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El Paso, continued from page 5 interest. It is not unreasonable in tough budget times to ask those who use public universities to pay more. When the Times published Rep. Moreno’s August letter, Flores felt obligated to run a clarification to confront the perception that the editor has a conflict of interest when it comes to the Republicans in power. Moreno had bluntly concluded his missive, writing, “What a shame that in a city that is 80 percent minority, the only major newspaper does not protect minority voting rights with its power of the editorial. Responsible journalism is never in bed \(or ingratiated for El Paso Times headquarters Richard Baron Flores added a note under the letter: “Editor Don Flores was not appointed to any position by Gov. Rick Perry. His appointment to the Texas State University System Board of Regents was made by former Gov. George W. Bush.” Some believe Flores crossed an ethical line by accepting the appointment from the governor in 1999. Flores may have reinforced that view with his trip to Austin with prominent city civic leaders in December 2002, right before the legislative session. The group went to lobby the governor’s office for more appointments to state boards and commissions for El Pasoans. Flores rejects the notion that either case represents a conflict. He denies having any particular relationship with Gov. Perrywhom the Times endorsed earlier for Lite Guv against John Sharp and then for governor against Hispanic Democrat Tony Sanchezbeyond Perry’s visits to the newspaper during election season. As for the visit to Austin in December, Flores says he agreed to participate only to amplify the paper’s editorial positions. He draws the distinction between soliciting something for the Times’ gainwhich would be a job for the newspaper’s lobbyistsand his lobbying for something not directly linked to the Times’ pocketbook. He insists that it’s no different from what any major newspaper editor does, but that he is being judged by a higher standard. His many critics contend that Flores’ actions are indicative of a coziness with power that has nothing to do with ethnicity, and whose partisanship runs contrary to the interests of the majority of El Pasoans. Dionicio “Don” Flores grew up less than 100 miles north of Corpus Christi, in an impoverished fifth generation Texas family. The Floreses were removed from border sensibilitiesa difference his mother described as “Tex-Mex” versus “Mex-Texf Flores admitted in a recent interview with the weekly business magazine, El Paso Inc. that while he can communicate in Spanish, he would embarrass himself trying to speak it in public. To support the family, his father dug ditches while his mother stayed at home. Flores began his newspaper career at the age of 12-40 years agowriting sports articles for a small weekly paper. He went to Texas State University, then called Southwest Texas State University, to study pre-law in the late 1960s. It was LBJ’s alma mater and a time of campus unrest, he remembers. He says that one day during his freshman year, the staff of the college newspaper suddenly disappeared. Flores claims not to have known of disagreements with the administration that led to the walkout. When university officials offered him the vacated job of sports editor, he leapt at it. “Most of us who were in journalism then, we didn’t know all this about the politics,” he says. “Had we known, most of us wouldn’t have taken jobs because of the political statements being made.” After stints at a number of newspapers, Flores joined the Gannett Corporation in 1985. The company bounced him through its papers in Tucson, Santa Fe, California, Reno, and Iowa, and then in 1993, he landed in El Paso at the Times. It was a two-newspaper town when Flores arrived. The more than century-old El Paso Herald -Post, an afternoon paper, had a reputation for being somewhat creative and open. The Times was more rigidly conservative and catered strongly to the Anglo community. It also managed the printing and distribution of both newspapers under a joint operating agreement. Afternoon papers were dying across the country, and in 1997, the Herald -Post folded, leaving El Paso with the Gannett-owned Times as its only newspaper. Gannett, based in McLean, Virginia, has a reputation for dominating its markets by closing down competitors. The company has 100 daily newspapers across the nation with a circulation of 7.7 million. Typically, once its monopoly is established, Gannett churns out a bland, lackluster, and conservative product that often fails to reflect the community it serves. In El Paso, Gannett publishes in a community in transition seemingly fated never to arrive at its destination. El Paso’s county statistics are stark. The county’s per capita income is $13,114. Of the estimated 700,000 people living there, almost 159,000 are below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population is 78.2 percent Hispanic, fueled by a steady influx of immigrants from Mexico seeking a better life. About 27 percent of those who live in the county are foreign born and 73.3 percent of people age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. Adding resi16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/24/03