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La Joya headed for contentious election

Three slates of candidates have lined up for the City of La Joya election slated for November, but all of the mayoral candidates will look familiar to voters.

Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas teamed up with Alderwoman Anna Lisa Ruiz, who is running for place 2, and Maria E. “Geny” Salinas, who is running for place 4.

20151002 city of la joya new logo colorJust four years ago, current Alderman Mike Salinas ran on a slate with Fito Salinas and Ruiz, but this election cycle he’s stepping out on his own for a run for mayor, partnering with Maria Peña Salinas, who is running for place 4. Mike Salinas said he purposely didn’t choose a running mate for place 2 because that race is already tight.

Isidro Casanova, a former alderman now running for mayor, heads the last slate. He has allied himself with Rosie Treviño, former city finance director, running for place 2, and Daniel Flores, who is running for place 4.

Citizens Working Together

Fito Salinas and Anna Lisa Ruiz won their offices four years ago under the Citizens Working Together banner. Fito Salinas said the group took nominations for a third candidate this year and Geny Salinas came out on top.

“I never do anything individually when it concerns the city,” Fito Salinas said.

He touted recently paved streets in the community and the purchase of the old Plains Capital Bank, which he plans to turn into a city hall, as his accomplishments. Also, the mayor said, next Wednesday, city administrators are proposing a 4 percent raise for all city employees.

“I’m a firm believer that all our employees should at least earn $10 an hour, and we’re getting there,” Fito Salinas said.

If elected for a second term, the mayor said he wants to extend the city limits because the city has not annexed new land in 20 years. He said he wants to expand a mile and a half toward the west and north. Fito Salinas also said he wants to build a new water plant.

The mayor said he’s seen other candidates promise lower water rates, and he said if they have solutions, they should bring them forward. The city can implement them now and the candidates will get full credit, he said.

“I just hope that people of La Joya make the right choices and elect the people who really want the city to progress and are not out for individual trophies,” Fito Salinas said.

Geny Salinas said she wants to continue work on paving streets and community development. She currently serves as vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority and has been regularly attending city meetings to better understand the needs of the community.

“I’ve always been a part of the process to make change,” she said. “The reason I’m running is so we can make positive change, continue with the projects that are already in place and make it even better.”

Geny Salinas’ husband is related to Aldermen Victorio Salinas.

Anna Lisa Ruiz could not be reached for comment.

La Differencia

Casanova started contemplating his run for mayor two years ago, and he pointed out his is the only slate without Salinases. He wants to look at annexing surrounding areas and improving economic development.

He once worked for the city as chief of police and now works for La Joya Independent School District. Casanova said his slate would add balance and insight to the city. Treviño has experience with the finances and Flores, former administrator for Ignite Public Schools, has experience in education and public relations as well as budgets.

Casanova said he wants to bring more transparency to the city. For example, he said, the slate has asked for several open records that have been denied – one was billed $3,000.

He questioned why streets around the mayor’s home were recently paved and others were not. Also, Casanova said, Mayor Salinas recently appeared on news reports stating the city might have to cut its police force because the Department of Public Safety is cutting into the city’s ticket revenue. If that’s the case, Casanova asked why did the city spend money on a building for a new city hall.

When Treviño was with the city, there were several things she saw that she didn’t like, such as sewer rate increases. Plus, she said, city administrators forgot about the senior citizens. She said she’s asked the city for budget figures because the slate doesn’t want to make promises it can’t keep. Right now they’re basing their plans on a budget from two years ago.

Flores said his father long ago said he wanted him to run for office in La Joya, and when he met with Casanova, all the pieces started coming together. He likes Casanova’s character and enthusiasm. There’s a lot of mistrust in the current city administration, and Flores said he thinks that will be alleviated if they are elected to office.

He said lighting is something the group wants to prioritize as well as a welcome sign to La Joya. The slate also wants to implement a Boys and Girls Club to serve the children of La Joya.

“We want to make a difference. We want to represent you. We want to be your voice. If y’all are satisfied with the way things are going, as far as whatever you’re paying for city taxes, for the water bill, all of that, go for it,” Casanova tells people. “But if you’re tired, you’ve heard a whole bunch of negative things, and you’re tired and you want something better for your kids, a better way of life for yourself, please give me a chance.”

If he’s not able to make changes in four years, Casanova said people should vote him out.

A challenger

Mike Salinas said he has a different view of what the city needs than the current mayor. Rates for trash, sewer, water and brush all have been blown out of proportion, he said.

“One of the things that they kept pursuing was that we have to be comparable to Mission, Mercedes, Donna, all of those cities,” Mike Salinas said. “My comeback to that was we don’t have the same things to offer as the other cities. We’re just taking away more money.”

This year, Mike Salinas said city leaders decided to lower the tax rate, and he wondered why they hadn’t done that in previous years. There are other ways to bring in revenue. The city’s slowly losing business, he said.

“We really want to grow business. We really want to pursue other avenues,” Mike Salinas said.

Maria P. Salinas, who is related to current alderman Victoria Salinas, could not be reached for comment.

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