The county judge is one of five members of Commissioners Court, which makes policy-making and budget decisions for county government. The county judge represents all of El Paso County. The county judge gets paid $131,481 a year.
Who’s running for this seat?
Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.
What steps do you favor for addressing University Medical Center’s needs in the next four years?
Ricardo Samaniego: The pandemic revealed the vulnerability of our community. UMC will be instrumental in addressing these medical anomalies in a timely and profound manner. UMC is positioned to be one of the leading medical centers for this region. UMC’s responsibility is not only to our immediate community but to the region at large. I too, am very sensitive to any increase in property taxes but I wholeheartedly feel that we missed a great opportunity to address our dire health care needs for the next 15 years.
Guadalupe Giner: UMC has exceeded its mandate given by the Texas Constitution, which is to provide indigent care. It is now competing with private health care. This can cause health care advancements to slow, since private competition drives innovation in treatment. I would not support specialty areas mentioned in certificates of obligations, but may consider smaller capacity increases, based on population growth in the county.
For years, the county has tried to improve internet access and provide free Wi-Fi in its rural areas. Is this a good idea and if so, how would you make it happen?
Ricardo Samaniego: Broadband has been one of the most singular initiatives that is supported by the entire community. I have been very supportive and have participated in a variety of initiatives with rural Superintendents, our Legislative Team, Congresswoman Escobar’s office and a diverse group of community stakeholders.
Guadalupe Giner: This is not a county responsibility. The state of Texas already charges a state universal service fund on cell phone bills to address this issue. Instead I would focus on Lowering taxes. This will leave more money in taxpayer pockets, so they can choose to have wi-fi, or not.
The county has tried to address flooding in rural areas such as Canutillo, Westway and communities in the far east. How should the county prioritize this issue and how should it be dealt with beyond purchasing water-pumping trucks?
Ricardo Samaniego: We are fortunate to have received funding from the Federal Government to address our severe infrastructure deficiencies in the outlying areas. This is the first time that the County can count on funding to address this problem more comprehensively instead of the piecemeal approach that was our standard approach due to the lack of funding resources.
Guadalupe Giner: In 2023 the state of Texas is looking at putting together a flood plan for the state. They will be looking for input from El Paso County. We would provide those priorities to the state, by looking at areas in the county that are prone to flooding every year. Then decide which of these projects would lower the flood risk for the most people. In addition, would continue to seek federal and state and non-profit grants. As County Judge, I would work with Commissioner’s court to create a county budget for a 2, 3 and 5 year flood plan.
What should be the county’s role in helping with the housing, hosting or operating a migrant center?
Ricardo Samaniego: The job created by the Federal Government to address the Migrant population for El Pasoans will be substantial. Any assistance to Migrants with respect to Shelter and Food is completely reimbursed by FEMA. On the other hand, if Migrants stayed in our community and roamed the streets due to our inability to process them, the cost of any damage or economic overturn or impact of our tourist initiatives (especially downtown) will be on the backs of our local taxpayers.
Guadalupe Giner: The Texas constitution does not give the County any role in immigration. Local tax money should not be used. Instead I would: 1. Declare a state of emergency, to get state assistance and resources, many other border counties, have already done this. 2. Stop covering processing or sheltering. FEMA already owes 4 million to the county and another 12 million to UMC (as of August). El Pasoan’s are suffering the consequences and paying the price for decisions made in Washington, DC. 3. Continue to make noise and follow the footsteps of Texas Governor Abbott. Lets make the border’s problems into everyone else’s problem Send illegal migrants to other areas of the country. 4. Demand the Federal government address the root cause of illegal immigration, Secure the Border.
Commissioners Court this summer approved a resolution supporting individuals seeking abortions. Do you support or oppose this resolution?
Ricardo Samaniego: Absolutely. The core of this resolution is to protect women’s rights in every dimension including their right to of seek medical care. The creation of the Women’s Commission to insure the entire rights of women was actually prior to this Resolution.
Guadalupe Giner: I oppose this resolution.