The city representative is one of nine members of the City Council (including the mayor), which makes policy-making and budget decisions for city government including the Police Department, Fire Department and city parks. District 6 represents the area just west of Loop 375 stretching from Montana Avenue to Interstate 10. City representatives get paid $51,600 a year. This is a nonpartisan position.

Who’s running for this seat?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez, 37, is self-employed and the incumbent in City Council District 6.

Benjamin J. Leyva did not respond.

Cristian Botello, 25, is a marketing coordinator.

Art Fierro, 60, is a consultant and member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Candidate Questionnaires

Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.

Over the past 10 years, the city’s portion of the property tax bill has increased at a much higher rate than other taxing entities. What efficiencies in city government would you support to minimize the need for tax increases?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez: I believe Sun Metro is an opportunity to to reinvent the service provided in a manner that can provide a more efficient service and cost a lot less in the budget by having a more targeted response. This has the potential to minimize rate to taxpayers by way of domino effect.

Benjamin J. Leyva: No response.

Cristian Botello: I support focusing on economic development efforts to attract companies that can share the property tax burden, thus reducing the taxes on residential properties. This is consistent with other major Texas cities where commercial properties share more of the tax burden than residential properties. In addition, the city could be more efficient by collaborating with its government and utility partners so that there aren’t duplicate efforts and resources are used more effectively.

Art Fierro: First, adopt the “no-new-revenue” tax rate. The most recent adoption by City Council of the tax rate demonstrated a poor understanding of its impact to taxpayers. While the adoption of the tax rate was in fact a tax increase, there was little to no discussion regarding any substantive data to support it. Instead, El Pasoans, especially those in District 6, received generalities at best to outright denial of the increase. Second, council should direct a budget balanced against that no-new-revenue tax rate, which would include streamlining services, aggressive collection for city receivables, and if necessary, budget cuts. Council is lax in fully scrutinizing the budget submitted for approval each fiscal year. 

The city of El Paso used to have a strong-mayor form of government, but since 2004 it transformed into a council-manager government, which limited the mayor’s power. Which form of governance do you prefer and why?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez: As a city councilwoman, I 100% support our current council-manager form of government. In our current form of government my constituents have equal representation through way of their local elected official vs. being at the whims of an at-large elected official. I believe a strong mayor form of government is an antiquated form of government, one in which creates an opportunity for crime and corruption. Currently New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles still have a strong mayor form of government and all three are perfect examples as to why we should never go back to strong mayor precedence.

Benjamin J. Leyva: No response.

Cristian Botello: The council-manager form of government is the reason we have seen progress over these past years in El Paso. This approach allows the city to execute a long-term strategic plan and vision and identify clear goals. Under a strong-mayor form of government, mayoral transitions can result in discontinuity in strategic direction.

Art Fierro: It is not my intention to change the current structure of city governance. However, it should be said under either form of government, city governance is infused by political and financial influence. Special interest groups drown constituent voices. And, there is little to no accountability when decision are made behind closed doors. I as a member of council commit to define my role by adhering to our purpose — to establish long and short term priorities and objectives, review and approve the budget and tax rates, establish policies loyal to the city’s financial and functional limits and mandates, and to represent the interests of the people who elected me.

What steps should the city of El Paso take to address climate change?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez: The heat urban island effect is an issue that makes the most sense here in El Paso to address immediately because of our natural desert environment. Encouraging the planting and growth of more green spaces to include green walls makes the most sense to me so that we’re able to lower our temperature and in effect be a more energy efficient community.

Benjamin J. Leyva: No response.

Cristian Botello: Climate change is the greatest challenge we face and I believe that local government can and should do more to fight it. The city should continue to work with El Paso Electric to develop a long-term plan and adopt bold carbon-free energy goals. Our city has sunshine roughly 302 days of the year which means we are well positioned to be a leader in solar power generation in the country with several ongoing projects such as the solar farm at the airport. I am also concerned with our region’s natural resources and water sustainability.

Art Fierro: A first step would be to focus on bringing green jobs to El Paso. The city can strengthen its climate policies while at the same time stimulate economic growth. If the bond passes in November, it will have some basic but impactful strategies to absorb climate change and implement the existing climate policy. The city should continue to aggressively protect its water sources, lead in solar energy initiatives, and create regional partnerships to minimize public works’ environmental footprint.

The City Council has amended the city manager’s employment contract multiple times to add more benefits before the contract was set to expire. How do you plan to address future changes to his contract?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez: I believe the biggest mistake of past councils, including our current mayor, the city manager position was allowed to grow endlessly in terms of salary and it was priority for me to have an efficient city manager at responsible and reasonable cost. This is why I lament it didn’t happen sooner and probably at a lower cap than the one negotiated but at least I together with our current council got it done. I don’t see any more negotiations happening for the duration of the city manager contact.

Benjamin J. Leyva: No response.

Cristian Botello: I plan to address future changes to his contract by ensuring the changes are market-based and in line with other city managers in Texas. I am also committed to making the negotiations more transparent. One of my aspirations is to make local government more open to the people.

Art Fierro: The manner in which City Council handled this situation is one of the most brought up issues in my constitute outreach. It eroded public trust in Council, weakened confidence in the city manger form of government and Tommy Gonzalez’s effectiveness, and deepened concern that the city is on a path lacking accountability to the voters. Council completely ignored established processes put in place for contract renewal upon nearing expiration. Unfortunately, the city attorney was of no help to add integrity to the process. An outside firm should be hired to advise Council, review the contract and engage in the negotiations.

What is your stance on abortion rights? What should City Council do, if anything, to support access to abortion?

Claudia Lizette Rodriguez: This is a a divisive and partisan question. The conversation about “abortion rights” belongs at the state level and has ZERO to do with city council purview, ZERO to do with streets, parks and public safety. As a sitting councilWOMAN I would refer you to state representation for the answer you are looking for. City council should stick to the task we were elected to do.

Benjamin J. Leyva: No response.

Cristian Botello: This year, we have seen women’s reproductive rights constrained and it is up to cities, especially in Texas, to help protect these rights. City Council held a vote to deprioritize investigations of abortions on July 5, but rejected in tie vote broken by the mayor. The city of El Paso should reconsider this proposed ordinance, our limited city resources should be allocated to improve our city and the lives of El Pasoans.

Art Fierro: I support and will actively advocate to protect women’s’ private reproductive health rights as I always have at the Texas Legislature. While it is a federal and state issue, the city can by way of policy deprioritize the enforcement of those new provisions that criminalize women and health care providers engaged in these private health decisions. Such policies should include not using city public funds for abortion related investigations, prosecutions and incarcerations.

Read more about this race

City Council candidate videos

El Paso Matters and PBS El Paso created a digital series to show you where City Council candidates stand on key issues.

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