Cook, Byrd, Ortega – facing recall because they violated the voters’ will
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
To some El Pasoans the Recall Election slated for May means much more than fighting for gay rights, or for religions to become politically involved. It boils down to defending the U.S. Constitution in which a voter’s rights are guaranteed. In a Democracy, the voter is always right, and the will of the people must be obeyed and carried out.
“It waters down our Democratic system,” says Eddie Holguin, district 6 representative on the El Paso City Council. “The voter is our boss, and if the boss says to us – the employee – that it wants to rescind a certain portion of our legislation, then, we must obey and we must carry it out. The people voted in November to not allow gay or unmarried partners of city employees to have health insurance, and that vote should have been obeyed, for whatever the reason. The people spoke, and that’s all there is to it. That’s what a Democracy is all about.”
A Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. The term comes from the Greek, demokratia – or rule of the people; a term that was coined in the middle of the 5th – 4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states. In the brouhaha that has culminated in efforts to recall El Paso Mayor John Cook, and city representatives Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega, some feel that Democracy has been violated, as has the U.S. Constitution. Overturning the decision of the voters caused voters to become angry at the affront of the three, because they chose to ignore their wishes.
To recall Cook, the required amount of certified voters‘ signatures on petitions was 6,121 – however, the total number collected was much more than that, at 9,556. To recall Byrd, the amount of signatures needed was 668 with 744 certified; while Ortega needed 655, but 755 were collected and certified. “The anger of the voters can’t be denied,” said Ortega. “They had no right to overturn the will of the people. It sets a bad precedent. We’re in the middle of a war to liberate people in other nations so that they can have a vote, basically, and, what do we do? We allow the will of the voters to be ignored, arbitrarily. It’s absolutely disrespectful.”
Roberto Lerma, former president of the Ysleta ISD Board of Trustees, said the number One issue is, “don’t overturn the will of the voters. Everything else is inconsequential, whether the vote does not provide benefits for gays or for unmarried partners of city employees – that’s important, yes, but, the will of the people must be preserved. The issue is very clear to me, I voted, but, I was shocked when City Council decided to take my vote away from me. I wonder which lawyer told them that they could ignore the vote. That person should be fired, because he or she gave wrong advice. Todos somos carnales, todos somos amigos, but, city council is tearing us apart and creating confusion by refusing to abide by the rule of the people. They said that they overturned the vote as a way of being progressive. However, that’s not being progressive. They lost, and they should’ve taken that loss and gone on to other things, other issues.”
The cost of holding a recall election might prove astronomical. Some figures place it at anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000. But, Holguin doesn’t agree with that figure. “I don’t think it will cost that much. Besides, that’s the price of freedom. We must protect the integrity of one person, one vote. That’s the credo of our Democracy. As for the argument that votes were collected in churches, well, so what? I don’t care where the votes were gathered. The fact is that the majority of the people voted for the recall election and that’s unfortunate. But, again, that’s what the people want.”
Although some pundits have suggested that the three resign, rather than force the city into incurring such a large expense, neither Holguin nor Lerma agreed. “I don’t think they should resign,” said Lerma. “They were elected by their constituents. However, it must be on their conscience. They did something illegal. They rejected the voice of the people. Holguin, who was recently re-elected to his third and final term, said that they shouldn’t resign. “I can’t speak for my three colleagues, but, as for me, I would resign. If the people were so incensed with me for going against their will, and if a recall election were put before me because of that, I probably would resign.”