EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Representative and County Judge candidate Eddie Holguin on Wednesday said some of the criticism against the Shawver Park Christmas lights display he initiated is politically motivated.
"This is politics. I'm obviously running for County Judge and people will use it for political expediency and I have no problem with that," Holguin said in a news conference Wednesday.
Holguin told reporters he called the news conference after receiving questions from the press about the details of the lights display.
Neither of Holguin's opponents in the County Judge race - businesswoman Aliana Apodaca and incumbent Veronica Escobar have publicly criticized the lights display.
Regular El Pasoans on social media and national news outlets have poked fun of the display, saying it does not look like it's worth thousands of dollars.
"So, yes we are humble and our lights may not impress some but this is the spirit of the holidays and the humility of a carpenter not the glitz and glamour of the vain and superficial," Holguin told reporters.
The City Rep. is a vocal critic of wasteful government spending so his last minute request for $25,000 for the lights display may have seemed out of character. He asked for the money about a month ago.
Tracy Novak, the City's Parks and Recreation director, said his staff had less than a month to prepare the display. Novak said it would typically take about six months to prepare a lights display of this nature. He admitted the lights display would have looked different had his staff had more time.
Asked why he didn't ask for the money nearly six months ago, when City Council was setting the budget for this year, Holguin said back then he didn't know San Jacinto would be closed and that the City would have a scaled back holiday lights display downtown.
ABC-7 archives show the City announced San Jacinto Plaza's closure in June, before budget sessions. Holguin did not request the Shawver Park lights display until a few weeks before he announced his candidacy for County Judge though he's adamant it's not a political publicity ploy.
"Absolutely not. You all know my voting record. You all know that I have always stood with the citizens of El Paso. You all know that I have always fought against government spending and fought diligently for the citizens of my district. And as a parent, you all know that you find as many events as you can to take your children during the holidays so I do believe that we should have these types of events all over the city," he told reporters.
Holguin added the project is currently under budget. So far, about $20,000 of the allocated $25,000 is projected to be spent. $11,875 was spent on 34 light displays, according to Novak.
The displays were purchased from Winterland Inc. by the Parks and Recreation Department staff and the cost included the installation.
Initially, the City had only projected affording 20 displays but were able to negotiate a better deal with Winterland, said Novak.
Holguin said 24/7 security will cost the City about $8,000 and will be provided by a local security company. Novak said the City has received about $5,100 in donations for the project and has $8,000 in pledges.
The City is still accepting donations for the Shawver display and plans to put the lights up there again next year, City Rep. Emma Acosta said in an email.
The City did not use any of the light displays or decorations used at San Jacinto Plaza in prior years at Shawver Park because they are going to be used at Cleveland Square where the City will have a comparable lights display.