|Jason Hilts, Tony Martinez Charming Colombians in 2012|
The Brownsville delegation spent a week in Colombia on the taxpayer dime. None carried a sack lunch or stayed at the Motel 6. Easily, tens of thousands of hard-earned taxpayer dollars were spent on what was a thinly-disguised pleasure trip.
|BEDC Director Jason Hilts|
Still footloose and fancy free with taxpayer dollars, Hilts, the architect of the Titan Tire fiasco, decided that traveling to and wining and dining in Colombia on the taxpayer dime was not enough. He talked the mayor into setting up an "office" in Colombia to "promote economic development" between the two countries.
From 2013-15, $197,000 was spent for an office and staff in Columbia, plus Hilts and crew made SIXTEEN urgent trips back to Colombia to check on the progress of economic development. As we reported in earlier this year:
In the pursuit of economic development for the City of Brownsville, BEDC operatives traveled sixteen times to the exotic destination of 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.
During those years, the BEDC spent $312,541 of taxpayer monies on travel alone. Despite the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on the office, staff and trips to Colombia, the office was simply closed without fanfare in 2015. No jobs were created for Brownsville residents. Nothing in the way of economic development ever materialized between Brownsville and Colombia.
|Brownsville's CycloBia, Patterned after Columbia's Ciclovia|
While in Colombia in 2012, the Brownsville delegation were impressed by a local cycling event, Ciclovia, which they brought back to Brownsville as CycloBia with the "B" standing for Brownsville.
Under the strong-armed tactics of City Commissioner Rose Gowen, the City of Brownsville promoted the cycling event, purchasing advertising with taxpayer monies, providing bicycles, police and traffic control, etc. While no accurate and total record of expenditures is available, an estimated cost of each taxpayer subsidized event runs between $60,000 and $100,000 with typically four or more events held annually.
Adding the cost of the original, ill-fated City of Brownsville trip to Colombia, the BEDC office set up and staffed for three years, the 16 trips made to Colombia and four years of subsidizing CycloBia, is it not accurate to describe that original trip as the most expensive in Brownsville history?