Monday, July 27, 2015

More Sardonic Humor from the "Papers and Trash" Blog

Brownsville Police Department Now Hiring. Join Our Family!

Eduardo Pez Martinez Visits Family in Austin

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Public Information Officer~Release, Block or Spin?

District Attorney's Office PIO, Melissa (Zamora) Landin,
Adorned by Sunflower
Former Texas Attorney General, current Governor Greg Abbott, addresses his fellow Texans in the 2014 Public Information Law Handbook:  

"This notion of openness is the foundation for Texas open government laws, and it was the motivation for the enactment of the Public Information Act (PIA) more than four decades ago. The PIA enshrines Texans’ right to access the information that governmental bodies produce—and outlines the process by which the public can request that information and how governmental bodies should respond."

The dearth of information published in the Brownsville Herald about corruption, ineptitude and cronyism within City of Brownsville and Cameron County government only adds value to the Public Information Act as a vehicle to find out what's going on. With this story we will detail some of the public information options Brownsville citizens have used to gain access to information about city and county government.

For years, City Secretary Estela Von Hatten handled Public Information requests expeditiously, although our final request just before her resignation to ascertain the usage of the $11,296 left over from the $48,986.98 of taxpayer, ratepayer and Tourist Bureau monies spent on Tony Martinez' 2013 State of the City event went unfulfilled.  We suspect our arrogant mayor simply ignored the request.  The Brownsville Herald did report his last comments on that eleven thousand dollar balance:

“It’s going to stay there, for right now,” he said, suggesting it might be used for sustainability efforts, but noting that it ultimately will go where it will make the greatest impact. “We’ll need to prioritize a little bit. It doesn’t go a long way if you spread it out.”

As we've reported on this blog, new City Secretary Michael L. Lopez has been equally gracious so far in responding to public information requests.  An excerpt from our MMB story in May:

"Seeking some answers, my grandson Jack and I approached the clerk window at the City Secretary's office Monday morning to request an "inspection" of Rick Longoria's 2015 Campaign Finance Reports. In short order we were invited inside the cubicle to City Secretary Micheal L. Lopez' office. We were directed to a table adjacent to the secretary's desk displaying the documents. I photographed each sheet, thanked Mr. Lopez and his office for their courtesy and left."

Drue Brown, BISD Public
Information Officer
Drue Brown, BISD's Public Information Officer, has responded to all our requests. Typically, we've received a hard copy answer within ten business days in the form of a letter from BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas.  

One request, for the two reports on three BISD bus fires, was denied, but just days after we forwarded a copy of our challenge to the Attorney General Greg Abbott, we received copies of the report. 
Salinas did not even wait for the AG's opinion.

Below is a copy of our letter to the Texas Attorney General:

Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Texas Attorney General
300 W. 15th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Dear General Abbott:

My Public Information Request to the Brownsville Independent School District No. 7630 has been forwarded to your office for a ruling.

My request was to receive copies of two reports regarding the cause or causes of two BISD school bus fires within a single week in October 2013 involving 30 and 29 students respectively. One report was prepared by an independent team hired by theInternational Corporation, Navistar, the manufacturer of the buses involved. The other report was prepared by an independent inspector or inspection team hired by BISD.

Ten business days after my request I received a letter from BISD Staff Attorney Miguel Salinas informing me of that an Attorney General opinion was being sought. Fifteen business days after my request I received a letter citing the Litigation Exception from the Texas Government Code as a suggested basis for not granting my request.

In the DISCUSSION section of the second letter dated June 18, 2014, Staff Attorney Salinas mentions the two October fires and yet another fire, April 10, 2013. Then Salinas states: "First, Litigation had been contemplated since the November 2014 draft report(I assume he meant November 2013) was received and long before the subject request of May 29, 2014. Secondly the information at issue is intricately and specifically linked to the contemplated litigation."

With all due respect, "contemplated litigation" could be used to deny every single Public Information Request. Obviously, no litigation has actually been initiated, not with regard to the two October 2013 school bus fires, not the earlier April 2013 fire. BISD has released no information reassuring parents or taxpayers that correction action has been taken to prevent recurrence.


Jim Barton 

A few days after sending the above letter, we received certified mail from BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas with a cover letter stating that BISD had withdrawn their challenge to our Public Information Request and copies of the two reports.  

Former City of Brownsville Public Information
Officer, Patty Gonzalez
Accidentally, we learned about a change in the way information was dispensed by the City of Brownsville.  We were in the former office of Heritage Officer/Downtown Director/Movie Guru Peter Goodman.  Peter hinted at some prospective developments with the old Stegman Building on East 11th Street.  When I asked a few questions, he picked up the phone and dialed someone in the city, then came back to me in conversation.
"Jim, we have a new policy," Peter stated.  "From now on all information on city projects comes through our new Public Information Officer, Patty Gonzalez.  Here is her number."

That was the first I'd heard about Gonzalez, although I did call her number a couple times after that.  Her actual role as a spinmeister became very obvious before the hearing at Tony Gonzalez Park about the proposed sale of Lincoln Park.  Young Ms. Gonzalez totally twisted the legal necessity of the public hearing from "whether or not to sell Lincoln Park" into "what amenities would you like to see in the new, relocated Lincoln Park?"  Admittedly, that was not her idea.  Yet, it was a total sham, nearly as much so as Commissioner Rick Longoria's narration of a not-so-slick video detailing P.U.B.'s odor control capabilities that would be utilized on the new Lincoln Park adjacent to a sewer treatment plant.  Both efforts stunk to high heaven.  Gonzalez has since moved on. Unfortunately, Rick is still with us.  Lol!

Like his predecessor, Armando Villalobos, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, felt the need for someone to chronicle his accomplishments and goals, hiring former City Commissioner Melissa (Zamora) Landin.  Press releases, written by Landin, were sent to media sources within and outside Cameron County.  Our request to be included in that list was met by the stiff upper arm of Saenz/Landin.  Here is the response to our request:  

Good morning,

It is the policy of the DA’s Office to not include bloggers on the official media distribution list. However, all press released are available to the public via the DA Web site which are immediately posted upon distribution. I re-designed the DA Web site early last year to make it user-friendly. Prior to January 2013, press releases were not posted and much of the information now available on our Web site was unavailable.

Below is a list of media outlets I e-mail press releases to:
The Brownsville Herald
The Valley Morning Star
The Monitor
San Benito News
La Feria News
Los Fresnos News
Rio Hondo News
Port Isabel Press
The Collegian
The Raymondville Chronicle
Edinburg Review
Houston Chronicle
San Antonio Express News
The Associate Press
El Bravo
Periodico Expreso
Periodico El Manana
KVEO News Center 23
Ch. 4 (CBS)
Ch. 5 (ABC)
Fox (RGV)
My Leader News
My Harlingen News

Rio Grande Guardian

Thank you,

Melissa Zamora
Public Information Officer/Special Projects
Cameron County District Attorney’s Office
District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
(956) 550-1414

What was especially interesting about young Ms. Landin's explanation is that, while she claims that "bloggers" are not included in the official media distribution list, she includes two Harlingen blogs, My Leader News and My Harlingen News, written by Jerry Deal and Tony Chapa respectively.  It's not that the "press releases" written by Ms. Landin would be of any substance, but it's simply nauseating and juvenile that the Saenz office would seek to control the flow of information in that way.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Running for 2016 Since 2012~"The Art of Self-Promotion" by Luis V. Saenz

Reminding us of the Texas colloquialism "all hat, no cattle," District Attorney Luis V. Saenz never did quite "cut off the head of the snake" of Cameron County political corruption as promised by his 2012 Campaign Manager Zeke Silva.

If that snake's head were indeed Ernie Hernandez, Saenz issued wrist slaps softer than a feather duster while Ernie's underling, Raul Salazar, appears headed to jail for his part in illegally getting a job for Ernie's brother-in-law.

Saenz craves publicity, but only the controlled, sanitized species issued through mouthpiece Melissa (Zamora) Landin, praising his accomplishments, stopping just short of a nomination for sainthood.

Bishop Daniel Flores
The PR surrounding Operation Bishop, a blitzkrieg fueled by Bishop Daniel Flores lament that the 8-liners were drying up Catholic collection plates, gave the operation the look and feel of General Eisenhower's tactics at the beach of Normandy.  The actual depth or shallowness of Saenz' commitment to eradicating the sin of gambling is illustrated in the sale of the gambling devices, allowing them to resurface in Starr County to destroy churches one hundred miles away.  Ironically, some of the monies recovered may have been used to pay Landin's unbudgeted cheerleader salary.

Saenz Peers at his Milk Cow, Amit Li
Former fugitive Amit Livingston must feel like a prized Guernsey, as frequently as Saenz has milked the story of his on/off extradition.  Until recently, only two or three Google alerts have detailed any developments in the Livingston case over several years, none mentioning a Saenz involvement in the extradition process.  As reported by El Rrun Rruns' Juan Montoya, DA Saenz flew to Houston to board Amit Livingston's plane, opportunistically maximizing the PR.  Saenz was there to "steady the Ark of the Covenant," should the prisoner transfer between the marshalls and the Cameron County Sheriff's department wobble or falter.  At the subsequent Saenz press conference following the transfer, the district attorney, flanked by huge information cards, detailing the time line of developments, took credit for the process.

Melissa (Zamora) Landin
There is no need for Luis Saenz to announce his candidacy for 2016.  He's been running 24/7 since 2012, using the trappings of his office and a loquacious Public Information Officer squeezed into the budget.

More Satire from "Papers and Trash" Blog

"All You Young Black Men, Pull Up Your Pants!"
Helping Out in Brownsville

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dr. Lily F. Tercero, President of Texas Southmost College: After the Honeymoon

Dr. Lily F. Tercero, a bean counter or Chief Financial Officer for Alamo Community College in San Antonio, was hired in 2012 as President of Texas Southmost College.

The cautious, but extended grace period given Tercero came largely because she was not Juliet Garcia, whose cost overruns and grandiosity at the helm of what was the University of Texas at Brownsville will oppress Brownsville taxpayers and their offspring until 2034.

Tercero, as leader of the stand alone community college, TSC, has been a dud.  Few fault her work ethic, but see her as a workaholic without vision.

Tercero's connection and allegiance to Dr. Leonardo de la Garza, formerly of Dynamic Campus, is unethical and likely illegal.  Old crony Leonardo has racked up over $200,000 in consulting fees from TSC, while helping steer over $10,000,000 of business to his old firm, Dynamic Campus.  The resulting E-book technology has not been well received by students, being not only expensive, but reminiscent of the English used in maintenance manuals for Japanese motorcycles.

Complaints of a "brain drain," with skilled faculty departing TSC have been attributed to micromanagement by a so-called "slave driver."  Sour grapes?  Possibly.  Only those actually in the trenches can assess the current morale, but there are whispers of discontent and Tercero sets the tone.

Tercero's current contract extends through 2016 with an annual salary of $210,000.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In the Spirit of Charles Stillman, We Present IBC's Fred Rusteberg, Brownsville Opportunist

In the pole position for the race to develop the FM 550 industrial corridor and to reap short-term profits by scattering polluting liquefied natural gas plants from the the Port of Brownsville to the city limits of Port Isabel is IBC's congenial president, Fred Rusteberg.

While my eleven year old checks read International Bank of Commerce, Rusteberg's IBC is not actually an international bank.  It does not even have any branches in Mexico, let alone any other country.  It is essentially a Texas outfit with two small branches in Oklahoma. This reality may have spurred the bank's name change to International Bancshares Corporation.  The corporation's website refers to "generations" of depositors in Mexico and "relationships with prominent correspondent banks in Mexico." Read into that what you will.

If IBC is the financial engine for Rusteberg's ambition, United Brownsville, a behind-the-scenes, unelected, but actually Brownsville's real City Commission, once declared as "informal," by City Attorney Mark Sossi, not bound by requirements of the Public Information Act, is the control mechanism used by Rusteberg and his cronies, Carlos Marin and Juliet Garcia, to organize and profit from industrial development in the region.

Rusteberg, Marin and Garcia couldn't ask for a more pliant, cooperative and subservient City Commission.  At a City Commission meeting March 4, 2014, the commission yielded control of the industrial corridor to Imagina Matamoros (a copycat of United Brownsville), the damn City of Harlingen and, of course, United Brownsville in a resolution:

"Consideration and ACTION on Resolution Number 2014-034, in support of the creation of a Bioned(sic) Coordinating Board to be made up by Equal Representation from United Brownsville, Imagina Matamoros, and the City of Harlingen in order to promote and plan the development of the Bi-Ned Zone. (Commissioners D. Portillo/R. Gowen)"

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Caricature of Oscar Garcia, Jr., Brownsville's Poster Boy for Nepotism

Oscar Garcia, Jr.
From the editor:  The caricature to the left is Nena's second effort since her late October stroke.   She's not totally happy with it and will likely try doing the next one outdoors where "there is more light."  

Anyone else would pinch themselves on the hour, every hour, but little Oscar just plays the role, acting as if he knows what he's doing in his latest job procured by his mommy, Juliet V. Garcia, the former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville.

While his resume' may not include a paper route, it does cover his tenure as "Operations Manager" of Carlos Marin's Su Clinica Familar, service on the Brownsville Public Utilities Board and now Project Director for Jacob's Engineering's Phase 1 in delineating where prospective industries will be located on the FM 550 industrial corridor.  

The Greater Brownsville Improvement Corporation awarded Jacob's Engineering $180,000 for the first phase of implementing of the Greater Brownsville Infrastructure & Development Plan purchased for $434,592.08 from Robin McCaffrey's Needham, McCaffrey and Associates, Inc.  Jason Hilts explained that Jacob's Engineering was the only firm to bid on implementing the expensive plan and that their Project Manager would be none other than Oscar Garcia, Jr.  Hilts introduced Oscar to the board.

Actually, young Oscar displayed some nerve even showing his face in front of the GBIC board since the fledgling medical supply company, for which the board had fronted him $250,000, had gone belly up.

None of that matters in Brownsville when you're the son or daughter of one of the city's behind-the-scenes puppet masters.  As Jason Hilts explained:  "We didn't hire Mr. Garcia.  We retained Jacob's Engineering whose Project Manager happens to be Mr. Garcia."  How's that for circular reasoning?

Republican Presidential Candidate Lashes Out Against Mexicans

"Mexicans are bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, murderers and some, I assume, are good people."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Random Tidbits About the Confederate Flag, Slavery, Racism

Man's historical inhumanity to man has come to be represented by symbols, icons, graphics and art, fabricated in cloth, formed from metals or painted on canvas.  The beauty or ugliness of these symbols remains in the eye of the beholder with vociferous arguments on both sides reflecting clear differences in perception.

The Confederate States of America, eventually including thirteen southern former states of the United States of America south of the so-called Mason-Dixon line, were represented by three different flags from 1861-1865, representations of which are still incorporated in the flags of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, while hinted at in the state flag of Arkansas.  Recently, at funeral services for the nine murder victims at a South Carolina church, President Barack Obama described the confederate flag as “a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation”

The President was referring to the abhorrent practice of slavery, common in the United States since colonial days, wrongfully assumed to be the principal issue of the Civil War.  Then President Abraham Lincoln, in an 1862 letter to New York Tribune Editor Horace Greely, explained the real reason for that war:

"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views."

Lincoln's mumbo-jumbo not withstanding, the 400 year practice of Africans selling Africans into western hemisphere slavery, providing the economic engine for cotton and other agricultural crops is a huge blemish on humankind.  The purchase of slaves and their continued servitude by affluent Americans is a national disgrace and a perversion of Constitutional values hypocritically embraced.

Descendents of Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings in 1999
Many, many of the so-called founding fathers owned slaves, including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, John Jay, James Madison, George Washington and, of course, Thomas Jefferson.  Thomas Jefferson is claimed to have fathered six children with his slave, Sally Hemings.  Their descendants posed for the picture at the left in 1999.  

For those enslaved and those born into such slavery in the United States, the Confederacy and its flag came to symbolize their slavery, their misery, their oppression.  Otherwise liberal Southern whites countered by saying that the Confederate flag simply represented Southern heritage, Southern culture, not realizing that blacks with Southern ancestries just as lengthy were not included in that heritage or culture.  

In 1970, Neil Young, a rock 'n roller from Canada, released the song, Southern Man, clearly aimed at racism in the United States:

Southern Man

Southern man
Better keep your head
Don't forget
What your good book said
Southern change
Gonna come at last
Now your crosses
Are burning fast
Southern man

I saw cotton
And I saw black
Tall white mansions
And little shacks.
Southern man
When will you
Pay them back?
I heard screamin'
And bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

After Young followed up with another anti-racist tune, Alabama, a southern blues/rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, issued a musical response of their own, Sweet Home Alabama.  Here are the pertinent, mock-argument lyrics:

Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her
Well, I heard ol' Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the governor, boo boo boo
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brownsville City Commission Meeting, June 16, 2015

Cesar de Leon's Opportunity, Tony's Freefall, United Brownsville's Greed

"If a dog's gonna bite, he'll bite you as a pup."

Former UT Coach Darrell Royal

City Commissioner At Large "A" Cesar de Leon
By now, personable, young Cesar de Leon has been told that he's the only candidate in the recent city elections to achieve elective office with anything resembling a "mandate." Cesar garnered 4,335 votes or 54% in a four man race for City Commissioner At Large "A," far eclipsing the mayor, who merely qualified for a runoff with 43% of the vote.

The empowerment of such a plurality can be easily squandered with a tepid, hesitant start as a City Commissioner.  In 2011, John Villarreal and Estela Chavez-Vasquez both deferred to Tony Martinez in their first City Commission meeting, relinquishing representation for their districts on city boards.  Neither commissioner ever recovered from that weakest of starts, simply filling a seat in their tenure without contributing anything of substance.  Rumor has it that Villarreal is still on the City Commission.

De Leon must come out of the gate prepared, articulate, protecting the people's interests.  Sponsoring agenda items to restore the broadcast of public comment and take the transfer of Lincoln Park off the table would be a brilliant, opportunistic move.  If Abraham Galonsky calls, De Leon should take the call, just as he should for another other constituent, but Cesar must demonstrate he's putting the people first, not Galonsky.  Abraham's $1,000 campaign contribution can always be returned.

Mayor Tony Martinez
Brownsville's biggest loser in the city elections is Tony Martinez, who did manage to overcome Pat Ahumada in the runoff, but appeared haggard, desperate, insecure in doing so. While Martinez initially tried to soar "above the fray" with spiffy ads from the Austin ad agency, Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc., his campaign deteriorated into groveling for votes in adult day care facilities, attack ads and general pandering.  Did he turn his campaign over to Herminia Becerra and her niece, Sylvia Garza-Perez? 

While the City Commission sleeps, UT is purchasing the stinky land next to the sewer plant, preparing to exchange it for Lincoln Park while adding the agreed upon monies for the "amenities."  

Meanwhile, the unelected board now controlling development of the FM 550 industrial corridor, United Brownsville, has posted the agenda for their Wednesday noon meeting at Fred Rusteberg's IBC Bank.  The primary agenda item is succinctly worded:  "LNG."  There is some urgency to get 5 liquefied natural gas plants up and running from the Port of Brownsville to Port Isabel.  The primary customers, Russia and China, are said to be only 5 years away from having their own LPG plants.  This whole mess is essentially short term profiteering with long range effects on the environment.   

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Economic Necessity Drives Actual Recycling in Brownsville, While the City-Mandated Version Flops

The man pictured above, who appears to be in his fifties or sixties, gingerly scales a Brownsville dumpster in search of recyclable cardboard, something he and countless others do daily in this, the poorest city in the United States.

Scrappers, as they are called locally, comb every alley, every dumpster in the city nightly, in search of U.S. or Chinese cardboard, wooden pallets, aluminum cans, iron or anything the scrap yards will buy.

It is a living, albeit a hard one.  

Newcomer Spends Election Day Along Paredes Line Road Near Wendy's

Under threatening Election Day skies, a visitor from Dallas stood stoically, proudly, almost defiantly, just off Paredes Line Road, near Wendy's Hamburgers.  Dressed in a blue bedsheet, perfectly tailored at the shoulders, with an upside down,  blue-handled serving spoon attached chest-high, the man appeared as if an extra in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.  He looked incredibly Biblical.

"Hi.  I'm Jim.  May I ask your name?" I said, introducing myself.

"I'm Carl," was the softspoken response.

"Well, Carl.  I'm intrigued by your outfit.  Are you portraying Moses or some Biblical character?" I asked.

"Oh, no."

Well, where are you from, Carl?  I asked.


What made you come to Brownsville? 

"I came with some friends."

"How do you like Brownsville?  I know it's hot."

"It was hot in Dallas, too.  I try to dress for the heat."  

"By the way, Carl, what is the purpose or the meaning of the spoon?" I asked.

"It's just for decoration," Carl replied.

When I got back to the car, my son said:  "That's the same man that was naked along the Interstate a couple days ago.  Why don't you give him a couple dollars?  It's hard living on the street."

"Carl, I don't want to insult you, but, here's a little something for your needs," I stated before returning back to my air-conditioned vehicle.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Has the Brownsville Mayoral Election Been Tainted, Corrupted by Election Clerk Ceci Rosas?

Election Clerk Ceci Rosas Apparently Violating Oath
The Texas Election Code, designed to protect the integrity of elections conducted in the State of Texas, provides for this oath to be administered to Election Judges and Election Clerks:

“I swear (or affirm) that I will not in any manner request or seek to persuade or induce any voter to vote for or against any candidate or measure to be voted on, and that I will faithfully perform my duty as an officer of the election and guard the purity of the election.” “I swear (or affirm) that I will not suggest, by word, sign, or gesture, how the voter should vote; I will confine my assistance to answering the voter’s questions, to stating propositions on the ballot, and to naming candidates and, if listed, their political parties; I will prepare the voter ’s ballot as the voter directs; and I am not the voter’s employer, an agent of the voter ’s employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union to which the voter belongs.”

Martinez, Mrs. Martinez, Election Clerk Rosas
The above oath was apparently violated by an Election Clerk serving during early voting at the Brownsville Public Library, Ceci Rosas, who is pictured above and to the left, holding a "Tony Martinez for Mayor" sign.

The unethical support of an election clerk working at the Brownsville Public Library could possibly explain harassment received by supporters of Pat Ahumada holding signs along Central Boulevard.  The Brownsville Police came out twice, once to investigate "loud music" emanating from Ahumada supporters and another call to respond to a complaint that Ahumada's natural voice, not enhanced by electronics, was "too loud."

Election Judge Arcellia Villolon Unethically Conferring
with Constable Candidate Abelardo Gomez and his
Compadre, Junior Andrade in 2012
Brownsville has a history of Election Judges and Clerks unethically working for campaigns, despite swearing in oaths to stay neutral.  In 2012, Election Judge Arcellia Villolan was observed conferring with candidates during voting hours at the Cameron Park polling location.  After Nena snapped the picture at the left Ms. Villolon called the Cameron County Sheriff's office and then Election Administrator Roger Ortiz. While the Sheriff's deputy never approached us, Ortiz threatened to have us arrested for "trespassing."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Larry Brown to Retire As Airport Director of Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport

From the editor:  Larry Brown, who has been with the City of Brownsville in various departments since 1973, will be retiring from his current position of Airport Director in July.  

We confirmed this with Public Information Director Patty Gonzalez, after being alerted to current City of Brownsville job listings which include the position of Airport Director.  Ms. Gonzalez was not certain if there would be a nationwide search for a new director, but promised a press release soon.

Below are current job listings from the City of Brownsville website which include the position of airport director:

Current Job Listings

Below is a list of the current openings with our company. Click on the job title to learn more about the opening.

Airport Director

Brownsville, TX USA
July 10, 2015
Full Time

Customer Service Specialist I

311 Police Operations
311A BPD Animal Control
Brownsville, TX  USA
June 11, 2015
Full Time

Traffic Control Warden

311 Police Operations
Brownsville, TX  USA
June 9, 2015
Part Time

Emergency Communications Operator

310-Police Operations
Brownsville, TX  USA
November 5, 2015
Full Time

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Broadcast Ban of Public Comments Hovers Like a Dark Cloud Over City's Participatory Democracy

City Attorney Mark Sossi Caricature by Nena Barton
Certainly, Argelia Miller had no idea of the far-reaching effects of her August 25, 2010 letter to City Manager Charlie Cabler about a $167,323 judgement awarded to City Attorney Mark Sossi' former employer, Willette & Guerra for theft of funds.  What Miller was upset about was that the City of Brownsville seemed to be paying off Sossi's debt by utilizing Sossi's old firm to represent the city in legal matters.

When this obviously compounded conflict of interest was later mentioned during the Public Comment section of a subsequent City Commission meeting, Sossi had heard enough and issued the ludicrous legal opinion to Mayor Pat Ahumada and the City Commission that the continued broadcast of public comments on City of Brownville's Channel 12 would make the city vulnerable to lawsuits.

Sossi knows a thing or two about lawsuits, being on the receiving end of, not only the Willette & Guerra judgement, but a $20,711.66 judgement from the Texas Workforce for stealing monies, a $100,000 lien from the Internal Revenue Service and two malpractice lawsuits from locals who wrongfully assumed a City Attorney might be someone to engage for personal legal matters.  In hindsight, perhaps the City of Brownsville should have considered a banishing of the City Attorney instead of banning the broadcast of public comment.  But, no, Sossi hangs on as a Tony Martinez lap dog, facilitating the mayor's backdoor deals on a $10,000 per month contract basis, also netting $5,000 per month from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation for a net of $180,000 annually.(Ironically, the payee for Sossi's payroll checks is The Good Government Firm.  Lol!)

A couple months into the Tony Martinez tenure as mayor, former City Commissioner Melissa Landin(Zamora) introduced an agenda item to consider rescinding the ban on the broadcast of public comment. Shocking those who thought they'd voted for a democratically-oriented mayor, Martinez voiced his opposition to lifting the ban:  "I'd like to continue doing things the way the previous administration did them. It's been working pretty good so far. I don't want to change that."

The former commissioner was set to introduce the agenda item to restore the broadcast, but behind the scenes Mayor Martinez and City Attorney had worked up a little surprise for Lindin. Sossi, who could never seem to find 15 minutes to work on an ethics code, something this city of 200,000 doesn't have, had spent all week working up his infamous pie chart to demonstrate to the City Commission audience how pulling the switch on the broadcast of public comment had actually enhanced representative democracy, not stifled and choked the life out of it.  Here is our reporting of the incident from 2011:

"Melissa Hernandez-Zamora seemed dumbstruck when City Attorney Sossi stood up to give opposition testimony concerning the broadcast of public comment item she had placed on the agenda. It was obvious that Commissioner Zamora had not been advised of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Mayor Martinez and his eager cohort Sossi. Sossi, afterall, had the most to lose from public comment broadcast since it was comments about his questionable ethics that triggered the ban in the first place. As Zamora got her bearings, Martinez waved Sossi the "go ahead". Sossi made no attempt in his feeble, highschoolish power point to express a legal opinion. There was no mention of free speech, the first amendment, the constitution or even the phony liability issues he has pretended previously. Those might have been worthy legal issues. Instead he expressed only viewpoints, unscientific at best, but most likely simply wrong. With a straight face he used a pie chart to illustrate the greater "diversity" of commenters since the ban, not even having the honesty to acknowledge that many of those new participants were speaking out against the anti-democratic ban. He also railed against grandstanding as he grandstanded."

Tony Martinez was once heard bragging to a commissioner after a City Commission meeting:  "I told you I could get this thing done in 45 minutes."  That is not what conducting the city's business should be all about, rushing things through without discussion. Agenda items that involve the hard-earned tax dollars of Brownsville's citizens should be carefully, judiciously considered. Commissioners need to come to City Commission meetings prepared to discuss each agenda point intelligently, articulately.

In a city where 10% of registered voters actually vote, our city needs more participatory democracy, not less.  The broadcast of public comment should not only be restored, but enlarged.  Our city needs, not only Robert Uresti and Letty Perez-Garzoria speaking up with ideas, but also Teresa Saldivar, Trey Mendez, Dennis Sanchez, Daniel Lenz, Abraham Galonsky, Larry Jokl, Craig Grove, Peter Zavaleta, Tony Zavaleta, Dino Chavez, Laura Miniel and others. Expand the session to 30 minutes.  Martinez can TIVO Boston Legal.  Hopefully,  someone who actually "believes in Brownsville" will have the intestinal fortitude to introduce this matter.  Cesar??????

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Apathy, Low Voter Turnout, Weak News Coverage All Benefit Tony Martinez

Caricature by Nena Barton
The 10% or fewer of registered voters who will likely vote in the June 13 runoff mayoral election include Tony's cronies at United Brownsville, who have positioned themselves, despite being an "informal," unelected entity into the primary force, along with Imagina Matamoros and the City of Harlingen, into controlling development of the industrial corridor along FM 511/550.  Our braindead City Commission excluded themselves in a resolution yielding control of such highly profitable development in a resolution passed March 4, 2014, sponsored by Debbie Portillo and Rose Gowen:  

"Consideration and ACTION on Resolution Number 2014-034, in support of the creation of a Bioned(sic) Coordinating Board to be made up by Equal Representation from United Brownsville, Imagina Matamoros, and the City of Harlingen in order to promote and plan the development of the Bi-Ned Zone. (Commissioners D. Portillo/R. Gowen)"

La Casa del Nylon, purchased in 2012 for triple  its value,
$2,300,000, now sits idle, decaying, off the tax rolls
If the Tony Martinez victory party is assured, credit not only low voter participation, but also an uninformed electorate.  The voters should be livid about the resolution published above, the $3.5 million in downtown property, including La Casa del Nylon, foolishly purchased by the mayor and city commission for no good reason, the Lincoln Park con job, the 1/4 interest in an 800 megawatt power plant contracted in secret negotiations, that burden the P.U.B. ratepayers with $350,000,000 in increased rates to provide power for up to 5 liquefied natural gas plants stretching from the Port of Brownsville to Port Isabel, but they are not.  The majority of voters are simply unaware.

While voters have a personal responsibility to get informed on the issues, two Brownsville institutions have failed miserably in providing such information, the Brownsville Herald and the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Notice former Attorney General Herbert Brunell, Jr's description of the responsibilities of the free press guaranteed by the First Amendment:

"Our free press brings to light corruption, injustice, dishonesty, wrongs of every kind and description in all corners of the world. It is a bar to Star Chamber proceedings. It enables the people to know whether our system of justice is being administered honorably and impartially"

With respect to bringing "to light corruption, injustice, dishonesty, wrongs of every kind," the Brownsville Herald's performance falls well north of chickenshit, but not far south of morally reprehensible. The Herald has chosen again and again for decades to protect the corrupt politicos, the advertisers, ignoring the corruption and injustice crippling our town.  

Illustrative of the Brownsville Herald's utter failure is a letter to the editor just two days ago asking about La Casa del Nylon's sale to the City of Brownsville for triple its appraised value.  My God! The local blogs have been talking about this for THREE YEARS!  If the Brownsville Herald had done its job, the reader would have known the answer to his questions. Instead of fulfilling its First Amendment responsibilities, the Brownsville Herald has been functioning as an informal Public Information Officer for Tony Martinez, Juliet Garcia and United Brownsville.  Our local newspaper couldn't have been more quiet on official corruption had it been under control of the Soviet Glavlit.  All of Martinez' back door deals would have been so much more difficult to slip past the community with an active, diligent local newspaper.

Students taught at the former University of Texas at Brownsville have a history of zero participation or interest in local government. Candidate forums held at UTB draw zilch from the student body. Whatever the late Father Armand Matthew did to earn his salary at the so-called UTB Center for Civic Engagement did not result in any awareness on campus of local politics.  Walking through the campus to the Gran Salon or another venue for candidate forums, students never seemed to even know about the event despite the university having their email addresses.  When UTB's Mary Rose Cardenas Hall was used as a polling place among for 13,000 students it processed 151 voters during 61 hours of operation, 2.47 per hour.

While voter ignorance and apathy has given Martinez room to operate, a weak City Commission has acted as an enabler. Everything Martinez has done was with support, acquiescence or tolerance from the City Commission.  No one on the commission has successfully articulated a counterpoint to any of Tony's wasteful and foolish agenda.  Some have said that the release of the City Commission agenda on the Friday before Tuesday's meeting does not give the commissioner's time to prepare themselves.  They come to the meeting flat-footed, unprepared, unorganized, with nothing to say with only one week day to confer with city staff and learn the specifics of proposals.