Friday, April 28, 2017

Bernie Sanders on Donald Trump's First 100 Days

Freddy Fender's Drummer, Brownsville Native, Robert Silva: "I'm A Gigolo Man"

Is Joe Munguia Simply A Puppet Candidate?

Joe Munguia, who are you?  We only know the worst about you, that you're supported by Tony Martinez and Carlos Marin, who've literally raped Brownsville for self-aggrandizement.

Are you Debbie Portillo, a shy kid, propped up by Martinez and Marin to push their agenda?

We understand you sell insurance policies with enough commission to support your family.  Good job!  You're exactly what many Brownsville mom and dads want for their daughters; an adequate bread winner.

Who are you, Joe?  

What is your vision for Brownsville?  Is it Tony's and Carlos's vision?  Or do you have a personal vision?

You haven't explained yourself.

Cartels Jockeying for Position in Tamaulipas


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Revisiting the $21,000,000 "Bridge to Nowhere" Boondoggle Involving Dannenbaum Engineering

From the editor:  With recent FBI raids on Dannebaum Engineering offices in McAllen, Laredo, Houston and San Antonio, Cameron County taxpayers may be reminded of their $21,000,000 loss perpetrated by Dannenbaum, aided by complicit politicos.  

We reprint below an explanation from Carlos Masso, with ties to the incident, who submitted an this article to this blog in 2012 (The comment section below the article is still active, containing 21 cogent comments from 2012):


Carlos Masso, Candidate for DA Explains the Dannenbaum Settlement

The $21 Million Bridge Project

Several blogs have been commenting about the “$21 Million Bridge to Nowhere” and the “$21 Million Bridge Boondoggle” and so on. Only one person has ever asked me about why we settled the lawsuit with Dannenbaum (DEC). Everyone else has just complained but never bothered to ask. I knew that this would come up some day so I wrote down a list of the reasons why we settled. It is important though that the readers get some background regarding the project. I will also fill in some additional information about things that happened after the settlement and the status of the project today. Other than the list of reasons why we settled, I am working from memory in order to get this information out to you in an expedited manner. This information is from my point of view. In the end, I know that not everyone will agree with my decision. There are some folks that wanted to go after Dannenbaum at all costs regardless of the outcome. There is also an operator of a blog in particular that has never liked me. He is one of those that has never contacted me yet knows everything about everything. I don’t expect he will agree with my point of view.



Background



In 1997 the Port of Brownsville was able to obtain a Presidential Bridge Permit. The purpose of the permit was to build a truck and rail bridge linking the Port of Brownsville to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The bridge would be located on the east side of Matamoros and Brownsville. The Port owns the land leading to the proposed bridge site on the U.S. side. This means that the Port would own the road leading to the bridge. Overweight trucks would then be able to come in directly to the Port of Brownsville without having to pay for an overweight permit and avoid going through the city. The rail part of the bridge would have allowed the BRG (the Port’s railroad) to transfer train cars directly to Mexico without having to rely on and continue to pay Union Pacific (UP) a transfer fee for each car. This would make the Port of Brownsville more competitive with competing ports (Altamira) as the cost of transporting goods in and out of the port would be cheaper.



It is important to note that all railroad bridges between the U.S. and Mexico are owned by UP. The Port’s bridge project was opposed by UP. In addition, the west rail project was also started on or about the same time. The west rail project is a project to relocate the rail lines inside the city of Brownsville to outside the city. The switching yard was relocated to Olmito from the Fronton and Palm Blvd. areas of the city. The actual west rail bridge project is currently ongoing and appears to be on schedule at least on the U.S. side. This bridge will be turned over to UP once the project is completed.



The Port initially hired an engineering firm to do all of the necessary work for the bridge project. From my recollection, this engineering firm did some initial work but at some point the then existing board members decided to change the engineering firm to Dannenbaum. Initially, Dannenbaum was contracted to perform the engineering work on the bridge project. This involved a whole bunch of things including obtaining different studies and permits from all of the different federal agencies. It appears all this work was being performed according to schedule. The problems began when Dannenbaum decided that they wanted to try to get the Mexican concession for building the bridge on the Mexican side. I don’t have dates but the prior board members then decided to let Dannenbaum try to get the permit going on the Mexican side of the border. The problem with this was that Dannenbaum had never done a bridge project other than actual engineering work. So, they were not familiar with how to get the bridge approved on the Mexican side of the border. They attempted to get the permits at the Mexican federal level without first getting approvals from the City of Matamoros or the State Governor. Apparently, that was not the proper procedure. Although, they did secure some letter from a federal agency referring to the bridge project it was not an approval of the project. Dannenbaum was hiring subcontractors in Mexico to do this. The board was aware of this and still kept giving Dannenbaum Millions to do this. This was a big problem for the Port in the lawsuit.



The lawsuit



In 2004 two new board members were elected. Sometime during 2005 the board started considering a suit against Dannenbaum. However, Dannenbaum had still not completed their engineering work. When they found out that the Port was going to sue them they filed suit first in Harris County (their backyard). They alleged that the Port still owed them money under their contract and that the Port was refusing to pay them. By the time the Port filed suit here in Cameron County it was too late. The case got transferred to Harris County. So the case had to be litigated over there.



The Port was able to secure the services of Susman & Godfrey, a major law firm with offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Houston, and Dallas. This was a firm hand picked by Peter Zavaletta. The firm was a bit reluctant at handling the case because they were used to dealing with lawsuits involving $100’s of millions. To them this was not that attractive of a case. Nonetheless, we secured their services. We still had the services of Charlie Willette of Willette & Guerra, a local reputable law firm and David Oliveira, of Roerig, Oliveira and Fischer, another local reputable law firm as well as our board attorney Dan Rentfro.



Dannenbaum also had secured the services of a major law firm in Houston. I don’t recall their name but it was believed at the time that Dannenbaum had paid the firm a substantial amount of money throughout the lawsuit perhaps in the $2 million range.



The Alleged Secret Meeting with Dannenbaum



When I was elected to the Port in 2006, the lawsuit was already pending in Harris County. Nobody was doing anything. There was an order from the judge on the case to mediate. We were advised by our attorneys to try to set up a mediation. Harry Susman had looked at our case and wanted to drop us. They reviewed hundreds of boxes full of material and they were just not interested any more. In addition, Dannenbaum had produced sworn affidavits from two former board members that stated that they knew exactly where the money was going.

Dannenbaum wanted to meet with the board members. None of the three previous board members wanted to be involved with the suit anymore. Our attorneys set up a meeting with Dannenbaum to hear what they had to say. We met Dannenbaum and his attorneys together with our attorneys. WE WERE NEVER ALONE WITH DANNENBAUM!!! He had his attorneys and we had ours. The meeting didn’t get anywhere. Dannenbaum still believed that they had the Mexican Diplomatic note permitting the bridge. They were ready to continue with the project. We said NO!!!!



We did review a bunch of the boxes of documents at the Offices of Susman & Godfrey to see where we stood on the project. We had to try to determine if we had good engineering work, studies, permits, and the status on the Mexican side if we were going to go to mediation. We believed then and still believe we have a need for a bridge and that it is still a viable plan with one exception. That it only be a truck bridge and not include a rail bridge. With all of that in mind, we went to mediation and settled the case.



The $1 million



We (the board) were informed about the seizure and forfeiture of the $1 million after the fact. We didn’t just sit there twiddling our fingers. We advised our attorney to draft a letter on behalf of the board and to inquire about getting the money back for the Port. We were advised by the District Attorney that the money was found by the special prosecutor on the case in some account they were able to trace and that it had been dormant for a while. Nobody claimed the money and they reached some settlement with Dannenbaum’s attorneys. I am assuming that the money must have been transferred from a Dannenbaum account and that is why they were part of the suit. In addition, we were also informed that the money was forfeited under Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure as contraband. Basically, what that means is that the money is forfeited to the State to be used for law enforcement purposes. The Port Police didn’t have an agreement regarding forfeitures with the DA’s office therefore we would get none of the $1 million. The statute does not provide for a return seized and forfeited property to victims. That is an area of the law that needs revision.



Reasons why we settled:


DEC had possession of numerous notes and memorandums indicating that both Raul Besteiro and the BND board were fully aware of the payments being made to both DEC and the Mexican Subconsultants.


DEC produced affidavits from two former board members (Sydney Lassaigne and Julius Collins) stating that they were kept informed by Mr. Besteiro of everything that DEC was doing and that they knowingly approved the payments to DEC (and subcontractors). They would produce a 3rd one if needed (Eddie Rendon).


Susman & Godfrey was threatening to withdraw from the case if we didn’t settle. Prior to the BND hiring this firm two other firms had rejected the case. After Susman & Godfrey threatened to withdraw, two other firms were approached about handling the litigation for the BND but they also rejected acceptance of the case.


DEC’s attorneys, one of the top firms in the state, threatened to have David Oliveira’s firm disqualified. Apparently, when word got out that the BND might sue DEC, they (DEC) went to speak to several firms in Brownsville including Rene Oliveira. Although, Rene did not accept they were claiming that they had discussed substantive issues of the case. Rene and David are partners in the firm.


If the case proceeded to trial, there was a serious risk that we would not prevail on our claims and that DEC could have convinced a jury that BND breached the contract and award a judgment against the BND in the amount of approximately 3 million dollars ($800,000 unpaid from contract and approx. $2 million in attorney’s fees). This does not include our own attorney’s fees which would be anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million just for the litigation part.


The settlement allows DEC to complete the engineering work at no further expense to the BND. The amount of engineering work remaining to be done is approximately $2.9 million dollars worth of work. Under these terms they are not the project manager. They will do ABSOLUTELY no further work on the Mexican side and on the US side only engineering work.


If we had lost the suit, BND would have to pay another engineering firm $6 million to redo the engineering work. Starting from scratch would have also taken significant time to complete the work.


THAT WOULD MEAN ANOTHER $9 MILLION OUT OF TAXPAYERS POCKETS!!!!! ($2.9 million plus the $6 million). I was not willing to take that risk!


The settlement agreement gives BND the opportunity to recoup $10 million dollars from the contractor obtaining the Mexican concession.


Our attorney in Houston, Susman & Godfrey, recommended that we settle this suit. Susman & Godfrey is not just one of the top law firms in the State of Texas but also in the United States with Offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Houston and Dallas. It is a large firm with over 80 attorneys and This was the law firm that Peter Zavaletta selected to represent us in Houston. Peter spoke very highly of them at the time the board voted to hire them.


Our attorney in Brownsville, Charles Willette of the Willette and Guerra Law Firm, recommended that we settle the lawsuit. Charles Willette was the attorney selected by Peter Zavaletta to conduct the investigation of the $21 million spent on the port bridge project. Mr. Willette is a seasoned attorney who has represented many local governments and has been involved in numerous cases over his 33 years as an attorney. He was recently featured as one of Texas Super Attorneys.


Our other attorney in Brownsville, David Oliveira, of the Roerig, Oliveira, & Fisher Law Firm, also recommended that we settle the lawsuit. Mr. Oliveira is well respected and seasoned attorney who has practiced law for almost 20 years. He was also brought in by Peter Zavaletta to represent the BND in this litigation.


Our BND counsel, Dan Rentfro, Jr., recommended that we settle the lawsuit. Mr. Rentfro has been an attorney for almost 25 years. He has been the BND’s counsel for many years. He has experience in a wide areas of practice including state, local, and municipal law, business & commercial law, as well as other areas.


VENUE – we were at a disadvantage being that we were fighting this lawsuit in DEC’s backyard (Harris County). The people of Harris County are not familiar with our port nor with our public officials. James Dannenbaum, the owner of Dannenbaum Engineering, is a respected member of that community is well known and very politically involved. He’s been appointed to a state board by Gov. Rick Perry. The judge in our case was also appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry.


The judge in our lawsuit ordered that both parties go to mediation to try to get the case resolved. Peter went to one mediation. Martin Arambula and myself went to two mediations.



Peter Zavaletta knew that we were trying to settle the case. He stopped going to our meetings and missed nine meetings. Some of the meetings that he did attend he did not stay for the executive session where we would have discussed the ongoing litigation. On one occasion he asked me if we were discussing anything important in exec session and I told him yes that we were meeting with our attorneys regarding the Dannenbaum lawsuit. He declined to stay saying he had to pick up his daughter and practically ran out of the board room. He has refused to sign any documents related to the port for 4 or 5 months. This was his way of denying any knowledge of anything regarding the lawsuit and any settlement and to help his claims that we had dealt with Dannenbaum secretly.



Current Status of the Project



We still have an active permit. It is important that our community get involved and voice the need for this bridge. We have been working closer with the city and county governments as well as the Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) and the Brownsville MPO. We need to continue to emphasize the importance of our project and perhaps a priority over other future bridges such as the proposed Flor de Mayo bridge. We must also continue to reach out to the Governor of Tamaulipas to push for this project.



Carlos Masso

Posted by Jim Barton at 10:13 AM 21 comments:
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Johnny Cash~Before Death, Doing Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind"

John vs. Ben for City Commissioner, District 4

John Villarreal is a nice kid.  He really is. Strong parents.  Catholic values. Work ethic.  All of that.

John is an honest public servant, possibly well-fitted for one of several city jobs, calling for honesty, hard work and accessibility.

John is not a natural public speaker or particularly "quick on his feet," skills mandatory in counteracting the corrupt, self-aggrandizing Mayor Tony Martinez and his puppets on the city commission.

Nena and I worked hard for John in 2011 in his race for City Commissioner, District 4, against Tony Zavaleta, then watched him on the city commission,  gritting our teeth, like parents watching their kid in his first t-ball game, poetry reading or science project.  It was difficult watching John flounder and acquiesce at the City Commission level.  We shared a few observations with John, but it was what it was and we're six years down the line.

John recently shared on Facebook a sort of manifesto with respect to his current campaign to hold onto City Commission, District 4,  declaring his policies, viewpoints and determinations on various issues.  All of this was submitted under the subtitle; "Committed to the Community, Dedicated to Progress."

The first point on his declaration concerned the broadcast of public comment at city commission meetings, a bad policy of the Pat Ahumada administration John promised to change.

Here are John's words:

1. PUBLIC COMMENT
While I have been in office the issue of bringing Public Comment back to being televised has been revisited twice. Both times I voted to bring it back. Unfortunately the votes were not there on the commission to make the change. However, Public Comment is still made available during commission meetings. It is a platform which has never been taken away from the public

Where to start?  The history of the ban on the broadcast of public comment starts with City Attorney Mark Sossi.  In 2010 Argelia Miller discovered that Sossi had stolen $167,363 from his previous employer, the Willette & Guerra law firm.

Letty Perez-Garzoria, a frequent public commenter, mentioned this development in public comment, also noting that the City of Brownsville had hired the Willette & Guerra firm, obviously to pay back Sossi's debt.

Nena's Caricature of Mark Sossi
Sossi was livid and orchestrated the backdoor negotiations necessary to totally ban public comment at city commission meetings, citing the city's possible vulnerability to lawsuits.

John Villarreal, despite being elected on the promise to reverse Sossi's manipulation of the Ahumada administration, uttered not a peep about public comment once elected.

Only then City Commissioner Melissa Zamora had the balls to oppose Tony on this issue.  She sponsored an agenda item to restore public comment to the broadcast of the city commission meeting.

Here is our 2011 report:

"Melissa Hernandez-Zamora seemed
Melissa Zamora
dumbstruck when City Attorney Sossi stood up to give opposition testimony concerning the broadcast of public comment item she had placed on the agenda. It was obvious that Commissioner Zamora had not been advised of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Mayor Martinez and his eager cohort Sossi. Sossi, after all, had the most to lose from public comment broadcast since it was comments about his questionable ethics that triggered the ban in the first place. As Zamora got her bearings, Martinez waved Sossi the "go ahead". Sossi made no attempt in his feeble, highschoolish power point to express a legal opinion. There was no mention of free speech, the first amendment, the constitution or even the phony liability issues he has pretended previously. Those might have been worthy legal issues. Instead he expressed only viewpoints, unscientific at best, but most likely simply wrong. With a straight face he used a pie chart to illustrate the greater "diversity" of commenters since the ban, not even having the honesty to acknowledge that many of those new participants were speaking out against the anti-democratic ban. He also railed against grandstanding as he grandstanded."


Judge Ben Neece
We could analyze John's manifesto point-by-point, but it's unnecessary.  John is opposed by a more seasoned public servant, recently retired municipal judge Ben Neece, who is not shy about articulating his views in public.

John is a good guy, but Brownsville deserves a more apt city commissioner.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Airport Advisory Board Unhappy with Terminal Design~4/25/17 Board Meeting

Airport Advisory Board Member Jose Hinojosa Ilustrating
How a Hurricane Could Lift the Terminal Roof
in the Current Design
(Photos by grandson Jack)
It's back to the proverbial and literal drawing board for the new Brownsville/South Padre Island Airport terminal.(We purposely left the word "international" out of the name with no current service to Mexico.)

"Why are we spending millions of dollars on design, ending up with a modern style, steel and glass building?  We could just get Laredo to send us the plans for their terminal," stated longtime Airport Advisory Board Secretary Chris Hughston.

When Airport Director Bryant Walker started to say "that wouldn't work," Hughston interrupted.

"Yes, it would.  I know something about construction.  It would absolutely work."


The Historic Pan American Terminal
"We asked for a Spanish motif, something that would reflect Brownsville," added board member Jose Hinojosa.

"Look at the old Pan American terminal.  That says Brownsville.  Steel and glass is not us," stated board member Patricia Williams.

When Director Walker hinted that Mayor Martinez and the City Commission had approved the new terminal design, board member Ed Rivera reminded:  "This is an ad.vi.so.ry board. We advise "no" to the new design."

Airport Director Walker responded to concerns about the large number of windows on the building by informing the board that conversations were ongoing with a glass manufacturer to order "hurricane-proof glass."  He pointed out that the building's design recognized the typical southeastern winds the area receives.(Editor: Hurricanes dramatically change wind direction once the eye passes.)

Even the financial, enplanements and cargo projections were questioned by this experienced board.

"What if the Trump administration cans N.A.F.T.A?  How would that affect cargo projections?"


Board Members Ed Rivera and Juan Chavez
Taking the Oath of Office from City Attorney
Allison Bastian 
Walker said something about the maquiladoras likely maintaining their Detroit connections, shipping auto parts manufactured in Mexico.

The fun was not over yet for relatively new Airport Director Bryant Walker.  A board member, who seldom comments raised his hand.

"Have we ever considered creating one large regional airport?" asked the board member.


Walker answered the question.  Agreement between all the cities as to location would be next to impossible.  The FAA, after spending millions on local airports would likely not support their closing.  Even if individual locations were designated as cargo, passenger, domestic or international, who decides?


Stiletto's Owner Arrested for Terroristic Threats

Fred Feurtado, Jr.


According to the Brownsville Police Department website, Fred Feurtado, Jr., 46, was charged recently with terroristic threats, a Class A misdemeanor and reckless driving, a Class A misdemeanor.

A search of public records reveals Mr. Feurtado to be the designated owner of an escort service, but also the Stiletto's Gentlemen's Clubs in Brownsville, Pharr and Las Milpas, Texas.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Can Ramiro Gonzalez Make This Non-Bike-Riding Community Pay for Bike Trails?

Ramiro Gonzalez, Brownsville's Voice of All Things
Bicycle and Gowen

"What Does the Fox Say?" Jack Wants This Out There

From the editor:  Grandson Jack is enamored with this video and asked that I upload it on my blog.  I understand that the voice of the fox has not been heard.  Is their some subliminal message grandpa is missing?




Saturday, April 15, 2017

The "Who Cares?" Election for City Commissioners Will Indeed Effect Our City

Linda Dragustinovis, Sporting the Pink
Brownsville Cheezmeh T-Shirt to Bring
"Cancer Awareness"
Frank Mar(his Facebook name) has questioned my vote for Erasmo Castro in his run for City Commissioner At Large B against incumbent Rose Gowen.  Frank, who claims to speak several languages, has a burr in his butt with respect to Erasmo.

The Dragustinovis children, Melissa, Linda and Erasmo, of Mexican-Romanian descent, but frequently using their mother's maiden name, Castro, are beyond clever in utilizing social media for income. Their dad, Erasmo Dragustinovis, Sr., a preacher, owned a block of cement-block-constructed offices between E. Madison and Jefferson, E. 13th and 12th Streets where both Linda and Melissa have notary public offices.(Erasmo claims Linda's office at 1216 E. Madison, Suite D, as his Brownsville residence for campaign purposes. He may indeed have a cot in the back of her office to rest his bones on his visits to Brownsville.)

Residence issues aside, Frank Mar claims that Erasmo Castro referred to me as a "pendejo."

That is true.  But, for some reason, being called a "pendejo" by Erasmo, doesn't sting.  I scored 99+ percentile on the National Merit Scholarship Test in 1965, the highest score they awarded.  I'm not actually a "pendejo."


But, as I reported in 2012 the Brownsville Cheezmeh group were selling pink t-shirts to promote "cancer awareness." (Technically, any item containing the word "cancer" could be said to promote cancer awareness.)
     
When a school teacher, April Flores, questioned Erasmo about the use of the funds raised by selling the pink t-shirts, he took considerable umbrage.  Erasmo, as the head cheese, does not tolerate questioning.

April was on point in questioning Erasmo about how funds from the sale of pink Brownsville Cheesmeh t-shirts would be used.  My name came up in the discussion and Erasmo referred to me as a pendejo."

So, why did Nena and I vote for someone we knew to be tainted by greed and deception?

It was simply a case of voting for the "lesser of two evils."  While Jerry McHale states that I "endorsed" Erasmo, that's somewhat hyperbolic. We/I simply voted for Erasmo, given the alternative.


City Commissioner Rose Gowen
Rose Gowen has been an awful city commissioner, not only disrespectful and crass in responding to citizen's concerns, but openly disdainful of the city charter and the Texas Code of Ethics.

If Erasmo Castro is a charlatan, in his recent campaigns, citizens found him approachable. If, after election, he reverts back to "head cheese" personna, he will be a one term commissioner.  

Rose Gowen, on the other hand, is routinely disrespectful to citizens who question her votes or decisions, telling them to "vote for someone else next time" or simply signing with her infamous salutation: "Ugh! Rose."

Gowen has shown no hesitancy to violate the city code and general ethics to further her agenda.  In 2014, as a city commissioner, she voted to "convey" Lincoln Park to the University of Texas, not disclosing that she was employed by UT. After the conflict of interest went public, City Manager Mark Sossi hastily reworked a resolution to look for "alternative" sites to give to UT instead of Lincoln Park and Gowen, this time, abstained from voting.  Her clear conflict of interest had been exposed, but certainly not by her.  The new resolution left the city still able to convey Lincoln Park, if they couldn't "find" an adequate alternative, without the problem of a conflict of interest on the initial vote.

That same year Rose Gowen violated the city charter once more to pursue a personal agenda. Her four year term on the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, an entity responsible for dispersing nearly $5,000,000 in sales tax monies annually for 4B "Quality of Life" projects. The terms of Rose Gowen, Jude Benevides and Blanca Perez-Moreno on the BCIC board expired legally 12/31/14.

Jude Benevides and Blanca Perez-Moreno, respecting the City Charter, did not attend the 1/8/15 BCIC board meeting.  Not only did Rose Gowen attend, but she refused to relinquish her previous role as chairman, in order to attempt to push through a personal project.  When the new board did not support her bullying, she left, saying:  "I can't believe this!"

John Villarreal, Interviewed by the
Brownsville Observer in 2011 at
La Milpa Tortilleria
In yards across the city, the campaign signs of John Villarreal and Rose Gowen hang in tandem. Both support the Tony Martinez agenda, so toxic to our city.  A vote for Rose and John means continued control by Mayor Martinez without citizen input.

Joe Munguia, Candidate for City Commissioner,
District 3 Against William Garza
  If John and Rose are part of Tony Martinez' hoped for majority on the city commission, Joe Munguia, candidate for City Commissioner, District 3, is another cog in that wheel.  The insurance salesman conferred with Martinez and the infamous Carlos Marin about running for this office and has received known financial support from Marin.

Gowen: "No!"
Villarreal: "No!"
Munguia:  "No!"

If you want what's best for Brownsville, not what's best for Tony Martinez and friends. 










Friday, April 14, 2017

Luby's on Boca Chica Blvd. Closes~A Very Sad Day!

The Brownsville Herald made a simple announcement Friday concerning the closure of Luby's Restaurant on Boca Chica Blvd. Thursday.  The announcement was accompanied with a photo by Jared Hoekema.

My first meal at that Luby's location was in 1966, accompanied by Victor Cox, an engineer at Union Carbide.  I remember Victor suggesting I leave something "on the plate" to look "rich."  I ignored his advice.

Nena and I missed Luby's when we moved to Arkansas in 1970, but Nena's dad, Manuel Perez, brought the whole family together for a meal there each year when we came back to Brownsville for a visit.(Nena's dad reminds me in some ways of retired local teacher Dagoberto Barrera.  Born in Ciudad Victoria, Manuel served 30 years in the U.S. Army, then another 15 in Border Patrol.  He was an absolute patriot, insisting only English be spoken in his home, although his English was considerably broken.)

When we retired in 2004 and returned to the area, it was obvious that this Luby's location was in decline.  The building had a musty smell and looked shopworn.  The menu had declined, replacing some freshly cooked vegetables with rice and pasta dishes.  A request for mantequilla to the server would bring only soft margarine in plastic containers.  Our favorite seating area, in the back room next to the bougainvillea was frequently blocked.

We saw this day coming, but it's still very sad.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Can We Give Jack What He Needs to Succeed?

My Student, Jack,
A Chronological 1st Grader
Jack's dad told me 1/17/17 he wanted to pull his son out of BISD if I would homeschool him. Honored by the request, I jumped into its fulfillment with both feet, buying curriculum, textbooks and workbooks that I recently measured at three feet tall laid on 
their backs.  The blog took a remote back seat to teaching this kid.

My initial approach to primary education was rigid, fifties style readin', writin' and 'rithmetic, the same inflexible assault I endured over 60 years ago.

But, I've gotten better at it, more flexible, more discerning, focusing on Jack's actual interests as tools for learning.  When I heard Jack hum-singing the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, I asked him to print out the lyrics and then make a handwritten copy.  He found the lyrics on my laptop in ten seconds or less, hitting Control P to print.  

After he made a handwritten copy, I asked:  "Do you want to read the lyrics like poetry or sing them?"

"I think singing would go faster," Jack answered.(I wish I'd taken a video.)

I'd taken a chance, ordering third grade curriculum for this chronological first grader.  He's blitzing through it, but what is he missing out on?  His peers at Skinner Elementary are taking TAKS tests and learning about Easter.

"Jack, what do you know about Easter?" I asked.

Jack's expression got quizzical.

"Are you talking about Easter baskets?" he asked.


"That's part of it," I responded.

"The holiday originated as a celebration of reproduction, animals and humans having babies.  The holiday symbols, eggs and bunnies, are about reproduction.  It all started with the Babylonian goddess Astarte or Ashtoreth," I explained.

"Oh," Jack replied.

Jack's grandma interrupted.  She wanted Jack to know about the Vietnamese man pulled forcibly off a United Airlines plane.  I watched the interchange carefully as grandma explained how the man's nose was broken, two teeth knocked out and received a concussion because he didn't want to get off a plane after purchasing a ticket.

Jack was wide-eyed, listening, staring at his grandma.   

"Grandma, I think Jack is ready for his strawberry shortcake," I declared.

Another day at grandpa's homeschool.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pat Ahumada Questions Prudence of Converting Old Building to Fire Training Facility

From the editor:  We noted this letter to the editor of the Brownsville Herald by Pat Ahumada questioning, not only La Casa del Nylon purchase by the city, but the planned use as a fire training facility downtown:


Pat Ahumada
I read your March 22 news article titled "New home," regarding La Casa de Nylon's renovation for a Fire Department facility, which makes uses of the property that has been vacant for years losing tax revenue and incurring cost to maintain.

The mayor ignored the appraisal district's $600,000 market value assessment when he pushed the building's $2,3 million purchase, ignored that the appraisal being relied on had been rejected two years prior and that it was now obsolete.  He ignored that the appraisal did not rely on typical competing retail properties similar in location and size as La Casa de Nylon, which discredited the value reported and was the reason the appraisal report was rejected when I was mayor.

La Casa del Nylon
It is a known fact that dowtown properties sell for pennies on the dollar, especially during the Great Recession of 2008-2011.  No bank would have accepted a two-year-obsolete appraisal report or financed La Casa de Nylon, but the city did.

Now compare La Casa de Nylon to the Mercantile Bank purchase with more land, parking and building space for the same price.

Now the City Commission proposes to conver La Casa de Nylon to a fire training facility in a retail district, which is not in conformity with the land use and traffic density.

The city justifies putting more money into La Casa de Nylon because it spends $130,000 to send 19 firefighter cadets to Houston for training over a two year period.  The city says it can save $70,000 by training them at La Casa de Nylon site, but it will take 123 years to recoup the $4.3 million invested, which includes the $2 million to convert the building to a fire training facility and assumes 19 firefighters are needed every two years.

Does the city need to be in the real estate and fire training business?

Pat Ahumada



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Ugly Tandem Killing Our City and Their Subservient Enabler Up for Re-Election

Rose Gowen, Tony Martinez in 2011
Things are not always as they seem in this border town of 200,000, where likely less than 10% of registered voters will participate in the May 6 city commission race.

It's a safe bet that your mailman, cake decorator, the man who weighs out your fajitas at the  carnicerĂ­a, even your neighbor, do not know who serves as mayor in Brownsville, much less the names of any of the city commissioners.  More pressing issues, like eking out a living, avoiding deportation, getting the kids on the school bus in the morning, occupy the minds of majority of the city's residents.

The two aloof egomaniacs pictured above, Mayor Tony Martinez and Commissioner Rose Gowen care not that their inept decision-making has raised utility bills 31% for Brownsville residents for a power plant that will not be built, added millions in tax burden for 13 unneeded buildings downtown while ignoring basic infrastructure needs in the city to build a huge bike trail network in a non-bike riding city.

Since his election in 2011, Mayor Martinez has had a city commission of rubber stampers, not mentally equipped to protect Brownsville taxpayer's interests, assets or needs.  Martinez has continued to block the broadcast of public comment during City Commission meetings, cementing his image as anti-democratic, anti-taxpayer.


Gowen is a piece of work; a bully, yes, but also one who's crossed legal lines more than once to achieve her objectives.(Add the name "Gowen" to the search feature for this blog to get the details.)  Gowen wants a personal legacy of bike trails in a city largely without sidewalks or flood control.  Her priorities are skewed toward her personal legacy, ignoring the actual needs of the citizenry.

Gowen wore out her welcome in 2014 with snarky responses to taxpayers questioning her promotion of a project to reduce E. 6th Street, a principal truck artery into the city, by one lane to accommodate a bike lane.(Use "Gowen ugh" in the search feature of this blog for the details.)

Rose has opposition from Erasmo Castro for the City Commissioner At-Large B position.  Will Castro listen to the people if elected?  We don't know, but we know Rose won't.


John Villarreal, the current City Commissioner in District 4, up for re-election, is not an ax murderer.  He's a very nice young man from a great family who's tried his best, but been largely over his head in city government, generally simply "going along to get along."  He's opposed by recently retired municipal judge Ben Neece.

What we hope for from Neece is that he will be the adult in the room during city commission meetings, questioning and vetting the ideas pushed by Mayor Martinez.  God knows we needed an adult on the city commission when Tony was orchestrating the purchase of La Casa del Nylon for triple its value, along with 12 other unneeded buildings bought with taxpayer dollars or committing over $300,000,000 of increased utility rates to fund a power plant that won't be built.

Monday, April 10, 2017

May Local Candidates Loan Themselves Money for their Campaign?

From the editor: A reader recently noted that City Commission candidates Ben Neece and Joe Munguia had loaned themselves money for their campaigns for city commissioner.  He was confident this represented an ethics violation. The Texas Ethics Commission website below indicates otherwise:

TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION

Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File With Local Filing Authorities

Revised May 4, 2016

This guide is for candidates for and officeholders in the following positions:
county offices;
precinct offices;
single-county district offices;
city offices; and
offices of other political subdivisions such as school districts.

REIMBURSEMENT FOR POLITICAL EXPENDITURES FROM PERSONAL FUNDS

If a candidate or officeholder makes political expenditures from personal funds, he or she may use political contributions to reimburse himself or herself if the expenditures are properly reported either on the reporting schedule for loans or on the reporting schedule for political expenditures from personal funds. In order for a candidate or officeholder to use political contributions to reimburse his or her personal funds, the political expenditure from personal funds must be properly reported on the report covering the period in which the expenditures are made. A filed report may not be later corrected to indicate an intention to reimburse personal funds from political contributions.

If a candidate or officeholder deposits personal funds in an account in which political contributions are held as permitted by section 253.0351(c) of the Election Code, the deposited amount must be reported as a loan and reimbursements to the candidate or officeholder may not exceed the amount reported as a loan. See “Campaign Expenditures From Personal Funds” in this guide for additional information.

Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust - Live, 1975

Judas Priest Sings Joan Baez' "Diamonds and Rust"

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Blog Article Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo Didn't Want You to See!



By Dr. Gerald F. McHale-Scully


TheMcHaleReport.blog

We awoke to find early this Thursday morning that our article "Lerma Serves Elizondo Warning" had been removed from Facebook and that we had been suspended from posting on that site for three days. This incident only confirms our suspicion about the emperor of ice cream: He is a vindictive egomaniac who can't handle criticism.


We remember Elizondo many years ago when he was studying medicine across the border and driving an ambulance to make ends meet. He was a regular guy back then. In fact, he was a nobody. His critics contend that he is still a nobody but who delusionally believes that he is a somebody. In his own small mind lost in that hairless head he thinks, pathetically, that he is a big shot who believes he can cry "fire" in a movie theater and walk away with nothing more than a scolding as if he were a child playing with matches.

There is nothing more sacred than the average citizen having the right to criticize politicians, but as we have learned both nationally and locally, freedom of expression is costly. President Donald Trump threatens the national press every day for not placing him on a pedestal while Mayor Tony Martinez prohibits the filming of the public comment session during municipal meetings in order to silence criticism against arguably the most corrupt city administration in history.

At The McHale Report we have been sued on several occasions but vindicated. Angered culprits of sins against humanity have insinuated that both our lives and our jobs were on the line if we continued with our diatribes against our democratically elected dictators. Those in power will go to any extreme in order to keep the powerless, voiceless.

This isn't the first time Facebook has placed us on notice, but we have understood their motives in the past. Not every one shares our appreciation for "art" and as a result we have had both articles and photos excised. But this is the first time we have experienced Facebook's wrath regarding political commentary.

We will repost both the story and the photo featuring Elizondo after this editorial. Elizondo, in our opinion, is in over his head as both fire chief and a BISD trustee. El Rrun Rrun Publisher Juan Montoya has printed several times that according to city policy there is a conflict of interest in Elizondo serving both entities and he needs to resign from either/or.

Montoya has also written that Elizondo tried to pressure longtime educator Mary Solis into his doing his bidding. When she didn't, Solis suddenly discovered that she had been demoted from being principal at Veterans High School to a more lowly post at Lucio Middle School. Solis filed a grievance against the school district and prevailed. Solis is the sister of veteran fireman Jorge Lerma, the new president of the firefighters union.

There is much more to the conflicted Elizondo and we intend to delve into his darker side in the coming months. We wouldn't be surprised if he resorts to retaliatory tactics at the BISD where our publisher Jerry McHale has been employed for 39 years. Twice this year BISD administrators have intimated that McHale's writings could cost him his job. So much for free speech.

"We are not taking Elizondo's actions lightly," said Scott Steinbeck, The McHale Report's managing editor. "This is the United States of America. This is not Russia's Putin where journalists are literally gunned down in the shadows of the Kremlin. Elizondo, a bully, is attacking the Constitution. If he thinks he can expectorate, ejaculate, urinate and defecate on the graves of dead soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to protect our liberties, he is sadly mistaken."

"Though there is nothing we can do within the law, Elizondo has displayed by his paranoia that he is opposed to the First Amendment," stated Justo Leyes, The McHale Report's legal expert. "There are consequences for public servants who metamorphose into pubic serpents spewing their poison. Brownsville is the Third World Capital of the United States where corruption flourishes because the likes of Elizondo reject both transparency and accountability."

Finally Getting Around to Reading Thomas Paine

Had I read "The Age of Reason, Parts I & II" by Thomas Paine fifty years ago, my life might have taken a different course, not wasting so many years in a bogus, self-sabotaging, guilt-engendering belief system.

Paine wrote Part I in 1793, was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in Luxembourg Prison in Paris, then followed up with Part II after his release from prison in 1795.
Despite his books supportive of the French and American revolutions, only six attended his funeral, likely because his works destroyed Biblical Christianity, both in logic and using internal evidence from the Bible itself to undermine the authenticity of every book in the Old and New Testament.

Just one example of Paine's logic:

Revelation:  "Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.  But. . . something revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, is revelation to that person only. . .and hearsay to every other."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Late Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah (from Live in Chicago)

World Premiere of Brownsville's "Food Bank" Video by Diego Lee Rot

Tony Romo to Finish Season with Dallas Mavericks

Tony Romo, who just retired Wednesday from the Dallas Cowboys, will suit up in the last game for the Dallas Mavericks against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

Romo will be on the bench as the last member of the 15 man roster, will participate in pre-game shooting, but will likely not appear in the game, despite team owner Mark Cuban's recent remark that he was looking for a "pass-first point guard."

Cuban is using the Romo appearance to boost interest in the final game of a year in which the Mavs missed the playoffs for only the second time in Cuban's 17 years as owner.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Rose Gowen Campaign Dines at Mayor Martinez' Two Establishments

Commissioner Rose "Ugh!" Gowen
City Commissioner At-Large B Rose Gowen wants your vote every four years but never your opinion.  Citizens who've had the misfortune of interacting with the commissioner while disagreeing with her policies, describe her as "arrogant," "rude," "drunk with power," and "ugly."

Gowen has not been a good steward of taxpayer assets, joining Tony Martinez in squandering $3,500,000 on a dozen unneeded buildings in 2012, taking them off the tax rolls and offering to "convey" the city's precious Lincoln Park to the ultra-rich University of Texas system.  At a meeting of UT regents, shortly after the city approved the Lincoln Park transfer, the regents in affect laughed their asses off about stealing the park from rubes.

Gowen has been a consistent, blind supporter of Mayor Tony Martinez.  That's not surprising since Martinez was instrumental in getting Gowen elected the first time around.

Mayor Tony Martinez
Gowen's recent campaign finance report shows the campaign dined at Tony's two eating establishments, spending $430.51 at Lola's Bakery and $87.08 at Spanky's Burgers.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Prepare to Be Shocked: Nena and I Voted for Erasmo Castro for City Commissioner At-Large, Place B

Picture Courtesy of Anisa & Rogelio Gonzalez
Erasmo has lost some girth since the photo at the left lifted from Rogelio Gonzalez' Facebook page.  He's not quite a "lean, mean, fighting machine," but getting there.

Many would be surprised to know that Nena and I voted for Erasmo in his City Commissioner At-Large B race against incumbent Rose Gowen. (Nena and I use the mail-in ballot since Nena's three strokes.  Remi Garza's staff has been incredible in sending these ballots out.)


Melissa Zamora
After all, there was that acrimonious split from the advocacy group Brownsville Cheezmeh in 2011, when Erasmo showed us the door for not agreeing to work for the recall of then City Commissioner Melissa Zamora.  

Nena and I stayed up all night agonizing about our participation.  We decided not to work in soiling a young woman's career, especially when voters in her district were not supportive.  The primary issue involving Melissa was a communication tower built in her district in a residential area. Those living adjacent to the tower were not willing to sign a petition to recall Zamora, so why should we pursue it?

Fast forward to 2017:  Erasmo is running against one of the most anti-constituent commissioners in the history of Brownsville.  Hyperbole?  No. Gowen has shown consistent arrogance in dealing with voters, even signing emails from those questioning her projects with "Ugh, Dr. Rose Gowen."

Yes, "Ugh, Rose."  Your arrogance stinks to high heaven and we're tired of it.

At least Erasmo will listen.

There is, of course the matter or residency. Erasmo doesn't really live in Brownsville, just as Jessica Tetreau didn't really live in District 2 in 2011 or Ed Rivera live in Brownsville in the recent Port of Brownsville election.  

I suspect Tony and Rose will bring out this residency issue if Erasmo gets more votes in May, but we just couldn't vote for Rose.

District 4 City Commission Race~John Villarreal vs Ben Neece. . .Who Will Do the Most for Downtown?

John Villarreal, Interviewed  in 2011 at
La Milpa, His Family's Business
Like its real sister city across the river, Matamoros, Brownsville has an historic downtown with genuine New Orleans elements. Hurricanes, peso devaluation, stingy owners and dumbass city leaders have contributed to its decline.
The Cathedral, Matamoros

Larry Loff and Eugene Fernandez, among others, proudly give us the history of downtown, designated by the City of Brownsville as part of District 4 and rue its slow, obvious tracking to demise.

When a well-mannered young man from a strong family, possessing a Masters degree in business, ran for District 4 city commissioner in 2011, Nena and I were on board.  John was young, but we reflected on legendary Texas coach Darrel Royal's words:  "If a dog's gonna bite you, he'll do it as a pup."

Estela Chavez-Vasquez
After the election, it seemed John might not have been up to the challenge.  The young commissioner, along with newbie Estela Chavez-Vasquez were set to make nominations to a city board when Mayor Tony Martinez stepped in and declared such nominations would now be handled "differently." Both newbie commissioners were not "allowed" to make nominations, as commissioners before them had done and acquiesced without a whimper to Martinez.

We encouraged John to become totally familiar with each City Commission meeting agenda, not come in "flat-footed," but, instead, prepared to intelligently discuss and question EVERY action item.  Yes, be more assertive.

John tried, but, for the most part, during his six years on the commission, has "gone along to get along."

The historic downtown, a major part of John's district 4, has continued its deterioration, despite a tiny bit of facade improvement.  


Ben Neece
John's opponent in the District 4 race, recently retired Municipal Judge Ben Neece, has direct experience in trying to energize downtown.

For several years, Neece promoted local musicians at the Crescent Moon, a small venue on the back of the old Hide Yard building fronting Adams Street at E. 11th.  Neece learned first hand about City of Brownsville permitting hurdles, growing a downtown enterprise and the general lay of the land downtown.  The Crescent Moon eventually morphed in the current Half Moon, owned principally by George Ramirez.  Does that mean that Neece has ideas about jumpstarting downtown redevelopment?  Possibly.

Neece, in thirty years on the municipal bench, engendered good will in the compassionate way he's dealt with defendants, generously utilizing community service, payment plans in this financially poor community.  


Neece has an additional asset in his best friend, Tad Hasse, Brownsville's resident nerd.  Hasse has ideas about tax abatement for downtown businesses in exchange for physical improvements that city government so far has not shown interest.  


Abraham Galonsky
It should be noted that Ben Neece frequently power breakfasts with Brownsville's most political property owner, Abraham Galonsky.  Like Tony Martinez, Neece is close to Galonsky, who, unlike many others in downtown, got the city to relieve him of a downtown building by overpaying for it.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Has Mike Hernandez III Bought Himself A Blogger?

The goofy, "high end" car leaser, Mike Hernandez III, who lives in uppity Colleyville, TX while pushing autos in Dallas, may have bought himself a blogger.

You may remember Mike as the purchaser of all those cryptic OP. 1033 billboards that littered the city a year ago.  Mike was using the advertisement to launch his campaign to "bring Brownsville out of poverty by 2033."

That mindset, motivation is acceptable, unless you want to throw around your greenbacks to influence the TSC and Port of Brownsville races to gain local control.  Mike tried, $140,000 worth of trying and lost his ass.  He backed dogs in every race.  An outsider trying to be an insider!

Mike blamed the blogs for their inhospitality and sued one blogger who he thought had crossed the line of libel.  That suit was settled and Mike moved on, trying his own hand at blogging.  He created the blog below, but never worked up a single article.  How hard can it be to express your love for Brownsville and desire to make change?


The Blogspot of Mike Hernandez III

Mike Hernandez III Helps Brownsville, Texas, Community Thrive



A recent email alerted to a change in strategy:

"Jim, Mike Hernandez III is paying XXXXXX to write propaganda for him. It's a marriage made in heaven for both of those rejects."

I won't reveal the individual mentioned, but he's an out-of-towner who once worked for the Brownsville Herald.

If Mike III has hired this fellow, they make an almost perfect couple. We wish them nothing but bliss.