Friday, March 25, 2016

Limitations of the New BCIC Office Simply Prove Commissioner De Leon's Point

BCIC Board Meeting(Photo by Nena Barton)
Standing before the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, I felt like Dagoberto Barrera, an old man chastising the city or county commission to "live within their means." The two short videos below are my public comment at the new BCIC office at 2424 Village Drive at the start of the board's 3/24/16 meeting.

It wasn't exactly a Dagoberto style scolding, but I tried to explain that $86,983 to lease and furnish an office at 2424 Village Drive was a totally unnecessary waste of hard-earned 4B "Quality of Life" tax dollars.  If the City of Brownsville has anything, it is office space.  The  13 buildings purchased in 2012 for $3.5 million stand primarily unused, off the tax rolls, deteriorating.

City Commissioner Cesar de Leon
As City Commissioner Cesar de Leon explained to the GBIC board 2/18/16, the City Commission chambers are underutilized, vacant 99% of the time.  De Leon wants both the GBIC and BCIC meetings tranferred to the City Commission chambers that he feels are more hospitable to taxpayer attendance.

As we commented in our 2/18/16 blog article:

"Typically, visitors sit on the fringe of a large table, nearly out of hearing of the discussion taking place. Board members, without microphone enhancement or the will to speak loudly enough or distinctly enough for visitors to hear, discuss business involving millions of dollars of taxpayer money. That description particularly applies to the GBIC and BCIC boards responsible for dispersing millions of Brownsville taxpayer dollars, 4A and 4B funds, on economic development and quality of life projects."

Despite the attractiveness of the newly leased and furnished BCIC office at 2424 Village Drive, the setup is not conducive to observers gaining much from the meeting. BCIC Executive Director Rebeca Castillo discussed several agenda items, but, sitting just a few feet away, I could not hear much.  I did hear her refer several times to United Brownsville, that unelected, self-appointed collection of elitists who have pushed themselves into control of economic development in the industrial corridor.

Of the two young men standing in Nena's photo above, who work in the city's grants procurement department, but, inexplicably presented on behalf of E-Civis, a software firm that has sold BCIC on an extended contract, $30,000 the first year and $16,000 per year for the life of the contract, one presenter was totally inaudible. (The selling point was the inclusion of Brownsville non-profits in using the software to search for grants.  In answer to a board members question, no non-profits used the service during the first year of the contract.)

The video monitor on the wall was small, rendering the font too tiny to read.

All of the above illustrates the accuracy of De Leon's observation that the City Commission chambers would be far more suitable for these types of meetings.  Microphone enhancement, a large video monitor, ample seating and a centralized location are huge advantages as well as the obvious elimination of the need for a $46,000 annual lease.

Part of the inertia for the BCIC to find office space outside their old quarters at the City Commission building were complaints of having offices in "closets."  Don't you think some of the money spent on the lease($46,000) or furniture($41,000) could have been used to knock down a wall or two and create suitable office space?  That would have been more prudent use of 4B tax dollars.

From the editor:  Below are Nena's two videos of my public comment making some of the same points written above.  Nena interrupted the video after 54 seconds to make sure the recorder was working, then continued.


  1. Who is the meeting room being leased from and who did they purchase the furnishings from?

  2. That lease shows amazing incompetency. There are great offices available downtown. The Young House, and houses on E Elizabeth. Leaving downtown goes against the City's Comprehensive Plan to boot. If they wanted to leave downtown, the Levi Building has unused office space and that runs the city 280k a year.

  3. Good piece. That lease shows that amazing incompetence. City offices that are available include the 5k plus square footage in the Young House, wholly city owned and the unused office space at the old Levi warehouse that is running citizens 280K a year or so. Plus the BCIC should be supporting downtown as the City's Comprehensive Plan calls for.

  4. Typical Backwards Brownsville. Why does Brownsville always have to waste money? Mr. De Leon is exactly right because he knows why the board was formed and for the exact reasons. BCIC was supposed to be used to complete projects like community centers, ecomomic development, parks improvements, bike trails, etc. While Brownsville BCIC puts average citizens on the board, McAllen (and many other TexaS cities) keep the board as a "sort of" city department. In fact, McAllen's board is managed through the city manager's office. 4b funded projects are mostly projects that the City of McAllen wants to use 4b funds to supplement the General Fund. In Brownsville, the City departments have to compete with any and every organization to acquire funds. Ciclobia? Camille Theater productions? Check out this link and see how efficient their program is and it is only just up the road. Look at all of the projects they have completed and the "type" of projects. It's a shame Jim. A total shame.



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