Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Full Four Page Report by Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc. on the Cause or Causes of the School Bus Fires~Never Before Released to the Public by BISD

How Can We Provide Safety for BISD Student Bus Riders? Part IV~ Lenz Looks At the Pictures

Daniel Lenz
"One thing to look for in a bus fire investigation report, especially one involving multiple fires is a common denominator,"  stated bus expert Daniel Lenz, after reading the four page written portion of Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc. submitted to BISD November 4, 2013.  

Finding a common thread is made difficult by the incomplete nature of the DTC report.  

"I have no intention of being critical of the report," starts Lenz, "but it leaves out basic information that could link the fires."  

"For example, the report gives the bus numbers for all three buses, #528, #545 and #447, but the VIN numbers for only two of the buses.  Bus #545 is described as "manufactured in 2007 with a 6.4L diesel turbo charged V8 engine."

"Bus #447 is described as a "2002 International chassis with a Blue Bird bus body, equipped with a 7.3 turbo charged V8 diesel.  Bus #528, involved in the dramatic October 4, 2013 fire, does not list a VIN number, model year or make, simply described as being powered by "a turbo-charged diesel located at the front of the vehicle.  So, we have no idea, from the report, if Bus #528 shared the same manufacturer or engine as either of the other two buses involved in fires.  

DTC describes the cause of the October 4, 2013 bus fire on Bus #528 as "officially undetermined."

The fire on Bus #545, that caught fire April 10, 2013 is blamed on "portions of the wiring harness that had become displaced from the bulkhead and were in close proximity to the exhaust system."  The report also states that "portions of the thermal barrier were not installed in a proper manner to protect the air conditioning hoses and adjacent components."  Then, the report claims that an "exhaust clamp adjacent to the turbo-charger was noted to have been improperly tightened." 

Exhaust clamp adjacent to turbo-charger,
 Bus # 545
"Jim, the black and white pictures are not very good.  Clear photos in color are needed for an inspection.  As far as a breakdown in the thermal barrier around AC components, it would not be fire-inducing.   The AC might not work as well." 

"Actually, Jim, the exhaust clamp in the foreground of the picture on the left appears tight.  Notice the two sort of round objects with a threaded bolt running through them are touching.  They can't get tighter than that.  Now, one of the flanges on either side of the turbo could be defective, but the exhaust clamp looks tight and, notice the nut on the bolt appears to not have been turned."

DTC included 15 full page black and white pictures in their 19 page report. None of the pics are very clear or conclusive.  Some of the pics are of the entire bus after the fire or of a "typical" engine compartment.

"As we've stated before, without a careful examination of maintenance records, interviews with drivers and mechanics, a report like this is very incomplete.  It would be very difficult to come up with comprehensive maintenance or procedural recommendations based on so little information."

2014-DCL-0427 Charles J. Hasse VS Frank J. Morris, 107th District Court, Judge Ben Euresti, Jr., July 31 @ 9:00 AM

From the editor:  While Hasse's suit was filed in the 445th Court, it will be heard in Ben Euresti Jr's 107 District Court, July 31 at 9:00 AM.

Hasse will be acting as his own attorney, but it is not known if Morris will be represented by heavyweight Republican counsel.

Hasse filed the suit against private citizen Frank Morris, not County Republican Chair Morris.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

El Rrun Rrun Blog Depresses Entire City with Announcement of Tony's Plan to Run Again in 2015

Martinez Wants to Continue Riding Roughshod
over the City of Brownsville
Brownsville's future just got gloomier with the report in Juan Montoya's El Rrun Rrun blog that Tony Martinez plans to run for mayor again in 2015.

In a town where almost no one votes, Martinez can get the needed plurality with a couple hundred chicken plates and a secret weapon he announced to those standing just outside Lola's Bake Shop at a 2011 pachanga:  "If you liked the chicken plates, things get even better at our next pachanga.  We will be serving carne guisada."  At that very moment Tony's four opponents had their asses whipped.

The Montoya article hinted that the ill-mannered Sylvia Garza-Perez was hitting up well-healed Brownsville Hindus for Tony Martinez 2015 campaign contributions, likely not revealing how many cows had to be killed for a carne guisada pachanga.

The public service of Tony Martinez and Sylvia Garza-Perez have been eerily similar.  Sylvia bailed out halfway through her term as County Democratic Chair, leaving the local party with only a third of the precincts having chairs, unpaid bills and a secure padlock on the office rented for party meetings do to nonpayment of rent.

Martinez has operated in similar fashion, functioning as an absolute menace to Brownsville taxpayers, wasting their hard-earned tax dollars on $3.5 million of speculative real estate, yielding development of the FM 511 industrial corridor to his cronies at United Brownsville and saddling P.U.B. ratepayers with historic future utility rate increases by financing a quarter interest in an 800 megawatt power plant on the backs of ratepayers to the tune of $325,000,000.

Precious, irreplaceable taxpayer assets like Lincoln Park have been offered up like gift offerings to curry some sort of favor with one of the world's richest university systems, the University of Texas.

Even windfalls like the AEP Texas Settlement Fund, worth $3,060,000, have been dipped into by Martinez without taxpayer or City Commission consent for his pet projects until his wrists were finally slapped by a couple young city commissioners.

About to hit the City of Brownsville like a huge asteroid is the settlement of a lawsuit by the city's fire fighters and paramedics.  Following the foolish "hardball" approach recommended by labor Attorney Ricardo Navarro, the city lost the court case, then the appeal.  Interest and penalties now approach several millions of dollars.  Very dumb move by the city, especially considering the union offered to settle for LESS than their contract called for several years ago.

No, Juan's report did not make our day.  The only thing possibly worse than a term of Tony Martinez as Mayor of Brownsville would be two terms.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Former Mayor Pat Ahumada Weighs in On Frank Morris, State of Cameron County Republicans, Oscar X. Garcia

From the editor:  Former Mayor Pat Ahumada submitted this comment to our article on Tad Hasse's suit against Frank Morris, former Republican County Chair.   There are still issues in Hasse's suit we want to examine, but, in the interim, Ahumada gives us his experience with Morris and the local Republican Party:

"Looks like the whole world now knows Tad is a republican! I tell Tad the party will never change locally under Frank Morris who has always sought to maintain control and has killed any efforts to allow the party to grow. It is the caste system in the party, based on Frank Morris.

Back when I was in the Republican Party, which I no longer am and have not been since 2004-I brought in Chris Valadez, Eddie Padron, Enrique Escobedo, and many others, but the party under Frank rejected the creation of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly that we created and did everything to undermine it. The result being, the party is only for the select few allowed based on what they perceive to be republican. 

Oscar Garcia is a good example, when I ran for county judge, Frank Morris and his bunch went out of their way to get me an opponent-Oscar Garcia and made him an instant Republican.

Looking back it is laughable, because Oscar was anointed Republican and all the precinct chairs with the County Chairman aligned themselves to beat me, but they really undermined themselves. The laughable part is that Oscar stated in his press release as the anointed one based on his friendship to Tony Garza and boldly said, "I have never voted in my life, because I have been busy with school and family". Imagine, never bothered to vote, because he was too busy, but he was good enough to anoint as a Republican. 

Now, the other laughable part is that he was anointed again, appointed to District Judge and signed up as a democrat, but when he saw who he had to compete against, quickly abandoned his principals and switched parties out of convenience. Now, this anointed republican, anti-corruption crusader, without principals is Mr. Republican wanting our vote. I would not trust his ethics, integrity, nor principals, as he has proven those ideals are only to be used out of convenience when it suits him. His anti-corruption campaign does not wash and voting democrat is my objection to what the GOP stands for and that is the caste system within the party. 

Minorities are welcomed, but mostly to meet their quota and to brainwash against the minorities."

Pat Ahumada

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tad Hasse Sues Longtime Cameron County Chairman Frank Morris

Frank Morris
Frank Morris, who resigned as Cameron County Republican Chair May 14, is now trying to keep the job.

"My letter that went to the party secretary addressed only the term ending June 15, " Morris told Valley Morning Star Staff Writer Emma Perez-Trevino in an article published July 19.  

Cameron County Precinct 102 Chair Tad Hasse has filed a lawsuit insisting Morris be true to his word, honoring the resignation letter he sent in May.  Judge for yourself if Morris is resigning temporarily or permanently by the words and tone of his resignation letter, reprinted from a Mean Mister Brownsville article dated June 10:

Notice that Morris is "closing out all vendor accounts that are in his name," taking his name off the checking account, giving the "new chairman" 30 days to pick up the materials.  

He encourages Party Secretary Ida Stacy to "contact the state chairman for further guidance."  

Finally, he states:  "It's been a great ride.  I'm free at last."

Precinct Chairman Hasse, disturbed that Morris, despite resigning May 14, was continuing to act as a de facto County Chair, filed suit in 445th District Court seeking a Declaratory Judgement that Frank J. Morris has vacated his position in accord with Section 201.001 of the Texas Election Code-Resigning or Declining Office.

While filed in the 445th District Court, the matter will be heard by Senior Judge Menton Murray, Jr. in the 107th District Court at 974 E. Harrison St. on July 31 at 9:00 AM.  

In private conversations,  Hasse has expressed concern that the local Republican Party has become a "cult of personality," with gullible locals more attached to a long-entrenched leader than the principles of the party. 

Hasse fears that Morris has carefully restricted inclusion into the party to those who support Morris' views and leadership style while stifling those with alternate viewpoints. 

"If you just explained to people in Cameron County that the Republican Party is about keeping more of the money that you make, enjoying personal liberties with less government intrusion, people would embrace that. We just haven't gotten that message out," Hasse stated.
(more to come) 

Corruption at Cameron Park~A Pictorial Essay of the 2012 Election, Now the Subject of Indictments

The van pictured above,  allegedly rented by Carlos Masso was observed delivering loads of the elderly to the Cameron Park polling place during the 2012 primary runoff.  Nena and I were poised to document the incidents through pictures, but we'd been seen. While we were there, just outside the gates of the Cameron Park Community Center, the van would simply be driven past, without stopping.  After we left, we got a call from Zeke Silva stating that, as soon as we left the area, deliveries of the elderly started up again.  

So, we drove back to Cameron Park, preparing to take pictures.  Within 5 minutes or so, a Cameron County Sheriff's deputy, followed by Election Administrator Roger Ortiz were on the scene.  The deputy went inside the polling place.  Ortiz approached us.

"Pictures are not allowed within the designated polling place," Ortiz explained.  

I told Ortiz that Nena's camera was in the truck, that, we were taking pictures outside the polling area, not inside.   Ortiz said he could have us arrested for loitering.(Later, the F.B.I. asked if we wanted to file a civil rights violation against Ortiz, stating that he had no right to threaten us with a loitering charge.)

Three political camps were obviously working together with tents just beyond the fence of the community center:  Abelardo Gomez, Carlos Masso and Erin H. Garcia.

In the picture above, Election Judge Arcellia Villolon steps outside the polling place during polling hours to confer with Candidate for Constable Abelardo Gomez and Junior Andrade.  Was she talking about coordinating the busloads of elderly?  Was she talking about our presence?  As soon as she noticed Nena snapping a picture from across the street with a zoom lens, she ran back inside.

Later, we received this message:
"The guy next to Abelardo(Gomez) talking to the lady(Election Judge) is Junior Andrade his compadre. The Andrades are scum that brag about having poiticians in their pockets. They run several arcade estsablishments and bankrolled Gomez for protection of their arcade businesses. Luis Saenz should close all the arcades,...the Andrades gave alot of money to Carlos Masso also. They are people that do not know what an honest living is."

I walked around to the snap this picture of longtime politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra at the Abelardo Gomez tent.  While they posed for this picture, Ozuna tried to pick a quarrel with Nena later. Herminia, though, was very open about her role:  "No one get elected unless I say so," she told us.

The grainy picture on the left was taken by someone with their cell phone.  They allege that it shows Carlos Masso paying the drivers of the vans of elderly taken to Cameron Park.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Frank Morris Bans Cell Phones, Electronic Devices from Cameron County Republican Party Meetings

De facto Cameron County Republican Party Chairman Frank Morris, if a tree, would have at least 80 rings.  Earth, the planet where Morris resides, has made 80 complete orbits of the Sun during Frank's life, each trip taking 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, 1.2 seconds.

As an octogenarian, Morris once lived in a world where cell phones and electronic devices did not exist, nor did radar, ball point pens, silly putty or canned beer. Inventions and technology have literally exploded during the last eight decades, including both atomic and hydrogen bombs.  

We're told that two very distinct worlds, a pre-technology one of day's gone by and the current technological world, may have collided at the Best Western Motel of Harlingen, TX for this month's Republican Party Meeting.

An observer informed us that signs prohibiting the use of cell phones were posted around the meeting room local Republicans used for the recent meeting.  

When a young mother answered her cell phone during the meeting, she was quickly ushered out the door by Cameron County Constable, Precinct 1, Pete Delgadillo, used by Mr. Morris as sort of a security guard.  Once outside the room, the attendee tried to again connect to her family via cell phone, but was told by Constable Delgadillo that she could not use the device adjacent to the meeting room.
Constable Pete Delgadillo
Morris explained that, in banning the use of cell phones within the confines a room used as an official party meeting room, he was simply enforcing a state party rule for such meetings.(No such rule has been located.)

When some in the room explained to Morris that they used electronic devices to make personal notes of important aspects of the meeting, they were told to use "old-fashioned paper and ink."  As noted above, before 1935, that would have been using the old fountain pen, liquid ink from a bottle likely secured in an inkwell. 

Paper, of course, has been used for centuries, whether ancient vellum from cow's hide or papyrus, at first in scrolls, but later in the modern codex or book form.  

While Morris has not prohibited most forms of writing, ancient and modern, he has taken a stand against cell phones and electronic devices.

Ironically, near the close of this month's meeting, another cell phone went off.  It belonged to Frank Morris, who waved off the interruption with the words: "I hardly use the thing.  I don't think I even know how to make a call." 

No doubt other local Republicans will have a different recollection of this meeting as described above.  We invite those corrective comments. 

How Can We Provide Safety for BISD Student Bus Riders? Part III~ Lenz Analyzes Inspector's Report

From the editor: If a commercial or private bus company experienced three bus fires in a six month period, they would likely be shut down by the Department of Transportation.  Insurance companies would simply look at the numbers and decline being a provider.  

BISD experienced two dramatic bus fires within one week in October 2013.  When Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc. was summoned by Superintendent Montoya to investigate the two October 2013 fires, DTC was also given access to another burned bus from an April 2013 fire.  

Daniel Lenz
In Part II of this series, we began sharing our interview with world class bus expert, Daniel Lenz of Brownsville.  We continue that interview here:

Mean Mister Brownsville: You indicated that a Lenz inspection would start with maintenance records, manufacturer recalls, repair orders, etc.  Are you ready to take a look at the burned buses yet?

Daniel Lenz:  Not yet.  I would still need more information from the files, plus some interviews.  Pre-Trip and Post-Trip inspections need to be reviewed for the three buses that caught fire.  Drivers are required by federal law to make a Pre-Trip inspection before transporting passengers.(At this point Lenz brings out a sample Pre-Trip Inspection Report and goes through the various checks point by point)

MMB:  The driver does this?

Lenz:  Yes.  To get a CDL or Commercial Driver's License, applicants have to be able to perform a Pre-Trip inspection.  Basic checks of the engine compartment, an external inspection of lights including signals, stop, headlights, back up lights, etc.  Mirrors are checked, lug nuts, reflectors, fuel tank cap, ABS indicator, hoses.  Also, the air brakes are checked.  The emergency exits, the horn, the emergency exits and any wheel chair devices or lifts.  

All of this goes into a report.  That report is critical if there is an accident, fire or other incident.  It's not hard to see why a Pre-Trip and Post-Trip inspection must be made, then recorded in the files.  

Then, of course, there are the Periodic Vehicle Inspection Reports, which are much more comprehensive and performed by professional mechanics.  These are made as required at various mileage intervals, measure tire wear, thoroughly checking braking systems, exhaust, the fuel system, suspension, all fire extinguishers, windshields, wipers, wheels and rims and much, much more.

MMB:  You mentioned something about interviews?

Lenz:  You absolutely HAVE to interview any drivers who drove the three buses that caught fire.  Were they having any mechanical difficulty, anything out of the ordinary before the fire?  Any and all of their observations would be critical, especially seeing smoke, any sounds or smells.  Both BISD drivers, with buses carrying 30 and 29 passengers respectively, stopped their buses for a reason.  All of that information should be in a report.

Also, general questions about maintenance need to be asked.  How does the shop respond to their complaints? How quickly?  

And, of course, the mechanics would need to be interviewed to get their general observations about maintenance practices within the department, also about their personal training as mechanics and resume's.  

Please note that none of the information from the maintenance files, repair orders, factory recalls, pre-trip or post-trip reports, driver or mechanic interviews were included in Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc.'s investigation or final report.

In Part IV of this series, Lenz examines some the 15 black & white pictures of the burned buses included in the report.(He's not too fond of B&W pics for this purpose.)

Part V will publish DTC's four page written report for your examination.

Part VI will take a look at how BISD selects administrators to run its Transportation Department and what that reveals about how they prioritize student safety.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Alicia Gracia Cardenas, Grant Writer for BPUB, Speaks on Resaca Restoration Project

How Can We Best Provide Safety for BISD Student Bus Riders? Part II~Daniel Lenz Analyzes Inspector's Report on School Bus Fires

BISD Superintendent Carl Montoya
It was only after a second school bus fire within a week last October that BISD Superintendent Carl Montoya called for an investigation. (Actually, we later learned, at least three bus fires had occurred within six months, an inordinate number for any bus system, let alone one carrying students.)

Montoya engaged Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc., a four person company out of Raleigh, North Carolina, to investigate the cause or causes of the fires. To this day BISD has never shared that report with the public or detailed any corrective measures implemented by the district to prevent recurrence.  

BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas
Our May 28, 2014 Public Information Request, initially denied by the district, was finally fulfilled July 15, 2014 when we received a certified letter from BISD Staff Attorney Miguel Salinas, mentioning the district's withdrawal of request for an Attorney General ruling on the release of the report. The 19 page report from Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc. was included in the packet. 
Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairman
Daniel Lenz(on the left) Bus Driver
 Appreciation Day
While something might have popped out at me from the report, I always defer to experts;  Tad Hasse on differential calculus, Roman Perez on Robert's Rules of Order or the Southmost Library's Tom Robinson, south Texas' first ecologist, on the migration trails of the ocelot.  With respect to buses, transportation systems, maintenance and management, Brownsville has likely one of the country's leading experts, Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairman Daniel Lenz.

Lenz, after spending a few hours with the DTC report, agreed to meet us at his Brownsville Country Club home for an interview:

Mean Mister Brownsville:  Daniel, now that you've had a chance to review it, what is your overall impression of the Dynamic Technical Consultants, Inc. report on the BISD bus fires?

Lenz:  My initial reaction is that it's not very comprehensive.  The 19 pages of report include 15 full page black & white pictures, but only 4 pages of written report, double-spaced.  Of 73 actual lines, 54 are irrelevant or repeat information gleaned from BISD.  The 19 lines of pertinent information gives no common denominator or actual findings. Some of the conclusions seem questionable.

MMB:  So, I take it that you would have approached the investigation differently?

Lenz:  Typically, I would start an investigation with the maintenance files involving all three buses, No #528, No #545 and No #447.  You start with basic maintenance like oil changes and lubrication, then filter changes, including fuel filters, then move to Periodic Inspection Reports required by law.  

Next, you look at all Repair Orders for the buses.  You need the date of repair, location of repair, vehicle make, model and year, odometer reading, VIN number, description of repair, mechanic performing repair and signing off as completed.  You need a list of parts replaced with manufacturer parts numbers.

The above information gives you a starting place for an investigation once you get on site to look at the vehicle.

MMB:  Does DTC include any of this in their report?

Lenz:  No.  It appears they only did an on site inspection of the buses.  It's not that you can't ascertain the cause of the fire from an on site inspection, it's just that without an understanding of the maintenance history, it's almost impossible to get to the root cause. An on site inspection of the bus involved in the April 2013 fire was simply a waste of money.  After six months on the lot, such a vehicle becomes simply a "parts bus" and the actual condition at the time of the fire cannot be assured.

MMB:  I suspect a Lenz inspection would involve more than maintenance records and an on site look at the buses?

Lenz:  Yes, Jim.  Recalls, Field Service Bulletins, Field Service Kits or Service Information Letters from the manufacturers should be in the files for each bus.  In each case, the manufacturer has a responsibility to prove they sent the bulletin and it was received, while the client must prove they implemented the recall or service bulletin.  This kind of information is critical to any investigation.

Texas Inspection Reports and fuel logs are critical.  If a vehicle starts using more fuel than usual, a fuel leak may be indicated.  

None of this is mentioned in the DTC report. 

From the editor:  In the next installment of the interview, Lenz comments on other aspects of a complete bus fire investigation. He has his own observations on DTC's on site examination and, more importantly, school bus safety.  

Please recall, this information is coming from a man who has successfully run several large bus systems, including school buses, was called to inspect the buses used in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, taught 1,500 mechanics, drivers and personnel for the New Jersey Transit Authority and sent by the U.S. government as part of an A.I.D.(Aid International Development) package to establish  and improve bus service in Egypt.
(to be continued) 


"Queen of the Politiqueras," Herminia Becerra, STILL Not Indicted!!!! Anyone Wonder Why????

"No One Gets Elected Unless I Say So!"
Herminia Becerra

Indictment of the Brownsville Six!!