Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scouting for Food

Please join the Boy Scouts of Americain helping the less fortunate by donating non-perishable food items.

Place food items to be donated in the bag provided by your front door on February 7, 2009.
Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Venture Crews and Teams from your area will collect from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon on February 14.

If you need more information, please contact Boy Scouts of America Yucca Council at

Thanking you in advance.

Boy Scouts of America

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Susie Byrd's New Public Meeting Schedule

Legislative Aide Rene Leon emailed this notice about Representative Byrd's new public meeting schedule:

"Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Rep. Susie Byrd is pleased to announce the new schedule of community meetings for 2009 through the month of May. The meetings will be held every first Thursday and third Saturday of the month, and each meeting will feature a guest speaker to give constituents insight and information on what is happening throughout the Sun City.

Between now and May, constituents will have the opportunity to hear from several community leaders. Mayor John Cook, City Manager Joyce Wilson, PSB Vice President of Marketing Cristina Montoya, Environmental Services Director Ellen Smyth, County Commissioner Veronica Escobar, and County Sheriff Richard Wiles are all scheduled to speak at upcoming meetings. To view the meeting schedule and to see who will speak at which meeting, please go to Susie’s blog, Notes From District 2, and please print out the attached meeting schedule for easy reference

The location of the Thursday morning meetings has changed, and they will now be held at Tierra del Sol Restaurant, 4201 Alabama, at 7:30 a.m. This move was done to make the meetings more accessible to a wider range of District 2 constituents. The Saturday morning meetings will continue to be held at the Memorial Park Library, 3200 Copper, at 10:00 a.m.

Be sure to include the District 2 community meetings in your calendars as we hope to reach out to and hear back from as many residents as we can so that we can continue to make District 2 one of the best places to live and work in El Paso."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Born Again American

You have got to watch this video. It's just what President Obama is calling on all of us to do. It is time that we quite the ad hominem attacks against our leaders. For eight years I heard conservatives relentlessly attack President Clinton personally. For the past eight years I heard liberals relentlessly attack President Bush personally. It's one thing to disagree; it's another thing to be vicious. It's time that we all roll up our sleeves and work together. There's no better place to start than our own neighborhood.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Get Ready for the Stormwater Vote

Enough valid signatures were submitted to the City to force a vote on May 9 on the stormwater utility. The issue: many want to see stormwater management stripped from PSB and returned to the auspices of City Hall. The El Paso Times has already begun beating on the envy drum: See how much Ed Archuleta makes versus how much poor Eddie Holguin makes. Our stormwater fees are just too high.

So does anyone think that their household water bill will be lower if stormwater is taken away from PSB? The truth is that it will go higher and at the cost of placating businesses that lay down a lot of concrete.

Please take time to read a couple of entries on David Karlsruher's blog: Doesn't Take a Clairvoyant to Predict Higher Taxes of El Pasoans and Misconceptions about the Stormwater Issue.

The Newman Park Neighborhood blog will be posting more entries about the issue including Representative Holguin's suggestion that Mr. Archuleta's salary (or the salary of anyone at PSB) is outrageous. Read David. We can talk. Anyone who disagrees can post comments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Flags Around the Mayfield Escarpment Natural Park

David and Mandy Chew sent me this message this morning:

Please advise the membership that American Flags are flying around the Park today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and tomorrow in honor of our 44th President.
Best regards,
David and Mandy

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tagging Part 3: Tagging Crews and Competitions

You probably often wonder why anyone would risk his life by climbing out to a sign above a busy freeway just to tag the sign. You've also probably seen several instances of billboards that have been tagged. These are usually instances of tagging competitions. Much like computer games, the "warriors" seek to win a contest by gaining the most point. Numbers of tags and most especially tags done in dangerous places get the most points. Competitors or gangs agree on a neutral judge and get started. Remarkably, none of them sees this as property damage - they see it as a game.

Tagging crews often begin at late night parties. Gang members may first steal beer from a convenience store. "Beer runs" are just that: a member runs in and grabs a case of beer and runs out of the store. Often fueled by alcohol or other drugs, the taggers are set lose.

Do know that tagging is not limited to night-time. Tagging during the day is just as common. Check out this video of a reckless youth tagging an overpass above the 101 in Los Angeles.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tagging Part 2: Profile of a Tagger

It was a surprise to me to learn that taggers can be much older than school age children. In fact, the gamut runs from pre-teen to 30-year olds. The average age is 19. Taggers come from every race, religion, social group, as well as from every socioeconomic status. They may have a responsible, full-time job. Also, tagging by females is on the rise.

They can be members of the military as gangs have now infiltrated our armed forces as a great place to learn combat and weapons skills.

Of course, you may be mostly interested in being able to discern whether your child is a tagger. Some indications that your child may be a tagger are:

Some indications that your child may be a tagger are:

1. Your child stays out until early morning or all night.
2. Your child frequently wears a large backpack or baggy pants.
3. Clothing may be paint-stained.
4. Packs and loose clothing can be used to hold paint cans or carry graffiti tools.
5. Your child carries tools used for etching glass, such as hole punches, rocks, glass cutters, screwdrivers, awls, metal scribes, or other sharp objects. (Your child may not be able to explain exactly why he/she has this in their possession.)
6. Your child has taken up the hobby of ink marking.
7. Your child has large quantities of magic markers, shoe polish containers, or other devices used for drawing.
8. Your child sleeps during the day and is active outdoors at night.
9. Your child has paint on the tips of his/her fingers.
10. Your child frequently has permanent marker stains on his/her hands.
11. Your child has graffiti magazines, flyers, a "piece" book, or other portfolio of tags.
12. Your child possesses large quantities of "my name is" stickers or other large stickers used for "sticker tagging."
13. Your child is in possession of graffiti paraphernalia, such as markers, etching tools, spray paint, bug spray, and starch cans. The bug spray cans are used to make tags that will only show up in the rain.
14. Your child is in the age group statistically associated with tagging: ages 12 to 18
(sometimes older).
15. Your child has graffiti displays or tags on clothing, binders, backpack, and the underside of the bill of their hat. Tags you see on the walls of your neighborhood are seen on your child’s walls, books, and clothing.
16. Your child is frequently deceitful about his/her activities.
17. Your child has quantities of paint in cans, but does not have the income to afford it.
18. Your child associates with other children with the traits described above.
19. Your child’s Internet web browser has bookmarks to graffiti advocate websites.
20. Your child has photographs of graffiti and tags on walls that look familiar to you.
21. Your child actively reads the alternate graffiti news group website.
They are also proud of their work as this short video of a tagging crew suggests:

Just go to You Tube for more tagging videos.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tagging Part 1: We Are Surrounded by Gangs!

I had a meeting this morning with Leslie Canada, Officer Morales and Officer Chavez at Central Command about tagging and graffiti. I had asked to meet in order to learn more about the profile of the tagger, the meaning of the tags and more especially how it impacts our Newman Park neighborhood. What I found out I will spend a few days discussing.

One thing that I learned for sure is that, when any of us see tagging, we should report it to the police first and only and let them report it to Streets for cleaning. This way the police can gather evidence and evaluate patterns and may possibly head-off gang turf wars and violence.

The non-emergency number for the City of El Paso Police is 915-832-4400. If you see tagging in progress, call 911.

Our neighborhood is surrounded by various gangs. The tagging that we see in the Newman Park area is the work of various tagging crews usually for competitions or for practice. Different gangs will engage in competitions to see who can do the most tagging, tag in the most dangerous areas, and tag with the largest letters. Smaller letter tagging is a definite sign that the tagger is practicing.
The picture above was taken over a year ago. It is the wall of the McKee Mansion along Louisiana. You can see the gang tags (in different colors) for Central Cocha and X3 Caos. Gangs use tags to mark territory and to engage in territorial disputes.
Some of it may seem benign - but none of it is. Gangs are linked to the drug trade that has taken the lives of nearly 2,000 people in Juarez. Young lives are drawn into this life by virtue of neighborhood or need to survive. "Jumping" into a gang is dangerous initiation but not as life-threatening as "jumping" out.
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Harrison Avenue Collection Site

Looks like Central El Pasoans including all of us in the Newman Park neighborhood will be able to keep our conveniently located Harrison Avenue Collection Site. (It is located just off of Alabama a half block toward the mountain.) The site is owned by Cemex. Previously, Jobe owned it and leased the land to the City. Cemex has requested the City to comply to their environmental standards which the City has done. The new lease was approved at today's City Council meeting.

The collection site (and not our blue or gray bins) is the place for such things as used oil, oil filters, tires, paint, solvents, degreasers, batteries, tree limbs and branches, etc. For a full list, go here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crime Prevention Tips

Cindy Milazzo took some great notes at the Police Shift meeting at Newman Park yesterday. There are some good crime prevention tips here:

"Our PAR Officer Henry Slack met with us this morning and reviewed some programs of the Police Department and gave an update on crime in the area.

1) Auto theft prevention: Register your vehicle with Help End Auto Theft (HEAT)
Trucks with 4-wheel drive are often stolen, taken to Juarez, then driven back across
the desert with drug shipments. Since December, there have been two vehicles stolen in our area. Overall, the auto theft rate is down 6%.

2) Operation Identification:
We can borrow an engraver and mark TVs, small electronics, cameras, or any property.with a driver's license number or other ID, then send that information to the Police Department who may be able to link that information with data submitted by pawn shops.

3) Tickets for up to $55 will be issued for parking on easements/parkways or overnight parking on streets.

4) Because of a budget crunch, the PAR officer program, which assigns one officer to coordinate police and community efforts in our neighborhood, is in danger of being cut. If you support this program, please send a note to Chief of Police Greg Allen at

5) Our area had 55 burglaries in 2008. This number includes District 56 (Memphis to I-10 and the mountain to railroad tracks east of Copia) and District
57 (Van Buren to Memphis and the mountain to the railroad tracks east of Copia).

6) Officer Slack said it might be a good idea to include the 2600 block of Richmond in our Neighborhood Watch area, since they are are closest "across the street" neighbors. If you have any ideas regarding this, let me know.

To report suspicious or unusual activity, call the Central Regional Command at 577-5000 or the Police non-emergency number at 832-4400."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Newman Park Picked for First Police Shift Meeting

The City of El Paso is planning year-round shift meetings in each of the different districts. Central Command picked the 56th District which includes Newman Park as its first meeting for the year. That meeting was held this morning at 10 a.m. at the park.

Police officers and code officers met with neighbors. There were six of us which was great given the short notice that we received. (Officer Slack promised that they would be doing another such meeting in the summer and that he would be giving us more notice first.)

Officer Slack addressed several important issues including auto theft, Operation ID and the Border Star program which stops cars before they cross the border so that ownership can be verified. (There are two main reasons for stealing cars: for the parts as they can be sold for a lot more money; or, especially in the case of 4x4 trucks, to be used to smuggle drugs back into the U.S. across desert terrain.)

Slack said that the team assembled today would be going up and down the streets in the area principally looking for quality of life/code compliance violations.

Judy Gutierrez from Representative Susie Byrd's office was there. She stated that quality of life issues are very important to the Mayor Pro-Tem.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No Change in Gender Policy at Parks and Rec

Last night the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (on which I serve) and a Legislative Review Committee of City Council (Representatives Ortega, Holguin, Lilly and Acosta) met together regarding Susie Byrd's proposed change for the gender rules. Her proposal arose from a girl who wanted to play with a boy's competitive soccer team. The girl and her mother were present and her mother gave her case and answered questions.

Actually, the proposal before the Board and the LRC was the recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Department to maintain the status quo. Paula Powell gave the presentation for the Department. The gist of her argument was that to grant an exception would put city teams in violation of UIL or other governing body rules and thus disqualify all teams from playing beyond City play. Obviously with competitive leagues teams want to go to tournaments, state and national playoffs. Moreover, the mother and daughter seeking the exception were involved in a soccer league. The City doesn't manage soccer leagues. Finally, once the Mom heard that everyone would be disqualified, she backed down. Both the Advisory Board and the LRC voted to maintain the status quo. There were two "no" votes: Ruben Robles (like me from District 2 - Susie Byrd's district) and Trini Munoz.

I think that Susie's point is good but needs to be directed to the UIL or other governing bodies. I am all for opening up more and more opportunities for all individuals and I can't see why a girl can't play on a competitive boy's team if her coach wants her. However, as the rules exist now, to do so would vastly limit the opportunities afforded not just to one person but to all persons in that league. Again, the argument must be made higher up.
Also, outdoor soccer is not managed by the City so this case really wasn't our case. Finally, I think that it would have been better had Representative Byrd's proposal come before us in the first place and have been articulated as well as the Park's Department presentation was. I would have liked to have heard it as the proposal rather than the status quo. Still, given the facts (UIL rules, soccer not under City management, etc.), I would have voted the same way.

However, I would be glad to address the same issue to the governing bodies higher up.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

City Manager, Joyce Wilson, Takes Action on Escarpment

Yesterday I wrote our City Manager, Joyce Wilson, about the damage done to and littering of our Mayfield "Park". Here is what I wrote:

"Ms. Wilson,

I am writing you as a board member of the Newman Park Neighborhood Association.

There is a lovely natural escarpment that has graced our neighborhood for decades. Neighbors often fondly refer to it as “Mayfield Park” even though it is not an actual city park. (It is, however, city property.) This escarpment sits at the western end of Savannah, Frankfort and Memphis Avenues. Mayfield Terrace and then the Franklin Mountains describe its western boundary. It is home to mesquite, Palo Verde, creosote, quail and desert sparrows to say the least. Foxes frequent it and even our Franklin Mountain female cougar has been spotted there. It has been visited by serious birdwatchers. It is a lovely place.

Recently the City replaced water and sewer lines in the alleyway between Savannah and Frankfort. City workers and the contractors that the City hired littered the area with their lunch bags, plastic grocery sacks, drink cartons, plastic water bottles and so forth. Chief Justice David Chew, his wife, Mandy, and Judge Chew’s sister, District Court Judge Linda Chew, all pitched in to clean up the litter. Additionally, the workers crushed brush and broke tree limbs with their backhoes and dirt movers.
They simply plowed through without any consideration to the natural beauty of the escarpment.

Since workers littered and molested landscape at this project, you know that they are doing so on all other projects all over the City. You know that those who supervise are complicit.

With all of El Paso’s great efforts to make this a more beautiful city and to
encourage people to pick-up and clean-up, allowing (through neglect and failure to supervise) city workers and hired private contractors to litter and to destroy natural landscapes seems to be sending a mixed message and to be counter-productive to any program to make El Paso a cleaner and more attractive city.

Is there a possibility that a policy can be drafted that requires workers and their supervisors to use litter bags and to be mindful of natural surroundings with failure to do so resulting in some significant penalty? Can a similar policy be written that requires private contractors to do the same with failure to do so resulting in being taken off the official list of City contractors for a significant period of time? What I have in mind is not just a memo to department heads and supervisors, but a serious, deliberate, protracted effort and program to make workers, supervisors, department heads, contractors, etc. responsible to the environment. Mere memorandums about the problems will not result in a genuine shift in values.

As always whenever I write a message such as this, I volunteer to do whatever I can to assist the City in dealing with these issues. I assume that, if I’m “complaining”, I should be willing to pitch in and be part of the solution whatever time that it takes. For nearly twenty years now, the Chews and Bob and Jeanne Foskett have been good stewards of Mayfield “Park”. They have kept it clean and cared for. Mr. Foskett has even created lovely, natural signs telling hikers and walkers the names of some of the trees and shrubs. I’m sure that the Newman Park Neighborhood Association under its Park Partner Agreement can help maintain this beautiful setting. If all of us together can get creative, we can find ways to love this place and all other such open, natural spaces in our neighborhoods throughout El Paso.

Thank you for all the great work that you are doing for the City of El Paso. I am very grateful to you and very appreciative of your leadership."

She responded:
"Thanks for bringing this problem to my attention. I will follow up with City engineering staff to determine who was the contractor on this particular project and what oversight we provided. I also will have someone to go out and look at the site and assess whether or not the contractor can be made to repair any damage to the natural area. We can include provisions in our contracts to ensure that contractors who do business with the city also do not violate any environmental codes and policies such as you describe. I will make sure we are doing so as a matter
of practice going forward, if we do not already specify this in our agreements. The same applies to City employees. We have administrative policies governing all sorts of conduct and behavior and I can work with HR to formally address these expectations as well.

I concur that we must set the standard if we are going to be assertive in enforcing compliance with our environmental codes, as well as encourage our citizens to be attentive to our community’s appearance and cleanliness, as well as its natural spaces.

Best to you for 2009. Thanks for the efforts you and the association are making on behalf of the City and your neighborhood."
Now that is leadership!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Mayfield Escarpment: Our Other Park

Above the end of Savannah, Frankfort and Memphis avenues is Mayfield Terrace. Between it and Kentucky Street is a natural escarpment owned by the City. Mesquite, Palo Verde and other southwest flora grow there. Quail live there and fox and cougar have been seen passing through. For over seventeen years, Chief Justice David Chew and his wife, Mandy, along with Bob and Jeanne Fossett have "managed" this beautiful piece of the Franklin Mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert. They have picked up litter. Bob has labeled plants so that those who pass by will know the various names.

Recently utility workers laid new water and sewer pipes down the alleyway between Savannah and Frankfort. Workers threw away their bottles and paper sacks and other lunch refuse directly on the ground of the escarpment or close enough that it blew into the creosote and other bushes. David and Mandy and David's sister, Judge Linda Chew, picked up quite a bit of this trash. The workers plowed through with backhoe and dirt remover crushing and breaking trees and other vegetation.

No doubt it is time for us to start paying attention to the Mayfield Escarpment: our other park.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008 Christmas Luminarias

Above is photo taken by Newman Park Photographer, Marco Milazzo, on Christmas Eve. It is taken from the Mayfield Escarpment looking down Memphis Avenue. You can see more of these photos at our neighborhood SmugMug page.