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."
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
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.