Wednesday, June 28, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Things are getting a mite tangled after officers of the Brownsville Police Dept. impounded a Mercedes-Benz SUV registered to a district judge after it allegedly was involved in an accident this past weekend and the driver abandoned it without leaving any contact documentation.

There red SUV vehicle reportedly is registered to 404th District Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez who is saying that it was her son who was driving it without her authorization and left it on the northbound frontage road between Boca Chica and Price Road after the mishap. 

It was impounded by the P.D. where a VIN check indicated that the vehicle was registered to the district judge. We are making inquiries on accident reports and will inform our seven readers as details become available.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Image result for zendejas, rodriguez, bisd

By Juan Montoya
We should have seen this coming.
With the deftness of a troll wielding a bludgeon, Brownsville Independent School District Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas rammed through a nearly 10 percent increase in property taxes in one fell stroke with the support of four trustees who chose to support her without even considering asking the public for their opinion.

This was a story of a death foretold, since the move to increase taxes to build new facilities had been advocated by the likes of trustees Phil Cowen and Joe Rodriguez for months during meetings of the Facilities Committee headed by Cowen.

At a previous meeting CFO Lorenzo Sanchez had counseled the board that the $100 million he wanted to raise could be done by placing a bond issue election before the taxpaying public or the same amount of money could be raised by a simple majority vote of the board. With the support of a majority made up of Rodriguez, Carlos Elizondo, Cowen and Cesar Lopez, Zendejas and Sanchez got their way.

Only Dr. Sylvia Atkinson and Minerva Peña did not heed her siren's song. And calls by Atkinson for a town-hall type of meeting where the public could air their opinion on the matter went by the wayside. The majority vote assured the superintendent that the district's taxpayers will shoulder the extra taxes and will have no say in the matter.

This is about par for the course with Zendejas and her majority.
Since she was hired as superintendent through the intervention of trustee Rodriguez, the board has moved through issues that affect the community without consulting with the people who will end up paying for their choices.

Even the way she was hired should have given us a clue on the style of governance of the district, easily the biggest employee in the city with more than 7,000 employees and some 48,000 students.

Zendejasgate: When she was named interim superintendent, Rodriguez and the board promised that the community's input would be sought for a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent. There was extended discussion on establishing a community advisory committee to help the board in its choice. And Rodriguez even suggested a consultant from the Harlingen ISD to help the committee.

All that was forgotten and Zendejas – who handed in an outline of her resume – was named as a permanent superintendent without the niceties of a selection process or even a consideration of any other candidates.

From there on, the board majority and Zendejas have done as they have seen fit, sometimes to the detriment of taxpayers and students, and often the embarrassment of the community.

Take, for example, some of the highlights of the Zendejas-Rodriguez regime:
Image result for zendejas, rodriguez, bisd
Anillogate: When the administration decided that the 2016 Porter high School Soccer team which won a state title deserved championship rings at $895 apiece, it was the company associated with Rodriguez's BSN Sports that was chosen without the niceties of competitive bidding. Less than five days after the team won, Zendejas had already decided that Herrf Jones would provide the rings at $895 each for students and $995 for non-team members such as the coaches, principals, and herself and Rodriguez.

No one would admit ordering the rings or issuing a purchase order. In fact, the entire procurement process was ignored. It wasn't until emails from Zendejas to a competitor ring seller (see graphic above) was discovered that the public learned that it has been her and the Porter coaching staff who had chosen the vendor and ordered them without a purchase order. Rodriguez and Zendejas got "complimentary" rings at $995 each as a "volume discount" on the 41-ring purchase. Why Rodriguez?

Barbacoagate: The district – through the Region One Buy Board – contracted with vendor Valco Foods to purchase $100,000s of Mexican barbacoa, a food item high in saturated fat, but lucrative to the company that landed the rich contract. In a statement put out by the district after batches of the meat turned out to be rotten, it said: "The product was raised and purchased in the United States from a USDA approved vendor but was processed in Mexico according to USDA guidelines and under the supervision of a USDA inspector."

Not really, we later found out. The succulent lard-laden antojito Mexicano has very little nutritional value, as can be seen in the nutritional facts label at left. It however, made its vendor rich at nearly $6.50 a pound.

Then we found out that the USDA was not really pleased with the idea of using federal funds to buy the greasy meat from Mexico. The USDA prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase any product from outside the country. After the debacle, USDA investigators swarmed over the district and Region One offices trying to track how the vendor was able to sell its wares to school districts in South Texas. The issue got so hot that it resulted in the apparent "suicide" of the BISD director of its Food and Nutrition Service, Silverio Capistran. So far, no one knows who engineered the scam and who profited from the sale of the Mexican meat.

Turfgate: According to notes taken at a meeting between former purchasing administrator Rosie Peña, Zendejas, and former CFO Lucio Mendoza, the super decided that the district should spend millions (so far $4.5 million and rising) to put artificial turf on three high school soccer fields. There was no procurement process followed and no other companies were allowed to bid. Using the Buy Board formula again, Zendejas said that she decided on the expenditure and the company (Paragon Sports) "over coffee" with her fellow superintendents. When Peña complained that the company had not been vetted by Purchasing, she got the axe and was sent packing to Food and Nutrition Service, the Siberia of the BISD.

ITabletgate: After an attempt to similarly select a provider for Itablets for fifth graders in the district, Zendejas was forced to follow the bidding process as a result of using restricted federal funds to acquire them. She was forced to follow the procurement process and ended up buying them from company in Virginia. The $1.5 million purchase was approved by her board majority and trustee Cowen said the students and parent were clamoring for the tablets. Well, she got her tablets, but the students did not. It won't be until next school year that the students will see them. By that time, there is no guarantee that they won't be obsolete technology.

EMTgate: The district, again without going through a procurement process, approved a contract with  International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology, L.L.C, of which Justin Oakerton is the owner, and which was awarded a contract to teach EMT courses in the BISD from August 2016 until June 2018. BISD records indicate that before Oakerton teamed up with the fire chief, the firm had a contract from 2009 to 2014.

During that previous five-year period, the BISD paid  International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology $417,840 to teach EMT courses.

But after the company was awarded the most recent contract, records indicate that it has been paid $313,660 between July 2016 to August 2016 for the period from July 2016 to June 2017. (See graphic, click to enlarge.)
Oakerton has had a long association with trustee Carlos Elizondo, who is said to be his silent partner in the deal.

With that track record under her watch, what other surprises (gates upon gates) await the BISD taxpayer?

Monday, June 26, 2017


By Juan Montoya
A 4-2 vote by the board of trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District approved a 11.35 cent increase on property taxes that will see the tax rate go from $1.265000 to $1.1525000 cents per $100 valuation on the average residence in the district.

The motion to pass the increase was made by trustee Carlos Elizondo and seconded by Phil Cowen.  The only trustees who voted against the rate hike were Dr. Sylvia Atkinson and Minerva Peña.

With only trustee Laura Perez Reyes absent, the four members of the board voted to go along with the recommendation of Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas and CFO Lorenzo Sanchez to raise the rate. They will decide where the additional funds will go, recommended by Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas to be based on a five-year capital improvement plan to be presented at a future meeting.

The members who made up the majority were Joe Rodriguez, Cesar Lopez, Cowen, and Elizondo.

Dr. Sylvia Atkinson questioned both Zendejas and Sanchez on whether the additional funds were included in this year's recommended 2017-2018 budget and both answered that they were not.

Figures presented by the BISD administration indicate that the average district residence is valued at $85,832 and that the average homeowner can expect to pay an additional $82.70 in taxers. Under the old tax rate the homeowner who paid $691.42 will now pay 774.12.

Sanchez explained that the $1.1525 of the levy will go toward maintenance and operations and 0.11350 will go toward debt service to replace the monies moved from debt service to operations in the 2015 Tax Ratification Election.

And while some people in the community have said that they were under the impression that the district will get the money in the tax rate back from the state, Zendejas said that the district will have to borrow "significant" amounts of money to complete the project list over the next five years.

"We will come back to board," she said. " The five-year plan will see us borrowing significantly more money than the 11 cents can pay back," she told the trustees.


By Juan Montoya
A few years ago, local bail bondsman Raul Lopez bonded out Brownsville resident Jose Jasso on a misdemeanor charge.
Jasso showed up for court, pleaded guilty, paid his fine, and served his probated sentence. As far as Lopez knew that was the end of that, just as he has served as bondsman for hundreds, if not thousands, of other clients.

But just last week as he left a local grocery store, someone claiming to be Jasso's brother confronted him in the parking lot and accused him of sending his brother to the state penitentiary.
"He asked me if I remembered Jose Jasso and accused me of screwing him up bad," Lopez said."And then he said that he just wanted me to know that he would be coming out soon and that he was his brother."

Jasso is now serving time in the Texas Dept. of Corrections  for breaking probation on a 2007 conviction in Cameron County for possession of a controlled substance. His attorney was Oscar de la Fuente. He was 19 years old at the time. Lopez, the bail bondsman, was never involved in bailing him out on that charge. In fact, court documents show that he was released after De la Fuente signed the surety bond with the Cameron County Bail Bond Board for $20,000. (See graphic below. Click to enlarge.)

A review of the record at the Cameron County District Court Clerk's Office indicates that Jasso was given a 10-year probated sentence by then-404th District Judge Abel Limas. De la fuente and Limas figured prominently in the federal judicial corruption investigation and prosecution. Limas was sentenced to six years on numerous corruption charges.

De la Fuente turned state's evidence and was not charged with any crimes.

Under the terms of the probation Limas issued on the possession charge, Jasso was to perform a set number of community service hours, pay a fine, and report to his probation officer. If he observed the conditions of his probated sentence, he would be released of his restrictions in 2017.

His attorney's petition for early termination of his sentence and reduction of term of community supervision was denied by the court on July 2013.

Things were going well until Jasso (now identified as Jose Angel Jasso) was again charged with another offense while he was serving the 10-year probated sentence.

Unbeknownst to the court, on November 19, 2012, the Cameron County District Attorney's Office had charged Jasso, now 24, with accident involving injury and failing to render aid. At that time, his attorney, Juan Mendiola, signed an a surety bond, and he was released pending trial. (See graphic. Click to enlarge.)

When he showed up for court, the court released Mendiola's surety bond. Lopez was in no way involved in the process at all with the possession or the accident involving injury cases.

When he went to court in Judge Elia Cornejo's 404th District Court, she accepted his guilty plea and sentenced him to five years probation, to pay the victim restitution, an to pay fine. He was also to attend substance abuse classes, do community service, and general to keep his nose clean.

On December 2015, Mendiola filed a motion before Cornejo-Lopez to grant him an early termination of the sentence on the accident resulting in injury case and a reduction of his community supervision. Cornejo-Lopez again denied the defense motions and things continued as they were, with the court unaware that Jasso had broken his 10-year probation

The record shows that up until February 2017, Jasso was observing his probation restrictions and paying his fines. But somewhere between February and now, the court found out that he had broken his initial 10-year probated sentence when he pleaded guilty to the later accident causing injury charge, revoked his probation, and sent him to the Texas dept. of Corrections.

Lopez, whose involvement with Jasso predated these two offenses, says the family is under the mistaken impression that somehow he is responsible for the defendant being sent to the state penitentiary. He said that the man's mother had also visited him at his office before to accuse him of being responsible for her son's imprisonment.

"I have been in the bail bond business for more than 30 years and I have always performed my job professionally and with empathy toward my clients," he said. "It's obvious that someone is mistaken in blaming me for Mr. Jasso being locked up for breaking his probation. They got it all wrong. I am in the business of taking people out of jail, not in locking them up. I feel for Mr. Jasso and I can understand how his family feels, but they are mistaken."

Nonetheless, Lopez filed a report on the encounter with the man's brother with the Brownsville Police Dept. just in case things escalate. He says he would be willing to talk with them and clarify the matter. His brother Joe Lopez, of Mazz, has spent more than 10 years in state prison and is due to be released on parole soon.

"I know what it is to have a family member in prison," he said. "It's a horrible feeling. We have a mother who suffers just like Mr. Jasso's mother does. I don't wish that on anybody."

Mendiola, by the way, has had his bail bond board privileges stopped as a result of having too many bonds forfeited when his clients did not show up for court. Mendiola's abandoned bail bond office has been vandalized often, Lopez, said, probably by dissatisfied clients who though they were served badly.

"Things come back to you when you don't treat people well," he said. "I believe in the golden rule and that has served me well."


(Ed.'s Note: We were passing by the corner of E. Tyler and 12th Street when we came upon this sign painter (artist) and we asked him what he was painting. He told us his name is Isidro and that he specializes in painting characters for children's day care centers and was looking for a job. His number, if anyone should require his services, is listed on the painting above and is (956) 559-1294.

Isidro said he was painting the caricatures above as a way to advertise his services and find work. If you could sue his services, call him.)


By Juan Montoya
Following the appearance by subpoena of City of Brownsville manager Charlie Cabler and attorney Mark Sossi legal representatives for Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo are said to be trying to hammer out an agreement with the Cameron County Attorney's Office that will result in a deferred adjudication deal that will keep him out of jail.

Sources within the DA's Office and the city indicate that the grand jury instructed both officials to produce documentation relating to the operations in the city of unlicensed ambulance company Intercity Ambulance for Emergency Medical Transport LLC, owned by Justin Oakerton and which sources say Elizondo is a silent partner.

Intercity Ambulance for Emergency Medical Transport LLC filed as a Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC) with the Texas Secretary of State on January 2011 and is approximately six years old. Oakerton is listed as owner and manager of the company. Elizondo's name does not appear in any of the documentation related to the firm.

In fact, the relationship between the ambulance service and the fire chief is so close that InterCity Ambulance vehicles which until recently were often seen parked in the driveway of his home. (See graphic at right.)

Numerous sources in the Brownsville Fire Dept. say that Elizondo has steered business to InterCity Ambulance for the lucrative transfer of patients in the city. Source have linked Elizondo to Oakerton and InterCity as well as to International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology, L.L.C,  a firm which has contracts with the city, Texas Southmost college and the Brownsville Independent School District to teach Emergency Medical Technician and firefighter courses.

Elizondo is also said to be a silent partner in International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology, L.L.C, of which Oakerton is the owner, and which was awarded a contract to teach EMT courses in the BISD on August 2016 until June 2018. BISD records indicate that before Oakerton teamed up with the fire chief, the firm had a contract from 2009 to 2014.

(Of all the videotaped meetings listed on the BISD website, the August 2 regular meeting video where the contract was approved is the only one that is not available for viewing.)

During that five-year period, the BISD paid  International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology $417,840 to teach EMT courses. But after the company was awarded the most recent contract, records indicate that it has been paid $313,660 between July 2016 to August 2016 for the period from July 2016 to June 2017. (See graphic, click to enlarge.)

Image result for carlos elizondo, brownsvilleInternational Academy of Emergency Medical Technology, L.L.C., which filed as a Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC) with the Texas Secretary of State on November 2006, also landed a contract estimated to be worth more than $200,000 with Texas Southmost College. Elizondo was personally involved in denouncing the previous firm which was providing the courses and the college awarded the contract to Oakerton's firm. The firm also teaches EMT courses to TSC students. Again, Elizondo's name does not appear in any documentation relating to the firm.

The Brownsville City Charter which proscribes the requirements for ambulance service in Brownsville requires the service providers to be licensed by the city. The person authorized to make the determination of licensing and "such other information as the fire chief shall find reasonably necessary to a fair determination of whether the terms of this article have been complied with" is the fire chief, in this case, Elizondo.

According to sources within the DA's Office and the BISD, local attorney Noe Garza has been retained as counsel by Elizondo after attorneys in Houston recommended by BISD general counsel Baltazar Salazar did not take the case. Elizondo is also a trustee with the BISD. They say that a law firm in Dallas was asking for $50,000 up front to represent the chief and he did not agree to the terms and south Garza's counsel instead.

According to heretofore reliable sources, the DA's Office is said to be agreeable to Elizondo pleading to deferred adjudication for a year, resigning as a  BISD trustee, and the promise that he will not seek public office during that time. It is unknown whether this employment as city fire chief is part of the negotiations with the county attorney's office.

Sources say that so far Elizondo has not been named on any indictment by the grand jury looking into the matter yet pending the production of the documentation by the city officials subpoenaed to testify.

Sunday, June 25, 2017



The demonstration against Texas State Representative Eddie Lucio III for representing Valley Pipeline LLC against local residents in eminent domain property condemnation proceedings will be held as planned:
Monday Morning, June 26
8:30 to 10:30 am
In the courtyard behind the Paseo Plaza Mall
1805 East Ruben Torres Blvd., Ste B-27, Brownsville


"El Compadre" or "Just The Way I Like Them”
By Juan Montoya
Ricardo and Justin were compadres.

Justin had known Ricardo for almost two decades since Ricardo had moved from Mercedes to make his home in Brownsville, or Browntown as locals called the border city.

Neither had really baptized each other’s children, but after some 20 or more years of friendship, both considered each other to be as close as a friend could be.

They had discussed baptizing Ricardo’s daughter Cristina when she was just one year old, but that was blind-sided by a series of mishaps that eventually led to Justin to cool his heels in the county jail for a week.

Justin and Ricardo agreed to be compadres while they sat in Ricardo’s back yard sipping on some beers one Sunday afternoon. Since Justin was not living with a woman at the time, they agreed to ask Julia, Ricardo’s sister-in-law to stand in with Justin  as his daughter's madrina, or godmother..

Julia was married to Adam Beto, an old lawyer who sometimes sat in as a judge in the local county courts. When Beto found out that the friends were going to be compadres and that his wife was going to stand in as a comadre with Justin, he took matters into his hands.

Justin had been convicted of a drinking while driving under the influence violation about a year before and was on probation. When a probation revocation hearing was held on Justin’s case for missing an appointment, Beto got his chance.

When Justin appeared to what he thought would be a routine hearing where he would get a chance to argue that he had made up the missed appointment the next day, the affair turned instead into a disaster. Since his lawyer hadn't arrived, he told Beto about the made-up appointment.

“I didn’t ask you to make excuses,” Beto fumed at Justin. “If you don’t comply with the terms of the probation, you go to jail. We'll give your lawyer a chance to speak for you when he gets here, if he gets here."

Justin should have seen it coming. In the case right before his hearing, a clean-cut young man in a suit was ending his two years of probation for writing bad checks. His pretty wife and new baby sat in the benches behind the defendant’s table.

“I have made full restitution to each one of the persons who got the checks in cash,” said the young man. “I don’t even have a checking account any more. I am married now and we just got a new baby. I have learned from my mistake, judge. The district attorney has also agreed that probation should be ended by this court.”

“I didn’t agree with anybody about any probation,” shot back Beto from the bench. “Bailiff, put him in a cell.”

The audience sat looking on in stunned silence.

And I’m next,”thought Justin, looking around to the rear of the courtroom to see if his attorney Luis Chueco had arrived . He was late as usual, and told the court he had a previous hearing in a neighboring town. He looked as if he were nursing a horrible hangover.

“I only care what happens in this court,” Beto retorted. “I’m going to revoke your client’s probation. Put him in jail, bailiff.”

That effectively cast a wet blanket on the baptism for the would-be compadres. Pleas to Beto that he release Justin fell on deaf ears, The more Justin’s friends and political acquaintances called Beto, the more recalcitrant he became.
“If anyone else comes and talks to me about that case, I’ll increase the sentence,” he told a local county commissioner who interceded in Justin’s behalf.

And so, Justin cooled his heels for a full week before Beto relented and released him.
From there on, Ricardo and Justin acted as if they were really compadres, even though Cristina was never formally baptized.

One of their favorite pastimes was girl watching as they drove along Elizabeth, the city’s main street Saturday afternoon. Ricardo would slow down as they passed pretty girls on the sidewalk and would tell Justin, “Look compadre, just the way I like them.”

Justin knew his compadre’s likes because he had heard them so often. “Lithe, brown-skinned, with long black hair and brown eyes. That’s the way I like my women, compadre,”Ricardo would tell him.

On one Saturday afternoon, they drove along the city’s main street and doubled back along the neighboring street ogling at the scores of young women dotting the sidewalks. There was no shortage of pretty girls in town most weekends. On Saturdays, the border town was crawling with people, many of them residents of neighboring Matamoros, Mexico. The friends then walked into a lounge to get out from under the scorching heat.

It was so hot that the pitch of light posts melted in pools at their base. Justin ached for the summer he had spent working in a salmon cannery in Petersburg, Alaska.

“There sure are a lot of good-looking women out today,” Ricardo told Justin as they sat down at a bar stool. “And...”
“I know. I know. Just the way you like them,” Justin completed his sentence.

The afternoon turned into evening before the friends walked out of the lounge and headed for a club in the city’s seedier side. Not a few of the women at these bars were on the more daring side, and if you played your cards right, something else might happen after closing time.

However, despite his talk, Justin had never seen his friend connect with any of them. Usually, they would often end up driving home after closing time to sleep in their respective homes.

Nonetheless, Ricardo never lacked optimism that he could snag a babe. What he lacked in looks, he made up in bravado.
“Look compadre, just the way I like them,” he would tell Justin as he elbowed Justin to get his attention.
As the night dragged on, the smoke in the bar soon drove them away from the taverns and they started for home.

Justin was driving that night and he took Ricardo home. As he turned in his friend’s driveway, the front porch door came on. Behind the screen door, he saw Ricardo’s wife standing resolutely in the doorway. She was not a happy camper, and she held something long, round, and menacing in her hands. It was a sight to make grown men cringe. Ricardo reluctantly alighted from his friend’s car.

Justin couldn’t help himself, even if it was his compadre.
“Look compadre, just the way you like them,” he said as he drove away laughing.         

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Keep Brownsville Beautiful Mission Statement: "To encourage each person to take responsibility for the environmental health of our community. We focus our greatest efforts in merging citizens, businesses, and communities to find solutions and advance out root issues such as Graffiti Abatement, Beautification, Litter Prevention, and Waste Minimization."

From one of our seven readers: "I live near the Veterans Park on Central and Wild Rose. I pass it everyday on my commute to school. This eyesore has been the result of negligence on the part of KBB."


By Kevin McCauley
SB Nation

Mexico is heading to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, while Russia have been eliminated. The hosts took an early lead, but were outplayed from the 30th minute on, with El Tri capturing a 2-1 victory.

The early story was a couple of controversies with the Video Assistant Referee. On two occasions, Hector Moreno made contact with a Russia player in the box, but was not whistled for a penalty. Both the 6th minute incident with Yuri Zhirkov and the 18th minute tangle with Alexandr Erokhin were reviewed, but officials didn’t grant a spot kick for either.

Russia continued to be the better attacking side throughout the first half hour, though, and nearly scored in the 24th minute. Fedor Smolov hit the post from close range, and Denis Glushakov had his follow-up shot saved.

Just two minutes later, the hosts found their breakthrough. Alexandr Erokhin whiffed on a huge chance from 15 yards out, but recovered well to slide the ball to his right, into the path of Aleksandr Samedov. The Russian wingback placed a perfect first time shot towards the far post, giving his team the lead.

But it only lasted four minutes. Andres Guardado forced Igor Akinfeev to make an excellent save on a free kick in the 29th minute, and Samedov committed a handball outside of the box as Mexico kept the pressure on immediately afterwards. From that free kick, Hector Herrera found the head of Nestor Araujo, who floated the ball into the back of the net. He looked like he was trying to knock the ball down to a teammate, but the goal counted just the same.

Mexico took the lead in dramatic fashion seven minutes after halftime. Herrera was simply trying to make a clearance in his own half when he booted the ball up the pitch in the 52nd minute, but that turned into a perfect pass over the top for Hirving Lozano. The speedy winger beat Akinfeev to the ball, lobbing a header into the goal even as the Russian keeper was kicking him in the chest.

Russia’s chances of a comeback were seriously hindered in the 68th minute, when Zhirkov was sent off for a second yellow card. El Tri was the much better side from that point forward, and was unlucky not to score a third goal.

Saturday’s results mean Mexico finishes second in Group A, and will await the results of Sunday’s matches to see who they’ll face in the semifinals.


From Texas Southmost College Website:

hector-aguilarHector Aguilar, Ph.D.
Hector Aguilar has worked at Austin Community College for 20 years, the last seven as Dean of Continuing Education, a Division the size of a college comprising of more than 120 workforce and education programs, more than 12,000 students, and about 400 faculty and staff. 
This innovative division helps people with programs in IT/Computer Science, Engineering and Trades, Healthcare, Education and Teaching, Business, multiple personal enrichment community programs, and an extensive corporate training department that works directly with multiple industries. 

Prior to being part of the Continuing Education Division, Aguilar was Professor and Chair of multiple STEM Two-year and Certificate Programs in Nanoelectronics, Electronics, Traditional Power Plant Technology, Renewable Energy Technology, Robotics Automation and Controls, etc. Prior to working at Austin Community College,  Aguilar worked for Applied Materials, the largest Semiconductor Equipment OEM and Rockwell International Allen Bradley. Hector Aguilar has a BS in Electrical Engineering, a Master in Business Administration, and PhD in College Administration.

kenneth-p-gonzalezKenneth P. Gonzalez, Ph.D.
Dr. Kenneth P. Gonzalez is a national leader in higher education with more than two decades of experience in administration, teaching, and research. Currently, he serves in two roles: first, as the Director of a Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, second, as a data coach for the National Initiative Achieving the Dream, where he has guided more than 40 community colleges in large-scale, collaborative student success initiatives. 

Previously, he served as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University where he led efforts in accreditation, academic program development, faculty development, and student success. 

Dr. Gonzalez also served for 16 years as a full-time faculty member at the University of San Diego, San Jose State University, and California State University Fullerton, where he received multiple national and institutional awards, including the Outstanding Teaching Award in 1999, 2003, and 2010. His scholarly work appears in the Journal of College Student Development, Urban Education, the Journal of the First Year Experience, and the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education (JHHE). 

His article,"Understanding the Role of Social Capital in Access to College for Latinas" has been the number one cited article in JHHE for more than a decade. Dr. Gonzalez' book (with R.V. Padilla), "Doing the Public Good: Latino Faculty and Civic Engagement," examines the challenges and strategies of Latinos in aligning their faculty work with local social justice initiatives.

Jesus-Roberto-RodriguezJesus Roberto Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez is Dean for the Business Center of Excellence at Houston Community College District. He is responsible for the planning, development, implementation and supervision of curriculum, instruction and course scheduling at 23 instructional sites. He oversees/supports 200 FT/Adjunct faculty and 5,000+ business major students. 

Prior to HCC, he was Dean at Lone Star College System and Butler Community College where he excelled in strengthening programs, student engagement, and community partnerships. Prior to higher education, he served as Executive Director for an economic development organization and a maquiladora association. 

He graduated Sam Houston State University with a B.B.A., Texas A&M International University with an M.B.A., and UT Austin with a Ph.D. Blending business acumen with a deep commitment to academic values, Dr. Rodriguez embodies passionate dedication to helping students and communities develop and succeed. A native Texan, he and his wife Ana Carolina Rodriguez reside in The Woodlands.

david-e-pearsonDavid E. Pearson, Ph.D.
David E. Pearson, an Army veteran, graduated magna cum laude with honors in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, also in Sociology, from Yale University, and was a postdoctoral fellow in International Security Studies at the Ohio State University. 

During his academic career he has served as Professor of Sociology, as Academic Senate President, as a member of the editorial board of The American Sociologist, as Founding Director of the Dual Language Certification Program, as a member of the University of Texas System's Faculty Advisory Council, as host of the radio show Society Under Fire, as a University Leadership Fellow, and as Vice President for Partnership Affairs at the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. 

Most recently he served as Dean of the Campus at San Diego State University's Imperial Valley Campus, where he established the Imperial Valley University Partnership and the Center for Sustainable Energy. He is the author of three books and numerous articles in the scholarly, scientific, and popular presses.

Friday, June 23, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Only a week after the City of Brownsville city Manager and city attorney were hauled before a Cameron County grand jury looking into ambulance-service issues in the city, the city administration has barred InterCity Ambulance from operating within the city limits.

Numerous sources have said that after the appearance of manager Charlie Cabler and attorney Mark Sossi before the grand jury last week, Brownsville Police Dept. officers have cited InterCity Ambulance drivers for operating without a license in Brownsville.

Reports also indicate that Brownsville Fire Dept. dispatchers have been instructed to stop callin on the company's ambulances for patient transfers.
The latest report was just today, when a firefighter reported seeing a police officer citing the driver of one of the company's ambulances on a major thoroughfare.

"Even the medical workers at the local hospitals are asking what happened to the other guys," said a Brownsville EMS Emergency Medical Technician.

The owner of the Intercity Ambulance Emergency Medical Technicians LLC is Justin Oakerson, a past close associate of Brownsville Fire Department Chief Carlos Elizondo. Elizondo and Oakerson had been active in establishing InterCity as an option to the city's EMS service. That association was widely known when Elizondo was the president of the Firefighters Union before he was named the city's fire chief.
Oakerson, who sued the city in the past claiming retaliation for testimony he gave in a dispute between firefighters and the city in 2014, has said that his testimony cause the city to single him out from "10 other" companies operating in the same fashion.

The city's charter stipulates that outside ambulance companies can only bring in patients from outside the city, but cannot transport them from one point of the city to another, and cannot take them from within the city to outside destinations.
Till, firefighters recall that during the past Charro Days, the fire department's administration declared all the city's EMS ambulance service suspended and had the dispatchers call InterCity to handle the calls. This was a risky move since InterCity only provides basic service, and not intermediate care sometimes required in emergency cases.

After he lost his retaliation claims in federal district court, Oakerson appealed the summary judgments given the city. On July 25, 2016, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court judgments and stated that "Plaintiffs seek both equitable and declaratory relief. First, Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the City 'equitably licensed' them to operate within its limits. Second, Plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring the City to issue them an official license to operate. Third, Plaintiffs argue that the City implicitly granted IAEMT a license to operate within City limits under the theory of equitable estoppel. The district court granted summary judgment to the city and the appeals court also affirmed."

Oakerson also claimed in an amended petition that the city's failure to cite other ambulatory service companies for operating without a license violated this Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, but later abandoned the claim.


By Juan Montoya
Once again, the residents of this burg on the westernmost outskirts of Brownsville went before the board of the Military Highway Water Supply Company and were told to...wait.

For the past year or more, the clients of the MHWS have been putting up with water contaminated with organic and particulates-laden silt that give the water emanating from their spigots and faucets a greenish, yellowish taint. They have been warned not to drink the water or allow their children to come into contact with the liquid.

San Pedro residents, literally at the tail end of the supply chain for the water district, have been putting up with tainted water because of contaminated pipes that have not been maintained as they should have been. Cleanup efforts have proven to be extremely expensive and residents now buy their drinking water. 

Nonetheless, in past meetings, they have brought children before the board to show rashes and outbreaks in their skin that resulted when they came into contact with the water. At yesterday's meeting of the water supply company board, no one from the City of Brownsville was there to speak out on their behalf.

San Pedro is within the limits of the City of Brownsville.

District 4 commissioner Ben Neece has been out of town for the last week and At-Large "B" commissioner Rose Gowen, who campaigned there before he reelection in May, was a no-show. Residents there had pinned their hopes on Gowen who flaunted her public-health credentials when she made a campaign pit stop with former District 4 commissioner John Villarreal.

The residents had pinned their hopes on Gowen, a practicing gynecologist with a bent toward public health given her past association with the University of Texas School of Public Health. She also champions other health-related issues like the farmers' market, cyclobia, etc., and in general, everything healthy.

After the election, when residents called on her to deliver, she told several of them there was nothing she could do after all.

Yesterday, the only public official who accompanied the citizens of San Pedro when they went before the MHWS board begging them to do something now about the contaminated water was Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner Alex Dominguez. Dominguez said he understood that the contaminated water was not a county government problem, but has urged the board to consider temporary solutions like tapping into the Brownsville Public Utility Board's lines. That solution could cost a mere $100,000, a payment that the MHWS board has declined to consider.

In response to the residents' and Dominguez's appeals for the board members to do something, the board instead brought their engineer to say it'll be roughly 16 to 24 months for them to finish the studies, and then more time to get the funding and clearance from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) complete the job.

"Twenty four months is not a solution," said a resident. "It sounds like a long-range plan."

Some residents said that – given the board's recalcitrance to act quickly to address the health hazard problem with their tainted water – they are already in consultation with a law firm to seek a solution.
The MHWS has been cited by the TCEQ for – among other things, high arsenic levels in the utility's drinking water.


By Juan Montoya
Following the furor that erupted after it was learned that Texas State Rep. Eddie Lucio III was representing Valley Crossing Pipeline, LLC. as they prepare to build a pipeline across Cameron County and underneath South Bay, Lucio has announced he is "withdrawing" from having the company as his client.

SaveRGVfromLNG activists and other environmental groups had planned a protest at his office on Monday alleging that he had sold out his constituents for the money paid him to condemn properties and advance the goals of the company to lay a natural gas pipeline across eco-sensitive South Bay on the Laguna Madre.

The South Bay is considered to be one of the most critical hypersaline habitats and spawning grounds for  numerous aquatic species such as shrimp, redfish, among other species. Even after Adm. Asst. Joseph O'Bell had protested that Lucio was not selling out his constituents, activists like Citizens Against Voter Abuse (CAVA) Mary Helen Flores said that his representation for pay to further the company's aims ran counter to his role as state representative.

"Just who is he representing?," she asked. "Is he representing us, his constituents, or the company that is paying money? We want him to repudiate Valley Crossing and protect our South Bay and to tell us how much he has gotten paid by that company."

Flores' sentiments were echoed by John Young and Barbara Hill, of SaveRGVfromLNG, who said that a spokesman for the representative had said Lucio's relationship with the company prevented him from making public comments on the pipeline issue.
 "His employment by this company prevents him from discussing this explosively important issue with his constituents," they wrote on their website. "It is a conflict of interest. We demand that our elected state representative do his job and represent THE PEOPLE - not private interests."

Following the announcement by Flores and the SaveRGVfromLNG group, Lucio moved quickly to distance himself from both LNG and Valley Crossing.
"I don't represent LNG. There was a pipeline company completely unaffiliated with LNG that is just moving natural gas to Mexico,” Lucio said in an interview. “We have withdrawn as counsel, we heard some concerns from environmentalists,” he told News Center 23’s Marlane Rodriguez in an interview.

“We've always worked closely with environmental groups, we heard their concerns,” he said adding “my involvement was easement acquisition on four parcels of land that’s all I've ever been involved in.”

Even then, many local residents are not happy that Lucio is representing the company in condemnation proceedings in the courts to force people to sell their land based on the state's eminent domain laws.
In one recent case, Lucio tried to have a La Feria couple accept a $200 settlement to allow the pipeline to traverse their land, only to end up in court.

"The Stapleton Law Firm went to court and got them $60,000 from a jury," said an attorney. "The other lawyer for Valley Crossing kept looking at Eddie and at one point pushed him out of the way. Now he wants to spin it as if he if for the environment. He isn't for the little guy. Es puro pedo."

 Lucio, as did his father Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. when the $21 million to the Brownsville Navigation District's Bridge to Nowhere disappeared into exchange houses into Mexico, tried to put a spin on the matter.

He said if it’s not something the environmental community is going to support or if there’s going to be any type of controversy around it, “I'll go ahead and withdraw so I filed my motion to withdraw as counsel. Because I do want to continue to have a great relationship with the Sierra Club and other groups that I've worked with over the past."

Thursday, June 22, 2017


By John Young and Barbara Hill
State Representative Eddie Lucio III has been hired by Valley Crossing Pipeline, LLC. to represent their legal interests as they prepare to build a pipeline across our county and underneath our South Bay.

His employment by this company prevents him from discussing this explosively important issue with his constituents. It is a conflict of interest. We demand that our elected state representative do his job and represent THE PEOPLE - not private interests.

This is a 48 inch natural gas pipeline that will be operating at a pressure of 1,750 pounds per square inch. The blast zone radius will be just over 1/4 mile. At 168 miles in length, it will be going from Hwy 507 and the Cameron/Willacy county line all the way down to our local Port of Brownsville. Then under the ship channel, under South Bay, over Brazos Island, and then under the Gulf headed towards Mexico.

There have been no public notices about this pipeline, no public meetings. But the company has already started building the pipeline. It started building at the Aqua Dulce Hub northwest of Kingsville in April. It has been negotiating with our Port to build a compressor station there and to run the pipeline under the ship channel.

When a pipeline like this is built, it makes it easier and cheaper for other companies to build additional pipelines through the same areas. This pipeline will be taking natural gas to Mexico.

 The Aqua Dulce Hub makes it likely that other companies will soon be heading our way to do the same. Other pipelines are already planned to take natural gas from the Hub to our Port to be liquefied (LNG) and shipped overseas.

The company is using the eminent domain laws to persuade Cameron County landowners to cooperate with it. It negotiates payment agreements with landowners, but has also filed Petitions For Condemnation against landowners who don't accept the company's final best offer.

The Texas Railroad Commission and the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) are supposed to inspect such pipelines to ensure that they are being operated correctly and safely. But they don't have enough authority, inspectors, or political backing to do the job even half right.

The cards are all stacked in favor of the pipeline companies, against the landowners. And nobody else get to have any say or any compensation even if their house is in the blast zone of a pipeline running through their neighbor's property. Even though that puts their life and property in danger, can lower the value of their property, and can mean more pipelines headed their way. Not even if their child attends a school in the pipeline's Blast Zone.

Which is why we need to fight this pipeline and other like it. By finding out all we can, organizing, protesting, and taking political action. To change the eminent domain laws and get the protection we need from the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, and PHMSA. To have a say about what we want and don't want for ourselves and for our neighbors in our small part of the world. And to have our elected officials stand with us in this fight.

Our next meeting will be at:

The 7th and Park Coffee Shop
This Thursday Evening, June 22
1554 E. 7th St (across 7th St from Linear Park), Brownsville
6:00 to 7:00 pm.

The demonstration against our state representative will  be held:
Monday Morning Morning, June 26
8:30 to 10:30 am
In the courtyard behind the Paseo Plaza Mall
1805 East Ruben Torres Blvd., Ste B-27, Brownsville 

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


(Ed.'s Note: Well, it looks like the summer doldrums are finally affecting our readership. We'd stick around to the end of the day to see how today turned out, but domestic chores await us and we have many miles to go before we stop. Vacations, kids, the lawn, we know. Let's see what tomorrow brings.)


By Juan Montoya
Brownsville – and Cameron County, for that matter – is a land that thrives in speculation.
If you're seen with a dog, then you must have fleas.
And politically, there is no more favorite adage than "Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres."

These "dichos" are gospel to may people. And to a great degree, there may be some truth to that. But sometimes mere association – as the lawyers at the courthosue say – does not indicate guit. But in some cases it may.

That came to mind when we received an email breathlessly (if we can use that term for an electronic message) informing us that a cabal of the Cameron County Democratic Party was espied breakfasting together at on of Southmost's most popular restaurancitos.

Seen together, according to our informant, were none other than Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, former candidate for Cameron County D.A. Carlos Masso, County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez, and Treviño's part-time Community Outreach Coordinator Xochil Llamas. She also represents the judge on the county's bail bonds board and gets a hefty number of family case referrals from the local courts.

There is no way to know what they were discussing over their huevos rancheros, but an assemblage of the political caliber of these heavyweights has set tongues wagging. Among some of the speculation:

Are they discussing the way to combat Lali Betancourt's challenge to Garza-Perez for county clerk?
Are they contemplating the entry of former county judge and Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos against Treviño in the 2018 general election?
Are they discussing likely candidates to run against County Treasurer David Betancourt, Lali's brother?

Or are they scheming to find an opponent for JP Mary Esther Sorola whose mother – Pct. 1 County Commissioner Sofie Benavides – is good friends with Blanca Betancourt, David's wife and clerical assistant to former county judge Pete Sepulveda, who is the CEO for the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority?

See how quickly things spin out of control?
It could be that they were discussing the quality of the food and the flaky nature of the flour tortillas, too, you think?


(Ed.'s Note: We always thought that the pirate ship replica moored at Port Isabel was just for show and for kids to clamber aboard and fantasize an say words like "Arf! Arf!" But one of our loyal seven readers sent us this photo of the thing actually moving along at a nice clip in the Laguna Madre. A look at their website confirms that the vessel is seaworthy and actually is a modern boat under the water line.

The website says: "The Black Dragon is a modern day replica of an 17th Century Galleon. Below the water line, she is a modern sea worthy vessel with the latest marine technology, but above the water, she is a trip back into time, to a place where the likes of Jean Lafitte sailed the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre making port right here in Port Isabel.

Legend has it that Lafitte took refuge in this area and dug a well in Laguna Vista. Local ranchers formed business alliances with pirates who sailed their contraband between the Rio Grande and Corpus Christi. Now you can sail the same waters with Black Dragon Cruises."


By Juan Montoya
A unanimous Brownsville City Commission – including commissioner At-Large "B" Rose Gowen who pedaled her bike furiously back from "China" to attend Tuesday's meeting – removed the Brownsville Wellness Coalition's application for a $80,000 grant to renovate a dilapidated Quonset hut off the Palo Alto bike-and-hike trail.

Only commissioner Ben Neece – said to be somewhere on the cordillera between Mexico and Guatemala in Chiapas – did not attend the meeting.

Nevertheless, the commission, citing a lack of communication between them and the BWC board, voted to approve the awarding of grants to four other applicants for quality-of-life projects in the city. Commissioner Cesar de Leon and City Manager Charlie Cabler disputed the assertions by the BWC in making its initial application for $360,000 that the project was a "collaboration" between the BWC, the Mitte Cultural District, and the Museum of Fine Arts of Brownsville.

"The city was not consulted," Cabler responded to De Leon's query during the meeting.

The groups whose applications to the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) were reviewed by that entity during its public hearings were:

The presenter for the BCIC said her board had initially received the $360,000 request from the BWC, but that it had pared it down to $79,363 for presentation to the city. In its application to the BCIC, the BWC said the cost of the entire plan would be $1.4 million to transform the dilapidated 1939 corrugated metal Quonset Hut into a "gem" of the cultural district. The application narrative said it would seek the other $1.1 million of the total price tag from other "donors and partners."

As envisioned, once the money was acquired the BWC would move to redo the building which has been at one time a cannery and then a warehouse, into a storage area for the Farmers Market, a refrigerator "hub" for its tenants, a food court, provide artisans' spaces for the MOFA, and a classroom for healthy eating that would include a kitchen and office space for the groups.

That drew some questions from De Leon, who said that various people had complained that some artisans had been kept out of the Farmers Market because their work did not meet that board's criteria as to what constituted art as well as what produce vendors would be allowed to sell their wares in the Linear Park spaces provided by the group.

Gowen countered that the artisans were selected by the Museum of Fine Art and that the food vendors were selected by the Farmers Market board.

"They're not going to allow them to sell just any popcorn," she said, adding that some popcorn sold did not meet the health criteria for the farmers market.

De Leon said that the commission wanted the diverse groups involved to adopt an "inclusive" approach to who could participate in the Saturday farmers market. The city pays for the personnel who erect and remove the tents and tables for the group every Saturday. It also gives the Museum of Fine Arts a yearly $50,000 grant and more than $43.000 in free utilities.

Also approved was a prototype of a Memorandum Of Understanding between the Rails to Trails Conservancy of Washington D.C. and ten municipal entities – including the City of Brownsville – who are members of the so-called LRGV Active Plan Advisory Committee to "achieve the successful buildout of (Cameron County's) Active Transportation Network."

Assuring the commissioners that there wasn't "any money" involved with the approval of the MOU, a unanimous city commission – with Gowen freshly arrived from "China" and Neece absent and wandering somewhere through the Guatemala-Mexico border – approved the item.

After the approval of the MPU to be presented to the other member cities. Gowen was recognized for her efforts to bring the other none entities on board to form the network even though she was a doctor and not a politician.

But how the hiring an executive director and staff, office space and supplies, and travel and other expenses will be paid for was never discussed, although the MOU lays the responsibility for "fundraising" for the plan's implementation on the 10-member county advisory group.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


By Juan Montoya
So what does the function of the Brownsville Children's Museum have to do with the price of tea in China?

What could one learn there that is not readily available on the Internet or through the Chinese embassy in the United States?

According to world traveler Brownsville City Commissioner At Large "B" Rose Gowen, she rode her bike to learn about "language, markets, homes, exercise, and transportation in China...thanks to the Children's Museum of Brownsville."

In other words, she went to the museum to have a taste of exotic China.

That would be about par for the course in our city.

Remember when trustees and administrators of the Port of Brownsville use to jaunt over to China accompanied by U.S. Rep Solomon Ortiz and his aides and Jason Hilts of the Brownsville Economic Development Council?

After spending a nice weekend in Shanghai, China, and spending thousands of the taxpayers dollars, they had nothing to show for the expense. The late commissioner Dan Reyna used to say that now it could be claimed that Ortiz (and him) had been "made in China."

The same thing happened when Hilts opened a "trade office" in Colombia and spent $100,000s keeping it open. He invited stare reps and their staffs, guys from the port, and even Da Mayor Tony Martinez to fly over and partake of the good life at taxpayer expense. He even hired a staff which included a sentimental companion. People were aghast when they found out that the pay sent for one of his "consultants" there was going to the address of a certain woman.

Up to today, despite the queries, there has been nothing in our economic development that came about as a result of the trips except for the fond memories of the ladies and the tropical fruit.

What will come out of China Rose's "jaunt?" junket? Are different colored species of rice? That there are might be obese Chinese? That no one wears Mao jackets anymore? That kids play with home made toys? That the government provided free bicycles to the peasants?

Or that the "trip" so relaxed the commish that she might just need another bike jaunt somewhere else?


By Juan Montoya
One of our readers sent us thi aerial view of the Quonset hut that the Brownsville Wellness Coalition is trying to restore with at least $1.4 million from the public and grants from other "donors."
The BWC applied for the first $360,000 from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, an entity which has been more than generous to fund the hike-and-bike trials for commissioner Rose Gowen. This is basically an appendage to the Palo Alto Trail and the Museum of Fine Arts, both of which have been funded by the city's sales tax revenues which go to the BCIC.

If you look at this picture closely, you will notice the overflow of parking at bottom right of patrons of the Gladys Porter Zoo. The administrators at the zoo have long needed extra parking to handle the overload of visitors to the zoo, the city's largest draw. As a result, the Museum of Fine arts has found a new way to generate revenue charging zoo visitors $5 to park there. The MFA is already getting a $50,000 yearly stipend from the city and another $45,000 in free utilities. The $5 smacks of an extra tax. Just more gravy for the freeloaders on the backs of the public. Why not tear down the quonset hut and provide the obviously needed parking for a proven money maker like the zoo?

But if the BWC's application (starting with a pared down $79,000 at tonight's meeting of the city commission) is approved, you can bet your 4B sales tax revenue that it will come back begging for more in the next funding cycle. The dynamics at tonight's city meeting are interesting. Neither Gowen nor new commissioner Ben Neece will be attending. Gowen is out of town (more of that in the next post) as is Neece.

The application from the BWC – the folks who want to wean the local population from gorditas, barbacoa, tamales and other delicious lard-laden antojitos – states that the corrugated metal building has historical and cultural significance. C'mon, it was an old canner and warehouse. Brownville quit being an agricultural community decades ago. In fact, the farmers market is a fantasy. There hasn't been a family produce farm within a mule's ride from downtown.

On the other hand, someone sent us a photo of a television sitcom featuring Gomer Pyle and Sgt. Carter with a quonset building that faintly resembles the one in question. Does remembering that series qualify quonset huts as being cultural, historical buildings, even if it's just in our distsant memory? Yes, folks, it is a reach.

Gomer Pyle: Shame, shame, shame!

Monday, June 19, 2017


Image result for mayor tony martinez speech

Public Hearing and ACTION on FIRST READING on Ordinance Number 2017-1090-G, amending portions of Section 2-26 of the City Code relating to public comment.

By Juan Montoya
It took six years and a lot of protesting, but the movers and shakers at City Hall have been finally convinced – albeit kicking and screaming – to return the city's airwaves to the people and broadcast the public comment section at city meetings.

At Tuesday's City of Brownsville Commission meeting, city attorney Mark Sossi has placed an item on the agenda amending portions of the city code relating to public comment.

You remember Sossi. He was the city contract attorney who justified not broadcasting the public comment section because it would expose the city to liability if anyone was to slander or libel someone. He made that justification after local gadfly Letty Garzoria questioned his farming out of city legal work to a firm with whom he had reached a settlement to pay $167,000 which belonged to the firm and which he had pocketed instead.

Yes. it's the same Sossi who was instructed by incoming Mayor Tony Martinez to draft a code of ethics six years ago which hasn't appeared yet. We're halfway into Martinez's second term and there have been no sightings of the code.

Along the way we have seen Da Mayor discuss in executive session and vote in open meeting the sale of a property that he purchased at a delinquent tax resale and which resulted in him signing it over to himself and which earned him a nice profit when he sold his old office and used it to provide extra parking.

We have also seen a city administration which has turned a blind eye to Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo sitting as a trustee on the board of the Brownsville Independent School District even as the city personnel manual specifically prohibits any "city employee" from holding office in other jurisdictions upon pain of termination.

We have also seen Sossi made a city employee with all the rights and benefits after he was sued for custody and child support by a strip dancer he met at a local gentlemen's club and he got in trouble in a "family" way. At the time he asked to be made a full-time city employee (in January 2017) Sossi promised city commissioners he would work exclusively for the city. About one month later to the day, Sossi inked a  $2,500 a month retainer with the City of Mission.

We'll see if anyone will use the public comment section to remind city-channel viewers of those actions.

The amendment to the ordinance Sossi will introduce for first reading states that:
"An item titled "public comment" shall be included as a numbered item on the regular or special agenda, in such place as may be determined by city commission resolution. The purpose of public comment shall be to provide a limited public forum to allow members of the public to publicly communicate with their elected officials regarding any matter involving the function of city government, city business or city policies but which are not included on the agenda for that meeting."
(Well, it's heartening to see that Sossi has rediscovered that he is a public servant, too.)

In the event the meeting of the City is televised, the public comment section shall be televised in the same manner as the rest of the meeting. This section does not require a public comment section when the meeting is ceremonial or conducted entirely as an executive session. In accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, the commission cannot take action on or discuss any subject brought up during "public comment.”

"However, the mayor, or any member of the city commission, may add the issue to a future commission agenda or refer it to the proper city department for action.

Well, it took six years to return the peoples airwaves to the public. Let's see how much longer it takes to come up with a code of ethics or to enforce its personnel policy manual.


10. Consideration and ACTION on Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) project funding recommendations for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Capital Projects Grants – Spring Cycle. (Rebeca Castillo – BCIC)

By Juan Montoya
What is going on here?
Remember we told you about the Brownsville Wellness Coalition's application from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation's for $360,000 to refurbish a dilapidated Quonset Hut Building (actually an old warehouse and cannery) located across from Cummings Middle School?

Well, guess what?

At tomorrow's meeting of the City of Brownsville's City Commission the item listed at the top of this post is not for the $360,000 that the BCIC placed on its public comment hearing back in April. Instead, it's for only $79,363.

We say "only" because it their application to the BCIC, the BWC administrators said the $360,000 would address only the first of three phases that would have a $1.4 million price tag they intended to procure from grants and donations from other "donors and partners."

Numerous commenters to this blog have said that the pumping of money into the dilapidated building was ludicrous and an extravagance since the building had seen its better years. Bulldozing is and starting out again would probably save the city money.

They said – among other things – that spending $1.4 million toward the BWC's stated goal "to transform the warehouse from an empty abandoned building with structure that has been deteriorating to a gem to the corridor of downtown Brownsville, providing a designation for the Farmers Market and other community events, while levitating the stress of city workers in setting up the weekly market" was an elitist exercise that would benefit a small minority in the city.

In the application, BWC administrators said they the first $360,000 to install a new roof, shore up the structure and bring the electric wiring up to snuff. The rest – about $1.1 million – would pay for the other two phases.

In the backup material for Tuesday's meeting, BCIC states that "Brownsville Wellness Coalition application for Quonset Hut Building project for $79,363 is a collaboration agreement between City of Brownsville, Mitte Cultural District, Brownsville Wellness Coalition and Fine Arts of Brownsville."

They envision storage for the farmers market, artisans workshops, a healthy cafe, kitchens to teach people about healthy foods, a cold storage "hub" and a food court so tired cyclists can lounge and relax amidst a bohemian ambiance.

"BWC would lead this project and serve as multipurpose building. The building is located on 6th and Ringgold in the entrance of the Mitte Cultural District. The aim is to transform the warehouse from an empty abandoned building with structure that has been deteriorating to a gem to the corridor of downtown Brownsville, providing a designation for the Farmers Market and other community events, while levitating the stress of city workers in setting up the weekly market. The building improvements will be performed in three major phases. BCIC funding will get the project “shovel ready” for the upcoming phases.

Oh, so the BWC wants the $79,363 (or eventually $360,000 on the way to the $1.4 million) toward the task of "levitating the stress of city workers in setting up the weekly (farmers) market and eventually transform it into a "gem to the corridor of downtown Brownsville."

Isn't that nice of them? They want to save the city money in personnel costs the city is already giving Rose Gowen's farmers market and want the first $79,363 in sales-tax money in return.
The reasons the BCIC is recommending this project is because they want to exercise "responsible stewardship of tax dollars and (to) embrace BCIC’s partnership role and responsibility to invest in the resources that improve Brownsville, Texas’s quality of life assets that supports economic development opportunities in Brownsville."

Oh, my the verbiage gets deeper and deeper every time they discuss this project.
The question now becomes: Will the city commissioners go along with this expensive proposition that will benefit a few select people in the cycling, artsy stratum? And if they do, will they be prepared when the same crowd comes back for more public dollars to fund their classist whims?


By Fernando del Valle
Staff Writer
Valley Morning Star

SAN BENITO — The city might be closer to disclosing findings of its investigation surrounding Police Chief Michael Galvan’s private recordings of conversations downloaded from the police department’s computer system.

Tomorrow, city commissioners are expected to meet in closed session with City Attorney Ricardo Morado to discuss the “police chief’s leaked records,” the meeting’s agenda states.

“We’re just going to review whatever they found,” City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said, referring to the internal investigation.

“They’re going to bring us up to speed.”

Earlier this month, commissioners called for the investigation into Galvan’s recordings of private conversations with city officials including commissioners and police officers.

Nearly 500 recordings were apparently downloaded from a public server at the San Benito Public Library and distributed to individuals.

The recordings apparently focus on conversations whose topics include police officer cases and citizen complaints.

Meanwhile, Officer Guadalupe Andrade has requested the city reopen the sexual harassment case she filed against Galvan about two years ago, when he served as assistant chief.

In a May 31 letter to commissioners, Andrade wrote the recent disclosure of Galvan’s private recordings show former Police Chief Martin Morales agreed to dismiss her sexual harassment case to protect Galvan.

Galvan’s recordings reveal an hour-long conversation with Morales in which Morales agrees to “keep it to himself and that no one needs to know” and “this could blow up in our faces and ruin our careers and positions,” according to Andrade’s letter. In the recording, she wrote, Morales tells Galvan, then assistant police chief, that Morales will “help him out.”