WEB EXCLUSIVE: Ordinance raises concerns among candidates

San Benito News

Elections graphicA candidate in the local school board election as well as many in the community expressed concern this week after members of the San Benito City Commission allegedly enforced a city ordinance that has not yet been enacted when instructing political hopefuls to move their campaign signs further from a polling location.

Steve Rodriguez, Place 7 candidate in the race for the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees, said he was initially confused when recently asked by Mayor Joe H. Hernandez and Pl. 1 City Commissioner Antonio “Tony” Gonzales to move Rodriguez’ trailer, which is affixed with political signs, further away from the Community Building poll.

Both Hernandez and Gonzales are also campaigning for re-election at the Community Building.

According to the Pl. 7 hopeful, Hernandez and Gonzales said Rodriguez may not be in compliance with a new ordinance that, at that time, had not yet been approved by the City Commission. Specifically, Rodriguez said he was informed that said ordinance would change the campaigning distance from the Community Building poll about 13 parking spaces from the front entrance; the original distance is 10 spaces.

“Everybody is saying that it’s kind of fishy,” Rodriguez said Wednesday. “Last night, they were saying that I had my trailer on the 10th (parking) spot, and that we were okay because that line is there… that imaginary line that they spray-paint to show the distance from the door. Today, I heard there is a new ordinance coming out saying that we have to be on the 13th spot.”

Rodriguez said he inquired about the ordinance and understood that although it had not yet been voted on by the Commission, Hernandez and Gonzales anticipated approval when asking Rodriguez to comply.

“Tony Gonzales was there, and I asked him, ‘This ordinance already passed or you’re going to pass it?’” Rodriguez recalled of his conversation with the Pl. 1 Commission incumbent. “He said that they (Commissioners) already had the first reading (of the ordinance) and that they’re going to have the second reading, so it’s going to pass. It doesn’t sound right. I can understand if it was for the following election, but three days before the election everything changes? How is that?”

Furthermore, Rodriguez said the mayor told him something similar.

“The mayor called me out of courtesy saying that I was supposed to move it to not be out of compliance, and that was when it was 10 spaces in between (the polling location and the nearest campaign signs),” Rodriguez said. “It’s not that I dislike anybody. I have nothing against the mayor or against Tony. I just wanted to be in compliance.”

Meanwhile, Hernandez, whose political trailer was already parked on the 13th spot and became the most visible once Rodriguez moved elsewhere, called Rodriguez’ concerns “uncalled-for.”

“That is totally wrong and uncalled-for,” Hernandez said. “We told him (Rodriguez) that we had a city ordinance in place that we were going take action on, but we didn’t know what kind of action we were going to take, and we were just giving him heads-up. That’s all.”

On Wednesday, the San Benito News was inundated with phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from citizens and other political candidates, many of whom wished to speak anonymously, also expressing concern with the alleged enforcing of an ordinance that is not yet city law.

Jesus “Chuy” Aguilera, who was also present at the Community Building this week to help his daughter June – a school board candidate – set up her trailer and political signs, reportedly witnessed the exchange between Rodriguez and the City officials and disagreed with what occurred.

“The problem I have is that (City Secretary) Lupita Passement gave orders before they were able to vote on the ordinance,” Aguilera said, referring to City officials requesting the assistance of the San Benito Police Department to inform the candidates of the pending ordinance and the possibility that the hopefuls may need to move their vehicles and signs if not in compliance with the mandate.

“That’s what was told to me,” Aguilera said. “The last time I saw, we were still in a democracy because we’re in the United States, not a dictatorship. Things got resolved. I think it was going to happen, but you can’t just say things before a vote is taken. You can’t assume that they’re going to pass it and have people move their vehicles.”

Assistant City Manager Arturo Rodriguez sees things differently.

“They weren’t enforcing it but informing people that there was a city ordinance that was going to come up,” the assistant city manager said of the SBPD’s involvement. “Instead of having to hunt people down at the last minute, they were trying to make sure they had the right contacts.”

If approved, Ordinance No. 2514 will designate a portion of the 200 block of East Heywood Street in front of the Community Building for voter parking on Election Day, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 10.

Commissioners are expected to consider the second reading of the ordinance – the first reading was approved in April – at a special meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 8 at the San Benito Municipal Building.

When the matter was brought to the attention of City Manager Manuel Lara, he acknowledged the public’s concerns and welcomed candidates to move their vehicles back until a decision is made by the Commission.

“We cannot enforce it,” Lara said of the ordinance. “It is not an enforceable ordinance at this point, so they don’t have to move anything. If it was to pass, we would advise them (the candidates) on Friday.”

Lara further noted that the ordinance was considered after citizens complained of little parking at the poll. “We’re only going to use one location (as a poll) this year,” Lara said. “We’re not going to have Fire Station No. 2 or Fred Booth. This year we’re going to do everything at the community center, so we anticipate a very large group coming in and trying to go vote.”

The city manager then explained that Passement, who serves as the City’s election officer, had requested the new ordinance to get additional parking for voters.

The ordinance, according to Lara, was originally up for consideration at a May 6 meeting but was not discussed due to a lack of quorum.

But Hernandez said on Thursday that he has second thoughts about approving the ordinance.

“The requirement it’s calling for is really outrageous, because they’re saying the perimeter around the building is supposed to be 100 feet from the door, and it’s calling for 13 parking areas from both sides and that extends the parking for a candidate like another 100 feet away as well,” Hernandez said. “I’m not very satisfied with it myself. We’re going to have some questions and I’m going to recommend to the commission that we table the item until after elections, because I don’t want those candidates thinking that it’s coming from me or any member of this Commission. I definitely am going to speak against it.”

Still, there are those who remain concerned with the Commission’s voting process.

“It’s hard for me to conceive that people are going out there and enforcing an ordinance that has not been passed, because that tells me that you’ve already made a decision, which violates the open meetings act,” said Fred Garza, a longtime resident of San Benito who has served on the boards of numerous civic organizations. Garza, who also served as a poll watcher during early voting in San Benito, added the following: “If they already knew something then collusion was already done, and that could bring serious consequences.”

Attempts to reach Gonzales for comment were unsuccessful as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Pick up a copy of the May 11 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here, to find out how the San Benito City Commission voted on Ordinance No. 2514.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2014/05/08/web-exclusive-ordinance-raises-concerns-among-candidates/


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    • Disgruntled Citizen Taxpayer on May 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm
    • Reply

    According to Assistant City Manager Arturo Rodriguez:

    “They weren’t enforcing it but informing people that there was a city ordinance that was going to come up,” the assistant city manager said of the SBPD’s involvement. “Instead of having to hunt people down at the last minute, they were trying to make sure they had the right contacts.”

    What a bunch of made up malarkey. This comes from the same individual who wouldn’t give interviews to news reporters until they proved who they were.

    I checked with the Texas Ethics Commission http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/filinginfo/cohforms.htm and each candidate submits a point of contact (phone number) when the candidate submits their sign up for an elected position; usually the candidate or the campaign treasurer is the point of contact.

    This is just another case of the over-paid city administration running interference and trying to protect the mayor and city commissioner.

      • Reform San Benito on May 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm
      • Reply

      Disgruntled, glad to see you were not fooled, either! Soon there will be change.

  1. Time for the TEXAS RANGERS. Chief of Police bring the outside agency to investigate the violation of Law that you SWORE TO UPHOLD. Oh l forgot you can’t BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU. DO THE RIGHT THING.

    • Denny Crane, Jr. on May 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm
    • Reply

    Regarding these two incumbent politicians (Mayor Joe Hernandez and Commissioner Tony Gonzales) who took it upon themselves to enforce on their own a non-enforceable city ordinance, this was a last straw exposing these individuals lack of knowledge or egregious or shocking violation of the position they were elected to by the voters.

    As I go into the voting booth, all I can think of is “You can’t fix stupid BUT you can VOTE IT OUT</b?".

    Regarding the school district incumbents, replacing them is a no-brainer. They have spent an enormous amount of tax-payer money and resources with absolutely nothing to show for it.

    The beauty of an election is not who you vote for but the fact that you “VOTED”.

    • WeThePeople on May 9, 2014 at 8:36 am
    • Reply

    Sec. 39.03. OFFICIAL OPPRESSION. (a) A public servant acting under color of his office or employment commits an offense if he:
    (1) intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that he knows is unlawful;


    • ReformSanBenito2 on May 9, 2014 at 8:15 am
    • Reply

    @Memo Rodriguez,
    Seriously? What would the SBPD do about it? It’s common knowledge how that department works.

      • Reform San Benito on May 9, 2014 at 9:37 am
      • Reply

      Memo’s heart is in the right place but he forgot where we live. But that’s all about to change!! Get out and vote, citizens! Take back OUR city!

  2. What they did sounds CRIMINAL .THE people effected should file a POLICE REPORT AND CRIMINAL CHARGES.

    • WeThePeople on May 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm
    • Reply

    How about NO PARKING of political vehicles at ALL on Heywood Street?? Now that would solve the problem. From what I heard many older voters felt harassed by the aggressive nature of the politiqueras and campaign workers.During early voting the political workers were very aggressive and intimidating. Many of the candidates wanderied in and out of the building, at will! The elections administrator should have immediately put a STOP to that. It is against election law…

    Sec. 61.003. ELECTIONEERING AND LOITERING NEAR POLLING PLACE. (a) A person commits an offense if, during the voting period and within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which a polling place is located, the person:

    (1) loiters; or

    (2) electioneers for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.


    • Rock your Vote for Change on May 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm
    • Reply

    Since when has it been okay for our Mayor Hernandez and Mr. Gonzalez become the City Code Enforcers? I swear, we already pay someone wages for that position. It’s just wrong to take advantage of your elected position to gain personal access, before the public is aware of any new ordinance.

    • NinfaGra on May 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm
    • Reply

    This proves that the old guard is in full force with their corrupt ways. I’m glad Steve Rodriguuez got involved and has exposed it. What a coincidence, one bully grabbed spot 13 and is now telling others to move while he sits like the big #%!* on spot 13, BEFORE its been voted on. At this point a good lawsuit would be nice. Kick that pact of bullies out!!!! We need new blood. STEVE RODRIGUEZ looks like the right guy. Good for him. Those bullies won’t mess with him or us again. Now I am keeping an eye. They’ve been exposed. They better not even vote for the “already decided on” ordinance or they are in big trouble. Collusion, conspiracy, illegal tactics, etc.

    • Da truth on May 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm
    • Reply

    San benito politics at its best then people wonder why San benito is the way it is

    • WeThePeople on May 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you Mr. Editor for getting the SCOOP on all the other so-called recognized media outlets in the County!

    • Reform San Benito on May 8, 2014 at 6:25 pm
    • Reply

    Correct me if I’m wrong BUT, the ordinance could not take effect until after publication in the newspaper, not the evening of the vote. Now, since the newspaper of choice is SBNews, and that is not published until Saturday, Election Day, could it even apply to this Election Day? After all, the law requiring publication would have to be questioned: Does that mean the minute it rolls off the press or some other reasonable time thereafter? To attempt to enforce this ordinance for Election Day 2014 is absurd.

    Like I stated above, this administration and commission failed to plan appropriately. We need leaders with vision and foresight, not what we have now.

    Vote for change, people. You owe it to yourselves to have better guardians of your community.


    1. @RSB,

      NEWS UPDATE…..The proposed ordinance did not pass at the CC mtg tonite.

      It failed due to a lack of a motion by any commission member. So, it is basically dead, for now.

      In answer to your question about publication, “Publication of newly adopted ordinances” is no longer required after City charter amendment #12 was approved by the voters…..the section was deleted from ARTICLE III. in the City Charter….

      “12. Should Article III, Section 3.12 (d) of the existing City Charter, providing for the publication of the caption or title and penalties of every Ordinance within seven (7) days after passage, be amended by deleting it entirely?”

      Basically, an ordinance approved by the City Commission is in effect on the date specified on the Ordinance (usually the day after the meeting) and after it is signed by the Mayor.

      In my prior experience as a City Councilman all approved legal documents and ordinances were signed immediately after the meeting. I suppose it is the same procedure in San Benito.

        • Reform San Benito on May 9, 2014 at 8:23 am
        • Reply

        Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez, I was not aware of that change in ordinance protocol. This could be used as a prime example against the change. It is clear after this how the rights of the average citizen can be abused by overly zealous officials who pass new ordinances and enforce them without ever giving the citizens fair notice. Only the most informed citizens like yourself, who attend meetings regularly, can keep up with the changes as they happen. Your insight in this thread is also a prime example of why this city needs you.

        This is why, Mr. Rodriguez, you are by far the best candidate for our city!. It will be a travesty and a loss for us citizens if you are not elected to govern our city.

        Please Voters, get out to vote for Joe F. Rodriguez!

  3. I am neither against nor for this ordinance but if the extra parking space is needed there shouldn’t be a problem with it. However, I find it rather curious and appalling that Commissioner Tony Gonzales and Mayor Joe Hernandez were out enforcing an ordinance that has not even been voted upon by the City Commission. It makes no sense at all.

    My voting precinct is located at the Municipal Building and I have never experienced any parking problems. I am not saying there aren’t any parking problems but I have never experienced any.

    I was present at the City Commission meeting where the proposed Ordinance #2514 was introduced on the agenda. There was a brief discussion on the ordinance at the so-called 1st reading; however, nobody on the City Commission, including the Mayor, voiced any concern about the ordinance.

    What I do remember very vividly, and it can be verified by listening to the audio recording of the meeting, was that the City Attorney advised the City Commission in a rather forceful manner so it was understood that “the Ordinance, if approved, only applied on “Election Day”.

    So, every member of the City Commission and those in the audience knew it was only valid for Election Day. There was no confusion. I believe even the ordinance states that it is only enforceable on Election Day”

    I, also find it curious that Mayor Joe Hernandez’s political trailer is already parked in the 13th parking spot before the proposed ordinance is approved. Neither Commissioner Tony Gonzalez nor Mayor Joe Hernandez voiced any concern about the proposed ordinance at the 1st reading. Now that citizens have voiced their concerns, the Mayor has a problem with the ordinance.

    The reason there are two readings or agenda items for a proposed ordinance is to give the members of the City Commission an opportunity at the 1st reading to voice their concerns and propose changes for the 2nd reading and then vote.

    In regards to Mr. Lara’s statement that the ordinance was up for consideration at a “May 6” meeting but was not because of a lack of a quorum, this May 6th commission meeting was “NEVER POSTED” on the city web site like it is supposed to be according to the new “TRANSPARENCY” the city was loudly promoting when the new city web site was introduced at a City Commission meeting. I lost count of how many times the word “TRANSPARENCY” was mentioned.

    All I can say is “If the voters only knew what else goes on …..”!

    Joe F. Rodriguez


      • Reform San Benito on May 9, 2014 at 7:49 am
      • Reply

      I beg to differ, Mr. Rodriguez. We do have complete transparency in our City government. It is transparently poorly managed, inefficient and self-serving.

    • Reform San Benito on May 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm
    • Reply

    Another instance of lack of foresight by this administration and commission that has created chaos and controversy. They knew months ago they were using only the Community Building for voting and eliminating two long-used venues, yet they failed to plan adequately to accommodate voters needs. Changing the rules at the last minute and at the end of the election cycle is asinine.

    As far as two commissioners knowing the outcome of the vote on the ordinance before it happened is a bit fishy, especially when one has parked his campaign vehicle in the first allowed spot under the new ordinance, thereby gaining an advantage once the ordinance passes. While the ordinance does make sense to accommodate voters, it should not be enacted until a date after this election cycle has concluded.

    Maybe all candidates should remove their vehicles completely from the Community Building to allow easy access for the voters. By the time voters arrive at the polling place they know who they will vote for and no amount of political signs will make a difference at that point.

    Who knows, Candidate, the voter turned away because they could not find parking because your vehicle was blocking spots, may have been a vote for you.



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