Sunday, November 29, 2015

Luis Saenz Record As District Attorney: "All Hat, No Cattle!"

Luis "Mr. Self-Promotion" Saenz
Reminding us of the Texas colloquialism "all hat, no cattle," District Attorney Luis V. Saenz never did quite "cut off the head of the snake" of Cameron County political corruption as promised by his 2012 Campaign Manager Zeke Silva.

If that snake's head were indeed Ernie Hernandez, Saenz issued wrist slaps softer than a feather duster while Ernie's underling, Raul Salazar, faced jail for his part in illegally getting a job for Ernie's brother-in-law.

Saenz craves publicity, but only the controlled, sanitized, high schoolish form of the species, issued through mouthpiece Melissa (Zamora) Landin, praising and overstating his accomplishments, stopping just short of a nomination for sainthood.

Melissa Landin
The PR surrounding "Operation Bishop," a blitzkrieg fueled by Bishop Daniel Flores lament that the 8-liners were drying up Catholic collection plates, gave the operation the look and feel of General Eisenhower's tactics at the beach of Normandy. The actual depth or shallowness of Saenz' commitment to eradicating the sin of gambling is illustrated in the sale of the gambling devices, allowing them to resurface in Starr County to destroy churches one hundred miles away. Ironically, some of the monies recovered may have been used to pay Landin's unbudgeted cheerleader salary.

Former fugitive Amit Livingston must feel like a prized Guernsey, as frequently as Saenz has milked the story of his on/off extradition. Until recently, only two or three Google alerts have detailed any developments in the Livingston
Saenz Getting in the Picture
case over several years, none mentioning a Saenz involvement in the extradition process. As reported by El Rrun Rruns' Juan Montoya, DA Saenz flew to Houston to board Amit Livingston's plane, opportunistically maximizing the PR. Saenz was there to "steady the Ark of the Covenant," should the prisoner transfer between the marshalls and the Cameron County Sheriff's department wobble or falter. At the subsequent Saenz press conference following the transfer, the district attorney, flanked by huge information cards, detailing the time line of developments, took credit for the process.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mayor Tony Martinez Continues Pattern of Dishonesty, Misuse of Funds, Scams

Mayor Tony Martinez
In most U.S. cities, our mayor's record would have him facing recall. But, in our sleepy city, "on the border, by the sea," where a tiny fraction of registered voters actually vote and even fewer keep up with city government, Martinez' job is safe.

Tony Martinez' tenure as mayor has been marked by misuse of taxpayer funds, improper handling of bids and bypassing the City Commission for expenditures.  

Dr. Oziel Davilla Robles
An early scam, kept hush-hush by the city was the fraudulent billing by Dr. Oziel Davilla Robles, reportedly for over $400,000 in bogus dental charges for city employees. The money had allegedly been funneled into a night club at the convergence of FM 802 and Hwy 48.
Robles did not even have an office in Brownsville, only a mail box at a rundown, closed strip mall.  Astonishingly, the city settled for only $70,000 or just .17 on the dollar, in a special meeting 1/24/12.  A city employee remembered the dentist frequenting the office of City Purchasing Director Roberto C. Luna with the two seemingly on very good terms.

Also in 2012, the mayor, likely under direction by former UTB President Juliet Garcia, purchased 12 downtown buildings for $3,500,000.  Although the mayor does not have the intestinal fortitude to admit it, the purchases were likely made under the misguided notion that the University of Texas would utilize these third tier edifices for its campus or administration.  The double wammy for the taxpayers is that, while all the buildings were taken off the tax rolls, the city has no actual use for any of them.(In a token effort, one small brick building at 7th and Ringgold was converted into a secondary tourist office, but with no actual tourist traffic.)

The flagship of this boondoggle is La Casa del Nylon, purchased for $2,300,000, triple its appraised value, from Martinez' friend Abraham Galonsky, in a deal "negotiated" by Martinez' law partner, Horacio Barrera.   Barrera is either a total dimwit or solidly part of the corruption.

In 2013 Mayor Martinez was once again caught with his hand in the cookie jar, this time unlawfully using $700,000 of the Texas AEP refund of $3,060,000.  By the time two alert city commissioners caught Martinez, only $2.3 million remained in the fund.  

In 2014, after the city had offered one of two tracts of land to the ultra-rich University of Texas system, Martinez claimed that someone represent UT(likely Juliet Garcia) had requested the city's Lincoln Park instead.  Once again, Martinez failed to act in the city's interest, protecting city assets.(Lincoln Park has still not been officially taken "off the table," and is in jeopardy of being included in a gift package to UT.)

The article below, by El Rrun Rrun's Juan Montoya, shows that Martinez' squandering of taxpayer funds, keeping commissioners out of the loop continues.

Juan Montoya Uncovers Total Misrepresentation, Scamming by the City of Brownsville on Branding Contract


By Juan Montoya

From the very start there was something fishy about the game played by City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez and the Hahn Communications vendors.

Ostensibly, Hahn was bidding against three other firms to snare the city's rebranding efforts.
Although Hahn – represented by former television new anchor Ronnie Oliveira who also happens to be State Rep. Rene Oliveira's cousin – did not rank on the top of the firms, a majority of the city commission voted to award them the lucrative $140,000 contract to "rebrand" the city's "On the Border By the Sea" slogan to reflect its new image.

With city commissioner Rick Longoria absent because he was doing a DJ gig at the Mexican Consulates' 16 de Septiembre bash, Commissioners John Villarreal and Debbie Portillo joined Rose Gowen and Martinez to give Oliveira the go ahead. Only Cesr de Leon and Jessica Tetreau voted against it.

The contract was approved in September 2014 for nearly $140,000. Almost $90,000 came from the city of Brownsville, $25,000 from the Brownsville community improvement corporation and another $25,000 from Brownsville Economic Development Council.

During his presentation, Oliveira summoned the ghosts of his family and their native roots to endear himself to the majority.
However, during the discussion, it was learned that more than 80 percent of the respondents to N online poll did not like it.

Although a committee of 20 people worked directly with the public relations firm, they also did not expect the public's rejection of the newlogo "Igniting the Future of Texas," an obvious attempt to hitch their slogan to the coattails of the coming of SpaceX launches here.

The committee met every two weeks over a period of six months answering questions and reviewing logos. The firm also conducted public surveys with over 500 residents participating.
"I think it's great that the marketing firm wanted to market Brownsville for what we're becoming, but I just personally don't feel that you don't have to give up who you are to impress people, said Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa. Tetreau-Kalifa voted against the logo. She was shocked to see the commission vote for it despite 500 people voting against the logo and only 20 people voting in favor of it through a survey.

"I was hoping from the data from the public, maybe the commission would consider holding off or exploring another option, bringing a second option to the table," said Tetreau. The city plans to integrating new branding and use marketing strategies and tactics designed to enhance Brownsville reputation as a successful and business-friendly city.  However, the city commission reconsidered the logo change and a majority of the commission vote to keep the old one.
During the discussion on the money paid to Hahn Communications, Villarreal said that in speaking with the city’s purchasing director, Roberto Luna, he learned that the new city logo and tag line cost the city $21,500. The total stemmed from the group’s countless meetings with focus groups and
stakeholders, he said.
“That money was already spent as part of the overall plan,” Villarreal said. “I hope people understand that.” Tha was on November 2.
An information request to the city indicates that it has paid much more than the $21,500 Luna asserted.
In fact, the city has been paying Hahn since September 2014, fully a year before its bid was chosen over the other firms. In fact, it has paid them more than the $140,000 in the contract approved by the city. Record show that it has paid Hahn $152,675.16 in seven checks. The funds were taken from Dept. 9110, Acct. 876-292.
Two of those – check #248899 for $56,069.51 and check #247694 were for $38,127.38 – were over the $35,000 discretionary spending by city administration (namely city manager Charles Cabler). City rules state that any purchase over $35,000 must come before the city commission. (Click on graphics to enrlarge.)
Did the city commissioners know that Hahn Communications was already "in the pipeline" to receive the funds. The account is named "Contingency Branding and Marketing," indicating that the efforts at "rebranding" and using Oliveira's outfit was well under way before the commissioners knew of the relationship/ Did Hahn lend a hand to city purchasing to form the specifications for the "rebranding" campaign?
With some city administrators and commissioners content to let Hahn continue working under the radar on the "marketing" of the city's image, does it mean that it has tacitly approved the expenditure of the $820,000 marketing budget submitted by Hahn?
Why were the people (and some commissioners, apparently) kept out of the money loop?

District Attorney Candidate Carlos Masso Refuses to Clean Up Campaign, Enlisting Support of Ernie and Norma Hernandez

With respect to cleaning up his political act, Carlos Masso is a slow learner. Despite close association in 2012 with infamous politiqueras Herminia Becerra and Margarita Ozuna, Masso now includes in his campaign well-known politiquero Joey Garza as the picture at the left from Garza's Facebook page indicates.

The dishonest vote-harvester, Norma Hernandez, also plays a role in the Masso campaign. The chicken plate fundraiser advertisement below is from Norma's Facebook page.

From Norma Hernandez' Facebook page

Sunday, November 22, 2015

District Attorney Candidate Carlos Masso Hopes the Voters Remain Ignorant

Carlos Masso
Based on his political tricks of 2012, Carlos Masso will never be confused with Proctor & Gamble's "Mr. Clean." With a tent set up in Cameron Park next to a polling place, Masso apparently orchestrated a vote-gathering machine involving politiqueras, vans to pick up the elderly and mentally-challenged for controlled voting all in apparent close coordination with the election judge.

Adjacent to the Carlos Masso tent at Cameron Park was the Abelardo Gomez tent. Longtime politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra flitted like queens between the two tents. Later, when Margarita Ozuna was charged with Election Code violations, Carlos Masso would serve as her defense attorney.

A statistical anomaly showing Abelardo Gomez, Carlos Masso and Omar Lucio receiving nearly identical numbers of mail-in votes, despite widely different vote totals, prompted then Election Administrator Roger Ortiz to say: "They must have all used the same poliquera or group of group of politiqueras."

After losing a bitter battle in the Democratic Primary to eventual DA Luis Saenz, Masso returned to the private sector with a close connection to the 8-liner industry. His nephew Rich Masso, along with Attorney Rick Zayas fell prey to Saenz much-publicized "Operation Bishop," a political, as much as law enforcement operation to appease Bishop Daniel Flores, who had complained that 8-liners were depleting the Catholic collection plates in Cameron County.

We stroll down memory lane with pictures from 2012:

A van used to transport elderly to Cameron Park polling precinct
Election Judge Arcellia Villalon Conferring with Gomez Camp during polling

Politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra splitting time between
Gomez and Masso tents at Cameron Park
These guys are Joey Garza (shorter one with dark hair) and Ralph Elizondo (older one with mustache). Both have been indicted and arrested for multiple counts of mail-in ballot theft.
Vicenta Guajardo Verino, Tomasita Ramirez Chavez, Facunda Banda Garcia, Bernice Garcia,
Sara Virginia Perales, Margarita Rangel Ozuna are the politiqueras who go to trial on May 5th. Carlos Masso was representing Ozuna.

Borrowed from El Rrun Rrun

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rancho Viejo Resident Tabbed as "Mr Amigo"

Mexican Actress Itati Cantoral,
Mr. Amigo 2015
Hopefully, the naming of Rancho Viejo resident, Itati Cantoral, as Mr. Amigo 2015 will result in a wiser use of event-generated fees in public facilities by the Mr. Amigo Association.

As detailed by Juan Montoya's El Rrun Rrun blog, the association spent about one hundred grand in 2013 wooing, courting, wining and dining novela star Eduardo Yanez in Mexico City. Eduardo accepted the nomination and was whisked to Brownsville/SPI Airport on a charter jet costing $13,000.

With Itati just 12 miles north of the city via I-69 E, the Mr. Amigo Association should be able to find a more economical method of transporting her to Charro Days events and the parade route. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Signing At Market Square Friday, 11/20/15~"Emancipacion" by Sandra E. Agreda

Sandra Agreda:  A nurse, lawyer, and gun toting rebel in the successful overthrow of El Salvador, Consul General and formerly Attorney General.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Two Deadbeat Democratic Candidates for District Attorney~Saenz Vs. Masso

Saenz and Masso Kissing and Making Up
After Bitter 2012 Democratic Primary
Those Cameron County voters who yearn for local government to abandon the cesspool of corruption, nepotism, voter fraud and tainted court cases, must throw up at the likely prospect that one of Carlos Masso or Luis V. Saenz will be the next Cameron County District Attorney.

It's not as if current District Attorney Saenz, utilizing his spotlight-craving Public Information Officer, Melissa Landin, hasn't talked a good game.  His office, through Landin's press releases and "briefings" have seemingly been one continuous infomercial, more flash than substance, or, as an old Texas cattleman might say, "all hat, no cattle."

"Operation Bishop," Saenz ballyhooed frontal attack on illegal 8-liners, prompted by Bishop Daniel Flores complaint that the machines drained Catholic collection plates, lost its luster when it was learned that some of the confiscated machines were not even destroyed, but merely sold for $100,000 to a company fronted by Masso's relatives, no less.

Saenz Supporter Herminia Becerra,
Cameron County's Most Notorious,
Yet Unprosecuted Politiquera
Saenz limp-wristed "prosecution" of  Ernie Hernandez, the so-called "head of the snake" of local political corruption, according to Saenz' 2012 Campaign Manager, Zeke Silva, sent the clear message that such political corruption is clearly tolerated in Cameron County.  Saenz' cowardly handling of Hernandez actually opens the door for Ol' Ernie to run for another tax dollar sucking political office.

Politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra,
Splitting Time Between Abelardo Gomez and
Carlos Masso Tents in 2012
Carlos Masso is not exactly what Cameron County needs either. Masso's explains his role in the squandering of $21,000,000 of taxpayer money at the Port of Brownsville for a so-called "Bridge to Nowhere" in a letter published  April 28, 2012 in Mean Mister Brownsville.  Essentially, Masso states, the Port of Brownsville directors settled with Dannenbaum for a mere $1 million to save the taxpayers from losing yet another $9
million.(Read Masso's convoluted explanation for yourself if you wish, but also please note the 21 comments below the article.)

During his 2012 run for District Attorney, Masso made no effort to even hide his close association with noted politiqueras Herminia Becerra and Margarita Ozuna.  They worked for him and when an indictment came for Margarita Ozuna, not surprisingly, he defended her in court.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Will Ron Oliveira Still Get the Head Cheerleader Job Despite Rejection of the Hahn Logo?

Ron Oliveira,  Hahn Communications
Former Harlingen news anchor Ron Oliveira, representing Hahn Communications, literally sang for his supper last September 15 at the City Commission meeting.  While battling in support for the crude, industrial style new city logo, Oliveira waved his pom poms, jumped into the air, coming down in an artful split.  Until he told us, we had no idea that what Brownsville really needed, more than just a logo, was a new Head Cheerleader.

It was an obvious audition for a job that didn't exist until the City of Brownsville listed an opening last month for a $3,300 per week position requiring public speaking skill, video editing and sales experience, etc.

As Oliveira pranced around and afar from the city microphone 9/15, he reminded us of his ethnicity, stopping just short of eating a bowl of menudo. Despite living and working in Austin, he told us that his Brownsville roots run deep.

Those who recognize Brownsville's puppet masters must have winced when Oliveira mentioned his consultation with the city's "stakeholders," including IBC's Fred Rusteberg, UTB's Juliet Garcia, Ambiotec's Carlos Marin, Jacobs Engineerings' Oscar Garcia, Jr. and Mayor Tony Martinez.

Our low self-esteemed city, always looking for some sort of recognition from outsiders, even if we have to pay for it, may feel better with an aging anchorman on the sidelines, but all the cheering won't fill one pot hole or drain one flooded parking lot.  

Action Item #10(Reconsideration of New City Logo) Revisited; the Implications

"Yes, let the joyous news be spread. The wicked Old Witch at last is dead!"
From "The Wizard of Oz"

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez
Mayor Tony Martinez, the evil witch, tormenting, harassing and controlling the City Commission, may not be actually dead, but he is wounded, neutered, exposed, no longer a threat.  He was always powerless in Brownsville's so-called weak mayoral form of government.  It's just that the City Commissioners did not know it.  They have the votes.  He doesn't(unless there is a tie).  They are free to discuss any issue, publicly and thoroughly, without submitting to his stifling, stymieing and squelching of free thought.  They just didn't know it.  Until last night, that is.

It wasn't about the new city logo so much as a youthful City Commission recognizing their power, opportunity and responsibility to correct mistakes, actually represent their constituents and do what's right.  Commissioners John Villarreal and Rick Longoria co-sponsored an Action Item to "reconsider the new city logo," presenting it at yesterday evening's City Commission meeting.  

While both John Villarreal and Rick Longoria, along with Debbie Portillo, spoke about "negative" comments they'd received recently about the new, industrial style logo, that citizen opposition was actually well known BEFORE the 9/15/15 City Commission meeting where it was adopted.  80% of those responding to the Hahn Communications survey either "did not like" or were "unsure" of the new logo.  Despite the poll results, the advertising agency pressed forward with the ugly, industrial new logo they sold the city, making it obvious that soliciting taxpayer opinion was just a phony "for show" exercise, not real or sincere.

As Martinez realized the votes were stacked against him last night, he reached out to City Attorney Mark Sossi for a lifeline, hoping Sossi would find something legally untoward in the wording of the Action Item.  "No," paraphrasing the City Attorney, "the commission understands that approving this item removes the new logo and restores the former logo."

Where will the City Commission, once docile, subservient and fearful of Martinez, go from here? Who knows?  Could they undo the proposed gifting of the city's precious holding, Lincoln Park, to one of the world's richest university systems?  Certainly, just as easily as they restored the old city logo, but even more protective of taxpayer interests.  

Commissioner Rose "Ugh!" Gowen, if not a witch, at least a goblin in the collective eyes of city management, meekly joined the chorus of "ayes" in approving the restoration of the old logo.  Her disparagement of the taxpayers via email, her conflict of interest in the Lincoln Park affair, her illegally chairing a meeting of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, well after the expiration of her 4 year term, to push an agenda, has been documented on this blog.  With the vitalization of the other commissioners, she becomes what she should always have been, "one of the commissioners."  

Martinez has choices.  He can learn to actually "create consensus."  He can leave office and run for County Judge.  But, he can not put the City Commission "genies" back "into the bottle."  They are empowered and like it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What If the City Commission Actually Listened to the People before Implementing a New Logo?

Is it possible that, for once, the City Commission would actually listen to the people?  With the purchase of 13 downtown properties for $3,500,000 in 2012, not only were the taxpayers not consulted, their queries about the wasteful purchases were ignored.  The flagship of these buildings, La Casa del Nylon, purchased at triple its value, $2,300,000, from the mayor's friend, Abraham Galonsky, in a deal unethically "negotiated" by the mayor's law partner, Horacio Barrera, sits idle, decaying, and, like the other buildings, is off the tax rolls.  The taxpayers get a double whammy, paying for unneeded buildings, then picking up the slack on lost tax revenue. What an insult to common sense, not to mention democracy!

Commissioner John Villarreal
In what seems to be a new approach, second term City Commissioner John Villarreal co-sponsors an action item for tonight's city commission meeting, that seems to endorse recognizing the will of the people.  Action Item #10 calls for a "reconsideration" of the new city logo approved 9/15/15:  

10. Reconsideration of the adoption of the City of Brownsville Logo. (Commissioners J. 
Villarreal/R. Longoria, Jr.)

New City Logo
"Logogate," as it has been designated by one local quipster, has been an exercise thus far in totally ignoring the preferences of local taxpayers.  Hahn Communications, awarded the $140,000 contract to produce a new city logo, was unresponsive to its own survey of Brownsville citizens, 80% of whom declared they either "did not like" or were "unsure" of the new city logo with its industrial emphasis.

Villarreal, according to a Brownsville Herald article by Aisha Baskette, is aware of considerable dissatisfaction with the new logo as well as a preference for the old one.  Tonight's agenda item, co-sponsored by Commissioner Rick Longoria, is also motivated by a desire to include Longoria, who missed the 9/15/15 meeting, in the process.

The Old City Logo
While any number of Texas cities, can be identified with the sight, smell and sound of industry, energy production and commerce, Brownsville's uniqueness has always been the combination of a subtropical climate, history and proximity to Mexico and the ocean.

Logo Pitchman Ron Oliveira
Ron Oliveira, a former local TV anchor, now a salesman for Hahn Communications, vociferously and melodramatically argued for the new logo 9'15/15, not revealing that the initial $140,000 outlay would be followed up with $820,000 to implement, market and promote the new city brand.  A job description, as sort of a city cheerleader, a position seemingly tailor-made for Oliveira, was on the City of Brownsville website until October 29.  We do not know if that position has been filled. 

Addendum:  The vote 9/15/15 was 3-2 for the new logo with Commissioners Gowen, Portillo and Villarreal voting "yes," and Tetreau and De Leon voting "no."  Mayor Martinez in his exuberance inappropriately voted, erroneously declaring the vote as 4-2(Under the City Charter, the mayor is authorized to vote only in the case of a tie.).

With Villarreal having a change of heart and Longoria now opposing the new logo, the new logo may likely be overturned, 4-2.  Whether or not a return to the former logo saves the city money remains to be seen.  


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo