As we now know, former City Rep. Peter Svarzbein traveled to Tel Aviv for five days during his last month of office in order to speak on a panel at “Muni World Expo” for 7 minutes and 34 seconds.
Four days after returning to El Paso, he told City Council under agenda item 21 that “the panel was really looking at ways to create sustainable ecosystems to lead to economic growth and communal growth and the highlight of what I had the opportunity to communicate was that our city throughout these years dealing with multiple crisises [sic] and challenges has been able to stick and execute to our strategic plan and offer resiliency and strategies of success.”
Yes, we know, it’s incomprehensible…
He told City Council that the other panelists included the Foreign Minister of Uganda (actually a middle-level bureaucrat from the City of Kampala, Uganda) and the Director of the Rashi Foundation (actually a department head at the Rashi Foundation).
We learned that Svarzbein did indeed visit Hadera, one of the sister cities of El Paso, and met with their Interim Mayor. I know this because at the December 13 City Council meeting he proudly announced that Hadera still possesses the keys to the City of El Paso that Mayor Leeser had presented to them in 2015.
We are so glad he traveled there to verify that. It was worth every dime of the $3,193 the City paid to fly him to Israel!
Again, he told KVIA in a written statement that the “business flight was the only thing paid for by the City,” but his expense report reveals that the City picked up $297.62 of his hotel tab plus $731 for “Meals & Incidental Expenses.”
CLAIMED TO BE “ACTING MAYOR OF EL PASO”
During his trip to Israel, Rep. Svarzbein represented himself as “Acting Mayor of El Paso” without anyone’s permission, much less Mayor Leeser’s.
The Mayor’s office told KVIA that Mayor Leeser “had no prior knowledge of the trip, […] nor did he ask former Representative Svarzbein to represent him.”
But that did not stop Svarzbein from listing himself as “Acting Mayor of El Paso” on the conference agenda and from pretending to be “Acting Mayor” during his panel, as you can see in this video of his comments:
It is interesting that Misi Kabanda of Uganda began her remarks by telling the audience that she is not a mayor, as if she were not at the same level as the illustrious Peter Svarzbein.
Apparently our District 1 City rep thought no one was watching.
JOKES ABOUT NOBODY LIKING TAXES
In his comments during his panel, Svarzbein laughingly declared that no country likes taxes.
He’s a funny guy.
What is not so funny is that he voted to raise ours five times and issued $504.8 million in non-voter-approved debt. He also left us with a bankrupt streetcar system, TIRZ 13, numerous upside-down 380 agreements, and a whole range of insolvent capital improvement projects.
TRAVELED SEVEN TIMES IN 2022, SPENDING $12,201.56
In our previous post we reported that Rep. Svarzbein traveled four times in 2022, but we realized after examining both his expense reports and P-Card purchases that he actually traveled seven times and spent a total of $12,201.56 of his City discretionary funds, which were supposed to be for the benefit of his District 1 constituents. His trips were as follows:
March 24-26, Washington DC $1,708.10
July 6-8, Santa Fe, NM $759.58
September 21-24, San Jose, CA $1,113.93
October 9-15, San Diego, CA $2,381.64
November 1-2, Washington DC $1,343.40
November 15-18, Kansas City $1,701.85
December 5-9, Tel Aviv, Israel $3,193.06
CFO Robert Cortinas signed off on all seven travel requests and the resulting expense reports.
Not a single tangible benefit for the taxpayers of El Paso resulted from these seven voyages and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
After Svarzbein, Rep. Henry Rivera spent the second largest amount on travel in 2022: $5,924.36 for four trips, less than half of what Svarzbein spent. The Mayor and other reps spent even less.
Thank you Rep. Kennedy for your continuing probe of excessive and unwarranted City Council expenditures.