Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Right to Assemble: Burning Down the Bridge

The Right to Assemble: Burning Down the Bridge to Public Meetings

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly stating that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Not only in our constitution, but also the freedom of assembly is a basic human right as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - article 201.

Yarbrough Port of Entry and Right to Assemble

On May 2, 2012, an informational forum took place at Riverside Middle School in El Paso's east valley. The meeting concerned the proposed international port of entry at Yarbrough. Although no government entity was trying to prevent the assembly, it was amazing the office holders who were trying to prevent it from happening or portraying it as a campaign event.

1. The informational session was requested by valley residents

2. Port of Entries through neighborhoods do not work!

3. Any issue that affects the health or the displacement of residents who live around Yarbrough is an issue that elected candidates should be concerned about and which they should inform their constitutes. Last night, almost every elected official from the national level to the school trustee, County Commissioners Court, state representatives level, was present.

All except the city representative who represents that area. However, the two representatives who represents the neighboring city council districts were present, so maybe they will pass the word to the one not present.

4. Valley residents, as well as upper Yarbrough residents, had petitions and from the climate in the room last night -- they had grievances.

5. Every resident has a right to the city

6. Port of Entries (POEs) through neighborhoods does not work!

7. This is not the first meeting regarding this issue. Perhaps the first one a congressional candidate and others found out about (although the minutes posted below shows he knew of others), but there have already been meetings on this long before a certain congressional candidate announced he was running for congress.

8. A congressional candidate was not invited. That did not stop other candidates from attending and speaking. And Pastor Brown wasn't even there to scare anyone away.

9. This is not the first meeting on this issues that Silvestre Reyes has attended. It's the first that has gotten media attention and maybe that's what scares people.

10. An elected official who represents a constituency, especially if this constituency is in a poorer part of the area the official represents, should be against anything that would injure the health, require the demolition of constituency's homes, or displace a his constituency. Last night, many candidates and incumbents were present stating they are against a POE at Yarbrough. Except one -- but not surprising as history repeats itself -- Segundo Barrio.

9. We should be use to O'Rourke response to the public meeting. Public meetings with people of color are not his specialty

However, public meetings on the POE issues have been held before although some were against hosting these meetings. See below.


At the Feb. 5, 2010 of the Transportation Policy Board held at the MPO office (see Minutes TPB, Item 6, p. 3). The conversation focused on how the "meetings of the Advisory Committee made up of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA), MPO, and the City of El Paso; their meetings are not publicly posted.public meetings were not being properly."

Rep. Steve Ortega stated that "Various public meetings by different groups might lead to public confusion." (page 3)

February 5, 2010

- Rep. Norma Chavez, at that meeting, kept asking "under what capacity the Advisory Committee made to recommend holding public meetings."

- Rep. Pickett asked what the Task Force was providing as public education.
-Rep. Chavez said slides would be shown of the proposed locations within the study area and other issues that come with proposing an additional port of entry. (page 4)
- Rep. Pickett said he would like to just continue with what is done normally and let the consultants carry out the public process along with the data needed. Whether there was a vote of confidence at the time from the Board and whether the decision was to build a bridge at Yarbrough Dr., he would go on the record to vote against it. At the same time, he would like to see if a comprehensive study would change his mind. (page 4)

- Rep. O’Rourke gave his understanding that everyone seemed to want to solve the issue for a more efficient way to move goods and people across the border. Also, TxDOT had agreed to fund the study and the creation of the Advisory Committee to assist to oversee the process. He would like to continue that process. He was unclear as to the authority the Task Force had on the input they would receive from the public meetings to influence the results of the study. He felt he would be better served as a citizen attending public meetings held by the Advisory Committee who would oversee the study and would have affect as to what actually was implemented in the study. He proposed a motion not to have the public education forum on February 24. (this last sentence is bolded in the minutes, "not" is italicized and underline by DIEP for emphasis) (page 4)

- Rep. Chavez made it clear that the purpose of the Task Force was to obtain public trust.

- Rep. Acosta agreed with Rep. Chavez. In the past she had a held series of meetings and the main question asked if there would be a new bridge. Public education forums benefit to publicize the intent of the consultants and the understanding of the scope of the study. It would ease the public’s anxiety about the issue of a new bridge. She would support the public education forum based on reaching out to those without the capability of internet, television, and the Spanish speaking community.


- Rep. Chavez explained that the public education forum would provide the public the scope of services of the international bridges. An email from Mark Tomlinson was sent out to the MPO and the Task Force outlining the expanded scope to include Oregon Street light rail and requesting for specific language on the Santa Teresa, NM, boundaries.

- Eduardo Miranda, legal counsel to the MPO, replied that the Task Force was a recommending body. Regardless of what would happen at a public meeting, they have no authority to make decisions. Any decision would need to be approved by the TPB. To the extent that items are discussed at the TPB meetings, it’s not legally necessary for the Task Force to hold public meetings. As long as the public is informed that it was a recommending process.

Rep. Marquez said it was good to have the items brought up to the board to discuss openly. Would the scope of services be complete before February 24 public meeting and what if the information for the geographic locations changes after the consultants are involved?

Rep. Chavez replied that the scope should be complete by the coming Monday and specific locations were not being addressed but addressing four regions; Tornillo/Guadalupe, Mid-Valley, Westside and southern New Mexico. To be clear, the Task Force doesn’t need approval from the TPB in order to hold the public education forums.

- Rep. Ortega brought up the need to have items discussed at the TPB meetings. The way this may be interpreted would be that it seemed that an elected official chose to hold public meetings at their discretion. The procedural governance issue would occur when directing MPO staff to attend particular meetings. For that, it would require direction from the TPB to give Mr. Gilyard and staff authority to present at such meetings.

- Mr. Miranda replied that the item on the agenda didn’t require doing that.

- Rep. Chavez said for the record, an official meeting of the Task Force would be called and posted for February 24, 2010 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Riverside High School.

- Rep. O’Rourke withdrew his motion to not have the public education forum. (bolded by DIEP for emphasis)

Please note the Minutes of this meeting are no longer posted on the MPO's website. It's not the first thing that has been removed
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