Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Do You Remember the $22,500 the City Commission Gave to the Chamber of Commerce for a Merchant Discount Program?

From the editor:  Nena and I were just talking about the merchant discount program to revitalize downtown business, wondering whatever became of it.  We saw the initial presentation by Chamber of Commerce President Maria Hall Joiner at the BCIC, then watched it introduced as an agenda item at the City Commission by Pete Gonzalez.  

Commissioner Debby Portillo was especially giddy about the program.  The City Commission agreed to spend $22,500.

We've heard very little about this so-called plan to grow local business in the last 18 months.  We suspected all along that it was a gimmick to increase Chamber of Commerce membership that had dwindled dramatically in the last few years.

Today, we received a comment from a former Chamber of Commerce intern, Angela Ruiz, that the program had been a total failure and that Maria Joiner Hall was no longer Chamber of Commerce President.  Here is Ms. Ruiz' note:

"Is it possible to impeach or recall Tony Martinez? Look I'm 24 years old and I'm already tired with the politics here in Brownsville. I don't agree on the Annova LNG and especially this money drainage from the City of Brownsville. Not alot of people know this but the city allowed 22,000 dollars of tax people's money to go into Vive Discount Program which was proposed by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. How do I know this? I use to be a intern at the Chamber and what I saw and heard is very unbelievable. The discount program is not a success because of 3 factors. Chamber members didn't really provided discounts (10-20% off purchases really?), the misused the money to get promotional items like Vive hand sanitizers and Vive Sunglasses, and the formal president insulted the potential members. I told her the people who are signing up during our events are low-income and we needed to market more to them. Vive was meant for the low-income families here in Brownsville, we are the poorest in the nation and she said she didn't want their business because they couldn't have cycling income. 22,000 thousand dollars..... of tax payers money. Its sad of what I saw behind the scenes and I might be getting in trouble saying this stuff for the first time but seeing how Brownsville is going to hell with LNG and mismanagement, I'm speaking out. I wish something was done. I wish there was an answer."

Angel Ruiz

Here is part of our original March 4, 2014 MMB article discussing the agenda item and City Commission decision:

"11. Consideration and ACTION to adopt budget amendment Resolution Number 2014-029, to amend the General Fund Budget by providing $22,200.00 funding for the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. (Pete Gonzalez – Deputy City Manager)

As Pete Gonzalez stepped up to present this item, he brought with him Chamber of Commerce President Maria Hall Joiner to present
a program to encourage shopping at Brownsville businesses. Nena and I had heard the presentation at a BCIC board meeting, but the public had not. It involves issuing I.D. cards to residents entitling them to discounts at Brownsville businesses. The cards are free to the customers, but the businesses must belong to the Chamber of Commerce to participate. The program is based on a similar program in Mission, named GoMission and is tentatively titled GoBrownsville. Its purpose is to increase sales tax revenue and bolster membership in the Chamber of Commerce, which, according to Joiner, has dipped from 1,600 to just 650 in the last ten years


Martinez stopped Pete Gonzalez from introducing Joiner to present the program simply because he had already heard it. He said if any commissioner had questions they could ask Joiner. But, that's not the point. The citizens, the taxpayers who will fund this program heard nothing. The whole point of a PUBLIC City Commission meeting is to conduct city business in PUBLIC. This concept is totally lost on Tony Martinez who desperately needs a course in Democracy 101. The timid commissioners approved the $22,500 funding without discussion, without a public outlining of the program, without a whimper.

Brownsville deserves better.

Issues Facing Longtime Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio As He Seeks Re-Election

Sheriff Omar Lucio
Every four years several men with law enforcement backgrounds don cowboy hats and run for sheriff in Cameron County.  Maybe they shouldn't; wear cowboy hats, that is.  I can't seem to find a picture of longtime incumbent Omar Lucio in a cowboy hat.

The first thing opponents say about the 84 year old incumbent is that "he's too old."  Reports circulated during the 2012 campaign that Lucio napped all day in a Lazy Boy recliner while the department was run by "the Reyna brothers."  Yet, those reports don't seem credible as in private conversation, the sheriff seems lucid, thoughtful, alert and knowledgeable.  Lucio also frequently appears on the local media, reporting on crimes, incidents and tragedies, always with a certain soft-spoken professionalism.

A better case for replacing Lucio would be his mollycoddling of top assistant Gus Reyna.  Here is our MMB report from September 2014:

"Reyna, accompanied by a close male friend, once employed by the sheriff's department, was driving a county vehicle, a 2011 Ford Expedition, when he reportedly collided with a vehicle driven by a 36 year old woman, also once employed by the sheriff's department. Neither operator reported the accident, as required by law in accidents with physical damage exceeding $500. Juan Montoya of El Rrun Rrun blog reported the damage to both vehicles exceeded $7,000. As a sheriff's department employee, Reyna is required to submit to a drug and alcohol screening within two hours of the accident."

Gus Reyna, backed by former
Human Resources Director Arnold Flores
A month or so later, Reyna was involved in another accident in a county vehicle, this time resulting in injuries.  Reportedly, he refused alcohol and drug testing.  Lucio handled both matters "in house" and, allegedly, Reyna checked himself into rehab.  With so many victims of those driving under the influence in this country, not to mention local sheriff's deputies apprehending private citizens who drive under the influence, how can the sheriff retain as his top aid someone who, not only drives under the influence, but ignores the rules for reporting accidents and property damage while driving county vehicles?

Another blight on the department under Lucio's tenure is is the revelation in April 2014 eight deputies had to be fired for cheating on their civil service exams.  Former Human Resources Director Arnold Flores also took heat in that fiasco.


Pastor Brad Wants Drainage, Tetreau Blasts Martinez During Public Hearing on Proposed Tax Rate Increase

Pastor Brad Burke
Give credit to Pastor Brad, who, despite his frequent role in supplicating God's blessing on City Commission meetings, is not afraid to voice his displeasure with decisions by city government.

Preacher Burke, the only one who spoke out during Tuesday's Public Hearing on raising the tax rate on Brownsville homeowners, addressed the commission:  

"I'm opposed to the tax rate increase, knowing several homeowners already facing the loss of their homes.  But, also, in view of the events of recent days, I suggest the commission table some project that doesn't have to be done this year and do something about the city's drainage problem."

Commissioner Rick Longoria interrupted Burke:

"Every time we have this discussion, people say; 'Don't raise taxes.'  We've already cut the salary in city departments by 5%. I could buy ten acres for a retention pond near Boca Chica and McDavid, but where does that money come from?"


Commissioner Jessica Tetreau
Just before the closing of the public hearing, Commissioner Tetreau was able to get in a quick dig at Mayor Martinez and his pliant City Commission:  

"We could do some of these things if we weren't wasting money on microchips and empty buildings."

Mayor Martinez, with an obvious grimace at Tetreau's remarks, closed the Public Hearing.

The mayor and the commissioners who voted with him to purchase a dozen downtown properties for $3,500,000 taxpayer monies, have NEVER explained the purchases to their constituents.  All but one of those buildings, still sit idle, off the tax rolls, deteriorating daily. One small building, the red brick structure at 7th and Ringgold was called into service as a secondary tourist office, but gets no tourist traffic.  How would tourists even find it as no signage exists along the interstate announcing its existence?

The flagship for this Tony Martinez boondoggle is La Casa del Nylon at 1304 E. Adams Street, purchased for $2,300,000, triple its appraised value, from Martinez crony Abraham Galonsky. Martinez law partner, Horacio Barrera, unethically "negotiated" the crummy deal.  Commissioner Longoria publicly described the purchase as "a great deal."

There is also the matter of the downtown mayor's office that Tony Martinez just had to have at 1101 A E. Washington Street.  The city leased the building for a year, used city crews to remodel it, but the mayor NEVER used it.

Pastor Brad and Tetreau are both correct.  The city has the money to address drainage if its elected leaders had their heads on straight. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Open Letter to All Public Officials Representing the Rio Grande Valley~by Alma Leal

Open Letter to All Public Officials Representing the Rio Grande Valley

Open Letter to All Public Officials
Representing the Rio Grande Valley
Subject: Oppose Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminals in the RGV


In the past few months, three Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) companies have present­ed their plans to build export terminals at the Port of Brownsville bordering Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge and the Bahia Grande. They have offered jobs and eco­nomic benefits in exchange for destroying our priceless natural resources that sus­tain jobs, wildlife habitats and corridors for endangered animal species, ecotourism, commercial and recreational fishing, safe communities and the very air we breathe.


I have been in an occupation that promotes jobs, careers and opportunities for students, but I draw the line on welcoming companies that have shown a total disregard and dis­respect for the people of The Rio Grande Valley. It is difficult to understand why these companies would even consider decimating environmentally sensitive areas that have placed us on the map as a vacation, sporting, bird watching, wildlife conservation, real estate and retirement destination. Our assets bring in millions of dollars. These companies are promising economic benefits; yet, Annova and perhaps others, are requesting a 10-year tax exemption, as if they need an incentive to build their destruc­tive terminals on the last coastal paradise available to them on the Texas coast. What happens if the companies fail? Who will be stuck with the economic burden to clean up the mess they created? The damage will be irreparable, and we will be stuck with a useless eyesore. Our tax rates are constantly increasing at all levels of government, but this billion dollar company wants to be exempt from paying taxes that we desper­ately need for services, schools, salaries, infrastructure and community development.


These companies brag about their safety record, but they cannot guarantee the safety of the citizens of Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Brownsville, Laguna Vista and all surrounding communities. Layers of security measures cannot prevent all possibility of catastrophic accidents that may lead to evacuations, explosions and destruction of lives and property. Every day, we are bombarded with news about disasters such as uncontrollable wildfires, floods, droughts, oil and chemical spills, deadly gas pipeline explosions, toxic spills into water ways, and other devastating events. I don’t want us to be a disaster statistic. Look up LNG accidents in the US, and read the Reuters ar­ticle on “Blast at U. S. LNG site casts spotlight on natural gas safety,” which describes an unexplained blast April 2014 at an LNG facility in Washington State. Workers were injured, the fear of a second more devastating explosion was averted, people were evacuated within a two-mile radius and some people were sickened by fumes. The article also cites a blast in 2004 at an Algerian LNG facility that killed 27 workers and injured 74. Are the risks worth it for the people of the Rio Grande Valley? Are the risks to our health, safety, quality of life, existing jobs and natural resources worth it?


Some public entities have announced support for LNG export terminals without having considered input from those of us who oppose these terminals, not because we want to restrict economic development, but because we care about the RGV and the safety of our communities, environment and natural resources that be­long to future generations. We are constituents and voters who are asking that you please consider all facets of LNG terminals that will have serious ramifications for the Rio Grande Valley. God has blessed us with valuable resources, and we have an obligation to be the stewards of those resources. Please join us in protecting our HOME and opposing LNG export terminals in the Rio Grande Valley. Thank you to the Laguna Madre Water District Board of Directors, the Port Isabel City Commission,and the South Padre Island Business Owners Association who passed resolutions opposing LNG terminals at the port. Your leadership and commitment to acting in the best interest of your community and the RGV are greatly appreciated.


Respectfully,
Alma G. Leal
Rancho Viejo, TX


Note: For more information, go to Facebook at SAVE RGV from LNG
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is accepting public comments

through September 4 regarding 3 LNG terminals to be located on the Brownsville Ship Chan­nel. To oppose LNG terminals, visit http://www/ferc.gov under “Documents and Filings” head­ing, look for FERC Online and Go to eComment and follow directions. Include FERC Docket numbers: Annova LNG (PF 15-15), Texas LNG (PF 15-14), Rio Grande LNG (PF 15-20).

"Annova LNG’s Tax Break Application Calls into Question Their Job Promises" by Jim Chapman



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


August 31, 2015


Contact: Jim Chapman,jchapmanrgv@gmail.com (956) 571-0545


BROWNSVILLE, Texas—Annova LNG has publicly claimed that the liquefied natural gas export terminal that it has proposed for the Brownsville Ship Channel will bring scores of high-paying jobs to an economically depressed region. But in documents that Annova filed with the state of Texas in an attempt to dramatically slash the taxes it will pay on its facilities, they paint a very different picture.


Over the summer Annova submitted an application for an Appraised Value Limitation under Chapter 313 of the Texas Economic Development Act, which would artificially cap the taxable value of their facility far below its actual value, significantly reducing the taxes that they will pay each year.[1] This is a state incentive program that is meant to “create new, high-paying jobs in this state” by luring companies that might otherwise go to another state.[2] (see excerpt from application attached)


In Annova’s application, their response to the question “What is the number of new qualifying jobs you are committing to create?”:



Ten.


The annual wage that they commit to pay those 10 employees? $36,197.72.


On the application Annova also commits to create 80 “non-qualifying” jobs. A non-qualifying job could be a contractor or vendor, or less than full-time, or a position paying less than qualifying jobs, but Annova does not provide any information about them.


Ten jobs, or even 90 jobs if you include non-qualifying jobs, fall far short of the number Annova has been promising as they try to win support from politicians, chambers of commerce and EDCs. And the salary they list on the application is half that of what they have been publicizing.


In fact, the very same month that Annova submitted its application for a tax break Annova’s president, David Chung, wrote in the Monitor that “once operational, the terminal would employ up to 165 workers at a base wage of $70,000.”[3]


“Annova tells us that this will be an employment bonanza when they need public support, but when they have to commit in writing, the number of promised new jobs drops to less than a Whataburger franchise,” says Stefanie Herweck of Save RGV from LNG, a broad coalition opposed to the projects. “The RGV needs real, sustainable jobs, not Annova’s smoke and mirrors.”


Under the Appraised Value Limitation and Tax Credit program Annova hopes to cap the taxable value of its $2.9 billion facility at $25 million, or less than 1% of the amount invested. Annova’s application packet includes a report on the benefits that they claim they will bring to the state, including, they say, $34,389,000 per year in state and local taxes. But in a footnote they admit that that figure does not take into account this massive reduction in the taxable value of their facility.


“The tax revenue that the Port Isabel School District loses out on from Annova will be paid instead through the Texas School Fund, meaning by all the taxpayers of Texas. Some call it an incentive, but it is really a shameless give-away of taxpayer dollars to a huge company that can well afford to pay its full taxes, just like the rest of us do. Why should we subsidize an industrial facility that will endanger our communities, pollute our air, and undermine our tourism economy?” asks Jim Chapman, Chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.


“Annova and the other LNG export terminals will be a huge blight, ruining the clear skies and natural beauty that are the drivers of our existing economy. Whether they create 10 jobs or 165, whether they pay their taxes or not, LNG is not worth the cost,” Save RGV from LNG’s Herweck asserted. “And if we cannot trust these companies to be honest, we would be fools to hitch the future of our communities, our children’s health and the world that they will grow up in, to their promises.”


The job numbers revelations come as the group Save RGV from LNG, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed the LNG complex, hosts a community meeting in McAllen today, Monday, August 31 at 6:00 pm at the Historic Cine El Rey Theatre, and as the Laguna Vista and South Padre Island city governments consider resolutions to oppose the LNG export terminal projects on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.


###


Save RGV from LNG is a coalition of Rio Grande Valley residents who have come together to oppose the construction of liquefied natural gas export terminals near Port Isabel and South Padre Island. For more information please visitwww.savergvfromlng.com


The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club works to preserve human health and the environment in south Texas from Laredo to South Padre Island. Please visitwww.valleygreenspace.blogspot.com


__________________________________


[1] Annova’s application can be viewed athttp://www.texasahead.org/tax_programs/chapter313/applicants/


[2] Chapter 313 of the Texas state tax code:http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/TX/htm/TX.313.htm


[3] David Chung. “Explaining LNG projects in Brownsville Port.“ The Monitor. June 24, 2015. http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/commentary-explaining-lng-projects-in-brownsville-port/article_9b48594c-193f-11e5-8be6-fb71c3391c36.html
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Community Groups Uniting in Opposition to LNG Plants at Port of Brownsville

Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Nigeria
for LNG Sales to Japan
While it may be too little and too late, several community groups in Cameron County have declared their opposition to the five proposed Liquefied Natural Gas plants to extend from the Port of Brownsville to near the city limits of Port Isabel.

Here are a few comments submitted to this blog:

Laguna Vista called a special meeting and is voting this Tuesday on a resolution to oppose the LNG terminals. They will be downwind from these monster pollution producers. The City of South Padre Island is voting this coming Wednesday on a resolution to oppose the LNG terminals. It would be great if all three cities vote to oppose the LNG terminals, that would prove that the LNG companies do not have community support like they claim they do.

Also, this comment:

On 08-25-2014, the Port Isabel City Commission voted to oppose LNG. David Robledo videotaped the meeting [see it on our saveRGVfromLNG Facebook page]. Also, on 08-26-2016, the South Padre Island Business Owners Association voted to oppose LNG. the board of directors of SPI Business Owners Association, after polling its membership, voted to issue a resolution and send a letter voicing their opposition to the LNG plants being planned for the Brownsville Ship Channel [as reported on our saveRGVfromLNG Facebook page]. And don't forget that > On 08-07-2015 the Laguna Madre Water District voted against LNG! > On 08-17-2015 a Laguna Vista City Council member wrote a letter to FERC opposing Texas LNG! [ http://elibrary.ferc.gov/IDMWS/common/OpenNat.asp?fileID=13967026] > Around 08-17-2015 the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge was approved money for land and conservation easements in and around the refuge! > On 08-18-2015 the South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation

Also:

Director has told us not to say anything about this in regards to the LNG plants. - Emits carbon dioxide when burned - Contains 80-95% methane, a potent greenhouse gas - Explosive, potentially dangerous - Concentrated sources require long distance transmission and transportation - Energy penalties at every stage of production and distribution - Requires extensive pipelines to transport over land - Stored and distributed under high pressure - Requires turbine-generators to produce electricity - Liquefied form (LNG) used to transport over water, in tanker ships is potentially very dangerous - Energy use competes with use for chemicals and fertilizers

Despite these efforts, those knowledgeable within the city tell me the plants are a done deal with agreements being signed a year ago. Much of the impetus for the secretive deal to fund the Tenaska power plants comes from the huge power needs of the LNG plants which will compress natural gas to a liquid for much cheaper export.  The expected huge profits may be very short term as the prioritized customers, Russia and China, are in the process of building their own LNG plants.

Here is a pertinent comment just added by KBRO:

You're sources within the city of Brownsville are lying to you again Jim but it is a very, very close race to beat the Sept 4th deadline with enough petition sigs and messages for FERC to make our voices heard. Other municipalities are finally falling into line after the Port Isabel meet shocked civic leaders. There's no need to appeal to Brownsville city government at this time so in that respect you are correct: It is too late. Brownsville and the Port are to blame for inviting these low-life energy companies here. If the big dogs like Exxon or Mobil were here maybe we would not stand a chance. Natural gas is not in demand as much in Asia anymore. There is a surplus already produced. Many of these export terminals being proposed will not be built if investors shy way from this very speculative market. If you talk to port officials they'll tell you this is the energy of the future and we are sitting on a huge supply of it to make us a global energy power. That is simply not the case. The jobs they say they will bring are temporary construction jobs. Our port can do better to bring industry or jobs that are permanent and for our local citizens or we can do without until they do.

Blogger/Bishop Daniel Flores Publishes Prayer About Judge Olvera

From the editor:  As a backsliding agnostic, I do not pray to the supreme being or any of his subordinates, but my simplistic view of what constitutes a prayer is challenged frequently by public prayers.  While I've always thought of prayer as a private conversation between an individual and his god, public prayers, like those made typically by Pastor Brad and others before city commission meetings, seem to be directed more to the human audience than the God of the universe billions of light years away on his or her celestial throne.

The instructions given by Jesus himself at St. Matthew 6:6, King James Version, seem to get ignored:  

"But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy doore, pray to thy father which is in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who also writes a blog, En Pocas Palabras, recently included a copy of his prayer to God about the service of District Judge Rolando Olvera.  Flores, with some odd capitalization,  publicly asks God to "imbue" some very good traits into Judge Olvera in the prayer published below:


Mrs. Olvera, Judge Olvera, Bishop Flores
O God

You are the source of all authority and right judgment.
On This Day When Your servant, Judge Rolando Olvera Begins His term of service, as United States District Judge.
We ask that you 'So THAT give him aid
His use of authority Imbued With Might always be right judgment.


Help him be
Humble in the Presence of power,
Kind in the Presence of anger,
Confronting conflict in Wise,
Contrary Just in judging claims.
Make him attentive to the cries of the poor, the vulnerable, the Marginalized, So THAT no interest or ambition staff slip into His assessments, and hinder the freedom and integrity of His Judgments.


That make him mindful To Whom much is Given, much is expected, and that you ', Just Judge and servant of the least, Both bless and judge.


You bless you today, and you will one day judge what good we do With your blessing. May your blessing assist him and give him courage, and May the prospect of your judgment keep him clear-eyed and sincere in the fulfillment of His duties.


We ask your blessing and protection upon Judge Olvera, His Wife and children, His family and friends. On This Day And bless all Gathered here and all public servants, Their Families, and the people They are called to serve. And make all of our hearts dwelling-places of compassion, integrity and Justice,


We ask esta Through Christ our Lord. Amen


Df +

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mailing List Letter from Governor Greg Abbott Promises to Secure the Border, Asks for Contribution

"Greg Abbott Drops in to Check on Border"
by Diego Lee Rot
Jim,


Texans are sick and tired of the federal government abandoning its responsibility to secure the border. In the absence of federal action, Texas is stepping up to get the job done.


Consider a contribution to my campaign today if you agree we need a fully-secure Southern border.
During the campaign I introduced my "Securing Texans" plan and I'm proud to say I kept my promise by recently signing into law the toughest border security plan in the nation. It will add 250 Texas Department of Public Safety officers to the border, more planes in the air, boats in the water and enhanced technology. Texas' DPS has just taken one of the first steps toward that goal with the recent graduation of more troopers.

While the Obama Administration continues its willful ignorance of an unsecured border, Texas has more to do.

Texas now has the toughest border security plan of any state in the history of our nation. We are sending a message to the drug cartels: Stop messing with Texas.

Help me continue my fight to secure the border. Contribute to my campaign today!
Let's secure our Texas families and communities.

Sincerely,


Greg Abbott

Sunday, August 23, 2015

SPI Chamber of Commerce President Roxanne Genzel: "I Lie Because It's My Job to Lie!"

SPI Chamber of Commerce President Roxanne Genzel
For those expecting SPI Chamber of Commerce President Roxanne Genzel to recant, restate, re-evaluate or even apologize for her lie about Excelon's safety and environmental record at the August 11 Pro-LNG pep rally, her comments published in today's Brownsville Herald will disappoint.

Despite reading published evidence to the contrary, Genzel does not back off her August 11 lying boast about Excelon, the parent company of Annova LNG "Excelon has proven to us that they have a good track record with safety and environmental stewardship."

In a recent blog article, we shared a Chicago Tribune report damning Excelon for numerous safety violations;  failure to respond to 22 leaks of hazardous material, a $1,000,000 fine for leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater, a $11,500,000 settlement to rebuild the water supply for a village near one of its plants, etc.  

While Genzel could have simply said she did not have all the facts, or that Excelon has learned from its mistakes, she went another route in her words reported by business reporter Steve Clark:

“It is what it is. I’m paid to be the spokesperson for the chamber. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Holy smokestacks, Genzel!  There is absolutely something you can do about it.  You can choose not to lie about the safety track record of prospective LNG companies wanting to do business in our region.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Long Lines At Brownsville's Main Post Office Due to "System Failure"

Those venturing out to Brownsville's main post office on Los Ebanos Boulevard Thursday, Friday and Saturday encountered long lines, extremely slow service and a computer system described as "down."  

The small interior business area had a double line that went out the interior door and into the lobby. Signs at each clerk station apologized for the "inconvenience," announcing that "credit/debit cards could not be accepted."  The clerk assisting us took about twenty minutes to affix the proper labels to the eight packages we presented for mail.  Our entire visit to the Brownsville Post Office lasted roughly one hour. 

The United States Postal Service, not noted nationally for efficiency, faces additional challenges in the RGV including Brownsville.  Like many post offices we've observed around the country, Brownsville's main office was designed with a traffic flow pattern almost assuring a bottleneck with exit and egress difficult.

Brownsville's postal clerks face unique challenges, not only needing to switch back and forth between two languages, but also explaining over and over postal regulations to individuals not born in this country.  I've witnessed countless times a customer in line with an open box in one hand, an address in the other and questions for the clerk.  It may take several trip through the line to finally get everything right, but, even then, the clerk may have to add government tape to secure the package and expedite things.  These are issues not faced in Seattle or Peoria.

Interestingly, I'm told that if a Brownsville resident mails a letter or card to their neighbor across the street, that item goes first to McAllen, the region's postal hub, gets its postmark, before returning to Brownsville and being put out for delivery.  

"McAllen has an anthrax machine.  Smaller post offices like Brownsville do not have one, so all the mail must go their first, even if its addressed to Brownsville," explained the young lady behind the counter.


"Mexican Mack Truck" by Diego Lee Rot


Friday, August 21, 2015

Tony Martinez Needs to be Reined In by a Strong City Manager. . . Charlie????

Mayor Tony Martinez
Tony Martinez continues to struggle with ethics, morality and democratic principles.  In 4+ years at the elected helm of this country's poorest city, Martinez has squandered city assets like crazy, disrespected free speech and made countless backdoor deals to enrich himself and his cronies.

His promise in 2011 to "make a new ethics code a priority of his administration" seems hollow now even to those who once thought he had the skill set to be mayor.

His current thought process, we've been told, is to usurp the City Charter by appointing a search committee to hire a new Airport Director, replacing the departed Larry Brown.  The City Charter distinctly authorizes the City Manager, not the Mayor, to organize such a committee leading to a new appointee.

Brownsville City Manager, Charlie Cabler, earning roughly $200,000 per annum, must man up, earn his salary and block Mayor Martinez from exceeding his authority.  Charlie, this is not a time to "go along to get along."


Oscar Garcia, Jr.
Rumored to be the ultimate designate of the Martinez-selected "search" committee is none other than Oscar Garcia, Jr. whose assignment as "Project Engineer" for Jacobs Engineering to facilitate the implementation of the $750,000 plan to implement the $454,000 plan for the Port of Brownsville and the industrial corridor seems tenuous.  Junior can't seem to get the funds generated for Phases II and III of that scam.  

If the mayor, in blatant defiance of the City Charter, nominates young Oscar for Airport Director, Commissioner Debbie Portillo is said to be ready to second that motion.

John Chambers, Republican Candidate for Cameron County Sheriff

John Chambers(Story later this evening)



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Brownsville's Blogging Bishop Blesses Blogosphere

Bishop Daniel Flores
Since 2012 Bishop Daniel E. Flores has published 132 articles in his blog, En Pocas Palabras, with stories commenting on gay marriage, literature, proselytizing, and, of course, Jesus.

The blog profile lists the bishop's interests as  "baseball, soccer, dinosaurs, freshwater tropical fish,exercise, history, and reading a good story." Musically, Flores goes for "Big Bands, like Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. Other music too. Sinatra, Vicente Fernandez, Juanes, Rocío Durcal (que en paz descanse), Patsy Cline. Agustín Lara,El Trío los Panchos, Ricardo Arjona, Dean Martín, Harry James, Jo Stafford."

In an August 11, 2015 blog article, "Tolkien and the Gold That Does not Glitter," Flores ponders the words of a Tolkien character Aragon:  "All that is gold does not glitter," comparing the phrase and the subtle differences with the more common English expression:  "All that glitters is not gold."  

The May 15, 2015 article, "Affecting the Human Environment," contains this revealing quote:  

"The first culture we know in this world is our immediate family culture. All the other more national cultures reach us through it. I remember as a little boy we watched the Ed Sullivan show as a family. Then one night the Beatles appeared on the show. My Dad decided we weren't going to watch Ed Sullivan anymore. That lasted about a month, then we were watching it again.

My point is that national cultures are received first through family culture."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Who Will Replace Octagenerian Frank Morris As Cameron County Republican Party Chair?

Frank Morris



Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation Postpones Meeting to Hear Oscar Garcia's Sales Pitch

Nena actually saved us a trip to the ITEC Center on Mexico Blvd for a noon meeting of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.

"You ought to call down there before we go. You know they're always cancelling their meetings," she said.

Sure enough.  A young woman answering the phone at the BEDC said that today's noon meeting had indeed been cancelled.(For clarification, the GBIC meets in the BEDC board room and calls to the GBIC are answered by BEDC staff.)

"Has it been rescheduled?" I asked.

"Let me put you on hold for a second, OK?. . . . . . . . . . Hello, sir.  I do not have that information.  You can call back later."

The agenda of this particular meeting was to feature yet another
Oscar Garcia, Jr., Jacobs Engineering Pitchman
pitch by Oscar Garcia, Jr. a local politico's offspring hired by Jacobs Engineering as a "Project Engineer," a role that will likely be fulfilled if Junior can sell the GBIC on Phase II and Phase III of a $750,000 plan to implement a $454,000 plan for the Port of Brownsville and industrial corridor infrastructure. Normally, the Brownsville Economic Development Council pre-approves projects before they go before the GBIC for rubberstamping, but, in this case, the BEDC has already failed to see the need to fund yet another "study" of the industrial corridor.



Carnival Barker
Young Garcia has already performed a "workshop" at the City Commission to ask for the money.  If this lad is an engineer, than so is the snaggletoothed barker at the carnival, tempting you to try your luck at knocking over three wooden milk bottles with a wobbly ball.  Carnival Engineer?  That has a good ring.


Mean Mister Brownsville with Robin McCaffrey, Originator of the $454,000 Port of Brownsville and Industrial Corridor Infrastructure Plan


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Brownsville's Biggest Crybaby Wants A Raise!

County Commissioner Dan Sanchez,
Working Up A Sweat Over Salary
Fat County Commissioner Dan Sanchez' game is thinly veiled.  He wants a raise himself and raises for other influential politicos, hoping they will remember the large man who put money in their pocket when it comes time to support someone for County Judge or some other taxpayer-supported position.

Having current grand jury participants(citizens, voters, taxpayers) rule on raises for politicians, who knew the salary of their office before running, does not sit well with Sanchez.

Sanchez suggested in July that taxpayers should not be bothered to sit on the board that hears wage grievances by politicos who can't make ends meet.  Sanchez wants his fellow politicians to make up the grievance board so that there could be more "collaboration." Lol!  I told you Sanchez argument was thinly veiled. 

We attended the September 27, 2013 hearing at which time Constable Abel Gomez asked for a raise of $7,314, Justice of the Peace Sally Gonzalez wanted a $9,152 increase and Sheriff Omar Lucio asked for $25,000 more.  All requests were denied by the citizen board with a vote of 8-1 against.


Sheriff Lucio and JP Gonzalez
Before the Hearing
Mingling before the hearing with Lucio and Gonzalez, Lucio told the JP:  "You may not like the story this guy writes, but it will be a good story."  Then, Lucio proceeded to sit next to Nena and I during the hearing.

Sally Gonzalez, sitting directly behind us could be heard singing a Carly Simon song:  "An-tic-a-pa-tion."  Was she that confident? 

Recently, the County Commissioners voted to continue the current arrangement of selecting a salary grievance board from grand jury members. Sanchez proposal to use politicians, seconded by County Commissioner Alex Dominguez, was rejected.  Cameron County politicos, including Dan Sanchez, may simply have to tighten their belts.


Elon Musk & Company Deliver Rocket to Cameron County

Art Kalifa and Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa's New Rocket
With only a little fanfare this past month, a Brownsville family took delivery of a rocket.  No, it was not SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, capable of transporting a payload of 53 metric tons with a liftoff thrust of 4 million pounds.

Art Kalifa and his wife, Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, took delivery of a Tesla, a vehicle produced by another Elon Musk company, Tesla Motors.


Tetreau With Future Astronaut
at SpaceX Scoping Meeting in 2012 
Looming as evidence of the relevance of synchronicity, we submit the photo of Tetreau and a budding astronaut at the SpaceX scoping meeting held at the ITEC Center in 2012.  

Art and Jessica will have to resist the urge to tell each other to "¡Dale Gas!" as this rocket has an electric motor. According to Jessica's Facebook page, two charging stations have been installed at Car Wash Plus! to keep the wheels rolling down the road.  

Diego Lee Rot Reports Pickup Crashing into Gas Main in West Brownsville

From the editor:   A pickup truck occupied by a man and his wife ran into a gas main near 8th and West Levee at approximately 3:20 PM Saturday.  Brownsville police rescued the two passengers from the truck turned on its side and barricaded the area as natural gas continued to spew out. Diego Lee Rot, editor of the "Papers and Trash" blog took the black & white pictures of the incident published below:



Friday, August 14, 2015

Understanding Why Navistar International Failed to Respond to Our Inquiry About the BISD School Bus Fires

The huge Navistar International Corporation manufactured the two BISD school buses that caught fire in October 2013 with 30 and 29 students aboard.

While BISD hired Dynamic Technical Consultants from Raleigh, NC to conduct an investigation as to the cause or causes of the fires, Navistar International sent their own investigative team. BISD eventually released their investigative report to us following our protest to then Attorney General Greg Abbott that BISD's claim of "contemplated litigation" could obstruct almost any public information request.  BISD backed away from that position and released the report along with a cover letter from BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas.

We also gave Navistar International the opportunity to share their investigative report, reasoning this way in a June 2014 Mean Mister Brownsville story:

Meanwhile, Navistar, the parent company of IC or the International Corporation, has some of the same responsibilities as BISD when it comes to the public dissemination of information. While BISD is a taxpayer-funded entity, Navistar is a publicly-traded entity. Just as BISD has a Public Information Officer, Navistar has a Manager of General Business Media Inquiries.

Last June we were given the phone number of Navistar's Manager of General Business Media Inquiries and called.  The manager was not in his office, but we were given an appointment to contact him via phone.  That call went straight to voice mail where we gave a detailed description of our public information request. Navistar International never responded.

Since our public information request was ignored by Navistar International, media reports seem to explain the company's reluctance to comment on the safety, reliability and durability of their manufactured product.

The Ford Motor Company found the diesel engines manufactured by Navistar International unreliable and defective, settling a huge class action suit with the manufacturer.  But, that was not the end of Navistar's troubles.

The Environmental Protection Agency discovered that thousands of engines built and sold by Navistar for heavy duty trucks didn't comply with stricter government regulations on exhaust pollution.  It has been estimated that Navistar International could pay as much as $300,000,000 in civil penalties.  

Overdrive, an online website magazine dedicated to trucking also reports of a class action suit by independent truck lines against Navistar:  

The suit, brought by carriers Denis Gray Trucking, Carmichael Leasing and GTL Enterprises, also claim Navistar failed to properly repair the engines during the warranty period, thereby decreasing their trucks’ value and shortening the expected life of the engine. Those who bought International trucks with MaxxForce engines “did not get what they paid for,” the lawsuit alleges.

The above reports may help understand why Navistar's "Public Information Officer" would ignore requests from the public about the safety, reliability and performance of the company's product.