Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Says "Good-Bye" to Board Chairman Daniel Lenz and Board Member Roman Perez

Daniel Lenz Makes a Point at Brownsville
Metro Advisory Board Meeting 1/28/15
Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairman Daniel Lenz announced his resignation from the board Wednesday night. Lenz, with 41 years experience in all phases of the bus industry, including 6 years on the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board, 4 years as chairman, stated:

"This is the best board I've ever served on and I've served on many boards.  My phone number will not change.  I will help in any way I can behind the scenes to improve bus service in this city.  Just call me."

Lenz, who sent his resignation letter to the City Commission January 27, will begin work for Thomas Bus Gulf Coast on Monday as New Bus Sales Representative for the south Texas region.

Roman Perez
Also resigning Wednesday, was Roman Perez with 4-1/2 years service on the board. Perez cited his campaign for City Commissioner, District 1, his professorship at the Harlingen outlet of Wayland University and his lay ministry at Christ the King Catholic Church in Southmost as making continued service on the board impossible.

Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora
Four agenda points in Wednesday's meeting were tabled simply because Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora did not make the effort.  Two Brownsville Metro employees, Transit Planner, Monica Tellam and Grant Writer/Outreach Manager Jonathan Mendoza were to be presented to the board, but Zamora forgot to invite them to the meeting.

Zamora also whiffed on the "Brownsville Metro Maintenance Quarterly Report for October through December," the "Ridership Statistics by Route" and the "New Freedom Sidewalk Enhancement Project Report." She excused herself by citing the press of "the holidays."

Brownsville Metro Assistant Director, the beleaguered Andrew Munoz, who seems to do the bulk of the work at Brownsville Metro, was ready with the "Update on the Parking Garage Project."

The project is 5-1/2 weeks behind because of intermittent rains delaying concrete on the first level. Rain will not effect floors 2, 3 and 4.  Brownsville Metro employees will be the garage's first priority with the general public rate per hour yet to be determined.  The project should be completed by mid-May.

(Photos by Nena Barton)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ricardo Longoria Jr. Meltdown, Possible Neece Retirement, Lincoln Park Revisited

We accept the human nature of political candidates developing a dislike for their opponent/opponents, but, in truth, they prefer not having an opponent, running unopposed.

Such a preference may have contributed to City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, Jr.'s apparent meltdown, confrontation and verbal clash with Municipal Judge Ben Neece.  If Longoria assumed, as
Attorney Michael Gonzalez, Candidate
for City Commissioner, District 1
reported, that Judge Neece was "running" a candidate, Attorney Michael Gonzalez, against Longoria for City Commissioner, District 1, Neece has maintained he is not promoting any candidate, a conflict of interest for a municipal judge.

Another young attorney, Cesar de Leon, also associated with Ben Neece's law office, greeted his supporters at Cobbleheads January 21.  Neece was nowhere to be seen.

A close associate of the judge mentioned this may be his last year as a municipal judge in Brownsville:

"When I came on, Ben said he wanted to serve 30 years.  He's done that.  Of course, what he decides is still up in the air."

Of course, incumbent Longoria already faces formidable opposition in Roman Perez, whom he defeated in 2011 by 140 votes. Since then, Perez has developed close ties with parishioners at Christ the King Catholic Church in Southmost and Valley Interfaith, largely over the issue of conveying the district's precious Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich University of Texas system.  Perez has been an outspoken opponent of that transfer.

Commissioner Longoria, while initially voting to convey the park, reversed his position after an outpouring of Southmost emotion at a public hearing at the Tony Gonzalez Gymnasium October 31.  The City of Brownsville voted in resolution to authorize negotiations to sell the park to UT for $6.5 million, well below market value. The city wants to relocate the park next to a water treatment(sewage) plant in Southmost.

Micheal Gonzalez, when asked if he would work to save Lincoln Park, stated the thought the deal was "under the hat," and mentioned his experience in having odorous areas cleansed.

Neece's close friend, Abraham Galonsky, spoke at the town hall hearing in favor of the transfer of Lincoln Park.  He owns and wishes to sell to the city a 30 acre tract next to the proposed relocation area of the park.

Cameron County Under Severe Gilberto Hinojosa Warning~Storms, High Winds, Destruction Anticipated

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mike, Change Your Campaign Signs and Push Cards Quickly, Before Bobby Wightman-Cervantes Sees Them

The campaign sign at the left was cut and pasted from Jerry Mchale's Brownsville Blues blog.(Jerry and Juan Montoya of El Rrun Rrun, sell political advertising space.  Bobby Wightman-Cervantes is also seeking such advertising.)

The illegality of the ad above is that it declares young Mr. Gonzalez to be the "Brownsville City Commissioner" for "District 1," when he is not.  That position has been held by Ricardo Longoria, Jr. for nearly 8 years. 

The ad should simply say "For" City Commissioner or "Candidate for" City Commissioner.  Mike is not yet actually a City Commissioner and the ad tends to mislead voters.

Falsely representing oneself on campaign materials as an elected official is a clear violation of the Texas Election Code 255.006 MISLEADING USE OF OFFICE TITLE.

Mike, a very personable young man, should check with his mentor, Ben Neece, and make the necessary corrections.

Please hurry before Bobby sees this!

Addendum:  Speaking with Mike this morning(Sunday), he relates that his push cards are correctly worded and that he's reaching out to Jerry to correct the ad on Brownsville Blues.

TSC Returning Korean Veterans, Charro Days, 1950's Including Pat Tamayo, Ruben M. Torres


Brownsville Debonairs Including Ruben Edelstein, Art Celaya, Ed Guerra and David Lloyd

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brownsville Embraces Youth, Optimism, the Unknown at Cobbleheads

Hello young lovers, whoever you are, 
I hope your troubles are few. 
All my good wishes go with you tonight, 
I've been in love like you. 
Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true

I know how it feels to have wings on your heels, 
And to fly down the street in a trance. 
You fly down a street on the chance that you meet, 
And you meet -- not really by chance.
"Hello, Young Lovers"
by Richard Rogers

A packed Cobbleheads audience January 21 heard 28 year old Cesar de Leon in three minutes, 4 seconds give his educational résumé, promise, if elected, an "open door" policy and to strengthen Brownsville's economy and infrastructure, while backing educational opportunities.  Cesar flipped yellow legal sheets from a pad over the podium as he described each segment of his life experience.

All of this was a bit anticlimactic, especially after a substantial buildup by several presenters, including the "Pledge of Allegiance" to both the United States and Texas' flags.

The broadest smile in the room likely belonged to Martin Sarkis, who, after first describing Cesar on my Facebook page as a "loyal friend," admitted to being his uncle.

While the first contributed dollar or organizational assist linked to Mayor Tony Martinez could kill Cesar's campaign, the attendees at Cobbleheads were likely responding to "new blood," a "nice young man." 

Cobbleheads owner Joe Kinney, for the first time, required those there for the political event to enter from the deck entrance, not mixing with bar patrons at the front entrance.  Nena and I arrived just in time for Cesar's speech, then left.

Former kidnap victim, now mayoral candidate, William Garza, worked the room, dressed in jeans and a flannel hunting shirt. Commissioners Jessica Tetreau and Ricardo Longoria, Jr. were there.

Brownsville is so family oriented that it gives double honor to those young ones who "make good," achieve academically, running for and winning office.  Nothing about that is life-changing, but it feels good.

Cesar de Leon, Candidate for City Commission At Large "A," Addresses Supporters at Cobbleheads, 1/21/15

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rose Gowen Chairs BCIC Board Meeting Illegally, Gets Angry When Things Don't Go Her Way

Rose Gowen
Rules simply do not apply to Rose Gowen. Her ego, her agenda transcends even the bi-laws of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, where her role as board member, board chairman legally ended December 31, 2014.  

When the BCIC reconvened for the first time in the new year, January 8, 2015, fellow former board members Jude Benavides and Blanca Perez-Moreno recognized their term of service had legally ended, did not participate in the meeting.  No so for Rose, who parked her hybrid in the City Commissioner-reserved free parking slot along E. 10th Street, made her way up to Human Resources on the 4th floor and assumed her role as BCIC chairperson illegally.

The City Commission has known for months that three terms on the BCIC would expire at the end of 2014 just as the term of Sylvia Berry on the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board would, but they dropped that ball by not caring for the appointment of new members in their December City Commission meetings.  Berry, Benavides and Perez-Moreno all accepted the legal termination.  Gowen did not.

San Fernando Building, Purchased by the
City of Brownsville in 2012 for $315,000
The driving force behind Gowen's unlawful appearance on the board was Agenda item #9:  Consideration and Action for the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) to consider the City of Brownsville request as follows:
*For the BCIC office/staff to be housed at the Historic San Fernando Building and
*To enter into an agreement with the City of Brownsville to contribute $225,000 toward the renovation of the Historic San Fernando Building and house the BCIC rent free for eight(8) years.

Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Brownsville
Redevelopment and Special Projects
Gowen and Martinez heyboy Ramiro Gonzalez presented the item in his newly created role as Director of Downtown Redevelopment and Special Projects.

Initial discussions found board member Elizabeth Hollmann favoring the idea, but when another board member suggested simply buying the San Fernando building from the city, Hollmann liked that idea as well.  The city purchased the historic building, that formerly housed La Movida, El Domino and Mary's Place cantinas, for $315,000 in 2012.  

With the discussion floundering, "Chairman" Gowen called for a simple motion to adopt the agenda item. Dead silence.  No board member made a motion.

A comment was made that this might be a matter for the "new" board to consider.  Gowen, visibly angered said:  "I can't believe this."

San Fernando's interior, showing decades of
paint colors(likely leaded)
A not very well kept secret is that Gowen wants to close the streets around Market Square to vehicle traffic, eliminate parking on one side of Adams Street for a bike lane, making the square a pedestrian mall, of sorts.  Pushing that agenda propelled her to ignore the expiration of her term as board chairman as dictated by the bi-laws.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tony Martinez or Pat Ahumada for Mayor? Pick Your Poison!

Tony Martinez
In April 2011 Tony Martinez told the small crowd, gathered at UTB's Gran Salon for a candidate forum, that the "top priority" of his administration would be to create a new ethics code.  The City of Brownsville's former ethic's code expired in 2006.

The purpose of such a code, enforced by penalties, is to prevent elected officials from actions that, while technically legal, represent a conflict of interest, give them or their friends an unfair advantage, allowing them to profit from their elected office.   After nearly four years in office, Martinez has not only failed to fulfill his promise of writing a new ethics code, but his administration has been anything but ethical.

Attorney Horacio Barrera
In 2012 Martinez pushed through the City Commission the purchase of La Casa del Nylon, a property on the market for 10 years, for triple its market value at $2,300,000.  The seller was Martinez' personal friend, Abraham Galonsky, the final purchase price negotiated by Martinez' law partner, Horacio Barrera. Solicited for legal work on the sale was Diane Dillard, the wife of U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, meaning at least three conflicts of interest on one transaction. 
Martinez' $2.3 Million Boondoggle,
Broken Windows Boarded Up
Showing total disdain for the taxpayers and voters who put him in office, Martinez, to this day, has never offered one word in explanation as to why the city needed Casa del Nylon or the other 12 downtown buildings included in a $3.5 million Certificate of Obligation put on the backs of the taxpayers for the next 20 years.  The building, like 11 other buildings, sits idle after 3 years, off the tax roles, serving no purpose. 

Also illustrative of Martinez' approach was in unethically tapping into the $3,060,000 AEP Texas refund for pet projects before stopped by the City Commission.  

Tony has been footloose and fancy free with taxpayer assets, treating them as if they were his own.  At various points, he's offered City Plaza to UTB, office space to Filemon Vela and Lincoln Park to the UT system.  His sworn oath as mayor was to protect and secure taxpayer assets, not squander them.  

Arrogance, back door deals with friends, ignoring the taxpayers while squandering their assets mark his administration.

Pat Ahumada
Noteworthy about Pat Ahumada's tenure as mayor is his difficulty in building a consensus. Pat brought forward ideas, not necessarily of his own origin, that had some validity.  The weir project, also a plan for El Jardin Hotel including financing, come to mind.

Pat himself would tell you that the City Commission opposed those concepts because they came from him. What does that tell you about his Dale Carnegie type skills, How to Make Friends and Influence People? Ideas can't be bullied through the City Commission.

How does a commissioner respond when the mayor publicly describes himself as "the quarterback" and the "City Commission" as "blocking linemen?" (Of course Tony Martinez circumvented the need for building consensus by buying commissioners, financing their campaigns.)

As for the character issues, Ahumada will simply say "show me the convictions."  Yes, it's conceivable he was trailed after drinking at local bars, set up at the border on a motorcycle without insurance and inspection, but the depositing of the check is worrisome.  Who of us does not know our bank balance at any given time?  Would you want someone serving as mayor who DID NOT instantly realize his account had $26,000 more than it should even as he left for a trip to Tampico?  This continues to be a character issue despite the acquittal.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mayoral Candidate William A. Garza Reported Kidnapping in 1998

William A. Garza
Here is what little I know about Mayoral candidate William A. Garza:  The personable Garza, a former City Commissioner, runs the Magnuson Inn for hotelier and Indian immigrant P.K. Patel.   Garza was Patel's campaign manager during his boss's run for City Commissioner in 2011.

Since a few people have shared with me an apocryphal version of an incident where Garza was found unclothed on a rural road outside Brownsville, I reprint the January 20, 1998 Brownsville Herald article detailing the incident:  

"A former Brownsville City Commissioner was kidnapped at knife point Sunday evening by two unidentified men, and later released in an isolated area without his clothes, police said.

According to Brownsville police, William Garza, currently a candidate for a seat on the Cameron County Commissioners Court, was roughed up but unhurt. Police gave the following account of the abduction:

Garza was campaigning near the 5600 block of Coffeeport Road and left his 1986 light yellow Chevrolet station wagon parked beside the road. When he returned to the car, he noticed two male Hispanics in their early 20s standing near the vehicle, and approached them. One man, who spoke English, asked him for a ride to Harlingen. When Garza refused to take the men anywhere, the second man pulled a long, skinny kitchen knife from his back pants pocket and pointed it at Garza's face. He grabbed Garza by the T­shirt he was wearing, and the first man then demanded the ride to Harlingen. After forcing Garza into the driver's seat, the two men got into the front seat and told him to start driving. While one man held the knife at Garza's upper right side, the other man directed him where to drive. At the intersection of Minnesota Avenue and East 14th Street, Garza was told to stop at the side of the road, allowing four more men to get into the back
seat of the car. The kidnappers then made Garza drive around some more until they ended up at a dirt road somewhere north of the Brownsville city limits. At this point, Garza was told to pull over and get out of the car. The men told him to take off his clothes, but Garza pleaded with them to let him go as he was. The group punched and kicked him to the ground, forced him to undress and left him at the side of the road wearing only his socks. The men took his watch and clothes and drove off, heading toward Los Fresnos.

Police said Garza stood in the bushes at the side of the road for an hour and a half. When he finally found a piece of cardboard to cover himself, Garza began waving to passing motorists to help him. Two female motorists who saw him later stopped at a gasoline station in Los Fresnos where they told a Cameron County deputy constable that a naked man had tried to wave them down on Paredes Line Road, two miles north of FM 511.
The deputy constable went to the site and found Garza, who reported the kidnapping to him.
The officer then notified the Brownsville Police Department, and they took over the investigation.

'The case is still under investigation,' said Police Lt. Orlando Rodriguez. 

'We are canvassing the area, but we have very few leads.'

The descriptions of the two Hispanic men are all that investigators have to work with, said Rodriguez. Garza was unable to get a good look at the four men in the back seat. Rodriguez said the car has not been found.

Garza, who is a candidate for the Precinct 2 seat on the Cameron County

Commissioner Court in the Democratic Party Primary election March 10, could not be reached for comment. He served one term on the Brownsville City Commission and was defeated in a reelection bid in 1991."

Friday, January 16, 2015

How Ahumada's Decision to Run for Mayor, Not City Commissioner, May Hurt the City

(KVEO Newscenter 23 Photo)
Handmade signs and solemn faces flanked Pat Ahumada at his mayoral candidacy announcement on the steps of the City Commission Building and downtown post office Friday morning.   This was a free venue, albeit a symbolic one.  Ahumada has done this enough to know he doesn't need to spend quinceanera money on an announcement. Ahumada's "Meet the Candidate" event will be Saturday at 4:00 PM at the home of TSC Trustee Raymond Hinojosa at 1805 Central Blvd.

Inside the postal lobby a long line of package senders, some with untaped boxes, an address on a scrap of paper, waited their turn to ask the postal clerk in Spanish, "How do I do this?"  USPS has this post office on the endangered list, likely being the only U.S. post office in a city of over 200,000 that closes for the lunch hour.

Ahumada announced for mayor after pretending to consider running for city commissioner.  The famous Ahumada quote of yesteryear that he was "the quarterback" and the commissioners were the "blocking linemen" illustrates why his ego would not allow him to pursue a "lesser" office.  Ahumada should watch more football.  Non-quarterback J.J. Watts of the Houston Texans may be a league MVP candidate.

Ahumada's decision to seek the mayorship, not simply serve as an independent voice on the City Commission may come back to hurt Brownsville.  An incumbent mayor, like Ahumada, who garners a mere 9% of the vote, must know he's been rejected for that position.  He was commonly perceived as a bully, not willing to listen to others.  Actually, he did listen, and argued and argued.  Good ideas like the weir project or a financing package for remodeling of the El Jardin Hotel were not supported because they came from Pat.

Yet, many have expressed their comfort level with having an actual adult voice, like Ahumada, on the City Commission to question the mayor's agenda when it ventures into self-serving and bad for the city. Ideally, Ahumada and Southmost's Roman Perez could have analyzed the suitability of every purchase, proposal or resolution from the standpoint of what's best for the city, putting facts out there to help the commission make better decisions.

Ricardo Longoria, Jr., perhaps the most loquacious of the youthful commissioners, has never had the intestinal fortitude to openly question the mayor and the skill to articulate an alternate position.  That would not have been a problem with Ahumada.  Jessica Tetreau fought the mayor by abstaining or voting "no," but could not engender a consensus among the commissioners.

A system of checks and balances with Ahumada and another independent voice will not occur. We will likely be stuck with Martinez for another four years as he runs over a weak, unprepared City Commission.