Friday, September 19, 2014

Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Meeting, 9/18/14~Bus Driver Turnover, Non-Disabled Elderly Riders, Parking Garage Update

Brownsville Metro's bus drivers are the "lowest paid in the region," according to Brownsville Metro Assistant Director Andrew Munoz.

"Starting pay is $10.50 per hour," stated Munoz.  He claimed not to recall how much veteran drivers were paid, but remembered that those with more than 8 years tenure had benefited from C.O.L.A. increases.

Munoz stated that he felt in the past Brownsville Metro was merely an opportunity for drivers to get a license, training and resume' to go elsewhere for a better paying job in the industry.  He felt that giving new drivers "cross training" in both "fixed routes" and "paratransit" had curbed some of the attrition.

Brownsville Metro currently retains 41 drivers with one full-time driver needed. Although workers are allowed by state labor law to work 13 continuous hours, that does not apply to drivers.  Brownsville Metro drivers occasionally drive  "10 or 11 hour shifts."  "None of our drivers exceed 60 hours a week with a minimum of 8 hours between shifts," Munoz stated.

Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairmen Daniel Lenz weighed in:  "To retain good drivers, I believe we should be paying at least $15.00 per hour.  I wouldn't even view that as a raise, but it's more of a pay scale correction," Lenz stated.

When Munoz replied that rate of pay was a city matter, Lenz asked:  "Have you and Norma lobbied the city to make this adjustment?"

Board Member Teresa Saldivar
Board member Teresa Saldivar, fresh from an appeal case denying an elderly citizen access to paratransit services, wanted to know what accommodations could be made to elderly, non-disabled Brownsville residents.  Having a bus stop within a 3/4 mile diameter is a federal consideration.  Actually, a physician has to document an elderly person is not capable of walking to the bus stop.  Saldivar was concerned that non-disabled, but elderly residents, fall through the cracks. Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora suggested a citizen might contact AARP or United Way to see what programs they had.

Brownsville Metro Assistant Director Andrew Munoz gave an update on the downtown parking garage:

Onsight utilities have been installed up to the foundation.  Things are on track for completion by March 2015.  The facility will have 190 spaces, including 4 for the handicapped with van width.  8500 sq. ft. of retail space will provide 6 new retail outlets.

Photo of Matamoros Taken from the Top of the El Jardin Hotel

Thursday, September 18, 2014

El Bowman, "La Bowman," Una Bowman or No Bowman~When Candidates Claim Ethnicity

Shirley Bowman, Candidate for BISD Trustee,
Place 4
We're used to it in the valley, understanding the motivation.  Arthur C. Nelson becomes Arturo Cisneros Nelson, Jessica Bradshaw uses Jessica Puente-Bradshaw.  Gilbert becomes Gilberto and Mike assumes Miguel, reminding us, plainly and subliminally of their ethnicity.

As noted weeks ago by blogger Bobby Wightman-Cervantes of the BROWNSVILLE VOICE, Shirley Bowman, a candidate for BISD Trustee, Place 4, remembering that students often referred to her as "La Bowman," incorporated the article "La" into her official campaign name.  Our readers can decide if Bowman was simply reminiscing or making a feeble attempt to appear Hispanic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Johnny Football Sent to Youth League in Cleveland

Houston Texans Chose Jadeveon Clowney
Over Johnny Football
The Houston Texans, likely the second favorite NFL team for residents of Brownsville, toyed with the idea of drafting Johnny Manziel, AKA Johnny Football, as the number one pick in the NFL draft last spring.  Instead, they picked defensive player Jadevon Clowney, twice as large and with considerably more NFL athleticism.

Clowney got hurt in a game September 7, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will be out of action 4-6 weeks.

Manziel wasn't able to beat out journeyman, but lackluster quarterback, Brian Hoyer, and started regular season on the bench.  Johnny did actually get into a game September 14, handing off twice for 0 yards and throwing an incomplete pass.

Tuesday after the game Johnny earned his money by visiting a youth football league at Humphrey Park in Cleveland.  Johnny joined 150 kids in football drills, helping out the coaches in working with the players.  

Johnny's visit to the youth league was part of the Cleveland Browns First and Ten community outreach program.
Despite hardly playing, sales of Johnny Manziel jerseys are #1 among NFL players, actually more than quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Archie Griffin III and Andrew Luck combined.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Ms. Ugh," Rose Gowen, Gets Her Way Tonight with Final Reading of Agenda Item to Close One Lane of E. 6th Street for Bike Lane

From the editor:  Reducing E. 6th Street from 3 to 2 lanes was never a good idea, unless the industrial, warehouse area of E. St. Francis and E. Fronton is being phased out.  Trucks only have two arteries from the interstate into town, E. 6th and E. 12th. 

Tonight, the City Commission will likely approve this ill-conceived plan despite clear public opposition. 

To illustrate how poorly thought out this idea was, the original plan called for the new bike lane to run parallel to the seldom used Battlefield Hike & Bike Trail running through Terminal Park, making for two bike trails within 70 feet of each other.  Actually, it was all about salivating over an unspent $150,000 TXdot grant. 

Many prominent citizens knew the proposal was foolish and emailed their concerns to City Commissioner Rose Gowen.  We have links to those emails below.  

Commissioner Gowen
If you're a young person, contemplating some form of public service, carefully note the tone of Gowen's responses to these citizen inquiries. This is rare insight in how arrogant and unresponsive politicos can become once elected. It is a case study in an unjustified air of superiority not usually made so obvious.  Zero skill in consensus building is displayed.  What is communicated is ugly, condescending:  "How dare you question anything I propose.  I know what's best for the city, not you.  If you don't like it, elect someone else next time."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chief Deputy Gus Reyna's Unreported Automobile Accident Disturbing on Several Levels~Other Operator Named

Chief Deputy Reyna
With the National Football League responding to public pressure to hold players accountable for their actions, Sheriff Omar Lucio's Cameron County Sheriff's Department seems locked into the old mindset of coverup and disingenuous spin.

While an ordinary citizen, not reporting an automobile accident with a minimum of $7,000 physical damage to two vehicles, would face several charges, Sheriff Lucio wants us to believe that Deputy Reyna's unreported incident, in a county vehicle no less, has been handled appropriately with "disciplinary action that was firm and just."

The possibility that alcohol consumption was involved by one or more operators, adds a serious threat to the welfare of the community and, possibly, additional charges to the drivers.  If covering up a lack of sobriety motivated the quick towing of the two vehicles to a San Benito body shop without reporting the August 24 accident, that does a disservice, not just to the community, but a driver or drivers with a behavioral or addiction problem not being recognized or treated.

Several anonymous tipsters confirmed the driver of the other vehicle as April Ramirez.  Others in a position to know claimed the Chief Deputy could benefit from an intervention.  Sheriff Lucio may not have the energy or wherewithal to orchestrate such an intervention for his right hand man, but close friends and family may want to give this serious consideration before something horrendous happens that can't be swept under the rug.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Ravens are beatin' their wives, Vikings beatin' their kids, Cowboys ain't beatin' nobody!"

Hasse Files Motion for Rehearing~Are Young Republicans Still Under Gag Order?

Republican Precinct Chair Tad Hasse
Judge Menton Murray, Jr. may preside over yet a third hearing in the Hasse vs. Morris resignation case as a motion for rehearing has been filed by Precinct Chair Tad Hasse through his lawyer, Cesar De Leon.

The first two hearings did not produce a ruling with finality.  After the initial July 31 hearing, Judge Murray requested a supplemental brief from each side.  

Judge Menton Murray, Jr.
When the case was heard yet a second time August 26, Murray found the two resignation emails sent by Morris to party officials and County Secretary Ida Stacey to have been "unsigned," not meeting the standard of the Texas Election Code. Murray added a disclaimer "unless I can be shown otherwise."

Hasse maintains that the emails, "acknowledged and authenticated in court, meet statuatory requirements." His stance may also be supported by yet another state party memo, acknowledging the Morris' resignation, calling for a "New election."

Frank Morris
The 80 year old Frank Morris started this whole ruckus, when admittedly "saddened" by a credentials challenge, fired off a May 14 email resigning as county chair and the State Republican Executive Committee representing SR 27.  Morris took his name off the party checkbook and utilities, calling for the "new chairman" to pick up the materials "within 30 days."  Channeling the spirit of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Morris said he felt "free at last." 

Adding to the confusion, Morris, having second thoughts, sent another email 11 hours later, limiting his resignation to his then current term.

James Ross,
Youth Outreach Director
As a sidenote:  In our initial articles featuring the Hasse vs. Morris debacle, local young Republicans filled the blogosphere with hundreds of vociferous emails, several witty.   More recent blog articles have seen that participation dwindle to a mere trickle.  Is their a gag order or simply a self-imposed moratorium?

Judge Menton Murray, Jr~Third At-Bat to Decide if Frank Morris Resigned

Friday, September 12, 2014

Remember When Sheriff Omar Lucio Asked for a $25,000 Annual Raise?

Chief Deputy Gus Reyna
Octogenerian Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, who asked the County Commissioner's Court for a $25,000 raise last year, has not had a banner year in 2014.  

This past April eight deputies were fired for cheating on civil service exams allegedly under the direction of Human Resources Director Arnold Flores.  Many wondered out loud if this was simply the way many sheriff's deputies have "qualified" for their jobs under Lucio.

Now, Chief Deputy Gus Reyna, has further disgraced the Cameron County Sheriff's Department by not reporting a two car automobile accident, involving substantial vehicular damage, allegedly occurring August 24 just off Pablo Kisel Blvd. in or near a restaurant parking lot.(We received an unconfirmed tip that Chief Deputy Reyna frequently enjoys libations at Chili's and Johnny Carino's Italian Restaurant.)

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 as required.  

Sheriff Omar Lucio
County Sheriff Omar Lucio hints that Reyna may not be required to conform to normal department rules:  

“After 30 years of service, I believe this disciplinary action was firm and just,” Lucio said. “We went over all the policies for the sheriff’s office. He was appointed by me and not a civil service.”
Gus Reyna, Arnold Flores
Cameron County Director of Human Resources Arnold Flores promised more information "in the next few day."

“I have submitted a list of questions asking for clarification in this matter over issues that could be potential violations to county policy,” stated Flores.

We've been given the name of the young lady allegedly involved in the accident, but we'll wait for confirmation from Human Resources Director Flores.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carlos Marin's Su Clinica Familiar Quietly Registering Voters~What's the Catch?

Although I've known exactly what not to do since childhood, no one has ever gifted me a horse. My mental oath to not examine the teeth of any horse gifted to me remains untested.

Until now.

Operatives of Carlos Marin's Su Clinica Familiar have been observed quietly registering voters at both the Central and Southmost branches of the Brownsville Public Library.  No eyebrows would be raised were the politically-connected clinic offering free HIV tests or flu shots to the elderly, but voter registration? 

We're told that deputization to register voters involves a 45 minute course offered by Election Administrator Chris Davis.  

Voter registration lists are to be turned in to the Election Administrator, not used in a partisan way.

No one in Brownsville works the political system better than Carlos Marin.  He literally controls 4A "economic development" funds, vetted by the Brownsville Economic Development Council and issued by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, while his Su Clinica Familiar employee, Rose Gowen, controls the 4B "quality of life" funds emanating from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation.

So, what's up Carlos?  Let me see those teeth.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

While Brownsville Yawns at Mandated Curbside Recycling, The City Actually Leads the Country in Real Recycling

Rose Timmer Delivering Curbside
Recycling Powerpoint
at City Commission
The well-meaning Rose Timmer's angst, disappointment, even discouragement, when no citizens showed up for the Curbside Recycling Workshop, is unnecessary.

Likely, no city in the United States matches Brownsville in terms of actual recycling, all based on the profit motive with no assist from city government, no bins, blockwalkers or educational campaigns needed.  

First, a definition of recycling:

1. To extract useful materials from garbage or waste.

2. To use again, esp to reprocess

3. To recondition and/or adapt to new use or function

USS Forrestal Being Tugged
to Port of Brownsville
The above definitions certainly fit the scrapping, salvaging being done on the USS Forrestal and two other aircraft carriers to come the USS Saratoga and USS Constellation, recycling by any measure.  

Wired 100 lb Pacas of Used Clothing
Brownsville is also a world hub for used, recycled clothing, which, after sorting, is sent all over the world. Just a few years ago, it was explained to me that Americans donate far more used clothing than can actually be put on the shelves of the Goodwill, Salvation Army and other charities.  They simply do not have the retail space to display more than a fraction of those donations, so the bulk of those donations ends up in hubs like Brownsville where it is distributed to clients all over the world.  The clothing displayed in downtown Brownsville ropa usadas for retail sale is but a miniscule portion.  The bulk is sent to Africa, Central and South America, etc.  

A third aspect of this business has all but been shut down by the drug cartels demand for protection money in Mexico.  In the past hundreds of resellers flocked to Brownsville, especially on Monday mornings to sift through 100lb "pacas" for items they could sell in their shops in Matamoros, Tampico, Veracruz and beyond. With the drug cartels demanding a piece of the action and the Mexican government too weak or corrupt to protect their hardworking citizens, this particular aspect of clothing recycling has dried up.

Lawani Souleiman
The handling of this clothing is based on movement and varies from establishment.  Lawani Souleiman, who has operated a ropa segunda for many years across from the Brownsville Historical Association on Washington Street, starts new merchandise at around $3.00 per pound, with a reduction in price each day.  After one week, the merchandise is shifted to the other side of his store where it remains for yet another week with prices approaching $1.00 per pound.  Other stores in downtown simply shift older merchandise to a "monton," a large mound of assorted clothing piled to the ceiling.  Still, Souleiman's primary business is shipping recycled clothing around the world.

Well-Known Brownsville Recycler on Triciclo
Day and night, through the city's alleys, men on triciclos de carga search for cardboard, aluminum, anything of value.  In no other city have I seem men carefully empty every trash can at a car wash, sort out the recyclables, carefully sweep up and replace other trash back into the receptacle. 

 Even clothing, finally discarded by the ropa segundas, is perused by these scavangers for something useful, valuable.  Yes, Brownsville, not only recycles, but does so in stages.

Mr. Gonzalez, Proudly Posing next to his Triciclo de Carga
in the Alley Between Washington and Adams Streets

Self-employed entrepreneurs with pickup trucks service all of the dumpsters in the city before they are officially emptied by Allied Waste or some professional waste management firm, relieving the dumpsters of both American and Chinese cardboard, thrill at the site of a broken shopping cart or plastic milk crate.  None of their work is remotely connected with a City Commission's green initiative but simply survival based.

Frequently, these prospectors have an agreement with a store employee for dumpster "rights" or at least a heads up call when cardboard or other recyclables are present.  

We haven't touched on the illegal pilfering of copper from construction sites or AC units, the lifting of manhole covers, etc.  Scrap yards do ask questions, but only the legally required ones.  Not long ago, I watched a man and a woman pushing an H.E.B. shopping cart down E. 14th, headed for the salvage yard.  Another shopping cart was turned upside down on top of the cart being pushed.  Other metals stuck out of the carts, all headed to the scrap yard to be sold for a tiny fraction of H.E.B.'s replacement cost for one cart.

There is yet more to Brownsville's recycling picture.  Dozens of small stores downtown as well as vendors at the Hwy 77 Flea Market sell small appliances like coffee makers, juicers, ice crushers, radiant heaters, etc. The boxes have been carefully retaped.  These are return items or sometimes items with product recalls. They are purchased in so-called pallet sales from vendors from up north with the reseller bidding on the pallet.  It's just another form of recycling in the city.

So, Rose, when you look at the big picture, apart from mandated curbside recycling, Brownsville is doing a damn fine job reusing discarded items.  It's our politicians who throw millions of tax dollars down the rat hole.  Maybe these politicos need to be recycled.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bookends

"Old Friends"
by Paul Simon

Can you imagine us years from today,
sharing a parkbench quietly 

How terribly strange to be seventy 
Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
 silently sharing the same fears

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rose Timmer~What if Brownsville Residents Just Don't Want Curbside Recycling?

Rose Timmer, Executive Director of
Healthy Communities of Brownsville
A 50's dad with limited parenting skills put out heated up canned spinach for dinner for his kids.  This was not fresh leaf spinach, attractively arranged in a salad, but the soggy, stringy, overcooked, canned variety all kids hate with a purple passion.  

After several minutes of staring at the glob on the plate, trying to down a spoonful, but gagging in the process, the kid protesting the loudest was sent to bed without dinner.  Little did he know at the time, but "dinner" would be reserved as breakfast come morning.

Having given up that brief glimpse of my childhood, we can turn our attention to Rose Timmer, the Executive Director of Healthy Communities of Brownsville, a non-profit.  Timmer, who has been zealously trying to drum up interest, build a consensus, educate about and organize curbside recycling in the city, was deeply disappointed that no citizens showed up for the Curbside Recycling Workshop scheduled September 4 @ 7:00 PM at the Brownsville Police Department's Southmost Substation.  Below is Timmer's Facebook response:

Rose Timmer
19 hours ago near Brownsville, TX
Very, very, very disappointed. Ruth, art rodriguez, Santana Torres came to support curbside recycling but no community members showed up. Very sad— feeling sad.

Several citizens commented below, indicating schedule conflicts and other reasons that prevented their attendance.

Brenda Joyas I was hoping to get kids out of drs fast enough to go, but I'm still here..
19 hours ago · Like · 1

Judy Vargas-Wooten Rose, i'm so sorry I wasn't able to come tonight & tomorrow is Bob's & my 55th anniversary. I am sorry I was unable to attend. I know that is very dissapointing for you & the other people.
19 hours ago · Like · 1

Denise Granado Chavez I'm sorry this seems to happen a lot with various community initiative...same people at all the events. Wish I could help on ideas to get more community members interested.
18 hours ago · Like · 1

Ruben O'Bell ....I believe children are our future....
18 hours ago · Like · 1

Lisa Mitchell-Bennett Sorry I wasn't there because I definitely support it! I am out of town though!
18 hours ago · Like · 1

Mary Helen Flores I understand that feeling and I am so sorry I wasn't able to attend. Please know that your efforts are appreciated by so many, including me. Don't give up.
18 hours ago · Like · 1

Sal Garza Wish I was there but I just finished my day right now. You do such a great job Rose. People notice your awesome work and dedication that you have. These things happen but just keeping doing the right thing. Just keep it going. We are blessed as a community to have you lead in this task and helping Brownsville be a healthier community. As a citizen I say thank you
18 hours ago · Like · 1

Frances Barrera Do on-line meetings or chats. After a long day at work, people just don't want to go sit in a meeting. If it's to float ideas, use this forum. If it is something that needs to be face to face, tell us what it's for or about or how important it is. And early enough to make plans. Set up a list serve and e-mail everyone when you need to get a good response.
17 hours ago · Like · 1

Pam Ramirez I wanted to be there too...but boot camp is at seven. I support your efforts wholeheartedly!!
17 hours ago · Like · 1

Terren Barton Aww I'm sorry aunt rose. . If I had a private jet I would have come and help! . Don't give up! Love ya
17 hours ago · Like

It's not that Mrs. Timmer hasn't tried.  She described a 2009 attempt to implement curbside recycling in Brownsville as "a failure," and went back to the drawing board.   "We didn't follow up or educate properly," she said.

In January 2013, volunteers were invited to training sessions, involved in "role-play," taught how to approach citizens and given the objectives and rationale for the program.

During October and November of 2013, teams of block-walkers went into four distinct areas of the city to offer the service to 1,200 pre-selected homes. Door hangers, letters to the homeowner and other materials were provided in English and Spanish. According to Ms. Timmer, 447 of the 1,200 homeowners approached agreed to participate.

During the initial trial run, January 6, 2014, the program has a participation rate, Timmer said, of 13%. That means that 58 homes in the four areas actually pushed their recycle bins to the curb. Compared to the 1,200 homeowners offered the program, the participation rate is actually 5%.

Timmer stated that the City of Brownsville spent $17,000 on 1300 recycle bins of which 8 were stolen in the first week. Homeowners can get a replacement bin by filing a police report, then calling the city to request another bin, giving the number of the police report.

Following behind the Allied Waste truck picking up the contents of the recycle bins, Timmer was able to follow up on the program. Noting that one homeowner with whom she had personally talked had not put her bin curbside, she knocked on her door. The lady still had her bin, but felt that, with just three cans in it, it was not ready to take curbside. Timmer assured her that the program was weekly, regardless of the contents, and the bin was brought curbside.

In another situation, a man had an extraordinary amount of aluminum cans towering over his bin. Timmer was concerned that the cans might be stolen by someone wanting to exchange them for money. 
"They actually were not stolen, but, that would have been OK," Timmer stated to the commission. "As long as they're going to recycle them, that's OK."

So, the question is, with only 5% actual participation so far and 0% attending the workshop, is the goal to test this project's feasibility, practicality and acceptance by the citizens of Brownsville or will it be implemented come hell or high water because some in the city desire it so?