68°

Mostly Cloudy in El Paso, Texas

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hunt Family Foundation

Government

The ACLU’s border checkpoint

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // March 20, 2014

The ACLU’s border checkpoint

On Wednesday, March 19, travelers heading north on 1-25 encountered another checkpoint for the first time ever: the “Know your Rights Checkpoint” organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Under the New Mexico sun, the group hoisted signs, urged passerby to report alleged abuses and displayed literature at a table. More...

Groups see release of CBP directive as a first step

Government

Groups see release of CBP directive as a first step

by Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune // March 19, 2014

Texas-based civil liberties and immigrant rights groups are welcoming the release of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s use-of-force policy and a new directive for U.S. Border Patrol agents as a signal of greater transparency, but those groups — along with some Texas congressmen — argue that more should be done. More...

Impact fees spur debate over who should pay for new growth

Government

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...

The fall of El Chapo

Government

The fall of El Chapo

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // February 27, 2014

Contrary to speculation that the elusive Guzman was hiding in Central America or the outback of Mexico’s Sierra Madres, the man named by Forbes magazine as one of the richest individuals in the world was reportedly nabbed overnight by Mexican marines at a modest hotel in the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan, Sinaloa. He was then quickly transferred to Mexico City. More...

Mayor Leeser releases city manager “profile”

Government

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...

O’Rourke supports federal shield law for journalists

Government

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...

The Deportee Chronicles: Life after diesel therapy

Government

The Deportee Chronicles: Life after diesel therapy

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // February 18, 2014

"Are you sure you want to get deported?” he remembers officials saying. "You don’t even sound Mexican.” Although the child of Mexican immigrants is quite adept at speaking Spanish, he considers English his primary tongue: “I think in English.” More...

Debate highlights differences between Democratic candidates

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

The Deportee Chronicles: The Girl from Guajajalmiton

Government

The Deportee Chronicles: The Girl from Guajajalmiton

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // February 11, 2014

Along the way, she’s encountered narcos, the Ku Klux Klan, proud U.S. Marines, Vietnam vets, dopers, strippers, tongue-gagging Guatemalan evangelicals, the Taliban, corporate offshorers, and other members of the “Pocho Nation,” who also wound up involuntarily back in their ancestral homeland. More...

Abbott touts $300 million border security proposal

Government

Abbott touts $300 million border security proposal

Gubernatorial candidate to stop in El Paso on Feb. 10 to promote proposal

by Jay Root, Texas Tribune // February 7, 2014

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, said Tuesday he wants to nearly double state spending to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border, proposing a “continuous surge” with 1,000 new boots on the ground and millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment. More...

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

Government

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...

City manager search firm holds community input meetings behind closed doors

Government

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...

The new free trade fever

Government

The new free trade fever

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // February 3, 2014

Twenty years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, little interest has been shown until now by the governments of the signatory countries for reopening the trade pact. But a similar agreement between Mexico and the European Union, signed in 1997 and enacted in 2000, is under review and could be expanded. More...

A break in a Dutch tourist’s murder in Juárez

Government

A break in a Dutch tourist’s murder in Juárez

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // January 27, 2014

For more than 15 years, the family of Hester van Nierop has struggled across oceans and continents for justice. An architecture school graduate, van Nierop was traveling through Mexico when she decided to make a stop in Ciudad Juarez back in 1998. The Mexican border city was the last place the young woman would visit on earth. More...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

CRRMA to discuss payday lender at Wednesday meeting

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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 and Emanuel Anthony Martinez // 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...

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

Government

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...

Does Mexican energy reform invite ecocide?

Government

Does Mexican energy reform invite ecocide?

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // December 14, 2013

In the heady debates over energy reform that riveted the Mexican Congress last week, one crucial issue was glaringly absent from the central points of discussion that underpinned the changes to the Constitution: the environmental impacts of increased gas and oil production. More...

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

Government

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...

Privatize your mother: Mexico passes historic energy reform

Government

Privatize your mother: Mexico passes historic energy reform

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // December 13, 2013

In a week of unforgettable confrontations, soaring speeches, political showdowns and fisticuffs, Mexican Senator Layda Sansores San Roman of Campeche perhaps gets the prize.

Striding to the floor of the Mexican Senate, the woman senator from the Citizen Movement party posed an unusual challenge to supporters of the Peña Nieto administration’s initiative to reform articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution that govern the ownership, production and distribution of oil and gas, as well as the generation of electricity. More...

El Paso groups work to educate public about human rights

Government

El Paso groups work to educate public about human rights

Human Rights Day celebrated December 10

by Natassia Bonyanpour and 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...

Supporters of Mérida cite successes from aid package

Government

Supporters of Mérida cite successes from aid package

by Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune // December 5, 2013

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Criticism of the Mérida Initiative wasn’t on Alejandro Matamoros’ mind recently when he spoke about his passion for teaching how to mix hip-hop tracks and how it helps his at-risk students express how they view Mexico after years of bloodshed. More...

Ruiz, Telles sentenced for bribery in public corruption scheme

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

High stakes, low turnout elections

Government

High stakes, low turnout elections

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // November 22, 2013

Local politics was overshadowed by non-stop Washington dramas this fall, but important trends emerged and decisions were made in New Mexico and the Paso del Norte borderland that will chart the identity and destiny of the region for years to come. Yet in various contests, it was a distinct minority of the electorate that shaped future courses. More...

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

Government

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...

City selects city manager search firm

Government

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...

Homeland Security pressed to release visa overstay statistics

Government

Homeland Security pressed to release visa overstay statistics

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // November 14, 2013

Washington, DC – Members of Congress are demanding answers to the lack of data available on visa overstays in the U.S., which they say could lead to more informed decisions on comprehensive immigration reform. More...

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

Government

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...

Experts say drug war has failed, alternatives must be found

Government

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...

Who killed the Capo?

Government

Who killed the Capo?

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // November 8, 2013

Celebrating his 63rd birthday, “retired” Mexican drug trafficker Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was enjoying friends, family and the fun-loving company of the Mexican farandula, or entertainment set. Held at the Marbella Hotel in the popular international tourist destination of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, a resort long promoted as an island of safety in a sea of insecurity, the party drew about 100 guests. More...

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

Government

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...

In D.C., El Paso mayor and Chamber of Commerce call for regional military partnerships

Government

In D.C., El Paso mayor and Chamber of Commerce call for regional military partnerships

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // October 25, 2013

WASHINGTON – Regional military partnerships were at the top of the agenda for El Paso business and city government officials as they visited the nation’s capital this week. More...

Computer system failure at CBP causes delays at international crossings

Government

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...

Early voting begins in constitutional amendment election

Government

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...

Shutdown ends, CBP officers to be paid for time worked

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

CBP officers work without pay during government shutdown

Government

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 and Esmeralda Ojeda // 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...

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

Government

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...

New city administration sets priorities at day-long planning session

Government

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...

New administration, new hope for human rights in Juárez

Government

New administration, new hope for human rights in Juárez

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // October 9, 2013

In 11 years, through different organizations and through the Security and Justice Board, de la Rosa said he’s hit brick walls asking for city officials to cooperate in addressing the rise in murder rates and how the police handle human rights in Ciudad Juárez. More...

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

Government

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...

Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to exclude El Paso congressman

Government

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 and Emanuel Anthony Martinez // 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...

Biometric plan to track entry, exit of foreign visitors won’t be ready until 2015

Government

Biometric plan to track entry, exit of foreign visitors won’t be ready until 2015

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // September 30, 2013

Congress first mandated an entry and exit system for visitors in the country in 1996. The system which was to use biometric data by 2001, is 12 years overdue, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., said in a press release. He cosponsored H.R. 3141, a measure that requires DHS to deploy a biometric exit system. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., introduced the measure on Sept. 20. More...

Congressional Border Caucus gives voice to El Pasoans on immigration reform

Government

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...

El Paso lawmakers united on local, state issues

Government

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...

Mexico’s attorney general briefs U.S. audience on judicial reform

Government

Mexico’s attorney general briefs U.S. audience on judicial reform

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // September 10, 2013

Jésus Murillo Karam, who was appointed attorney general late last year, cited the capture in the last nine months of more than half of the most-wanted criminals in the U.S. and Mexico and state-federal government cooperation leading to a noticeable decrease in violence. More...

New law gives new hope to death row inmate

Government

New law gives new hope to death row inmate

by Brandi Grissom, The Texas Tribune // September 9, 2013

But Jaime Esparza, the El Paso County district attorney, said he was not convinced that the jury’s verdict, based on scientific testimony and a signed confession, was wrong. On Wednesday, a judge will hear arguments from both sides as Avila’s lawyers seek the withdrawal of his January 2014 execution date to allow time for full consideration of his claims under the new law. More...

Lax enforcement of lobbyist ordinance creates uncertainty at City Hall

Government

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...

Travis County DA’s legal troubles could have impact on El Paso

Government

Travis County DA’s legal troubles could have impact on El Paso

by Lucius Lomax // September 4, 2013

Political pundits and news show guests talk about “inside the beltway,” issues that are of interest—even great interest—in Washington, but are of little practical consequence for the rest of the country or “in the heartland.” So, too, Austin: In a state as big as ours, what happens at the Texas Capitol can often seem hundreds of miles away. In the case of El Paso, Austin is hundreds of miles away—577 miles to be exact. And with such distance, the more obscure the “inside the beltway” issue, the longer the miles seem to stretch. More...

County sets public hearings on tax rate increase

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

El Paso tops list of cities seeking AG opinions on open records requests

Government

El Paso tops list of cities seeking AG opinions on open records requests

by Lucius Lomax // August 22, 2013

Attorney General Greg Abbott has released a list of the five cities in Texas that request the greatest number of open records opinions and three of the municipalities are the usual suspects—the biggest cities in the state—Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Rounding out the top five are El Paso and Fort Worth. More...

Acosta appoints Walmart competitor to City Plan Commission

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

El Paso City Council passes resolution to promote transparency

Government

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...

County residents to pay for library cards

Government

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...

Proposal to create county administration office fails with tie vote

Government

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...

Wiretapping in Texas

Government

Wiretapping in Texas

Lost in the shuffle is a traditional form of government eavesdropping

by Lucius Lomax // August 1, 2013

As Washington debates email and data surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), lost in the shuffle has been a more traditional form of government eavesdropping—telephone wiretapping, usually for narcotics enforcement. The number of telephone bugs placed by federal investigators has increased dramatically under the Obama Administration. Ground Zero for that widening effort to listen in seems to be a swath of the State of Texas known by its federal designation, the Western District, which stretches from Waco south along I-35 through Austin and San Antonio, down to Del Rio and along the Rio Grande to El Paso, hooking back up to Midland. More...

City decision may take a toll on BOTA truck traffic

Government

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...

Immigrant advocates score major legal wins

Government

Immigrant advocates score major legal wins

by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur // July 28, 2013

While a comprehensive immigration reform waned in the U.S. Congress, significant developments on the immigration front occurred in the courts in July. In three back-to-back decisions, federal courts struck down state or local laws that attempted to regulate housing, employment and other matters based on a person’s immigration status. More...

Proposed immigration reform to ‘militarize’ the border

Government

Proposed immigration reform to ‘militarize’ the border

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // July 25, 2013

Refugio Macias, 59, of Sparks, Texas, a small border community next to Horizon City, supports immigration reform, but not the Hoeven-Corker amendment which would increase border security under S.744. The retired farm worker, who said he was granted citizenship under an amnesty program in 1987, complained that border patrol is harassing immigrants. Macias does not want to see the border “militarized.” More...

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

Government

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...

City representatives deny gas rate increase

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

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

Government

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...

City begins budget negotiations

Government

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...

City supports bike share program, offers $100,000

Government

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...

Héctor "Teto" Murguía leaves a mixed legacy as mayor of Juárez

Government

Héctor "Teto" Murguía leaves a mixed legacy as mayor of Juárez

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // July 4, 2013

Ciudad Juárez in 2010 was worn out, desolate and in bad shape, says Hector “Teto” Murguía. He took office as mayor as the city reached a dangerous peak in murders per year. Today, three months from exiting his second term as mayor, he talks of the reduction of murders and says that Juárez is better off than how it was when he received it, and in some instances, better than it’s ever been. More...

Juárez mayoral candidates wrap up campaigns; PRI and PAN lead the polls

Government

Juárez mayoral candidates wrap up campaigns; PRI and PAN lead the polls

by Andrés Rodríguez, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire // July 4, 2013

The five Juárez mayoral candidates are María Antonieta Pérez Reyes of Partido Acción Nacional (PAN); Graciela Espejo Alvídrez of Partido de la Revolución Democrática; Héctor Hugo Avitia Arellanes of Partido del Trabajo (PT); Federico Ziga Martínez of Movimiento Ciudadano (PMC); and Enrique Serrano Escobar representing a coalition of three parties: the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), and Nueva Alianza (PANAL). More...

The "most powerful" man in Austin has El Paso roots

Government

The "most powerful" man in Austin has El Paso roots

by Lucius Lomax // July 4, 2013

Power at the Texas Capitol is easy to recognize but hard to quantify, with “most powerful” usually in the eye of the beholder: Is it the governor or lieutenant governor, the speaker or the attorney general? Is it the much-criticized district attorney who serves as cop on the political beat? If you’re thinking of the courthouse not the statehouse you may be getting warmer. What about Sam Sparks?
More...