Sunday, June 30, 2013

Is Tony Martinez Trying to Force Finance Director Pete Gonzalez into Retirement?

Deputy City Manager, Finance Director
Pete Gonzalez
On any given day Finance Director Pete Gonzalez can be seen waiting for the "walk" signal at the corner of 10th and Elizabeth St., heading over to City Plaza.  Under his arm will be a binder stuffed with papers.  On even the hottest of days, he is wearing his customary sport coat and matching pants.  A couple hours later you may catch him returning, not to his vehicle, but back to city hall for more number crunching.

Gonzalez is one of those city officials doing "real work."  He will greet those he recognizes on the street and will even stop to answer a question.  If he has a political point of view or partisanship, he seems to have kept that to himself.

But, despite his long tenure and work ethic, Gonzalez is under fire.  From more than one source we've learned that Mayor Tony wants Gonzalez to retire, feeling that he has overstayed his welcome.  The genesis of Tony's retirement push seems clear:  "Gonzalez was upset to find that Tony Martinez had allowed his law partner, Horacio Barrera, to negotiate on behalf of the city, the purchase of Casa del Nylon from Abraham Golonsky for $2,300,000 and he told him so.  'That's a conflict of interest,' Gonzalez was heard to say.  Almost immediately, Martinez began to talk among city officials about the need for Gonzalez to be replaced as the city's Chief Financial Officer," a city insider reported.  "Since then, while an annual raise was given to Assistant City Manager Jeff Johnston, Gonzalez, who serves in the dual role of Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, was passed over for a raise."

Ramiro Gonzalez
Another city department continues without a chief administrator.  Since the ouster of City Planning Director Ben Medina, the planning department has been without a lead officer.  Robert C. Luna, noted for his confused presentations before the City Commission, has not been utilized recently to articulate proposed planning changes.  Ramiro Gonzalez has been in that role, seemingly in audition for the Chief Planning Officer position.  A city staffer gave us this comment:  "Martinez wants to see if Ramiro will do his bidding.  If he gives Tony what he wants, he will be supported for the position.(As noted on this blog, it was Ramiro Gonzalez who gave UTB officials tours of City Plaza recently to give them an idea of what Tony was proposing to gift or lease.  Several city commissioners were kept in the dark as to this maneuver.)

Oscar Garcia, Jr.
Another poorly kept city secret is that Mayor Martinez wants to replace City Manager Charlie Cabler with Juliet Garcia's son Oscar, who currently has token employment "running" Su Clinica Familiar's Department of Operations and Development. Oscar Garcia, Jr. recently played a prominent role in the campaign of Debbie Portillo for City Commissioner and has told associates that once Portillo was elected, Tony Martinez would have the votes to replace Charlie Cabler with Oscar, Jr.

Trouble In "United Brownsville" Paradise? Tony Martinez and Rose Gowen Push for Privatization of the P.U.B. Against Wishes of Mentor Carlos Marin

Rose Gowen, Tony Martinez
The "Rose and Tony Show" bombed bigtime this past month.  Viewing audiences in Brownsville, Las Prietas, Portway Acres and Gordon's Truck Stop gave it a thumbs down.

Twice during the month of June or Junio, a 30 day segment of calendar dedicated to marriage and the well-being of women, Rose and Tony put on the agenda for city commission meetings the gifting, leasing or conveying of City Plaza, the near-perfect complex of parking garage and city offices to the ultra-rich University of Texas system.  Twice did the condescending duo find the City Commissioners not dumb enough or flaccid enough roll over for their poorly-thought-out proposition.  Twice the agenda item was taken off the table for lack of certain votes.

Of course, Rose and Tony take defeats in stride, secure in the knowledge that they simply know better than the ignorante of Brownsville.  The grins in the pic above are nothing if not smug.  The next brainstorm for Rose and Tony is to privatize Brownsville's public utilities.  Normally, privatization follows unprofitabilty, but P.U.B. has been very profitable for the city, the airport and golf course, not so much.  Don't waste such facts on Rose and Tony because they're not listening.

Carlos Marin
The proposed selling of P.U.B. to a private entity has also created a rift in the shadowy governance of Brownsville, the unelected super board, United Brownsville.  Rose Gowen and Tony Martinez, both directors on United Brownsville, favor the privatization of P.U.B., while mentor and fellow director Carlos Marin does not.  Perhaps, Gowen and Martinez, feeling somewhat heady with the intoxication of city control, feel secure enough to oppose Marin over the privatization issue.  Marin, with his own engineering company, Ambiotec, benefiting from lucrative contracts with the city, may realize that selling P.U.B. to a private entity may jeopardize that business relationship.  Other local companies as well as P.U.B. administrators and employees may also find themselves out in the cold if Rose and Tony's privatization goal is realized.

Perhaps, there is an old adage that Martinez and Gowen somehow missed in their extensive education:  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Does the Brownsville Airport Present A Desirable Image to Visitors? Should the GBIC and BEDC Get Involved?

Sign Along Boca Chica Pointing
Down Iowa Road
Visitors flying into Brownsville might anticipate that the airport facilities would be a subtropical jewel, well-maintained, landscaped and lush.  It is anything but that as noted by a commenter to  this blog quoted below.  The Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport needs a landscaping facelift, new signage and some adjacent road repair.  North Iowa Road, one of the main arteries into the airport is substandard for rural Mexico, let alone as an entry to an airport in a city of 200,000 north of the border.

This might be a project for the Brownsville Beautification Committee to create a plan.  A little creativity, some sweat equity and perhaps a stipend from BEDC could give the airport the cosmetic upgrade it seems to desperately need.

This from an anonymous commenter in the previous article:

"The roads to and from the Brownsville airport and its nearby surroundings are a gigantic eyesore and something to be ashamed about.
One of many potholes on North Iowa Road

First impressions should be taken into account if we would want to attract more business, considering it has the distinction of being classified as "International". But roads full of potholes and surrounding property with extreme lack of landscape maintenance, minimal directional signage and almost no lighting at night make for a lousy impression to first time visitors. Where is the BEDC and GBIC when you need it? Probably dreaming up how many more Titan Tire type industrial parks they can build with our taxpayers money."

Iowa Road

Airport Signage

Island Covered with Dried Grass

Tree Trimming Opportunity

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cougar Threatens the Brownsville Airport While Commercial Cargo Tonnage Down 76%

Larry Brown may be the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the Airport Advisory Board, but the board itself has a United Nations Security Council makeup.  Accents from Sri Lanka and/or India, Ghana and the U.S. midwest dominated the chatter.  One hispanic guy was in charge of maintenance, including weadeating, mowing and sprinkler systems or irrigation.  New irrigation is proposed along Billy Mitchell.  When a board member commented that the sprinkler sytem in front of the Pan Am building hadn't worked in a year and a half, Larry Brown said the good thing about adding more sprinklers is that maintenance on the existing sprinklers has to be completed for the new ones to work.

Actually, the lack of landscaping may be one of the more obvious letdowns for travelers landing at a "subtropical" airport.  The Brownsville/South Padre Island "International" Airport is not a tropical jewel, but more like a small town landing strip in the middle of a dusty, arid pasture.  Large clay pots near the parking area are filled with plants on death row.  North Iowa Rd., the primary artery, along with Billy Mitchell, into the airport challenges all drivers to dodge numerous pot holes capable of sending any vehicle into the shop for front end work.

The meeting was businesslike, although, like most other Brownsville boards, it was very difficult for observers to hear.  I did get an agenda after asking for one, but sat next to a guy from India who munched on a salad with a vinegar dressing during the entire meeting.  Nancy Rogers of American Eagle ate a different lunch two positions to my right.

Operation's Chief Sesha Voorey, Celebrity Pauly D
of Jersey Shore, Aviation Director Larry Brown
Larry Brown gave a dry, state of the airport style report.  Most of the figures were up or down 1 or 2%, but cargo weight was down 76%.  Damn!  What's up with that?  Larry explained that the commercial carriers were moving lighter cargo, but damn!  A board member suggested a new way of measuring cargo instead of by weight, possibly using the number of planes flying out.  Larry Brown said he had a schematic of all of the loads going out, but the member said that was more information than needed.

American Surveillance, one of the myriad of companies owned by Jaime and Enrique Escobedo, has a contract that includes night watchman duties at the airport.    Larry Brown, to his credit, said he has been trying to lessen his financial obligation to the Escobedo company by employing city workers to watch the grounds.(The unscrupulous Escobedo brothers have a foothold in contracts in almost every entity of Cameron County, BISD, Cameron County, the Port of Brownsville, etc.  It's no surprise that Enrique Escobedo is a director of United Brownsville, the sham, unelected governance gaining increasing control of the City of Brownsville.)

One board member mentioned that a cougar had been sighted, roaming east of the airport and wondered if the airport had a wildlife advisor.  Larry Brown stated that a year long wildlife study had just been completed and that an owl had been removed from one of the hangars.

Michael Jones, Airport Business Manager, was upbeat.  He said that historically the Brownsville airport was noted for firsts.  They added another first with a new online app. allowing passengers to keep up with the status of their flight.  He mentioned a "botique" airlines from San Fransico, that had shown interest in Brownsville.  They would not be a low price outfit, but are considering service to Mexico, Austin, Laredo, Corpus Christi and San Antonio.  A discussion ensued with another board member about 8 or 10 passengers on a recent incoming flight from Houston who spoke French and the need to reach out to European travelers.  Jones said one airline suggested that South Padre Island be marketed as "America's Most Affordable Beach" and said the $1.00 shuttle from the airport to SPI should be more widely advertised.

Going into the July 4th holiday, all were reminded that no fireworks are allowed on planes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Transit Board Meeting Cancelled Again~Downtown Parking Garage Still On Hold After Two Years

The Unfulfilled Promise, No Ground Broken
On the 18 Month Project After 2 Years
The fact that ground has not been broken on the downtown parking garage after two years is not the fault of the Transit Advisory Board,  that, according to City Secretary Estela Von Hatten, meets the third Wednesday of the month at the Multi-modal facility on Adams St.

Mayor Tony Martinez and the City Commission along with Charlie Cabler and the city administration have the charge to see this commitment through to its completion.  Mayor Martinez, of course, currently has no interest in any City of Brownsville projects.  He is going all out to demonstrate his unrequited love for the University of Texas, throwing any city-owned scrap of land or building UT's way to facilitate a satellite of the prematurely named University of the Americas, that will be built here anyway.

We attended last month's Transit Advisory Board meeting on May 15, 2013, fully expecting an update on the downtown garage, but, unfortunately, Andrew Munoz, Assistant Director of Brownsville Metro, who placed the update of progress on the parking garage on the agenda, did not attend.(Andrew Munoz did call me the next day with a personal update, including the appeal to BEDC for increased funding.)

On June 19, 2013, the day of the next scheduled Transit Advisory Board meeting, I called the contact number provided by City Secretary Estela Von Hatten and ended up playing phone tag.  I next called Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora, who is also on the advisory board.  My concern was two-fold: Is this month's meeting on?  What is the meeting agenda?  I hate going in flat-footed to board meetings.  An agenda allows an attendee to research all of the agenda points prior to the meeting.  Zamora wasn't sure that the meeting scheduled for 6/19 was a go and said she would call me back.  Later, she called to say that the meeting had been postponed until June 26, 2013.  I took that at face value and Nena and I were there at the multi-modal facility at the prescribed time on June 26.  We were the only ones.  I called Roman Perez, a board member, who confirmed the meeting had again been postponed or cancelled.

Matamoros Mayoral Candidate Lety Salazar, Unlike Mayor Martinez, Invites Public Comment

At least in the campaign, one of the candidates for Mayor of Matamoros, Lety Salazar seems more open to citizen participation than Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez.  She is inviting public comment through electronic modules.

Perhaps, Salazar is only feigning that she "Believes in Matamoros" as a campaign strategy.  She does have the same primary campaign color as Tony.

I did receive this comment a few minutes ago from a Brownsville resident about this approach of the Lety Salazar campaign:

"This is from Lety Salazar on FB page who is running for Mayor of Matamoros. I find this interesting that this type of new technology exists just south of our border so the community can engage directly with the candidate. Maybe we could have a few installed in Brownsville city hall since we lost our public voice during the commissioner meetings. Just saying."

Here is a rough translation from Salazar campaign ad:

"I would love to invite all citizens to express themselves in our citizen service modules.   Reviews and opinions are very important and help us to better understand the needs of our people.  Your voice counts and will be heard!"

Mayor Tony Martinez
Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez sends a nearly opposite message.  Only his words and comments and those of his fellow commissioners are worthy of being in the broadcast of City Commission meetings.  Citizens who voice their opinions at such meetings are treated as second class.  Their comments are undemocratically blocked from the broadcast.

The Martinez mayorship has been noted for backdoor deals, behind-the-scenes manipulation and no input from the citizenry.  He feels not the slightest need to explain millions of dollars of speculative real estate deals, obligating the taxpayers without even an attempt at an explanation.

How ironic that Tony Martinez could take a lesson in participatory democracy from south of our border.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Should Any Future Agreement Between the University of Texas System and TSC Include Payment for Back Rent?

"I slip on out the back door and down the streets I go
 She a-howlin' about the front rent, 
She'll be lucky to get any back rent, 

She ain't gonna get none of it"

John Lee Hooker
"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"

University of Texas Regents
Not only does the University of Texas system not need a handout from the City of Brownsville, they likely have more revenue than many countries.  Mean Mister Brownsville commented on the so-called P.U.F. on February 3, 2013:

"The University of Texas is an extremely wealthy university by any measure despite what their fundraising appeal literature implies. The Permanent University Fund or P.U.F., which includes the oil and mineral rights generated on over 2,000,000 acres of Texas land came in at 8.8 billion in 2008 and is now certainly higher, yet that is only 8% of UT's total funding."

I used the 2008 figures because UT included a pie chart showing the P.U.F. to represent only 8% of annual funding.  For those of us not comfortable with figures, that means that the overall annual funding was over 110 billion dollars.  Put succinctly, the University of Texas could build whatever-the-hell they want to build on 58 acres of "surplus" land deeded to them by the City of Brownsville.  They do not need a handout of third rate ropa usada buildings from the city to field a campus.   

What the University of Texas system may need is temporary class and administrative rooms until their new satellite campus is indeed built.  A logical landlord is Texas Southmost College, which now, by some accounts, has underutilized buildings on its campus.  A primary hindrance to TSC entering into a deal to lease buildings to UT is that UT has a reported arrearage of from 10-17 millions, in other words, unpaid back rent.  

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes of the BROWNSVILLE VOICE mentions this in his blog today:  

"TSC needs to hold their ground and call UT Systems bluff that they can get a better deal from the city. Let them try - TSC must demand a fair deal which includes Texas paying its past rent. As a tenant UT has been a disaster. You do not lease to a tenant who owes you $10-17 million dollars already unless you have real assurances you will get paid that which is already owed."

Mayor Tony Martinez
Certainly, Wightman is not the only one to have mentioned this.  The fact that Mayor Tony Martinez is not livid over UTB's deadbeat status is illustrative of how little he actually cares about the real needs of the taxpayers.  His only concern, his only emotional stimuli is jumping to pacify any request from Juliet Garcia, Fred Rusteberg or Carlos Marin, the players behind the United Brownsville shadow government.  For Tony, the whims of UTB supercede any real need of the citizens, employees and administrators of Brownsville.  Martinez' willingness, his drive, his plan to displace city administrators, employees and citizens from the near-perfectly suited City Plaza and stuff them in a dusty, antiquated ropa segunda building, Casa del Nylon, is evidence of this warped, non-public servant type of thinking.  

There are two elements, loopholes if you will, that UT has utilized to avoid their obvious financial responsibility to TSC and subsequently Brownsville and Cameron County.  One of these loopholes was discussed in a Mean Mister Brownsville article dated June 12, 2013:

"During the entire UTB/TSC relationship, UT acted as if their hands were tied with respect to financial support for that combined institution, citing a rule that P.U.F. funds were only available for pure UT branches, not those affiliated with another entity, like TSC.(No mention was ever made that UT easily had enough funds to alleviate some of the burden of one of the poorest cities in the United States.) So Brownsville, as always, was allowed to suck it up and assume the tremendous financial burden of perhaps as much as 1 billion dollars by 2034 to pay for the infamous Juliet Garcia's extravagant ways. Please don't forget that when Garcia's request for a 105 million dollar bond issue was rejected by the taxpayers in favor of a more modest 65 million, she went ahead and spent 105 million anyway. Yes, arrogance beyond belief!"

So, for twenty or more years, UT acted as if they couldn't support the UTB-TSC partnership because of one of their own arbitrary rules, that branches eligible for support not be connected to any other non-UT facility.  But, in reality, it wasn't a case of being unable, but simply unwilling.

The nonpayment of rent was even more sinister.  According to Wightman, Trustees Trey Mendez,  Rene Torres and others, the original rental agreement between UTB and TSC, orchestrated by Representative Rene Oliveira, called for UTB to pay its rent when the money for such rent was "funded."  So, by technically never acquiring the "funding" UTB skirted its obligation to pay rent to TSC for two decades.  UT has literally been a tenant from hell for Texas Southmost College.

If UT satisfies its back rent obligation, the old agreement between UTPA and TSC may set a model for a possible, workable agreement between the two entities.  One old student described it this way:  "UTPA did not actually rent buildings from TSC.  The college provided whatever classrooms UTPA needed and was paid by the student day.  A classroom surcharge was included in UTPA tuition to cover this.  If a student could prove that they were both a TSC and UTPA student, they got a refund for that amount."

More City Plaza Photos

Contractors Waiting for Permits
Garage Entry to the Sally Port
Free Parking Across St. Charles Street

Viewing the Atrium from the Elevator

Monday, June 24, 2013

Photo Montage of City Plaza Reveals How Well It Serves Brownsville Citizens

Brownsville's Jewel, City Plaza
With 95% of Brownsville's registered voters in a non-participatory coma, it should not surprise that the remaining 5% were lulled to sleep with respect to the hidden agenda of Tony Martinez.

Early in Martinez' term we learned that the Harlingen native did not really "Believe in Brownsville."  The back-door efforts he made to stymie, squelch and stifle the broadcast of public comment by employing  unscrupulous City Attorney Mark Sossi to interrupt City Commissioner Melissa Zamora's agenda presentation with the now infamous sophomoric pie chart presentation against free speech proved that Tony's real slogan is "I'm Better Than Brownsville."

It wasn't until Tony started ramrodding through the City Commission the purchase with taxpayer money of a real estate portfolio of downtown properties that the 5% started to take notice.(The children and grandchildren of both the comatose and the narcoleptic will pay many millions through Certificates of Obligation for Tony's backdoor pandering to Carlos Marin, Fred Rusteberg and Juliet Garcia and all of United Brownsville ilk.)   Adding 58 acres of "surplus" city land adjacent to Lincoln Park that Martinez wants to gift to the University of Texas system to the mix and the 5% or less who actually vote began to squirm.

What seemed to polarize the tiny segment in Brownsville who actually vote was Tony's proposed giveaway of City Plaza, a seemingly perfectly suited downtown city block of offices, a municipal court and ample free parking for all.  To turn this city jewel over to one of the world's richest educational entities and shuffle the city's business into the third class, antiquated Casa del Nylon is traitorous.  It sends a distinct message that Brownsville citizens and city workers are not worthy of such first class accommodations.  They are second class.  Not only does the mayor not "believe" in them, he views them with disrespect and disdain.  They are Bud Light.  He is Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Nena suggested I visit City Plaza for a photo montage.  My walk-through Monday morning made it clear that this is a complex that would be almost impossible to duplicate in terms of the way it satisfies city needs.
Municipal Court

Entering the building from Levee Street, I noticed court was in session and snapped a quick pic through the glass.  That caught the attention of Officer Salinas, who confiscated my camera to show the pic to Judge Neese.  The pic was permitted and I learned that the courtroom has great acoustics, is equipped with a projection screen and sonic ear devices for the hearing impaired.  On occasion, it is filled to capacity.  This courtroom is certainly envied by those who operate in JP courts.

A unique feature of this former bank building is the vault, used by the city to protect juvenile records and, on occasion to detain violent prisoners awaiting a court appearance.  A man charged with murdering a Harlingen policeman fled to Matamoros.  Matamoros police brought him back halfway across the Gateway Bridge, releasing him to Brownsville PD.  He was detained in the vault awaiting his court appearance.
The Vault

Adjacent to the vault is the Sally Port, an entry through double doors used to transport prisoners. The prisoners enter from a side door after entering by vehicle through a garage.  The outside door is closed and locked before the interior door is opened.  It is very unlikely this sort of secure prisoner transfer could be duplicated at the Casa del Nylon.

Convenient free parking is a noteworthy feature of City Plaza.  Just across St. Charles Street is a half city block of free parking.  Less well known is the fact that the 4 story parking garage next to the building is also free.  As one city employee stated:  "We have no way to charge.  There is no ticket booth or electronic gates.  Department heads are assigned spots on the ground floor.  The second story near the health and permit offices is open for the public.  Actually, there is handicapped parking just a few steps from the health office.  

It's beyond belief that a mayor and city commission would even consider surrendering a facility so well serving the citizenry.  Such a poorly-conceived move would be a tremendous quality-of-life setback for the city.  A mayor who actually looked out for the interests of the citizenry would be trying to recover the $10,000,000 the University of Texas system owes Texas Southmost College in back rent instead of giving away more city assets.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

After Sarkis Defeat: "Brownsville Is Really, Really Screwed!"

Debbie Portillo
The mood post-election at Saga Enterprises, the place of business of Martin Sarkis was somber, actually emotional. Several who had worked in the campaign seemed genuinely sad for the city.  "Brownsville is really, really screwed!" was one noteworthy comment.

The lament expressed was that, in young Debbie Portillo, Mayor Tony Martinez  now had another automatic vote on the City Commission, making for ultra-smooth sailing in his poorly-thought-out giveaway of city assets to whatever satellite entity of the merged university settles in Brownsville.  A key winner too is United Brownsville, the shadowy, unelected board assuming ever-increasing control while, at the same time, losing some of its funding as some in Cameron County government and the Brownsville Independent School District have finally started to see through the scam and halted the annual stipend.

Of course, there was the anomaly of Portillo winning the early vote handily, while Sarkis did the same on election day.  That almost never happens.  One theory floated was that it finally dawned on voters very late that Tony Martinez was trying to give away one of the city's prized assets, City Plaza, to the University of Texas system and thus voted for Sarkis on election day.  One operative observed:  "Many city workers I talked to in the last week were really pissed, not only that Martinez was giving away City Plaza and sending them to the rundown Casa del Nylon, but that he was trying to orchestrate the firing of City Manager Charlie Cabler and forcing into retirement Chief Financial Officer Pete Gonzalez.  That moved them to vote for Sarkis on election day."

At an adjacent table were some Brownsville's firefighters and an experienced political advocate.  They searched for some glimmer of hope while facing the reality of an unbalanced City Commission.  "I really think John Villarreal may speak up more in his second term.  The first time around, he simply didn't want to make waves since he may want to run for something else later and will need support," opined one man at the table.

"You know who surprised us and has shown some signs recently of independent thinking?  Estela Chavez-Vasquez.  When Fire Chief Lenny Perez went before the commission after the retirement of Fire Marshall Ben Nunez to try to eliminate the Fire Marshall position, she questioned him.  Perez claimed he wasn't eliminating the position, but going to cover it in another way.  She said:  'Look, I'm an attorney.  I can read.  Your directive says you are eliminating the position.'  What Perez was trying to do is give the job to one of his cronies without the merit test.  Can you imagine what insurance companies would do if a city had no Fire Marshall?"

There seems to be a consensus that, with the election of Portillo, Martinez now has three certain votes to implement the United Brownsville agenda:  Rose Gowen, Estela Chavez-Vasquez and Portillo.  Tony will gleefully break the tie.

"Ricardo Longoria, while he initially supported Tony, is now against giving away City Plaza as is John Villarreal and Tetreau.  Longoria, though, has tired of being on the commission.  He may run for something else before his term expires," stated a politico.

Friday, June 21, 2013

City Commission Agenda for 6/25/2013 Includes Leasing of Cueto Building to the University of Texas System

From the editor:  I apologize for the rough cut of this part of the June 25, 2013 City Commission agenda.  Evidently, the city is currently considering only the lease of the Cueto Building to the University of Texas System.  Does that mean that City Plaza and Market Square are off the table? Likely not.  Those buildings will likely need considerable renovation to be suitable for the university's needs.  The work needed to prepare the "Casa del Nylon" to replace City Plaza is considerably more involved.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

While Martinez Lets Charlie Cabler Twist in the Wind, Commissioner Longoria Puts the Blame on Martinez and Gowen

The city's explanation for the abrupt cancellation of the special City Commission meeting June 18 to discuss a real estate transaction between the city and UTB seemed to lay the blame on City Manager Charlie Cabler:

To all:
The decision to postpone the commission meeting, scheduled for this evening, was made at the request of our City Manager to better prepare to inform our commission of the details of the UTB request for lease space at the City Plaza and Cueto Buildings. Specific information as to the terms and length of lease are not available at this time . The university staff is working on details to present to city administration. If approved, relocation of city departments will be to vacate city-owned property such as Market Square etc., however, those details are pending and will not be ready today, thus, the request by our City Manager to postpone the meeting.

Before an important decision of this nature is made all the details need to be organized and presented to our commission and this will be worked on and presented at a later date to be determined.
Thank you.

When a Brownsville Herald story clearly laid blame for postponement of the special meeting at the feet of Cabler, Commissioner Ricardo Longoria added a comment to the article indicating this not to be the case:

Ricardo Longoria Jr. · AP Spanish teacher at Brownsville Independent School District
How can Charlie Cabler opt to cancel the meeting when the item was placed on the agenda by Mayor Tony Martinez and Commissioner Rose Gowen? It wasn't a Staff Agenda item; it wasn't even a scheduled meeting. Open your eyes citizens of Brownsville. The university is looking at other options, but some elected officials have other plans for the city's asset's[sic].

It has been Mayor Tony Martinez, running around like a chicken with his head cut off, trying to placate Juliet Garcia, wanting to turn over 48 acres of "surplus" Brownsville land, the convenient and well-suited City Plaza, offices in the Cueto Building, while proposing to stuff Brownsville city administrators into the antiquated, dusty Casa del Nylon.  

Commissioner Gowen, Mayor Martinez
It is certainly Martinez, not Cabler, who is foolishly trying to push this poorly-thought-out transfer of properties without due diligence.  Is Martinez a structural engineer?  Does he even know if the Casa del Nylon's so-called second floor, that is, in reality simply a dusty, unfinished attic, will support office personnel, desks and citizens?  City Plaza has, not only an adjacent parking garage, but convenient, across-the-street parking, enabling citizens to easily do their business.  Where will city employees and administrators park, once moved to the inadequate Casa del Nylon?  Ground hasn't even been broken on the new parking garage on Adams St., so, although it was scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013, it won't be finished for at least 18 months, if not two years.  

The more pertinent questions are:  "Why is our mayor treating the taxpayers and employees of the City of Brownsville as second class citizens while doting on Juliet Garcia, trying to fulfill her every desire before she can even articulate it?  Why is the mayor not more concerned with the actual needs of the city, like fixing the hellacious pot holes on N. Iowa Rd. adjacent to the airport, the bumpy right hand lane of Paredes Line Road from the cemetary to Boca Chica Blvd., the horrible 14th Street, a principal artery into the city?"  Clearly, someone needs to get their priorities straight.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Juliet Garcia's Lust for Power, Is Tony Martinez An Enabler?

Juliet Garcia
Juliet Garcia's track record is not pretty.  She has treated Brownsville's taxpayers with disrespect and the city's students with total disdain.  Do we really need to refresh our recollection that, when voters rejected Garcia's request for $100,000,000 in bonds for construction, but instead passed a $68,000,000 bond issue, she spent 100 million anyway?  That was Julia's big "Fuck you!" to Brownsville and Cameron County.

Meanwhile, Garcia attempted to destroy Texas Southmost College, while providing students at the University of Texas at Brownsville a mediocre education at best with the state's highest tuition.  Perhaps, as illustrative as anything of the education received at Garcia U. is the fact that none of UTB's 13,000 students even bothered to attend the school's recent City Commissioner Candidate Forum on campus.  The student's nonparticipation in participatory democracy was further illustrated in the vote totals experienced when Mary Rose Cardenas Hall was recently used as a polling place. Our comments in MMB last month:

UTB's Mary Rose Cardenas Hall processed 151 voters during 61 hours of operation, 2.47 per hour.(Project 100% City Commissioner Candidate Forum, sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement and the League of Women Voters, was attended by perhaps two dozen students.)  Here is one comment on the subject made after the forum:

"UTB's Project 100 percent Vote is a joke. The turnout is EXTREMELY dismal for the polling site at the University. They have access to address, e-mails, etc. for all students and staff, and they couldn't even send info to students. I know lots of the blame should be placed on the apathy of students, but if you're going to lead a get-out-the-vote charge, then actually take charge and do it."

(The handsome salary received by former Catholic priest Armand Matthew to run the Center for Civic Engagement has been wasted money.  The arrogant, unchristlike Matthew has been unable to generate the least bit of civic engagement by UTB students.)

Mayor Tony Martinez
During this time of flux for UTB and likely reassignment for Juliet Garcia, enter Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, who undoubtedly has more loyalty to Garcia and his other cronies at United Brownsville than to the citizens of Brownsville.  

Tony has been like a bat out of hell, buying up older downtown buildings without citizen involvement.  Like Garcia, Tony operates on the sly, totally disrespecting those whose children and grandchildren will be paying for all of this speculative real estate.  

The only information citizens are receiving comes from disenchanted city administrators who have tired of Tony's autocratic, bullying methods.    It was only through such leaks in the Martinez administration that we learned Tony was contemplating the boneheaded move of leasing, gifting or renting the very suitable City Plaza to the Brownsville satellite campus of the University of the Americas.  Just a few years ago Brownsville taxpayers paid for an extensive renovation of the former bank building, including a nearly ideal municipal court, ample parking and comfortable HVAC.  

Now, we get even a better glimpse of Tony's misguided benevolence to the soon to be former UTB.  He wants to give Market Square and offices in the Cueto Building to the world's likely second or third richest university system, plus 48 acres of naked ground, while cramping city administrators in the recently purchased, dusty retail building Casa del Nylon.  Of course, Tony is not a structural engineer and likely has no clue as to the millions needed to bring all these buildings up to suitability for their poorly thought out new uses.  Like we said earlier, Tony cares very little for Brownsville's actual needs, placating the power lust of Juliet Garcia and his other cronies on United Brownsville being the only thing that drives him. 


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo