Friday, August 30, 2013

Mayor Tony Martinez Gifted Something "Better" than Tequila As Ralph Cowen Looks On

A tangible result of Mayor Tony Martinez' meeting with two city councilmen from Mazatlan, Sinaloa is their gift, pictured on the left, a bottle of Los Osuna 100% Blue Agave Spirit distilled in Sinaloa.

Notice, we didn't describe the beverage as tequila.  Mexican laws state that tequila can be produced only in the state of Jalisco and limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Mexico is granted international right to the word "tequila". The United States officially recognizes that spirits called "tequila" can only be produced in Mexico, although by agreement bulk amounts can be shipped to be bottled in the U.S.  Tequila or agave spirit is most often made at a 38–40% alcohol content (76–80 proof), but can be produced between 31–55% alcohol content (62–110 proof).

The meeting between Martinez and the two Mazatlan councilmen, Eric Reynoso and Sergio Romero, was to discuss the implication of the year-away opening of Mexico Superhighway 40 between Mazatlan and Matamoros.

Ralph Cowen, Sergio Romero, Tony Martinez
(Picture by Brad Doherty, Brownsville Herald)
Ty Johnson made this observation in his Brownsville Herald article published August 29: 

Martinez continued that theme, calling the highway the most significant connection for the city’s economy since railroad tracks reached the Valley more than a century ago.  
Noting that the rural area surrounding the city of Mazatlan is often considered the “breadbasket of Mexico,” he suggested the new highway and relationship with Brownsville and its port could mean that moniker could be known worldwide.

“It is now time for Brownville to let it be the breadbasket of the world,” he said.


A Mean Mister Brownsville article, published August 20, mentioned some reservations with respect to Brownsville and Cameron County having the necessary infrastructure so as to be ready to benefit from a new highway connection to the "breadbasket of the world":

"While McAllen and Pharr officials are salivating at receiving a huge upswing in toll revenues with the nearing completion of Mexico Superhighway 40 from Mazatlan to Matamoros, Cameron County will likely not get a slice of that pie.

A Brownsville trucking company owner states that the primary commercial crossing at Los Tomates simply is not prepared to handle the large volume of produce expected to be trucked from the Pacific coast of Mexico. "We simply do not have the necessary cold storage inspection facility in Brownsville. Lettuce, limes, avocados, cantaloupes all need to be unloaded into cold storage for inspection or the loads will be ruined," stated the business owner.

"All the county commissioners care about is getting the credit for increased bridge revenue, but will not do what's necessary to get ready for increased traffic," continued the trucker. A Brownsville Herald article by Ty Johnson published August 17 estimated an increase of 1,000 trucks per day coming through the Rio Grande Valley with Veteran's International at Los Tomates getting 250 of that total, but the owner/operator does not see that happening.

"It's not just the cold storage problem, it's that Veteran's is a training facility for the Department of Transportation with rookie inspectors issuing more tickets to make a name for themselves. Why would you cross at Brownsville, wasting two hours of down time and fuel with the increased risk of a ticket that goes on your permanent driving record?"

Superhighway 40 has been under construction for a decade. As usual Cameron County officials are incredibly slow to react. As former Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada used to say: "McAllen is eating our lunch.'"


Well, even if Brownsville and Cameron County are not ready to handle a higher volume of trucks or inspect the produce from the world's breadbasket, at least Ralph and Tony got a bottle of agave spirit out of the meeting.

Republican Club of Brownsville Announces Meet & Greet of Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman at VICC September 4


Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Is Tony Martinez Trying to Do At Brownville P.U.B.? As Usual, He's Not Sharing the Details with the Electorate

Tony Martinez
When Mayor Martinez tried to work out a sweetheart deal leasing Congressman Filemon Vela almost free office space at City Plaza, he tried to do it on the sly.  When several blogs caught wind of his intentions, we are told, Martinez chastised his staff and the City Commission for "leaks."  Eventually, Vela was offered space at City Plaza at market rates, which he turned down.  Actually, he already has an office along the expressway plus an available stipend from the U.S. House of Representatives for office space in his district and in Washington, D.C..  He didn't need a gift from one of the most impoverished cities in the United States.

Moving forward, Mayor Martinez tried to gift the entire City Plaza complex to University of Texas system, one of the richest university systems in the world.  The plan was to move city administration from the almost ideally suited City Plaza, complete with parking garage, across-the-street parking, a municipal courtroom and convenient Health Department to the antiquated Casa del Nylon.  Cooler heads prevailed and that dumb idea was shelved with the citizenry again kept totally in the dark.

Martinez' modus operandi from Day 1 has been to work backdoor, backroom, mafioso-like, in the shadows.  He may have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Democratic Party, but he is as anti-democratic as they come.  Before a citizen starts to speak during Public Comment at one of his City Commission meetings broadcast on local Channel 17-12, the camera and sound is turned off.  Just as oldtimers used to say "little children should be seen and not heard," Martinez feels citizens should not be seen OR heard.

Which brings us to P.U.B.  Tony has something in mind for the utility, but, as usual, he's not revealing the plan.  Does he plan on privatizing the utility, that seems to be operating well as is, providing a generous annual contribution to city coffers?  He's not saying.  We are left to try, somewhat futily,  to connect the dots.


Whatever the plan, some of the groundwork may have been laid at this past Tuesday's City Commission meeting with the appointment of Lourdes Gavito-Galonsky to the P.U.B. board. The new appointee, 47, is the wife of Moishe Galonsky.  Jointly, they own Prestige Electronics, Inc., with business addresses at 1104 E. Elizabeth St. and 25 Sam Perl Blvd.  The Elizabeth St. address is now occupied by a dollar store.  I've been told that Galonsky is a relative of Tony's friend Abraham Galonsky(I've not been able to verify that relationship.), the previous owner of the Casa del Nylon building that the City of Brownsville purchased for $2,300,000(The sale was inappropriately negotiated by Martinez' law partner Attorney Horacio Barrera.).

Interestingly, the swing vote to select Galonsky to the P.U.B. board was made by newly-elected City Commissioner Deborah Portillo, whose family business used to occupy the the east side of the Casa del Nylon building on 14th St. downtown owned at the time by Abraham Galonsky.  Portillo may be already giving the behind-the-scene movers and shakers of Brownsville some return on their $40,953 investment in her campaign by facilitating whatever plan they have for P.U.B. that Mayor Tony is now orchestrating.  After all, they weren't supporting Portillo, a young woman who had never even voted in a city
Deborah Portillo
election, for her political ideology or ideas for the city. No one even showed up to hear her expound her platform or philosophy at the UTB Candidate Forum, so her heavy financial backing was for another reason.


At the same City Commission meeting, a contract for the Escobedo brothers, Jaime and Enrique was turned down, with even Mayor Martinez voting against it.  In a surprising twist, City Commissioner Deborah Portillo voted to award the contract to the Escobedos.  Maybe, its because their business, American Surveillance, is located at 55 Galonsky Street.

Carlos Quintanilla Declares Boycott of Farmers Branch, Texas on September 13


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ricardo Longoria, City Commissioner, District 1, Finds Brownsville Fire Fighters Petition Hilarious

George Lerma decided to approach the City Commission during public comment Tuesday when all of the emails he sent to the Mayor, City Commissioners and City Manager that included the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association petition of "No Confidence" in Fire Chief Lenny Perez were returned:  "Undeliverable for security reasons."

So, Lerma went to Plan B:  "We'll make copies of the petition and hand them out during public comment," Lerma explained.  In Brownsville, Texas just before citizens address the City Commission, the cameras are turned off in sort of an anti-democratic backslap at the citizenry, sending the distinct message that their participation in city government is a mere nuisance, that their words and ideas have no possibility of merit.  It's a great lesson in participatory democracy by the Tony Martinez regime, just the tonic a city needs that only has 5% of registered voters actually voting.

Ricardo Longoria(behind laptop)
As Lerma strode to the podium, Carlos Elizondo, President of the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association, stood at his side.  As Lerma began his remarks, City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria began guffawing in an obvious way, not a spontaneous laugh or an embarrassed laugh, but a contrived laugh of derision and disdain.  He tried to get John Villarreal to his left to join in the knee-slapping hilarity, but Villarreal kept a poker face.  Then he turned to Commissioner Gowen to his right who also saw no particular humor.  It is rumored, Longoria may seek higher office.  He should reconsider until he matures somewhat.

Describing the handling of the recent funeral of Firefighter Juan Casanova as the central issue of the petition would be an error.  That incident was an emotional touchstone to be sure, sending a clear message to the firefighters the control the fire chief can demonstrate over the death and other benefits due a comrade falling in the line of duty or simply retiring.  It was not a message of reassurance to be sure.

Lerma and the BFA leadership realize that coming before the City Commission will not flip some magical switch, but view it as a way of initiating dialogue.  Interestingly, moments ago, a Brownsville Herald article by Ty Johnson was released online paraphrasing Mayor Martinez after the commission meeting:  "Mayor Tony Martinez said following the meeting that while he respected the union’s decision to bring the issue to the public’s attention, he felt the formal procedure for registering issues, both concerning collective bargaining and personnel, was being overlooked."

Actually, the ball has been in the city's court for two years, ever since a visiting judge from Corpus Christi ruled in Judge Rolando Olvera's 445th court room in favor of the Brownsville Fire Fighters in their "me-too" lawsuit against the city.  The visiting judge also added 6% interest retroactive to when the Brownville Police Department received a 15% raise in 2009 and 5% on the lump sum due going forward.  That could possibly add several hundred thousand dollars to the city's liability.

John Villarreal
It's ironic, but as we entered the City Commission room late, City Financial Director Pete Gonzalez was finishing his presentation of the new budget calling for a property tax increase.  Commissioner John Villarreal had a question about the $37,000 subsidy to the Brownsville Country Club.  I sometimes think the City Commission must not be aware of the monetary urgency to take their collective heads out of the sand with respect to dealing with the court ruling on the firefighters' "me-too" lawsuit.  Possibly, Attorney Ricardo Navarro has assured them it will be overturned on appeal, but counting on that happening is a very risky approach.  I'm told that the judge told both legal teams October 24, 2011, that he had been an appellate judge for 20 years: "Trust me.  This won't be successfully appealed."









Letty Perez-Garzoria Addresses the City Commission About the "No Confidence" Petition


George Lerma, Brownsville Fire Fighters Association, Addresses City Commission with Petition of "No Confidence" if Fire Chief Lenny Perez


Brownsville, A Very Political City Where Almost No One Votes But Bid-Rigging Abounds

Zip Code 78520: Summary

78520 contributed about 4 times as much as the average zip code.
2012 Contributions: $378,119
Average Zip: $84,561
View State Money Profile for TX
  View the elected officials who represent this zip code

According to the website OpenSecrets.org Brownsville, TX is a very political city.  Zip Code 78520 alone had 4 times the national average in political contributions in 2012 with $378,119 committed to national campaigns.  Companies and individuals also contribute generously to local campaigns.  Yet, voter participation in the city of Brownsville hovers around 4, 5 or 6%.  UTB's Center for Civic Engagement with its Project 100% Vote has been an absolute joke.  The last candidate forum it sponsored on the UTB campus was attended by 6 adults including the candidates, zero students.  This past May, Mary Rose Cardenas Hall on the UTB campus was used as a polling place during early voting for a city-wide election as a convenience for UTB/TSC's then 13,836 combined student enrollment, 91.8% or 12,176 of whom are over the age of 18.  Only 151 votes were processed during 61 hours of operation, that is 2.47 votes per hour.  And you thought the Maytag repairman was bored to death?  Try working in a polling place all day that only gets 2 votes per hour!

So, why all the local political contributions to City Commission, County Commission, BISD, County Sheriff, etc. from individuals and companies?  These monies may not be in support of a certain political ideology as much as they are an attempt to gain favor in the awarding of contracts.

Despite the fact that contractors frequently have to be vetted or qualified with the contract awarded to the approved contractor submitting the lowest bid, there are a multitude of ways to get around this.  It's called bid-rigging.  The graphic on the left illustrates this.

In Brownsville and Cameron County frequently the same companies or the same individuals morphing into a variety of companies are awarded contracts again and again. There are several companies we could mention. This article will deal with one. The Escobedo brothers, Jaime and Enrique Escobedo use several companies, incorporating the word "American" in their company name, that dominate the marketing of security and surveillance cameras at the city, county and BISD.  American Surveillance, for example, was awarded a contract for cameras at the Olmito/Brownsville Sports Park for $200,000.  When the new multi-modal bus facility was built in downtown Brownsville, regulations put certain stipulations on contract awards exceeding $100,000.  American Surveillance was given two $100,000 contracts for security of the building, $100,000 for surveillance cameras and $100,000 for installation and electronics associated with the surveillance cameras.(In other words, buy the cameras from us for a hundred grand and then we'll install them for a hundred grand more.)

When the police department needed additional security equipment in 2012, Robert C. Luna from the Planning Department presented for approval by the City Commission a contract with American Surveillance. When a City Commissioner asked if the item had been put out for bids, Luna got flustered. Then Police Chief Carlos Garcia stepped forward to state that American Surveillance was considered a sole source provider to maintain continuity throughout city departments by using the same software.  Do you think Jaime Escobedo manufactures software?  Could not other bidders buy the identical software from the manufacturer if it was specified in bidding instructions?

The Escobedo brothers also showed up when the city needed bids on demolition of dilapidated houses in Brownsville.  This time the Escobedos presented themselves as American Contractors. Lol!

But, there's more.  All of a sudden the Escobedos became sole suppliers of the huge generators at the Port of Brownsville even before they needed them.  Here is the explanation given by Carlos Masso, then a candidate for District Attorney, but, then and now, an official with the Brownsville Navigation District:
"Regarding the contract with the Escobedos, I was not aware they owned the company. I do know that one of the Escobedos owns a security company named "American Security and Surveillance." The name of the company on the agenda was Valley American Contractors. Neither the agenda nor the backup to our agenda indicated that they were the owners. The company was the only bidder. Based on the information that was presented, if we didnt secure this generator now that it would cost us about 40% more if we waited to get a 2012 version which are not currently available. This generator would not have only been capable of meeting our power needs for the administrative building but also for the adjacent building. Furthermore, it was part of our security
Carlos Masso
grant and the Port was putting in a matching contribution of 25%. Those were my reasons for voting for it. Not because it was the Escobedos company."

Please notice that the Escobedos used the age-old salesman ploy that, if they bought the generator now, they would be saving money because the new models were going to cost more.  So, even though the Brownsville Navigation District didn't actually need a generator at the time, the Escobedo brothers needed the business.  Oh, BTW, I've been told that Carlos Masso is close friends with the Escobedos.  Do you really think he did not know they were the ones making this bid at the Port?   




Monday, August 26, 2013

Traci Wickett, CEO of United Way of Southern Cameron County Explains the $4,000 Contribution to Tony Martinez "State of the City" Event

Traci Wickett
One of the bigger head scratchers of Tony Martinez "State of the City" event was the $4,000 contribution of United Way of Southern Cameron County.  Some of us had visions of four grand earmarked for the poor, the homeless or disadvantaged being misappropriated to help underwrite a highbrow, elitist event priced out of reach for the common Brownsville citizen.  The large contribution from the charity was as concerning as the $18,650 from taxpayer, ratepayer and tuition payer entities used to finance the event.


You may recall that Mayor Martinez had explained to a Brownsville Herald reporter that since the event was privately funded, he had the full discretion in how the event was handled.  Here is the characterization of his view by The Herald from a July 29, 2013 article:  "He said that since the money for the State of the City event was privately raised, he saw no issue with spending the money with the same consultant firm that helped him win his office, explaining that based on practices he has observed in other areas, the event is typically planned wholly at the mayor’s discretion."

I called Traci Wickett, the CEO of the local chapter of United Way to get clarification on her group's financial participation.  Ms. Wickett
Bill & Melinda Gates
explained that the $4,000 was not pulled from charitable donations intended for the needy of Cameron County, but was a grant from the Bill Gates Foundation earmarked for practical job training programs.

"We could have done our own event, but that might have been difficult with $4,000.  By piggybacking on the mayor's event, we got more exposure than we could have generated on our own.  We were very happy seeing our "All-In" program on the front page of the Brownsville Herald the next day and, of course, the mayor promoting us on stage."

When I asked Ms. Wickett if the Bill Gates Foundation was satisfied with the results of their stipend, she said:  "Very much so.  Bill Gates is into practical solutions in getting young people gainfully employed.  We were able to generate some interest in our intern "Earn and Learn" program, where we partner with local businesses to give young people practical job experience.  The business is benefited because we are able to subsidize the intern's salary."

I was interested in how many interns were in the program locally and what types of businesses were participating.  Ms. Wicket responded:  "We've just launched the program, but many of Brownsville's business owners were at the "State of the City" event and they are definitely interested.  A shipbreaking company at the Port of Brownsville has shown interest.  The Brownsville Herald, for example, would be a wonderful opportunity for interns to develop skills."

Essentially, what United Way got for their $4,000 was advertising, exposure for their programs.  $4,000 would not go very far even with one internship.  Using the percentages of contributions and expenditures from the Project Transaction Report we received from the City of Brownsville, this is how literally the event spent the United Way $4,000 donation: $1,908 to the Austin advertising company M.A.P.(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.), $768.00 to Keko's Bistro & Catering, $80.00 to Perennial Favorites for centerpieces and $920 to either jumpstart the event for next year or to a local charity(Martinez indicated in the July 29, 2013 Brownsville Herald article that he hadn't decided yet how to use the profit from the event.).  Perhaps, Mayor Martinez will give the $11,246 left over to the United Way.

There is certainly a need for a job skills program in Cameron County that would actually match employer requirements. Department of Labor statistics for June 2013 show the county's unemployment rate at 11.1%. There may not be a position in Cameron Country for those earning a degree at UTB, so those graduates must leave the area to find a job that fits their education.  With all due respect, I'm not certain shipbreaking would be even an internship I could recommend as that's a very hazardous, dangerous type of work.

Checking the Bill Gates Foundation website, I noticed they do indeed partner with the United Way.  I noticed my county of birth, King County of Washington State, recently received a $30,000,000 grant from the foundation.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Does Filemon Vela's Attendance At United Brownsville Conclave Give the Organization Credibility?

Justin Bieber
If Justin Beiber attended a local quincenera, the visit of the guest celebrity would likely overshadow the event itself.  We suspect the next day's Brownsville Herald headline would not read Local Family Holds Quincenera, but instead Troubled Superstar Attends Local Party. 

Juan Montoya's El Rrun Rrun blog reported that U.S. Representative Filemon Vela, who represents Texas 34th Congressional District, which includes Gonzales, Dewitt, Goliad, Bee, San Patricio, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kenedy, Willacy, Cameron, and Hidalgo counties attended a non-advertised meeting in a private home whose attendees included IBC Bank President Fred Rusteberg, Ambiotec CEO Carlos Marin, the mayors of Brownsville, Texas, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas as well as Matamoros Alderman-Elect Luis Biasi of Matamoros and Congressman-Elect Enrique Rivas of Nuevo Laredo.

Congressman Vela
Before Montoya's report one might have thought it more likely that Bieber would attend a Brownsville girl's 15th birthday party than a U.S. congressman would respond to an invitation from the prime movers of a shadowy, unelected entity that claims its meetings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act, that leaches without accountability funds from eight taxpayer-supported entities, but its officers can't articulate a single thing the group does for the city.(BISD Superintendent Dr. Carl Montoya was once put on the spot at a BISD board meeting to explain what United Brownsville does.  After about 90 seconds of clearing his throat and word whiskers, he mumbled something about coordinating, organizing, facilitating and then just sort of gave up.  IBC President Fred Rusteberg did much the same at a Downtown Revitalization meeting about three years ago, featuring plastic models and artist's conceptions of the future of downtown Brownsville.  Old Fred rambled on for several minutes with platitudes that left most of us scratching our heads, thinking:  "What did he just say?")

United Brownsville, once called Imagine Brownsville, was first promoted by former Brownsville Mayor
Eddie Trevino
Eddie Trevino, although the publication of the 470 page paperback plan was put together by Matamoros millionaire Carlos Marin's engineering firm Ambiotec.  The plan, that looks something like a large comic book, would likely not summon even a dollar at a yard sale, originally cost Brownsville taxpayers $900,000(Former Mayor Pat Ahumada claims $800,000 should be added to that original cost for city services and staff time used in its compilation.).  Since 2009 eight taxpayer entities have been contributing $175,000 annually($25,000 each) to fund the continuing existence of the do-nothing board.  One of the tricks of the unelected board is to flatter newly elected officials by bringing them into the fold.  Thus, Estela Chavez-Vasquez and John Villarreal,  after their election as City Commissioners, were asked to join as were Mayor Tony Martinez and Rose Gowen.  BISD Board President Enrique Escobedo is on the board as is Superintendent Carl Montoya. Juliet Garcia, Fred Rusteberg and Carlos Marin, of course, were original members along with Eddie Trevino.  A total of 27 civic leaders are included as board members.

Mike Gonzales(on the right)
No agenda is made available for United Brownsville meetings as no ordinary citizens are allowed to attend, despite the fact that they pay for the board's existence and operation.  It is actually taxation without representation.  No one knows what United Brownsville Director Mike Gonzalez does during the course of an 8 hour work day or if he even shows up for work.  We only see him during those times of the year when he shines his shoes, coming before the City Commission, the BISD board, the Brownsville Navigation District, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, UTB, TSC, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to beg for funds.  For all we know, that may be Mike's only actual work.

With this backdrop, it is indeed surprising that Congressman Vela would attend a function featuring the nucleus of an anti-democratic board that wants to make decisions about the future of Brownsville outside of the view of Brownsville citizens.  The group has an almost mafioso-like secrecy and arrogance.  Why would a U.S. Congressman lend credibilty to such an elitist group or risk losing his own credibility by conferring with such a group?  The newly elected Mexican officials likely don't know what's going on, but Congressman Vela should know better.  



George Lerma Comments on Issues Facing the City of Brownsville and the Firefighters

One statement in particular in Ty Johnson's 8/24/2013 Brownsville Herald article titled "Fire Marshal: Chief ‘did exactly what he’s supposed to do’" seemed suspect.  Johnson made this observation:
"City Manager Charlie Cabler said Thursday that he had received no documentation con-cerning any problems with Perez’s conduct and said he could not comment on the specifics of the association’s grievances until he was made aware of them."


Mean Mister Brownsville, George Lerma
of Brownsville Fire Fighters Association
We ran that comment by George Lerma of the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association.

Lerma:  "Jim, every grievance we've had  for the last 10 or 12 years has gone through City Manager Cabler, so he is certainly aware of the problems we've had with the leadership.  He told me some time ago that he doesn't concern himself with the actual results of the arbitrations.  But, with respect to the "No Confidence" petition, it doesn't actually become a petition until it is signed by the membership.  It would have been premature to discuss it with Cabler until it is signed and becomes official."

MMB:  "What about Fire Marshall Connealy's contention that Fire Chief Perez did nothing wrong with respect to the handling of deceased Fire Fighter Juan Casanova's funeral and death benefits?

Lerma:  "He did so after the fact. . . . Our association had already filed the necessary papers and arranged for the funeral.  Chief Perez simply wouldn't return our calls.  We again tried to call Perez as we needed the signature of a department head on paperwork to bring Casanova's wife from Mexico for the funeral.  We worked around that, got it done.  The family had no idea of our difficulties getting Perez to cooperate.  We had bagpipes, a very respectful, full honors funeral put on by our union with no help from the chief."

Lerma made it clear that the mishandling of the Juan Casanova situation is not the central issue for the association.  That is reflected in the "No Confidence" statement the association released today which cites a number of general issues with Perez' leadership.  Lerma asserted that the association has the specifics to back up the general assertions in the statement and is more than ready to engage the city in such discussions.

Another issue concerning Lerma and the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association  is that fact that the fire fighters have been working for some time without a contract.  Lerma states that it is a complicated issue involving a so-called "Evergreen" clause and a "me-too" provision shared by the fire and police departments. On October 24, 2011 a visiting judge from Corpus Christi ruled in Rolando Olvera's 445th Court in favor of a lawsuit by the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association against the City of Brownsville.  Lerma wonders if city officials fully realize the huge amount of interest that has accrued on behalf of the association since that ruling.

Lerma provided a little history.  He states that just before the June 2009 runoff between incumbent Carlos Cisneros and Melissa Zamora for City Commissioner, District 3, Cisneros sought to gain the BPD endorsement by settling their contract.  With Mark Sossi negotiating an "average" 15% raise for the police department, this created a disparagement between the pay of the two departments.  The fire fighters invoked the "me-too" clause in a lawsuit, eventually heard in court October 24, 2011.  Visiting Judge Hinojosa from Corpus Christi ruled in favor of the Brownsville Firefighters to add a similar 15% to their contract.  The judge also added 6% interest from the ending of the last contract(October 2008*) till their court date(October 2011) and 5% going forward.  This interest continues to accrue and, by not dealing with it, the City of Brownsville is potentially adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to their liability.

Let's do the rough ball park math.  If the fire fighters lump sum supplement to the last contract is $2,700,000, the interest added to that from the end of the last contract to the date Judge Hinojosa ruled in their favor(I'm compounding the 6% interest annually), the added interest would be $515,743.20 for a total owed of $3,215,743.20.  Now, if we add the 5% ongoing interest Judge Hinojosa added in his 2011 ruling, we add an additional $329.613.60 for a grand total of $3,545,356.80.  Of course, it the interest is simple, not compounded, the grand total will be somewhat less, but, in any event, the longer the city takes to settle this, the more interest accrues.

Lerma is not certain Attorney Ricardo Navarro has clearly communicated this with the city, since his fees continue whether the city wins or loses on appeal.  Clearly, the city may be putting itself in severe financial jeopardy by following any advice to simply ignore this issue.


*The city is still under contract with the firefighters until October 2014.  It is primarily the "me too" disparagement between the BPD and the firefighters that, although ruled on in court, has not been acknowledged by the city.

Brownsville Fire Fighters Association Local 970 Official Vote of No Confidence Statement for Brownsville Fire Chief Lenny Perez


BROWNSVILLE FIRE FIGHTERS ASSOCIATION Local 970
P.O. BOX 6141, Brownsville, Texas 78520
VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
FOR
BROWNSVILLE FIRE CHIEF LENNY PEREZ
 
We, the Brownsville Fire Fighters Association, have composed this letter to express our dissatisfaction with Brownsville Fire Chief Lenny Perez.  This letter is an expression of our vote of no confidence in Chief Perez when it comes to demonstrating honesty, integrity, and respect for the members of the Brownsville Fire Department.
Lenny Perez has failed to display the same level of honesty, transparency, and integrity in dealing with the Association and its stewards.  Throughout of his tenure, Lenny Perez has chosen to disregard that the Association and its stewards have a right not only to exist, but to represent the concerns and wishes of its members by refusing to address and correct contract violations and forcing our members to unnecessary and costly arbitrations to both our members and the citizens of Brownsville. 

Lenny Perez has exhibited a secretive, totalitarian philosophy of policy implementation that is directly responsible for the current lack of morale in the department.  His refusal to work with and ignore the Association Board during the recent funeral of our fallen brother showed disregard for the well being and future of our fallen brothers’ family.  He has forgotten that our Fire Department is more than a “work place”, it is a “worth” place.

In addition, Lenny Perez has failed to respond to the growing demands placed on the Fire Department by failing to address the needs of our Paramedic services and continues to place our community at risk each and every day.  It has long been known that we do not have the sufficient number of EMS units to respond to the demands that our growing city has.  He continues to ignore that the well being of our community is at risk. 

In our opinion, the role of Fire Chief should exhibit character that is beyond reproach, be transparent in his motives, and show integrity as an example for the members of this department.  Therefore, we can no longer trust nor work cooperatively with a man of this character.  We respectfully ask the Brownsville Mayor, City Commissioners, and City Manager for his removal, so that we can work to heal the wounds and move productively forward in our service to our beloved community.

Carlos Elizondo – President BFFA Local 970

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"I Don't Remember Her!" Says an Elderly Neighbor About Sonia Solis

Sonia Solis
"I don't remember her!" says an elderly neighbor when shown a picture of Sonia Solis, the former Brownsville resident, now charged with Election Code violations in a court in Fort Worth.  "But then I don't know anyone in here," the man adds.  "I thought you were looking for the office."

What initially piqued the interest of investigators, we're told, were five votes with the address of one tiny one-bedroom upstairs efficiency apartment.  While it may be possible to have five legitimate votes coming from one tiny home, it's not likely.  A grouping of smallish condominiums at 2304 Shindler Drive, Brownsville, is thought to be the address for the illegal votes.

While someone claims to have seen Ms. Solis, her daughter and granddaughter in the company of Carlos
Masso, a 2012 candidate for District Attorney, just before the runoff, that certainly doesn't mean that Masso was the one benefiting from the illegal votes. The Abelardo Gomez and Erin H. Garcia campaigns were closely aligned with the the Masso campaign during the waning days of the July 2012 runoff.

A Republican operative was somewhat annoyed that the Brownsville Herald and KRGV, Channel 5 News kept referring the voter fraud being committed during  the 2012 congressional runoff.  There was no Democratic congressional runoff.  The Republicans alone had a congressional runoff featuring candidates Jessica Puente Bradshaw and Adela Garza who have not been linked to the voter fraud proliferated by the use of politiqueras.  "This to me was clearly an attempt by the Brownsville Herald to taint Republican candidates," the operative claimed.



Correction:  There was indeed a Democratic primary for congress.  Yes, Vela beat Blanchard, 65.44% to 35.56%.  Gifted blogger Bobby Wightman corrected me this morning in one of his infamous "when Barton speaks, he lies" tirades, then soiled his own story with his confused rendition for the umpteenth time of Yolanda Begum stealing campaign signs.  Lol!  Bobby, Bobby, Bobby!


Director Mariano "Bean" Ayala Clarifies Financial Participation of Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau in "State of the City" Event


Marion "Bean" Ayala
 In the preceding article I mentioned that the Brownsville Convention and Visitors
Bureau purchased 10 tickets for $500.00 for the "State of the City" event.  It was mentioned as sort of an afterthought since I hadn't included that figure in the $18,650 worth of taxpayer, ratepayer, tuition generated funds used to support the event.  

At 10:40 AM this morning I received a call from Mariano "Bean" Ayala, the Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.  He wanted to clarify the source of the funds used to financially support Mayor Martinez' "State of the City" Event.  "We have a hot fund, that is generated by the hotel and restaurant taxes that support our department," Ayala explained.  "Monies from that fund were not used for this purpose.  In fact, I was worried that someone might assume or report that.  The $500 we spent on the event were generated from another fund, monies generated from the sale of ads in our travel magazine."

When I asked Ayala how the magazine itself was funded, he said that it was funded also by ad monies, not from their "hot fund" from the hotel and restaurant taxes.  "Our intention, of course, is not to make a profit on the magazine, but, in some cases we have some funds left over and it was these funds that were used to support the event."

Of course, of the funds Ayala chose to commit to the "State of the City" event, 47.7% of those funds went to M.A.P., an Austin advertising agency.  That percentage could go higher as Mayor Martinez is still mulling over how to spend the $11,296 profit from the event.  If his first inclination becomes reality, and those funds are used to jumpstart next years event, and if the same agency is hired to run the event, then as much as 70.7% of the funds contributed by the Brownsville Convention and Tourism Bureau and others will end up in the pockets of James Andretes' Austin company.

It could be argued that the $500 contributed by the tourism bureau to Tony's event, could have been used more directly to generate tourism, but this was a discretionary decision by Director Ayala, just as P.U.B. decided to use $8,500 of ratepayer funds, UTB used tuition-generated funds, BCIC used 4B sales tax funds, etc.  It does not seem that any visitors from outside Brownsville stayed in our hotels or used our restaurants during a trip to attend the "State of the City" event, since it is not reflected in individual out-of-town ticket sales.(In plain language, the hotels and restaurants paid for ads in the bureau's travel magazine.  A portion of those funds went to the "State of the City" event.  Since no one stayed in the hotels or ate in the restaurants to attend the event, the restaurants and hotels did not receive the full benefit of those monies.  Some could argue that the catered event actually reduced restaurant sales for that evening.)  The typical Brownsville citizen may have felt shut out of the event by the $50.00 per head cost to attend.  Some might even have considered the event "elitist" since it was primarily attended by the movers and shakers of the city, not the common citizen.  This is all so ironic since M.A.P.(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.) presents its skill set as specializing in "communicating with the Hispanic and African-American electorates" adding this comment on its website:  "The biggest challenge in communicating with Hispanics is not one of language only, but one of tone and approach. We have to recognize that those we most need to turnout are more apolitical and at an economic level that can often make politics and voting seem like a luxury."  The opposite reaction seems to have occurred with this event.  Ordinary Brownsville citizens felt it was a luxury they could not afford.


IBC President Fred Rusteberg
Another aspect worthy of note is the self-promotion nature of this event.  In effect it might not be considered an objective look at the city of Brownsville as much as excerpts from the Gospel According to Tony.  It is Mayor Martinez view of matters, even including the unsavory, undemocratic, unaccountable, but totally taxpayer supported "United Brownsville" scam.  Although, Nena and I did not receive an invitation to the event, reports indicated that players closely associated with "United Brownsville" had a prominent role in the affair, as if the entity actually does something for the city except spend the taxpayer's hard earned money without accountability.

Mr. Ayala's clarification gives me an opportunity to address another issue.  In the past Bean has made comments to this blog to respond to an article.  Since I've disabled anonymous comments, requiring one to register or be signed up to Google to comment, comments have been nearly totally stifled.  This blog can still be contacted, however, by email:  rvpark645@hotmail.com

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tickets for Tony's "State of the City" Event Purchased by A Few High Rollers, But Mostly Taxpayer Entities, Businesses


When I first heard of Tony Martinez's $50.00 per ticket "State of the City" Event at the Brownsville Event Center, I imagined each of the 500+ attendees  forking over half a hundred.  Let's see 500 X $50.00=$25,000.  Yes, I'm a bit naive about how these things work.  

Actually, just a handful of individual tickets were sold, purchased by local high rollers.  Alejandro Coronado, a realtor, bought two tickets for $100.00 as did Bruny Saucedo, the owner of the Zocalo Bar and Grill.  Outgoing District Clerk, Aurora De La Garza bought a ticket for herself for $50,00 as did County Treasurer Joe Rivera and County Sheriff Omar Lucio,  Larry Putegnat and Peter Ellis.  The individual singly purchasing the most tickets was Alexander Stillman, who bought 10 tickets for $500.00.  Oh, also.  Rose Timmer bought a $50.00 ticket and William PC Hudson bought 5 for $250.00.  

What this means is that if you're a city commissioner, judge, TSC trustee, BISD school board member, city employee or even Fire Chief Lenny Perez, if you attended the event, it was through a complimentary ticket purchased by a taxpayer entity or a business.  As we mentioned in our last article, entities totally supported by taxpayer, ratepayer or tuition payer accounted for $18,650 of revenue.  Strangely, the United Way of Southern Cameron County added $4,000.  That's $22,650 NOT funded by individual or corporate contributions.  I almost overlooked the Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau expenditure of $500.00 for ten tickets.  

Carlos Marin
Let's get to the corporate contributions to the event:  N.O. Simmons Homes, LTD, $1,500.00, Gomez, Mendez, Saenz, Inc., $1,500.00, Falcon International Bank, $500.00, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, $500.00, LNV, Inc., $500.00, Carlos Marin's Ambiotec, $1,500.00, Terracon, $500.00, Well's Fargo, $500.00, Capital One Bank, $100.00, Frost Bank, $500.00, Nexus Real Estate, $500.00, Portage Plastic, $500.00, La Carcel, LTD, $3,000.00, Lone Star National Bank, $1,500.00, Tenaska, Inc., $500.00,  I.B.C. Bank, $3,000, Gonzalez Engineering, $500.00.  H.E.B., $3,000.00, Republic Services, $500.00.  

Some entities seemed to have made simply a token contribution.  B.I.S.D. bought one ticket for $50.00. Did that go to Superintendent Carlos Montoya, Board President Enrique Escobedo or Sylvia Atkinson in whatever position she currently holds?  Livingway Family Church, Inc. bought two tickets, possibly for the pastor and his wife.  KRGV-TV News bought 4 tickets for $200.00.  The Consulado de Mexico spent $100.00 for two tickets as did Capital One Bank.  

As noted in the previous article, one of the skill sets highlighted in the web site of M.A.P.(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.) is "communicating with the Hispanic and African-American electorates."  M.A.P. CEO James Aldrete explains the approach on the company's website:  "The biggest challenge in communicating with Hispanics is not one of language only, but one of tone and approach. We have to recognize that those we most need to turnout are more apolitical and at an economic level that can often make politics and voting seem like a luxury."

I've already admitted my naivete on throwing bashes like this event, but I question whether an exclusive $50.00 per head event is an effective way to reach out to lower income voters.  To paraphrase the M.A.P. website phrasing, it makes participation "seem more like a luxury."

The Project Transaction Report we received for the City of Brownsville show total revenue for the event to have been $48,986.98.  After paying M.A.P. $23,342.58, Keko's Bistro & Catering $9,411.60, Perrennial Favorites $988.80 for centerpieces and $734.52 to American Express for charges incurred in Jerry Hedgecock's card, the event was left with a net profit of $11,246.00.  According to the Brownsville Herald article of July 29,2013 City Manager Charlie Cabler was asked what would be done with the remaining balance.  He initially stated that the money would be used toward next years event, but later said it would be given to a charity.

Here is Mayor Tony Martinez comment on the potential use of the profits from the Brownsville Herald article “It’s going to stay there, for right now,” he said, suggesting it might be used for sustainability efforts, but noting that it ultimately will go where it will make the greatest impact. “We’ll need to prioritize a little bit. It doesn’t go a long way if you spread it out.”



Addendum:  In the above article I mentioned that the Brownsville Convention and Visitors
Mariano "Bean" Ayala
Bureau purchased 10 tickets for $500.00.  It was mentioned as sort of an afterthought since I hadn't included that figure in the $18,650 worth of taxpayer, ratepayer, tuition generated funds.  


At 10:40 AM I received a call from Mariano "Bean" Ayala, the Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.  He wanted to clarify the source of the funds used to financially support Mayor Martinez' "State of the City" Event.  "We have a hot fund, that is generated by the hotel and restaurant taxes that support our department," Ayala explained.  "Monies from that fund were not used for this purpose.  In fact, I was worried that someone might assume or report that.  The $500 we spent on the event were generated from another fund, monies generated from the sale of ads in our travel magazine."

When I asked Ayala how the magazine itself was funded, he said that it was funded also by ad monies, not from their "hot fund" from the hotel and restaurant taxes.  "Our intention, of course, is not to make a profit on the magazine, but, in some cases we have some funds left over and it was these funds that were used to support the event."

Of course, of the funds Ayala chose to commit to the "State of the City" event, 47.7% of those funds went to M.A.P., an Austin advertising agency.  That percentage could go higher as Mayor Martinez is still mulling over how to spend the $11,296 profit from the event.  If his first inclination becomes reality, and those funds are used to jumpstart next years event, and if the same agency is hired to run the event, then as much as 70.7% of the funds contributed by the Brownsville Convention and Tourism Bureau and others will end up in the pockets of James Andretes' Austin company.

It could be argued that the $500 contributed by the tourism bureau to Tony's event, could have been used more directly to generate tourism, but this was a discretionary decision by Director Ayala, just as P.U.B. decided to use $8,500 of ratepayer funds, UTB used tuition-generated funds, BCIC used 4B sales tax funds, etc.  It does not seem that any visitors from outside Brownsville stayed in our hotels or used our restaurants during a trip to attend the "State of the City" event, since it is not reflected in individual ticket sales.  Actually, the typical Brownsville citizen may have felt shut out of the event by the $50.00 per head cost to attend.  Some might even have considered the event "elitist" since it was primarily attended by the movers and shakers of the city, not the common citizen.  This is all so ironic since M.A.P.(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.) presents its skill set as specializing in "communicating with the Hispanic and African-American electorates" adding this comment on its website:  "The biggest challenge in communicating with Hispanics is not one of language only, but one of tone and approach. We have to recognize that those we most need to turnout are more apolitical and at an economic level that can often make politics and voting seem like a luxury."  The opposite reaction seems to have occurred with this event.  Ordinary Brownsville citizens felt it was a luxury they could not afford.

Mr. Ayala's clarification gives me an opportunity to address another issue.  In the past Bean has made comments to this blog to respond to an article.  Since I've disabled anonymous comments, requiring one to register or be signed up to Google to comment, comments have been nearly totally stifled.  This blog can still be contacted by email:  rvpark645@hotmail.com








Financial and Other Details of Tony Martinez "State of the City" Event at the Brownsville Event Center

James Aldrete, Founder of M.A.P.
(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.) of
Austin, TX
Mayor Tony Martinez, our "Believe in Brownsville" mayor, reached out to a familiar company, M.A.P.(Message, Audience, Presentation, Inc.) of Austin, the same company that ran his campaign for mayor, to advertise, organize and plan his "State of the City" event at the Brownsville Event Center on May 14.

The small company(5-10 persons) was paid $23, 342.58 to assist in the event.  Attendees paid $50.00 to attend unless they were fortunate enough to get a ticket from a corporate sponsor.(Actually, the bulk of the 500+ who attended must have been given complementary tickets as just a handful of individual tickets were sold according to materials I received from the city from an Open Records request..

Taking a look at M.A.P.'s website, the company presents itself as specializing in "communicating with the Hispanic and African-American electorates."  M.A.P. shares with us its approach to Hispanics:

"The biggest challenge in communicating with Hispanics is not one of language only, but one of tone and approach.  We have to recognize that those we most need to turnout are more apolitical and at an economic level that can often make politics and voting seem like a luxury."

  

The M.A.P. website makes this comment on communicating with a group they refer to as the "New Latinos":
"Spanish in Texas is for the most part an oral tradition, among a community that has low-educational(sic) achievement levels.  While Spanish print has made a comeback, it is important to keep it at a grade level that ensures the widest comprehension."

Next, M.A.P. refers to an "empowerment and educational component: No one likes to be embarrassed, and considering the low level of information most Hispanics have on political processes, basic information on how to participate is critical in overcoming issues of insecurity, fear and doubt."  

OK.  I'm not Hispanic, but, to me, the above remarks are condescending bull shit.  It does give some insight into how the mayor thinks and perhaps why he did not find any advertising firm in Brownsville competent enough to handle the event's promotion and organization.  He did use a Brownsville caterer, Keko's Bistro and Catering, paying the company $9,411.60 to feed the attendees.

Mayor Tony Martinez
A Brownsville Herald article dated July 29, 2013 commented on Mayor Martinez decision to go with an outside firm to run the event:  
"He said that since the money for the State of the City event was privately raised, he saw no issue with spending the money with the same consultant firm that helped him win his office, explaining that based on practices he has observed in other areas, the event is typically planned wholly at the mayor’s discretion."

I don't believe that what Tony says is correct, that all of the money raised for the "State of the City" event was raised privately.  For example, the Brownsville Navigation District donated or bought $1,500.00 worth of tickets.  Isn't the navigational district supported by tax dollars?  Now, the $8,500.00 given by the Public Utilities Board are technically not taxpayer dollars, but aren't they ratepayer dollars?  Where does the Brownsville Economic Development Council get its money?  They gave $1,500.00.  The Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville gave $500.00.  Does Tony consider that private money?  The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation donated $1,500.00, clearly from the 4B diversion of yes, you guessed it, sales tax collected in Brownsville.  The University of Texas at Brownsville gave $1,500.00, then $500.00 more.  There's no P.U.F. oil money in that baby.  It's all funded by tuition and tax.  The shadowy, nontransparent, fake governmental entity, United Brownsville, that is totally funded by 8 other taxpayer entities, gave $3,000.  Oh, I just noticed, the BCDC gave yet another $150.00.  By my calculation, that is $18,650.00 of taxpayer, ratepayer, tuition payer money contributed to support an event taxpayers had to pay $50.00 to get into.  Nena and I didn't get invitations, but its doubtful we would have sprung for the 100 semolians necessary for entry.

A bit unsettling is the United Way of Cameron County's contribution of $4,000.00.  So, that means that after the United Way's notoriously high adminstrative fees, still $4,000 comes off the top to help pay for the mayor's highbrow event before any of the needy are served?  Geez!

Given the above, perhaps the event's organization, advertising and running should have been put out for bid to vendors approved by the city instead of Tony going to his comfortable campaign cronies.  Maybe next year's handling of this event will be done in a way to actually demonstrate that the featured speaker really "Believes in Brownsville."






Thursday, August 22, 2013

Firefighters Not Impressed with Fire Chief's Reversal on Line of Duty Death Benefits for Juan Casanova Family

Fire Chief Lenny Perez
All of the 70 or so firefighters meeting Wednesday night at the VFW were off duty and thus unaware of Fire Chief Perez's faxed memo posted below.  Whatever the motivation for the chief's reversal, it does not change the perception by many firefighters that Chief Perez's leadership has been inept at best.

As one firefighter put it:  "It's like robbing a bank and then, when the shit hits the fan, bringing the money back.  We all know what Lenny wanted to do, tried to do, how little support he gave the family.  Not only are we not impressed, this is not the only issue, by far.  It would take three days to explain all of our concerns with Lenny."

The fire chief's insensitivity in dealing with Juan Casanova's family was simply the emotional "straw that broke the camel's back," but not anywhere near the totality of the dissatisfaction.  Here is the fax sent 2:09 PM Wednesday:

From: Leonardo Perez
Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 2:09 PM
To: Fire Dept
Subject: Juan Casanova
We have been hearing rumors that Juan Casanova’s passing was not reported as a Line of Duty Death. On Sunday after his death, I contact Chris Conneally with The State Fire Marshals Office at 512-961-2999 to report his death as a Line of Duty Death and am awaiting further instructions from his Office. The department will be working on filling out the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit application for his family… Please contact my office if any clarifications on issues are needed. Thank You…..…....Chief

Leonardo L. Perez
Fire Chief
Brownsville Fire Department
1150 East Adams Street
Brownsville, Texas 78520

Rumors, huh, Lenny?  Nice try!  While I've heard speculation that the City of Brownsville may have suggested Lenny stabilize his department, the reversal of position and rewriting of history above may simply be the result of Perez "lawyering up" to protect his job and provide some insulation from the recent rogue paramedic instruction fiasco.

A nagging question I posed to firefighters:  "Why was Lenny Perez hired as Fire Chief in the first place?" Here are a few snippets from that conversation:

"Lenny Perez probably had as much training as any firefighter.  He was always taking this course or that.  The problem was that he was not good at a fire scene.  If firefighters were chosen like playground basketball, Lenny would be the last firefighter picked.   As a supervisor, any fire scene he took control of went to shit."

"Lenny is not a bad guy, just stupid, dorky.  He doesn't have the balls or common sense for a fire scene.  I actually thought his being fire chief would be ok as long as he wasn't on the scene.  I never thought he would turn into this hateful asswipe."

"Lenny thinks that as long as he saves the city money he's doing a good job.  He has no vision for the department.  We desperately need ambulances, more fire stations.  As the sole providers of EMS in this area, we qualify for FEMA and Homeland Security grants for more paramedics, firefighters and equipment.  We need someone interested in obtaining these grants not making bullshit issues about a stray dog cared for at a fire station."




 

Sonia Solis. . . . "Vote Early, Vote Often!"

Ms. Sonia Solis

The Only Reason the City Commission Would Consider Terminating Fire Chief Lenny Perez~MONEY!

Firefighters at VFW After Unanimous
"No Confidence" Vote on Lenny Perez
An adversarial relationship between Brownsville firefighters and paramedics and Fire Chief Lenny Perez will not matter to the city.  Just as in the corporate world, government entities care little if you don't like your boss.  Even the recent, unfortunate handling of the death benefits seemingly due the family of Juan Pablo Casanova, who suffered a massive heart attack while working at Brownsville Fire Station #2, later dying in a Houston hospital, will not give the mayor or city commission pause.  Even if the city sticks to its position that Casanova does not qualify as a fallen firefighter, it only stands to save a $10,000 stipend to the deceased's family.  It does jeopardize the $250,000 authorized by the State of Texas to firefighters dying in the line of duty and a matching $250,000 from the federal government, but Lenny Perez may simply say his hands are tied.(In cynical contrast, Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army Major charged with killing 13 and injuring 32 in a Fort Hood shooting spree, has so far received $278,000 salary plus health and educational benefits since his arrest.)

Fire Chief Lenny Perez
While we could reiterate the juvenile, petty, vindictive way Chief Perez has dealt with his subordinates, none of that really matters to city officials.  Far more critical to the city's interests is the simple fact that the tandem of Fire Chief Lenny Perez and City Manager Charlie Cabler is dramatically and steadily sabotaging the city's financial future.  No, we're not referring to Cabler and Perez's respective salaries of $168,810 and $98,801 nor Perez' alleged permission of the selling of so-called "sick days" on his watch.  


Simply put, Cabler and Perez are foolishly racking up thousands of dollars in legal fees by refusing to negotiate on a managerial level grievances and benefits requests, but routinely sending every case into expensive arbitration.  While this greatly benefits labor Attorney Ricardo Navarro, it makes zero sense for the city.  Perez and Cabler stand as the last line of defense for the city against such unnecessary legal fees, but they are simply too inept or incompetent to do their respective jobs.  Mean Mister Brownsville made this observation in a March 21, 2013 article:

"Ricardo Navarro, a lawyer specializing in labor arbitration continues to rake in huge fees from the City of Brownsville working unwinnable arbitration cases involving city paramedics and firefighters.  Navarro is batting a bush league .092, losing 24 out of the last 26 cases.  Shed no tears for Navarro who gets paid whether he succeeds or fails.  Incredibly, dumbass city officials consult Navarro before pursuing arbitration.  The last two tiers of appeal before going to arbitration are Fire Chief Lenny Perez and City Manager Charlie Cabler.  Neither has a lick of common sense and foolishly choose time and again to waste taxpayer dollars fighting obviously unwinnable arbitration cases." 

Why would the mayor and city commission stand for such an obvious waste of city funds?  Perhaps, the table is set by an innocuously named group, the Texas Municipal League, a group so named to give the impression that it is a coalition of Texas cities, when in fact it represents insurance interests.  Annually, the TML offers "free" training seminars to city commissioners in the state.  Here is our observation from the March 21, 2013 article:


"It's a beautiful scam, though.  The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool(TML-IRP) sends the city commissioners to a training session that emphasizes holding down firefighter, police and paramedic labor costs.  The training emphasizes consulting labor attorneys at every juncture, setting the commission up to be played by lawyers like Navarro.  The training is subtly anti-union.  We do not know if the administrative group backs commissioners financially, but the "education" is obvious."

So, city officials are given the impression that by fighting every claim, they are holding down costs, when, in many cases, the exact opposite is true.  Settling cases at the managerial level, without expensive arbitration, in over 90% of recent cases, would have been by far the least expensive option.  The fact that Chief Perez and City Manager Charlie Cabler continue to expose the city to  the extraordinary legal fees associated with unnecessary, foolish arbitration cases, is the real nuts-and-bolts reason both men should be relieved of their duties.





Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation Takes Initial Step to Transfer Sports Park Control to City

Brownsville Sports Park

The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation met Tuesday at the Purchasing Department Bid Room on the first floor of the City Commission building.

The only item on the agenda was the Brownsville Sports Park.



Rachel Flores, the Executive Director of the BCIC, opened the discussion by recapping previous board discussions concerning the sports park including the irrigation system, turf maintenance, concession profitability, concession menu, design, planting trees, accountability, additional investments, outfitting concessions and domes, etc.  She emphasized that the park is NOT self-sustaining and likely never will be.  There will ALWAYS be requests to the BCIC.  While one bond issue for $1,200,000 will be retired in 2018, the largest bond issue will not be retired until 2028.

Skate-Park
The board was presented with four options moving forward for supervisory control and management of the park.  Option #1, which involved transferring the control of the park to the City of Brownsville, was the most popular with the caveat that such a transfer would include an audit or assessment.

Other options included keeping the park under the control of the BCIC, but possibly adding a management team.  Board member C. Frank Wood stated:  "I'm not into park management.  I don't want to review a concession stand menu, hear about what's been fixed or needs to be fixed."

Rose Gowen
There was some discussion of separating the tournament and competition facilities in the park from those open to the community at-large.  City Commissioner Rose Gowen spoke about "deciding if we have a sports park or a community park with sports facilities."  All of the board members seemed resigned to continuing the annual $550,000 maintenance fee to the park in perpetuity, possibly even increasing that fee down the line.

There was a discussion of a carefully worded RFP or Request for Proposal to be drafted with respect to an audit of the park.  When it was suggested that all of Brownsville's parks be included in the audit, Assistant City Manager Jeff Johnston objected:  "The City of Brownsville is not interested in a BCIC audit of all of the parks.  Those parks remain under the control and management of the city."  Gowen disagreed, stating that nearly all of the parks had come to the BCIC for various forms of funding and so, such an audit was appropriate.

Chris Patterson(with microphone)
At Oliveira Park Special Needs
Baseball Field
City Parks Director Chris Patterson called for a new master plan to be included in the audit of the parks:  "Our current master plan is five years old.  Our focus has changed somewhat.  Five years ago, bike and walking trails and fitness were  not part of the plan.  Obtaining grants requires a more up-to-date master plan."

We spoke briefly with Patterson after the meeting.  He characterized the meeting as "positive."  How would he feel about having management of the Sports Park added to the city's oversight?

"It's all about passion.  Whenever I drive through that facility, I see something that needs to be done.  It may not be something even noticed by the average observer."