Monday, December 15, 2014

Future Downtown Police Substation Gets Temporary Duty As Art Gallery

Future Police Substation at 615 E. 11th Street
Local artist Lourdes Argueta currently displays several examples of her art in what she calls a "pop up art gallery" at 615 E. 11th Street. 

Ms. Argueta gave us a quick tour of the gallery, including a laminated wood sculpture, a piece utilizing wire coat hangers and wall art made from a piece of an antique chair recovered from a Brownsville alley.

Art Director Lourdes Argueta
The current exhibit, entitled "The Giving Tree," will be followed by a new exhibit each week  featuring a local artist according to Argueta.

"This will be an art gallery until February when the Brownsville Police Department takes over the space," stated the artist.

Brownsville Downtown Redevelopment Director, Ramiro Gonzalez agreed: "We didn't want to simply leave the space empty.  We have enough of that already in downtown.  Lourdes approached us with this idea and we think it makes good use of the space."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two Other Firms Consider Launching Rockets from Boca Chica, Sick Sossi Attends GBIC Meeting via Skype

GBIC Contract Attorney Sossi on Skype
Friday's makeup meeting of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation was a test of wills, perseverance and planning. The meeting, scheduled for 12:00 PM, finally reached a quorum of three at 12:10, when Sarah Langley and Al Villarreal came through the door, after being delayed by a freight train at Palm Boulevard.  The motionless train still blocked Palm after the meeting.

A resourceful City Attorney Mark Sossi, rose from his sick bed to join the meeting via Skype, perhaps mindful of the $5,000 per month stipend he receives from the GBIC for part-time legal advice.  With the absence of David Betancourt and Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, Ed Sikes served as chairman.

Gilberto Salinas
After the perfunctory rubber stamping of monies to V.I.D.A. and RGV Lead, the BEDC's Gilberto Salinas gave the economic development report usually given by the absent Jason Hilts. 

Salinas spoke of Project Panther and Project Nocturnal, entailing two firms that want to do launches from Boca Chica, but on "a smaller scale" than Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX.  Perhaps, all of us should pay our eight mile long pristine beach one last nostalgic visit before the commercial launches begin in 2016.

SpaceX has already erected a "temporary building" on site, according to Salinas, with "solar panels" for energy.  Project Stargate, a partnership between UTB and SpaceX, has commenced.

Project Sizzle, involving a Finnish firm's intention to build a metal foundry at the Port of Brownsville, will "hopefully receive a commitment" in early 2015. Salinas gushes that the project has "grown" from a single foundry to "two foundries and a machine plant."  He cautions that "we're" still in competition with Monterrey, Mexico for the project and that "over 3,000 jobs" are on the line.  Salinas admits that wages would be lower in Monterrey, but iterates that power is three times as expensive in Mexico as in Brownsville.

In rapid-fire Salinas touches on Project Front Door, Project Ladder, Project Mandarin and Project Islander.

One of the above is a plan for a Canadian company to create a distribution center for frozen chicken to be shipped into Mexico.  The hope is that the firm will utilize 200,000 square feet of the defunct Titan Tire building.  Brownsville is competing with "three other states" for that project.

Governor-Elect Greg Abbott
Salinas also revealed that the 800 megawatt Tenaska Power Plant will experience a "groundbreaking" in the first quarter of 2015 and that Governor-Elect Greg Abbott will "soon" host an economic summit for all RGV economic development groups or "ED's." Salinas hinted that the selection of a local in Carlos Cascos for Secretary of State was already paying dividends for the Rio Grande Valley.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

City Insider Critical of Assistant City Manager Ruth Osuna's Management Style

Assistant City Manager Ruth Ozuna
An anonymous correspondent is very unhappy with the management within the City of Brownsville and not pleased with my criticism of the City Commission in general, Tony Martinez and Rose Gowen in particular:

You are going after the wrong side.  Brownsville's problems are almost exclusively management problems.  

Ruth Osuna is trying to continue a life on the gravy train of municipal employment.  She is a lifer.  Look at her career.  Most recently she was fired from a city in Arizona.  Fired for poor management decisions.  Yet, she was hired here.  Why?"

The reader includes a photostatic copy of an article from The Eloy Enterprise from Eloy, Arizona dated October 3, 2013.  The article relates that the City Commission of Eloy, by a 4-3 vote, decided not to renew Ruth Osuna's contract with the city that ended December 6, 2013.  So, she was not actually "fired," as the anonymous correspondent claimed, but her contract was not renewed.  The Enterprise article cites a claim by city employees that changes made to vacation and sick leave policy during Osuna's tenure as City Manager were "unlawful."

City Manager Charlie Cabler
The correspondent is also critical of City Manager Charlie Cabler as the letter continues:  
"Look at Mr. Cabler.  Mr Medina took the fall for all the decisions made by Mr. Cabler.  Mr. Medina was a bad manager for sure.  He continued a long term secretary whom he promoted well beyond her ability.   When he was fired(quit); he took a job at a nearby city and hired as his secretary that same secretary."
(The writer also included a copy of a letter from HUD to the city detailing several millions of dollars of mishandled projects by the City of Brownsville.  We will include that letter in a subsequent article.)

The letter continues:  "You are trying to find something wrong often with the only altruistic people who care the most about our City.  If you sit back and look at it, it has always been a City management problem.  The Human Resources department is incompetent beyond belief.  How else would they recommend a most recently fired manager.  Ruth was sent home, forced to take days off, just a few months after she got here for poor decisions, but she has now made it past her 6 month probation period.  Now she can exhale on the municipal gravy train.  Who else is on that?

If you quote some of this, I will keep fresh information coming your way.

Most of the elected officials are doing good by the City.  Rose and the Mayor are individually self-made wealthy people who could be doing better things with their time than to be dealing with this stupid management.  They do it because they really want a better place for the people here.  Not enough of the commissioners are supportive of firing Cabler and the HR director and all the other idiots.  Idiots raised to the level of management, the ones here at least, are afraid to hire good smart people because they make management look bad. That is how they see it.  It is a position of defense. Smart management does not do that.  Really, simply, they are not smart enough, nor well read enough, nor educated enough.  

So, step up if you really care, spread the word."

The letter was unsigned with no return address.  

How do you feel about the writer's observations? Are Rose Gowen and Tony Martinez selfless workers for the public good as the writer infers?  Is the City Commission doing a good job representing the taxpayer's interests?  Should City Manager Charlie Cabler be fired?  

We will publish your thoughts in a subsequent article.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Commissioner Jessica Tetreau Requests and Receives Correction in Minutes for February 25, 2013 City Commission Meeting

Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa
At the December 2, 2014 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa asked for a correction in the minutes of the February 25, 2013 City Commission meeting to reflect that she did not attend that meeting. Heretofore, the official minutes stated that she had voted in favor of a resolution transferring Lincoln Park to the University of Texas system.

Tetreau wanted it clear that she has NEVER voted for the transfer of Lincoln Park, not on February 25, 2013 or on November 4, 2014, when the final resolution was presented for vote.  Tetreau's correction was adopted unanimously.  

District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
While a Temporary Restraining Order blocking the sale of Lincoln Park to the UT system was lifted by District Judge Arturo C. Nelson, a lawsuit filed by Luis V. Saenz is still being pursued.

Mayor Martinez Lied to Community
about Lincoln Park
The transfer of the 48 acre park to the University of Texas system was claimed necessary by Mayor Tony Martinez to keep a satellite UT campus "downtown." The facts simply do not support Martinez' assertion as UT has never even hinted at leaving behind $100,000,000 in taxpayer purchased properties whether or not they were gifted the park.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Unsubstantiated, Unconfirmed, Likely Untrue Rumor in the County Judge Replacement Selection

Gilberto Hinojosa, Cameron County Reject
Gilberto Hinojosa desperately wants to run Cameron County.  Once holding office as County Judge, he then struck out in three elections, losing face to face against Carlos Cascos in 2006, then losing twice more with puppets John Wood and Joe Rivera, in 2010 and 2014.

Opportunity Knocks for Carlos Cascos
Governor-Elect Greg Abbott's choice of Carlos Cascos for Texas Secretary of State and Cascos' apparent acceptance of that prospective appointment, gives Hinojosa yet another shot as puppeteer.  Cascos himself leaves a position where he gave the county some stability and budget control to become a faceless appointee, likely with the promise of sponsorship for a statewide race.  Carlos may yet learn to kiss babies while suppressing his fear of burp or slobber staining his polo shirt.

District 1 County Commissioner
Sofia Benavides
The rumor we've been sitting on, that does not seem to have any legs, is two-pronged.  We repeat it as illustrative of the kind of deals being floated out there.  This one has District 1 County Commissioner Sofia Benavides being named County Judge, but agreeing not to run for re-election in 2016.  Current City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, Jr., would then be named to fill Benavides' position in District 1.  That would leave City Commissioner, District 1, without an incumbent. 

For those who question if Benavides can handle the position, rest assured a former county judge is willing to guide her through the process. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"A Day At the Beach"~Boca Chica Beach, c.1900

A day at the beach with Amelia Medrano Runyon, Lillian Runyon, Amail Runyon (Perkins), William T. Runyon, Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Reed and Albert Reed Jr.
ca. 1900-1920

Robert Runyon Collection photo

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Several Inaccuracies, Misleading Statements in Sunday's "Brownsville Herald" Article: "Park May Be Election Issue"

Brownsville Herald Reporter Ty Johnson
Brownsville Herald reporter Ty Johnson's article Sunday, Park May Be Election Issue, contains several inaccuracies as well as misleading statements. 

Understanding that Ty likely does not write his own headlines or subheadings, please note the subheading:  

"Some fume over sale agreed to in 2013"

Ty: "As dozens spoke out against the sale, which was essentially agreed to in 2013, they also noted the upcoming city elections in May, almost as a warning to the commissioners sitting at the hearing with terms expiring this spring."

MMB: The tone of this subheading implies that some locals are bellyaching over something they should have spoken up about in 2013.  Actually, Lincoln Park was first put on the agenda February 25, 2013 as an "ACTION ITEM" with NO PUBLIC COMMENT ALLOWED.  

Ty:  "A lawsuit over the sale has the potential to stretch discussions about selling the park property to the Uni-versity of Texas System into next year, with some vowing that the May 2 election will be a referendum on the sale even with the beginning of the election filing period still more than two months away."

MMB:  Actually, Ty, the election will be held May 9, not May 2.  According to City Attorney Mark Sossi, the City Commission merely agreed on a resolution to "enter into negotiations" with the University of Texas concerning a transfer of Lincoln Park.  Sossi claims there is no actual sale agreement.

Ty:  "In February 2013, the city agreed to sell land to the University of Texas at Brownsville for expansion as part of a deal to keep the school downtown when it was floating the idea of relocating."  

MMB: The notion that the University of Texas would vacate over $100,000,000 worth of buildings paid for by Brownsville taxpayers is ludicrous. They were NEVER leaving, with or without the 48 acres of Lincoln Park.
Ty: "(In February 2013) No one voted against the deal, though District 2 Commissioner Jessica Tetreau abstained."

MMB:  Totally wrong.  There were two votes to "donate" property to UT in February 2013, one February 5, the other February 25.  Here are the two action items considered February 5, 2013:
"ACTION on Resolution Number 2013-015, authorizing the donation of a 55.43-acre tract of land to the University of Texas System, designating signatories, and dealing with related 

ACTION on Resolution Number 2013-016, authorizing the donation of a 21.5-acre tract of 
land to the University of Texas system, designating signatories, and dealing with related matters."

Ayes: Mayor Martinez, Commissioners Vasquez, Zamora, Gowen, Longoria, and Villarreal.
Nays: None 
Abstained: Commissioner Tetreau

MMB:  Neither  one of these Action Items concerned Lincoln Park.  According to Tony Martinez, UT considered the two tracts above, came back and suggested the 48 acre Lincoln Park be offered instead.

This change necessitated a "clarification" in an Action Item presented February 25, 2013:  

2. Consideration and ACTION on Resolution Number 2013-022, clarifying property to be donated to the University of Texas system if a downtown location is selected for a campus.

MMB:  Assistant Attorney John Chosy presented this item, stating that Lincoln Park would be substituted for the two tracts mentioned February 5, 2013.  Here is the voting for the clarified Agenda Item presented February 25, 2013:  
Ayes: Mayor Martinez, Commissioners Gowen, Longoria, and Villarreal;

Nay: Commissioner Zamora. Commissioner Tetreau and Vasquez were absent.

Ty:  "When it came time to transfer the land, Brownsville spokeswoman Patty Gonzalez marketed a required public hearing ahead of the sale as an opportunity for residents to discuss their plans for a replacement park, which would be located across the expressway and built with the proceeds of the sale."

MMB:  Again, totally incorrect.  The hearing, by law, HAD to be about WHETHER OR NOT sell the park, not about the amenities of the new park.  The City of Brownsville, through their newly hired Public Relations Officer, Patty Gonzalez, DID try to spin the purpose of the meeting as Ty suggests, but, after being called out in the city's blogs, the official public notice reflected the legal purpose of the meeting, not what Patty had told The Herald.

Ty:  "City leaders and supporters insisted the $6.5 million could easily replace amenities at the current park, itself a replacement for the original Lincoln Park, which was closed in 2001 when the Texas Department of Transportation built the expressway, but opponents seized on the proposed location of the new park, which is across East University Boulevard from a water treatment plant."

MMB:  Actually, at the November 4, 2014 City Commission Meeting, City Manager Charlie Cabler said assessment of the cost of utilities and replacement of amenities on the proposed new park site had not been completed, but that the numbers looked "close."  Not very reassuring!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Judge Nelson's Unexplained Ruling May Cripple, But Not Kill Democracy in Brownsville

Judge A.C. Nelson
138th District Court Judge Nelson, who files his campaign finance reports as Arthur C. Nelson, but runs for office as Arturo Cisneros Nelson, today(11/20/2014) denied the restraining order on the sale of Lincoln Park. Nelson gave no rationale for his decision, rendered one day after a hearing on the matter in his court.  

As we wait to see if citizen Luis Saenz appeals the decision, arguments presented by City Attorney Sossi at the hearing as well as an alerted citizenry in Southmost and throughout Brownsville, could still make city government more responsive to the people. At least several hundred more people than before the October 30 Town Hall Meeting about Lincoln Park know that Tony Martinez and three city commissioners do not listen to the people.

While pro bono Attorney Michael Cowen shared six ways with the court he felt the sale could be legally blocked, he mentioned in the elevator going down from the court's third floor that he'd found yet another, a seventh, in his research.  Will he continue the fight?

City Attorney Mark "It's Legal!" Sossi
City Attorney Mark Sossi, in his arguments before the court, claimed the City Commission had not agreed to sell Lincoln Park, but merely agreed on a resolution to enter into negotiations to sell it.  

Lincoln Park, November 9, 2014
That means the actual sale of the park should come before the commission yet another time.  Will the commissioners protect taxpayer interests by insisting on fair market value? The Ahumada appraisal values the land alone of the park at $11,000,000.  That does not include utilities, paving, two ball fields, two nature trails, an amphitheater, a garden center, basketball courts and barbecue area, all of which increase the actual value of the park to around $20,000,000.  What business do city commissioners have letting the park go for a mere $6.5 million?  Aren't they under oath to protect city assets?

District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
District Attorney Saenz was quoted in today's Brownsville Herald that, if you agree with the sale of Lincoln Park, you should vote for Tony Martinez for Mayor, but if you disagree, you should vote against Tony Martinez.  That's great, except Trey Mendez and Daniel Lenz aren't running.  Our alternatives so far seem to be former Mayor Pat Ahumada,  P.K. Patel's right hand man, William Garza and restaurant owner Bob Sanchez.  Some have tried to convince Ahumada that he could be elected as Commissioner At Large, but he insists on being the quarterback, not a blocking lineman.(It would be great to have an adult counterpoint, like Ahumada, on the commission.)  His 9% popular vote showing in the last mayoral election make being voted in as mayor unlikely.

As suggested by Luis Saenz, how the mayor and commissioners voted on Lincoln Park may become a litmus test to determine which elected city officials listen to the people.  Jessica Tetreau was warmly received at the Valley Interfaith "Accountability" Meeting for her vote against the sale.  Commissioners Ricardo Longoria, Jr. and John Villarreal both voted against the sale November 4 after voting for it February 25.  Of course, Rose Gowen, Deborah Portillo, Estela Chavez-Vasquez and Tony Martinez voted to sell the property.

Nurith Galonsky
The Lincoln Park issue will especially dominate the race for City Commissioner in District 1, Southmost where Ricardo Longoria, Jr. is the incumbent. Roman Perez, who has filed for the position has been a leader in the fight to keep Lincoln Park. Urith Galonsky, the daughter of Abraham Galonsky, has also been rumored to be considering a run for District 1.  Her dad, who has already sold La Casa del Nylon to the city for $2,300,000, triple its value, hopes to sell the city a 30 acre tract he owns next to the proposed location for the new Lincoln Park.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sossi Contradicts University of Texas Regents About Lincoln Park Sale

Southmost family enjoying Lincoln Park(11/9/14)
After the November 4 City Commission meeting, where the commission voted to sell Lincoln Park, 4-3, with Mayor Martinez breaking the tie, the UT Board of Regents met in El Paso November 5 & 6.  

A press release concerning the regent's meeting indicated they viewed their purchase of Lincoln Park as a done deal with an agreed upon price.  Notice the exact wording:  

"The property(Lincoln Park) is critical for the growth of the institution due to its size and proximity to the academic core of the campus; there is no alternative site of equal benefit available. The City of Brownsville has indicated that it plans to use the BARGAIN SALE proceeds to replace the park facilities at locations (note - plural) more convenient to the public.
Bargain Purchase Price: $6.5 million
Appraisal: Appraised by Aquire and Patterson, Inc. (July 23, 2014) market value range from $8,860,000-$9,360,000
Lease back at no cost to the City of Brownsville for a period not to exceed 5 years, so that the City of Brownsville will have time to construct alternate park facilities elsewhere."

City Attorney Mark Sossi, in his arguments before 138th District Judge
City Attorney Mark "It's Legal!" Sossi
Arturo C. Nelson, in a hearing November 19, is essentially telling the UT regents to "hold on."  His words before Judge Nelson, spoken with a straight face, were that the City Commission had merely endorsed a resolution to sell, but that the final price would have to be "negotiated" with the University of Texas based the cost of moving the amenities and fair market value for the property. That revelation may not sit well with the regents who've clearly and gleefully stated they agreed on a $6.5 million "bargain" purchase price.

Sossi used this cutesy approach to imply to Judge Nelson that the lawsuit to block the sale was premature because the City Commission merely resolved to enter into negotiations for a sale.  In other words, bull shit from Sossi.  Had the lawsuit not occurred, the city completes the transaction "as is." Has Sossi opened the door for negotiating a purchase price?

Pat Ahumada
Interestingly, much of the hearing was spent with Sossi and his legal cohort, Attorney William Deane, trying to break down the testimony of former Mayor Pat Ahumada, who performed an appraisal of Lincoln Park.  Sossi and Deane questioned why Ahumada used commercial property along the Interstate as comparables, not property downtown or nearer the park.  

Ahumada stated that he used comparables. "Downtown property is depressed," he observed. "Nothing close to the park was for sale."  He appraised Lincoln Park at a value of $11 million, exclusive of structures, utilities and paving, land only. He described his appraisal as "conservative."

"Have you ever appraised a park?" Deane asked Ahumada.  

"It doesn't matter." answered Ahumada.  "The developer or purchaser will use the land for whatever they can get zoning for, condominiums, single family residences or adding to the university.  An appraisal is based on 'best possible use.'"

Of course, the University of Texas system likely will not retain the property as a park either.

Why would Attorneys Deane and Sossi work so hard to break down Ahumada's appraisal of $11 million if the final purchase price for UT was yet to be negotiated?  Someone is not being honest here.

Judge Nelson recessed the court until a later, unspecified time.  He has several exhibits to study, including portions of the municipal code, a video of the town hall meeting and an Attorney General opinion from 1993.

Attorney Deane, weak in public speaking skills, could barely be heard.  He tried to make the argument that Commissioner Rose Gowen's side job was with UT-Houston, not UT-Brownsville.  Of course, the lawsuit did not state she worked for UT-Brownsville, but merely the UT System.  Judge Nelson seemed to pick up on that, saying:  "Aren't they all part of the UT System?"  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hearing Concerning Legality of Lincoln Park Sale~November 19 at 9:00 AM

Judge Arturo Cisneros Nelson
Lincoln Park Hearing

138th District Court

Judge Arturo C. Nelson

974 E. Harrison Street

3rd Floor

Nov. 19 @ 9:00 AM

Our City's Insecurity: Paying for Awards, Accepting Second Class Treatment as Citizens

From the editor:  So insecure are we as a city that we paid big bucks for an "All-America City" award, beating out another lackluster settlement, the second place finisher in Texas, the City of Tyler. 

The taxpayers even footed the bill for a delegation of about forty to travel to Colorado to receive the accolade. Consumers are frequently told never to pay for any "prize" or "award," but our city leaders are not that savvy, easily duped. 

City Manager Charlie Cabler,
 after inking the deal with David
McCarthy of Community
Showcase Banners
Remember "Bannergate" of 2012 when Mayor Martinez was approached by David McCarthy of Community Showcase Banners at a mayor's convention to inform the mayor that the city was being recognized as one of "only 15 cities in the country" to be honored with the showcase banners.  Under the mayor's direction, City Manager Charlie Cabler signed off on the program and soon salespeople were approaching business owners carrying a letter from the city, asking the businesses to purchase banners "in support of the mayor."  The gold package went for $4,000.

Our city's insecurity is also reflected in our toleration of being treated as second class citizens. Symbolic of that treatment is the ban of the broadcast of public comments at city commission meetings.  While the words of wisdom of the mayor and commissioners are videotaped and broadcast, the switches are turned off as soon as the taxpayers come to the podium for the so-called Public Comment Period.  
Treatment of the citizens, taxpayers as second class was also in evidence at the recent town hall meeting on Lincoln Park.  The Tony Gonzalez Gymnasium had the feel of a 50's deep south movie theater on October 30 for that public meeting, with anglo men representing UT in the upper right quadrant, along with IBC's Fred Rusteberg, Chamber of Commerce President Maria C. Hall and Pastor Brad Burke. Southmost residents, much like the "coloreds' of yesteryear sat mostly behind and to the left of the movers and shakers.  When one speaker, District Attorney Luis Saenz, asked the privileged to turn and take one look at the disturbed citizenry, only one prima donna turned his neck around.

The chosen ones even had their own exclusive parking area as Mary Helen Flores found out when she tried to park her red and gray motor scooter close to the building.  

We're not saying that the UT regents or their counterparts set up the seating and parking arrangements. Those organizational decisions were made by locals setting up the meeting. But, the setup simply reinforced the concept of UT as hierarchy and the taxpayers as underlings.  The reality is that local taxpayers have overpaid for every bit of educational service from UT including not collecting $10,000,000 in promised rent with the University shielded by the Rene Oliveira loophole.

The University of Texas even allowed their hands to be tied when it came time to dispersing anything from the billions in P.U.F. funds.  A technicality was conveniently enforced to disqualify the TSC/UTB partnership from even a penny of those monies.

Another subtle hint that the people are less valued was the positioning of the microphone at the town hall meeting, facing the four commissioners and Irv Downing as if petitioning a tribunal.  When City Manager Charlie Cabler responded to my suggestion that the microphone be turned away from the majestive five, facing instead the 400 "public" of the public forum, Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, Jr. intervened:  "Charlie, Jim is not running this public forum.  I'm running this meeting."  Cabler returned the microphone to its original position.

Notably, two other speakers, District Attorney Luis Saenz and former Mayor Pat Ahumada, felt as I did and turned the microphone away from the four commissioners and UT rep Irv Downing toward the 400 citizens concerned about losing their park.

When will Brownsville citizens learn they deserve paved roads, sidewalks, even billing with politicians, the right to have their comments heard along with the mayor and commissioners, the right not to have their parks and assets committed to "deals" without their permission?  When will Brownsville's citizens no longer allow themselves to be treated as second class?

Monday, November 17, 2014

UT's Irv Downing, Mayor Tony Martinez At Odds Over Details of Lincoln Park Deal

UT Operative Irv Downing
It almost seemed as if the University of Texas had zero concern about fallout from unnecessarily taking a popular city park from the country's poorest community, a 90% Hispanic one at that.   Did UT lose its public relations acumen crossing the Nueces River?

Then, we learned that UT reps did indeed meet with some leaders of the "Save Lincoln Park" movement after the town hall meeting October 30.  

Irv Downing, a holdover official from the Juliet Garcia administration, is said to have attempted to smooth some of the ruffled feathers of Valley Interfaith and other like-minded citizens in a meeting held about a week ago.

"Mr. Downing explained that it was never the University's idea to absorb Lincoln Park," mentioned one activist who attended the meeting.  "That was the city's idea."

Of course, the ultra-rich University of Texas, once seeing and hearing the hurt, anguish and frustration expressed by half a hundred Southmost residents in a two and one half hour public meeting, could have simply backed out.  They still can.  

The irony is that Juliet Garcia, in a whirlwind tour of potential properties, took the UT Board of Regents to the East Avenue property where the city wants to relocate Lincoln Park.  The regents found the property unacceptable, likely holding their noses.

But, getting back to HOW Lincoln Park got included in the so-called deal to keep UT "downtown," let's allow Tony Martinez words from the February 25, 2013 City Commission meeting including the Lincoln Park resolution to speak for themselves:  

Mayor Tony Martinez
"The land offered last time (2/5/13 resolution) are two different parcels, the "Fish and Wildlife" you mentioned(22 acre tract next to Lincoln Park) and the 55 acre tract east of the expressway.  The University of Texas came back to us, to me, and said would we consider the 47 acre tract west of the expressway known as Lincoln Park."

So, while UT's Downing evidently told members of a community organization that the idea of transferring Lincoln Park originated with the city, Martinez states it was the University's idea.  

Assistant City Attorney John Chosy presented the action item:  2. Consideration and ACTION on Resolution Number 2013-022, clarifying property to be donated to the University of Texas system if a downtown location is selected for a campus. 
(Mayor Martinez and Commissioner R. Gowen) 

The "clarifying" was necessary because the first resolution, passed February 5,2013, did not include Lincoln Park, but only a "55.43 acre tract of land" and a "21.5 acre tract of land."  Martinez stated the 55 acres were "east of the expressway" and the 21.5 acres were the "Fish and Wildlife" tract.  Now, the University had informed Martinez they wanted neither, but instead, the 47 acre tract known as Lincoln Park.

Based on the wording of the resolution passed 2/5/13, coupled with Martinez' explanation, it appears that including Lincoln Park in the transfer was an idea originating with the University.

Assistant City Attorney John Chosy
John Chosy, before presenting the resolution, stated:  "We have not yet learned if donating land to the University is legal."  He asked that the phrase "if legally possible" be included in the resolution.  Martinez, cutting Chosy off before he could explain his rationale, said he respectfully disagreed and would not support including that language in the resolution.

District 1, Southmost, Turning into World War III As Galonsky's Daughter Considers Race for Commissioner

Nurith Galonsky
Dominating the Tony Martinez mayoral legacy is his dim-witted purchase of La Casa del Nylon for an exorbitant $2,300,000, triple its worth.  Despite the notoriety, former owner of the building, Abraham Galonsky, still smiles thinking about the sale, as does Horacio Barrera, Tony's law partner who hammered the deal out in "negotiations."  

Of course, Abraham has more property he hopes to sell the city, particularly a 30 acre tract adjacent to the smelly lot proposed for the New Lincoln Park, next to a sewage treatment plant.

Galonsky was one of a handful of speakers at the Town Hall Meeting held October 30 to speak out in favor of the sale of Lincoln Park.  As Galonsky left the Tony Gonzalez gymnasium he expressed his disappointment to Roman Perez, a vigorous opponent of the sale of the park, who has filed for City Commissioner, District 1:  "I was going to support you, but now I think I'll support Rick."  

Ricardo Longoria, Jr.
Of course, "Rick" is Ricardo Longoria, Jr., current District 1 City Commissioner. On November 4, Rick may have lost Galonsky's support as he voted "no" on the sale of Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich University of Texas system, after voting "yes" twice, February 5 and February 25. 

Rumblings are now being heard that indicate Abraham may have yet another option.  We've heard that his daughter, Nurith, who garnered an appointment to the P.U.B. Board in 2013, is considering a run for City Commissioner, District 1.

Certainly, Tony Martinez is salivating at the prospect of a Gowen, Chavez-Vasquez, Portillo and Galonsky quartet, giving him a clear majority on every issue coming before the City Commission.  Sometimes, when we think things are bad, we realize they could be worse.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Remember Lincoln Park!" Is the Battle Cry As Five Brownsville Churches Hold "Accountability" Session

Lupita Moreno of Holy Family gave
a rousing speech about Lincoln Park
Valley Interfaith, a community organization rooted in the church, wants to work with public officials to improve life in Brownsville and Cameron County.

400 delegates from five Brownsville churches attended an "accountabilty" session at Christ the King Church on Southmost Road Sunday afternoon, November 16.

"We have been quiet too long," stated Brother Jason Rossignol, OMI, from St. Eugene de Mazenod Church on Austin Road.  
"And look at where that has left us.  Our kids walk home from school on unpaved streets or in the mud.  Crime is taking over the neighborhoods at nighttime in the colonias because no one can see what's going on.  And the city voted to sell Lincoln Park.  That is not what we want for our families. . . . We want to see a different city."
Tina Tetecatl:  "Are North
Brownsville kids different from
South Brownsville kids?"

Various speakers detailed problems that need attention, asking city officials attending for a simple "yes" or "no" answer, not a longwinded excuse.  Tina Tetecatl wants to walk to school on a sidewalk on McKenzie Road.  

Other speakers addressed lighting in the colonias, repaving streets, a stop light at Minnesota Avenue and Austin Road, neighborhood and park security and other issues.

"We're saying we're here, we know how to organize our neighborhoods, and you need to listen to what the people that elected you are saying.  We want the people elected to public office to be accountable to the people of the community," said Maribel Quiroz of the Holy Family Church.

Orlando Rodriguez, Alex Dominguez, Sofia
Benavides, Jessica Tetreau
The four officials pictured on the left were called to the microphone to respond to specific needs in the area they serve.  As stated above, they were asked to say "yes" or "no" as to whether they would respond to the requests submitted.

In a spirited "Call to Action," Lupita Moreno asked: "How many votes did Tony Martinez get last time? 3,000?  We need 4,000 this time to make our positions known. We need to 'Remember Lincoln Park!'"  

She said that already 1,000 had signed petitions calling for city government to be accountable on Lincoln Park and other issues.

The public officials attending:
County Commissioner Sofia Benavides
County Commissioner Alex Dominguez
City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau
Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo