Saturday, July 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican Presidential Candidate Lashes Out Against Mexicans

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Random Tidbits About the Confederate Flag, Slavery, Racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southern Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brownsville City Commission Meeting, June 16, 2015

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

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

Former UT Coach Darrell Royal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

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

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

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

It is a living, albeit a hard one.  

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, no."

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


What made you come to Brownsville? 

"I came with some friends."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

Current Job Listings

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

Airport Director

Brownsville, TX USA
July 10, 2015
Full Time

Customer Service Specialist I

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

Traffic Control Warden

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

Emergency Communications Operator

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Brownsville Paradox~Zero Interest in Curbside Recycling While Leading the Nation in Actual Recycling

Rose Timmer Caricature by Nena Barton
Despite Popeye the Sailor Man, 50's kids never learned to like soggy, canned spinach, although the same baby boomers now consume tons of the fresh form of the green leafy vegetable in salads.

It almost seems as if Rose Timmer, the Executive Director of Healthy Communities of Brownsville, has been trying to force the old soggy, stringy, overcooked canned veggie down our collective throats in her relentless push for curbside recycling in this paid-for All-America City of 2014.  The response of the taxpayers so far has been mixed:  "No," "Never!" or "Hell, No!"

Last September the indefatigable Ms. Timmer set up a Curbside Recycling Workshop at the Brownsville Police Department's Southmost substation.  According to Timmer, Health Director Art Rodriguez, Public Works Director Santana Torres and Ruth(Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna?) were the only ones to show up.  No taxpayers made the meeting.  A January 6, 2014 curbside recycling trial run, involving 1,200 homes. garnered an actual participation rate of 5%, yes folks, 5 out of 100 homeowners.

Alley Recycler, Mr. Rodriquez, Posing with his
triciclico de carga
The absolute paradox of Brownsville's rejection of mandated curbside recycling is that 24/7 the city's downtown alleys, shopping center dumpsters and West Brownsville's trash cans are combed relentlessly, like crazy, for anything of value.  Old men on triciclos, sturdy trikes, that can be purchased in Matamoros for $300, search the alleys of downtown and West Brownsville for cardboard, aluminium, steel and salvageables.  

During the night, but well into mid-morning, men in pickups make a daily tour of dumpsters behind the malls, strip malls, shopping centers, sorting American and Chinese cardboard, picking up pallets, discarded shopping carts and anything of value not tied down sufficiently.  Covertly, these drivers make deals with retail clerks to control certain dumpsters or get a "call" when something of value is discarded as in a store reset or remodel.  

Recently, at a car wash's vacuuming station, two men carefully lifted each trash can, emptying it's contents on the pavement. Aluminum cans, coins, plastics were sorted out and the remaining trash was redeposited into the trash receptacles.  Those who insist Brownsville doesn't recycle just don't get it.  It's done daily, relentlessly, out of sheer economic need, but not under the control of city administrators.

Much of this country's discarded clothing arrives in Brownsville and the RGV on freight trains, tied into 100 lbs pacas.  Central and South America, Africa and the world get this ropa usada, after it is sorted out in warehouses around town and throughout the valley.  A little known fact is that much of donated clothing in the U.S. never reaches the shelves or hangers of the Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.  There is simply not enough retail space.  Much of that merchandise, along with store returns, out of season items, etc. eventually reach Brownsville.  

The handling of this clothing is based on movement and varies from establishment. Lawani Souleiman, who has operated a ropa
Lawani Souleiman
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, as well as that of other downtown ropa usadas, is shipping recycled clothing around the world.  Recycling at it's zenith!

USS Forrestal, Towed into the Port of Brownsville
 for Scrapping, Recycling
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 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.


1. To extract useful materials from garbage or waste.
2. To use again, especially to reprocess
3. To recondition and/or adapt to new use or function

Well-meaning city leaders like Ms. Timmer constantly try to force-fit Brownsville into the Austin model.  Brownsville is not Austin, never will be.  It is driven by its own forces and unique needs. Until that is understood, nothing works.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Surprise! Surprise! Tony Martinez Gets Support of Infamous Linebarger Law Firm

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP. Thank you for your confidence and your valuable time to open your office doors to us. We appreciate it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How the City of Brownsville, Cameron County and the Port of Brownsville Have Yielded Control to An Unelected Board of Opportunists to the Detriment of Our Environment and the Future of Our Children

Congressman Filemon Vela Meets with United
Brownsville, Imagina Brownsville
While the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan, so vigorously pushed by former Brownsville Mayor Eddie Trevino, Jr. at a cost of $900,000 to the taxpayers, sits on the shelf like a dusty vintage comic book, never implemented, now totally obsolete, the inertia created by that publication and the vacuous meetings it recommended have resulted in a dramatic shift in control of public assets.  Out of initial thrust came the United Brownsville Coordinating Board with no initial idea what it would be coordinating.

IBC Bank President Fred Rusteberg
For those connecting the dots, it appears that coordinating board, primarily including Fred Rusteberg, Carlos Marin and Juliet Garcia is now rearing its ugly, carnivorous head with the proposed FIVE liquefied natural gas plants to extend from the Port of Brownsville to the city limits of Port Isabel, destined to spew millions of gallons of hot effluent daily into the Bahia Grande while mercury, hydrogen sulfide, helium, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons would be "dispersed" into our air supply.

It was interesting that mayoral candidate Pat Ahumada, responding to our question about the proposed assortment of liquefied natural gas plants at the Port of Brownsville, stated that "you know the city has no jurisdiction in the Port of Brownsville governance, which is where these proposed plants are to be built."

While the City of Brownsville may have no jurisdiction at the Port of Brownsville, the City Commission yielded in resolution control of a so-called "Bi-ned Zone," including the port, the industrial corridor along FM 511 as well as manufacturing entities across the river to a "Bi-ned Co-ordinating Board" including the City of Harlingen, United Brownsville and Imagina Matamoros.  Here is a resolution relinquishing control, actually ceding control of the industrial corridor to Harlingen and two non-governmental entities that was actually passed by the mayor and city commission:

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

This resolution, coupled with Congressman Vela's participation in the Bi-ned Conference held at UTB in 2012 and representation at United Brownsville meetings since, has added credibility to the shadow government, once described by City Attorney Mark Sossi as "informal," not subject to the Public Information Act.  Of course, United Brownsville has always been more than willing to have a young city commissioner serve as an out-of-the-financial loop tri-chair of the coordinating board.  Lol!

Mean Mister Brownsville with Robin McCaffrey, Author
of the $454,000 Industrial Corridor Plan
It was actually the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation that approved a $454,000 study for development of the industrial corridor, then $180,000 more to allow Jacobs Engineering to proceed with Phase 1 of the implementation of the initial plan. While  BEDC Director Jason Hilts insisted that Jacobs Engineering was the only one to bid on the $750,000 plan to implement the $454,000 study, Jacobs Engineering named young Oscar Garcia, Jr., Juliet Garcia's son, with no experience in such things, as Project Manager.  Are you having fun at home connecting the dots?

 While young Oscar Garcia, Jr. left his service on the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to accept the new challenge at Jacob's Engineering, it was not before he and PUB Board member Tony Martinez help seal the purchase of a quarter interest in an 800 megawatt power plant to be built, yes on the FM 511 industrial corridor by the Tenaska Corporation.  Many in Brownsville, as well as the internationally acclaimed Fitch Bond Rating firm viewed that purchase as an extremely poor financial deal, especially when financed by a $350,000,000 burden on the ratepayers.

Of course, no one knew at that time that LNG plants have extraordinary power needs, actually needing their own power plant, to compress natural gas into a liquid, storing it at -44 F under great pressure, so it can economically be shipped to other countries, namely China and Russia.  Connect the dots.

Of course, Rusteberg, Vela, Marin, et al, have a short window of opportunity to cash in.  China and Russia are said to be five years away from their own LNG plants.  By that time the bird estuaries of the Bahia Grande and the atmosphere above Cameron County, Port Isabel and South Padre Island will not be nearly as pristine, but more like Channel View, Houston and Corpus Christi.  Connect the dots. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Carlos Marin, the Leech Sucking Brownsville's Blood

Carlos Marin, Quietly Draining the Lifeblood
from Brownsville
First of all, the revelation from Julie Olvera that Carlos Marin kicked in four or so thousand to Rick Longoria's campaign in a secret fundraiser will not draw official interest.  

The fact that the event was "men only" raises some questions:  Did Marin invite strippers, prostitutes or even transvestites to the event? Who knows or even cares? Marin does what he does behind closed doors and answers to no one.  He plays city politics to make money for his engineering firm, Ambiotec.  Another prominent engineer told me that he only bids on smallish projects.  Ambiotec automatically gets all the large ones.  Why waste his time?

Marin, along with IBC buddy, Fred Rusteberg, has positioned himself to control development in the FM 511 industrial corridor including the Port of Brownsville.  I'm told that leases have already been signed to allow LNG plants to operate from the Port of Brownsville to the city limits of Port Isabel, dispensing mercury, hydrogen sulfide, helium, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and other impurities from the natural gas into the state's most pristine atmosphere. 

The air pollution will be joined by millions of gallons of daily hot effluent pumped into the pristine estuaries of the Bahia Grande, threatening the habitat of birds, ocelots and other game on life support in the region.

We all want Carlos Marin to make some money, keep his family off welfare, but why must all of his grandiose projects threaten the future and health of all Brownsville families?  Is Carlos that big of an asshole? 

Mariano "Bean" Ayala, Painting by the Numbers in Tourism and Campaign Contributions

Mariano "Bean" Ayala, President of Brownsville
Tourists & Convention Bureau
Some of us are not true believers in economic impact numbers, the gist of the hype frequently used by Tourism Guru "Bean" Ayala in presentations before the City Commission, that seem to demonstrate a huge financial impact from the thousands who travel to Brownsville each year, but also justify his six figure salary as tourist director.

In "the cup is half empty" view, that minivan from San Antonio contains relatives who will sleep on the couch, the daybed, a cot, eat in grandma's kitchen, maybe spring for a pound of barbacoa and fill their gas tank on the way out of town.

"Bean" begs to differ.  He is of the  "cup is half-full, but will soon be overflowing," mindset seeing the same San Antonio minivan as loaded with out-of-town tourists who will stay at the Holiday Inn, eat at the Palo Alto Steakhouse, shop at Sunrise Mall and then dance all night at SPI clubs.  Those mega-dollars, Ayala infers, will trickle down to the hardworking wage-earners of the poorest county in the United States.

Lest the tourist office at FM 802 and Interstate 77/83 be overrun, Ayala has created another in a red brick building at 700 E. Ringgold to handle the hordes of tourists invading the Mitte District.  No signage anywhere announces a tourist office on Ringgold Street, so the occasional tourist who stumbles into the building is either a super sleuth or someone bringing Assistant Director Feliz Espinosa his lunch.

Economic impact studies always seem overly optimistic. Promoters of Alltel Arena, now Verizon Arena, built in a North Little Rock ghetto, promised that the structure would bring fancy hotels and eateries to the area.  Actually, almost nothing changed except a huge sports and entertainment facility is now surrounded by a dilapidated neighborhood.  Also, religious conventions repeatedly disappoint as the adherents are said "bring a ten dollar bill and the Ten Commandments" to town and break neither.

City Commissioner Rick Longoria
Yet, Mr. Ayala may be preoccupied with other numbers these days, namely the $240 Julie Olvera, Rick Longoria's former girlfriend, claims she saw Bean hand Rick through a vehicle window in support of his campaign for City Commissioner, District 1.  Two things could make that contribution illegal:  1. If the contribution is not represented in any way on Mr. Longoria's 2015 campaign finance reports.  2.  The contribution was made in cash, as claimed by Ms. Olvera, in violation of the Texas Election 

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

A quick perusal of the photographs reveals no listing of a contribution by Mariano "Bean" Ayala, but $200 from County Commissioner Sofia Benavides, $500 from Attorney Eddie Trevino, $500 from Ezpara & Garza, LLP, $500 from civil engineer Juan R. Mendez, $500 from Mare Haws and, of course, $500 fron the Linebarger Law Firm.

Where is the listing of your contribution Bean or did Ms. Olvera lie about seeing you pass money through a car window to Rick?