SWAT standoff outside NE Walmart ends; suspect surrenders to police

Posted by Roberto Cline on May 18, 2018 (Comments Closed)

EL PASO, Texas – The suicidal man who locked himself inside a vehicle in a Northeast El Paso parking lot has surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff.

The El Paso Police Department SWAT team blocked off the parking lot off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at about 7:30 a.m.

The team was deployed to handle the suicidal subject with a weapon, according to police.

Throughout the morning, viewers called the ABC-7 newsroom to report they were not being let into or out of the Walmart Neighborhood Market or the nearby convenience store.

The suspect surrendered shortly after 11 a.m.

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Posted by Roberto Cline on May 12, 2018 (Comments Closed)


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Metro PCS cellphone shop robbed at knifepoint on Friday the 13th in Central El Paso

Posted by Roberto Cline on May 6, 2018 (Comments Closed)

(Photo: Courtesy Crime Stoppers of El Paso)

El Paso police are trying to identify a man who used a knife during a Friday the 13th cellphone shop robbery last month.

The unsolved robbery on April 13 is Crime Stoppers of El Paso’s Crime of the Week.

The robbery occurred at 1:15 p.m. at the Metro PCS shop at 2920 N. Piedras St., four blocks south of Fort Boulevard, Crime Stoppers said.

More: Fugitive California child-porn suspect Kenneth Hooks may be among homeless in El Paso

Machete used by robbers in unsolved Zeke’s supermarket hold-up in Crime of the Week

A man armed with a knife threatened two employees and ordered them to get on the floor, police said. The robber fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Police said that witnesses saw the man running east through an alley.

A man robs a Metro PCS shop on April 13 at 2920 N. Piedras St.

The man was about 5 feet 5-to-10 inches tall and was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a front logo showing a W hand sign and stating "Streetwise" on top and "West" on the bottom.

More: Man stabbed in Downtown El Paso after asking another man to buy him beer, cigarettes

The man was also wearing khaki pants, white gloves, a black baseball cap and black Adidas sneakers.

Anyone with information on the robber may anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 566-8477 or leave a tip online at crimestoppersofelpaso.org.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; dborunda@elpasotimes.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.

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Rep. French Hill: How do we secure the border? Here’s what I learned on my trip to Del Rio, Texas

Posted by Roberto Cline on April 30, 2018 (Comments Closed)

Migrant caravan seeking asylum arrives at US border

Recently, I visited Del Rio, Texas, marking my fourth visit to the southwest border. My previous trips have taken me to El Paso and Laredo in Texas, and San Diego in California. Del Rio offered a unique perspective to border security because of its rural character, allowing me to continue to build on my understanding of the strategic challenges we face and what the House can do to deliver on our promise to better secure our borders.

Each sector along the southwest border has its own unique geography, economy, and traditions, which determines what that location’s border security should look like and how it should be specifically designed. While in the Del Rio Sector, I learned that, at any given time, only roughly 45 percent of our Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents are patrolling the border with the other 55 percent engaged in administrative activity such as transporting prisoners, doing administrative work, or on leave.

I also learned that the agents are not able to fully utilize all of the resources available to them. For example, the Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez reported that he has $96,000 in high-tech cameras sitting in storage because the county doesn’t have the manpower to monitor the feeds once the cameras are installed. This is unacceptable. Taxpayers expect more from the funds we are sending to border, and there are ways to better equip those on the front lines – keeping Americans safe and secure.

While I was there, we also discussed President Trump’s recent decision to deploy National Guard troops to the border. Working carefully with state and local officials, I believe that guardsmen could be beneficial to supplement inadequate manpower by way of aerial surveillance, ground observation, or some appropriate administrative tasks. Clearly, we need more cooperation and coordination to maximize our border security. However, the Guard’s ability to engage in actual interdiction activities is limited. This is a band-aid, not a solution.

One of the key findings from my trips is that a barrier in place – whether a wall, fence, or something altogether different – shapes the response of cartels and illegal immigrants and is a useful tool in helping our agents better patrol the border.

The House is doing our part. The FY18 spending bill that was recently passed by the House and signed into law by President Trump includes important provisions to help secure our nation’s southern border. In addition, the House is currently working on a significant immigration reform bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, that would increase not only physical and technological border security, but would ensure that high-skilled laborers are able to enter the United State to benefit our nation’s economy, all while finding an equitable solution for dreamers.

I had four important and key takeaways from my recent trip.

First, we need to make sure that we have enough manpower patrolling the Southwest Border. The FY18 spending bill funds the CBP at $14 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion from the previous year. Also, the Securing America’s Future Act adds 5,000 Border Patrol Agents and 5,000 CBP officers, while authorizing $8.5 billion for recruitment and retention for the CBP.

Second, we need the proper technology and implementation of it to ensure safety along the border. The FY18 spending bill includes $196 million for “border security technology,” and the Securing America’s Future Act authorizes an additional $5.8 billion for technology over a period of five years. Much of the technology in the Del Rio Sector is outdated, but as mentioned above, tens of thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment isn’t being utilized, thus becoming obsolete as it sits collecting dust. It is important that we are not dumping money into a bottomless pit and that we ensure the technology purchased on the taxpayer’s dime match the capabilities.

Third, we need the proper resources to resolve the 600,000 backlogged immigration cases to enable swift processing of the numerous individuals in detention centers along the border. The FY18 spending bill funds100 new federal judges, bringing the total nationwide to more than 400. We also need to be sure that we are empowering the Department of Homeland Security to detain dangerous illegal immigrants who currently cannot be removed, enhance the criminal penalties for deported criminals who illegally return multiple times, and tighten our laws to do away with frivolous asylum claims. These are all gaps in our current law that the Securing America’s Future Act can help improve or fix.

Fourth, and finally, we must design a coordinated, effective set of barriers including, where key, a wall, fencing, sophisticated technology, and other means, to protect the citizens of our country. Del Rio Sector has 210 miles of border with nine stations, out of which the CBP does important work, but only four miles of this border has of any type of barrier. One of the key findings from my trips is that a barrier in place – whether a wall, fence, or something altogether different – shapes the response of cartels and illegal immigrants and is a useful tool in helping our agents better patrol the border. However, while a wall may do its job well in densely populated places like San Diego and El Paso, it may not be nearly as effective in more rural areas like Del Rio.

Like in any difficult endeavor, "one-size-fits-all" approaches are not effective. Border security strategy requires customization to meet the needs of the local sector’s terrain and access, as well as the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement of that locality. As such, decisions about how to allocate resources for physical and technological barriers must be done in conjunction with local CBP agents, local law enforcement, and community leaders on what border security needs fit their area of operation.

My brief but informative trips to our southwest border have given me a first-hand look at the diversity of the challenges presented along our important border with Mexico. They have helped me focus on our border debate and argue for alternative plans to keep us safe from the intense criminal efforts to smuggle people and drugs into our country and guns and money out. The FY18 spending bill we passed in the House was a step in the right direction, and we have a president that has pledged to secure our border. We must now pass the Securing America’s Future Act in order to continue moving forward to give Americans confidence that our border will finally be secured.

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Texas A&M, LSU coaches to speak in Houston at upcoming events

Posted by Roberto Cline on April 24, 2018 (Comments Closed)

The new Texas A&M coach and the semi-new LSU coach will visit the Touchdown Club of Houston over the next couple of weeks, and tickets are still available to both events that help raise money for area high schools and prep athletes.

The Aggies’ Jimbo Fisher will speak on the recently-completed spring drills and his expectations for his first A&M team at noon Wednesday at the JW Marriott on Westheimer in the Galleria, and about 50 tickets remain, the touchdown club’s Neal Farmer said.

A week later on May 2, second-year LSU coach Ed Orgeron will speak to the touchdown club, and plenty of tickets remain for the engagement at the JW Marriott.

Tickets are $50 each, and tables seat 10 for both events. A regular table cost $500, while bronze ($750), silver ($1,000), gold ($1,500) and platinum ($2,500) tables also are available. Visit the club’s website here to buy a ticket or table.

The Touchdown Club of Houston has placed about $200,000 worth of weight equipment in 41 Houston-area high schools over the last 16 years, and has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships over the past 19 years to area high school seniors, according to the club.

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Marcus assuming management of two downtown El Paso hotels – Milwaukee – Milwaukee Business Journal

Posted by Roberto Cline on April 18, 2018 (Comments Closed)

Marcus Hotels & Resorts said Tuesday that it is assuming management of two hotels in downtown El Paso, Texas, expanding the Milwaukee hospitality company’s portfolio in Texas.

Marcus Hotels, a division of The Marcus Corp. (NYSE: MCS) of Milwaukee, assumed management of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel El Paso Downtown effective April 4. The company has also been selected to manage the newly constructed 151-room Courtyard by Marriott El Paso Downtown/Convention Center that will open in June. The two hotels are in the same block of downtown El Paso and are both owned by hoteliers Elma Carreto and Jim Scherr.

Greg Marcus, president and CEO of The Marcus Corp., said the hotels are well situated to serve business travelers and tourists.

“El Paso has so much to offer, including its strong business base, robust tourism and exceptional recreational, educational, athletic and retail opportunities,” Marcus said in a press release. “Both these properties are ideally located near the city’s convention and performing arts center, and Southwest University Park sports complex and event venue, and are poised to capture even greater share of the thousands of tourists and business people who travel to El Paso.”

Marcus did not immediately announce any plans to invest in upgrades or renovations of the 200-room DoubleTree, which opened in 2009.

Excluding the El Paso properties, Marcus Hotels & Resorts owns and/or manages 18 hotels and resorts, including the Hilton Garden Inn in Houston.

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Land sale issue raised in affordable housing project for Colorado Springs seniors

Posted by Roberto Cline on April 12, 2018 (Comments Closed)

An apartment complex on Colorado Springs’ northeast side would reduce the city’s significant affordable housing shortage for senior citizens.

The City Council approved selling nearly 11/2 acres at 4921 Templeton Gap Road for $1 to Greccio Housing, a local affordable housing nonprofit, on March 27.

One councilman complained that other agencies didn’t have a chance to buy the land. So Steve Posey, the city’s program administrator for Housing and Urban Development, said he’s changing the process.

Preliminary plans call for up to 55 affordable units for seniors, said Greccio Executive Director Lee Patke. But the preliminary plans still are subject to market analysis.

The city is expected to have a deficit of 26,000 affordable housing units next year, and the Greccio project marks a small but important push in the right direction.

Greccio has three years to secure funding and complete a development plan before the $1 sale is finalized, Patke said.

The next step is to submit an application to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority by June 1. The authority will be the primary funding source if the application is accepted, he said.

But the land sale received some pushback from Councilman Don Knight, the sole council member who voted against it. Knight said the council can sell surplus property for less than market value, estimated here to be $570,000. But other organizations might have been interested in it, he said.

"Steve (Posey) said he wanted to declare (the lot) surplus and sell it for a dollar and sell it for senior housing, and he’s totally within his right to do it," Knight said. "What he did not do, though, was go out and do any type of market survey to find out if there was more than one person interested in the property."

Nor’Wood Development Group donated the plot to the city in 2012, and it has sat fallow since, Posey said. Selling land far below market value is one way the city can incentivize affordable housing projects, he said.

"Steve should have done something, anything," Knight said. "Instead he just went straight to Greccio Housing. He should have gone out and gotten sealed bids. In my mind, he did not follow the (city’s) real estate manual."

That manual is subject to interpretation, said City Auditor Denny Nester. The guidebook doesn’t "spell out" that such parcels must receive multiple bids.

Nester said his office hasn’t received any formal complaints about the pending sale, and he doesn’t plan to dive into it deeper.

"Could it have been done cleaner so that Don Knight’s concerns would have been addressed? I think it could have, but that’s sort of coming to the table late," Nester said.

The Colorado Springs Housing Authority could have been a partner on the project, Posey said, but he didn’t call them.

That lapse came as a surprise and disappointment, said Chad Wright, the Housing Authority’s executive director.

"We’re the largest provider of affordable housing in Colorado Springs and El Paso County . nothing negative toward Greccio, but we feel we’re pretty good at what we do," Wright said. "We did not feel that we were included in assessing the best way to go about that (project)."

Wright said a more transparent process for such projects would more easily find the best fit for the work.

Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity was also interested, Posey said, but it was aiming for single-family homes or duplexes, and the plot is better suited for a small or medium-sized multi-family project, which is the bulk of Greccio’s portfolio.

Still, Posey said, his office is developing a process to ensure that all potential partners are contacted.

"We have hope the process will be different moving forward," Wright said, "and we’ll continue to do what we do."

The city will have to muster as many public-private partnerships as possible to address the affordable housing shortage, many have said.

Up to 1,000 such units are needed to help the homeless, and up to 2,500 are needed for elderly residents. Much of the rest of the deficit is of housing for working families, he said.

Posey said he expects up to 1,000 affordable housing units to be built in the city by next year.

Progress on the shortage is slow, exacerbated by rising prices in Colorado Springs. Median house prices hit a record high of $295,000 in January, and rents followed suit at $1,141 a month.

In addition to using infill, renovation, and mixed-use buildings that combine apartments and businesses, community cooperation is essential, Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler has said. Affordable housing will come to all of the city’s neighborhoods, she promised in February, and she asked residents to accommodate them.

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El Paso Mayor On National Guard Deployments To Mexican Border

Posted by Roberto Cline on April 6, 2018 (Comments Closed)

President Trump is sending the National Guard to the U.S.- Mexico border. David Greene talks to Dee Margo, mayor of El Paso, Texas, who says he’s not convinced that his city needs additional forces.

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Reader disheartened by Animal Control

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 31, 2018 (Comments Closed)

(Photo: Courtesy of El Paso County Sheriff’s Office)

I will probably open a can of worms with this, but here it goes. This morning I attempted to rescue a dog that had reportedly been in the desert for about three weeks. I found the dog, it ran, I ran (through the desert). Luckily, it ran into an enclosed area belonging to El Paso Water Utilities. I called 311 as I always do, then I notice three other dogs enclosed. I call 311 again to inform that there are actually four dogs now. I waited over three hours for Animal Control. Animal Control arrived with one truck and one officer for four dogs. Are you kidding me? The dogs escaped through another gap in another gate, at which time I counted five dogs. Now, there are five dogs in an arroyo. I tracked them for an hour. They are tired; I am tired. I have been rescuing on my own for 13 years; I have never been so disheartened as I am today. Where do I find good help?

Karen Washington

West El Paso

Crews demolish the old span to Paisano Drive over the former Interstate 10 East on-ramp along Sunland Park Drive. The work is part of the Go 10 project, which started in April 2015 and will continue into 2019 at a cost of $158 million, said Noemi Rojas, mobility coordinator for the Go 10 project. The project involves the construction of about 6 miles of roadway from Exit 11 at North Mesa Street east to Exit 16 at Executive Center Boulevard. When completed, I-10 will have increased capacity and enhanced safety for motorists, Rojas said.


Road construction causes stress and frustration

I would like to give my opinion about the recent road constructions in progress all over the city and all the problems it has caused. There have been many accidents and delays caused by the construction. I believe this has created stress and frustration in our personal lives. I think it is taking too long to finish all the projects, resulting in more problems than benefits. People complain every day about getting to work and school late because of the construction.

Also, the stores next to the roads under construction have seen less sales, affecting their business. In my opinion, if a company with more personnel would be hired to work on our roads, the road projects could be finished in a shorter time. This would benefit everybody; we would have a more beautiful city and businesses would have more sales. This will help the roads be less dangerous and more stress-free. Hopefully, the city would take my opinion seriously and do something to help resolve this issue.

Jesusa Portillo

Lower Valley

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 3, 2015.

(Photo: Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press)

There is no complaining without democracy

In response to Rafaela Graffos’ March 20 letter, “’Crab mentality’ must end for El Paso to move forward,” Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and recently Vladimir Putin won their elections in landslides. Do you think those elections were fair? People would complain if they could, but they don’t have democracy.

Gilberto Calderon

East El Paso

The U.S. is controlled by the superwealthy

The U.S. is an oligarchy controlled by the superwealthy and corporations. A stacked Supreme Court gave us Citizens United, allowing these factions to buy politicians and own our government. We are run by corporate executives, oil industry, bankers, think tanks, 12,000 lobbyists and the “military industrial complex.”

The "elites" intention is to destroy unions, thus solidarity, dismantle government and loot America. This corporate state rules by and for money and against the common good.

By utilizing propagandized media, Republicans, corrupt and owned by the corporate state, have indoctrinated right-wing America with a gospel of white grievance. The duped right would give up Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security so they can keep their guns.

The Pentagon has spent $250 million a day on war for 16 years, presently on seven undeclared wars and 800 worldwide installations. These purposeless wars are a corporate business with 600,000 private contractors and almost 1.5 million service members. Proclaimed as against terrorism and good vs evil, underlying the wars are a racist "crusade," scapegoating, West vs East, Christian vs. Muslim, white vs. colored.

President Donald Trump’s daily antics are a diversion while the corporate state silently sabotages our checks and balances, subverts our courts to eliminate rights and undermines democratic principles. Our next major crisis, accidental or manufactured, might bring on a totalitarian police state and the loss of our vote.

Ho Baron

Central El Paso

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Here’s How Much You Need To Earn To Live In El Paso County

Posted by Roberto Cline on March 25, 2018 (Comments Closed)

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — El Paso County is one of the least expensive large metropolis areas to live in Colorado, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The organization recently released its 2018 family budget calculator that estimates how costly it is to live in each of America’s 3,142 counties and 611 metro areas.

The group estimates a family of two adults and two children in El Paso County would need to earn a combined $83,583 per year — or $6,965 a month — to live comfortably.

Here’s how the group breaks down that number:

Screenshot of Economic Policy Institute’s 2018 family expenses calculator in El Paso County.

According to the U.S Census, the median household income in the El Paso County in 2016 was $55,322.

But, compared to Boulder, that might seem like a bargain.

To live in the Boulder area, that same family would need to earn a combined $ $101,584 per year, or $8,465 every month, to "attain a modest yet adequate standard of living," the organization said.

The family budget calculator accounts for geographic differences in cost of living, but does not include many expenses associated with a middle-class lifestyle, including student loan payments or saving for college or retirement.

"Our Family Budget Calculator goes beyond traditional measures like the poverty line to paint a detailed picture of what families need to get by," EPI Senior Economist Elise Gould said in a release. "The latest update provides even greater detail on how costs vary throughout the country. It is above all else a tool for policymakers to advocate for ways to raise wages and make their communities more affordable."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Francisco ranked first in the nation as the most expensive metro area with a basic budget of $148,439 a year for a two-parent, two-child household. On the flipside, that same household would only need to earn $58,906 to live comfortably in Brownsville, Texas, the least expensive metro area in the country.

The group noted that many low-wage workers don’t make enough money to adequately provide for their family’s basic needs. Even after adjusting for higher state and city minimum wages, the group said, there is "nowhere in the country" where a minimum-wage worker would earns enough.

"It’s clear from our analysis that, even in less-expensive areas, many families will struggle to meet their basic needs," said research assistant Zane Mokhiber. "The good news is we have many different ways to remedy this, from a higher minimum wage to ambitious child care reform. Policymakers should draw on a range of tools to help people meet the needs laid out in the Family Budget Calculator."

Click here to go to to the calculator. You can change the number of adults and children to see exactly what your household needs to earn to live comfortably in your county.

Patch reporter Dan Hampton contributed to this report
Photo credit: David McNew/Getty Images

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