Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City of Brownsville Gives Bike Trail Planner Free Ride at Newly Remodeled City Office

bcWorkshops, a non-profit that recently asked for $208,000 from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation to "connect the Belden and Battlefield Bike Trails," is being given a sweetheart lease by the city for newly remodeled 615 E. 11th St. office, adjacent to Market Square.

Perhaps, you've noticed three small spaces along E. 11th St. the city has been renovating for several months.  Two of these units were purchased by Tony and the commissioners during their speculative real estate spending spree of 2012. These are among the properties, totaling over $3,500,000, necessitating the twenty year Certificates of Obligation now on the backs of Brownsville taxpayers.  A third adjacent office was purchased in 2013, when Tony Martinez unilaterally and illegally dipped into the Texas AEP Refund.  The City Commission later allocated over $130,000 to remodel the three small spaces. 

City Planner Roman McAllen
The city had no actual use in mind when the properties were purchased.  Window signs promised a mayor's office, downtown police substation, a museum, a downtown revitalization office, etc.  All of those plans were scrapped and we were told by Roman McAllen of Planning Department that two non-profits, Bike Texas and bcWorkshops, would be leasing two of the spaces with the third acting as sort of a buffer between the two.  We submitted a Public Information Request for the two leases, later being told that BikeTexas had declined to lease this particular property.


City Manager Charlie Cabler
Approved Lease 9/17/14
We received a copy of the lease with bcWorkshops this afternoon through Patty Gonzalez, the newly appointed Public Relations Director.  Here are the terms of the lease:  



OFFICE SPACE: The COB will provide bcWORKSHOP office space located at 615 E. I(11th?) St Brownsville TX 78520 at rate of $800/per month or $9,600/per year. All expenses including all utilities, city fees, taxes, web/internet access and building maintenance are to be paid by the COB. The space will serve as a collaborative location
where city staff, designers, and the community may collaborate on city design and planing(sic), project development and review of significant projects affecting the built environment of Brownsville. The common meeting space will be made available for use to local non-profit, neighborhood and other civic organizations when reasonably requested and coordinated/scheduled by bcWORKSHOP in coordination with the COB.

TERM: The COB will enter into this partnership with bcWORKSHOP for a period of three years with annual reviews by COB Planning and Zoning Director and City Manager's Office to determine continuation of this agreement and discussion of ongoing priorities within the COB. The COB or bcWORKSHOP may terminate this agreement at
any time upon sixty (60) days written notice for any reason.

COMPENSATION: The City of Brownsville agrees to pay bcWORKSHOP $9,600 annually for planning, architectural services and community capacity building including gallery exhibits, curated panel or speaker series and coordination of pubic use of the common meeting space. Any services or benefit over and beyond the $9,600 will be treated as pro bono services to the COB. Payments will be made quarterly to bcWORKSHOP in equal portions. The annual work plan shall be determined prior to the beginning of the COB fiscal year and agreed upon by the COB Planning and Zoning Director and bcWORKSHOP. Any new work arising during the year will be agreed to by the COB and bcWORKSHOP prior to the beginning of any project.



So, the city charges $800 per month or $9,600 per year for a lease that includes utilities, internet, maintenance and taxes, then reimburses bcWorkshops $9,600.  

That sounds like FREE!

Will You Show Up October 30 to Save Lincoln Park? Be Prepared for Another Dog and Pony Show

"Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me"

B.B. King and others


Gilbert Velasquez' Graphic
Yes, the last town hall meeting, held 1/14/14 at the Market Square Conference Room, was a dog and pony show.  The mayor's heyboy, Ramiro Gonzalez, pontificated for 18 minutes on how cheap parking was crippling, choking downtown Brownsville, hurting business.  Almost every word out of Ramiro's mouth was a lie.

Sidekick Roman McAllen dutifully recorded observations and suggestions from the public on a freestanding easel with flippable pages.  As 20 residents spoke, mostly downtown business owners, McAllen used a magic marker to write down the gist of their words.  It was all for show.

Dr. Gustavo Stern at 1/14/14 Town Hall
Despite 18 of the 20 speaking AGAINST raising downtown parking meter rates,  the City Commission voted to double the rates at their next meeting. Even Commissioner Jessica Tetreau, who stood up at the town hall meeting to promise she would side with the taxpayers, flip-flopped to vote for the increase.  We later learned that the anticipated increase in parking meter revenue had been promised by Tony Martinez to the University of Texas system as part of a reward package for a UT-RGV satellite campus remaining in Brownsville.

Commissioner Rose Gowen
Tomorrow's town hall meeting at the Tony Gonzalez Park gymnasium will likely be another exercise in futility.  Debbie Portillo and other commissioners have been saying for months that the sale of Lincoln Park is a done deal regardless of the concerns of the constituents. Rose Gowen is licking her chops at a substantial cut of the $6.5 million in ransom money going to her carefully cultivated legacy, the Belden Hike & Bike Trail.

Expect whatever Tony Martinez operative takes the podium to twist the purpose of the meeting from "whether or not to transfer Lincoln Park" to "look at all the amenities we're putting into the replacement park."  

While there is zero expectation of this mayor and city commission ever listening to the taxpayers on an issue, there may be options.  1200 signatures to put this matter on the ballot is certainly not unattainable. Recall petitions for the mayor and the city commissioners are doable.




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Will the University of Texas System Act Honorably in the Lincoln Park Matter?

As easy as snatching pan dulce from the hands of a baby, the University of Texas System could add Brownsville's 48 acre Lincoln Park to their real estate portfolio, but it would not be right, ethical or honorable.  


Huge Tract of Land Owned by UT
on University Blvd.
UT has no actual need for the land parcel, no current plans for building on it.  The eastern satellite of UT-RGV will likely have a smaller school population than the former UT-Brownsville, and has seen its administration transferred west to Edinburg.  Ample land for new buildings exist, not only across the street from the park, but in a huge tract of land on University Blvd. across the Interstate.   An official involved in the separation of properties between UT and TSC  confirmed that not only does UT NOT need Lincoln Park, numerous spaces already exist on campus for new buildings, if needed.

While UT has no actual need for the 48 acres of Lincoln Park, the poorest neighborhood of the poorest city in the U.S., Southmost, has a critical need for the two ballfields, nature trail, amphitheater, garden center, basketball court and barbecue grills the park provides.  Knowing this, why would an ultra-rich university system, with the means to simply write a check for anything they want or need, be a party to lowering the quality of life for a segment of this overwhelmingly Hispanic community?  


Mayor Tony Martinez
The dumb idea of transferring Lincoln Park actually has leftover momentum from an ill-conceived scheme by Mayor Tony Martinez, likely worked out in private with Juliet Garcia, then rubberstamped by the City Commission.  Martinez bought a dozen third tier downtown buildings for $3,500,000, offering them to UT along with revenue from increased parking meter collections and other incentives including land at "fair market value."  Lincoln Park is part of that original, goofy package, although the $6.5 million transfer price is likely only 1/4 of the actual value.(Our inept City Commissioners are already trying to divvy up the ransom money for their pet projects.) 

The University of Texas was unimpressed with the mayor's property offerings and likely Martinez himself.  Will they do the honorable thing and refuse to be a part of this ripoff of Brownsville taxpayers?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Texas Parks & Wildlife Code and Local Government Code May Prevent Brownsville from the Stupidity of Selling Lincoln Park

Is Tony Martinez the Worst
Mayor in Brownsville History?
Likely, no Mayor and City Commission in Brownsville have been more irresponsible with taxpayer assets and monies than this group.  The taxpayers will spend the next TWENTY years paying down Certificates of Obligation for the foolish purchase of 12 downtown buildings for which the city still has no need.

The Mayor and Commission tried to give away City Plaza, exchanged $270,000 in rent from UT for El Cueto Building for an amateurish, loose gravel parking lot and now are poised to give away Lincoln Park with all its amenities for no good reason.  A building was leased for a year to be the mayor's office, but was only used three times, never by the mayor.  If any city commission needed a strong leash, it is this one.

While they say you can't fix stupid, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code and the Municipal Code may protect Brownsville taxpayers from our I.Q. challenged Mayor and City Commission.  We've highlighted the portions of code that seem to protect us from the beyond foolish proposal to transfer Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich University of Texas System.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Code
"Sec. 26.001. PROTECTED LAND; NOTICE OF TAKING. (a) A department, agency, political subdivision, county, or municipality of this state may not approve any program or project that requires the use or taking of any public land designated and used prior to the arrangement of the program or project as a park, recreation area, scientific area, wildlife refuge, or historic site, unless the department, agency, political subdivision, county, or municipality, acting through its duly authorized governing body or officer, determines that:
(1) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use or taking of such land; and
(2) the program or project includes all reasonable planning to minimize harm to the land, as a park, recreation area, scientific area, wildlife refuge, or historic site, resulting from the use or taking.
(b) A finding required by Subsection (a) of this section may be made only after notice and a hearing as required by this chapter.
(c) The governing body or officer shall consider clearly enunciated local preferences, and the provisions of this chapter do not constitute a mandatory prohibition against the use of the area if the findings are made that justify the approval of a program or project."




LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE
TITLE 8. ACQUISITION, SALE, OR LEASE OF PROPERTY
SUBTITLE A. MUNICIPAL ACQUISITION, SALE, OR LEASE OF PROPERTY
CHAPTER 253. SALE OR LEASE OF PROPERTY BY MUNICIPALITIES
Sec. 253.001. SALE OF PARK LAND, MUNICIPAL BUILDING SITE, OR
ABANDONED ROADWAY. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the governing body of a municipality may sell and convey land or an interest in land that the municipality owns, holds, or claims as a public square, park, or site for the city hall or other municipal building or that is an abandoned part of a street or alley. A sale under this section may include the improvements on the property.
(b) Land owned, held, or claimed as a public square or park may not be sold unless the issue of the sale is submitted to the qualified voters of the municipality at an election and is approved by a majority of the votes received at the election; provided, however, this provision shall not apply to the sale of land or right-of-way for drainage purposes to a district, county, or corporation acting on behalf of a county or district.

Cata Presas-Garcia: The Angry, Accidental Tourist


Friday, October 24, 2014

Do Not Allow the City to Distort the Purpose of the Town Hall Meeting About Lincoln Park

City of Brownsville Public
Relations Officer
October 30 at 6:00 PM the City of Brownsville will sponsor a Town Hall Meeting at the Tony Gonzalez Park gymnasium.  

The Brownsville Herald, earlier this month, gave this synopsis of Public Relations Officer Patty Gonzalez' characterization of the purpose of the meeting:  "Brownsville spokeswoman Patty Gonzales is presenting the hearing as an opportunity for residents to be involved in the creation of the new park, which she noted could even warrant a name change if citizens voiced their displeasure at the dedication of a third Lincoln Park."

Wrong Patty!  Legally, the meeting HAS to be about WHETHER OR NOT to transfer Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich UT system. It is totally arrogant and presumptuous to ASSUME there will even be a need for a third Lincoln Park before the legally-mandated hearing to CONSIDER what the citizens and users of Lincoln Park prefer to do.  

Commissioner Rick Longoria,
Totally Played by Tony Martinez
on Proposed Lincoln Park Giveaway
The one who should have been out front on this issue, District 1 Commissioner Rick Longoria, has been totally played by Mayor Tony Martinez.  First, Martinez blew smoke up Rick's ass by telling him the new park would be named the Ricardo Longoria, Jr. Park.

When locals began referring to the proposed location for the new park next to a sewage treatment plant as the "Shit Property," "Turd Park" and the "Hold Your Nose Sports Complex," Commissioner Rick said he'd been assured by a P.U.B. official that they had chemicals that could neutralize the putrid smell of the sewage plant.  Well, damn Rick!  If there are chemicals that could deodorize the sewage plant, why aren't they being used now so Southmost residents, your constituents, don't have to smell that shit?

The University of Texas risks extreme national embarrassment if the park property transfer goes through, especially when the national media picks up the story of how the big, bad, ultra-rich university system just had to have the property occupied by an irreplaceable park in the poorest region of the poorest city in the United States, a city with an overwhelming Hispanic population.  It will also be publicized that UT has no current need for this property, may never have such, as the eastern satellite of UT-RGV appears likely to have a smaller student body than the old UT Brownsville.

Juliet Garcia
A persistent, ugly rumor is that Lincoln Park will be bulldozed, destroyed to make way for the new University of Texas Institute of the Americas to be headed by former UTB President Juliet Garcia.

Meanwhile, members of Valley Interfaith, a community group, are said to be knocking on doors in Southmost, attempting to garner support for preserving Lincoln Park at its current location.  1,200 signatures will be needed to make that a ballot item.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deadly Slime Threatens Isla Blanca Park; Rivera Joins Cronies in Pushing for Beach Development

Gilberto Hinojosa Pushed for
Development in Public Park
In 2005 County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa and the commissioners agreed on a deal to develop the donated land on South Padre Island we recognize as Isla Blanca Park.  A shell corporation named Laguna Madre Enhancement Group, LLC. represented developers who had designs on the public beach area, wanting to construct a hotel, condominiums, time-shares and possibly a casino if that became legal.  

Not widely advertised was the obvious interference the project would have with public beach access.  The proposed project seemingly conflicted, not only with the Texas Open Beaches Act, but also stipulations on land use made by the land's donor.

Abel Limas Ruled in Favor of the
Developer to Enforce the Lease,
Denying Public Beach Access
Private citizens, opposing the development, formed Private Citizens Who Care~South Padre Island  and filed suit to prevent the lease and subsequent development from going forward. The case was eventually heard three years later in Cameron County District Court in a case presided over by Judge Abel Limas.  Not surprisingly, the corrupt, now imprisoned, Limas, ruled in favor of the developer, enforcing the lease and opening the way for denial of public access to the beach area.

In a successful appeal to the 13th Court of Appeals the lease with the developers was ruled "unenforceable,"  preserving public beach access for the time being and stopping development on  public land.  


Joe Rivera Will Push for
Isla Blanca Park Development
if Elected County Judge
The fight to preserve this public park and beach access is not over.  County Judge Candidate Joe Rivera declared at the 2014 Democratic Party Forum, that, should he be elected County Judge, he would implement the original lease, following the master plan to develop Isla Blanca Park as originally proposed by his friend Gilberto Hinojosa.

Rivera faces incumbent Carlos Cascos in the 2014 Cameron County election.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Is Wrong with These Two Pictures?

Answer:  My friend Letty Perez-Garzoria seems to be endorsing Mary S. Rey in the first picture.  In the second she is endorsing the three candidates recommended by the TVEA including Mary S. Rey's opponent, Shirley "La" Bowman.  

Rivera Hurls His Own Caca at Cascos in the Form of Gilberto Hinojosa

Joe Rivera
As repulsive as even portions or pieces of human excrement are, County Judge Candidate Joe Rivera is lobbing a complete human turd at Carlos Cascos in the form of deposed former County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa.  
In a Brownsville Herald ad, reposted by Bobby Wightman-Cervantes on the BROWNSVILLE VOICE, the Rivera Ad Team faults Cascos for tolerating the blatant criminality of Conrado Cantu, Jr., Abel Limas and Armando Villalobos, all now imprisoned Democrats, but also covering up alleged theft of utilities by his chief assistant, Chris Valadez.

(Actually, I just pulled my Brownsville Herald, Sunday Edition, out of its protective rain sleeve today, because of Nena's stroke and hospitalization. Damn! The Herald made some money yesterday on political ads with even a full-pager by Cesar Lopez, running for the non-paying position of BISD Trustee, Position 1.)

The fine print of the anti-Cascos ad at the left says it is "paid for by the Cameron County Democratic Executive Committee" with the crusty William Skaggs as Treasurer. The address listed is 1767 Boca Chica Blvd., the building originally rented by Cindy Hinojosa for her Cameron County Texas Democratic Women's quarters, but formerly occupied by Betty's Tortas.  (Cindy needed a venue to display her political aptitude that was not well received nor encouraged by former Cameron County Democratic Chair Sylvia Garza-Perez.)

The first Rivera allegation, that Cascos "never called for an investigation of Conrado Cantu, Jr. and Abel Limas is ludicrous, since both were Democrats and blood brothers of Rivera's mentor and puppeteer Gilberto Hinojosa.  In a perfect world, Hinojosa, Limas, Cantu and former District Attorney Armando Villalobos would all be sharing a prison cell planning their next "big job" against the taxpayers of Cameron County.

Cindy, Gilberto Hinojosa
Gilberto, butt-hurt from two defeats already at the hands of Carlos Cascos, one in 2006 where he was personally defeated, the second in 2010 where the handpicked John Wood lost despite twelve affidavits of alleged poll worker intimidation by Hinojosa.  

Rivera is the second handpicked Hinojosa candidate. With Rivera poised to go for a record-breaking 40 years as County Clerk, Hinojosa persuaded old Joe to run for County Judge against Cascos.

If Gilberto Hinojosa, the State Democratic Chairman, is behind the current anti-Cascos ad, it smacks of legendary hypocrisy.  Conrado Cantu, Jr., Abel Limas and Gilberto Hinojosa baptised each other's children and were/are notoriously close.  If anyone tolerating the wrongdoing of Cantu, Limas and Villalobos, it was Hinojosa.  

Jim Barton, Chris Valadez, Gilbert Velasquez
The bottom portion of Rivera's ad deals with an alleged theft of utilities by Cascos aid, Chris Valadez. While no charges were filed in 2000 against Valadez, this has been a recurring theme of the Rivera campaign.  What Valadez IS guilty of is polluting the blogosphere with the livestreaming of the Maclovio O'Malley Show, a bawdy assortment of bathroom, sexual and political humor in three languages; English, Spanish and an uncanny impersonation of Bobby Wightman-Cervantes.

Living in the proverbial glass house is Joe Rivera, who has retained as a prominent operative in his campaign, Lucino Rosenbaum III.  Ex-con Rosenbaum actually served 40 months in state prison after facing possibly a 20 year incarceration for aggravated assault, cocaine smuggling, threatening with a weapon and bail jumping.  

So, OK.  Cascos vs Hinojosa(Rivera) Round 3:  Let the turds fly!



Friday, October 17, 2014

Ricardo Longoria Is Too Tired to Protect Taxpayer Assets: "Just Spend It!" He Admonishes

From the editor:  In the video clip below from the 10/7/2014 City Commission Meeting, Ricardo Longoria admits that even though District 1 has multiple needs, including streets, he is simply weary, tired of fighting for his district.  


"Just spend the money," Longoria says.  "I'm too tired to fight for District 1 anymore."



Will Ricardo Longoria's Ride
Soon Be Over?
Perhaps, the voters of District 1 will relieve Rick of some of his fatigue in May 2015 by electing someone as commissioner not tired of fighting for the district.


In the clip, Longoria also references "pending litigation" from the "13th appeals court" that could result in the City of Brownsville taking a $5,000,000 hit.  Is he talking about the Brownsville Firefighters, the group he stiffed 3 years ago in their efforts to claim their rightfully negotiated "Me too" clause, keeping their wages on par with the police department?  



Ozuna, Perez, Navarro
There is no better example of this City Commission squandering taxpayer assets than their dealings with Brownsville Firefighters. Incompetent, but well-to-do, labor attorney Ricardo Navarro has earned a small fortune convincing the city to stonewall the firefighters union at every juncture.  Even the firefighters offer to settle BELOW contract was rejected by the city on the advice of Navarro.



Longoria's video clip:





Thursday, October 16, 2014

Portillo Statement on Agenda Item #13, City Commission Meeting, 10/7. . .Comments For and Against

From the editor:  A few of us were stunned to see Deborah Portillo articulate a counterpoint at the 10/7 city commission meeting on Agenda Item #13, albeit by reading a prepared statement, not speaking extemporaneously. We've been imploring the young commissioners to do just that for several years; present a reasoned alternative, not just rubber stamp.  Even voting "no" or abstaining is meaningless if you haven't laid out your objections, misgivings or viewpoints clearly, concisely.  

The citizens have suffered through what is essentially a high school city commission with two condescending bullies in control.  

There were many opportunities to speak up, taking a stand, protecting taxpayer interests.  The legacy of this city commission will be the purchase of TWELVE unneeded properties for $3,500,000, then having the gall to burden the taxpayers with Certificates of Obligation to pay for them.

Yes, Tony Martinez, in his puppy love for UTB's Juliet Garcia, may have made some of the deals unilaterally, but they could have been rescinded by a competent city commission.

So, Portillo speaking out was a watershed moment, recognized by some of our readers:

AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Debbie for Mayor! The most sense I've heard out of this commission in my entire life.


AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Did Debbie Portillo write her own remarks? She is wonderful!


AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 7:14 PM

Wow! Debbie thank you for standing up for the citizen of Brownsville


AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 7:27 PM

She is a piece of shit. Ask her how Oscar is...and Lincoln park.


AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 8:12 PM

I believe she speaks her own mind.


AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 2:14 AM

Than why does she have to read them from a teleprompter?


AnonymousOctober 15, 2014 at 8:15 PM

She sounds more like a city manager our current city manager. This is the mind of a business individual. Go Debbie!


Others were not as impressed, even questioning if Portillo wrote the statement herself:





AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 2:13 AM

Deborah Portillo has not answered a single one of my calls in at least 8 months. This last time it rained and I had 2 inches of water in my living room and another city commisioner personally brought over sandbags because he felt bad for me. It's not right that we have potholes over 2 feet deep and a major saftey hazard on morrison road and she is traveling all over on tax payer dollars.
It's really sad that I voted for such an irresponsible person who only cares about advancing her own career.
If she was such a successful business person like she pretends to be, why does she make us poor taxpayers pay for her trips? That money shouldd be used on morrison before someone gets hurt.Delete



AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 12:51 PM

WELL MOVE TO ANOTHER PART OF TOWN, BABOSO!Delete


Reply



AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 1:50 AM

Sorry Jim- but I've heard from at least 4 other commisioners who say very disturbing things about her. She constantly travels on the taxpayer dime- colorado, houston, austin,lasvagas all within the last couple of months and then has the nerve to say she cares about these monies. She is a nothing more than a UB puppet who has her own agenda and only cares about herself . A speech written in advance (no doubt by united brownsville) is not going to earn her any points with us.
Why hasn't she paved SAN MARCELO?????? Why doesn't she answer my calls when I have concerns and questions about why I have potholes a foot deep in my neighborhood? Because she is always out of town! I don't want a commisioner who is "business savy" as she calls herself. I want someone who will tell me why my country club has pot holes 2 feet deep, and she is wasting my tax dollars in las vegas!


AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM

B I M B O. Considerd attractive by some in Brownsville who have never left the valley.


AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

The words that Ms. Portilllo read were given to her by Carlos Marin. Carlos Marin funded her campaign. Carlos Marin hand picked her to run for city commissioner, when she had a change of heart, he begged her again until he convinced her. Marin sits on the BEDC board, how convenient that Ms. Portillo read the words that Marin prepared for her, and said that BEDC already had a plan to spend the monies available. She goes after Tony Martinez because the Mayor kicked Marin to the curb and got Marin's puppet Henry Najera out of PUB. Portillo is to dumb to come up with those words by herself and she knows it. Marin is the one that hired her at Imagine Brownsville and he is the one that got her to run. Marin is now paying back the Mayor for breaking off from him. She read Marin's statement word for word. Marin uses the word leverage every other sentence. Portillo said it about thirty times.


AnonymousOctober 16, 2014 at 8:33 PM

Portillo is such a piece of shit she makes the other commissioners look good. At least they don't read off of notecards or ignore us voters.ReplyDelete
   


BELOW IS PORTILLO'S FULL STATEMENT:

Commissioner Deborah Portillo
Mr. Barton,

I am sorry I am just now responding. I have been swamped at work. Here is the prepared statement I read at the last commission meeting:

-----------------------

I have been a part of this project for the past year- working with Mayor Martinez and Commissioner Villarreal. From day one, I have had issue with the spending of these dollars on the renovation of Market Square without leveraging them against other dollars or having it be a part of a larger downtown revitalization plan. I have shared my concerns repeatedly and I feel this is not a wise expenditure of public dollars.




My reservations stem from the spending of public dollars as if they were private monies. We are not leveraging our resources to generate more revenue for our city. We have not sought out grant dollars or private investment to fully leverage the AEP settlement funds. For example, partnering with CDBG to help with the rehabilitation of Market Square or partnering with a private developer to take on portions of downtown revitalization.


The Brownsville Economic Development Council funded the creation of a downtown revitalization plan, a detailed plan providing a blue print and the necessary steps to accomplish sustained revitalization, yet I do not clearly see how this project is part of that greater plan. What is more troubling is the perception of spending money not in accordance with the plan that we paid for, but in support of individual pet projects. There also was no project plan and budget included in our packet and if one exists I have not seen it. If it has not been shared with the commission, then it has not been shared with downtown merchants or the community as a whole. What good is investing in these plans if we fail to use them and put them into action? At minimum, we should consult with the downtown merchants and other individuals that are vested in the success of our downtown.
I equate this spending with the property purchases that were approved by the previous commission. If you will recall, the city spent roughly $2.5 million acquiring various properties throughout the downtown area that have not resulted in any revenue back to the city to date. The city paid a premium for these properties, then took out a loan to purchase these buildings, taking privately owned properties off our tax rolls. Since the city has done nothing with them to date, it has resulted in a net negative in revenue back to the city.


Another issue I have, is that we will be spending this money without leveraging a single penny. If the remaining AEP funds will solely be used to renovate a single building or one square block then we will have missed an opportunity to truly advance the revitalization of our downtown. If we spend this money without leveraging against other grant dollars then I ask you, what will we have for that investment? I’ll tell you what won’t have… We will not have invested in the long-term sustainability of downtown revitalization. We will not have incentivized investment by the private sector, either current or future. We will not have any monies left from the AEP settlement, spending the remaining balance on a single investment. We will not have made an investment that will generate additional revenues for our City nor our citizens. We will only have a pretty building…


I would like to make it abundantly clear. I am not in any way against downtown revitalization. On the contrary, I am huge supporter of downtown revitalization. I come from a downtown merchant family; I have a great passion for bringing our historic downtown back to its days of glory, one that I remember fondly. But, I feel it is our duty to help the downtown merchants that are now struggling, and spending these monies under the guise of downtown revitalization without a plan set in place that will truly generate revenue and aid our downtown community, is unacceptable. I simply ask that we make a fully informed decision that will truly benefit the greater good and drive more business to our downtown.


Thank you!
----------------------

Thank you for your kind words and for understanding the point that I was trying to make. I knew my statement wouldn't change the votes, but I felt a strong need to speak up and make a statement as to why I was going to vote "nay" on this particular item. Once again, I am FOR downtown revitalization, but I strongly felt that this decision was being made hastily and without a proper plan set in place- one that would further leverage those monies and truly help our beloved downtown and our diligent merchants.

Please let me know if I may be of further service.

-Deborah

Sent from my iPhone

Deborah Portillo
City Commissioner - District 3

City of Brownsville | Office of the City Manager
1001 E. Elizabeth St. | Brownsville, TX 78520<x-apple-data-detectors://1/0>
Tel: 956-548-6000 | Cell: 956-525-3507
deborah.portillo@cob.us<mailto:deborah.portillo@cob.us> | www.cob.us<http://www.cob.us/>

Stillman Being Brought Up to Near John Shergold Standards

The Stillman Ranch House, first transported to El Cueto's parking lot from Nueces County at a cost of $25,000, then hastily moved to Parallel Park for another $14,000 when Juliet Garcia needed a parking lot, is now nearly unrecognizable.  Concrete foundation footings, roof repairs, a new wing or two, give the building a totally different look then the one John Shergold complained about last year as an eyesore and safety hazard.

One can almost imagine Larry Lof, or some other history buff,  guiding a tour of the building, weaving the story of the ranch house into South Texas and national history.  Whether the story of forced sex on Hispanic servants fearing deportation will be included in the story will depend on the perspective of the guide.
  

Contributor Questions Whether Abbott's Message is Reaching Hispanics

Jim,

Greg Abbott has made numerous trips to the valley, reaching out to Hispanic voters.  Commercials featuring his Hispanic mother-in-law play over and over.  


For some reason his message does not seem to connect with Hispanic voters. I saw this picture from his event at Cobbleheads.  I don't think this audience reflects our local demographics.




Felix Espinoza, Brownsville's "Maytag Repairman," Operating the Mitte District Visitor's Center

Brownsville's New Visitor Center on E. 6th 
"We're up to about seven," was the response by Felix Espinoza to my question about the daily traffic visiting the new Visitor's Center on E. 6th St. and Ringgold.  

"That's up from three," Espinoza added.  

The old railroad scale station is one of a dozen properties purchased by the City Commission in 2012 with $3,500,000 in taxpayer dollars.  Until now, NONE of have been utilized by the city in any way, just laying idle, deteriorating and off the tax rolls.  

Felix Espinoza
"But, the Mitte Cultural District was looking for an office where information about the various museums and attractions in the city could be disseminated," offered the Administrative Manager of the Brownsville Tourist's Bureau.  "Mr. Ayala thought about this building and knew we could get the funding to remodel." 

Espinoza thought my recollection of $40,000 to remodel was correct.  The city paid $100,000 for the property, which includes a small warehouse.

"We have our official opening November 5.  We'll be making a presentation to Winter Texans.  We hope to have signage up soon on E. 6th.  That, of course, is up to the city."

   Although Espinoza may occasionally feel like the Maytag repairman, in this computer era, actual work can be done from Borneo or even a former railroad scale house.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Texas AEP Refund Check Burns A Hole in City Commission Pockets

Texas AEP did a terrible disservice to our inept City Commission in sending the City of Brownsville a $3,060,000 refund check for power overcharges.

Like a bag of candy procured on Halloween Night, the refund proved simply too much of a temptation dumbest city commission on Planet Earth.  Mayor Tony, always the opportunist, thought his role as city commission tie-breaker included siphoning off Texas AEP Refund money for his own pet projects.  That didn't even fool Commissioner John Villarreal who nipped the mayor's candy consumption in the bud, but not before a huge mayoral belly ache.

Workmen from Rio Elevator replacing
hydraulic jack on elevator
Some of the Texas AEP Refund money went for worthy projects, like repairing the elevator in El Tapiz Building for $288,000.  For several months the building, which houses planning and fire department administration, was out of compliance with the American Disabilities Act.  


If the laid back City Manager, Charlie Cabler, had spoken to James from Rio Elevator, he might have gotten the repair done for nothing.

As James explained to us, hydraulic jacks typically last for decades, but this one was installed incorrectly by the previous firm, lasting less than two years.

"The hydraulic jack was placed in a PVC sleeve, but it was set in mud. In a short time, the thing was completely corroded," stated James.

When asked how his company will prevent a repeat of the previous short-lived hydraulic jack repair, James stated: "We will put a PVC cap underneath the sleeve to prevent contact corrosion."

Next time, check the warranty Charlie!

But back to the Texas AEP Refund money.  

Commissioners Jessica Tetreau and John Villarreal wanted to make certain the remainder of the refund check was spent wisely, thus submitting this agenda item:  12. Consideration and ACTION to designate the remaining balance from the AEP Settlement, 
towards downtown improvements at Market Square and the San Fernando Building, and 
authorizing that any remaining funds be designated towards further downtown improvements or programs that would advance downtown revitalization. (Commissioners J. Villarreal and J. Tetreau)

Ramiro Gonzalez
This agenda item was actually presented somewhat haphazardly by Tony Martinez and Rose Gowen's heyboy Ramiro Gonzalez, recently given the newly created position of Downtown Redevelopment Officer after failing stint as Downtown Revitalization Officer.  Gonzalez, without naming a figure, asked that the Texas AEP remainder be spent on Market Square.  

Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, tired from not fighting for Lincoln Park, said he did not want to fight over how this money was spent:  "Just spend it so we don't have to argue about it any more!" was Longoria's approach.  Yes, protecting taxpayer assets becomes such a drag, Ricardo.  We understand, I think.

This agenda item did pass, 4-3, with Mayor Tony gleefully acting as the tie breaker.  Before the vote, Commissioner Deborah Portillo read a statement in opposition to the move.  We will share that transcript in the next segment.