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 1 represents the West Side and Upper Valley. City representatives get paid $51,600 a year. This is a nonpartisan position.
Who’s running for this seat?
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?
Brian Kennedy: We have a billion-dollar bloated budget and we’re a billion dollars in debt. City Council basically rubber stamps our budget after a two-day review. That used to take a month. I favor a return to accountability through a department-by-department review. We are currently management top heavy which shortchanges the public service we are actually tasked to provide. You can’t make progress by hiding from the numbers. Our future hangs on financial health.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein: I would support collaboration with other government tax entities on shared public services. I would also propose recruiting large businesses to offset our homeowners’ taxes. Another collaboration opportunity would be with non-profits to write grants that are available for neighborhood projects. We could also collaborate with private funders on sponsorships for quality-of-life projects. Collaboration and evaluation is key when approaching tax investments.
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?
Brian Kennedy: I favor a city manager form of government for all the same reasons it was originally adopted: continuity, potential savings, professional management, the idea of less favoritism. We’ve gradually drifted a long, long way from that, gradually expanding the scope and power to create a fiefdom. The city manager reports to City Council. You’d never know it. Council has basically abdicated its power and responsibilities. It’s time to re-balance that.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein: I prefer a council-manager form of government specifically because we have a population of over 679,000. We have eight elected officials, passing ordinances and directing the manager to carry out policies versus only having one elected official doing so in a strong mayor form of government. There is more representation for the districts in a council-manager form of government. The city manager is the council’s executive director and they carry out direction from council down to the departments. It is more efficient, effective, and is best to keep the momentum of progress. The city manager is also a non-elected position, which can be good for partnerships with the non-profit, government, and business communities. Sometimes a mayor might have personal conflicts with those that did not vote them in or that could interfere with city staff.
What steps should the city of El Paso take to address climate change?
Brian Kennedy: Conservation of renewable resources, integration of solar power, green initiatives … this is an area where it’s hard to do enough. I don’t think creating a new government department gets us any closer. Interestingly, shifts like this usually take some investment. Most of our freedom to implement new technologies and nimbleness to take swift action is tied to our financial health. Right now, we are moving further away instead of closer.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein: In the current city of El Paso strategic plan, all of the departments have specific direction on how to incorporate green initiatives in their department. I think there are things that can be considered in the future such as a community climate commission, incorporating a community composting program, and having tax-incentive rebates for weatherizing your home. If we could incorporate solar energy as much as we can to city run buildings to save on our energy bills.
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?
Brian Kennedy: The way the current adopted city manager contract is written there are few palatable choices. The only “future changes” available are you either live with it for seven more years, you can terminate, or you can increase pay and benefits. (Wait! We’ve already done that.) Gonzalez must agree to any changes.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein: I think that his contract should only be evaluated every June when his evaluation takes place. I would like to make sure that we are keeping him accountable and meeting key performance indicators. I am happy to see there is a cap in place.
What is your stance on abortion rights? What should City Council do, if anything, to support access to abortion?
Brian Kennedy: I respect a woman’s right to self-determination on matters concerning her own body and health. However, due to the precedent of state and federal law, passage of the previously proposed resolution by El Paso City Council would have been unenforceable. Every member of the police takes an oath to enforce the current laws of Texas. The adoption of a knowingly unenforceable ordinance is lip service that has zero effect on the issue and is, in itself, disrespectful.
Analisa Cordova Silverstein: As a woman, I feel our bodies should not be governed. As a municipality, we should have our women’s commission review how we can keep women’s bodies and identities protected while still being cognizant of our state and federal laws. There are other issues related to women that need to be addressed aside from abortion such as harassment, equal pay, and abuse reporting response times. If de-prioritizing criminalization of abortions is re-introduced, I would vote for it, because there are far more dire cases that our limited police force need to address. It is a very private and individualized matter for women. We need to think and act about how we can make our city safer for women.
Read more about this race
Brian Kennedy’s previous job and Analisa Cordova Silverstein’s willingness to debate have become the focal points of a bruising runoff for City Council District 1.
The six candidates running to represent the City Council district that covers West El Paso and the Upper Valley discuss what sets them apart from the competition and what issues are most important to the area.
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.