Thursday, April 30, 2009

Representative Byrd Responds to Disinformation Mailer from Build PAC of El Paso

A paid political advertisment was mailed to residents of District 2. It was paid for by Build PAC of El Paso, 6046 Surrey Drive, El Paso, TX 79905. The slick, laminated piece sported a grackle on the front with the words: "It's time for Susie Byrd to fly away!"

Representative Byrd emailed El Paso media and attached a copy of the flyer along with her letter to the PAC. She wrote:

Dear media:
Please see attached. I just sent this to the Build PAC asking them to correct the misinformation and to sign the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

Just like with the Apartment Association, this appears to be a last ditch effort by the Bowlings to misinform voters and get them to vote against their interests. Bobby Bowling was leading the Apartment Association effort. They had no money as of the April 9 filing but now they have money enough to do city wide mailing and purchase yard signs. Gregory Bowling is the treasure of Build PAC. I spoke with Amy Shoemaker (who sits on the PAC) yesterday and she said that the PAC had officially voted to stay out of the races. She was surprised by the mailer.

Here is her letter to Build PAC in full. Click on each page to enlarge:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Newman Park Neighborhood Association To Collect Food for Children's Homes

The Newman Park Neighborhood Association will collect food for the Lee and Beulah Moor Children's Home during its First Fridays program.

On the first Friday of each month Newman Park area residents and their friends and family gather at the park for fun, fellowship, recreation and community building. There is no set agenda for these first Friday events of each month. People gather to visit, play games, get some exercise and just enjoy time outside and with friends and neighbors. May 1 is the next "First Friday" event and has been billed as "Frisbee Friday". First Fridays go from 6 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of each month through October.

At their last meeting, NPNA board members voted to take up a collection of canned and dried food for El Paso's Lee and Beulah Moor Children's Home. Board member, Abbie Majerczyk, will lead the neighborhood's efforts to benefit the home.

The Lee and Beulah Moor Children’s Home "supports children and families who are experiencing difficulty in their lives—for whatever reason—by providing a nurturing, positive environment and teaching self-respect, respect for others, and the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own decisions and actions." Their goal is very simple: "To strengthen families in crisis".

The Children's Home depends on local support in order to provide a range of services to the nearly 70 children currently in residence and their families. Of course, given the current economic conditions, donations are more important than ever. There are a number of ways to donate to the home including cash donations that can safely be done online.

When you come to a First Friday event, bring canned or dried food. Even if you can't come but are able to drop food off at the park, please do so. Here is a list of canned and dried foods that the Children's Home requests:
# 10 (gallon) can of tropical fruit
# 10 (gallon) can of fruit cocktail
# 10 (gallon) can Mandarin Oranges
# 10 (gallon) can peaches
# 10 (gallon) can green beans
# 10 (gallon) can corn
# 10 (gallon) can alfredo sauce
# 10 (gallon) can tomato sauce
# 10 (gallon) can green enchilada sauce
# 10 (gallon) Rague
12-14 oz. can of cream of mushroom soup
12-14 oz. can of cream of chicken soup
Rice (large bulk bags)
Jello mix
Cans of Pam non-stick spray
Cake mix
Cake frosting
Bags of instant potatoes
Baking cups
Star pasta
Dried pinto beans (large bulk bags)
Chocolate drink mix (encourages children to drink milk)
Sugar (large bulk bags)
Flour (large bulk bags)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vote Against the Stormwater Ballot Proposition


Please vote AGAINST this stormwater ballot proposition!

Read John Walton's Newspaper Tree op-ed piece: PSB's high standards are the best stormwater option.

Obviously this is my opinion as the author of this neighborhood blog. You are welcome to add your comments for or against in the comments section below.

Know that I come from an activist position regarding environmental issues in El Paso. In all cases, the PSB has worked with advocates of open space, xeriscaping, and use of native trees. As President-elect of the West Texas Urban Forestry Council, I can tell you that they responded to our call to use trees as part of the stormwater master plan - a plan developed after months of deliberation by citizens of all backgrounds and occupations. (They include people in their planning. There is no elitism at the PSB.) As a member of the Open Space sub-committee for the City of El Paso's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, I can tell you that they have been the only entity responsive to the Open Space Green Infrastructure Plan. What little has been implemented by that plan has been implemented by the PSB and not by the City bureaucrats.

As an avid hiker, I was overjoyed by PSB's land transfer of 1700 acres to the Franklin Mountains State Park. PSB has been readily responsive to our Newman Park neighborhood regarding the nearby storm ponds and our beautiful Mayfield Wildscape.

A political advertisement that I just received via email reads:
The proposition on the City elections ballot seeks to return control of the Municipal Drainage System (“stormwater”) to the City. That will not solve El Paso’s flooding problem or who pays for it. This proposal would mean that politicians – not professionals – will determine where and if El Paso has an effective, safe stormwater control system.

El Paso’s new Stormwater Master Plan sets aside money for the Capital Improvement Projects we need to protect our property from summer storms – an important investment in our city. These projects are scheduled to begin later this year. The Plan sets aside an additional $6.2-million for open space and park pond projects; more than an investment in the environment, they are quality-of-life projects that benefit all of us.

Storm channels and drains all across El Paso that were ignored for years are now free of decades of litter – old tires, tumbleweeds and collections of trash. We must not return to the days of drain channels that are unkempt, unhealthy and dangerous eye sores.

Vote AGAINST putting our Municipal Drainage System into the hands of politicians who are pressured to make decisions that are not necessarily in the public interest.

Vote AGAINST a payment schedule that could mean residential customers will pay the burden of the costs. El Paso deserves better than this!

Vote AGAINST the stormwater ballot proposition!
If you do early voting, you will find polling information here.

Parks Staff Outlines Program for Newman Park Maintenance

A recent letter to City Parks officials from a nearby Grandview Park resident mentioned concern about the weed growth both at Grandview and Newman parks. A Newman Park neighbor also recently wanted some explanation for the amount of cut grass left on the ground at Newman Park. Assistant Parks Director, Joel McKnight, and Parks Superintendent, Sam Calhoun, addressed these concerns.

Mr. McKnight is currently implementing a turf management program that will minimize and eliminate weeds as they mature without destructive herbicides and will build-up the turf grasses such as Bermuda as the overnight temperatures continue to warm-up and the Bermuda begins to grow. His program will take time. It isn't intended to be a quick fix. Rather it will be a long term solution that is designed to replenish and invigorate turf in all of El Paso's parks. He explained that often cut dry grass does stay on the ground in order to add nutrients such as nitrogen back into the soil. Recently, wet grass was left on the ground at Newman Park because of an equipment problem. By tomorrow afternoon, the situation will be remedied.

Mr. Calhoun emphasized the need for the neighborhood association to work with its Park Supervisor, Victor Flores. In a meeting this morning at the park with Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Flores, the need to continue to build the canopy at the park was raised. An Ash that has yet to bud out was examined and showed plenty of green tissue. Areas for newer trees were pinpointed. With years of experience managing parks, Mr. Flores advised the continuing clustering of trees while maintaining the central open space of our park. He also said that he chooses trees based on their expected canopy development.

From time to time, it may seem as if Newman Park is "suffering". However, a turf management program is in place as well as a scheduled program to plant more trees at the right time.

Park management now is a tricky proposition because of the economic environment requiring budget constraints even cuts. The usual temporary summer workers will not be hired. This job-freeze will put additional work loads on the permanent staff during the "green" season. However, Mr. Calhoun did state that watering would be the last thing to be cut. He is committed to the lives of our trees.
Victor Flores adds: "Our partnership is very much alive! We will continue to push for improvement of your park as well as all others citywide."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Newmanistas To Headline Chinese Cultural Celebration

Newmanistas, David, Pat and Linda Chew will add stature and prominence to May's cultural celebration of the Chinese heritage in the City of El Paso. The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department presents “We Celebrate Our Heritage-China” during the month of May. A number of events are planned for the celebration including reminiscences by the Chews on May 16th at 2 p.m. at the El Paso Museum of History.

Their father, Wellington Chew, was the first Asian American to be licensed to practice law in the State of Texas. A park and senior center are named in his honor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

EPISD Superintendent Needs To Be Investigated

Here is my letter to Carlos Flores, the Board Trustee for District 3 of the El Paso Independent School District:
Mr. Flores,

I am sure that you are aware of the El Paso Times editorial coverage of the poor use of EPISD money to pay former educator and former talk show host, Paul Strelzin, a “consulting” fee. You are also probably aware of insights about this story on David Karlsruher’s blog, Refuse the Juice.

Hiring Mr. Strelzin has the appearance of cronyism on the part of EPISD’s Superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia. As a citizen of the district that you represent on the Board, I am asking you to investigate. Quite frankly, I think that you will find reason enough to demand Mr. Garcia’s immediate resignation and perhaps the resignation of other administrators who should be supporting education in the classroom and not cronyism in the costume of consulting.

Because the payments to Strelzin also seem to be a type of payola scheme kickbacks for hosting EPISD officials on his radio talk show, I will be asking the FCC and FBI to investigate.

I have very close and dear friends who teach in the District. There is little money for curricula and resources and yet the school district has plenty of money to spend on Strelzin. Put the money in the classroom and not on clowns.

I look forward to your reply and follow-up.

Jim H. Tolbert
2701 Frankfort
El Paso, TX 79930
The children of our neighborhood deserve much better from their school district.

Friday, April 17, 2009

For Lynn, Paco, Oriana and Kiko

Our thoughts and prayers are with our Association President, Lynn Coyle, and her family. Lynn's grandmother, Emily, passed away this week. Sadly, so did Lynn and Paco's sweet dog, Lucky. Please remember Lynn, Paco, Oriana and Kiko.
"Death is inseparable from life. A seed dies, buried deep in the earth, and after a time, new life is born. Death itself is dynamic, never simply static or isolated from momentum. Its pause, its evident lack of rhythm, is deceptive; for forces of life are gathered and gathering; a body is indeed still and decaying, yet a personality is a great force of incredible diversity and many dimensions." - Father Malcolm Boyd from his Book of Days

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Arms, Citizens!

I could post this video because it's tax day or because of my opinion about Wall Streeters and corporate compensations and bailouts. However, I post this because it simply is beautiful both in its melody and the passion of its lyrics.

Of course, this isn't neighborhood news; but I'd like to think that neighborhood and community activists can be fired up by La Marseillaise. Of course, there is also the enchanting Mireille Mathieu who adds more magic to the national anthem of France.

Besides all of the above, a lovely French woman thanked me the other day for our neighborhood e-letter and blog. It's nice getting compliments out of the blue. So, for you:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scenic Sundays Return - This Time Year Round!

Newman Park Neighborhood Association stepped up to the plate and made it possible to have Scenic Sundays year-round. The event will resume this Sunday, April 19th from 6 to 11 a.m.

Representative Susie Byrd's proposal for District 2 to sponsor this very popular weekly recreational event had run into some roadblocks. First there was no budget for the event and City Manager Joyce Wilson had already asked departments to trim back their expenses. Byrd and her staff (Judy Gutierrez and Rene Leon) were able to get a donation of barricades from Apache Barricade. The Police Department will assign on-duty officers to monitor traffic. Parks and Recreation will not be involved in the event so their budget is unaffected. There are no real City expenses since the Newman Park Neighborhood Association volunteered to store and transport barricades.

The biggest hurdle had to do with liability. City Manager Joyce Wilson suggested that the event be city-sponsored so that it can be included as a rider under the City liability policy. Representative Byrd moved that the City sponsor the event and Representative Steve Ortega seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.

Shortly after the City Council adjourned, Rene Leon issued this press release from Representative Byrd's office:
The City of El Paso, along with the El Paso Police Department, Apache Barricade and the Newman Park Neighborhood Association, is happy to announce the launch of Scenic Sundays, an outdoor special event that allows El Pasoans to enjoy Scenic Drive free of vehicle traffic.

“Last year, Scenic Sundays brought out large crowds of people who walked, jogged and biked on Scenic Drive,” Rep. Susie Byrd said. “This year, we’re extending Scenic Sundays beyond the summer so that families can enjoy the beautiful route year-round.”

Beginning Sunday April 19, Scenic Drive will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. throughout Spring and Summer. In Fall and Winter, Scenic Drive will be closed from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Officers from the El Paso Police Department will be present throughout the event, and vehicles will be kept off of Scenic Drive with barricades donated by Apache Barricade.

As a partner in Scenic Sundays, the Newman Park Neighborhood Association has agreed to store and transport the barricades before and after the events.

“We want to encourage residents to be more active, and we think Scenic Sundays will give everyone a chance to get outdoors and enjoy the breathtaking views and beautiful weather that El Paso has to offer,” added Byrd.
Newman Park Neighborhood Association is proving to be a trend-setter in El Paso. After last week's successful Easter Egg Hunt and a successful launch of First Fridays, the Association has now helped to make it possible for El Pasoans to enjoy the recreational opportunity of Scenic Sundays all year round.

NPNA Board member, Becky Ayala, reports that: "Many people have told me that their neighborhood association is nothing like ours." Someone else emailed to say, "It's just really cool to live in the Newman Park area." Lisa Degliantoni of epmediagroup expressed her delight: "This little neighborhood situation is totally becoming my favorite thing about El Paso."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Egg Hunt: Another Newman Park Success!

Once again, in spite of gusty weather, Newmanistas enjoyed an otherwise sunny day this past Saturday. Children eagerly gathered plastic Easter eggs filled with candy and stickers. Some special eggs had tickets for wonderful prizes: tall Easter baskets with candy and toys.

Association President Lynn Coyle congratulated NPNA board members:
"The Easter egg hunt was wonderful!! Thank you Becky Friesenhahn for coordinating the event and providing funding for it. You rock! Thanks to the board for all the egg stuffing and flier preparation and distribution. Neighbors had a great time!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Solo Recorder Recital at St. Alban's Episcopal Church

Make plans now to attend Music Forum El Paso’s presentation of a solo recorder recital by Dale Taylor with special assistance by Sam Rhodes at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday April 18 right here in the neighborhood at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1810 Elm Street (the SE corner of Elm and Wheeling). Admission is free and open to the public.

Music from over 900 years will be performed on a variety of recorders and modern bassoon. Included will be an arrangement of the Bach Suite #3 for solo Cello in C major, works by Albinoni, Bassano, Quantz, Telemann, Ziani and van Eyck, contemporary works by Amico Dolci and Dale Taylor, anonymous cantigas from the court of Afonso el sabio and a late medieval estampie from the court of Milan. For students of the recorder, Mr. Taylor will perform the last number of the concert on a school-grade plastic instrument.

Dale Taylor recently moved to El Paso. He studied with Bernard Krainis, Philip Levin and Arnold Grayson, and has performed all across the country on recorders and other early winds. He built fine hand-made copies of museum instruments with Levin Historical Instruments (some of which he will use in this concert) in New York and is in demand as a repairman, workshop clinician and private teacher.

Dale Taylor will be interviewed on Monica Gomez’s State of the Arts, KTEP FM, at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday April 11.

Samuel Rhodes is the principal bassoonist in the El Paso Symphony and El Paso Opera. He will assist Mr. Taylor in a work for recorder and bassoon written by Mr. Taylor and based upon the rhythmic games found in Renaissance, medieval and Balkan folk music.

Enjoy recorder music by Teleman - Concerto Recorder & Transverse Flute:

Neighbor Witnesses Worker Littering

The work continues on the alley way between Savannah and Frankfort from Kentucky east. The work continues and so does the littering.

About 7:20 a.m. this morning a neighbor watched as one of the workers littered the street with a 6 fluid ounce plastic bottle of Cacique Yonique Strawberry Banana Yogurt. First he threw the bottle cap on the ground and then the bottle after he had finished eating.

The pictures above show the contracted worker's (and litterer's) truck with the bottle underneath. Be on the alert for the litterer who drives this truck with Utah car tags:
The City of El Paso has often expressed that it cares about having a clean, litter-free environment. However, when it comes to supervising workers and contractors, the City of El Paso does not show that it values a clean environment. Instead, it perpetuates the culture of trash.
JAR Construction , Inc. is the principal City of El Paso hired contractor. Joey Rosales of JAR says:
"The truck pictured is not one of JAR Construction’s trucks. Our employees do not use their personal vehicles, they use the company owed vehicles with the JAR company logo on them. There are several other contractors doing work in that area. JAR has been in business for over 51 years and has a great reputation with the City of El Paso and has been a client of theirs for almost the same. It is our practice to follow safety procedures and respect the cleanliness of El Paso."
Streets Director, Daryl Cole, does not know who the truck belongs to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Spite City Promises Mayfield Wildscape Again Assaulted by Contractors

In spite of assurances from the City Manager's office and the Streets Department, Mayfield Wildscape is again under assault by contractors hired by the City of El Paso to do work in the alleyway between Savannah and Frankfort Avenues.

Dug up pavement and concrete now litter the site as do plastic soda bottles that quenched the thirst of workers.

Above shows the dumping and debris.

Here are JAR Construction workers walking away as I take photos:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

El Paso's Mayoral Candidates

There's a whole slew of candidates who want to be elected Mayor of El Paso on May 9th including the incumbent, John Cook. As always, Newspaper Tree has the "scoop" with videos of comments by each candidate.

Go to Mayoral nuggets: A quick look at the candidates on Newspaper Tree.

My big question: Are there any "green" candidates for Mayor? Not once were any of the words "environment", "open space" or "sustainability" used. We already know that John Cook is running as far away from impact fees as he can. He has also deemed as "potheads" those who agree with Beto O'Rourke that there should be a new debate on the American drug war policy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

El Paso Safe in spite of Border Violence According to Sheriff Wiles

Sheriff Wiles was the guest speaker at Representative Susie Byrd's monthly Thursday morning breakfast yesterday. The Sheriff spoke about consolidating services between the County Sheriff's Department, the City of El Paso and other local municipalities. Consolidation makes some services more efficient and cost-effective.

He also discussed border security. Wiles speculated that, one of the reasons El Paso has remained so safe in spite of the violence in Mexico, is the fear the drug cartels have that the border might shut down if violence spreads into the United States. Sheriff Wiles praised the Obama administration for reviving a program to fund the hiring of new law enforcement officers for a period of 3 years. He also was encouraged by the administration's plan to put 100 new ATF agents along the border.

Representative Susie Byrd holds public meetings every first Thursday and third Saturday of the month. Thursday breakfast meetings are held at Tierra del Sol Restaurant, 4201 Alabama, at 7:30 a.m. The Saturday morning meetings continue at the Memorial Park Library, 3200 Copper, at 10:00 a.m.

She is currently running for re-election.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Let's Go Fly Some Kites: First Fridays Begin Tomorrow at Newman Park

First Fridays are all about getting outdoors, visiting neighborhood friends, meeting neighbors and celebrating our beautiful Newman Park. According to Lee Byrd, "First Fridays are for remembering what a great treasure we have in Newman Park and what a great neighborhood we live in." First Fridays will go from now through October.

The first First Friday begins tomorrow, April 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. Come for all of it or at any time that you wish. Picnic, fly a kite, play a board game, take a walk and just enjoy time with your fellow Newmanistas.

Kite-flying weather should be great. Newman Park Neighborhood Association Board member, Becky Ayala, is donating 32 kites.

Let's go fly a kite!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spruce Up Your Front Yard: Great American Clean-up Is This Saturday

Above: some of last year's Newman Park clean-up crew: Jim, Lisa, Ruben, Eddie, Louie and Miles

Once again the Newman Park neighborhood will be participating in the Great American Clean-up sponsored by Keep El Paso Beautiful this Saturday, April 4. This biannual clean-up is sponsored also by the El Paso Fire Department, Environmental Services Department, the El Paso Street Department and Neighborhood Services and Community Volunteers. All of us are working for a cleaner, healthier city.

A roll off will be available until Noon at Newman Park along Louisiana. Bring all the clutter and debris from in and around your home that you would like.

The Newman Park Neighborhood Association is asking neighbors to focus especially on their front yards this spring. If you need tools, know that there are public tool sheds nearby that are sponsored by Keep El Paso Beautiful.

Once again this year six Firestone locations in El Paso will be accepting old tires. You can leave old tires by the roll off and El Paso Environmental Services will pick them up. Do not put the tires in the roll off.

You can also get involved by:
Joining Board members at 8 a.m. at the park to clean-up Cleaning up your front yard Bringing throwaways to the park where a big roll off will be available until Noon
Taking old tires to Firestone locations
Walking through the alleys and pick up trash
Walking down your block and remove trash from plants and curbs
Keep El Paso Beautiful has recently won the 2009 Governor's Community Achievement Award for outstanding community improvement. Winning communities were chosen for their achievements in community leadership and coordination, education, public awareness, litter prevention and cleanup, illegal dumping enforcement, beautification and property improvement, and solid waste management. As a result of this award, KEPB will receive $265,000 from TxDOT which will be used for further beautification in the City of El Paso.