TAFT, TEXAS: EL DEFENZOR RETURNS TO REVIEW MAYOR BOBBY VEGA’S TENURE IN OFFICE
Taft, TX – “Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega (who was first elected mayor in 2009) in power?” – this is one question that resounds in the community of Taft and the region. It was not too long ago that Bobby Vega ran for mayor under the campaign slogan of “unity, stability and growth.” In two years he has managed to do exactly the opposite. Political and social factions seem more apart today due to his own poor judgment and ruthless decisions. His leadership – many more sum it up in one word: questionable.
Vega promised stability. He hired a lawyer for the city – than (after using him to execute the path for his agenda) fired him. Mayor Vega hired a city manager – then (after using him to restructure the city for a path of selective hirings and power mongering positioning) was forced to resign. Vega declared an “annexed” area to be “de-annexed” – only to face condemnation by the U.S. Department of Justice. He went on to hire a police chief – Paul Rivera, loyal to Vega’s administration to the last cell of his tolerance. Paul Rivera, not long after his tenure, was given an option, implicitly and explicitly: resign or as Police Chief or be fired. Since then the city has had two others chiefs.
Instability, irrational caprice – these two words many observers describe his prevailing administration. But do not take this editorial on face value, if one is open minded to the issue, try to do your own research and make your own determination which we believe will be in accord with the one we have stated.
Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega in power? Many of the residents in the disputed “annexed” or “de-annexed” area do not know whether they are part of the city or not; if they should vote or not in city elections; if they should pay or not for either county or city services; if they are under the protection of municipal law enforcement or not. Some residential pockets of the region of Taft, Texas seem more like a third world zone that seems to have been hit by an unsettling political and economic tsunami.
Residents in the disputed “annexed” vs “de-annexed” area last year were taken off tax rolls, and thus and so their garbage collection rates were raised. This past week or so (under the advice of the new attorney) the mayor and his side-kicks decided to rescind the de-annexation push and put the disputed area back on tax rolls. De-annexation is still in the mayor’s agenda – but the mentioned move was done to placate and please the concerns of the Department of Justice that has placed them under close scrutiny. .
When Vega won for mayor in 2009, Mayor Filberto Rivera’s career ended as the top representative of the city. Rivera had unseated the infamous Mayor – Jerry King, a local pharmacist.
In 2009 Vega took over as mayor and began firing many closely associated with former Mayor Rivera. Via a clever and edacious impulse Vega hired new staff everywhere he could. He settled a major law suit with a political ally: Molly Topper. She never came back as city manager. It was 3-2 council vote to reimburse her $158,000.
“No wonder the city is broke,” a local resident remarked.
Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega in power? Vega’s major political base many insiders claim comes from the strings pulled by former Mayor King. The notorious King who was mayor for a hand full of years and was a city council before that (close to 20 years). In fact one resident said some refer to Vega as “King Jr” – but the truth is that some sources claim he has regular interaction on issues with King and is more of a “mayor by proxy”.
Mayor Vega on occasion is compared to King, being described as “snappy” and “arrogant” and “argumentative”: qualities that have much to be desired.. Vega targeted El Defenzor newspaper when it ran an editorial that was not to his liking about a year ago. He pushed for an ordinance to be drafted basically banning the paper from being distributed in the region. This was something that former Mayor King had attempted but failed due to legal admonishments from the then-city attorney.
Mayor Bobby Vega is struggling to keep a majority – even the new city councilman, David Trevino is straddling the fence (Trevino is the one that won against Lucy S. Lopez who lost by 13 votes in what has been described as an “illegal” election). Keep in mind that residents in the “disputed” area were not allowed to vote in this race for office.
El Defenzor spoke to a few community activists to obtain a pulse in regards to Vega’s tenure in office and most voiced one theme: “The community is divided and is thus looking for leadership in the city.” They added that Vega and his clan capitalized on the insecurities and lack of resources of ordinary citizens to obtain justice or to recruit viable candidates to seek office. “The King machine still seems to be eating away at growth in this region via Bobby Vega,” one activist opined.
There are 526 households in the disputed “annexed/de-annexed” area cited above – mostly Hispanics. This disputed area has been subjected to mind-boggling oppression and tyranny by the Vega administration. Former Mayor Filberto Vega who ran under an agenda of growth pushed for the annexation of these households. But the course was a detailed one and accordingly meticulous attention was given to meeting all the tinges and stages of the process. When the process was in place, utility rates were reduced to coincide with the city residents; law enforcement of the area was initiated. But when Vega won for Mayor in 2009 (with assistance from the King machine), he declared the annexation null and void. Then again Vega was neither an attorney nor an authority in this complex area of law and thus received a backlash from the Department of Justice (after residents complained that they were not allowed to participate in free elections).
Under Vega’s tenure, these 526 household were taken off tax rolls and turned over to the county’s. Their utility rates were raised to those prior to Mayor Rivera’s annexation adjustments. Vega insisted that even law enforcement be sponged out from this area.
On May 10, 2010 and August 2010 and March 11, 2011, via written declaratives and memos reinforced to the City of Taft that the De-annexation Ordinance (#839) was unenforceable; however, as of today, Mayor Vega nor the city officialdom have not complied with the requirement of the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice has been gravely concerned that many a resident might have been disenfranchised – this was expressed in a memo in 2010, and said that many a resident in the disputed area should at least vote provisionally until a decision was rendered. In the last election the Department of Justice send representatives to make sure that the Vega Administration allowed residents in the disputed area to vote.
Thus in the last city council meeting which took place a little over a week ago, Mayor Vega had no choice but to declare and rescind his de-annexation move as not valid. Vega by making such a move is saying, he did not abide by the law and de-annexed a sizeable geographical residential community unlawfully. He is asking some of his friends to begin to begin from zero and start a de-annexation move – one move that is segmenting the community all over again.
A group of people (close to Vega) have filed a new petition to de-annexed and it has been placed in the November election – the vote will decide to keep the city “in” or “out” of the city.
Final notes: As of February of last year at least $13.32 cents for utilities and garbage fees have been charged to households in the disputed are per month. A total of 526 households come to about $126,113. Every month that goes by it increases the calculation. A group of residents in Taft have united in the disputed area and want what they call the “illegal” charges to be stopped immediately. Additionally, they are prepared to take legal action if necessary, but currently are asking (it was done the last city council meeting) that every household in this area be paid all the money they are owned within sixty days.
In the last meeting cited above, the request for reimbursement by a group of residents – a total of $126.113 -- was denied. They (the residents in the disputed area) were however placed back in the tax rolls of the city.