Vasquez refutes Crow’s claims he switched parties

No, despite what former Ector County GOP Chairwoman Tisha Crow’s husband suggested Tuesday night, Odessa City Councilman Gilbert Vasquez did not change his party affiliation.

“I’m a staunch Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,” Vasquez said minutes after Odessa Development Corporation Chairman Kris Crow presented him a copy of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s book, “God, Guns, Grits and Glory.”

Crow said he’d been going through the numbers from last March’s election and came to realize that the council is “100% Republican” for the first time in a long time.

“Councilman Vasquez, thank you so much for seeing the light. Welcome to the Republican side of the table,” Crow said.

Vasquez said he is absolutely positive Crow is well aware he only voted in the Republican primary for one reason.

“I only jumped the fence so that I could vote against his wife and all of the others that were causing so much trouble in this community for the Republican Party,” Vasquez said. “The majority of my friends are Republicans and we get along fine, but these people play dirty.”

Vasquez said he even posted Tisha Crow’s opponent’s sign in his front yard in the weeks leading up to the election. Donna Kelm defeated Tisha Crow by a vote of 4,954 to 3,775.

Vasquez said his phone started “blowing up” after Tuesday’s meeting, but he doesn’t think Crow’s comments will have any significant impact on his reputation.

“He was just trying to degrade me or I guess embarrass me or maybe even make me upset, but none of those things happened because my shield is my spirituality,” Vasquez said. “I let the Lord shield me from what I consider Satanic attacks on me as a person. We all get subjected to ugliness in this world and the Crows are living proof and (Odessa Development Corporation Vice Chairman) Jeff Russell is another one. These people profess to be Christians, but they’re really hypocrites and they don’t really live up to being Christians.”

In other matters, Odessa City Manager John Beckmeyer told the council he will soon be asking for nearly $25 million to address some of the city’s water infrastructure woes.

Beckmeyer said a strategic list of 171 water valves have been selected for replacement and such a project would cost $9 million. Replacing these valves, he said, would allow workers to isolate and replace other valves.

He reminded council members that many of the city’s major water line breaks have been exacerbated because workers could not isolate the breaks to work on them because of faulty valves.

Beckmeyer also told council members the city needs to replace two water lines at a cost of $14.5 million. The line on 42nd Street has twice now forced the city to shut off water to the entire city due to breaks, he said. The other line is on Lancaster.

“It’s imperative that we do this. I’m not asking for the money tonight, but I will be asking for some, matter of fact, maybe even at the budget meeting…We need to get started on this. The valves are critical. The lines are critical, but the valves are more of a critical nature because we can replace broken pieces of pipe all day long if they’re isolated and with very low impact to people and very little down time, but we can’t be shutting the city down every couple months. It’s just not practical.”

The city has 3,000 water valves, but it’s not practical to replace all of them at once, so the 171 were selected to start with, Beckmeyer said.

Also on Tuesday, the council voted to allow the Odessa Development Corporation to be part of a $2 million project with UTPB, Permian Strategic Partnership and the Midland Development Corporation that could help close workforce gaps.

According to materials provided to the council, the Permian Basin is going to need an extra 190,000 workers, including 38,000 people with bachelor’s degrees.

UTPB, the ODC Board, MDC and Permian Strategic Partnership think it would be a good idea to have ongoing statistical analyses done so they can identify gaps, figure out how to close the gaps and track their progress.

The cost of the two-year project will be roughly $2 million and ODC’s portion would be $819,060.

Also on Tuesday, the council:

• Accepted a 3.85 acre park that’s been developed by Leeco Properties and the Odessa Parks Foundation in the Desert Ridge subdivision.

• Signed off on a $2.1 million economic development performance agreement with Orrex Plastics.

• Passed an ordinance for the sale of old Fire Station No. 6 to Town and Country Drug.

The council also heard from Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke, who wants to amend the police department’s contract with Axon for an additional $90,000 a year for five years.

Gerke said that thanks to a software suite by Axon, the police department’s information center could soon receive real-time video surveillance footage from certain stores as crimes are being committed.

“Let’s say you get sent to an armed robbery at the DK at Fourth and Dixie. Well is it really an armed robbery? Does the suspect really have a handgun pointed at the clerk or did somebody walk in and steal a six pack of beer? The response is going to be totally different,” Gerke said. “So if DK so allows, they can share their video with us and we can, in real time send that video to the officer that’s responding and he’ll be able to respond accordingly.”

In addition, there are plenty of times when officers have passed by suspects on their way to a scene because they didn’t know that was the bad guy, Gerke said. Having access to footage could prevent that from happening.

Axon would actually have a team approach convenience store chains and HOAs to get them on board with sharing videos, Gerke said.