EL PASO, Texas - Voters headed to the polls may have had limited knowledge about the El Paso City Council candidates, and could have selected a contender based on name recognition, according to ABC-7’s exclusive election analyst Bob Moore.
District 8: The Arena
In June 2017, Cecilia “Cissy” Lizarraga won 55 percent of the 3,310 votes cast and currently represents District 8, which covers parts of west, south and Downtown El Paso.
Lizarraga declined an invite to the ABC-7 District 8 Debate, but challengers Greg Baine, Rich Wright, Dylan Corbett and Nicholas Anthony Vasquez appeared to discuss plans they had to improve the district.
The most hotly contested topic in the district is that of the multipurpose performing arts arena.
The candidates pointed out the rising cost of the project since it was voted on in 2012.
“I support the will of the people, which was very clear in 2012 when they voted for the project,” said Baine, whom the El Paso Times endorsed. “Right now, we are $70 million cost overrun. That’s inexcusable.”
Baine recommended that the issue go back to voters with clearer language and more “truth.” Wright echoed his sentiments saying:” I believe city council has lost touch with citizens, I believe city council is not representing El Paso.”
Wright also said the city should postpone building the arena until the city “needs it.”
J.P. Bryan, a Texas businessman, and ally of historian Max Grossman, who wants to preserve the Duranguito and stop the building of an arena, donated $5,000 to Wright's campaign, according to campaign finance reports.
Vasquez called the arena an “economic failure,” a term he used repeatedly during the debate, and warned that future generations will be paying for poorly thought-out projects for years to come.
Instead, Vasquez suggested city leadership “look for other ways to develop the economy,” and proposed a UTEP-City of El Paso recycling center.
But for candidate Dylan Corbett, the area issue came down to the significance of the Union Plaza neighborhood, in which arena construction was planned.
“We shouldn't be putting our historical neighborhoods on the chopping block in the interest of cheap gains,” Corbett said.
District 5: Roads And Public Safety
City Council Rep. Michiel Noe reached his term limit, and in the running to take over District 5 leadership in far east El Paso are Isabel Salcido, Jason Osborne, John Hogan and Kizito "Zito" Ekechukwu.
Salcido did not appear in the ABC-7 District 5 debate.
According to Salcido's campaign website, economic development, public safety and improving infrastructure are the issues most important in her campaign. All concerns shared among the candidates.
Nigerian-born Ekechukwu, advocated for a new police station in District 5 to keep up with the growing population while adding that he is the candidate who will also be able to lower taxes for constituents.
Building a police station, or improving roads takes major financing.
Hogan steered the discussion in the direction of certificates of obligation, calling them an “abuse of power” and a “tremendous assumption on the part of an elected official.”
Osborne brought up communication between city leaders and community members saying leaders need to make more of an effort to facilitate discussions with constituents.
When results are tabulated, newly elected officials will start their four-year terms on the first Tuesday in January, according to the City of El Paso Charter.