Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mother, Daughter Campaign Finance Reports~Sofia Benavides, Mary Esther Garcia

County Commissioner Sofia Benavides
Sofia Benavides was appointed to fulfill the term of her husband Pete Benavides in 2006, then won re-election in 2008 and 2012.

Viewing her recent 2013 Campaign Finance Reports, much of her financial support comes from the construction industry.

The HNTB Political Action Committee, Kansas City, MO(Construction Services, Engineering) gave her $2,000 in her recent campaign.  The S&B Political Action Committee, Houston, TX(Construction Services, Engineering) gave her $5,000.

She also received a personal contribution from Vicente Mendez, an Ambiotec engineer, for $1,000, a $100 from Mark Corbitt, an Edinburg, TX engineer and $2,500 from Jesus Salinas, an engineer from Mission, TX.  She received a $1,000 contribution from Linebarger, Boggin, Blair and Sampson and $2,000 from Naples Investment, Dallas, TX.

Noteworthy expenditures include $465.48 to Feldman's for 'beverages," $200 to the John Villarreal City Commissioner campaign, followed by another $100 and $125.00 to notorious politiquera Herminia Becerra for "burial expenses."

Mary Esther Garcia
Sofia's daughter, Mary Esther Garcia, is running for the newly created Justice of the Peace, 2-3 position in 2014.  While her mother cultivates the financial support of those in the construction industry, Mary Esther curries financial favor with bail bondsmen and Ruben Gallegos, Jr.

Bad Boyz Bail Bonds contributed $250, Agado Bail Bonds $150 and Pronto Bail Bonds $350.  Are the bail bondsmen hoping Mary Esther sends some business their way?

Other prominent contributors to Mary Esther include:  The Daniel Robles Law Firm, $1,000 and again for $250, Gilberto & Cynthia Hinojosa, $500, Fabian Limas, Jr.(the nephew of Abel Limas?), $250, Evarardo Garcia, $500 and $100.

Ruben Gallegos, Jr. just keeps writing checks to the Mary Esther campaign:  $500, $1,000, Ruben & Norma Gallegos, $200, Ruben & Elisa Gallegos, $200.

Mary Esther may want to rethink the arithmetic on her report.  She claims total political contributions of $8305, expenditures of $7605, then political contributions maintained as of the last day of the reporting period of $8305.  That is not possible.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Carlos Cascos~"Yes, I'm Running for Re-Election As Cameron County Judge"

County Judge Carlos Cascos

Mean Mister Brownsville: From the Cameron County Campaign Reports

Gilberto Hinojosa
While perusing the Cameron County Elections website listing of campaign finance reports, I noticed that only county races are included, no mayoral or city commission campaigns.

Impressions can still be gleaned.  With his considerable reputation as a shady character, it is no surprise that Gilberto Hinojosa's first 2005 campaign report in his run for county judge is unreadable with a very faint copy of an illegible document. His second 2005 report is upside down.  Finally, in 2006, the report is almost readable, but written in a backhand style with much larger first letters followed by the undecipherable.

His primary large donors seem to be law firms, businesses from outside the county: (I can just barely make out the location of the donating firm) Miami=$2,000, Dallas=$1,500, New York=$1,000, McAllen=$1,000, Hollywood, FL=$1000 and again, Hollywood, FL=$1,000.  Also, a Harlingen PAC=$1,000(actually in the county) and a Houston PAC=$1,000.  Why are almost all of the larger contributors to the Hinojosa campaign from far OUTSIDE the county he wished to serve?

Subway Restaurants
Something unique to Gilberto's campaign report is a very large listing of restaurant expenditures for relatively small amounts:  Two are actually for just $1.07(a coke?).  Some of the charges seem to be for single meals.  Can more than one person eat at the Longhorn Cattle Company for $13?  Of course, hard campaigning requires nutrition and Gilberto evidently ate well during the campaign.  Here is just a partial list of restaurants charges listed as campaign expenditures:  Subway=$64.60, ?? Tortilleria=$9.95, Subway=$37.83, Longhorn Cattle Company=$30.17, Chapita's=$23.83, Unreadable=$21.21, Johnny Cavazo's=$47.57, Casa ???=$75.11, ???=$7.06, Casa Roma=$48.34, Pirate's Landing(Employee Appreciation Dinner)=$220.72,  Omaha Steaks, Omaha, NE=$93.49, Subway=$36.39, Blue ??? Restaurant=$33.62, Johnny Cavazo's=$43.37, Chili's=$23.50, Antonio's=$26.12, Blue Onion=$42.24, Longhorn Cattle Company=$40.49, Blue Onion=$30.06, Longhorn Cattle Company=$65.62, Lopez Meats=$62.46, Antonio's=$37.61, La Milpa Tortilleria=$125.00, Taco Palenque=$59.50, Speedy Stop #6=$1.07, Subway=$36.69, Gazpachos=$21.24, Elva's=$16.34, La Feria Coffee Shop=$96.77, Julia's, Los Fresnos=$418.80, H.E.B=$15.54, Central Express Shell=$1.40, Subway=$36.69, Feldman's=$1.40, Elva's=$16.99, Chapita's=$15.01, Johnny Cavazo's=$23.44, Costillo's=$71.47, IHOP=$72.30, Costillo's=$30.71, The Lone Star=$68.26, Taqueria Julia's $77.08, Julia's=$160.35, Jason's Deli=$20.90, Breaktime #4(gas)=$42.84, Casa Blanca=$77.84, Cotten's BBQ, Robstown, TX=$56.48, Rosita's=$47.04, ????=$62.50, Taco Palenque=$59.52, Speedy Stop=$1.07, Circle K=$3.01, H.E.B.=$15.54, Subway=$36.69, Feldman's=$1.40, 77 Cafe=$15.08, Super Antojita=$20.65, ???=$21.21, Radisson=$84.85, Johnny Cavazo's=$49.76, Gazpacho's=$21.00, Big J's BBQ=$295.00, ??? Restaurant=$62.76.  Longhorn Cattle Company=$13.34, Vito's=$27.42, Johnny Cavazo's=$51.49, Lotus Inn=$44.53, V.I.C.C.=$42.72, Lotus Inn=$21.89.

I do think some of the charges may be listed more than once.  Notice there are three lunches listed at Subway for $36.69.  That may be a mere coincidence with the Gilberto party ordering the exact same thing each visit.

Enrique Escobedo
When "Dr." Enrique Escobedo ran for County Commissioner in 2010, the Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson law firm gave him a contribution of $500.  Escobedo was and still is on the BISD School Board which again awarded the contract for delinquent tax collection to Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson.(Perhaps, the law firm suspected Escobedo would lose his bid for County Commissioner and remain on the school board to do their bidding.)  He also got a contribution of $3,000 from Attorney Marc Rosenthal who was recently convicted of bribery.  Rosenthal's firm, Watson & Rosenthal gave Escobedo an additional $3,000.(Actually, Rosenthal has been spreading his money around, giving Daniel Sanchez $5,000 to help him in his run for County Commissioner and another $1,000 to Ernie Hernandez.)  South Texas Amusements(8-liners?) sent $2,000 to both Escobedo and Sanchez.

Judge Cascos
The largest war chest in the county was accumulated by current County Judge Carlos Cascos.  $139,177.04 was declared on his 2010 report with an additional $5,267.28 accumulated since.  Cascos' largest contributor seemed to be Horacio Barerra, Mayor Tony Martinez' law partner, who gave the Cascos' Campaign $2,500.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Running Tidbits from the Cameron County Campaign Finance Reports

Election Administrator Chris Davis
Election Administrator Chris Davis explained to the Brownsville Herald his motivation for posting campaign finance reports on the Cameron County Elections Office website:  
“I wanted to stay true to what I promised when I took this job, which was to enhance the transparency of the elections office."

Locating a specific report involves clicking on the year of the election, then the specific due date of the reports, and finally, the beginning letter of the last name.  It will take a disciplined, systematic approach to glean information from all of the reports, including contributors and expenditures.

Quickly checking a couple of reports due July 26, 2012,  a few things popped out.  Jared Hockema, a candidate for Cameron County Democratic Chair reported $81,303.04 in contributions including a $75,000 personal loan to his campaign.  He added another $5,730 with a personal contribution, while reporting additional outside contributions of $500 and $100.  Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the county chair a non-paying position?

The Hockema campaign paid wages to Hilaro Cisneros, Ovidio Cisneros, Jr., Ovidio Cisneros, Sr., Joey Garza, Roberto Hensley and Rose Melendez.

A report filed by Erin H. Garcia, candidate for Justice of the Peace, 2-2 for the same time frame listed a campaign contribution from John W. Cowen for $1000, but also a contribution from James Escobedo.  Her campaign paid Pink Ape Media (Rodrigo Moreno?) $2150 for advertising, but also paid her husband, Doroteo Garcia, Jr., $1200 for food and beverages.  Was that a reimbursement?

Typically all of the reports are stamped with the seal of a notary public, who also fills in his/her name, when the commission expires and names a witness to the signing.  Abelardo Gomez, a candidate for constable, has only an unreadable stamp at the bottom of his report.

Mean Mister Brownsville~Monday, Monday

"Monday, Monday, can't trust that day;
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way.
Oh, Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be.
Oh, Monday, Monday, how could you leave and not take me?
Every other day, every other day
Every other day of the week is fine, yeah.
But whenever Monday comes - but whenever Monday comes
You can find me crying all of the time."

Monday, Monday
by the Mamas and the Papas

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Good Time Band At Mike's Tastes of Chicago~7/27/2013

Kyle Posie of the Good Time Band on Saxaphone At Mike's Tastes of Chicago~7/27/2013

Mike's Tastes of Chicago on Price Road, A Surprisingly Good Live Music Venue

Mike McCreary in front of Mike's
A live music venue is really nothing without good acoustics.  The old Crescent Moon, located at the rear of the Hide Building on 11th street had it with gentle Gulf winds on a summer night, an area rug on the floor and quite possibly, luck.  Several establishments downtown, despite renovation, simply do not have good sound.  Words and notes bounce off hard surfaces with misplaced speakers canceling each other out.

Mike's Tastes of Chicago, located at 2100 E. Price Rd., has some of the comfiness of the Crescent Moon, but also great sound.  The business consists essentially of two garage doors in a metal building with one door being a drive-through cold beer outlet and the other a hot dog/pizza place with tables and a bar.   The venue has the same climate control as my '59 VW bug had; flow-through ventilation with the garage doors up.

Louie Villarreal & The Goodtime Band
We were there on a Saturday night to hear Louie Villarreal & The Goodtime Band, but also ran into Henry "Hawk" Hernandez, noted Brownsville harmonica player, Joe Hugonette, bass player for Lords of D'Nile and Earthmen, and dancer Eva Mar.

While familiar with Villarreal's great vocals and guitar, his bandmates are also strong.  Saxophonist Kyle Posie moved effortless into country, rock, reggae and blues, sounding like Charles Neville in the group's rendition of Yellow Moon.  Patrick Lee Garza's bass was also prominent with Dennis Lester featured on a couple of drum solos.

The band stood just outside the raised door giving us fantastic sound inside.  Yes, it's about the sound.

Louie Villarreal, Eva Mar

Joe Hugonette, Jim Barton

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tonight At the Half Moon~The Charles Hearn Quintet w/Tara Linda, 9:00 PM

Tara Linda from Oakland, CA

Do Our Politicos Treat Texas Southmost College Like the Proverbial Stepchild?

"People say it doesn't exist 
'Cause no one would like to admit 
That there is a city underground 
Where people live everyday 
Off the waste and decay 
Off the discards of their fellow man 

Here in subcity life is hard 
We can't receive any government relief 
I'd like to please give Mr. President my honest regards 
For disregarding me"

Subcity by Tracy Chapman

State Representative Rene Oliveira,
A "No Show" at Historic TSC Signing
It's beyond interesting that our State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr and State Representative Rene Oliveira, so prominent in photo opportunities with UT officials relative to the newly proposed "regional" university, were obvious "no shows" at the historic TSC signing agreement more directly affecting their actual constituents.  

In terms of actually protecting the assets and interests of Brownsvillle and Cameron County taxpayers, there may not have been a more important, negotiated agreement than the one signed Friday at the Arnulfo Oliveira Student Services Center.  Please recall that outgoing UTB President Juliet Garcia tried to snooker the taxpayers by transferring millions of dollars of taxpayer assets to the University of Texas system.  There was also the not-
State Senator Eddie Lucio
so-trivial matter of $10,000,000 of so-called "back rent" owed the taxpayers.  We can only hope the negotiating team including TSC trustees factored this into the agreement just signed which included a $26,000,000 outlay to TSC.

Juliet Garcia
Also notably absent was outgoing UTB President Juliet Garcia,   Perhaps, UT Chancellor Cigarroa's words at the signing were aimed her way:  "There are two ways this can work. We can each go our separate ways and forget about each other or work together, developing mutual respect."  Garcia does not typically dodge the limelight.  Just two years ago in a UTB courtyard Garcia, Oliveira and Lucio turned the announcement of the Bell Scholarship Fund into a virtual Julietfest.  More recently, when Governor Rick Perry traveled to Brownsville for the signing of the legislative agreement authorizing the new regional university, Juliet annoyed some in the audience by standing up AFTER the signing to dazzle the captive audience with additional self-serving remarks.  

City Commissioner John Villarreal
Someone who did represent the city in the signing of this landmark agreement was Mayor Tony Martinez.  Both UT Chancellor Cigarroa and TSC President Tercero commented on the hospitality and cooperation of the mayor.  Regrettably, not one City Commissioner attended the signing, not even John Villarreal, the City Commissioner representing District 4, where TSC is located.  Ricardo Longoria, who has in the past lamented the huge financial commitment the City of Brownsville has made to UTB, only to see the administrative offices and jobs transferred to Hidalgo County for the new fused university, skipped the signing.  Commissioners Tetreau, Gowen, Chavez-Vasquez who also represent taxpayers continuing to fund TSC, did not grace the event with their presence.  Newly elected Debbie Portillo, who found her way to UTB for a candidate forum a couple of months ago, also bypassed the event.  

One or two "no shows" or "scheduling conflicts" might have been understandable, but when nearly all the politicos who "serve" the taxpayers funding TSC boycott the most important day in the history of the institution, it speaks volumes as to the collective low regard for Texas Southmost College.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jason Moody Launches New Magazine VIDA at Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts

Miguel Roberts, Claudia Henry with
copies of the premiere issue of VIDA
During our chat at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art launch party for the new magazine VIDA, Alexander (Sandy) Stillman asked how the introduction of Jason Moody's new South Texas magazine had gone over, then described how his mother, Anne Urquhart Stillman, had created a new magazine, Panorama, in 1928 to compete with the National Geographic.

"She wanted larger pictures than were in Life, but with a very short caption," Stillman explained.

Googling Panorama magazine, I found this comment in Time magazine dated January 21, 1929:  "Panorama it was called. A pretty smart-chart, plastered with splendid examples of photography, made out of nice paper, containing notes on the gregarious activities of social bigwigs, it made its debut on Manhattan newsstands last October (TIME, Oct. 8). The frontispiece, naturally, was a picture of Mrs. Anne U. Stillman, since she was financing the sheet.  Last week, Mrs. Anne U. Stillman announced that she had grown tired of Panorama and would stop publishing it immediately."

Cindy Vela signing
the cover of VIDA
Manuel De La Garza, a reporter with KRGV, the emcee of the program, introduced Jason Moody, publisher and owner of the new magazine.  "We want VIDA to be the official magazine of South Texas.  We're doing local interest stories no one else is doing, like our story on the Oyster Bar on Levee Street.  That restaurant has been operating for 63 years, but has anyone done the story?" stated Moody.  The first issue of the magazine also features a story and photo spread of Brownsville native, Cindy Vela, now an actress living in Los Angeles.  Cindy is also featured on the cover of VIDA's June/July issue.

Magazines have not done well in recent years with 525 failing in 2008.  Familiar names like Gourmet, Southern Accents, PC Magazine and Playgirl have gone down the tubes recently.  Of course, the formula for success has changed.  Subscriptions no longer provide the bulk of income for some periodicals that are passed out freely, existing on advertising income only.

Jason Moody
Celebrity Magazine RGV, based in Brownsville and McAllen, offers Celebrity Nights, Celebrity Kids and Celebrity Events.  Glossy pictures of kids and adults are taken at events with copies available for sale at the event.  VIDA has a different format, featuring stories on businesses, architecture, arts and personalities in the Rio Grande Valley.  The current issue has articles on the Museum of South Texas History, Fifty Years of Presidential Photographs, the architecture of two Brownsville churches and stories about two Brownsville restaurants.

Nena Barton, J.J. Struebelt

Alexander (Sandy) Stillman and friends

Jim Barton, Gilbert Velasquez, Brownsville Historical Association

Texas Southmost College Campus Defined by Agreement with UT System

The 2,000 students currently enrolled in Texas Southmost College may not fully appreciate the blending of architecture from three different centuries on their campus, but the TSC trustees along with President Lily Tercero seemed pleased with the agreement signed @ 10:00 AM in the lobby of the Arnulfo Oliveira Student Services Center.

Tercero and TSC Board President Francisco Rendon worked their way through those waiting to witness the signing ceremony, warmly greeting each attendee.

"I'm happy TSC is back," stated Tercero in remarks before the signing.  "This has been a near seamless transition.  We are pleased to announce that we already have over 2,000 students enrolled in TSC."

UT Chancellor Cigarroa
UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa viewed the two institutions working together as "a global model for how this can work. . . . . . Some questioned two and a half years ago how this could work, but we have a wonderful history together. If our negotiations did get a little stressful at times, if we don't go through that. . . . we're possibly not going to celebrate as much as we're going to celebrate today.  There are two ways this can work.  We can each go our separate ways and forget about each other or work together, developing mutual respect."

The schools essentially used Ringgold Road as a boundary with TSC on the west and the UT satellite on the east, although certain buildings, labs and the library will be shared.  TSC also received $26,000,000 compensation in the land/building swap.

Texas Southmost College President Lily Tercero

TSC Board President Francisco Rendon Introduces Signing Ceremony

TSC President Lily Tercero Speaks at Signing Ceremony

UT Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa Speaks at TSC Signing Ceremony, 7/26/2013

Texas Southmost College/UT Signing ~Arnulfo Oliveira Student Services Center, 7/26/2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Former State Representative Aaron Pena Treated Rudely by Police, Feds in Robstown

Aaron Pena

By Aman Batheja, The Texas Tribune

A former Rio Grande Valley state representative remains angry and baffled at the treatment he received at the hands of local and federal law enforcement Friday morning during a traffic stop in South Texas.

Aaron Peña was pulled over in Robstown, outside of Corpus Christi, for expired license plates. After being questioned by local police officers as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Robstown police impounded his vehicle and wrote him a ticket for lacking proof of automobile insurance, a charge Mr. Peña disputes.

“I don’t mind that they pulled me over,” said Peña, a Republican from Edinburg. “I don’t mind that they gave me a ticket. I do mind with great personal offense that they treated me like a drug dealer and accused me of lying.”

Peña was driving a 2001 Dodge pickup he said he had purchased within the previous two weeks. He had planned to drive it home to Edinburg so his son could take it with him when he starts college. Peña had expected to address the vehicle’s expired license plate once he got to South Texas. He had considered the possibility that the plates might get him pulled over but figured he would, if needed, explain to a police officer the situation and risk getting a ticket.

While driving down U.S. Highway 77, Peña was pulled over in Robstown. A Robstown police officer directed him to get out of his pickup. Peña complied. He was wearing dress pants and dress shoes and a campaign T-shirt for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who just kicked off his gubernatorial campaign. Peña had introduced Abbott at a campaign event earlier in the week.

Within minutes of Peña getting out of his vehicle, he noticed that the two Robstown officers had been joined by at least two other officers. They were not in uniform, but Peña said he could tell they were with the Department of Homeland Security by the badges they wore on chains around their necks. A police spokesman confirmed that the men were with ICE.

“There was a point where I sensed that I was surrounded,” Peña said. “I asked if this was bigger than a traffic stop. One of them says ‘You tell me.’”

Sgt. Albert Stout, a spokesman with the Robstown Police Department, said officers followed the law during the traffic stop with Peña.

“The reason his car was impounded was because he didn’t have any insurance and his plates were expired," Stout said.

Stout said Robstown police is currently working with ICE on a task force related to organized crime that involves policing traffic moving through the area.

“We’re trying to locate stolen vehicles, stolen properties, wanted people, money carriers, drug carriers,” Stout said.

Peña was driving from Austin to South Texas that morning on his way to a few different appointments. He had a meeting in Harlingen with a member of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s staff. He was later expected at an event with George P. Bush, son of the former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a Republican running for land commissioner.

Peña said he did not want to receive special treatment but also did not want to appear like he was hiding something from them.

“I said I used to be a state representative and now I work for a public relations firm,” Peña said. (Peña served in the Legislature from 2003 to 2013 representing a South Texas district based in Edinburg. In 2010, he left the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party.)

Peña gave the officers permission to search his car. They did not find anything, he said.

As he answered their questions and provided them with more information about him, the officers grew more confrontational, Peña said. They used the word “suspicious” repeatedly and accused him of lying. They were suspicious that Peña worked in Austin but still lived in South Texas. They were suspicious that Peña went by his middle name “Aaron” instead of his first name, “Lionel.” They were suspicious of the tan color of the bed liner in his pickup.

At one point, Peña showed them his state-issued concealed handgun license to prove he was not a felon. He assured them he was not armed. Peña was stunned at their response.

“They said it was really suspicious that I have a CHL but don’t have a gun,” Peña said.

Peña, a former member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he guessed the officers’ superiors could probably vouch for his identity. He explained to them that he works regularly with Homeland Security and law enforcement throughout South Texas.

“They obviously thought I was some sort of drug mule or something because they were afraid of me,” Peña said. “I tried to tell them, ‘Guys you can call your local officials in Robstown area or Corpus Christi area and they will know who I am. You just got to make a call.’”

Instead, Peña said the officers told him they were going to impound his car because he didn’t have insurance. Peña explained he had insurance but that this car was not listed on the policy yet. Peña argued that he was still legally insured. The officers disagreed.

Peña got a ride to the impound lot with the tow truck. In order to get back his pickup, Peña said he had to pay $226.65 to get the car released and another $50 for a month’s worth of insurance coverage for the vehicle from a business near the impound lot.

“I am extra covered now,” Peña quipped ruefully.

Stout declined to comment on how the officers questioned Peña. Despite the presence of ICE agents, Stout said Peña's immigration status was not an issue.

“They were extremely disrespectful,” Peña said. “They legitimately could have pulled me over. They legitimately could have given me a ticket for not having insurance, even though they are legally wrong about that. It’s the way they manhandled me and treated me like a felon.”

Asked if he would file a compliant about the incident, Peña said he did not know. What he was more certain of was that the experience has prompted him to re-examine the way law enforcement is interacting with people in his state, particularly in South Texas where combating drug traffic is considered a high priority.

“They assumed I was guilty, and they expected me to prove that I was innocent,” Peña said.

Peña said he missed his meeting with a member of Cornyn’s office but made a later public event with Bush. He made a point of taking a photo with him and Bush standing next to a U.S. flag to post on Twitter.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Historic Cameron Hotel Gets Facelift Despite Bureaucratic Footdragging

The Cameron Hotel
The historic Cameron Hotel at 921 E. Washington Street is Exhibit A for the HUD-funded Facade Improvement Program available since 2011, but not utilized until now.
Some downtowners blame recently-departed Planning Director Ben Medina with the bureaucratic quagmire stifling the access to these funds.  In any event, the Cameron Motor Hotel, the Half Moon Saloon and the Puente Art Studio have recently taken advantage of the funding for exterior cosmetic improvements.

While the thrust of the Cameron's advertising seems aimed at businessmen south of the border, it has become known in recent years as a sort of Hemingway hideaway for respected Brownsville blogger Jerry Mchale.  The remodeled hotel boasts ground level and across-the-street parking.

Puente Art Studio

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mean Mister Brownsville: America~Still Racist After All These Years!

Barack Obama, Trayvon Martin
On the evening of the George Zimmerman verdict, Nena and I went to the pool.  Actually, Nena went straight for the hot tub, while I entered the pool, joining two couples from Florida who were discussing the verdict.  "Do you think "Stand Your Ground" is a good law?" I asked, directing my question to one of the female nurses closest to me.

"Damn straight!" answered her Budweiser-bellied husband from across the pool.  "It will make those motherfuckers think twice."  I lowered my voice to exclude the buffoon while engaging the three closest in observations about the trial.  None of us made any converts, but our conversation was, at least, respectful.  Racism in America.

Later that night, I flipped on the TV to catch Craig Ferguson of CBS's The Late, Late Show.  Ferguson, a naturalized American originally from Scotland, is capable of near genius, scattershot monologues, going in complete circle back to an obvious theme, but usually ending with:  "It's a great day for America!"  This night, he simply said his catchphrase didn't fit.  It was not a great day for America, an obvious reference to the Florida verdict.

York, the Black Slave on
the Lewis & Clark Expedition
Obligatory in my so-called schooling was a study of Washington State history.  It was all totem poles and tee pees or Big-Houses as native Americans used the abundant wood in the Northwest to build.  While studying the Yakima, the Lummi, the Quinault, the Skohomish, the Snoqualmie, Nez Perce and the Puyallup, we also learned about the trek lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the so-called Lewis & Clark expedition.  In school we learned how the travelers crossed the continent with the benevolent assistance of native Americans, especially the Nez Perce, to finally reach the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific Ocean.  We did not learn about York, the one black man on the trip, the guy who saved Captain Lewis from a grizzly bear, scouted, hunted  and treated the sick with field medicine.

While 30 of the 31 brave travelers received a hero's welcome from the president, land AND money, York received nothing.  He was a slave of Lieutenant Clark.  Although he asked for his freedom on his return, that was denied.  He got nothing but a beating for insolence.  Racism in early America.

While Clark later claims he had freed York, historians disagree, theorizing that he escaped.  Zenas Leonard in Narratives of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard(1839) writes about York:

"In this village we found a negro man, who informed us that he first came to this country with Lewis & Clark — with whom he also returned to the State of Missouri, and in a few years returned again with a Mr. Mackinney, a trader on the Missouri river, and has remained here ever since - which is about ten or twelve years. He has acquired a correct knowledge of their manner of living, and speaks their language fluently. He has rose to be quite a considerable character, or chief, in their village; at least he assumes all the dignities of a chief, for he has four wives, with whom he lives alternately."

Not only did I not know that a black man accompanied Lewis & Clark,  I had no idea that a black man played for Seattle University.  I would hook up my crystal set to the kitchen faucet as a ground.  I could get KIRO, KOMO and KJR.  One of those stations broadcast the SU games.  "Baylor scores!"  the announcer would say.  I had no earthly idea what Elgin Baylor looked like.  I just knew that he scored almost every time down the floor.

Bill Russell
What I did see on TV were Boston Celtics games.  I was fascinated by the articulate superstar Bill Russell.  When he became player-coach with the media peppering him with questions, it was the same man among boys scenario that played out on the court.  Russell was the mental health professional guiding the media through their neuroses.  What was not known at the time was that Russell returned home from games to find smeared feces, racial epithets and other racist bullshit on the walls of his Boston home.  For years Russell kept silence on this abuse, enduring it, but never giving his enemies the satisfaction of knowing they had hurt him.  Racism in America.

What kind of bullshit is a "Stand Your Ground" law?  If I want to attack an enemy, let him get the best of me, then shoot him in the heart, do I get off?  "Stand Your Ground" in Texas would certainly mean that Mexican Nationals trespassing on your property could be shot on sight.  You know all they want is to rape, rob and pillage and you are soooo scared!

Nena and I lived in Little Rock, Arkansas for over 30 years.  When we still went to church, we intentionally chose a large black church in the ghetto.  Most of the time, we were the only non-blacks in the congregation. For ten years we socialized, conversed and picked the brains of 400 or so folks who had escaped slavery.  Bill Perkins, as articulate as Obama, who drove beer truck, taught me to not dumb myself down for the audience.  Keith Wine, a former Black Panther, turned us on to Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and other African artists.  But, still there were stories, many stories.  Racism in America.

Mean Mister Brownsville~Judging Books By Their Cover

by Los Angeles Artist Nikkolas Smith

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Meets~Completion of Downtown Parking Garage Reset for Spring of 2015.

From the editor:  Below is a report from the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board meeting held at 5:30 PM on the second floor of the multi-modal facility.  Our pics were accidentally erased and will be added to the article tomorrow.  

Original Completion Date for Parking Garage
While the proposed downtown parking garage is now targeted for completion in the Spring of 2015 at the earliest, the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board, meeting Wednesday on the second floor of the multi-modal facility, wants it known that the 60 or 70 spaces reserved during the day for Metro staff are available after 5:00 PM for visitors to downtown.  This includes the 40 spaces fenced on three sides west of the convenience store on Adams St. and International as well as the 25 or 30 slotted diagonally along the north side of East Adams Street between 13th Street and the multi-modal facility.

Financing is still the issue for the downtown parking garage originally scheduled for completion in the Fall of 2013.  Actually, $1,500,000 has already GBIC approves some tweaking of the financing, original construction documents(blueprints) will be ready in 60 days.
been approved for the project, but $500,000 of that is already due as an interest free repayment.  Andrew Munoz, the Assistant Director of Brownsville Metro, is confidant that original financing is enough to get the project off the ground with a bit of restructuring.  There is no hint as to how the entire project, estimated to cost $5,100,000, will be financed.(Some in town doubt that estimate is accurate, thinking the project may actually cost $7,000,000) Munoz states that once

A surprisingly successful aspect of the multi-modal facility has been the units leased by fast food entities Church's Chicken, Wing Stop and Subway.  Four more such units are available for lease at $1.50 per square foot.  The units are simply four walls, a ceiling and utilities, leaving the tenant to design the plumbing to suit and then concrete the floor.  Kiosk space is also available in the mulit-modal station lobby at $450 per month.

The proposed Texas House Bill #2423 that would have regionalized mass transit in the RGV, with the command staff likely in Edinburg or McAllen, is dead.  This means that Brownsville retains control of its metro system,  Actually, three new buses are being added to accommodate the three new cross valley lines.
Kiosk Inside Multi-Modal
 A blue line will run between South Padre Island and the multi-modal, while a red line goes to McAllen and finally a green line links the Pan American campus in Edinburg with downtown Brownsville.

Twenty more bike racks will be added to the fifteen already at the bus station.  Racks will also be positioned in front of the proposed parking garage and at the pedestrian mall between Washington and Elizabeth Streets at 14th.  That pedestrian mall was recently resurfaced with concrete, replacing the brick pavers at a cost of $330,000.  Grading issues necessitated the change, along with the need for electrical and plumbing upgrades. The contractor and architect will be splitting the cost of correcting a drainage problems that manifested itself after the recent rains.


Grandson Jack in Market Square Walking with grandson Jack downtown is a challenge.  He frolicks, skips, cuts in front of you, runs ahead,...