Monday, March 28, 2016

Options the BCIC Ignored Before Spending $86,000 in One Year on Office Space

In 2015 the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation was restless.  They felt stifled and somewhat disrespected having to meet in in the spacious Human Resources room on the fourth floor of the City Commission building.  The small rooms, where the executive director and secretary did their work to facilitate the dispersal of so-called "quality of life" 4B tax dollars, were described as mere "closets."

With the tax dollars of this poorest city of the United States burning a hole in their collective pockets, the BCIC decided to move out of their no-additional-cost-to-the-taxpayer digs at the City Commission building and leased new digs at 2424 Village Drive, just off of Price Road near El Globo Supermarket.  The first year basic cost to the taxpayers was $86,983 including a $46,000 annual lease and $41,000 for furnishings and equipment.

Of course, there are additional costs associated with maintaining an office that were revealed in the February 2016 Accounts Payable.  There is the matter of janitorial services, $90.00 weekly to A&L Floor, Carpet Care or $4680 annually. Monthly utilities for January to PUB were $224.44.  Annually, that would be $2688.  $156.06 was spent for a new front door.  My World Embroidery, possibly creators of the beautiful BCIC fabric wall hanging, were paid twice, $954 and $1136.  An insurance payment to Philadelphia Insurance Company was for $1028.  Coat racks for "Cori's and Rebeca's offices" cost $54.10. Name plaques from Things Remembered went for $204.99.  A desk phone for the "administrative assistant" cost $390.95.  Hundreds of dollars were spent for non-specific "office supplies."

But, was this move to just off Price Road necessary?  One commenter thinks not: 

"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."

Another commenter:

"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."

Also, this observation:

"Jim,  Almost the entire second floor of Market Square is empty, certainly more than enough room for offices.  The video room downstairs would make an excellent meeting room."

Of course, the city purchased 13 buildings in 2012 for $3,500,000.  Most remain totally unused, off the tax rolls, deteriorating.

What was the BCIC board thinking?

From the editor:  For reference, we repost two articles from January 2015.  The first article details the huge squandering of 4A tax dollars by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.  During the years 2013 the board financed over $312,000 in travel money for its symbiotic partner, the BEDC.  16 trips alone were to Colombia where an office was set up, staffed by locals.  At a recent GBIC meeting BEDC Executive Director Jason Hilts announced curtly that the office had been closed.  No explanation.  Also, no economic development or results for all the taxpayer money spent.  

The second article posted below details Rose Gowen's heavy-handed efforts to lease the San Fernando Building from the city as an office for the BCIC.  Gowen illegally chaired the BCIC meeting after the expiration of her term as board member had already expired.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rose Gowen Chairs BCIC Board Meeting Illegally, Gets Angry When Things Don't Go Her Way

Rose Gowen
Rules simply do not apply to Rose Gowen. Her ego, her agenda transcends even the bi-laws of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, where her role as board member, board chairman legally ended December 31, 2014.  

When the BCIC reconvened for the first time in the new year, January 8, 2015, fellow former board members Jude Benavides and Blanca Perez-Moreno recognized their term of service had legally ended, did not participate in the meeting.  No so for Rose, who parked her hybrid in the City Commissioner-reserved free parking slot along E. 10th Street, made her way up to Human Resources on the 4th floor and assumed her role as BCIC chairperson illegally.

The City Commission has known for months that three terms on the BCIC would expire at the end of 2014 just as the term of Sylvia Berry on the Brownsville Metro Advisory Boardwould, but they dropped that ball by not caring for the appointment of new members in their December City Commission meetings.  Berry, Benavides and Perez-Moreno all accepted the legal termination.  Gowen did not.

San Fernando Building, Purchased by the
City of Brownsville in 2012 for $315,000
The driving force behind Gowen's unlawful appearance on the board was Agenda item #9:  Consideration and Action for theBrownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC)to consider the City of Brownsville request as follows:
*For the BCIC office/staff to be housed at the Historic San Fernando Building and
*To enter into an agreement with the City of Brownsville to contribute $225,000 toward the renovation of the Historic San Fernando Building and house the BCIC rent free for eight(8) years.

Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Brownsville
Redevelopment and Special Projects
Gowen and Martinez heyboy Ramiro Gonzalez presented the item in his newly created role as Director of Downtown Redevelopment and Special Projects.

Initial discussions found board member Elizabeth Hollmann favoring the idea, but when another board member suggested simply buying the San Fernando building from the city, Hollmann liked that idea as well.  The city purchased the historic building, that formerly housed La Movida, El Domino and Mary's Place cantinas, for $315,000 in 2012.  

With the discussion floundering, "Chairman" Gowen called for a simple motion to adopt the agenda item. Dead silence.  No board member made a motion.

A comment was made that this might be a matter for the "new" board to consider.  Gowen, visibly angered said:  "I can't believe this."

San Fernando's interior, showing decades of
paint colors(likely leaded)
A not very well kept secret is that Gowen wants to close the streets around Market Square to vehicle traffic, eliminate parking on one side of Adams Street for a bike lane, making the square a pedestrian mall, of sorts.  Pushing that agenda propelled her to ignore the expiration of her term as board chairman as dictated by the bi-laws.


  1. We must remember that Rose Zavaletta Gowen is first a "Zavaletta" and that makes here superior to all other humans and exempt from the laws of lesser men and women. Rose, like other "Zavaletta/Zavaleta" bring to the table an extraordinary ego and superiorority complex. Just being born a "Zavaletta/Zavaleta" gives them the self-ordained ability to dismiss all others as inferior and take control of any situation. We see her "superiority complex" in the way she conducts city business....and assumes a power that legally she doesn't have. She and Tony Martinez make a great paring for this city......they don't need no "stinkin' badges" or any term limits to stop their egos from flaring.


    1. I guess we'll see how much her ego and " superiority complex " help her the day the feds finally catch up with her fat ass! Uugh!
  2. Is there nobody courageous enough to stand up to this woman?
  3. Jim,

    Have Ahumada do an appraisal on this dump. Looks like it has all the markings of another inside deal for that price. Don't forget to factor in the hazardous waste issues.


    1. Shut up, jediondo! JUST SHUT UP!!!!
    2. Es hediondo.....
  4. She has also used money from the bag tax for here bike and walk trails. Why haven't they use this money for recycling like the ordinance states.


    1. Covered bus stops with benches and sidewalks and street repair.
  5. Jim,
    We, (3 of us) are more than willing to take a position on this board to make a difference. This Zavaleta woman needs to go NOW. 
  6. I thought peter goodman was the downtown development director. Is this a separate/ different position than the one created for Ramiro Gonzalez?
  7. Brownsville citizens don't care how " their" city is run. Take a drive to Mcallen and compare the two cities. Brownsville is a joke
  8. "ugh" --- Rose Gowen
  9. -A comment was made that this might be a matter for the "new" board to consider.  Gowen, visibly angered said:  "I can't believe this."-

    Believe in Brownsville!
  10. ROSE!..UGH!...yeah..WHAT IS SHE GOOD FOR?...absolutely nothin'! Say it again...YEAH...
  11. You do not put all coments only what please you how bias is your thinking


    1. Did you have something to say in favor of the bike crazy bitch? Some proof perhaps that more feel good toadies instead of real growth is not the reality, merely a planted perception? Bring it.
    2. She bent over for bikers cause she figured out that they VOTE ,so everybody that's bitching get your families asses off the couch and go VOTE !
  12. who is on this stupid board?

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