One proposed change would allow someone other than the BEDC to "vet" projects that come before the GBIC. Traditionally, the BEDC, run by Executive Director Jason Hilts and Vice-President Gilbert Salinas had the responsibility to check out or "vet" proposals submitted to the GBIC for funding, The GBIC or Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation is a taxpayer financed entity that doles out taxpayer dollars on so-called economic development projects. The success rate of the GBIC has been incredibly poor, as project after project has proved to be a total failure, wasting millions of Brownsville taxpayer dollars.
It was during City Attorney Sossi's discussion of the issue of third party "vetting" of GBIC projects that we heard something we had never heard any city official admit, that the proposed 2011 Fly Frontera Airlines contract with the city was never "vetted."
Sossi first cited "an airline," then later said "Fly Frontera," when giving an example of a major city contract that was never sufficiently "vetted." He also remembered how clever city officials had sereptitiously included initials in Fly Frontera's copy of the contract. When Fly Frontera officials accused the city of "leaking" the proposed contract, Sossi said he simply replied: "It was your copy of the contract that was leaked."
For those new to Brownsville's blogs, Fly Frontera was a fledgling "airline," registered just 4 days before the Brownsville City Commission considered approval for a contract at the April 5, 2011 City Commission meeting. The "airline" was fronted by Carlos Quintanilla, a RICO felon, convicted of trying to bilk the G. Heileman Brewing Company out of $700,000 in a kickback scheme.
Something we've never reported is that, prior to the April 5, 2011 City Commission meeting to discuss Fly Frontera, a city commissioner leaked a copy of the proposed contract to a group then associated with the Brownsville Cheezmeh political advocacy group.(To the best of my knowledge none of us yet knew that Erasmo Castro controlled the Facebook page detailing the activity of the group.)
Prior to the April 5, 2011 City Commission meeting, several of us met at the home of Craig and Laura Grove to discuss strategy to defeat the proposed airline deal. We had a copy of the contract, indicating that the city would provide $1,500,000 to the airline in "start-up" monies for licensing, fuel, spare parts and that the first 23 tickets for every flight to Monterey or Mexico City that were NOT SOLD the airline would be reimbursed $135 by the city. It was a totally upside down deal that would reward the 4 day old airline for total failure.
When the April 5, 2011 City Commission meeting resulted in considerable public opposition to the contract, the matter was tabled. Later, then Mayor Pat Ahumada arranged for a public meeting to discuss the deal. While Ahumada and Carlos Quintanilla used the public address and lectern to address the group, those of us speaking against the deal were instructed to line up along one wall of the auditorium and then given a tinny wireless microphone to make our comment.
Some have compared Carlos Quintanilla to current manipulator, Mike Hernandez III, a Dallas car salesman, trying his darndest to influence elections in Cameron County through his Facebook page, OP 10.33. In 2011, Carlos Quintanilla orchestrated the BISD trustee candidacies of Cata Presas-Garca, Lucy Longoria and Christina Saavedra.