Story By Bob Corbell
June 20th, 2018 certainly was one of the worst public relations nightmares for the City of Del Rio and Mayor Bruno Lozano. In a six hour time frame, Bruno ousted a Catholic Priest from city hall, fired the city manager without citizen comment, then had an elderly woman removed from council chambers. While this was occurring, I could not keep from thinking of the SNL skit where the fight attendants constantly mumble the words “bub-bye” as passengers exit the aircraft. What irony. Bruno makes a living as a flight attendant. During the meeting, he held an attitude that was not customer friendly at times; “bub-bye” possibly could sum up a very short political career of Bruno Lozano. At least in the eyes of those who support Henry Arredondo.
The day after the meeting, someone, or group, picked up a packet from city hall which contains the protocol for a recall election. In the case of Bruno, he must hold office six months before a recall can be filed. That’s the rule. But since when has anyone paid attention to all those pesky rules and items such as “the city charter” in Del Rio? It all doesn’t matter. The wheels of recall are already churning and burning. Oh, great. It’s all Del Rio needs. Another election in November and the sixth trip to the ballot box in a nine month period.
Of course Bruno is not the only actor in the removal of Henry Arredono. Council people Diana Salgado, Liz Elizalde, and John Sheedy were the votes which terminated the life of the city manager’s career. No one will admit who submitted a calling for a special city council meeting for Henry’s fate. It was submitted to the city secretary anonymously. All seems very curious in the eyes of some citizens of Del Rio. Time was running out for the majority vote needed for Arredondo’s removal. The runoff of elections to fill two city council seats was just three days away. What we don’t know is why the sudden rush to the removal of Henry. Speaking with John Sheedy the evening after a very heated discussion (and both of us had calmed down) he did share there are certain perspectives which lead to a very hard decision that can’t always be as transparent as the public (and Henry who asked for the meeting to be held in public rather with portions in executive session) would like to be presented. Although I don’t necessary agree, I can understand the reason for the process.
There is a lot about the removal of Henry Arredondo that bothers me. One fact is he did not find out about the special city council meeting called to remove him until he was on a trip to Mexico City for official business. The mayor and Councilwoman Elizalde accompanied the city manager on the trip. Talk about your “Et Tu, Brute” moments.
Then there is the evaluation process of the city manager. I should say the lack of a formal evaluation of Henry’s performance since January 15th 2015. During his tenure of four years, Arredondo requested an evaluation 19 times and the city council NEVER provided a proper, formal evaluation. Sometimes, there were not enough council members present at meetings to perform the task, some did not receive the pdf file in order to do so, etc, etc, etc. My hope is that Henry would re submit his application with the pile of resumes for a new city manager being taken. That would put an interesting twist and comparison with the new applicants in regards to experience.
Before the action of his removal, Henry was allowed to make a public comment. His accomplishments over the last four years are extraordinary. The highlights of course are the bond rating concerning the city’s finances is double A; the highest in Del Rio’s history. The city is able to borrow money for future needs and projects along with repayment within 10 years. The revenues of the International Bridge have almost double during his tenure and Henry delivered a much needed airline service to Del Rio without the use of any property tax dollars. Then the infrastructure improvements that are still a work in progress. Henry Arredondo left Del Rio in a better working order than any other city manager in a very long time.
Bruno ran on a platform brand of “unity”. Well, that all went out the window June 20th, 2018. He did not allow public comments during the special meeting. He ordered the removal of two women by the police chief; one lady was a senior citizen who was no threat at all. Bruno’s demeanor registered the score of zero on the unity scale. Hours earlier, he called police to remove Father Clay Hunt from city hall, a meeting in which Clay was invited by Bruno. The rumors, hearsay and chisme aren’t necessary to discuss. However, if you are in public service in Deep South Texas and wish to continue to do so, you do not have a Catholic priest removed from your office by the police. You might as well place your life savings in Edsel or Enron stock.
Perception on how one act is the reality in many people’s mind. The actions of Bruno on June 20th 2018 will never be forgotten by many of the citizens of Del Rio. What is sad are the rumors that start and fuel fast then linger on forever. For some folks in this town, there are red hot mad in saying “bub-by Bruno, we hardly got to know you.” The sentiment in some camps is already to circle the wagons for another election come November. Just what we need before the Holidays. Please hurry up 2019. This has turned into a really rotten political year.