Community Radio Proof-m*1,mLiti3 1>iversito For A Cui114014 iLverse eito P.O.Box 2116 Austin, Texas 78768-2116 Visit Us On The Web Radio De La Comunidad www.koop.org Go to the Assumed Names section of El Paso County’s website and you’ll find he maintains more than 20 active corporations, including the Huichol Conimunity, K’man Le Anahnakatl, and the Sun Circle Cultural Center, a Native American church that incorporates the ingestion of peyote into its beliefs and rituals. One of its principal goals is to return the Aztec emperor Moctezuma’s headdress to Mexico from an Austrian museum. Perez looks the part for this project. He sports a formidable moustache, and his bald scalp is gouged with crevices that resemble arroyos. I first met Perez at El Paso Community College in the early 1980s. I was teaching English and Perez held a Svengalian orientation for new teachers that included several minutes of chanti ng followed by him telling us something to the effect of”I have supernatural powers. I can read your minds. I am telepathic. I know there’s someone here who doesn’t like me. I know who you are.” By then he had run unsuccessfully for mayor, and was grooming a group of young Hispanic students to enter local politics. In 2001 he served as campaign strategist for Anglo engineer Larry Francis. After Caballero’s victory, Perez sank below the political radar, but not for long. After an unsuccessful effort to rescind Caballero’s tax hike, Perez went after the TIFsand created chaos for the mayor. It all started after Perez and others began visiting the homes of what are affectionately known as viejitos, the Hispanic grandmas and grandpas whose entire savings often is sunk into tiny houses they’ve owned for years. The visitors came with a dire message: The mayor is going to tear down your homes and give you little or nothing in compensation. The viejitos and their children and grandchildren went ballistic. They flocked to neighborhood meetings organized by Perez and others. They stormed City Council meetings in teeshirts emblazoned with logos from Citizens for Good Government, yet another Perez corporation. “It was the worst nightmare we could have ever imagined,” recalls Caballero’s press secretary, Veronica Escobar. At community gatherings the mayor and other officials tried to tell the viejitos they had nothing to fear, but they were too frightened and incensed to listen. The TIF tiff alienated a large swathe of inner-city Hispanics, who otherwise would be Caballero’s natural constituency. It also mobilized anti-Caballero efforts from other, far more influential sectors of the city. One such sector is the building industry. Although construction magnates stand to make millions from a sprawling new medical complex and other ambitious projects, few have openly supported Caballero. Meanwhile, several smaller builders have noisily joined concrete baron Stanley Jobe in declaring all-out war on the mayor. The most vocal are the Bowling family, headed by Robert Bowling III, a ramrod-straight patriarch whom most people know as Bobby. Along with his three sons, he runs Tropicana Homes and builds “affordable homes,” dwellings in the $70,000 range. The company works by buying land and extending the outskirts of town, where there is not much happening besides sand, mesquite, and Circle K. They’re not El Paso’s biggest builders, but they still pull weight. Bobby III gives significant money to candidates running for local office; the Bowlings are active in the El Paso Association of Builders and recently created a new organization, the Affordable Housing Council. Not long into his term, Caballero imposed a brief moratorium on selling land on the outskirts, so that experts could evaluate the impact new homes would have on things like water use. He also suggested that builders like 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4/11/03
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