City council candidates talk COVID-19, climate change at forum

Here’s what the mayoral and district two candidates said

El+Paso+district+four+candidates+at+a+forum+on+National+Voter+Registration+Day+Sept.+22.

Claudia Hernandez

El Paso district four candidates at a forum on National Voter Registration Day Sept. 22.

Isaiah Ramirez, Staff Reporter

With early voting right around the corner, candidates vying for a seat on El Paso City Council spoke about their platforms at in-person forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of El Paso. The event was held Sept. 22, which was National Voter Registration Day, at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in West Side El Paso.

From navigating through the coronavirus pandemic to mitigating the effects of climate change, the candidates in the districts two, three, four, and seven races all debated on a variety of topics with early voting in Texas less than three weeks away.

The questions were presented to candidates by the League of Women Voters and the debates were moderated by Rosemary Neil with the El Paso Community First Coalition; Karen Dykes, former candidate for district attorney; Diana Martinez, UTEP professor; Elida S. Perez, reporter with El Paso Matters; and Robert Moore, chief executive of El Paso Matters.

In the mayoral debate moderated by Moore, incumbent Mayor Dee Margo faced off against city planner Carlos Gallinar, candidate Dean Martinez, former Mayor Oscar Lesser, and attorney Veronica Carbajal.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city and how officials have responded to it was a heated debate topic, with candidates taking aim at Margo’s handling of the pandemic.

“We still don’t have a public health director and I know Mr. Margo is going to shrug it off as it’s not a big deal but it is a big deal because people are dying in El Paso,” said Gallinar.

Margo rebutted Gallinar’s criticism by saying the absence of a public health director doesn’t make any difference.

“If anyone understands how the operations of the city works, you would understand that the health director has nothing whatsoever to do with the designated person for the health pandemic,” Margo said.

Alexsandra Annello, the district two representative since 2017, which covers the North East and central parts of El Paso, took part in forum against challenger James Campos. Judy Gutierrez, another candidate, declined to participated in the forum.

A topic that was addressed during each forum was the priorities of each candidate platform and their plans to enhance their respective districts.

“The most important priority in my district is rebuilding as I see a lot of old housing and we need to get the people to understand that we need to rebuild the city of El Paso within a 100-year period,” Campos said.

Annello said the pandemic put the brakes on her district’s economic development.

“Over my time in office we have had more money in streets put into District 2 than ever before, but that needs to continue and with the pandemic that was put on hold and I do not support that,” Annello said.

Another matter discussed during the mayoral forum was the issue of climate change and water consumption.

“I believe that under the restrictions we have right now, we need to push forward and see if we can locate and allocate water,” Martinez said.

Carbajal said she’s cared about climate change for decades and that it’s pressing matter for the city considering its rising temperature.

“I have been having nightmares about climate change for 25 years since I was an undergraduate at Brown majoring in environmental studies when we didn’t believe we could make it to 2020,” Carbajal said. “Fossil fuels are the number one contributor to climate change and rising temperatures.

“In El Paso, 97% of our power plants are using natural gas, but we need to use solar energy.”

Members of the El Paso community were able to register to vote at the Alamo Drafthouse venue and update their voting address.

Council members represent their districts each representing one-eighth of the city’s area and make decisions on behalf of the citizenry within the city limits.

Early voting begins Oct. 13 and the last day to register to vote in the State of Texas is Oct. 5.

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at prospector @utep.edu; @_IsaiahRamirez1 on Twitter.