elected officials and volunteers who have a city email address from using personal email addresses to communicate any city business. More…

Government

County residents to pay for library cards

County residents to pay for library cards

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 8, 2013

El Paso city representatives voted Tuesday to establish fees for non-city residents who check out materials from city libraries. Non-city residents will now have to pay either $25 for a six-month term to check out materials or $50 for a full year. City residents will continue to be able to check out library materials for free. More…

Government

Proposal to create county administration office fails with tie vote

Proposal to create county administration office fails with tie vote

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 8, 2013

In a split vote, 2-2, the El Paso County Commissioners Court rejected a plan to create a Commissioners Court Administration office. The new office would have created a county administrator or manager position to oversee the department and would have had various departments answering to it. More…

Government

City decision may take a toll on BOTA truck traffic

City decision may take a toll on BOTA truck traffic

CBP approves partnership with city; Rep. Niland suggests new fee for Bridge of the Americas

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 1, 2013

City representatives voted Tuesday afternoon to direct City Manager Joyce Wilson and Mayor Oscar Leeser to work with the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to study the possibility of imposing an infrastructure fee for commercial vehicles using the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA). More…

Interviews

An conversation with the League of Women Voters of El Paso

An conversation with the League of Women Voters of El Paso

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // August 1, 2013

The data also showed that high and low voting turnout is not limited to one part of the city; rather, all parts of the city exhibited concentrations of both high and low voter turnout.

Janet Monteros, Barbara Montoya, and Pat White, members of the League of Women Voters of El Paso, visited the Newspaper Tree office this week to discuss the data, the work they do, and offered their solutions to engage citizens to participate in elections. More…

Government

County replaces benefits for domestic partners with ‘plus one qualifying adult’

County replaces benefits for domestic partners with ‘plus one qualifying adult’

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 25, 2013

El Paso County Commissioners and County Judge Veronica Escobar approved an amendment to the county’s health and dental plan, removing language granting benefits to domestic partners of county employees and substituting it with a “plus one qualifying adult” definition. More…

Interviews

A conversation with John Cook

A conversation with John Cook

Cook announces run for Texas Land Commissioner

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 25, 2013

Former mayor John Cook sat down with Newspaper Tree this week outside of Kinley’s House of Coffee & Teas on North Mesa Street. With his planner laid out on the table and wearing a crisp white “El Paso: All-American City” long-sleeved shirt, the 67-year-old Vietnam veteran talked about his political future and a changing Texas. More…

Government

City representatives deny gas rate increase

City representatives deny gas rate increase

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 25, 2013

El Paso City Council representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny a rate adjustment request by Texas Gas Service (TGS), a natural gas service provider headquartered in Austin. TGS had requested that the city approve a residential and commercial rate increase under the state’s Gas Reliability Infrastructure Program (GRIP) statute. More…

Government

O’Rourke addresses nutrition and immigration legislation, takes constituents’ questions

O’Rourke addresses nutrition and immigration legislation, takes constituents’ questions

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 18, 2013

Congressman Beto O’Rourke held a town hall meeting this past Saturday, July 13, at the El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus. O’Rourke used the meeting to give constituents an update on what he has been working and focusing on the past seven months, as well as give members of the public a platform to ask questions on local, state and national issues. More…

Government

Data shows 33 percent of El Paso registered voters haven’t voted in almost a decade, experts discuss solutions

Data shows 33 percent of El Paso registered voters haven’t voted in almost a decade, experts discuss solutions

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 18, 2013

According to data recently analyzed for Newspaper Tree by El Paso-based Helix Solutions, approximately a third of the roughly 325,080 registered voters in the City of El Paso have not voted for nearly a decade—from April 2004 through May 2013. Mapping of the Newspaper Tree voter data also shows the concentration of frequent voters throughout El Paso, taking into account turnout figures from all local, state, and federal elections in the last nine years. More…

Government

City begins budget negotiations

City begins budget negotiations

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 18, 2013

This week, city representatives heard from City Manager Joyce Wilson on her proposed city budget for upcoming fiscal year 2014. She submitted the proposal to representatives at their July 16 meeting on Tuesday. The total proposed budget for 2014 is $784 million, a 3.6 percent increase over the budget adopted by city representatives last year. More…

Health & Environment

Syphilis, HIV cases higher than last year

Syphilis, HIV cases higher than last year

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 11, 2013

“Unfortunately yes, we’re up over 50 percent. We have syphilis in the neighborhood,” Resendes said this week. According to figures from his department, the number of syphilis cases reported from January through May 2013 was 62. That figure is up from the 40 cases reported last year. More…

Government

City supports bike share program, offers $100,000

City supports bike share program, offers $100,000

by Alberto Tomas Halpern // July 11, 2013

El Paso city representatives voted their support this week to develop the community’s first-ever bike share program. City representatives unanimously authorized Mayor Oscar Leeser to sign an interlocal agreement between the city, the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA), and the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), in which the city will provide $100,000 for a $2 million bicycle kiosk project. The $100,000 was budgeted as part of the city’s environmental services. More…