Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rio South Texas Economic Council~Another Scam Mimicking United Brownsville

Eduardo Campirano, Board Member of
Rio South Texas-Economic Council
Under nearly every rock in impoverished south Texas is a non-profit creating a niche for themselves to beg for the tax dollars of the poorest region in the United States.  

We first heard about the Rio South Texas Economic Council at the February 12, 2014 meeting of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation when Rachel Flores, then BCIC Director,  mentioned the payment of $17,500 in "dues" to the organization.
  
Ms. Flores explained, in a brief conversation after the meeting, that this regional group was trying to enhance the RGV's image, lest the image of border violence affect commerce and tourism.  Flores was excited that Eduardo Campirano, CEO of the Port of Brownsville was a board member of Rio South Texas.  Flores stated that, for once, Brownsville would have more representation than the Upper Valley.  Incidentally, the Port of Brownsville kicks in $17,500 to Rio South Texas.

Rio South Texas has carefully copied the model set by United Brownsville, an unelected, unaccountable board that collects at least $200,000 in "dues" from 8 local entities, then rewards officials from those entities with the status of membership on the "coordinating board."  

Debbie Portillo, named Tri-Chair of United
Brownsville
, also Co-Chair of Marketing/
Public Relations for Rio South Texas
While United Brownsville has no official role of governance, it horns itself into city issues as if mirroring the City Commission. Its meeting agendas discuss the Resaca Restoration Project, Curbside Recycling and even the application for All-America City, duplicating decisions already made in actual city government.  Young City Commissioners like John Villarreal and Estela Chavez-Vasquez were named to the board immediately after their election in 2011. Now, young Debbie Portillo has that honor, named Tri-Chair of United Brownsville.

Rio South Texas, copying United Brownsville's modus operandi named young Portillo a "co-chair" after the City of Brownsville kicked in their $17,500 "dues."

So, what does Rio South Texas do for the money? Essentially, it runs a very amateurish website reporting good things about the Rio Grande Valley.  Here is the mission statement:  The Rio South Texas Economic Council (RSTEC) welcomes the opportunity to introduce you to the The Real South Texas. We have a dedicated staff ready to introduce you to the dozens of commuinities(sic) that make up the Rio South Texas Economic Council. In addition to community orientation, we can help conduct labor interviews, utility and permitting representative meetings, site and industrial park visits and introductions to colleges, technical schools and employment services.

When I clicked on a link to the section What's New, I received this warning:  ACCESS DENIED: You are not authorized to access this page.

Under Regional Profile, the site makes this claim:  Rio South Texas is growing at a phenomenal pace. Job growth has outpaced that of the state, and by 2012, the projected employment growth rate in the McAllen-Mission-Edinburg MSA is estimated at about 38.5 percent, compared with the state's mere 25 percent rate.  (What about Brownsville guys?  We pay dues too!)

The site has a section entitled Available Properties. 133 business properties are listed as available in the Rio Grande Valley, none in Brownsville.  You may recall young Ms. Portillo introduced an agenda item at a recent City Commission meeting to list some of the city's properties on this site.  That didn't happen.

Raudel Garza, former Executive
Director of Rio South Texas
While the site states that media inquiries should be referred to Raudel Garza, Mr. Garza announces his resignation as Executive Director in a blog dated August 10, 2014, entitled "Going to Grandmo's (sic) House."  

Once again, Brownsville taxpayers get very little in return for their hard earned tax dollars.

Interestingly, demonstrating that not everyone is as gullible as Brownsville's City Commission and boards, the San Benito Economic Development Council declined to fund Rio South Texas at their August 21, 2014 meeting.

New Office Opens at Su Clinica Manipular


Friday, August 29, 2014

Brownsville Historical Association Happy Hour, 8/29/2014~Raffle, Bloggers, Bike Brigade

Four Raffle Winners on the Left at BHA Happy Hour
New Brick Pavers at Brownsville Historical Association
J.J. Struebelt, Jim Barton, Juan Montoya
Brownsville Bike Brigade


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Still "Livin' La V.I.D.A. Loca" with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation

From the Editor:  Since our article below dated November 29, 2013, requesting documentation for the grandiose, but unsupported claims of V.I.D.A, the acronym for Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, there have been several developments with V.I.D.A.  

No, they haven't come forward to prove their unsubstantiated claims used to siphon monies from numerous RGV entities including Brownsville's GBIC.  

First, their Director, Myra Caridad Garcia, quit the job.  

A month or so later the Harlingen Econonomic Development Corporation decided to stop funding V.I.D.A. despite claims that nearly twice as many had been removed from the welfare rolls into jobs "averaging $35,000 per year" as in Brownsville.  

Now, we learn, that at their August 21, 2014 meeting, the San Benito Economic Development Corporation has declined to fund V.I.D.A.  

At least those two EDC's in Northern Cameron County are protecting taxpayer assets.  

At this very moment, at their August 28, 2014 meeting, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation is rubberstamping approval for a portion of the $300,000 committed annually to V.I.D.A., money down the proverbial rat hole.


Carlos Marin
There is a very simple reason why the GBIC is so irresponsible with taxpayer dollars:  Carlos Marin.

Marin is on the Board of Directors of V.I.D.A. Marin in on the Board of Directors of the Brownsville Economic Development Council. Marin controls the GBIC.
(Below is our article from November 29, 2013)

We know what job training is. We know what assistance includes, especially so-called public assistance as in welfare, food stamps and other
Former V.I.D.A. Director
Myra Caridad Garcia
help given to the needy, aged and homeless.


What V.I.D.A (an acronym for Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement) offers, according to the I.R.S. Form 990(Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax) is to provide "job training assistance." Job training assistance is neither job training, that is teaching the skills that make a person hireable, or any form of tangible assistance.

It involves, according to information provided by V.I.D.A., one hour of consultation per month with a V.I.D.A. counselor and a once a week group session with other V.I.D.A. trainees about what they're doing to find work and get off welfare.

One might assume that most of those bases were already covered by the Texas Workforce, our public schools and universities and the welfare system, but clever people find little niches where a charity can fit and promote itself and V.I.D.A. has done a great job doing just that. The first two GBIC meetings we attended, V.I.D.A. reps were there, either to kindly thank the Brownsville taxpayer entity for their generous stipend to their work or express in economic development code language how well their work was going. The GBIC gave the group $302,000 this year. To justify that kind of money, the V.I.D.A rep claimed more than once that, during the past calendar year, the group had assisted 43 Brownsville residents, who had been on welfare, into jobs paying "on average $35,000 per year. There was no documentation of this claim. One GBIC board member was curious as to what companies or types of companies were hiring these people at that rate. The answer was extremely vague, as in "mostly technology, but sometimes nursing."

The Harlingen City Commission chose to no longer fund V.I.D.A., based on a recommendation of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, despite the fact that V.I.D.A.'s claim of success in Harlingen was even grander than Brownsville's, 93 off welfare in one year, but at the same "average salary of $35,000." My email to Harlingen Mayor Tom Boswell for more detail was returned "undeliverable," so I was not able to get more detail on their reasoning.

Someone sent me a link to V.I.D.A.'s I.R.S. 990, which has some interesting numbers. V.I.D.A. received $4,175,516 in grants and contributions from cities in the Rio Grande Valley during 2011, $913,907 of which was spent on salaries, $124, 467 to Myra Caridad Garcia, the Executive Director. Despite the economic hard times and all the work V.I.D.A. does for us, they had $731,300 in the bank at the end of the year.

Eleven officers are listed including Carlos Marin as a director, which may explain the GBIC's unquestioned participation. In addition to nearly $1 million in salaries, $89,565 was spent on "management and expenses," $57,070 on "occupancy," $17,879 on "travel," $13,675 on "conferences, conventions and meetings," $40,207 on "in-kind expenses," and $10,961 spent on "non-cash raffle prizes."

While we wish to thank the anonymous commenter who sent us a copy of V.I.D.A.'s Form 990 return, we never got a response from Executive Director Myra Garcia with out request for more information about the program. Below is our request sent 10/9/13:

More detail on V.I.D.A.‏
Actions

Jim Barton

10/09/13
To: mgarcia@vidacareers.org




Ms. Garcia,
The rep for V.I.D.A. shared some of your group's successes at the recent GBIC board meeting. He mentioned 43 graduates from the Brownsville program in the fiscal year, now finding jobs with income averaging $35,000 per year.


Would it be possible to get more detail on this? What companies in Brownsville are employing these people? What is the salary range for low to high? How many salaried personnel does V.I.D.A. employ? How many volunteers, if any?


Thanks,


Jim Barton

Urgent! Brownsville Native Veronique Medrano Needs Your Vote to Get to Tejano Awards

Veronique Medrano
We just got off the phone with J.J. Struebelt, the drummer for local bands The Lords of D'Nile and Earthmen, also former bar manager for the Crescent Moon Cantina.  

"Jim, we have a young woman, a Brownsville native, who has a real chance at making the Tejano Awards in San Antonio September 20, 2014," stated Struebelt.  

"Veronique is 23, a graduate of the University of Texas."

"I'm trying to help her and the band get the invitation.  She has to get the most votes on the internet site www.tejanomusicawards.com.  Cutoff for voting is midnight Friday, tomorrow night."


Nena & J.J.
"Jim, if you would put this out there, I would appreciate it.  Say 'hi' to Nena for me," said J.J. in closing.


Vote Veronique Medrano for New Female Artist at:www.tejanomusicawards.com

Voting is a bit tricky.  Once you get to the Tejano Music Awards site, put 2014 General Ballot in the "Search" at upper right.  You will have to make a selection in every category for your vote to count.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Will City Commission Proceed with Illegal Executive Session at 8/26/14 Meeting?


In the agenda issued for tonight's City Commission meeting an Executive Session is described as follows:

EXECUTIVE SESSION: 5:45 P.M.
A) Consultation with Attorney, pursuant to Section 551.071 (2), of the Texas Government Code, on a matter in which the duty of the attorney to the governmental body under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas clearly conflicts with this
Chapter. (Mark Sossi – City Attorney – 15 min)

The jibber jabber above, likely written by City Attorney Mark Sossi does not comply with the Open Meetings Act.  This Executive Session, if held tonight as planned, will likely be illegal since it does not declare the subject of Executive Session as required.



The following is from the Open Meeting Act:

VII. Notice Requirements

A. Content

The Act requires written notice of all meetings. Section 551.041 of the Act provides:

A governmental body shall give written notice of the date, hour, place, and subject of each meeting held by the governmental body.  A governmental body must give the public advance notice of the subjects it will consider in an open meeting or a closed executive session.

In a cutesy move the subject of the Executive Session is hinted at later in the Action Item, but that does not fulfill the OMA requirement to declare the subject of specifically the Executive Session.

Here is the wording of the Action Item:

ACTION ON ITEM DISCUSSED IN EXECUTIVE SESSION:
A) Consideration and ACTION regarding a “Right of Entry Agreement” with Union Pacific Railroad. (Mark Sossi – City Attorney)

We will see if the City Commission forges ahead with what appears to be an illegal Executive Session.

Judge Murray Rules in Frank Morris "Resignation" Case

Frank Morris
Judge Menton Murray, Jr. found that neither of Frank Morris' attempted resignation emails met the legal standard because they were unsigned. That was his ruling in a case heard at 9:00 AM today in the 445th Court.

Of course, email letters, unlike handwritten or typed communications, cannot be physically "signed."

"Until someone tells me differently, I have to find that Mr. Morris resignation email was not legal because it lacks a signature," Judge Murray stated.  102 Precinct Chair Tad Hasse had asked for a declaratory judgement affirming the Morris resignation.

Morris inital email sent at 12:36 PM May 14 to Cameron County Secretary Ida Stacy among others seemed permanent, indicating, that while he'd "enjoyed the ride," he felt "free at last."  Morris gave the "new chairman" 30 days to pick up the records.

Evidently having second thoughts, Mr. Morris sent another email 11 hours later at 11:59 PM on May 14, limiting his resignation to his current term.  Judge Murray noted that email was also unsigned, therefore illegal in his ruling.


Tad Hasse
Morris also asked for $7,500 in sanctions against Hasse.  Murray found that request to have "no merit."

Hasse will appeal.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Tenaska Power Plant Back Door Deal by Tony Martinez and Cronies Looks BAD, BAD, BAD!

From the Editor:  We've been asked to pursue more closely details related to the Tenaska Generating Station, the 800 MW plant Brownsville is purchasing a quarter interest or 200 MW for approximately $340,000,000.  

First of all:  Is $340,000,000 for 200 megawatts of power a good price?  Not according to charts on what a typical natural gas powered plant should cost. While Brownsville's cost averages out to $1.7 million per megawatt, the national average is $917,000 per megawatt.  That would be the equivalent of paying $6.09 per gallon for gas when H.E.B. has it for $3.29 per gallon. That's the deal Tony Martinez and his cronies are cooking up for you.(They are likely other hidden costs that will drive our actual cost even higher.)

Does Brownsville need that much power?  Not according to Fitch, a highly respected bond rating company.  Fitch sees Brownsville's power needs at 459 MW.  (Incidentally, Fitch sees this as a very bad financial deal, lowering P.U.B.'s bond rating from A+ to Poor on the basis of this deal going through.)  Keep in mind that Brownsville already has an interest in two other power plants, Edinburg and Okla-Union.

One thing to remember is that these power plants have a finite shelf life, likely not over 30 years.  

We are preparing a detailed Public Information Request for the City of Brownsville.  I will post the actual request on the blog. 

Below is one of our earlier articles on the Tenaska deal.

If It is Such A Good Deal, Why Is the Tenaska Brownsville Generating Station Funded by Ratepayers?

Tenaska 885 MW Power Plant, Fluvanna County, VA
Tenaska is legit, operating,  along with its affiliates, 14 power companies producing 11,000 MW of power.  Tenaska Capital Management controls $3.8 billion in assets.  The company is capable of arranging for funding, as it did for its Imperial Valley, CA Solar Plant, funded by nine banks, including the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, UFJ, Ltd.  In August 2008, Tenaska simply paid $368 million in cash for theRolling Hills Power Generation Facility in Wilkesville, Ohio.

Although well-connected politically, not all communities buy Tenaska's sales pitch.  Tenaska fought for five years to build the Taylorville Energy Center in Illinois, telling locals that their energy needs were underserved and needed Tenaska's coal-burning operation.  When opposition mounted, Tenaska changed their plans to a natural gas-powered plant, but that proposal didn't sell either.

On January 28, 2013, Brownsville's Public Utilities Board signed an agreement with Tenaska for the construction of an 800 MW, gas-powered power plant to be built on 270 acres along the so-called industrial corridor near FM 511.  This is the same industrial corridor the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation agreed to pay McCaffrey & Associates $454,000 for a development plan. Payment for the plan was split between theGBIC, Port of Brownsville and P.U.B.  In December 2013 United Brownsville sponsored a BiNed 2014 Conference at UTB's Gran Salon where UB operatives networked with officials from Matamoros, Harlingen and the port.  

The signed agreement between Tenaska and BPUB calls for PUB to control one fourth of the power produced, 200 MW, at a cost of $327 million, financed by city-issued revenue bonds.  Those bonds will be repayed over 20 years by the ratepayers paying increased rates for electricity.  Of course, the power plant still has another 600 MW of power to sell to surrounding communities.  The City of Brownsville will be responsible for piping the natural gas into the plant.  

How does the deal sound so far?  According to Brownsville Herald reporter Steve Clark,Fitch, a highly respected bond rating company, is not impressed.  Clark reported in a March 11, 2014 article that Fitch's bond rating for P.U.B., now an A+, would likely plummet to "negative," based on projected impact of the Tenaska deal:
"In its report, Fitch said it “recognizes BPUB’s proactive strategy to ensure an adequate power supply to meet projected (electricity) load growth,” though the power plant project would boost total available power resources to “well in excess of projected total requirements,” or 459 megawatts.

BPUB’s planned purchase of the 25 percent ownership interest in the plant, if the deal goes through, would more than double current leverage (how much the utility is borrowing) and as a result “diminish future financial metrics according to the board’s latest financial projects,” Fitch reported.

The ratings firm said BPUB’s pending decision to buy 25 percent ownership in the proposed power plant would add an estimated $362 million to the overall size of the utility’s multi-year capital improvement program, which in 2012 had been estimated at a little under $200 million a year.

Fitch noted that the additional capital expense would be funded entirely with long-term debt, which the agency believes would weaken BPUB’s financial situation enough to lower its bond rating."


IBC Bank President &
United Brownsville
Tri-Chair Fred Rusteberg
It's downright scary when a neutral, well-respected entity like Fitch declares a deal unsound, even predicting "rate fatigue," a fancy phrase for the country's most impoverished city not being able to keep up with skyrocketing utility rates.  Fitch is also strongly suggesting that Brownsville doesn't need this much power or this much debt.  Those are common sense conclusions that Mayor Martinez and the rest of the P.U.B. Board will simply ignore.

Whether dealing with SpaceX or Tenaska, Brownsville's civic leaders have not shown themselves to be good negotiators with desperation replacing sound judgement.  Who pays for their miscalculations?  Brownsville's hardworking, but generally  impoverished, ratepayers and taxpayers.  

Carlos Marin, Ambiotec
Engineering & United Brownsville
As for the United Brownsville operatives, higher utility rates for the public or wasted tax dollars are not a concern as long as they can cash in on the lucrative development of the industrial corridor.

Ferguson, MO Cries Out for Justice!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Contrasting the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation Board

Board Member Francisco Flores
After Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairman Daniel Lenz carefully swore in new member Francisco Flores at the 8/20/ 2014 meeting, Board member Roman Perez asked that a minor correction be made in the minutes of the last meeting. 

Information flows in this meeting, not primarily from prepared comments, but, in response to astute questions from board members actually concerned about bettering the city.

My wish would be for at least 4 members of this board
Board Members Roman Perez,
Teresa Saldivar
to replace the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation board, where agenda items involving hundreds of thousands of dollars are rubber stamped without discussion.  I guarantee that would not be happening with Daniel Lenz, Teresa Saldivar, Roman Perez and Viola Currier, all who consistently, meeting after meeting, ask probing, hard questions that get to the root of issues.  Carlos Marin would not slide his hey boy Oscar Garcia, Jr. by this foursome as "project manager" of a $180,000 plan to "implement" another $454,000 study of the industrial corridor.  Not happening, Marin.  Sorry!



Brownsville Metro Fleet
Contract Manager, James Campbell
James Campbell, who oversees the maintenance of the Brownsville Metro fleet, was asked about mileage between major breakdowns.  He did not have numbers, but felt things were improving.  Nine buses manufactured in 2001 were being retrofitted with the compressors, plumbing and fittings to accommodate R-407 freon, as opposed to the old R-22.  Four of these retrofits have been completed.  Campbell, when asked, admitted that only this Monday did the shop get an 8th mechanic as specified in the contract.  Campbell has been foreman since April 1.  


Grant, Outreach Manager,
Sarah Dziubanek
Sarah Dziubanek was introduced as the new manager of grants and community outreach. After being asked to raise her voice a little, Ms. Dziubanek explained that her background was with a non-profit dealing with domestic violence.  She mentioned experience in grant writing.

Assistant Brownsville Metro Director Andrew Munoz gave an update on the Multi-Modal Parking Garage Project.  Munoz explained that ground water had been discovered after excavating just 12 inches.  The ground was allowed to dry, then covered with a caliche cap, plus 6-8 inches of limestone.


Board Member Viola Currier
Board Member Viola Currier asked if Munoz was certain no water leaks had contributed to the moisture. She also asked if the City of Brownsville was protected from future water damage, should ground or other water seep in later.

Munoz explained that no plumbing existed currently on the property and that, yes, the city was protected.


Board Member Teresa Saldivar
When Teresa Saldivar asked about the construction of more bus stop stations, Munoz provided some detail. Brownsville Metro has 714 bus stops.  A fully furnished, covered stop, he stated, costs between $20,000 and $32,000 with ADA sidewalk for wheel chair access, six inch slap and a shelter able to withstand a Category 3 hurricane.  Shelter construction is based primarily on ridership.  Because of the wording of certain grants, Brownsville Metro has constructed 20 miles of sidewalks in Brownsville.  Bus shelters, for example, must have sidewalk access.  

Chairman Daniel Lenz suggested contacting the Brownsville Beautification Committee to see if shade trees could be planted at bus stop locations.  

I have two more handwritten pages of notes, but you get the point.  While GBIC board meetings could actually be eliminated, because there is no discussion, no questioning, just rubber stamping what Carlos Marin told them to do over lunch.  The Brownsville Metro Advisory Board actually serves the community.

Jim Barton
Lives in Brownsville, TX
|6,750,474 views


Republican Battle Royale at Judge Murray Stadium~Hasse vs. Morris, Round 2, August 26, 9:00 AM

Tad Hasse:  "The Election Code 
§201.001 is clear.  Frank resigned.  
He can't unresign."
Frank Morris:  The challenges to my
credentials "saddened me."  I felt a 
"loss of support."


Chris Davis, Election Administrator:  
"Frank Morris was duly re-elected as 
County Chairman of the Cameron County
Republican Party."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Letter to BISD Staff Attorney Miguel Salinas About Potential Conflict of Interest in Handling of BISD Trustee Election


August 20, 2014


Mr. Miguel Salinas
Staff Attorney
Brownsville Independent School District
1900 Price Road
Brownsville, TX 78521-2417

Dear Mr. Salinas:

Please be aware that a potential conflict of interest presents itself in the handling of the coming BISD Trustee election.

If, as planned, the trustee election is contracted out to the Cameron County Election Office, please be aware that Cameron County Election Administrator, Chris Davis, is the son-in-law of one of the trustee candidates.

Joe Rodriguez, a candidate for BISD Trustee, Place 4, is the father of Monica Rodriguez Davis, Chris Davis' wife.

Will Election Administrator Davis be asked to step aside, not physically participate in this election or does the district have another solution to avoid the appearance of impropriety?


Sincerely,


Jim Barton



As BCIC Board Prepares to Go Gowenless, Another Attempt at Naming Director Scheduled August 21

Outgoing BCIC Board Member,
City Commissioner Rose Gowen
Last year $8,400,000 was diverted from Brownsville's sales tax dollars to be used for economic development. Half, $4,200,000 went to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
The other half, $4,200,000 went to the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation for so-called "quality of life" projects.  

Commissioner Rose Gowen has been the primary manipulator of the BCIC, the board deciding how such "quality of life" funds are spent.  (Her boss, Carlos Marin, completely controls projects vetted by the BEDC, the symbiotic syster of the GBIC.  All his projects pass the GBIC without discussion.  He's already wined and dined the board members, explaining what he wants, and they comply like naive school kids.)

Rose Gowen and two other BCIC board members, Jude Benavides and Blanca Perez-Moreno, are leaving at the end of the year, having completed 2 two year terms, the maximum allowed.  

3 new members commencing in 2015 has the possibility of changing the thrust and focus of the BCIC.  While half of their funding is still committed to the Brownsville/Olmito Sports Park, the other monies have largely been used for bike trails, bike trail maintenance, bike trail design, etc.  While this leaves infrastructure that will stay with the city, the actual interest of Brownsville citizens in cycling has been greatly exaggerated.  Staged, subsidized events like Cyclobia appear to show spontaneous interest, but would fade without consistent BCIC funding.

The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art has also been a favorite of the BCIC, while the Gladys Porter Zoo has been overlooked.

Planner Ramiro Gonzalez
On August 21 at 4:00 PM the BCIC will meet for the third time in two months to consider hiring another director.  Originally 5, but now 6 candidates will be considered.  Ramiro Gonzalez from the Planning Department is Rose Gowen's choice.  As reported in this blog, the young, loquacious Ramiro has time and again proven himself to be a willing hey boy for Rose Gowen and Tony Martinez.  Selecting Gonzalez as director would effectively continue Rose Gowen's control of the BCIC board.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Ultra-Rich UT System "Pays" El Cueto Building Rent with Amateurish "Paving" Job on Parking Lot

City Manager Charlie Cabler, Mayor Tony Martinez and the City Commission are under oath to protect the assets, physical and monetary, belonging to the City of Brownsville.  The collective owners of such assets are the taxpayers, but these officials are entrusted to act as their surrogates in protecting, preserving, even growing these assets.

When UTB agreed to rent El Cueto Building on Madison Street for administrative purposes for 3 years at $90,000 annually, $270,000 total, those monies became a taxpayer asset accounting for wear, tear and use on El Cueto, another taxpayer asset.  

A deal was swung that, in lieu of paying the $270,000 rent, UTB would "pave" the parking lot.  A professional paving job was considered equal to the $270,000 owed the taxpayers.  

Did the hardworking taxpayers get appropriate value for their $270,000?  It appears not.  The pictures below reveal a "paving" job none of us would be satisfied with on our driveway, let alone commercial property. The non-rolled asphalt, topped by loose gravel, appears to have been haphazardly dumped on bare ground with little surface preparation.  The gravel and asphalt do not quite make it to the property corners or the street.

"Roundup" appears to have been used to deaden the grassy areas, giving the loose gravel a surrounding belt of brown.  Nice work, Juliet, UTB.  Way to hammer out a deal Charlie, Tony!

The City of Brownsville always gets the short end of the stick when dealing with UTB and Juliet Garcia.   While this much lauded "Leader of the Year," wants only the finest for her interests, she thinks nothing of the City of Brownsville getting shitty work.

None of our city leaders care enough to protect city/taxpayer assets, not Cabler, certainly not Martinez or the City Commission.
  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cameron County Republican Party~As Judge Murray Decides on Standing of Frank Morris Resignation, Attention Shifts to the Role of Party Secretary Ida R. Stacy

Cameron County Republican
Party Secretary Ida R. Stacy
The saga of the Frank Morris retirement continues with Judge Menton Murray, Jr. expected to rule soon on the case.  

Morris, as you may recall, sent two distinctly different retirement emails this past May 14 to Party Secretary Ida R. Stacy among others.

His first retirement email letter, sent at 12:36 PM May 14, seemed permanent.  He stated that he'd taken his name off the checkbook, removed it from vendor accounts, giving the "new chairman" 30 days to "pick up the materials and files." Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, Morris said he felt "free at last."

Below is the initial letter:  

“I submit my resignation as Cameron County Republican chairman effective immediately. Also I resign from the SREC (State Republican Executive Committee) SD 27 as of this date. If I need to resign on June 16th, I will do so. I also resign as the primary administrator for Cameron County this date. I will close out all vendors’ account requiring my
Frank Morris
approval. I no longer am authorized to sign any checks on any of the party banking accounts ... notify the new chairman (he) or she will have 30 days to pick up the materials and files of the county party, which is in accordance with our By-Laws. . . . . It's been a great ride. I'm free at last."



In an unusual second letter, sent at 11:59PM, over 11 hours later, Morris seems to confine his retirement only to the "current term," ending June 15, 2014.  Did Morris have second thoughts about retiring?  Was his initial, more comprehensive retirement influenced by challenges within the local party of his credentials, challenges he admitted "saddened" him?  

Youth Outreach Director
James Ross
Adding to the confusion in Cameron County is the role of the Party Secretary, Ida G. Stacy of Harlingen.  According to Republican Party rules,  once the party secretary receives the resignation, he or she must notify the Executive Committee, a composite of the local party chairs, of the vacancy.  A meeting is called of the precinct chairs, who elect a new chairman.  There is no indication this policy was followed in the county.  A rumor surfaced, later denied, that Youth Outreach Director James Ross had been "appointed" by Stacy as Interim County Chairman.  Later, the spin from an anonymous authority became that Ross was simply Pro Tem Director, language not found in Republican Party rules. 

Precinct Chair 102 Tad Hasse filed a suit heard in the 107th District Court July 31 by Murray attempting to have Morris' resignation declared valid, nullifying his
Tad Hasse
attempt to rescind the resignation.  Judge Murray asked for both parties to file briefs, giving him an opportunity to consider the ruling.  That has been done.  We await Judge Murray's ruling.

Will the City Commission Use Common Sense Tuesday Or Give in to the Bullies?

City Commissioner Debbie Portillo
It is not beyond the skill set of the City Commission for Brownsville to protect the interests of the Palo Alto Battlefield, give cyclists a safe right turn off Paredes Line Road onto FM 511 AND allow truckers along the 511 industrial corridor a state-of-the-art truck stop.  

As Pastor Brad articulated at the August 5 City Commission meeting:

"Everyone wants what the trucks carry. No one wants the trucks or drivers," the minister stated.
"I know. I was a trucker before I was a pastor. The hardest thing was to find a place to park for the night. . . . Then, in the morning, you want to eat, but no restaurant can fit your truck. Brownsville needs a facility like this. If we treat truckers right, they can become tourists and bring their families."


On the agenda for the City Commission meeting August 19:
  
Pastor Brad
6. Public Hearing and ACTION on FIRST READING of Ordinance Number 235-2014-024-CO; to rezone from General Retail “X” classification (4CX) to Light Industrial “G” classification (7CG) for 13.84 acres of Espiritu Santo Grant, Share 22, located near FM 511
(Highway 550) and Paredes Line Road. (District 3) (Noe D. Puga – Planning) [TABLED 08/05/2014]

The request for the reclassification approved by the City's Planning Department, if from United Fuel, a company wanting to build a super truck stop on the south side of FM 511 at Paredes Line Road.  The project calls for several eating establishments, a theater, showers, a service bay and other amenities for truckers traveling the FM 511 industrial corridor to or from the Port of Brownsville.

Voicing his concern at the last commission meeting was Palo Alto Battlefield Park Ranger Mark Spears, since the proposed truck stop would be 600 feet as the crow flies from the entrance to the battlefield park.  If truck noise is the concern, then the Eddie Lucio, Jr. Toll Ramp to Nowhere, occupying the center lanes of FM 511 places trucks traveling 70 miles per hour as close as 150 feet.  Trucks traveling west, choosing not to use the toll road and ramps already use a service road adjacent to the park, thus even closer.  Whether or not a truck stop is built, FM 511 has been designated by a $454,000 study as an industrial corridor.  $180,000 has also been paid to Jacob's Engineering to "implement" Phase 1 of that plan.  

FM 511 is the main artery for trucks to and from the Port of Brownsville whether or not a truck stop accommodating the drivers is built.

Another concern voiced at the August 5 meeting by Commissioner Rose Gowen:



"Hundreds of cyclists make that turn off Paredes Line Road to FM 511 each weekend. Well, I know of 4 groups of at least 50 members each that do," stated Gowen unbelievably.

"No, I'm not talking about cyclists on Battlefield Trail, I'm talking about those using the street getting run over by a truck," stated the commissioner.

City Planner Michael Warrix
Actually, an accommodation, a shortcut, could be easily worked out by United Fuel with City Planner Michael Warrix to give cyclists a safer turn onto FM 511. No corporation would likely allow such a triviality to stop their multi-million dollar project, especially considering United Fuel has already purchased 72 adjacent acres for a hotel and other accommodations.   

In a previous story we suggested that a truck stop like the one proposed for FM 511 could actually employ more actual Brownsville residents than SpaceX, at least initially, without the $20,000,000 subsidy from Brownsville, Cameron County and surrounding entities.  Forget the preposterous and ludicrous claim by Gilbert Salinas of the BEDC that "SpaceX will provide over 1,000 jobs paying over $55,000 per year."  That's as bogus as the lie that "over 1,000 cyclists daily used the Battlefield Hike & Bike Trail." 

Elon Musk has promised 30 full time jobs in the launch's first year of operation, whenever that turns out to be.  Harlingen, with a minimal $450,000 contribution or 2.25% of the total subsidy, is asking presumptuously for 10% of the full time jobs to go to Harlingen residents at a "minimum of $9.00 per hour." If McAllen asks for similar consideration because of their contribution, that leaves only 24 actual jobs for Brownsville residents the first year.  Of course, Musk did not guarantee the full time jobs would go to local residents.  No one locally currently has SpaceX style skills without very specific training.  

A super truck stop with several restaurants, a full truck maintenance shop, a store, a movie theater could easily employ 3 times that many.  

As for stifling attendance at the battlefield, a nearby truck stop with truckers on a layover waiting for repairs or with down time could be the battlefield's primary guests.  I suspect a bare trickle of actual tourists besides the busloads of BISD school children actually visit the park.  I made it a point to ask Brownsville residents the past two weeks if they'd ever visited the Palo Alto Battlefield. None, including a resident with a degree in history had actually visited the park. The truck stop could easily stock brochures and advertising materials promoting the battlefield and increase park attendance and revenue significantly. 

Reasonable minds COULD work all this out to Brownsville's benefit if two bullies on the City Commission with a very specific agenda are not permitted to have their way.   


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