Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday's Board Appointments Put 4A Funds Back Under Control of City Commission

BEDC Director Jason Hilts
In 1992 the City of Brownsville decided to take advantage of a 1989 Texas law allowing the establishment a 4A entity to receive 1/2 cent of the 8-1/4 cent sales tax collected to use for economic development. The Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the beneficiary of such monies, has, according to their website, spent $49,000,000 from that taxpayer fund, $12,000,000 on "operating expenditures" and $37,000,000 on "project expenditures."

In 2002 Brownsville decided to split the 4A funds into a 4A and 4B, with a 4B entity getting 1/4 cent from each taxable dollar for "quality of life" projects. Since that time the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation declares $10,300,000 spent on such projects.

Vetting and recommending projects for the GBIC is its symbiotic sister board, the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation. The GBIC actually holds its meetings in the BEDC Board Room and BEDC Director Jason Hilts is the most vocal, active participant in those meetings.

One of the original, stated purposes of diverting tax dollars into separate funds was so that economic development and quality of life projects would not be "politicized" by being under the exclusive control of elected officials who might be tempted to disperse patronage in the form of 4a and 4b projects.

Commissioner Debbie Portillo
With that backdrop, it was a bit stunning that the City Commission this past Tuesday countermanded the original intent of separating 4a and 4b monies from the general fund by appointing two commissioners, Debbie Portillo and Cesar de Leon as board members.  With Commissioner Jessica Tetreau already serving on the GBIC board, that essentially gives the City Commission majority control of the five member GBIC.

Commissioner Cesar de Leon
Bypassed with the appointment of two city commissioners were four applicants from various districts in the city:  Cynthia Garza, Gerardo Martinez, Alberto Velez and Myles R. Garza.  De Leon and Portillo replace the outgoing Al Villarreal and Ewing Sikes, both of whom indicated a willingness to serve despite having completed their four year stint.

Although having a majority of the GBIC board coming from the City Commission is a bad precedent, the function should actually improve. The board has been miserably gutless, simply rubber stamping ill-advised projects submitted by the BEDC, such as Titan Tire, the $454,592,08 for the Greater Brownsville Infrastructure & Development Plan, along with the $180,000 to Jacobs Engineering for its implementation, etc., with mealy-mouthed huckster, Jason Hilts, easily manipulating the awards.   My hope is that De Leon, Tetreau and Portillo will more carefully scrutinize projects presented for their approval.


  1. Are you kidding Jim.... They are 4 sitting elected officials there that use that money for their own pet projects. None of them are interested in bringing industrial jobs to Brownsville. Just wait they will be more studies done for Carlos Marin and Oscar Gar.

  2. Great achievement for those 3 youngsters, at their age, they landed right where the money is, just hope they don't get too greedy.

  3. If they have pet projects fine as long it benefits the tax payer majority.

  4. 3 commissioners on 4A and 2 on 4B.

    So much for public participation. Brownsville FAIL.



"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?  then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." ...