Saturday, January 30, 2016

We Welcome "Brownsville Bright" to the Blogosphere

Today we received this inbox note from Juan Fidencio Trevino, the publisher a a new blog, Brownsille Bright.  We welcome Juan to the blogosphere:

"Good afternoon, Mr. Barton. 

Juan Fidencio Trevion
As possibly the newest local Brownsville blogger, I wanted to thank you for being a part of the reason why I became interested in this field. The way you use your voice to inform people is inspiring, and I hope to emulate that effectiveness in Brownsville Bright. Consider me a friendly face. I hope we can both be positive influences to our city."

Juan Fidencio Trevino

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Press Release from John Chambers About Conviction and Sentencing

Sheriff Candidate John Chambers Sentenced to 5 Years Probation~UPDATE: Response from Chambers

This inbox from someone attending the sentencing:  
"Jim, Chambers received 5 yrs probation, 350 hours of community service, complete cognitive thinking course and  $2,800 fine plus court costs."

Just received this message from John Chambers: 

"It is up for appeal so everything is suspended.. no mandate..I'm confident it will be reversed on appeal. This is crooked."

Tony Yzaguirre: "I Did Nothing Wrong! It's All Political!"

Tony Yzaguirre

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin and Matias Testi, the Man He Allegedly Assaulted

Fox Reporter Megyn Kelly States View of Trump as He Spurns Debate

Fox News Reporter Megyn Kelly
Megyn Kelly, a reporter for Fox News, on her personal view of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump:  “I neither like nor dislike him, I don’t have any feelings about them. I study these guys as subjects — they are subjects for me to study and to help the audience get to know, so I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about him.”

Donald Trump at Earlier Debate(Fox News Photo)
Trump has declined to participate in Thursday's Republican debate, initially stating it was because Kelly is one of the moderators and is "biased" against him. He later laid the blame of his non-participation squarely on a Fox News semi-humorous jibe at him, which stated that network officials “had learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president.”''

Trump may also not want to enrich a news network that he feels has insulted him:  

“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump told reporters. 

“Why do I have to make Fox rich?”

Friday, January 22, 2016

saveRGVfromLNG Meets at Galleria 409 Art Gallery January 28 at 6:00 PM

How the Brownsville Economic Development Council Fails Brownsville, But Serves Carlos Marin

BEDC President Jason Hilts
Some years ago, while working in a union shop, a co-worker divulged a novel form of work slowdown:  "Jim, you and the others hustle around all day, walking fast, pretending to work, but not actually doing anything.  Anytime the supervisor looks in, he sees you and the rest of your team working, but he can't figure out why nothing seems to get done."

This long ago conversation came to mind last night as I listened once more to Jason Hilts recount the hundreds of jobs, dozens of companies coming "soon" to Brownsville through the efforts of the Brownsville Economic Development Council.  

While the BEDC staffers scurry around the planet(16 trips to Colombia alone in the last 3 years) spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on travel alone, Brownsville somehow remains the country's "poorest city,"17 years of busy work, millions of dollars of 4A funding squandered with negligible economic development.

A half-occupied old Titan Tire building and a multi-million dollar industrial park with no tenants testify to the council's impotence.

After last night's meeting of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the BEDC's symbiotic partner, releasing the funds for the projects the council recommends, new GBIC board member Cesar de Leon showed me a graph comparison of sales tax revenue for Harlingen, Brownsville and McAllen.  Harlingen and Brownsville were relatively close on the bar graph with McAllen soaring much higher.

GBIC Board Member Cesar de Leon
"Forget McAllen.  Just look at Harlingen and Brownsville. Harlingen has a population of 63,000 with Brownsville easily at 180,000, yet the sales tax revenue generated is fairly close.  We should triple their revenue based on the size of our city, not to mention the close proximity to Matamoros," explained De Leon.

During last night's GBIC meeting De Leon chided the BEDC for not communicating with the City Commission about projects being pursued and objectives:  "I've been on the City Commission for six months but not once did I receive even a phone call from the BEDC until it was learned that I was coming on this board.  How can we work with you if you do not communicate?"

De Leon also explained that he did not intend to serve permanently on the GBIC board.  "Once we get this thing rolling, I will gladly resign."


Carlos Marin, Ambiotec Engineering, United Brownsville
Coordinating Board
Local bloggers and knowledgeable citizens understand how the BEDC/GBIC tandem is crippled by the undue influence and manipulation of Ambiotec President Carlos Marin.  Marin, along with his compadres in the United Brownsville scam want actual control over industrial development at the Port of Brownsville and the corridor along FM 550. 

Marin, represented by a colleague who worked with him on the $1,000,000 Imagine Brownsville plan, Robin McCaffrey, pushed through the GBIC a development plan for the industrial corridor.  The plan was unanimously approved by the GBIC without a single mention of the cost to the taxpayers.  After repeated calls to former GBIC board member Ruben Gallegos, Jr. we finally learned the cost, $454,592.08. 

Marin's hand could next be discerned in an agenda item to award Jacobs Engineering $750,000 to "implement" the $454,000 plan.  Jacobs Engineering was the "only" firm to respond the the GBIC's request for proposal and the firm insisted on the hiring of Oscar Garcia, Jr. as "Project Engineer," despite the young man having zero experience in that role.  Young Garcia, a former employee of Marin and son of United Brownsville Coordinating Board member Juliet Garcia, revealed Marin's obvious manipulation.

Marin's influence was still obvious at last night's GBIC meeting in at least three items on the agenda.  Jacobs Engineering was listed for "approval of payment" although Oscar Garcia, Jr. called to have the matter tabled.  VIDA, a charity routinely funded $25,000 per month(Marin is listed on the Board of Directors) received their money for December.  A firm named South Texas Electric Corporation was given permission for an easement at the North Brownsville Industrial Park. Interestingly, they were represented by an engineer from Ambiotec, Marin's firm.  It must be nice to have your own personal economic development council.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Can Cesar de Leon Jumpstart the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation?

Commissioner Cesar de Leon
"Contrary to any rumors you may have heard, I'm not here to fire anyone," explained Cesar de Leon when introduced by tepid GBIC Board Chairman David Betancourt.  

That disclaimer and its implications set the tone for Thursday's GBIC Board Meeting at the Itec Center.  BEDC  Board President/CEO Jason Hilts got the subtle message: "We want to work with you," he replied.

Jessica Tetreau, one of three city commissioners, along with De Leon and Debbie Portillo, now on the five member board, was emboldened to state: "I don't know why we are spending all that money on an office in Colombia.  Why can't we work more closely with Mexico, our neighbor?"(El Rrun Rrun reports $314,438 spent to date renting and staffing the Colombian office.)

"We no longer have an employee in Colombia," Jason Hilts blurted out.  "We've been having some of these same conversations among ourselves. There was a time when if we tried to cultivate industry in Matamoros, the City Commission would say 'Why aren't you doing this in Brownsville?'"

Martin "Bob" Metzger
Attorney Noe Robles signed up for public comment simply to introduce Martin "Bob" Metzger, CFO for the Gateway Global Group. According to Robles, Metztger's group plans to build a "four star hotel" in Brownsville. Somewhat cynical, I googled "Gateway Global Group" once home, finding a substantial company with luxury condos, apartments, homes, etc. in several states as well as in Brownsville, TX.

Cesar de Leon chastised the BEDC(The BEDC's role is to vet items for the GBIC to approve and fund.) for not providing documentation for some of the items presented for approval:  "I don't care if Jesus Christ wants something approved, I'm voting 'No!' without some kind of report."

Oscar Garcia, Jr., the "Project Engineer" for Jacobs Engineering, called to ask that the agenda item asking for more funding be tabled, possibly being spooked by De Leon, Tetreau et al. 

Hilts in between pumping Project Sizzle, Project Roman, Project Ranger, etc. mentioned Project Front Door, a new commercial mall planned for across the interstate from Rancho Viejo. 

16 Trips to Bogota, Colombia Highlight BEDC's Public Information Response

Bogota, Colombia, the #1 Destination of BEDC Officials
In the pursuit of economic development for the City of Brownsville, BEDC operatives traveled sixteen times to the exotic destination of Bogota, Colombia during fiscal years 2013-15.(We've published the full report just below this article.)  While typically a combination of Jason Hilts, Gilberto Salinas and Olga Ramos made the Colombia trip, one contingent included as many as eleven.  

Graphic by Diego Lee Rot
From inside City of Brownsville government, a frequent flier was Mayor Tony Martinez, with five trips mentioned, most international.  The mayor, BEDC President Jason Hilts and Tony Cappella made one sojourn that included the countries of Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.  Yes, Tony Martinez is more than willing to travel the world on the taxpayer's dime, but couldn't make it to the town hall meetings on Lincoln Park, downtown parking or even the City of Brownsville employees annual party, cementing the perception of the mayor as an elitist, with no interest in the common citizen.

An anomaly in the list of trips furnished by Jason Hilts were 5 visits to Brownsville, Texas, of all places, by Olga Ramos.  These were cleverly labeled by Jason Hilts as "Inbound Mission I, Inbound Mission II, Inbound Mission III, Inbound Mission IV and Inbound Mission V."  Perhaps, there is some logical explanation for the taxpayers to foot the bill for 5 trips to Brownsville.

As reported in a previous article, $312,541 of taxpayer monies were spent on travel by the BEDC during the three years.  

We requested a more detailed report, including the cost of each trip.  Mr. Hilts said that was possible, but the labor involved would necessitate charging a $270 fee.  Here is how Hilts delineated the charges:

Labor, 4 hours to locate/compile travel costs for 2013 @$15.00 per hour.     $60

Labor, 4 hours to locate/compile travel costs for 2014@$15.00 per hour.      $60

Labor, 4 hours to locate/compile travel costs for 2015@$15.00 per hour.      $60

Labor, 6 hours to prepare summary spreadsheet and electronic redaction @$15.00 per hour

Total for Labor & Overhead $270

Full BEDC Response to Public Information Request on Travel, 2013-15

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

BEDC Responds to Our Public Information Request for Travel Expenses. . . Sort of

BEDC President/CEO Jason Hilts
The hardworking taxpayers of this poorest city in the United States pay a heavy stipend so their city commissioners, port officials, economic development gurus and associates can travel throughout the world wining, dining and lodging themselves in the style of Jackie and Aristotle Onassis.

Who can forget the gluttonous, "fuck you, taxpayers" meals of the Port of Brownsville commissioners when the obese Ralph Cowen and a couple of other port commissioners gorged themselves on consecutive meals costing Brownsville taxpayers $1,600 and $1,800 each?

Recently we've been alerted to "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in travel expenses by the Brownsville Economic Development Council in their feigned pursuit of businesses desirous of locating or relocating in Brownsville.  (The BEDC has largely been unsuccessful.  Yes, there is SpaceX, but Elon Musk CHOSE Boca Chica as a launch site because of latitude, not the BEDC. The empty Titan Tire building and desolate North Brownsville Industrial Site scream the economic failure of this board.  The agenda of the next BEDC meeting is dotted with Carlos Marin pet projects; Jacobs Engineering and VIDA.)

With that backdrop we sent a Public Information Request to the BEDC simply asking for the amount of taxpayer money spent on travel for 2013-5, the cost of each trip and a list of those who went. BEDC Executive Vice President Gilbert Salinas responded, indicating the search for information would be time-consuming, possibly taking the requisite ten business days or more.

Near the deadline for response, we received a note from the BEDC signed by Jason Hilts indicating the total amount spent for travel during 2013-5, $312,541,  Hilts wanted an additional fee of $270 to tell us the cost of each trip.(I can buy my grandson a new laptop for that amount.)  Here is the "Response to Barton" as the BEDC called it:

Dear Mr. Barton, 

In response to your public information request received via email January 4, 2016 pertaining to the number of trips by the BEDC 2013-15 and pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act are the following responses numbered 1-3 and Appendix A.

1. Total number of trips of the BEDC.

     1. Please see Appendix A.
2. Cost of each trip.
     1. Annual expenditures for all BEDC travel per the follow years:
         FY 2013- $109,615
         FY 2014- $108,401
         FY 2015-  $94,525(unaudited)
3. Names of those traveling
     1. Please see Appendix A.

Despite stonewalling on the cost of each trip, Hilts or actually his secretary told us who went where during 2013-15.  Tony Martinez, for one, took full advantage of traveling, wining and dining on taxpayer money.

Offending BISD Barbacoa Processed in Gomez Palacio, Durango

Valco Foods LLC Food Photography
This past October Brownsville Herald reporter Gary Long wrote an article praising BISD's cafeteria food, especially the newly introduced Mexican food items from Valco Foods, Inc.  Here is an excerpt from Gary's story:

"On Thursday, the reaction to the Mexican food items BISD will be serving was much the same. The vendor, Valco Foods, a Mexican company whose U.S. operations are based in McAllen , served up samples almost as quickly as it could prepare them.

“It tastes really fresh. I don’t get that processed taste at all,” said Bryana Cantu, a senior at Mission Veterans Memorial. “The al pastor tastes like you’re eating at a restaurant. It’s better. I can’t find something I don’t like.”

Company representative Jose Manuel Alegre said Valco’s products all have USDA and international certifications, and meet USDA’s nutritional guidelines for schools.

Fast forward to this past November and it's been reported in El Rrun Rrun blog and Erasmo Castro's Brownsville Cheezmeh Facebook page of some problems with the meat purchased from Valco.  A statement on the BISD website claims none of this meat was ever served to students:

"The Brownsville ISD Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) meets all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) procurement guidelines in the purchase of food products for student and employee consumption. Early November 2015, a batch of meat product that was not up to district standards was immediately recalled from all BISD cafeterias when several district and campus FNS employees noticed that the product was defective and proactively reported their concerns. It is important to note that none of this meat product was served at any BISD campuses. The product was returned to the vendor for full credit and BISD has discontinued the purchase of meat products that are processed in Mexico.

This meat product was raised and purchased in the United States from a USDA approved vendor but was processed in Mexico according to USDA guidelines and under the supervision of a USDA inspector. It is allowable for any school food service department to purchase food processed outside the United States under certain USDA exceptions.

Brownsville ISD has and will continue to follow all USDA procurement guidelines to ensure that quality products are served to BISD students. The BISD Food and Nutrition Service provides over 96,000 nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and suppers each weekday to district students.The Brownsville ISD Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) meets all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) procurement guidelines in the purchase of food products for student and employee consumption. Early November 2015, a batch of meat product that was not up to district standards was immediately recalled from all BISD cafeterias when several district and campus FNS employees noticed that the product was defective and proactively reported their concerns. It is important to note that none of this meat product was served at any BISD campuses. The product was returned to the vendor for full credit and BISD has discontinued the purchase of meat products that are processed in Mexico.

Reading the fine print on the Valco Foods LLC website, it appears the product in question originated from a processor operating in an industrial park in Gomez Palacio, Durango.

Actually, the meat purchased, barbacoa de res, was sold at a reduced price according to a memo sent out by Region One Purchasing Coordinator Lon Atwood Ramos, stating:  "Effective immediately this price change for Barbacoa Beef, Item #2054.  Previous case price, $166.02.  New case price, $160.62.

The published nutritional facts indicated that a 2 ounce portion of the barbacoa contained 93 calories with 42 of those calories being from fat.

Our Letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Concerning House Bill 283

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
We've sent Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton a letter, asking for his assistance in enforcing HB 283 with respect to the internet video of City Commission meetings. The video posted on the City of Brownsville website illegally omits the Public Comment portion of the January 5, 2016 meeting, that is Agenda Item #11.
An email copy of the letter was also sent to City Manager Charlie Cabler and forwarded to Mayor Tony Martinez and the City Commission.

Attorney General Ken Paxton
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548

Dear General Paxton,

We are respectfully requesting enforcement of HB 283 with respect to City Of Brownsville City Commission meetings. As we explained to an attorney in your Open Government Division, the City of Brownsville omits one critical portion of City Commission meeting in their online video, that is Public Comment. The attorney agreed that all of the meeting available to the general public should be included in the video as required by Texas law.

The agenda of the January 5, 2016 City Commission meeting shows Public Comment as Agenda Item #11, but the video released several days later on the City of Brownsville website omits this item.

Thank you for your help in this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Jim Barton

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Palin Endorses Trump; Dumb and Dumber Join Forces in Iowa

New York Times Photo
A day after showing his unfamiliarity with Scripture at Liberty University, Donald Trump gleefully accepted the endorsement of the nutty, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,  a lady who used to gaze at Russia from her bathroom window.

“Are you ready for the leader to make America great again?” Palin teased the audience at Iowa State University.

“Are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States — Donald J. Trump.”

Could Trump-Palin be the Republican team for 2016?  It's possible.  These are strange times with Trump's idiotic hate rhetoric, while not going unchallenged, still seemingly effective with a certain constituency.

I recall in 1968 when racist George Wallace resonated with Wisconsin voters in a presidential primary.  Wallace did touch on themes of concern to white voters, but did not make the outlandish, uninformed assertions Trump is making now.
City Attorney Mark Sossi

On the other end of the political spectrum, Brownsville City Attorney Mark Sossi was observed today getting into his older model Land Rover Discovery.  Displayed prominently on the back window glass, "Bernie Sanders for President."  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dan Sanchez Says He Gets Criticized for Election Code Violations Because He's An "Independent Thinker"

"He who is faithful in a very little thing
Is faithful also in much;
And he who is unrighteous in a very little thing
Is unrighteous also in much."

St. Luke Chapter 16, Verse 10

Dan Sanchez(Brownsville Herald photo)
In Sunday's Brownsville Herald, reporter Frank Garza walked lingering County Commissioner Dan Sanchez through several apparent Texas Election Code violations in his campaign for County Judge.  A number of these indiscretions were first reported in Juan Montoya's El Rrun Rrun, but at least one in this blog.  A search in the Herald's archives revealed no mention of the violations before today's article.

Judge David Sanchez(middle of pic) wearing
"Dan Sanchez for County Judge" t-shirt
One of the apparent violations involved Dan's brother David Sanchez, a district court judge, pictured wearing a "Dan Sanchez for County Judge" t-shirt.  The Herald cited Canon 5 of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, which states: “a judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party.”

Judge David Sanchez claims that before wearing a t-shirt supporting his brother's campaign, he called Seana Willing, the Executive Director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  Willing, according to Sanchez claimed that the judge's right to free speech trumped the judicial canon:  “Certainly when it comes to political activities, you have to look at whether or not the judge’s free speech rights outweigh the states’ interest in regulating conduct to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary,” Willing said according to the judge.

That rationale renders Canon 5 impotent as a judge could always claim his right to free speech.

The Herald reporter also mentions a sign violation with the word "for" being so tiny that the reader might assume the candidate already held the office.  Dan Sanchez claims no one ever told him the font was too small.

As to wearing a campaign button to a County Commission meeting, Dan Sanchez says he normally takes it off, but just "forgot."

Sanchez also theorizes as to why observers have mentioned so many alleged violations in his campaign:

“You won’t always have everyone supporting you. There’s a few that may not like you because you’re not part of the establishment, and they don’t want you in office because you’re an independent thinker. You’re serving for the right reasons without owing anything to anyone,” Sanchez said.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

City of Brownsville in Violation of HB283 with January 5, 2016 City Commission Meeting

Texas House Bill 283 became law June 17, 2015 after being signed by Governor Abbott.  The bill received nearly unanimous support, approved 143-4 by the Texas House of Representitives and 29-2 by the Texas Senate.  

The bill gives all Texas citizens access to the meetings of local government entities, city commissions and school boards when the cities or school districts meet certain size requirements,  namely cities with a population of 50,000 or more and school districts with 10,000 or more students.

City governments are given some leeway in cases of "catastrophe" or "technical breakdown," but still required to make the video available in a "timely manner."

When we shared our concern with the Texas Office of Attorney General that the City of Brownsville would fail to include the Public Comment portion of the meeting in their video, we were informed that they did not have that option.  "If its part of the meeting, it must be in the video," the office attorney informed us.

The video for the 1/5/16 City Commission meeting is now available on the City of Brownsville website.  It does NOT include Agenda item #11, that is Public Comment as required by Texas law.  The video goes mute at the 26:21 mark, showing only a "Public Comment" notice, then resumes at 29:32, that is 3 minutes, 11 seconds later.  Evidently, only one person signed up and participated in the agenda item.

The City of Brownsville seems to be in clear violation of Texas law.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Texas Law Mandates Broadcast of City Commission Public Comment Online

Danya Perez-Hernandez
A filler story in Sunday's Brownsville Herald datelined McAllen caught my eye.  While the story had Brownsville implications, there was no effort to remodel the story for this city's readers.  I doubt that Brownsville Herald editor Ryan Henry even read the story.

The original story, written by Danya Perez-Hernandez for The Monitor, reported how, beginning January 1, 2016, Texas cities with a population of 50,000 or more would be required to place their city government meetings online within 7 days of the meeting, preserving the video for two years:

Access to the decisions of elected government officials is about to get easier as some counties, cities and school districts are now required by law to make video recordings of public meetings available online.

House Bill 283 was signed into law in June 2015 and became effective Jan. 1. It requires school districts with an enrollment of 10,000 students or more, municipalities with a population of 50,000 or more, and counties with a population of 125,000 to record audio and video of board, city council and           commissioner court meetings and make these available online
Currently, Brownsville makes its City Commission meeting available on Brownsville TV Channel 12 with the videos eventually finding their way to the City of Brownsville website.  The one inexcusable exception to that policy is the Public Comment section of City Commission meetings.  As per city policy, the viewpoints of taxpayers are NOT broadcast on Channel 12 and not included in the City Commission videos on the city's website.

City Attorney Mark Sossi
The genesis of the non-broadcast of public comments policy may well reside with City Attorney Mark Sossi, although then Mayor Pat Ahumada, along with the City Commission, were complicit. When a taxpayer mentioned via letter in 2010, then another referred in public comment the impropriety of the City of Brownsville engaging the law firm of Willette & Guerra, the very firm winning a $167,323 judgement for theft of funds by Mark Sossi, the city attorney concocted one of his notorious, but suspect legal opinions, pronouncing the broadcast of public comments a dangerous practice, opening up the city to litigation.  Obviously, he was simply covering his ass.
Mayor Tony Martinez

The dumbass practice of recording and preserving every precious syllable of the mayor and commissioners, but throwing the switch the instant a taxpayer stepped up to the public comment podium continued into the Tony Martinez regime.  Many thought that first term Martinez would quickly revert to a more democratic philosophy then his predecessor in dealing with public comment.  Most were shocked when they heard his words on the subject.  Mayor Martinez now said something that 91% of the electorate who voted to change mayors hoped they would never hear: 

"I'd like to continue doing things the way the previous administration did them. It's been working pretty good so far. I don't want to change that."

Former City Commissioner Zamora
In 2011 City Commissioner Melissa Zamora put the broadcast of public comments back on the agenda.  That attempt to restore some semblance of democratic principles to the city commission was thwarted by Martinez and Sossi.

Here are this blog's comments, August 12, 2011, the day after Commissioner Melissa Zamora tried to reinstate the broadcast of public comment:

"Melissa Hernandez-Zamora seemed dumbstruck when City Attorney Sossi stood up to give opposition testimony concerning the broadcast of public comment item she had placed on the agenda. It was obvious that Commissioner Zamora had not been advised of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Mayor Martinez and his eager cohort Sossi. Sossi, afterall, had the most to lose from public comment broadcast since it was comments about his questionable ethics that triggered the ban in the first place. As Zamora got her bearings, Martinez waved Sossi the "go ahead". Sossi made no attempt in his feeble, highschoolish power point to express a legal opinion. There was no mention of free speech, the first amendment, the constitution or even the phony liability issues he has pretended previously. Those might have been worthy legal issues. Instead he expressed only viewpoints, unscientific at best, but most likely simply wrong. With a straight face he used a pie chart to illustrate the greater "diversity" of commenters since the ban, not even having the honesty to acknowledge that many of those new participants were speaking out against the anti-democratic ban. He also railed against grandstanding as he grandstanded.

With the passing of House Bill 283, with its mandate that City Commission meetings be uploaded to the internet, even YouTube, we were curious if public comment was covered by this new law and sent that question to the Texas Office of the Attorney General. That call was returned this morning.  

"I believe I understand your question.  If public comment is part of a City Commission meeting, then, yes, that part of the meeting, as well as all others, must be shared on the internet.  That is what this law mandates.  It does not require this of meetings before January 1, 2016, just those afterward."

So, there we have it.  Unless the Martinez, Sossi tandem tries to circumvent the law, public comment will be accessible to all Brownsville taxpayers via the internet.  With the difficulty of making two separate city commission videos, one for Channel 12 and one for the City of Brownsville website, we should reasonably see the broadcast of public comment on the public television outlet as well.

Office of Texas Attorney General Rules City Must Broadcast Public Comment on the Internet Effective January 1, 2016

We've been in touch with the Office of Attorney General for the State of Texas.  Our question was concerning the implications of recently passed House Bill 283, requiring City Commission meetings to be shared on the internet.  When we mentioned that the City of Brownsville had been excluding the Public Comment portion of the meeting from the public broadcast and video, an attorney with the office indicated that was no longer lawful.  We will have the full story later this evening when we get back home.  

Dan Sanchez~Total Dumbass or Above the Law?

County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, Sporting a Campaign Button During Commissioner's Meeting, Clearly in Violation of Texas Election Code(Brownsville Herald photo by Brad Doherty)

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie Dies of Cancer at Age 69

There was only one performance I wanted to share, Bowie's rendition of Paul Simon's "America" at the Concert for New York just after 9/11.  After all these years, that has been removed from You Tube for "copyright violations."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Picking and Grinning" by Diego Lee Rot

Borderland Beat: Mexico's Office of the Attorney General Investigating Kate del Castillo for El Chapo Connection

Sunday, January 10, 2016

PGR investigating Kate del Castillo's connection to El Chapo

Lucio R. Borderland Beat-written with material from Excelsior and RioDoce

Actress Kate del Castillo is being investigated by the Attorney General's Office (PGR), after it was announced she has conducted personal communication with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman from 2012.

The actor Sean Penn and del Castillo had met with the drug lord while he was in hiding in the  Golden Triangle, last October, Excelsior consulted an official of the PGR, on the situation of Kate Castillo, who in 2012 wrote a letter to the Sinaloa Cartel kingpin, to which he said: "We are investigating the actress Kate del Castillo".

In the Rolling Stone interview, which triggered the PGR investigation,  Penn said a lawyer for El Chapo contacted del Castillo and sent her flowers, but claims she never received them. In 2014 El Chapo was captured and imprisoned received offers to make a movie of his life, although he did not accept the offers.

Penn said in his article,  the drug dealer decided to make the film of his life, but on his own, but that would Kate del Castillo would be a part of it. Then the same lawyer who had been commissioned to bring flowers 'El Chapo'  located del Castillo through the National Association of Actors.

Del Castillo had written  contact with Guzman in prison and then again when he escaped on July 11, 2015, which interested Penn,  not for the movie but for the interview with Rolling Stone and is now the subject of investigation of Kate del Castillo.

Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez, eluded to the fact that it was “el Chapo’s ” mission to make an autobiographical movie that led to his whereabouts, as he contacted producers and actors.  It wasn’t until the news broke of the Penn interview, that the dots were able to be connected.

Reforma is reporting that Penn is also under investigation.

Actor Sean Penn Secretly Met With El Chapo For Rolling Stone Interview B...

Removing Historical Symbols That Remind Us of Racism and Oppression

The swastika, borrowed by Hitler's Germany from the Hindus, the Buddhists, even the Aztecs and noted as an early form of the cross, is nonetheless a distasteful symbol to many Americans, particularly those whose predecessors were victims of the holocaust.

Can symbols, emblems, flags, statues, even street names bring back painful memories, make certain groups in our society feel less welcome?  No doubt.

Antonio Castillo
Brownsville resident Antonio Castillo's open letter to the City Commission requesting the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument from Washington Park was published in El Rrun Rrun December 21, 2015.  Mr. Castillo has since reached out to us as to support of the statue's removal. 

Here is part of Mr. Castillo's argument in his letter to the City Commission asking the statue be removed:  

What do you think the monument tells families when they are enjoying the park? My wife is African-American, so my children are of mixed heritage. We have a growing population of African-Americans in this community. This monument does not welcome the descendants of those who've been enslaved and oppressed in the past. Our nation fought to unify our country during the Civil War. Sadly, many people did not obtain full rights until the 1960s. We don't need reminders of a bygone era in a space that should be welcoming. We need to stop kissing up to the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy! They claim that it is heritage. Well, their heritage thought that it was a God-given right to own people. This is not right.

Mr. Castillo then suggests a replacement statue for Washington Park:

I urge you to remove this monument. Move it to a museum, replace the plaque with a respectable historical figure, or even add an Abraham Lincoln plaque to it. We can honor history without being racist. Let's welcome all Americans to Brownsville.

It's interesting that Castillo suggests an Abraham Lincoln plaque to replace the Jefferson Davis statue.  While Lincoln is generally viewed as fighting slavery, as we reported in a June 29, 2015 blog article, that was not his real motivation:

"The President was referring to the abhorrent practice of slavery,
common in the United States since colonial days, wrongfully assumed to be the principal issue of the Civil War. Then President Abraham Lincoln, in an 1862 letter to New York Tribune Editor Horace Greely, explained the real reason for that war:

If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views."

Charles Stillman Ranch House, Shortly After
Transport to Linear Park
Speaking of historical relics that offend, bringing back memories of an era when the civil rights of a minority were not protected, think the Stillman House, now situated in Linear Park. Many in our town are repulsed by the perception of this shack as a shelter used in forced sexual liaisons between Stillman, his ranch hands and Mexican female servants.  With all due respect, historian/general contractor Larry Lof has now, with his over the top "restoration," submerged the original ranch house inside what looks like a suburban Peoria, IL three bedroom house.  Perhaps Lof overreacted to Attorney John Shergold's complaints of the public danger and unsightliness of the structure.

Below are pictured other offensive symbols.  Some have been removed, others remain:

Decapitated Head of Joseph Stalin Statue During Hungarian Revolution of 1956
Sadam Hussein Statue About to Tumble in Baghdad in 2003
Statue of President Barack Obama Eating Watermelon in Front Yard of Kentucky Resident
Mexican Restaurant Statue Considered Racist
Unauthorized $2,500 Portraits of Aurora de la Garza and Joe Rivera


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo