Story By Bob Corbell
Voter apathy is not a new phenomenon to Del Rio or for that matter the rest of the country. However in the last three elections held in Val Verde County, the lack of turnout has passed way beyond epidemic acute proportions. It is chronic and dire. Maybe the explanation is that of the affects of self medication with illegal drug use or alcohol. It’s too easy to become hooked after the first nip, or high. That first taste of not participating in an election gives one the sense of control and euphoria all wrapped into a sublime feeling. Meanwhile the crash, hangover, or depression after the high of not voting leads to a pattern of cynicism over someone’s name they’ve never read on an election ballot.
This is the story of 85 percent of the registered voters in Val Verde County. They’re the ones who say they give a damn, but they really don’t. The majority of registered voters in Del Rio spit at the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th, Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; 95 percent can’t define any of the specifics. Well since you slept through civics class, or were sick that day, let me give you a quick reminder. Between 1870 and 1971, these amendments ensure you the right to vote no matter your race, color, or previous condition of servitude (Amendment XV 1870). It doesn’t matter what sex you were born; you can vote in America (Amendment XIX 1920, the woman’s right to vote). You no longer have to pay a poll tax. Voting in the United States is free of charge (Amendment XIV 1964, the beginning of the end of Jim Crow). If you are 18 years of age at the date of an election, or older, you can vote. (Amendment XVI 1971).
Unless you fall under the category of felony disenfranchisement due to a conviction or are not a United States Citizen, there is absolutely no excuse for not casting a vote in any election, period. Every law, tool, time, and resource is more than adequate for you to participate within your government.
According to the Val Verde County Clerk Office, there are close to 27-thousand registered voters on the rolls. In the May 2018 City of Del Rio election, slightly fewer than four thousand people took time to cast a ballot. So, why the apathy?
One reason could be the convoluted, an excessive number of elections that we do have. General elections, bond elections, primary’s , special elections, county elections, county-primary run-off elections, city elections, hospital board elections, school board elections, school board bond elections, and city run-off elections. A total of 11 elections since November 2016. That is a one per month election average which is quite byzantine for most of the voters. The resolve would take both legislative action and city-county effort for cohesive and simplified voter solutions.
Another reason might be a bit subjective to the age of the voter, but let’s face it; times are changing on how a candidate’s message is presented. Social media has become the coffee-shop-feel-good-trendy-way of an office seeker to present his message. Quite frankly, it’s not personal for the voter. Yes, the message might be presented well, with some near instant feed back, but it does not carry into a one-on-one conversation.
When I see political messages on social media, I scroll through the news feed. If I continue to receive them, they are blocked or removed. I would much prefer to be addressed by a person seeking office either by taking the effort of knocking at my front door (block walking shows sincere concern) or speaking with me as I seek them out at a political debate or forum. I don’t want robo-calls six times a day or illuminating my Face Book news feed like it’s the Las Vegas strip. I believe I’m not in the minority when it comes to this intrusion. Thus, the more these messages are seen, the less participation on Election Day.
Voter revolt is another reason for not turning out to the polls. Many feel the person running for office is not adequate to fill the shoes. Poor representation from previous elected officials, unreliable administration, excessive taxation when not necessary, and an unclear message of how to resolve issues have folks resorting to apathy at the polls like it was crystal meth.
The eighty five percent who do not vote in Val Verde County cannot be totally blamed for their dependence of the voter apathy drug addiction. There are those who are the enablers. Some which are politicians themselves. For they do the research and know within a percentage point how many votes it will take to get them in the big red chair. Apathy, or the lack of turn out on Election Day, is what a few count on to seize the power. It’s much easier to win a low voter turn out election than attempt to reach all of those registered to vote. It’s also a cheaper campaign. It takes less mailers, and is easier on the feet for those long, hot, and tiring block walks.
For those who are looking for voter apathy addiction intervention for a loved one, or might be seeking rehabilitation for themselves; there are very capable people to get you the help that is needed. All one has to do is to go the United States Post Office or the Val Verde County Court House and ask for a Voter Registration Card. As for support groups within the election process; contact either your Republican or Democrat Party. For those few who wish to overcome apathy through self help study, might I suggest the Libertarian Party. Those choices are up to the individual.
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.
May 5th, 2018. A date that will live in infamy, as far as Del Rio politics goes. Eighteen years into the 21st Century, those three thousand folks who chose to show up between Cinco de Mayo margaritas elected their first millennial leader with the selection of Bruno ‘Ralphy’ Lozano. While the overall turnout was significantly low by total registered voters’ standards, it was an overwhelming majority of 61 percent which lead to the defeat of baby boomer Mayor Robert Garza and crowning the 30 something mayor-elect. A title that he might consider for the 2022 campaign: Landslide Lozano.
While Bruno’s campaign of slightly over 90 days was never crafty, slick, or over produced, (as many political consultants would diagnose as the only way to defeat a highly successful and educated incumbent) his grass roots, low key approach was deer-in-the-headlight blinding to the opposition while attracting the masses with one, simple key word: Unity.
There are several factors why Del Rio chose Bruno Lozano for the big red chair. His timing was as crystal clear as a Steven Spielberg final scene, leaving nothing for the cutting room floor. There wasn’t rhetoric, trash-talking, or promises. The incumbent answers at public forums, mass-mailers outlying previous achievements, budgets met, and expectations that Del Rio must look at for the future did not seem to faze Bruno in the least and he kept on point. What his supporters took with them into the voting booth was the one word repeated from countless hours of block walking and public speaking at forums: Unity. To be determined over the next 48 months is can Bruno deliver?
In order to achieve collective cohesiveness, Del Rio still has to determine who will serve in District 2 for city council as well as Council at Large Place C. That will be a very difficult decision between Jim Dereus and David Scarbo in the District 2 showdown. Both men have high achievement with their past professional and community service experience. Their character alone demonstrates the comprehension of unity. Place C has voters deciding between Reno Luna and Raul Ojeda. Luna has served many years as councilman, so he does not need to be reminded of the definition of Lozano’s credo. Ojeda does understand and acknowledges a desire for what Del Rio demands of its future government.
What Mayor-elect Lozano probably will find in the upcoming months is how fortunate it is that District 1 voters chose Fred Carranza. If anything, Fred Carranza is a perfect synonym for unity. As for council persons Rowland Garza, Diana Salgado, and Elizabeth Elizalde-Calderon, Bruno will find that they too have Del Rio’s best interest at heart. But he shouldn’t feel surprised at the hard ball questions to come along with some opposition.
What Bruno Lozano must decide once the council is in place are the specific goals that will unify Del Rio.
More strategic economic growth plans. A continued pace of securing needed infrastructure. He has already hinted at the beautification of Del Rio and better containment of its natural resources. Bruno had me on my feet with applause when he said that he chooses not to compare Del Rio to Eagle Pass, but selects other cities of its size in the United States. That comment is rather bold and might even miff those who supported him.
Bruno might consider looking at the accomplishments of Robert Garza since 2016 which might guide him to unification at a steady pace. The Ports-To-Plains vision for Del Rio, along with future cooperation with interior Mexico is a laudable plan to pursue. The achievement of our financial status, bond rating, and payment of debt are to his credit. The one thing you can say about Robert Garza’s tenure, he left us in a better financial position than when he came into office.
Finally, mayor-elect Lozano might want to set his goals with a well outlined series of tasks in order to meet his ultimate summit. Once his council is selected, it’s time to roll the sleeves up and focus on amalgamation. Its definition is “the action, process, or result of combining or uniting. Welcome to City Hall Ralphy. Opport-Unity knocks!
Story By Bob Corbell
The storyline of Del Rio’s awkward an insatiable past of airline service has raised its head again, but maybe this time the reality will unmask the unfounded perception. This has been a hot bed of conversation over the last 30 days on KWMC. The further discussions at City Hall can only conclude one thing for certain: it will be a well spirited month of May without any need of a rented margarita machine in the hallway left over from Cinco de Mayo.
A lot has happened since 1949 when a certified airline carrier by the Civil Aeronautics Board serviced Del Rio. Air Mail Route 82, was granted to Trans Texas Airlines which flew mail, passenger, and cargo along a line stretching from Houston to El Paso with stops in between that included Uvalde, Eagle Pass, Ft Stockton, and Van Horn. By 1978, when the airline industry was deregulated, service to Del Rio became more complicated. This was mainly due to regional carriers having to create alliances with an assortment of major carriers. The majors battled rapid expansion, fare wars, and quite frankly, chaos that continued well into the 1990s. Del Rio suffered from these consequences.
There are two misconceptions that have lead to the “no mas” attitude towards any future consideration for air service in Del Rio. Most recent is the contract with Texas Sky. It was costly and did not provide through ticketing outside of DFW airport. Also there were some frequent service interruptions and the mid afternoon departures which lead to a full day of travel. The other misconception is that future airline service will be a burden to the taxpayers.
The reality that strikes the first perception is the service which Colgan Air provided between 2004 and 2012. The operating load factors were respectable during this time. The carrier suffered some insurmountable circumstances following 2009. This put the service in question. Finally the merger between Continental and United Airlines lead to the exiting of Del Rio. Not one circumstance was due to the loss of profit or load factors.
The second reality that addresses the perception as “a burden to the taxpayer” was presented before the Del Rio City Council on April 10th, 2018. After months of strategic planning mastered by City Manager Henry Arredondo and staff, the council had to decide whether to begin an agreement between the city and American Airlines to establish service as early as November. While the exact terms are still within negotiation, American would offer two flights daily between Del Rio and Dallas/Ft. Worth for two years. The presentation was almost flawless, factual, and fiscally feasible for the gold standard of the air travel industry to sprout roots in Del Rio. As Mayor Robert Garza pointed out, the funding of the bottom line dollar amount to be committed by the city is “new money”. That new money is an increase in toll fare of the International Bridge by 25 cents and a commercial rate of 50 cents per axle. This hard assessment of current funds and projections through the year of 2020 more than met the expectations. Basically American Airlines wants a 2.9 million dollar commitment over two years and a 75 percent load factor on its flights. Garza also stressed to council that American would not consider entering into the agreement unless they saw a profit. He’s right. American Airlines losses close to 400 potential Del Rio customers per week, who now travel to San Antonio and Austin while boarding a Southwest, United, or Delta aircraft. The sales tax receipts from these customers prove that fact.
Finally, the economic support from fact and general comments made from the city’s top government and business leaders are laudable to say the least. If this city wants sustainable growth for the future and a commitment from its top three job sectors; an airline service is necessary. This deal presented to the Del Rio City Council gets absolutely no better than today. Meanwhile, it’s all up in the air. Until final approval.