Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Do You Remember the $22,500 the City Commission Gave to the Chamber of Commerce for a Merchant Discount Program?

From the editor:  Nena and I were just talking about the merchant discount program to revitalize downtown business, wondering whatever became of it.  We saw the initial presentation by Chamber of Commerce President Maria Hall Joiner at the BCIC, then watched it introduced as an agenda item at the City Commission by Pete Gonzalez.  

Commissioner Debby Portillo was especially giddy about the program.  The City Commission agreed to spend $22,500.

We've heard very little about this so-called plan to grow local business in the last 18 months.  We suspected all along that it was a gimmick to increase Chamber of Commerce membership that had dwindled dramatically in the last few years.

Today, we received a comment from a former Chamber of Commerce intern, Angela Ruiz, that the program had been a total failure and that Maria Joiner Hall was no longer Chamber of Commerce President.  Here is Ms. Ruiz' note:

"Is it possible to impeach or recall Tony Martinez? Look I'm 24 years old and I'm already tired with the politics here in Brownsville. I don't agree on the Annova LNG and especially this money drainage from the City of Brownsville. Not alot of people know this but the city allowed 22,000 dollars of tax people's money to go into Vive Discount Program which was proposed by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. How do I know this? I use to be a intern at the Chamber and what I saw and heard is very unbelievable. The discount program is not a success because of 3 factors. Chamber members didn't really provided discounts (10-20% off purchases really?), the misused the money to get promotional items like Vive hand sanitizers and Vive Sunglasses, and the formal president insulted the potential members. I told her the people who are signing up during our events are low-income and we needed to market more to them. Vive was meant for the low-income families here in Brownsville, we are the poorest in the nation and she said she didn't want their business because they couldn't have cycling income. 22,000 thousand dollars..... of tax payers money. Its sad of what I saw behind the scenes and I might be getting in trouble saying this stuff for the first time but seeing how Brownsville is going to hell with LNG and mismanagement, I'm speaking out. I wish something was done. I wish there was an answer."

Angel Ruiz

Here is part of our original March 4, 2014 MMB article discussing the agenda item and City Commission decision:

"11. Consideration and ACTION to adopt budget amendment Resolution Number 2014-029, to amend the General Fund Budget by providing $22,200.00 funding for the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. (Pete Gonzalez – Deputy City Manager)

As Pete Gonzalez stepped up to present this item, he brought with him Chamber of Commerce President Maria Hall Joiner to present
a program to encourage shopping at Brownsville businesses. Nena and I had heard the presentation at a BCIC board meeting, but the public had not. It involves issuing I.D. cards to residents entitling them to discounts at Brownsville businesses. The cards are free to the customers, but the businesses must belong to the Chamber of Commerce to participate. The program is based on a similar program in Mission, named GoMission and is tentatively titled GoBrownsville. Its purpose is to increase sales tax revenue and bolster membership in the Chamber of Commerce, which, according to Joiner, has dipped from 1,600 to just 650 in the last ten years

Martinez stopped Pete Gonzalez from introducing Joiner to present the program simply because he had already heard it. He said if any commissioner had questions they could ask Joiner. But, that's not the point. The citizens, the taxpayers who will fund this program heard nothing. The whole point of a PUBLIC City Commission meeting is to conduct city business in PUBLIC. This concept is totally lost on Tony Martinez who desperately needs a course in Democracy 101. The timid commissioners approved the $22,500 funding without discussion, without a public outlining of the program, without a whimper.

Brownsville deserves better.


  1. The majority of Brownsville people are not engaged; are apathetic... seldom vote and are afraid to speak out. Brownsville deserves this. It only takes a small group to show some solidarity but we do not even do that.

  2. The entire city commission is a joke....just a bunch of greedy,arrogant crooks running the city to the ground.The great educated hope Cesar ? ......just another of Mayor Martinez 's harem . Ugh .

  3. thank you for having the courage to speak out, Angel. We hear you loud and clear, especially your comments about Annova LNG because it is internl corruption that is destroying our city. Speak up! It's going to be your town soon so dont be cowards like many older generations who dared not speak up for fear of what? Thank you for speaking up! I would be so interested to know how LNG convinced our business leaders to sign their own economic death wArrant.



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