Friday, January 27, 2017

Grandpa Crashes and Burns As Teacher, Quickly Recovers

The Student Body
My charade as a teacher was exposed on Day 6 of homeschooling grandson Jack.

Little Jack had been forming his alphabet letters, numbers and symbols from the bottom up, directly opposite the way his grandparents were taught many decades ago.

Even the question mark was being formed by making a period first, then up into a straight line and curve on top.  No one at BISD had corrected Jack's technique or mentioned it in communication.  

Frustration set in as I tried to correct the technique for every letter.  Homeschooling seemed at an impasse.  Jack was in tears, needing consolation from Grandma.

That night, I went to the internet, read about the impact of being mixed/dominant, then read that many schools no longer emphasize "how" letters are formed.  Some twenty-somethings even write letters from the bottom without undue harm.

My internet roaming led me again to TEDx talks, Joshua Katz on the "Toxic Nature of Education," and others who explained how "kids in rows, one-size-fits-all curriculum, 8 hour school days, standardized tests," etc. was the road to failure.

Workbooks, I was reminded, were designed to keep some kids busy while others were being taught.

I approached Day 7 of homeschooling with the resolve not to continue on as the inflexible instructor every student loathes.  I changed my emphasis and attempted to make learning fun.

Since Jack had shown an interest in taking pictures with an Iphone, I looked for a YouTube video on that subject. 

"But, Grampa.  This video is for an Iphone 5.  You have an Iphone 6," Jack told me with some excitement.

Jack's Pic of a Tree Trunk
I found the correct video.  Jack absorbed it all, then went to show Grandma how to use the camera, explaining aperture, time delay, video and focus.  Grandma pretended to understand.

Relaxing my obsession with how alphabet letters are formed, I gave an oral review of exclamation, command, question and telling sentences.  Jack aced that.

"Practice writing any letters you want," I offered.

Jack drew "families" of perfect "B's" and "D's" and then put them in make-believe war with each other.  He said each group had a "catapult" aimed at the other and laughed.

We finished our day with photography and scooter riding at Cabler Park. Education was back on track thanks to YouTube and Tedx.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Airport Advisory Board Discusses New Brand, Airport Layout Plans

Airport Director Bryant Walker Reveals Airport's Brand
Airport Director Bryant Walker revealed the airport's new brand at Tuesday's noon meeting of the Airport Advisory Board.  Rugs, a relief to be hung inside the terminal, monument signs, directional signs, even frisbees and coffee cups will contain the new brand.

"Before we can even begin to highlight our low fares, direct flights or do any advertising, we have to put our brand out there," stated Walker.

An airport layout plan for the next twenty years,  s in the works, according to the director, while plans for the new terminal should be ready in seven months.

Board Chairman Manuel Alcocer expressed his eagerness to get some preliminary work done on the new terminal.

"We're taking soil samples right now," offered Walker.  

"We can't bring in the bulldozers until we know what sort of soil were dealing with, where the water table is, etc."

Walker stated that the City of Brownsville would be responsible for a "diversionary road," to handle traffic while the new terminal was under construction.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Brownsville's Newest Private School's Unceremonious Opening

The awesome privilege of homeschooling a grandson dropped into my lap Tuesday afternoon.

Nena wanted to go to H.E.B. for "Lunchables" and sliced apples, cheese and pretzels snack packs.  I put some orange juice and chocolate milk in the shopping cart.  

Up half the night, I watched videos of Sir Ken Robinson's TED series lectures on education, while getting some last minute curriculum together for the first day of "Grandpa's Private Homeschool."

Robinson claims that "every day kids go to school, they become less intelligent."  

I located some science videos on;  Why do we sneeze?  How are rainbows made?  Why does the moon seem to shine?  What makes sea water salty?  What causes hiccups?  Ok.  That's enough science for one day for a six year old.

The principal didn't respond to my email of disenrollment to BISD, so I would need to send a certified letter with signature confirmation.  Done. The departing student should not be counted absent or considered truant.  He's simply transferred to what the State of Texas considers a private school.

Jack aced a written review of the first day's topics, then later, on his ride home, he covered the material with Grandma. says my math, spelling and grammar workbooks will be here Tuesday.  

Borderland Beat~"El Chapo" Looks Scared As He Lands in New York

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Airplane carrying "El Chapo" has landed on Long Island

Borderland Beat

The plane carrying Mexican drug lord Joaquin Archivaldo "El Chapo" Guzman Loera has landed at MacArthur Airport on Long Island Thursday evening just hours after it was announced he was being extradited to the United States. 

El Chapo’s attorneys say they were not notified of the extradition. “It was illegal. They didn’t even notify us,” said lawyer Andres Granados, who accused the government of extraditing his client to distract from nationwide gasoline protests. “It’s totally political.”

.The Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan and Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Brooklyn (below) are the principal federal holding facilities of alleged and convicted terrorists:

Congressman Filemon Vela Boycotts Trump Inauguration

Representative Filemon Vela

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mayor Tony Martinez Violates Brownsville's City Code

Tony Martinez Caricature by Nena
"I, Tony J. Martinez, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of Mayor of the City of Brownsville, County of Cameron, State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and Laws of the United States and of this State and the Charter and Ordinances of this city; and I furthermore solemnly swear (or affirm), that I have not directly or indirectly paid, offered, or promised to pay, contributed, nor promised to contribute any money or valuable thing, or promised any public office or employment as a reward for the giving or withholding a vote at the election at which I was elected, or if the office is one of appointment, to secure my appointment. So help me God."

The words of the oath above, taken by Tony Martinez July 1, 2015, after his re-election, seem hollow when the mayor uses his office for personal enrichment, claiming strategically located property for the price of a delinquent tax lien.

Does anyone even recall seeing the requisite sign declaring the lot at 1242 E. Van Buren Street, adjacent to the Tony Martinez Law Office, to be advertised as part of a delinquent tax sale?

Juan Montoya of El Rrun Rrun
Juan Montoya, publisher of El Rrun Rrun blog, broke the story Tuesday, indicating the mayor's bid of $5,200 on a tax delinquent downtown parking lot was given final approval in Executive Session by the City Commission, the order being signed by the mayor himself. Montoya went on to demonstrate how this action violates several aspects of the City Code:

"The sitting in of an elected official in executive session of the City of Brownsville commission, voting to approve accepting a bid on a tax-delinquent property , and then signing as the chief executive of the city while he was the buying one of the properties auctioned off at a tax resale would get anyone indicted.

But will the current Cameron County District Attorney prosecute everyone equally given the political ties that bind him to City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez?

The Brownsville, Texas Code of Ordinances has this section:

Sec. 38-31. - Improper economic benefit.
(a) Economic interest affected. To avoid the appearance and risk of impropriety, a city official or employee shall not take an official action that he knows is likely to affect particularly the economic interest of the following:

(1) The official or employee.

Another part of the section 38-31 reads: (c) Recusal and disclosure. A city official or employee whose conduct or action on a matter would violate subsection (a) or (b) of this section must recuse himself. From the time that the conflict is recognized, the city official or employee SHALL

(2) Promptly file with the city secretary a written statement disclosing the conflict on a form provided by the city secretary.

There were no affidavits filed in the city binder for the item or conflict of interest statements on the record."

Such an obvious violation of the City Code is prosecutable, but will District Attorney Luis Saenz have the nerve for it?

City Planner Ramiro Gonzalez
(Caricature by Nena)
Taking advantage of a city position to acquire property well below its value is not new to the City of Brownsville.  In May 2014, the City Commission approved the purchase of a tract of land referred to as the "Lakeside easement" by then interim City Planner Ramiro Gonzalez.  Here is a May 17, 2014 on that matter by the Brownsville Observer:

"While Ordinance Number 2014-1590 below does not state the action clearly, it involves conveying a .245 acre tract adjacent to Lakeside Drive to Interim City Planner Ramiro Gonzalez for the sum of $7,154. Gonzalez has purchased a Quitclaim Deed for $10, making the exchange with the City of Brownsville official. Article "C" containing the ordinance change is included in the "routine" Consent Agenda items that will be passed in mere seconds at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

Information found in the binder attached to the City Commission agenda indicates that an "independent certified appraiser" valued the tract at $7,145. Also conveyed to Gonzalez are two additional adjacent tracts of .64 and 1.089 acres.

We're not implying anything unethical with respect to a city administrator, in the course of his work, locating bargain properties for personal purchase, but it's certainly opportunistic.
c) APPROVAL on SECOND and FINAL READING of Ordinance Number 2014-1590, authorizing the City Manager to abandon and close a portion of Lakeside Boulevard Right-of-Way, located in the Brownsville Land and Improvement Company subdivision. (Carlos Lastra-Engineering)"

Survey Showing 3 Properties
Acquired by Planner Ramiro Gonzalez

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Homeschooling in Texas, A Viable and Available Option

Brownsville Homeschooling Group Facebook Picture
The State of Texas may be more tolerant of homeschooling than any other state in the United States.  

Then Governor George W.  Bush stated in 1995:  

“In Texas, we view home schooling as something to be respected and protected – respected for the energy and commitment of parents; protected from the interference of government. Texas does not index or monitor home school programs. We encourage parents who choose to home school, and, each year I urge my fellow Texans to recognize the dedication of home-school parents and the hard work of their children by declaring “Home Education Week.”

In June of 1994 the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the Leeper v. Arlington decision. Based on the Court’s ruling:

Texas homeschool parents do not have to contact a school district before homeschooling their children.

Texas homeschool parents are not required to allow the district to make visits to their home.

Texas homeschool parents are not required to have a teaching certification.

Texas homeschool parents are not required to have their chosen curriculum approved by the school district.

Texas homeschool graduates are protected by law from discrimination by Texas colleges.

It was not always so easy for homeschool parents in Texas.  In the early 80's over 150 homeschool families were criminally charged in the state. Child Protective Services was extremely invasive in a number of these cases.

In March 1985, attorney Shelby Sharpe, on behalf of several home school families and curriculum companies, filed a lawsuit against all the school districts in the state of Texas on behalf of all homeschoolers in Texas. In what became known as the Leeper vs. Arlington class action suit, homeschoolers asked the court to give a declaratory judgment on the question of whether or not the legislature had intended home schools to be private schools when they enacted the compulsory attendance statute in 1915. The basic question was, are home schools private schools for the purpose of compulsory attendance?

The Tarrant County District Court ruled that home schools are indeed private schools for the purpose of compulsory attendance. On April 13, 1987, presiding Judge Charles J. Murray issued a decision (binding on all 1,100 school districts) which was a complete vindication of the rights of parents to educate their children at home in the State of Texas.

According to the Texas Home School Coalition Association website, a parent simply has to write an email or letter to the school principal to disenroll their child from the school district, and no longer be subject to the compulsory attendance scrutiny by the district.  In other words, they are not "absent." They have simply transferred to a private school under the supervision of their parents or parent.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Grocery Bag Policy in Limbo as City Awaits Settlement of the AG's Lawsuit

Tony Martinez Caricature by Nena
"I don’t see it as a tax. I disagree with the assessment of the Attorney General,” Mayor Tony Martinez said, answering a question about the Attorney General's ruling that the "Environmental Fee" charged grocery customers in Brownsville for a reusable plastic bag for their groceries was an "illegal tax."

Martinez even questioned the motive of some opponents of the bag fee: “People are looking out for their political or monetary interests rather than a view of keeping the world safe and being kind to Mother Nature,” he stated.

Rose Timmer Caricature by Nena
Rose Timmer, Executive Director of Healthy Communities of Brownsville, sees the bag fee as a deterrent to litter:  “Once we put a value on it, it became something you wanted to keep and not just throw away. Hopefully, people’s habits have changed and people will continue to bring those reusable bags,” Timmer said.

In a special meeting Thursday, the City Commission voted unanimously to repeal the bag fee, but exactly how to handle the bagging of groceries in the city has not been totally worked out.

Of primary concern to many local taxpayers is determining how the $4,400,000 "bag tax" monies collected since 2011 has been dispersed.  

We've posed that question to City Secretary Michael Lopez via a Public Information Request he will receive Monday:

Michael L. Lopez
City Secretary
Brownsville, Texas

Dr. Mr. Lopez:

Kindly share the total revenue received by the city from stores for the reusable bag fee. Please also share the total amount received since 2011 for each of the following stores: H.E.B., Walmart, El Globo, Lopez Stores and A&V Lopez.

We would also like a record of how the revenue generated by this fee was dispersed, such as for machinery, labor, beautification projects, etc.

Thank you,

Jim Barton
Brownsville Observer

Please note: This message is being sent via email on Saturday, January 14, 2017 and thus will be available at the start of the business day on Monday, January 16, 2017.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

City Commission Removes $1.00 Bag Fee, Retains Plastic Bag Ban

From the Editor: The Brownsville City Commission, after meeting in Executive Session, unanimously approved in open session removing the $1.00 bag fee, but preserving the ban on plastic bags in the City of Brownsville.

This action was in response to a ruling last year by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the bag fee constituted an illegal tax on the citizenry.

Former Mayor Pat Ahumada disagrees with this decision and presents an alternative viewpoint in the letter published below:

"There is one word that describes this city administration and commission. The word is PATHETIC! They are not fighters or doers; they react, or wait for things to happen. They are useless.

The mayor and city commission voted unanimously to repeal the bag fee, but will keep the bag ordinance. 

If this makes sense to you, then you are just as stupid as they are. By repealing the bag fee, you in essence repeal the bag ordinance. Welcome back to the third world. 

We should have fought the Attorney General by inviting all other cities with similar interest in a bag ordinance to petition the state legislators to pass legislation that would satisfy the Attorney General to keep the bag ordinance. We should have sought other alternatives before giving up. 

We could have proposed the fees collected go towards what the city pays Waste Management for picking up our trash. On the alternative, we could have amended the ordinance for Waste Management to collect the fee to fund a curb service recycling program with free containers to households. 

I believe both of these scenarios could put Brownsville in compliance with the Attorney Generals interpretation of the law he is applying. 

The fee is the incentive for people to take their own bags when shopping. We can always use the money to improve our environment by reducing waste at our landfill and reduce our cost with Waste Management. 

The solutions are there, but with two lawyers, one doctor, one teacher, one tortillero, one jewler, and one beauty queen on the commission, along with a city attorney and city manager who collectively cannot come up with a solution to this matter, is PATHETIC. 

Even Forest Gump can do better than them. 

Ken Paxton agenda is not the State of Texas or the best interest of the citizens. 

I can relate to him, it is like when a friend of mine and I went to meet with Police Chief Rolando Hernandez two weeks prior to the DA and BPD raiding my sweepstakes store. At said meeting two weeks prior, I asked our chief of police, if sweepstakes was illegal? I also asked him, if I needed to close down voluntarily? Chief Rolando Hernandez response was, “I don’t know”. He went further to state that he would meet with the DA Luis Saenz and get back with me, which with 30 police officers, cameras filming the raid and parading my arrest. All for political gain, when all I offered to shut down voluntarily. 

The DA Luis Saenz had a different interpretation to the same law his predecessors for 15 years said sweepstakes was legal and our local police allowed sweepstakes stores for years to operate with never shutting down any sweepstakes, but politically some people enjoy targeting others when it meets their political agenda as Ken Paxton is doing with the plastic bag law suit. 

The Attorney General’s agenda is the same and does not care about Texas. We should have exposed him by going to trial on this matter. We had everything to gain and Paxton had everything to lose if we prevailed. 


Pat Ahumada"


Grandson Jack in Market Square Walking with grandson Jack downtown is a challenge.  He frolicks, skips, cuts in front of you, runs ahead,...