Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finding A District Attorney Who Can Prosecute Effectively, Honestly in Cameron County

Political corruption, back door deals, influence peddling by convicted RICO felons paralyzes our community. Millions of dollars of desperately needed funding gets flushed down rat holes while our politicos enrich themselves. Add up the 21 million paid to Dennenbaum Engineering, the 10 million dollar sports park that somehow cost 35 million and the 14 million in overcharges by HealthSmart to BISD that our majority four trustees let slide in a "wink-wink" deal. My math totals 60 millions of much needed dollars tossed aside or exchanged for calabaza.

As stated weeks ago in Mean Mister Brownsville:

Villalobos as district attorney is as effective as a lifeguard with a water phobia. As we stated a few days ago: "We pay a district attorney handsomely in Cameron County to fight corruption, but like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, Armando Villalobos never had the courage. He deferred, stepped over, ignored the rampant political corruption in the county so as not to antagonize any segment of political support as he used the district attorney's office to launch his campaign for yet higher office."


My personal criteria is simple. Is your resume' free of apparent corruption? Are you articulate enough to effectively prosecute a case personally? Are you willing to prosecute local politicians who break the law in Cameron County? I won't bother to distinguish the candidates by their political party, because I don't care about that.

Carlos Masso: Mr. Masso seems to be the favorite of at least two blogs locally with ads placed in both. Masso is not part of the solution to county corruption, but part of the problem. Do you recall the 21 million paid to Dennenbaum Engineering for which the citizens got nothing, nada, zilch? Mr. Masso was part of the Brownsville Navigation District who agreed to a settlement of only one of those millions paid to the DA's office. He chose not to fight for the taxpayers, but meekly acquiesced to the huge contractor's interests. I don't care if he's Perry Mason in the courtroom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GRADE-F

Luis Saenz Mr. Saenz mentions 19 years of experience in prosecutorial style duties. A sexual harassment charge against him was dismissed. I'm told his office received an unfavorable performance rating. None of that matters to me. I'm only concerned with his two inept, ineffectual prosecutions of Pat Ahumada in the check theft case, because I think that was slam dunk case if clearly articulated to a jury. I'm told that at the time of Ahumada's depositing of the $26,000 from a vendor into his own personal bank account, his account was $180 in arrears. He proceeded to a trip to Tampico to "promote Brownsville" immediately after the deposit. When approached by the Brownsville Police Department, Ahumada stated that the money had already been returned to the city. That was a lie. It was returned later that afternoon. That timeline and sequence of events was not clearly presented to either jury. Instead, Saenz got tangled up in arguing whether or not Ahumada had his glasses when he made the deposit. Based on prosecutorial performance and baggage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . GRADE-C

Gus Garza Like Saenz, Garza has some experience, as a prosecutor and judge. He is known for corporal punishment issued in dealing with juveniles, thus the nickname "the spanking judge." His comments at forums tended to deal more with "America" than Cameron County. His responses were more platitudes about patriotism than answers to actual questions. In private conversation, he indicated a willingness to pursue political corruption, but seems a bit out of touch for 2012. . . . . . GRADE-C

Chuck Mattingly Currently, the Assistant District Attorney, having prosecuted several high profile cases. Mattingly has tried to distance himself from the non-performing Villalobos, although he does not privately criticize him. He has prosecuted several high profile cases. At the forums, he lists some of those cases and the sentence received in very dramatic fashion. He is capable of effective prosecution with eye contact and power. . . . . GRADE A

Maria Urbina DeFord DeFord also works as an Assistant District Attorney, having prosecuted several cases. She is the product of a valley migrant farm family, has served stints in both the Army and Navy. She is tough-minded, well-spoken and states without equivocation that she will prosecute political corruption. She has an earnest, sometime rapidfire speaking style. She is capable of effective prosecution. . GRADE-A

It's obvious I favor the two younger, more current candidates currently serving as Assistant District Attorneys. Going forward, they give us the best option of getting a handle on political and other corruption and crime in our community. No one takes political heat for prosecuting a child killer or Zeta, but these two seem committed to doing what's right and letting the chips fall where they may. They also seem to have the requisite skill set to win cases.

Juan, What About the UTB Non-Graduates?



By Juan Montoya

It has now become a Brownsville Herald front-page question (and online Facebook discussion) on what the new mascot for the University of Texas (nee UTB-TSC) should be.

Never mind the massacre in Syria, the Pope's visit in Cube with Fidel, or the Supreme Court's impending decision on Obama's health care reform. What is of vital importance to us here in Brownsville is what beast, weather calamity, or standard-bearer will be named mascot of the fledgling UTB once TSC rids itself of its abusive mate.

There are names thrown about that want to give the school's new team names like the "Cavalry," the "Knights," "Trailblazers," "Guardians, "Vaqueros," etc.

Then there are others that favor local fauna such as "Sharks," "Barracudas," "Toros," even such eco-friendly ones like "Sea Turtles, "Texas Tortoises," "White-Tailed Deer," Ocelots," "Armadillos," and the like.

We had once suggested that the UT Blood Ticks would bespeak to the parasitic character of the UTB versus TSC, but now that the university seems to have resigned itself to go off on its own, we feel we must withdraw that suggestion in favor of something with a more local flavor.

Even though we can see how names like the "Cavalry," "Vaqueros," and "Trailblazers," may seem apropos given the history of the area (Ft. Brown, the start of the Chisholm Trail, the route of the (18) 49ers headed for the gold fields of California), a new institution may not be well served by a throwback to the past.

Likewise, naming a football or baseball team after a sea critter, a burrowing animal or Bambi wouldn't quite strike fear into the hearts of their opponents on the field or arena.

We suggest something easily identifiable with the region, a favorite of visitors to the border, and an animal that is at the same time identifiable with the naval character of our seacoast. The Navy, of course, has Bill, the Goat. We would never name a mascot "Bill," translated into Spanish as "Cobro," as in "ya llego el cobro" at the beginning of the month.

No, we wold instead choose "Los UTB Cabritos."

Think about it.

Tourists and visitors from throughout Texas and the United States come to the border to enjoy the succulence of baby goats grilled over burning coals. And, at the outset of any new school, any established team would eat this team up alive. One can almost imagine the Seguin Bulldog players saying: "Hey, it's going to be papita playing UTB, we'll be having Cabrito today."

However, you can't beat a goat for foraging the semi-arid plains of South Texas. Any victory they can get is good enough for us.

Come to think about it, there is a bit of history associated with the cabritos. Cabritos, when they are kids (in English), suck at their mothers' udders endlessly. Given the way that UTB has sucked local resources dry, it becomes even more appropriate to name its offspring to reflect that fact.

In fact, Queen Goat Juliet Garcia said that she had the option of going after the Scorpion mascot name because the "partnership" had trademarked it despite its association with TSC. She made it sound as if it her been her goodwill that had prevented UTB from initiating litigation against TSC to keep the name.

That goes hand in hand with her current efforts to hijack that college district entity's charter to permit UTB to get its grimy paws on that loot . (More on that sticky issue later.)

That – aside from the 20 years that the UTB has been sucking on TSC's lifemilk – is enough to justify the "Cabrito" name.

"Mama y da topes," goes the local saying. And as far as their parent institution, well, there's cabras and cabro___!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Citizens Against Voter Abuse Spokesperson on News Center 23

Mary Helen Flores, the founder of CAVA, Citizens Against Voter Abuse is more than serious in representing the group's interest in fair elections in Brownsville and Cameron County. As announced earlier, the groups is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone committing voter fraud in the county.

The groups has also announced that on Monday, May 7, 2012 from 12:30pm until 1:30pm
on the front steps of the Cameron County Elections Department, 954 E. Harrison St.
Citizens Against Voter Abuse will hold the candidate sign-up for the CAVA 'RESPECT MY VOTE' Pledge. The candidate will be asked to pledge that he or she will not pay for votes or pay for any person (politiquera/o) to illegally solicit votes on his or her behalf. A CAVA press release will be issued following the candidate sign up. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Begum Deals with Alleged Extortion

Josefina Canales, pictured to the left

When Yolanda Begum first mentioned to me the alleged extortion attempt by her former daughter-in-law Josefina Canalas, AKA "Scarlett O'Hara", I suggested perhaps a simple Cease and Desist letter could be drafted by her son Alex, an attorney. Since Alex chose to deal head on and publicly through social media, with his statement subsequently published by El Rrun Rrun, I will post Alex's statement as well:

by Alex Begum

"I love social media and the great uses it allows. Like everything else, there is a good and a bad, particularly in politics.

Every candidate running for office endures mixed public comments in politics. However, traditional media usually utilizes fact checking, interviews both sides and presents the issues to the viewer. With the advent of social media, none of this occurs. As such, many things that are written are wholly incorrect or just complete fabrications.

Unfortunately, my late half brothers ex wife has creeped up and attempted to extort my mother. This lady who goes by the screen name of scarlet Ohara is really josefina canales. She has also gone by numerous married names including josefina Auten, josefina myhre and josefina begum. She claims to have gone to Harvard on her face book, although she never attended this college and does not have a college degree. This lady has a long and sordid history.

Recently, she attempted to extort my mother by sending her a Facebook message. She said that if my mother did not pay her, she would bad mouth her on the Internet. Of course, my mother refused to pay her one single penny!

We are in the process of reporting her actions to the authorities and looking at additional legal options.

I guess this is the unfortunate part of wonder why many good folks refuse to run for office. You get these looney people coming out of the woodwork.....


Local 970 Firefighter/Paramedics Union Endorses Yolanda Begum for Justice of the Peace, 2-2

"To whom it may concern,The B.U.C. Is not endorsing in the JP Pct. 2-2 race. However under B.U.C. rule if the Unions do not come to a unanimous consensus each Union is free to choose their candidate of choice. Good Luck to all the candidates.That said,Congratulations Ms. Yolanda Begum you have The Endorsement from Brownsville Firefighters /Paramedics Local 970 for Justice of the peace Pct. 2-2"

Come to the Yolanda Begum Pachanga for the Music

Why would you venture downtown on Thursday night March 29 from 7:00 till 10:00 pm? There are several great reasons. Yolanda Begum is hosting a pachanga at one of Brownsville's newest hot spots, The Haven, at 1237 E. Adams Street. Just seeing how Juan Kenigstein has remodeled, furnished and decorated the new club is worth the trip. Add the free cuisine and available cash bar. But, don't forget the legendary Doc Scully Blues Band.

But, if you've not heard the group Making Charlie, that is more than enough reason to head downtown. Sarah Stapleton Reeves and Jake Reeves have a unique indie, folk and rock sound seldom heard in town.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Conversations In and Beyond the Crescent Moon Cantina

The Crescent Moon Cantina at 722 E. 11th Street is one of the most comfortable venues in town for serious conversation. The always thoughtful Leticia Perez-Garzoria and I sat down for a lengthy conversation touching on the local political scene. Ms. Perez-Garzoria supports Yolanda Begum for Justice of the Peace, District 2-2.

Ms. Perez-Garzoria is nothing, if not direct. "What do you think Commissioner Zamora meant with her comment on Facebook?"

I located Ms. Zamora's statement before commenting, finding it on Facebook:

"Happy that there's a push to support Downtown Brownsville -- I love all the new establishments, I've helped with events in downtown, and I've joined friends in the Healthstoric walk, but what does that have to do with a Justice of the Peace race and running a courtroom that affects families? I love the outside-of-the-box fundraisers -- very creative -- but tell me how you're most qualified and what experience you have in running a courtroom?"

"Well, of course, Letty", I started. "Zamora likely supports Erin Hernandez-Garcia for the Justice of the Peace position whose claim to fame, so to speak, is that she did pass the bar. It's not clear how effective or active her law practice is, but all of that is irrelevant. That's a red herring. The Hernandez are anxious to find something distinguishing their daughter from Yolanda Begum and other candidates. But the JP position requires one to be 18 years old, a Texas resident for 12 months and in the district for 6 months. There is no requirement to be a registered voter, nothing at all about being a lawyer. This JP format provides a less formal, common sense approach dealing with Class C misdemeanors punishable by fine only and small claim civil matters. The position requires more compassion than legalese."

The above requirements may explain why fewer than 5% of the JP's in the country are lawyers.

"Yes, Jim. Locally, we've had Tony Torres, Linda Salazar, Oscar Tullos, Ed Sarabia and others who, as non-lawyers served as Justices of the Peace and the Hernandez' folks said nothing. They just raise this issue now that daughter Erin is running for JP."

The above is just a small sample of an enjoyable conversation at the Crescent Moon. Later in the week, while blockwalking, Nena and I ran into Joseph O'Bell, a longtime local Democrat. After giving us a few linguistic and intellectual challenges, O'Bell had this to say about Begum:

"She comes across as that rare candidate who actually wants to serve the community. I like that. So many of our officials simply serve themselves."

Mr. O'Bell than went on to describe a program he was involved with, giving troubled teenagers interaction with the Whitewings, a semi-pro baseball team in Harlingen and some other ideas he thought might coincide with what Ms. Begum has in mind to deal with truancy and the challenge of helping children stay in school and catch up with curriculum they missed during an absence.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tad Hasse's Barely Legal Fabulous Casino Night At the Days Inn Announced

Tad Hasse, candidate for TSC Trustee, Place 6, wants his supporters to have fun at Tad Hasse's Fabulous Casino Night scheduled April 10 from 6:30 till 10:30 pm at the Days Inn. Any funds raised for his campaign will be merely incidental to the planned evening of decadence, including catered food and gaming hosts attired as French maids.

Tad's exact words about the attire of his "girls':

"I am asking the ladies to decide (which may be like herding cats) but a consensus will come and some really cute costuming on some of the area's prettiest girls should make the event fun. I think more people will be taking pictures with the girls than with me!"

Tad will limit his substantive political speech to 270 words, the precise number of words Lincoln used in his Gettysburg address.

"A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Meanness from Mean Mister Brownsville~Scattered Thoughts

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes shares new revelations about BISD daily in his blog BROWNSVILLE VOICE. Bobby's sources reveal bid rigging, personnel moves based on pure spite, coverups, retaliation, incompetent legal advice, insurance fraud, trustee calabaza along with other school district indiscretions. The enticement of a $500,000,000 annual budget proves to be simply too much temptation for our amateurish BISD trustees, lily-livered superintendent and opportunistic Human Resources Director. Wightman-Cervantes may not always connect the dots logically, but he does locate the dots.

A frequent target of the BROWNSVILLE VOICE has been the corrupt Escobedo brothers, contractor-for-anything Jaime and his brother, BISD Board President fake Dr. Enrique. The Escobedo tandem have their tentacles in all types of deals with BISD and the City of Brownsville. While the VOICE may show some finagling to swing lucrative deals the Escobedo's way in BISD, the Brownsville City Commission has in years past simply rubberstamped huge contracts without competitive bidding for the Escobedos. Purchasing Director Robert C. Luna has introduced sole source surveillance contracts for the sports park, the multi-modal facility and other city buildings, designating Jaime Escobedo's company American Surveillance as a sole source. The rationale given for giving these exclusive contracts was to maintain the same software, yet, Esobedo does not manufacture software, just purchases it as any other contractor would do.

In recent months Commissioners Zamora, Vasquez and Tetreau have questioned these purchasing presentations by Robert C. Luna. Several contract requests by the mealy-mouthed Luna have been tabled as his responses under questioning have been less than forthcoming. He has misrepresented how bids are solicited, the number of qualified contractors contacted and from one meeting to the next, even changed the number of approved contractors. Red flags are everywhere!

Oddly, blogger Juan Montoya of El Rrun Rrun has written two recent articles accusing these city commissioners of "micromanaging" the purchasing department. He wants such contractual matters and their development to stay under the exclusive purview of City Manager Charlie Cabler. Of course, it is on Charlie Cabler's watch that these lucrative surveillance contracts slipped through without competitive bidding as well as allegedly $400,000 in overcharges to the city by a Matamoros dentist we named in an earlier article.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Clarification: Sylvia Garza-Perez, Candidate for Democratic Chair Not "Zayas Puppet"

In an earlier article naming the three candidates for Cameron County Democratic Chair, I quoted Jerry Mchale the publisher of the Brownsville Blues blog who referred to Sylvia Garza-Perez as a "Zayas puppet."

Ms. Garza-Perez states that she's being confused with another person. Here is part of her message to me:

"Mr. Barton. . I just wanted to clear the air. I am not the Sylvia Perez who it the retired school administrator related to Rick Zayas. I am Sylvia Garza Perez and I work in the healthcare industry. Mr. Mchale has me totally confused. I am running for the position because I feel I can make a difference."

Three candidates are running for the democratic chair position: John Shergold, Jared Hockema and Sylvia Garza-Perez.

Ms. Garza Perez also touches on the use of politiqueras with this comment to me:

"If we had a Democratic Party that worked together and was united---there would be no need for Politiqueras."

In my earlier article, written December 24, 2011 I quoted a personal friend who founded an organization to fight voter fraud:

"Sylvia is a very aggressive campaigner. She has absolutely no qualms about using politiqueras."

In saying to me that "if we had a united Democratic Party there would be no need for politiqueras" Ms. Garza-Perez seems to leave herself an out. Of course, when is any political party totally united? If we justify the use of politiqueras to harvest votes on that basis, it will continue forever.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yolanda Begum for Justice of the Peace, District 2-2 Gaining Momentum

Blockwalking for a candidate gives you a quick perception of how a community views your candidate. It is the nuts and bolts of a political race. Do the residents know your candidate? Do they respect his or her priorities? Do they know the opponent? Last year when Nena and I blockwalked the neighborhood of Charlie Atkinson and Pat Ahumada we quickly surmised they were not going to be re-elected. As a neighbor on Charlie's street told us back then: "I would vote for a mesquite tree living in this district before I would vote for Charlie."

Nena and I felt somewhat nostalgic going door to door on Villa Verde and Blanche Streets, just off of McDavitt Road. We lived in that neighborhood 43 years ago, shopped at the Villa Verde Grocery(Now Lopez Supermarket). Occasionally, Nena sent me to the Oasis Drive In on Boca Chica for a hamburger and fries, always greasy, but good. I worked at the H.E.B. on Boca Chica. Mr. Allen was the manager. It's amazing but the homes in this neighborhood look better now than they did back then. Many have been remodeled with skill. The St. Augustine grass and landscaping is mature.

We spoke with the Hinojosa girls standing in front of the family car. Both were over 18 and registered voters. Yolanda Begum had just convinced Mr. Taco to display a campaign sign and joined us. "I don't need this job", Yolanda started. "I just want to help our community. I worked helping teenagers who skipped school learn art. They were assigned to me as part of their punishment. At first, they hesitated to participate, but I won them over. We helped them to get back up to speed so they could rejoin their classes. It's so important that our county deal with truancy because these kids are being recruited by the gangs and now the cartels. I want to institute a similar program as your Justice of the Peace."

Nena and I then visited with Eddie, longtime postmaster at the downtown post office. He recognized us from the gadzillion packages we had mailed when we used to sell on Ebay. Eddie knew who Begum was, but wanted to know why we were so involved in the campaign. "We respect her and what she wants to do for our community, but we also oppose the consistent opportunistic leeching of our city by Ernie Hernandez. We don't want another generation of that despicable family to be elected to political office and continue the corruption." At that point, Eddie opened the screen door and extended his hand. He agreed to a Begum campaign sign being attached to his chain link fence.

Mrs. Rodriguez answered the door of a small home with wrought iron protection on each window and door. Our information sheet listed 5 registered voters at that address. She listened to our description of Begum's platform, but hesitated at placing a sign in her front yard. "We have so many cars that we park on the front lawn." "What about placing a campaign sign on the tree?" I asked. She said that would be ok.

Ms. Begum has several more creative campaign events planned, but mainly she wants to reach out to the citizens of Brownsville one door at a time. As Mrs. Garza told us.: "Oh yes, I saw her at the pulga," referring to the Highway 77 Flea Market. She also agreed to a sign in her yard.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Romney Leads Weak Republican Field

After watching the Lakers lose again with Kobe Bryant missing shot after shot, channel surfing took me to C-Span, where I was momentarily entranced by the vegetable art behind Mitt Romney. Squash, pumpkins, zucchini, corn and other garden vegetables were carefully arranged in a farm style backdrop to a Mitt Romney with his shirt sleeves rolled up to permit manual work if Mitt didn't have millions of dollars deposited in foreign banks.

Romney reminds one of Tony Martinez in the sense that he is far better funded and organized than his opponents. His speeches do not inspire even with carefully crafted punch lines. He raises the pitch of his voice to allow for a smattering of claps, rather than have his words interrupted spontaneously by applause. As I watched him work the crowd at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Rockford, Illinois, it seemed like watching an actor play the role of presidential candidate.

My mild interest in the GOP presidential field started with a 2:00 am call last summer from a Southmost political gadfly, who declared giddily that Rick Perry would be the next president of these United States. Without being particularly knowledgeable or clever, I knew better than that. A governor doesn't threaten to secede from the union and become president in the same lifetime.
The country soon learned what many in Texas already knew, that Rick was "all hat and no cattle". Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live owes Perry bigtime for supplying so much comedy for the show.

Herman Caine gave Rick Perry a good fight for dumbest candidate before mercifully "suspending" his campaign, but both were topped by Rick Santorum. Santorum keeps getting tripped by his own words, current and archived. His old speech declaring Satan the Devil the greatest threat to our country and another statement dismissing the Catholic Church's long documented priest/child abuse scandal as "homosexuality" were both revived for review. In Puerto Rico he linked statehood with making English the official language.
Then, of course, there's Newt Gingrich. It's not the divorces or the infidelity or the betrayal of a sick wife. It's really all of the lies he had to tell to work through and around all of those situations. He comes off as the consummate liar. For all we know, he may be lying about giving us $2.50 a gallon gas if we make him our president.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Professor Calls for B.U.S. Passenger Waiting Shelter Near Social Security Office

Key to the success of the Brownsville Urban Transit is ridership. The more who use our system, the more revenue is generated. A fully utilized public transit system also improves local air quality, lessens traffic congestion and greatly increases the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

The beautiful new multi-modal station downtown certainly enhances the quality of the system in our community with a gorgeous, air-conditioned station to purchase tickets and wait for connections.

Strategically placed passenger waiting shelters like the one pictured on the left in front of the Brownsville library give our most vulnerable citizens, women and children, senior citizens and the disabled protection from the elements as well as comfort, greatly enhancing the overall experience.

UTB/TSC professor Eugene Novodrodsky is concerned that such a passenger station has not been located at one of the most important destinations in the city for senior citizens and the disabled, the Social Security Office.

There is indeed a bus stop, but no seating or protection from the harsh sun or a driving torrential rain. Mr. Novodrodsky is calling for, not only a suitable passenger waiting shelter, but a crosswalk with a blinking amber light to alert motorists to those crossing from the bus stop to the Social Security office.

Novogrodsky has alerted the Texas Department of Transportation of the need as well as City Commmissioner John Villarreal. His proposal makes sense on many levels.

Adela Garza, Jessica Puente Bradshaw Videos~Republican Forum

The moderator's questions were unintelligible, so, generally, we have recorded responses only:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chuck Mattingly Responses At Republican Forum

Chuck Mattingly pledges to be "in the courtroom" as a District Attorney, not simply a manager. He dramatically enumerates the high profile cases he has won with the sentences given. Gus Garza counters on Video 3. 4 videos total from the Republican forum:

More Meanness from Mean Mister Brownsville~Scattered Thoughts

When I saw Brownsville Herald reporter Steve Clark at the Brownsville Planning Organization meeting March 14, I fully expected some coverage of that event in the daily. But, as with so many important local stories, the local paper was mum(at least in the online edition and its archives). Brownsville and Cameron County may have dodged a bigger bullet than just the $179,000,000 the toll road was supposed to cost. HNTB, the huge firm set to build the road, was also the main contractor for the Sports Park. They are notorious for overruns. The federal government currently wants $9,000,000 of federal funds recovered from the state of Texas because of mismanagement of HNTB contracts. Several of the firm's contracts with the state more than doubled the initial bid. Cameron County might have been on the hook for $350,000,000 for the unneeded tollway.

A tiny observation about forums like the BMPO chaired by Mayor Tony Martinez at the Mary Yturria room of the Historic Brownsville Museum: It is nearly useless to hold a forum in a room with poor acoustics. Several venues in Brownsville fit that description and are unsuitable for important discussions effecting the future of our community. The VFW hall and the lobby of the Amigoland Event Center come to mind. Hard surfaces like tile floors with hard walls tend to bounce sound waves like crazy.

The Republican Candidate Forum at the VICC Las Fuentes Room, also on March 14, suffered in a different way. VICC buildings tend to have HVAC problems. As a former employee of the old Valley Inn Motel in the 60's, let's just say the problem is historic. This forum also suffered from a very amateurish moderator in State Representative candidate Alex Torres. Torres fumbled nearly every question without enough enunciation or sense stress to make them understandable. Norma Tovar, who must have phrased the questions, shouted corrections from across the room. No sound system was utilized.

The Republicans have three strong candidates: Adela Garza and Jessica Puente Bradshaw for Congress, Chuck Mattingly for District Attorney. Garza has much respect in the community for her work as a UTB/TSC trustee. Young Ms. Bradshaw, born in Matamoros, has a great command of issues well known to Republicans and the Tea Party. Mattingly lists in dramatic fashion the criminals he has sent to prison locally as a prosecutor and their sentences.

Elderly congressional candidate Paul B. Herring drove down from Goliad to participate in the forum. A district gerrymandered around his hometown might not be enough of an advantage for Mr. Herring. He is simply a single issue candidate. As he stated: "If you oppose abortion, I'm your man." He also believes President Obama's birth certificate was forged. Herring handed out black and white copies of his platform

PS: One question which I couldn't totally decipher seemed to be about which freedom was most important: Adela Garza said she couldn't pick just one. Mr. Herring said it would be freedom of religion. Jessica Puente Bradshaw said it was the right to bear arms. That gives us a bit of insight into the thinking of the candidates.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Filemon Vela~Too Late or Just in Time?

The article below was sent by a friend. It is from the DEFENZORMAGAZINE Blog from Corpus Christi. Please don't consider this an endorsement just yet. I've not met the man

turday, March 10, 2012



In a monumental turn of events, Filemon “Blue Eyes” Vela, launching his massive congressional campaign, now has the might of Mikal Watts, the support of national defense trial lawyer Darrell Barger, and the media and political machines of the likes of attorney Joe Flores, backing his candidacy. Several wealthy and prominent trial lawyers and businessmen have also thrown down the political gauntlet behind Vela and it is whispered that the Jim Wells and Kleberg powerful political machines have been supercharged for him as well, not to mention the Rio Grande Valley.
Where did Vela come from and how has he overcome the question of his partisan leanings seemingly overnight? Several Reasons: Mikal Watts and his Good Government PAC is rising like a Phoenix from the Ashes, the Democratic party on a national scale is gaining momentum, and President Obama is gaining traction in leading the country back from the economic abyss much to the anger of stalwart Republicans who have no real candidate to vanquish Obama. Locally, men and women of influence and power remember the support, money, and political genius that lends huge clout and a huge political debt owed to Filemon Vela. One long time precinct chair remarked, “No one can mobilize the Democratic party like Filemon Vela, no one. The Republicans got a brief glimpse of his power and genius when he helped his wife and they don’t’ have a clue of what he is going to do the them.”

Those that threw tomatoes at Vela in 2006 because of his supporting his wife’s choice in parties now eat crow as these so-called Democrats have gone to the other side to support Nueces county Republican Judges such as charismatic and experienced David Stith and popular Judge Missy Medary. Also, the redistricting has cut out Nueces County as an area Vela is running in and the district is now one of San Patricio, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Rio Grande Valley and other areas. Even stalwart Democratic powerbroker Rene Rodriguez has a Democratic judge wife, Nelda Rodriguez, running for court of appeals, but has led over 3 Republican campaigns to the shock of many, and thus any fingers pointed at Vela have been made moot, watered down, and ineffective by the hypocritical actions of his detractors!
The story of Filemon Vela lies in his lifelong learning of politics and of gaining the support of the people. Vela was raised in a Democratic household and remembered the struggle of Mexican Americans. Filemon Vela in 2006 supported his wife’s choice to run as a Republican Judge, but he himself has never run for office as a Republican. Those critical of him are met with the response, “I support my lovely wife of over 20 years and will always stand by her. If a few people have a problem with me supporting my wife and her career , that is unfortunate but out of my control. We all love our spouses, children and our parents and stand by them no matter what.”
Vela’s father was a political fixture and nominated by Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He served with distinction for decades on the bench and was courageous in his fight for Mexican Americans. Filemon’s mother, Blanca Vela, was the mayor of Brownsville, Texas and remains a formidable power in the Rio Grande Valley. Vela began his legal career by studying first at prestigious and Ivy League Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. ,where he was politically active, and saw firsthand how things happen inside the Beltway. He graduated with distinction from U.T. law and began his successful career that led him to Corpus Christi, Texas where his practice thrived for years.
Vela has had landmark cases involving injured Hispanics, has stood up to major corporations, and has sued questionable contractors who endangered schools, and has given the taxpayer and school board’s throughout South Texas a voice, and saved children from injury. His track record has been made not only as a lawyer, but also as a keen political powerbroker who supported Hispanic females , primarily females who rose to power as Judges, including his wife Rose Vela, wife of Rene Rodriguez,, Nelda Rodriguez, and last but not least the present federal Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos in her past state races, which situated her for the federal appointment by President Obama. He has supported many more quality judges and leaders from the Democratic party which erases any doubt of his actions or deeds in many prominent Democrats’ eyes.
Vela has been quoted as saying he is a balanced candidate, but the vast majority of his professional and legal career has been as a stalwart Democrat. When his wife ran as a Republican he supported her but soon became personally disenchanted with how Republicans cut much needed programs to children, the elderly, and to the disenfranchised Hispanics in South Texas. From the county to the state level, Republicans have passed legislation and local appropriations that fly in the face of Hispanic voters and Democratic Values.
Vela reportedly stated that he could no longer stand by while this occurred and his own personal beliefs and politics, prompted him to run on the Democratic party. For years, Vela supported South Texas Democratic parties and led many Democratic candidates to victory. He was an architect of Democratic might and control and dominance over the local Republicans who as of late have run amuck led by the likes of powercrazed county commissioner Mike Pusley, who is open about anti-Mexican American sentiment and to cut much needed programs for the poor and elderly, along with his mouthpiece Lago who disrespect Mexican American Values, on white power radio.
It is clear that with Mikal Watt’s support and the support of many prominent young lawyers, who have risen to media and political prominence, support Vela who has become a force to be reckoned with in the Congressional District race that will cut a path from San Patricio to Jim Wells to Kleberg Counties and all the way down to the valley. This is the race to watch. One of his opponents, a district attorney from the Valley, has been cut at the knees with investigations and being linked to corruption, and the remaining candidates have little or no money or support, so it is Filemon Vela who is rising to power- not behind the scenes- but in Washington.
Vela is having multiple fundraisers planned with Powerbrokers in San Antonio and throughout South Texas. Even Doug Allison, multi-millionairre owner of Havana Nightclub in Downtown Corpus Christi, is reportedly having a massive fundraiser for him this coming week with men of power in attendance and to be announced as his support committee. El Defenzor has obtained a highly secure list which includes: attorneys Doug Allison, Powerbroker and National Attorney Mikal Watts, the nationally acclaimed attorney Darrel Barger, Kingpin and trial lawyer, Craig Sico, recently achieving a BILLION DOLLAR VERDICT, former Judge Terry Shamsie, media and political powerhouse and trial attorney Joe Flores, and federal and white collar crime attorney Juan Reyna, among many others. The power club support list is rumored to be within the hundreds. In Jim Wells County men such as Atkinson, Fugate of Kingsville and others are rising head and shoulders above other men to support Vela overtly or covertly.
It is whispered also that a secret meeting of supporters is scheduled at a privileged location to include the support committee noted above- rumored to be occurring possibly at Mikal Watts sky box at the San Antonio Spurs venue. Power and money going hand in hand with young men rising to power as the new generation of leaders and our becoming our very own South Texas Illuminatti.
With a mass rise of trial lawyers and businessmen in the region pumping in massive support to Vela, Filemon “Blue Eyes” Vela is situated to bring about a mass exodus of Hispanic voters who may have had in the past Republican sympathy: no more apparently. Now the machine has been turned on and the void Solomon Ortiz left is being apparently filled by a massive machine led by Vela. MORE TO COME!!!! STAY TUNED AS THIS JUGGERNAUT OF A CAMPAIGN GAINS MOMENTUM!!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

West Parkway Toll Road Project Defeated 7-3

After a number of citizens expressed their opposition to a $179,000,000 tollway to be built from the B&M Bridge to a connection at Interstate 77/83 near the 77 Flea Market, the Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization chairman, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez called for a motion to be made on the action item.

County Commissioner Ernie Hernandez moved that the proposal be defeated. After Catalina Presas-Garcia was assured that a "yes" vote on the motion meant "no" to the proposal, the group voted 7-3 in favor of the motion to defeat the proposal.

Sofia Benefidez, one of the minority voting against the motion, asked to be recognized and proceed to lament the decision, wishing for more time to consider it. Martinez indicated the motion had passed.

Thus ends an almost epic struggle in the city and county over this issue. 5000 residents of West Brownsville signed a petition last year opposing the plan. Several optional usage plans for the old Georgia Pacific track location are in play, none of them funded.

The meeting was held in the Mary Yturria room at the Historic Brownsville Museum. Acoustics were so poor that almost no comments could be understood without a microphone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Urgent: Beautiful Great Pyrenees Male at Kill Shelter

URGENT at Brownsville Shelter! Gorgeous Great Pyrenees boy at KILL shelter! Texas Great Pyrenees has agreed to take them into their program if we can find a foster family. He will stay with this foster family until he is adopted. Without a foster in place the rescue will not be able to help since they are themselves out of foster homes. So in order to rescue this dog WE NEED A FOSTER HOME FIRST! If anyone is willing to foster this guy as a indoor dog to be adopted out with TX great pyr rescue please message me (Jennifer Taylor) or comment below. Foster family will have to be approved by TX great pyr rescue.
Transport most anywhere in TX can be arranged so please share on your FB wall with friends and family as you never know where this angel's rescue angel will come from!

Our Interview with the Candidate Accosted at the Cheezmeh Forum

Alex Torres, candidate for State Representative, District 38 normally visits the South Texas VA Veterans Health Care Center at Harlingen on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Being a veteran himself with two terms in the Navy, he understands the difficulty veterans can have adjusting back to civilian life. He agreed to sit down with Nena and I for a few minutes for an interview.

MMB: What are some of your observations about veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan?

Torres: "Many of them have anger. It could be anger about their injuries or just pent up emotion. I know I had that. My wife had to put up with it. I was angry, impatient. I couldn't even wait in a line. Sometimes people would be talking to me and I just looked right through them. You're back home but you're not really here if that makes sense."

MMB: How does a returning soldier deal with that?

Torres: He has to deprogram, talk it out, either in a focus group or even by himself. Drive to the end of the pavement on Highway 100 on South Padre Island. Get up on the dunes and scream if you have to, but let that anger out. Talk to God. Tell the Devil to get behind you. Whatever! Just talk about it. Don't keep it inside.

MMB: I know you've been asked several times about a new VA hospital. Most of the candidates obviously favor it. Anything you'd like to add to what you've already said?

Torres: Yes, no one, including me, mentioned this at the UTB/TSC forum and I didn't get asked about it at the Cheezmeh forum, but it's not just that we have over 100,000 veterans in the valley, but thousands more come down as Winter Texans from October to April. If they're enrolled, they are just as eligible for health care as in their home state. That's an additional burden on the VA system locally that hasn't been mentioned.

MMB: You're are running in District 38 against Eddie Lucio III. How do you differ from him?

Torres: Well, of course, the Lucios are extremely wealthy people. Someone drove me by Eddie Lucio, Jr's ranch. I didn't know where we were going. I see this magnificent, gated compound. Wow! Between Eddie III and his dad, they've raised something like $900,000. I've gotten some contributions, but I'm financing a lot of this myself. My wife works and I have a catering business. We're not rich, but we do ok.

MMB: Yes, but what about policy?

Torres: I don't understand some of the things the Lucios do, like these trips to Turkey and getting cruise ships approved. How does that help District 38?

MMB: I have to ask you this: What happened the other night at the Cheezmeh forum? Montoya reported and I reposted that you were accosted by someone.

Torres: Exactly. This guy got into my face about capital punishment and some other things. He invaded my personal space. I mean I don't allow people to get jaw to jaw with me. So I asked Erasmo and anyone to get this guy off of me. I first asked a reporter from Matamoros, then I saw Tad Hasse, who I recognized. He was nice enough to help me get out of that situation.

MMB: Did you know the guy?

Torres: Yes, Ron Lozano. He's what I call a conspiracy theorist. He always wears a ball cap and sort of a military coat. He's done something similar at City Commission meetings in Harlingen.

MMB: So, he followed you outside?

Torres: Yes, he did. He kept trying to start something. Then, Robert Uresti joined us. He told the guy to get out of here or he'd call the police. Some people wanted me to file a police report, but there's no need. He finally left. I mean, I still enjoyed talking about my plans for the district. We have another forum tomorrow at the VICC. It's for Republican candidates. Are you guys going?

MMB: We'll be there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Regional Mobility Authority Has Money Burning A Hole in Their Pocket

When grandparents send money on your birthday, your mind starts to race. That money is as good as gone. It burned a proverbial hole in your pocket, but did you spend it wisely? The Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority in tandem with the Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization is facing a similar challenge. It has tacit approval for a huge project in West Brownsville, with, at first glance, not much coming out of local pockets and with only a few provisos and obstacles to negotiate.

The West Rail Toll Road has an estimated cost of $179,000,000. $120,000,000 of that is supposed to come from toll revenue bonds, that from companies that will front the money in exchange for toll revenue. I personally would not make that bet. $31,000,000 federal money, $15,000,000 from vehicle registration fees, $10,000,000 more federal money to "coordinate" border matters and ONLY $4,000,000 local money. You can see why politicos would be salivating regardless of the merits of the project. Of course, "toll money" is not magic money. It comes from citizens as does vehicle registration money. So, you and I kick in $135,000,000 by using our cars and using the road in theory.

Juan Montoya of the El Rrun Rrun blog, refers to a statement by Linda Force, an anti-toll road activist, in his latest blog article:

The toll road would bypass Brownsville hotels, restaurants and retail stores, especially those along the 77/83 corridor. Travelers to and from Mexico would simply bypass Brownsville, spending their money in Harlingen. Who profits from this undertaking? The giant Kansas-based engineering firm of HNTB is the only one that stands to win in this game and is pushing hard to make the Brownsville toll road happen. The company and its executives have given more than $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association and Governor Rick Perry's campaigns as well as hiring two Perry cronies as lobbyists.

The company Ms. Force refers to is Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff, founded in 1914 with its original specialty movable bridges. In 1975 it merged with another company to concentrate also on sports stadiums. Its most notable project is the "High Five Interchange" pictured on the left in Dallas. That exchange was 2006 "Public Works Project of the Year" noted for its "massive size, innovative design, complexity and rapidity of construction."

Montoya also quotes in his article from the Austin American article written by Brenda Bell:

"The report by the regional inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the Texas Department of Rural Affairs also acted improperly last year when it more than doubled the size of HNTB's contract from $69 million to $144 million and expanded the scope of its work.
Auditors said the state did not adequately monitor the firm and billings that contained "inflated" and "unreasonable" labor costs.

To make a long story short, the federal government wants $9,000,000 of their money back because of the mismanagement by Texas of projects performed by HNTB, the firm prepared to build the West Rail Tollway. If history repeats itself, the West Brownsville project could cost double the projected 179 million.

So far, we've talked about funding, but not addressed the practicality of the project. The rail part of the project has already started, that is to relocate approximately 8 miles of railroad track from the downtown Matamoros and Brownsville to an area on the outskirts of both cities. No tracks will be removed, of course, until new track has been laid.

Laura Martinez stated as much in the Brownsville Herald:

"The railroad falls under Cameron County’s West Rail Relocation project, which will move the rail line to the city’s outskirts rather than having it flow through town. This project is expected to take at least until the end of year.

David Garcia, deputy county administrator for Cameron County, said officials have to wait until the new relocation rail is completed before any work on removing the old railroad tracks can begin.

Some are hoping the old tracks will not be removed but stay in place for a light rail passenger service into Brownsville. But, that is not the plan. The proposal is to build an 8 mile, limited access toll road from the B & M Bridge to near the Highway 77 Flea Market.

This is the project that many West Brownsville residents seem to oppose. The proponents originally said that projected commercial and passenger traffic in future years called for the construction of the limited access road. Since those original statements, its been determined that the B & M Bridge is unsuitable for heavy truck traffic. Additionally, a bridge is planned in the future at the Flor de Mayo site at the end of Alton Gloor that would siphon off potential traffic from the old B & M. Residents in West Brownsville, including my 40 year old son, have indicated no desire to pay a toll to drive to the 77 Flea Market or the Sports Park.

Mayor Tony Martinez expressed his opposition back in December:

“Nobody wants that toll road,” Martinez said. “We don’t want it. We don’t need it. I’m sure that (the CCRMA) is well intentioned. The problem is, some of these ideas of progress, they fail to see how it really affects the community. Quite frankly, West Brownsville needs to be restored. To me, it’s a travesty not to preserve it.”

Another proposal is simply to build a non-toll highway on the area of the old tracks or to turn those tracks into a bike or hiking trail.

The Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet on March 14 and take another stab at deciding whether to drop the project. The vote is one of several agenda items for the meeting, taking place at 10 a.m. at the Mary Yturria Education Center at the Historic Brownsville Museum, 641 E. Madison St. Public comments are welcome.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In A Large Field, Villalobos Stands Alone in Corruption, Ineptitude and Ties to Solomon Ortiz

In a large field of congressional candidates competing to represent new District 34, all with very individual skill sets and backgrounds, one candidate has separated himself from the pack. Armando Villalobos, Cameron County's do-nothing District Attorney for going on 8 years, is simply unfit to be rewarded with higher government office.

What was written in Mean Mister Brownsville on January 4 still stands:

" If county officials received merit pay, District Attorney Armando Villalobos would owe several years of salary to Cameron County. He should also pay back the cost of office utilities that kept him climaticly comfortable, the costs associated with transporting him from home to office and back, the fees associated with keeping him electronically connected to the his constituents and the information highway. I do not begrudge his staff their pay as they simply must follow orders, although, if whispers are correct, Mando owes the county for the large segment of their workweeks devoted to his congressional campaign.

Villalobos as district attorney is as effective as a lifeguard with a water phobia. As we stated a few days ago: "We pay a district attorney handsomely in Cameron County to fight corruption, but like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, Armando Villalobos never had the courage. He deferred, stepped over, ignored the rampant political corruption in the county so as not to antagonize any segment of political support as he used the district attorney's office to launch his campaign for yet higher office."

If you think I'm overstating this, please consider the courage it takes for a citizen to come forward to report a crime, whether it be an act of political corruption, an assault, a robbery or some sort of white collar crime. They may be putting themselves in harm's way, risking retaliation, possibly including bodily injury or even death. Then consider the countless hours and expense of law enforcement in investigating, gathering evidence, apprehending, etc. All of this is for absolute naught if the district attorney fails to prosecute. Not to mention that the climate created by a do-nothing DA is one of emboldening political and other criminals to continue their corruption. Do you think County Commissioner Ernie Hernandez is the least bit worried about Villalobos proceeding with a case against him in the orchestrated, dishonest hiring of his felonious brother-in-law or that Carlos Quintanilla is the least bit worried about a perjury charge for false testimony in a deposition or two?

Villalobos has to be living in an absolute vacuum to have the unmitigated gall to run for higher office after exhibiting total failure in his current one. Armando Villalobos for Congress? That's an absolute joke!"

Add to the above the fact that Villalobos has the support of former "representative" Solomon Ortiz only adds to his disqualification. In 28 years, Ortiz served only himself, setting a standard for junkets to exotic locations, usually the Far East, that may never again be duplicated in the U.S. House of Representatives. Solomon's support of Villalobos speaks volumes.

The Unknown Impact of Money Laundering on Brownsville

You hear whispers. A local businessman explained that he tried to get into the used car business but found that his competition were selling vehicles cheaper than he could buy them. He claims money laundering was their primary goal, not profit from the transactions. A Brownsville family, Oscar Oropeza, his wife and daughter were all convicted recently of money laundering. Bank officials became suspicious of large cash deposits being made of money that smelled like the fabric softener Bounce

The Wachovia Bank, bought out a couple of years ago by Well's Fargo committed the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act on record by laundering 378.4 billion dollars of drug cartel money between 2004-7. "Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocain cartels a virtual carte blance to finance their operations," Jeremy Slomar, federal prosecutor, stated.

Actually, any business with a large cash flow can be a vehicle to clean money. Laundramats, for example, are difficult to monitor. Who knows how many quarters actually go through the machines? Sometimes, law enforcement has monitored the water usage to estimate the appropriate monetary receipts.

Some businesses undergo an extensive remodel but never show a profit. The investment is partially recouped when the building is sold, but the real goal was to exchange dirty money for real property than convert that real property to clean money.

According to a 14-page court filing from the United States District Court for the Western District, middlemen for the Zeta and Gulf Cartel drug-smuggling organizations moved millions easily in their purchase of real estate and other consumer goods.

Banks such as the Commerce Bank in California, Falcon Bank and the International Bank of Commerce provided millions without the required reporting, easily moved by Antonio Pena-Arguelles, who was paid millions by leaders of the Gulf cartel and the Zetas to help influence politicians, including Tomas Yarrington, the former governor of Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas.

Hasse and Uresti's Heroic Intervention at Cheezmeh Forum

Tad Hasse and Robert Uresti, declared candidates for TSC Trustee Positions 6 and 7, respectively, recently showed they are not afraid to take a stand. The two candidates, working in tandem, effectively diffused a potentially volatile situation.

Alex Torres

Candidates for U.S. Congress and the Texas House of Representatives paid for individual tables at the Bringing Brownsville Change Candidate Forum held at the Amigoland Event Center 3/8/12. According to Juan Montoya, publisher of the El Rrun Rrun blog, that fee did not include provision for a security guard. According to Juan, after the event, Alex Torres, a candidate for State Representative District 38 was accosted by one of Eddie Lucio III's entourage over an answer he gave at the forum. Lucio is running as the incumbent in District 38.
Erasmo Castro

Montoya continues:

"As Torres made his way out to the parking lot, he asked Ted Hasse, now a candidate for Texas Southmost College trustee (Place 6), to walk out with him to his car in case he needed a witness since the E-3 guarura was also heading out the door. As Hasse tells it, the E-3 guarura followed Torres and Hasse to the car and tried to assault the candidate. Hasse, now in the company of local gadfly Robert Uresti ran interference for Torres and in no uncertain terms told the E-3 thug to buzz, with Uresti warning him he would call the police if he didn't.
At the mention of cops, the coward lost his courage and left Torres to go on his merry way.
What would have happened if the assault had actually been allowed to continue and no cops or security were present at the event?

Tad Hasse

If not for Hasse and Uresti, Torres might have been hurt by E-3's thug. And that's the way the Cheezmeh crumbles."

Robert Uresti

Actually, Uresti stepped in to prevent bodily harm in an incident at the City Commission building a couple of months ago. A group of citizens had just attended a commission meeting where they spoke out against a recycling center promoted by realtor Dutch Fisher being built in their neighborhood. According to reports, after the meeting some shouted exchanges occurred between a proponent of the salvage yard and the citizens. It was alleged that Commissioner Jessica Tetreau was pushed during the altercation. A bystander reported that Robert Uresti intervened on behalf of the commissioner and police were called.


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo