Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jesus B. Ochoa: In his own words

I met JB several years ago at the first Paso del Sur meeting after the Downtown Plan was proposed. Jesus is a Civil Rights attorney and Chicano activist. He’s intense. He’s intimidating. He’s also a respected community elder, and I really enjoy his company. Below are excerpts from my interview with him regarding the recall. Happy Easter/ Passover.


“Well I’m going to start backwards because the recall as you know is dead. Thanks to terribly silly opinion fron the 8th court of appeals in El Paso, which has long been regarded as the worst appellate court in the State, now they have gone a step further and I think they now will become known as the worst result-oriented court in the state. In other words they decide among themselves, “well this is the way it needs to go,” and then they write. Most appellate judges read the briefs and give the law clerks a little work and then they meet in conference. These judges don’t do that. What they do, I’m not aware of it. They effectively killed a democratic- democracy-inspired project, that really split the city, and personally, I have a daughter who doesn’t want to speak to me anymore from my first marriage, who’s 50, and she says to me, ‘Well, dad how can you side with those bigots?’ And I say, ‘Sweetheart, I’m not siding with the bigots, but if you believe in democracy and process what happened was a referendum was passed, the signatures were certified, and the city council voted, three to three was it, but Mayor Cook broke the tie. But it was a tie vote. Half of the council wanted to honor the results of the referendum. The other half said no. We can’t side with these people. Mayor Cook broke the tie, and the council amended the ordinance to affectively repeal the referendum and give benefits to gay people.'

“As the Federal District Court pointed out, the question of retirement benefits, and the question of police and firepeople’s union- these are matters of contract. The city has to honor those...

“Then the court pointed out- the court asked both parties to brief on the due process and equal protection question. Nobody did. So since nobody briefed, the court is bound, and here’s the deal. Cook likes to hide behind the thing that he is doing the right thing, okay. No, no. Revoking the will of the people is never the right thing…

“When the courts invite people to come in and brief on a question and people don’t- in my day, if the judge said, “Mr. Ochoa, I need briefing on this, I as a contiencious lawyer was duty-bound to follow the judges [recommendation]. Judges do that when they’re not sure. Okay.

“Let’s move on because you made an important point about public polls. Constitutional rights are not decided by public polls. And we fought a civil war over that question. We have a constitution and courts are duty-bound to obey. Which brings me to what the City could have done. Okay, in the legal world there are lawsuits that are styled, Jenni Burton ex rel City of El Paso v. Tom Brown. In that situation, what the city has done, what the United States government did during the Civil Rights years- the 60’s and 70’s when the situation is so blatant, the City would back a private citizen to sue. The ex rel means, Jenni Burton in relation to the City Council, blah, blah, blah, blah…That means that a gay person, say, and there are many that the city could have picked because they know who they are: a) we will help you with our legal resources, City Attorney’s office- you bring the lawsuit getting this thing declared unconstitutional. Attack the referendum. Attack Tom Brown and the Word of Life Ministries. It’s done every day, but these pendejos- I’m not too sure about the level of the skill in constitutional matters that the city attorney’s office. It has to be the pits, because that was a valid suggestion.

“The example I like to draw is, you know we’re trying to get El Segundo declared a historic district. Let’s go the referendum route. Let’s assume we do get the referendum passed, and the city decides, “What about that baby [the Plan proposal for a lifestyle center]. If we’re going on the merits of something you cannot be result oriented like this appellate court, like the city council. We don’t like what the people voted on, so to hell with them. It’s not right. In this one, it’s a black and white issue, you either believe in democracy or you don’t. I have yet to meet a lawyer, my good friend Enrique Moreno, who is in agreement with what the city did. And this crap about wanting to do the right thing- no, no, no no. Yes, everybody wants to do the right thing, but do it the right way. It’s divisive.

“I know, out of a couple of hundred thousand that are registered. That has been the problem forever. And we pay for what we get. I sometimes think that the politicians- Jesus- O’Rourke and Reyes. I wish there was a way both of them could lose.

“Let me tie you to a couple of specifics. What the court of appeals didn’t write about was the First Amendment. And the issue that was raised by these yo-yos, was look…

“The signatures were certified. Your signature is valid if you live where you say you live and you vote in the district where you’re supposed to vote. That’s it. How the signature was acquired was [CAN’T HEAR], but for this court to rule that a Church, and this was at the bottom of it, whether it’s the Wiccan church, the Catholic Church, the paegan church, the babosos at the Word of God or whatever…

“Do this on church property? We have something called the First Amendment. The state doesn’t muck around with Churches. And that is what the Supreme Court held with Citizen’s United. That Church’s are specifically exempt from State Law. This Court doesn’t say beans about it. They talk about- you know I don’t like the lawyers. They’re right wing ideologues, but they’re smart. They had their clients plead the fifth. Do you remember that?

“What more chilling effect on free speech can you have than if you’re pleading the fucking fifth? Well, “I’m not answering because I involved myself with church activities and you want to criminalize them? I’ll plead the fifth.” That’s called “chilling the right of free speech.”

“The Citizen’s United decision actually supports non-profits in what they do. The fact of the situation with Citizen’s United- Congress’ decision, as ___ always do, at issue was a very ugly video that had been done attacking Hillary Clinton. That was a brutal one. And the justices are very loathe to kill free speech. So they say, okay in this instance- and this is critical- in this instance, we’re going to say that the producers of this video have to make full disclosure of who did the video. In this opinion these pendejos say, look we’re going to require full disclosure. This isn’t about full disclosure. This is about criminal sanctions. See the difference? If you disobey state law, and I set up a little non-profit outfit, we need to have a treasurer, we need to raise more than $500. I can be criminally prosecuted. The people in Citizen’s United were not facing criminal prosecution. They were required to list the people who made the video. And the court held so the public would be informed. In this instance, who pushed the bullshit? Everybody in town who has eyes and ears knows that Tom Brown..[laughs]…

“Let me infer to this point. I am absolutely pro-gay. I’m pro-gay marriage. I have gone to their little church… I went to the National Coming Out Day at the little gay church… Down one block from the Mining [a gay bar]. There is a church. A little church building…

“It may be the LGBT resource center. But they do services there. And I went on National Coming Out Day and participated and got into a discussion with the lady who runs the resource center at UTEP, and had a hell of a time, and you know I’m very sympathetic when I hear a 60 year old man retired teacher- well, you don’t know how careful you have to be, blah blah blah. Not in response to him, but look. Things don’t come to you. Civil Rights cannot be taken for granted. They are fought for.

“If, in the 60’s the black people and the 70’s the Chicanos on the west coast had taken the position you all take, nothing would have been done. It costs. People go to jail. People are killed for their beliefs. And that said, I have a standing offer from to of the brightest lawyers in town- compadre, who’s my daughter’s godfather- a Presbyterian, Edward Dunbar who is council to the college, and Enrique Moreno, and if you can rustle up a couple of your [inaudible] who want to marry- let’s sue. That’s the way things are done.

“The heavy research is done. The California case [Federal Circuit court], if the Supremes can’t deal with it- it won’t come in my lifetime- it’s now established in law liberal and conservative- that marriage is a fundamental civil right. That being the case, it’s subject to strict scrutiny anytime there’s a complaint raised, and gay people, interracial people. If you wanna marry a dog- well, yeah let’s draw the line- but people can marry people. Marriage isn’t just about sex. That’s what bothers these goddamn judges. These gay men engaging in sex…

“My old age has been a topsy turvey thing. My daughters and I walked the precinct for Susie, backed Cook unabashedly. My oldest of the second set of kids- daughter stood in line for her first vote- we were very proud of her first vote. And suffered all kinds of insults because we were Obama backers, and Hillary…Will I vote for Obama? No. I have never felt so betrayed in all my life. We have a president who has claimed he has the authority to kill American citizens at home or abroad. That is bizarre. He’s supposed to have lectured in constitutional law at University of Chicago. I’m wondering what the hell Constitution he was using. But I think the man is a fraud. Maybe this country needs to be totally taken over by the nuts before people wake up and say, ‘Look, we need to fight this.’ I don’t know.

“And the same thing happened with Cook and Byrd and O’Rourke. And Veronica Escobar. My kid was one of her community scholars. My kid is bright. And when all the Downtown Plan thing was going on, the Almazan lady who was with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and Joyce Wilson, I think, but she had some pols go address her group. But my daughter, and another bright girl from Ysleta spoke up, ‘Are we going to hear the other side?’ And they replied, ‘No, the other side is misinformed. You don’t need to waste your time.’ And Micky said, ‘Miss Escobar, my daddy is not misinformed.’ And she [his daughter] can be a bit of a snob. ‘You can go to our house and there are book cases, and they are hard-covers. And my daddy has read them all. I don’t think you would read even half.’ And she said Veronica just went bonkers…

“Look, politics I think is sacred business of the people, okay? The arrogance is just beyond belief. She nominates herself for a seat of the council of governments. And because she’s a dominant, well-spoken force, yeah the court says ok.

“Yes, there’s a conflict. Look, I can separate the issues. What I can’t separate is that the council pays her a $100,000 a year salary, if I were a reporter…A couple of months after that they moved to a nice part of Memorial Park. You know, I’m a Mexican, and I just get sick and tired of the Mexicans who can’t keep their fingers out of the pie. Okay, that’s local. Susie- no, no, that’s a good plan. Talk about ‘your people’; ‘your people just don’t understand it.’ No, Susie- that’s the last time I chatted with her. About four or five months ago I was with a couple of friends and this mom in a black dress walks by and says, ‘Hi, Mr. Ochoa. I haven’t seen you in a long time.’ I look up and I go, ‘Hello.’ I’m at an age where I look up and I don’t know who the hell they are. You know. It’s dark. So my buddies say, ‘God almighty. You know that broad?’ I don’t know, who the hell is this. O sea la Byrd pendejo.’

“Yes, I’m in bed with a misogynist, son of a bitch, a fraudulent bastard, and I don’t feel comfortable. And he can come after my ass. But it’s the process I’m defending. It’s the process that knucklehead politicians have put in jeopardy- that have been taken advantage of by a charlatan. And every anti-gay asshole…I despise his people, but I defend the process, and the process is called democracy. It hurts, you know. It hurts to have a daughter that’s so pissed at me she won’t talk to me. How can I go to bed with that over me? How can I do this? And then my comadre [Alicia] Chacon says, ‘Oh, they’re kids. Even at 50 they’re kids.’ But comadre, it’s the process. It’s what we fought for. We fought racism through this. I’ve been in jail four times. In Texas. Because of my stuff for Civil Rights. I don’t regret a minute of it kid.”

Image via

This is why I don't let my kids act in local commercials...

Oh, Morris. Really? This?

Reyes Works -- Say No to Drugs -- from Silvestre Reyes on Vimeo.

I know you’re pretty straight-edge, but you know there’s a reason why ad agencies don’t piss test their employees. (If they started doing that they wouldn’t have any, amirite?) I don’t know, maybe they piss test people in accounts, but you catch my drift.

Yes, whiskey may have fueled the agencies of the 50’s and 60’s but I think, if you’ve seen any of the ads coming out of agencies like C, P + B, run by “young dynamic creatives”, you’d know damn well what today’s creative is fueled by.

Regardless, that’s a pretty reductive and (cough) childish way to handle an earnest plea for re-thinking US drug policy.

If you really want to get nasty, why not pull out the big gun? Huh? There are plenty of folks, Congressman Reyes included, that remember this little footnote in El Paso’s history of public malfeasance-

Rubbergate. Waaay back in 1983, Beto’s dad, Pat found himself in some hot water thanks to a condom found in his vehicle filled with a “mysterious off-white powder” that was later destroyed by Sheriff’s deputies. Chemical analyses were never able to be performed on the substance thanks to its destruction, and sheriff Willie Hill was suspended- his deputees indicted. Pat insisted that he was set up and agreed to take a lie-detector test for the Herald-Post, which he later backed out of.

I can all ready hear the script now.
















Or, you know, you could just stick to the real issues.