Some politicians, when they term out, find it hard to say goodbye.
Susie Byrd wrapped things up as El Paso’s District 2 representative several years back but telltale Byrd feathers can be found as proxies in and out of the district continue her work to some degree.
Enter Jim Tolbert.
At some point in his political career, Susie Byrd took him under her wing. It’s my belief, along with many others, that she inserted herself back into local politics by grooming Tolbert to replace Romero at some point so that particular agendas important to her and others might be advanced vicariously.
One being a downtown gentrification plan that has been in play for many years now.
You may remember that Susie Byrd, Bonnie Escobar, Steve Ortega and Beto O’Rourke made an ill-advised attempt to disintegrate a large swath of Segundo Barrio in preparation for creating a gentrified zone of Starbucksesque businesses with no room for old and sweaty, straw hat-wearing, ’72 Ford pickup driving Mexicans and their burlap shopping bag toting wives. (as described by the 2006 Glass Beach study produced by ad agency Sanders-Wingo for the Paso Del Norte Group that basically identified these people as what was holding back downtown revitalization).
This group of “forward-thinking young politicians” and their downtown investor, campaign benefactor connections were ready to swing the wrecking ball to Sacred Heart Catholic Church, one of El Paso’s historical churches built at the turn of the century with the immigrant in mind. They were at the cusp of scattering families that have lived in the barrio for decades to the four winds. They were ready to press the red button of eminent domain, lusting after all that real-estate that was inconveniently occupied by El Paso’s poorest residents.
Duranguito and the “arena” — a continuation of their goal to remake El Paso’s image to that of every other American city with a vibrant downtown with no respect to the ethnic makeup, culture, heritage and history of our unique border city.
Whomever or whatever stands in the way of their version of “progress” whether it is an old and obstinate woman or the last remaining Chinese architectural touchstone connecting us to their heritage and it’s impact upon El Paso...it’s comin’ down for downtown.
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Susie Byrd and company having spent many years building downtown on the backs of unwitting taxpayers now find their vision threatened by advocacy groups, activists of every stripe, historical preservationists, angry citizens, stubborn vecinos and just about anyone who isn’t a politician or an investor with property in downtown.
They need Play-Doh politicians to win council and commissioner seats so they can preserve and advance this agenda of proven futility and continued burdening of El Paso’s over-taxed citizens. Politicians that are willing to sell their souls in exchange for a blueprint for victory, and Byrd has the machine to win the game.
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What am I saying here?
I believe that Annello has the potential to be a very good District 2 City Council rep, despite not having lived much more than 3 years in El Paso.
Her relationship to our city is still in it’s infancy stages, but she clearly handles herself with poise and a well-articulated message, albeit it a very standard-issue and safe one that basically every aspiring politician adheres to.
Annello has reached out and assured me that she thinks for herself and will not be another Byrd drone.
With all due respect, I’m sure that’s what Jim Tolbert was thinking when he thanked Susie for the winning support and that fabulous script she handed him that he followed down to the letter.
You know, the script where he filed an ethics complaint against his rival Larry Romero for paving a couple of streets in his neighborhood without approval.
The script where he vanquished his foe, eventually sending him to the hospital with a jumpy heart.
The script where he ran for Romero’s vacant seat on a white horse platform of ethics and accountability, subsequently winning in a landslide to the high fives of Byrd and Escobar.
Unfortunately for Byrd, Tolbert likes to improvise and didn’t stick to the script for long. Within 8 months he had wandered so far off the reservation because of his ethical lapses and arena flip-flopping that she made him persona non grata, leaving his seat vulnerable to opponents vying to replace him.
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So here we stand today, it’s come down to a June runoff election between yesterday’s tainted candidate and tomorrow’s blank canvas upstart.
This is a cautionary tale I’m directing to Alexsandra Annello, a contender who, if she has the political spine made of the iron required to stand by her convictions, can rise above this story about antagonists with personal agendas that benefit the few while costing the majority.
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