Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Sergio Carrillo, Candidate for Sunland Park Mayor
Sergio Carrillo was elected to the Sunland Park City Council in March 2012.  He has a degree in music education and is currently a substitute teacher at Gadsden School District.  He has served as mayor pro tem for the past three years, and sits on the CRUA board.  His salary as council member is $8400 per year.  He is vacating his seat to run for Mayor.  

I located Mr. Carrillo on McNutt Avenue, waving signs for voter registration at passing cars.  We agreed to meet at the nearby MacDonald's on Sunland Park Drive, across the railroad tracks in El Paso.  I began my interview with him by asking him what motivated him to run for Mayor.  Carrillo responded with several points, all of them indicating he is frustrated with the current leadership at city hall.

Among his arguments:  (a) communications between the Mayor and Council members are poor.  Council members need more updates from the mayor about the affairs of the city and the mayor should work more closely with council members; (b) relations between the Mayor and the staff should be improved.  City staff are not held accountable; tasks the Council has directed the staff to perform are ignored, and deadlines aren't met; (c) he believes, like Mayor Perea, that after the scandals of 2012 the city needs to engage the public more to regain trust.  Government, he said, "is getting people together.  The key to engaging people is doing the nuts and bolt."  What the city needs is "better streets, lights, and parks;" and too often small steps toward improving these are often not taken.  He believes that until these items are taken care of, such as getting the parks up to ADA (legal requirements for the disabled) standards, people won't be convinced that the big ticket items, like long-term planning, the border crossing, and water issues, are being taken care of. (d) There is lack of transparency sometimes in how things are run.  

As an example of a lack of transparency, he cited the recent redistricting of the council districts, which he opposed, not because he was against redistricting, but "because of how it was done."  A proposal to redistrict was brought to the council.  It failed.  Carrillo voted against it on the grounds that the cost of redistricting was not provided.  When the proposal failed, a petition to proceed with redistricting was circulated but, Carrillo argues, the petition was not certified by the City Clerk and shown to the council prior to its circulation. When the petition had sufficient signatures the services of Research and Polling were enlisted without the city issuing an RFP, which Carrillo asserts was required.  They redrew the maps and brought the results to the council.  Council member Jayme proposed switching the numbering of districts 2 and 6.  This would have the impact of altering the rotation of city elections so that district 6, formerly district 2, would have to vote in 2016.  Carrillo voted against the motion to accept the new map, but it passed.  Carrillo cites this (I have not examined the minutes to verify all details he mentioned) as an example of a characteristic lack of attention to detail, in this case abiding by the rules, on an important issue, which adds up to a lack of transparency which he hopes to remedy.  "My whole purpose in serving on the council has been to promote transparency," he said.

Carrillo is most comfortable talking about "nuts and bolts," a term he used often.  His conviction is that the way to regain the trust (he takes loss of trust in the municipal government as a given) of the community is one small step at a time, fixing up potholes, improving a playground or park, listening to the daily complaints and suggestions of citizens, etc.  This is one sense of what he means by the terms "nuts and bolts."  The other sense of this term appears to be to improve processes (he mentioned personnel procedures, minute-taking, code enforcement, and the like) to make them more transparent,  He clearly wants fellow council persons to cultivate the habit of following rules to the letter, and to make certain debates take place within a set of rules known and understood by all.  Once this culture has been established he believes the questions about Sunland Park's relationships with the external world--the state, El Paso, Cd. Juarez, Santa Teresa, and issues such as the border crossing and the future of CRUA, will be more likely to be solved in a rational manner.

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