Saturday, January 31, 2015

How Mayor Tony Martinez Betrayed the Citizens of Brownsville

Mayor Tony Martinez
When we asked the rhetorical question  "Is Tony Martinez the Bernie Madoff of Brownsville?" most readers were alert, discerning the similarities, as evidenced by their comments. Others read with difficulty.

"Let the reader use discernment."
St. Matthew 24:15

Answering the question below the side-by-side pictures of Martinez and Madoff required the "reader" to have an understanding of Brownsville during the tenure of Mayor Martinez. Lacking that, a reader might be left in the dark, confused, bewildered, quizzical.  That was not our intention, as the side-by-side pics were just a prelude, a precursor of the article to come, not a substitute for that article.

Bernard L. Madoff
Bernard L. "Bernie" Madoff took the money assets of friends, acquaintances and clients, billions of dollars, in a so-called ponzi scheme, misusing it to subsidize his lavish lifestyle. Arrested in 2008, convicted in 2009, he's serving a 150 year sentence.  His brother Peter received a 10 year sentence for his role in the scam.  His son Mark committed suicide in 2010, while his other son, Andrew, died from lymphoma in 2014.

$270,000 in Taxpayer Dollars for "Paving"
Mayor Tony Martinez, on a smaller, but not insignificant scale, did the same, misusing, squandering, wasting millions of tax dollars contributed by the hardworking citizens of Brownsville.

Illustrative of Martinez' failure to protect taxpayer assets is the deal he worked out with Juliet Garcia to rent El Cueto Building for administrative offices.  The agreement was for 3 years at $270,000, $90,000 per year.  Martinez allowed UTB to "pave" the parking lot in lieu of rent.  Pictured above is the amateurish job for which the taxpayers forfeited $270,000.  I suspect that is City of Brownsville gravel you see scattered over the surface.  

Casa del Nylon, Purchased in 2012 for $2.3
Million, Still Unused by City.  A Homeless
Couple Camped Under the Awning for A Year
Martinez never explained to the taxpayers why he needed to spend $3.5 million on 12 properties in 2012.  11 of those properties still sit idle, off the tax rolls, unused by the city.  Taxpayers are on the hook for 20 years with a Certificate of Obligation to pay for Tony's unexplained, wasteful spending.  Unethically, Martinez used his law partner, Horacio Barrera, to "negotiate" the purchase of Casa del Nylon from his friend, Abraham Galonsky, for $2,300,000, triple its actual value.

Despite the purchase of all of these buildings and unused office space at the city-owned City Plaza, Martinez saw a space he just HAD to have for a "Downtown Central Mayor's Office."  Over the timid objection of City Manager Charlie Cabler, Martinez had the city lease the space at 1101-A E. Washington Street for his downtown office.  City crews could be seen remodeling the space for several weeks at taxpayer expense.  The lease began October 8, 2013 and expired October 7, 2014 without the spendthrift mayor using it a SINGLE time. Before the lease ran out, in a face saving move, the building was designated the Brownsville Downtown Revitalization Information Center, but was essentially unused.

Former Mayor Pat Ahumada
Former Mayor Pat Ahumada feels we're ignoring the biggest Martinez ripoff of all, the Tenaska Power Plant.  Here is his comment to an earlier blog article:

Pat AhumadaAugust 19, 2014 at 6:10 PM

"You are focused on the nickles, when millions are being negotiated for a Power Plant that should be on a voter Referendum. We have a utility monopoly, which prohibits the private sector like CPL, AEP, and others to compete against PUB. Now the mayor with others are allowing TENASKA to enter where no other private company could for all these past years. The rules were designed to protect PUB's monopoly and to keep rates down, but with this deal we will fund the upstart costs for Tenaska, guarantee loans at municipal rates and allow them to be in control of a plant that generates electricity for them to sell on the grid, when we do not need to spend $240 million for a plant that Tenaska wants. Someone needs to ask for information under the Open Records Act on anything related to this venture. i.e., private meetings/dinners, direct and indirect donations, paid trips for hunting or other excursions, calls to and from with TENASKA. Already we are seeing rates that are higher than other utility companies and this deal is tied to rate increases, which will make it even worse, but keep looking into the nickles, while the mayor is pushing for the Tenaska deal at our expense. The 800 megawatt plant will provide 200 megs for Brownsville at more than a million dollar per megawatt to construct, plus the cost of the water that we are obligated to furnish and other costs to burden the rate payers. Even your water is being hocked."

As we stated at the outset, Martinez has misused, squandered, wasted millions of tax dollars.  He is the Bernie Madoff of Brownsville city government.

Is Tony Martinez the Bernie Madoff of Brownsville?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Says "Good-Bye" to Board Chairman Daniel Lenz and Board Member Roman Perez

Daniel Lenz Makes a Point at Brownsville
Metro Advisory Board Meeting 1/28/15
Brownsville Metro Advisory Board Chairman Daniel Lenz announced his resignation from the board Wednesday night. Lenz, with 41 years experience in all phases of the bus industry, including 6 years on the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board, 4 years as chairman, stated:

"This is the best board I've ever served on and I've served on many boards.  My phone number will not change.  I will help in any way I can behind the scenes to improve bus service in this city.  Just call me."

Lenz, who sent his resignation letter to the City Commission January 27, will begin work for Thomas Bus Gulf Coast on Monday as New Bus Sales Representative for the south Texas region.

Roman Perez
Also resigning Wednesday, was Roman Perez with 4-1/2 years service on the board. Perez cited his campaign for City Commissioner, District 1, his professorship at the Harlingen outlet of Wayland University and his lay ministry at Christ the King Catholic Church in Southmost as making continued service on the board impossible.

Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora
Four agenda points in Wednesday's meeting were tabled simply because Brownsville Metro Director Norma Zamora did not make the effort.  Two Brownsville Metro employees, Transit Planner, Monica Tellam and Grant Writer/Outreach Manager Jonathan Mendoza were to be presented to the board, but Zamora forgot to invite them to the meeting.

Zamora also whiffed on the "Brownsville Metro Maintenance Quarterly Report for October through December," the "Ridership Statistics by Route" and the "New Freedom Sidewalk Enhancement Project Report." She excused herself by citing the press of "the holidays."

Brownsville Metro Assistant Director, the beleaguered Andrew Munoz, who seems to do the bulk of the work at Brownsville Metro, was ready with the "Update on the Parking Garage Project."

The project is 5-1/2 weeks behind because of intermittent rains delaying concrete on the first level. Rain will not effect floors 2, 3 and 4.  Brownsville Metro employees will be the garage's first priority with the general public rate per hour yet to be determined.  The project should be completed by mid-May.

(Photos by Nena Barton)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ricardo Longoria Jr. Meltdown, Possible Neece Retirement, Lincoln Park Revisited

We accept the human nature of political candidates developing a dislike for their opponent/opponents, but, in truth, they prefer not having an opponent, running unopposed.

Such a preference may have contributed to City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, Jr.'s apparent meltdown, confrontation and verbal clash with Municipal Judge Ben Neece.  If Longoria assumed, as
Attorney Michael Gonzalez, Candidate
for City Commissioner, District 1
reported, that Judge Neece was "running" a candidate, Attorney Michael Gonzalez, against Longoria for City Commissioner, District 1, Neece has maintained he is not promoting any candidate, a conflict of interest for a municipal judge.

Another young attorney, Cesar de Leon, also associated with Ben Neece's law office, greeted his supporters at Cobbleheads January 21.  Neece was nowhere to be seen.

A close associate of the judge mentioned this may be his last year as a municipal judge in Brownsville:

"When I came on, Ben said he wanted to serve 30 years.  He's done that.  Of course, what he decides is still up in the air."

Of course, incumbent Longoria already faces formidable opposition in Roman Perez, whom he defeated in 2011 by 140 votes. Since then, Perez has developed close ties with parishioners at Christ the King Catholic Church in Southmost and Valley Interfaith, largely over the issue of conveying the district's precious Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich University of Texas system.  Perez has been an outspoken opponent of that transfer.

Commissioner Longoria, while initially voting to convey the park, reversed his position after an outpouring of Southmost emotion at a public hearing at the Tony Gonzalez Gymnasium October 31.  The City of Brownsville voted in resolution to authorize negotiations to sell the park to UT for $6.5 million, well below market value. The city wants to relocate the park next to a water treatment(sewage) plant in Southmost.

Micheal Gonzalez, when asked if he would work to save Lincoln Park, stated the thought the deal was "under the hat," and mentioned his experience in having odorous areas cleansed.

Neece's close friend, Abraham Galonsky, spoke at the town hall hearing in favor of the transfer of Lincoln Park.  He owns and wishes to sell to the city a 30 acre tract next to the proposed relocation area of the park.

Cameron County Under Severe Gilberto Hinojosa Warning~Storms, High Winds, Destruction Anticipated

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mike, Change Your Campaign Signs and Push Cards Quickly, Before Bobby Wightman-Cervantes Sees Them

The campaign sign at the left was cut and pasted from Jerry Mchale's Brownsville Blues blog.(Jerry and Juan Montoya of El Rrun Rrun, sell political advertising space.  Bobby Wightman-Cervantes is also seeking such advertising.)

The illegality of the ad above is that it declares young Mr. Gonzalez to be the "Brownsville City Commissioner" for "District 1," when he is not.  That position has been held by Ricardo Longoria, Jr. for nearly 8 years. 

The ad should simply say "For" City Commissioner or "Candidate for" City Commissioner.  Mike is not yet actually a City Commissioner and the ad tends to mislead voters.

Falsely representing oneself on campaign materials as an elected official is a clear violation of the Texas Election Code 255.006 MISLEADING USE OF OFFICE TITLE.

Mike, a very personable young man, should check with his mentor, Ben Neece, and make the necessary corrections.

Please hurry before Bobby sees this!

Addendum:  Speaking with Mike this morning(Sunday), he relates that his push cards are correctly worded and that he's reaching out to Jerry to correct the ad on Brownsville Blues.

TSC Returning Korean Veterans, Charro Days, 1950's Including Pat Tamayo, Ruben M. Torres


Brownsville Debonairs Including Ruben Edelstein, Art Celaya, Ed Guerra and David Lloyd

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brownsville Embraces Youth, Optimism, the Unknown at Cobbleheads

Hello young lovers, whoever you are, 
I hope your troubles are few. 
All my good wishes go with you tonight, 
I've been in love like you. 
Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true

I know how it feels to have wings on your heels, 
And to fly down the street in a trance. 
You fly down a street on the chance that you meet, 
And you meet -- not really by chance.
"Hello, Young Lovers"
by Richard Rogers

A packed Cobbleheads audience January 21 heard 28 year old Cesar de Leon in three minutes, 4 seconds give his educational résumé, promise, if elected, an "open door" policy and to strengthen Brownsville's economy and infrastructure, while backing educational opportunities.  Cesar flipped yellow legal sheets from a pad over the podium as he described each segment of his life experience.

All of this was a bit anticlimactic, especially after a substantial buildup by several presenters, including the "Pledge of Allegiance" to both the United States and Texas' flags.

The broadest smile in the room likely belonged to Martin Sarkis, who, after first describing Cesar on my Facebook page as a "loyal friend," admitted to being his uncle.

While the first contributed dollar or organizational assist linked to Mayor Tony Martinez could kill Cesar's campaign, the attendees at Cobbleheads were likely responding to "new blood," a "nice young man." 

Cobbleheads owner Joe Kinney, for the first time, required those there for the political event to enter from the deck entrance, not mixing with bar patrons at the front entrance.  Nena and I arrived just in time for Cesar's speech, then left.

Former kidnap victim, now mayoral candidate, William Garza, worked the room, dressed in jeans and a flannel hunting shirt. Commissioners Jessica Tetreau and Ricardo Longoria, Jr. were there.

Brownsville is so family oriented that it gives double honor to those young ones who "make good," achieve academically, running for and winning office.  Nothing about that is life-changing, but it feels good.

Cesar de Leon, Candidate for City Commission At Large "A," Addresses Supporters at Cobbleheads, 1/21/15

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rose Gowen Chairs BCIC Board Meeting Illegally, Gets Angry When Things Don't Go Her Way

Rose Gowen
Rules simply do not apply to Rose Gowen. Her ego, her agenda transcends even the bi-laws of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, where her role as board member, board chairman legally ended December 31, 2014.  

When the BCIC reconvened for the first time in the new year, January 8, 2015, fellow former board members Jude Benavides and Blanca Perez-Moreno recognized their term of service had legally ended, did not participate in the meeting.  No so for Rose, who parked her hybrid in the City Commissioner-reserved free parking slot along E. 10th Street, made her way up to Human Resources on the 4th floor and assumed her role as BCIC chairperson illegally.

The City Commission has known for months that three terms on the BCIC would expire at the end of 2014 just as the term of Sylvia Berry on the Brownsville Metro Advisory Board would, but they dropped that ball by not caring for the appointment of new members in their December City Commission meetings.  Berry, Benavides and Perez-Moreno all accepted the legal termination.  Gowen did not.

San Fernando Building, Purchased by the
City of Brownsville in 2012 for $315,000
The driving force behind Gowen's unlawful appearance on the board was Agenda item #9:  Consideration and Action for the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) to consider the City of Brownsville request as follows:
*For the BCIC office/staff to be housed at the Historic San Fernando Building and
*To enter into an agreement with the City of Brownsville to contribute $225,000 toward the renovation of the Historic San Fernando Building and house the BCIC rent free for eight(8) years.

Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Brownsville
Redevelopment and Special Projects
Gowen and Martinez heyboy Ramiro Gonzalez presented the item in his newly created role as Director of Downtown Redevelopment and Special Projects.

Initial discussions found board member Elizabeth Hollmann favoring the idea, but when another board member suggested simply buying the San Fernando building from the city, Hollmann liked that idea as well.  The city purchased the historic building, that formerly housed La Movida, El Domino and Mary's Place cantinas, for $315,000 in 2012.  

With the discussion floundering, "Chairman" Gowen called for a simple motion to adopt the agenda item. Dead silence.  No board member made a motion.

A comment was made that this might be a matter for the "new" board to consider.  Gowen, visibly angered said:  "I can't believe this."

San Fernando's interior, showing decades of
paint colors(likely leaded)
A not very well kept secret is that Gowen wants to close the streets around Market Square to vehicle traffic, eliminate parking on one side of Adams Street for a bike lane, making the square a pedestrian mall, of sorts.  Pushing that agenda propelled her to ignore the expiration of her term as board chairman as dictated by the bi-laws.


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