Wednesday, October 1, 2014

AURORA DE LA GARZA SHINDIG: PUBLIC NEED NOT APPLY

By Juan Montoya
She has held a position with Cameron County since the days of her predecessor District Clerk Josephine Dunkelberg, a run of 43 years.
Then, in the face of an imploding judiciary racketeering and bribery scandal that centered around the assignment of lucrative personal injury cases in convicted 404th District Judge Abel Limas through attorney Jim Solis and Marc Rosenthal (both also convicted), De la Garza announced she was retiring effective this year.
In her wake, the county sheriff and district attorney's office were investigating the theft of child support payments by one her clerks and people were questioning the short shrift given the embezzlement case of her son Joey de la Garza from a hospice in Olmito.
Both ended up paying restitution and getting probation.
In the case of the child-support clerk, she was the daughter of a Cameron County District Attorney employee and the adopted daughter of an Asst. D.A.
In her son's case, however, the arraignment and sentencing took place on one afternoon in Limas' courtroom and county observers wondered over the quick disposition of a case that entailed the theft of more than $85,000 (some say more) from the sick and dying.
Well, now that her last day in office is coming on December 31, her relatives and supporters are hosting an appreciation dinner and ceremony to send her off to retirement. The celebration is to be held at Brownsville Events Center October 16. But even after a asking the public's support in seven elections and a lifetime drawing a public paycheck, the event will be open by invitation only.
"We're sorry to tell you that we only have a limited number of seats and that your name isn't on the list of invited guests," a woman in charge of the RSVPs told the writers of this blog. "It's being put together by her family and friends and you're not on it."
OK. We see how it works now. When Aurorita wanted a $2,000 raise from taxpayers to get her on par with Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre on August 2013, she didn't mind people knowing about it.
That bump gave her a base salary of $71,745 plus $5,400 for auto allowance plus the additional $2,000, totaling $79,143.
The justification for the salaries, according to Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez – who pushed for it – was that De la Garza had been with the county longer than Yzaguirre who, according to figures from the auditor's office commands $93,210 in total compensation.
Likewise, when someone, no one knows who, ordered Gregory James Phelps Photography to bill the county $1,725 for a De la Garza portrait that now graces the San Benito County Annex.
The commissioners were asked to authorize payment Gregory James Phelps Photography even though county policy requires that three quotes must be received for any request for services over $500 and a purchase order be made.
It this case, there were no quotes and no purchase order.
But, oh well, perhaps the fact that she is gone after 43 years is something to celebrate.
God knows that she has left enough relatives, in-laws, outlaws and patronage beneficiaries behind her to last another generation or two. Have a nice party, Aurorita.
Now we won't have to hear you wailing through nthe hallways asking for pay raises and wringing your hands saying: "Oh, the girls really need it. They work so haaard!"

VANN: COACH BIG JOE RODRIGUEZ'S DARKEST NIGHTMARE

By Juan Montoya
Remember the 18-year-old from Segiun, Texas who ran roughshod over the 1969 Brownsville High School Golden Eagles and spoiled what many hailed as the greatest high school team this city ever had?
Despite the accolades given to Rodriguez – and which he has milked for the past 45 years in the form of plum appointments and cushy jobs – the fact was that his push for greatness was spoiled by a black football player from the sticks who cut through his Eagle defense like a hot knife through butter.
None other than Max Maxwell, the imaginative (and legendary) sports writer told it like it was.
"Brownsville kept pace with Seguin and entered the locker room knotted at 14-14, but the Eagles fumbled deep in their own territory on the opening drive of the second half. Momentum, once lost, was never regained, particularly with Cleveland Vann running through, around and over his opponents
That was in that drizzly night in 1969.
By 1971, Vann was running for the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 1971 to 1973 in some memorable games.
After that he drifted with the Southern California Sun of the short-lived World Football League.  In one game, playing defense, he intercepted three passes.
Vann was also a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. In the 1976 Grey Cup, the Roughriders lost to the Ottawa Rough Riders 23 to 20, but he was awarded the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player for his second half interception and his Iron Man performance.
The Roughriders website states that "He eventually tore his knee ligaments in a game in July 1979, but returned the following year. After further hand and wrist injuries, however, he was unable to maintain his place on the roster and retired."
After he retired from professional football, Vann returned to Texas and worked in law enforcement. He later returned to Canada to work in security for an energy company.
Rodriguez after the 1969 debacle accepted the outcome with aplomb.
"We hung in there for a half, but you can't make mistakes at this level and expect to win," said Rodriguez. "We met our match. Every team but one will meet its match. Tonight was our turn."
Rodriguez – after three stints as BISD trustee facing Shirley La Bowman and Mary Rey, has put on the cleats again and is being helped out into the playing field. Rodriguez was been appointed Athletic Director only to resign later . He is currently embroiled in protracted litigation with the district after he was named in a forensic audit which charged that he had received preferential treatment form then-A.D. Tom Chavez as a vendor of an athletic equipment company which resulted in the BISD making purchases which were thousands of dollars over his competitors.  
Vann had the good sense to retire after he had seen his better days.
Some – like Big Joe – still nurse the residues of a 45-year-old dream of pacing the sidelines egging his floundering team on.
Will La Bowman turn out to be Coach Joes' next black nightmare?

CASCOS VS. RIVERA: LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!

By Juan Montoya
With just a tad over one month left before the November 4 general election, the Cameron County Judge's race has become a free for all.
As Democrats in Cameron County seek the unity necessary to keep the necessary 16 to 20 percent crossover vote from those disaffected in their party and deny Republicans the foothold to win their races, the first shot across the bow was the one fired by 357th District Court GOP candidate Oscar X. Garcia to defeat longtime Gilberto Hinojosa associate Juan Magallanes.
Garcia has effectively linked Magallanes to (now Democratic Party State Chairman) Hinojosa and to being an intimate friend of convicted district judge Abel Limas.
Garcia has done this through a series of advertisements in the local newspaper and blogs showing that Magallanes loaned Limas $30,000 while he was sitting as judge in a case where Magallanes was counsel for one of the parties.
On the stand in a federal trial, Limas admitted that taking the money and not informing opposing counsel was, at best, "unethical."
Now we have incumbent Republican county judge Carlos Cascos who has forwarded a voluminous complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission charging that Rivera – through at least two Political Action Committees, the Friends of Joe G. Rivera and Vote To Elect Joe G. Rivera County Judge – has failed to comply with the TEC and violated close to 20 dictums of the Texas Election Code.
Rivera – in response to the filing – struck a combative pose and told the local newspaper that "if this is the only thing he's got against me," he's got a big problem. We'll meet at the election, you know. Let the people decide."
But with some local bloggers and social media pundits making hay about the exclusion of the words "for" and "re-elect" from the campaign literature of some candidates, then the alleged non-reporting and violation of the election code is clearly more significant.
Cascos was quick to pounce on the alleged violations and told the Herald's Emma Perez-Treviño that Rivera's campaign reports "can only be described as unethical and egregious circumvention of the requirements of both candidates and officeholders."
Cascos charged that he couldn't believe that Rivera – after 40 years as a candidate and office holder charged with the public duty of promoting transparency and ethical practices  – didn't know any better that these "transgressions" were occurring.
Among the charges leveled in the Cascos missive to the TEC were:
* That in the 2012 and 2013 TEC reports, did he file a declaration of the creation of a PAC
* Never detailed their financials as required by law
* Never notified the proper authorities of any appointment of its treasurer
* Never documented their existence, practices, administration and operation
* Never filed the PAC financial reports with the Cameron County Election Administrator
In an attachment to the TEC complaint packet, Cascos documented the fact that Rivera's campaign treasurer – Brownsville Independent School District president Otis Powers – was not named until December 11, 2013, despite the fact that Rivera had reported in excess of $22.500 in contributions as early as August 2013. The report, Cascos claims, "reflects expenditures in excess of $21,200 incurred prior to the designation of Powers as a campaign treasurer.
In all, Cascos' complaint to the TEC lists some 20 alleged violations of the election code and suggests that Rivera "could be liable for civil and criminal violations."
Rivera has not filed his response with the TEC concering the issues listed in the Cascos complaint.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ARE THERE DEFECTIONS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

By Juan Montoya
While some Democrats scoff at the idea that the above endorsement of Pct. 3 County Commissioner David Garza indicates a prohibitive cross-over vote going toward 357th District Court Judge Oscar X. Garcia, the very public support from Garza should give his opponent Juan Magallanes some room for discomfort.
That and the fact that his former Democrat – and runoff contender – Gloria Rincones has been lukewarm in her support of fellow Demo Magallanes may mean all is not well in the Democratic fold.
Garcia was appointed to the 357th by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to replace Leonel Alejandro after his resignation. The resignation came as a surprise to many here, although Alejandro's name came up several times in the course of the federal judicial racketeering trial of Abel Limas and convicted D.A. Armando Villalobos. Both Limas and Villalobos are serving prison sentences as a result of that investigation. 
The last thing any candidate wants is for his opponent to be endorsed by an elected official of his own party. Will there be more defections down the road? With a month and a half to go, we'll wait and see.

HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS GIVING WAY TO MOTOR CARS

(Ed.'s Note: One of our favorite contributors sent us this classic shot of downtown Brownsville (Elizabeth Street) during the wagon days. Notice the Fort Brown soldiers moving toward the fort at the far end. Does anyone know the year that Robert Runyon took this photo?)

OLD CITY CEMETERY A LITTLE LONG ON THE TOOTH

By Juan Montoya
The recent heavy rains have given the Old City Cemetery a wild look.
Although some parts of the campo santo are always neat and trim, in others (like the photos above) you have to look long and hard to spot the headstones hidden among the tall grass and weeds. Are the families of those buried there responsible for cleaning the place, or is it a city function? Anytime soon would be nice. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

A GOOD READ BETWEEN TROPICAL STORMS

By Juan Montoya
Like clockwork, the dire predictions by the National Hurricane Center in Miami have prompted hurricane-weary Cameron County administrators to take precautions in preparation for the storms.
Those of us who have been through a 'cane or two know a little something about these annual conflagarations. So far, unless you were old enough to be in one like Beulah, more recently Dolly, or – heaven forbid Katrina – we have been mercifully spared.
I was going through my old books yesterday after watching the Weather Channel (El Guero Chano) and I remembered reading the account of a hurricane (or typhoon in he Pacific?) from Jack London's The Heathen. The Tower Book Edition was first printed on March 1946, but the actual stories in the collection date back to his early days, between 1909 and 1911, more than a century ago.
Now, lest someone accuse me of stealing Londons' stuff let me say at the outset that I will only use one or two pages of perhaps a 20-25 page short story to illustrate the power of these storms at sea and his mastery at story-telling.
In this account, London is on a 70-ton pearler heading to Papeete, in French Polynesia, after a successful pearl-buying trip. Enjoy.
"Wind? Out of all my experiences I could not have believed it possible for the wind to blow as it did. There is no describing it. How can one describe a nightmare? It was the same way with that wind. It tore the clothes off our bodies. I say tore them off, and I mean it.
I am not asking you to believe it. I am merely telling something that I saw and felt. There are times when I do not believe it myself. I went through it, and that is enough. One could not face that wind and live.
It was a monstrous thing, and the most monstrous thing about it was that it increased and continued to increase.
Imagine countless millions and billions of tons of sand. Imagine this sand tearing along at ninety, a hundred, a hundred and twenty, or any other number of miles per hour. Imagine, further, this sand to be invisible, impalpable, yet to retain all the weight and density of sand. Do all this, and you may get a vague inkling of what that wind was like.
Perhaps sand is not the right comparison.
Consider it mud, invisible, impalpable, but heavy as mud. Nay, it goes beyond that. Consider every molecule of air to be a mud-bank in itself. Then try to imagine the multitudinous impact of mud-banks - no, it is beyond me. Language may be adequate to express the ordinary conditions of life, but it cannot possibly express any of the conditions of so enormous a blast of wind.
It would have been better had I stuck by my original intention of not attempting a description.
I will say this much: The sea, which had risen at first, was beaten down by that wind. More – it seemed as if the whole ocean had been sucked up in the maw of the hurricane and hurled on through that portion of space which previously had been occupied by the air...
... I was in a state of stunned, numbed, paralyzed collapse from enduring the impact of the wind, and I think I was just about ready to give up and die when the center smote us. The blow we received was an absolute lull. There was not a breath of air. The effect on one was sickening. Remember that for hours we had been at terrific muscular tension, withstanding the awful pressure of that wind.
And then, suddenly, the pressure was removed. I know that I felt as though I were about to expand, to fly apart in all directions. It seemed as if every atom composing my body was repelling every other atom, and was on the verge of rushing off irresistibly into space. But that lasted only for a moment. Destruction was upon us.
In the absence of the wind and its pressure, the sea rose. It jumped, it leaped, it soared straight toward the clouds. Remember, from every point of the compass that inconceivable wind was blowing in toward the center of calm. The result was that the seas sprang up from every point of the compass. There was no wind to check them. They popped up like corks released from the bottom of a pail of water.
There was no system to them, no stability. They were hollow, maniacal seas.
They were eighty feet high at the least. They were not seas at all. They resembled no sea a man had ever seen. They were splashes, monstrous splashes, that is all, splashes that were eighty feet high. Eighty! They were more than eighty. They went over our mastheads. They were spouts, explosions.
They were drunken. They fell anywhere, anyhow. They jostled one another, they collided. They rushed together and collapsed upon one another, or fell apart like a thousand waterfalls all at once. It was no ocean any man ever dreamed of, that hurricane-center. It was confusion thrice confounded. It was anarchy. It was a hell-pit of sea water gone mad."

(Now was that awesome writing or what? Do yourself a favor. Read the entire story or better still buy the book for the entire account. It's a keeper.)

SOLUTIONS TO CHRONIC B-TOWN FLOODING OVERDUE

By Juan Montoya
With hurricane season upon us, it is time for Cameron County residents to ask ourselves again how long will residents of Brownsville and other cities will put up with the heartache many families faced during chronic flooding events when many of them saw their homes and property under water?
How many times will Brownsville residents in low-lying areas have to tear out their carpets and have their furniture ruined every time we get a hard rain?
How many times will local residents have to fix their cars because they had to drive through flooded streets as a result of a poor drainage system?
How many times will the bone-jarring shocks of potholed streets damage tires, windshields, shocks, and other automobile parts that result when the patchwork of asphalt repairs washes away time after time?
City elected officials and administrators should know that kind words of concern will no longer do. Soothing words about the flooding being an unusual event won’t do either.
This problem has to be fixed. And it has to be fixed now.
The much-vaunted drainage improvements done along Boca Chica Boulevard in the recent years have proved to be a farce. Millions of dollars in taxpayer money seemed to have been spent in vain. Who’ll answer for that?
In fact, in a world and nation where accountability is the byword, who’s accountable for the recurring flooding in our community?
It’s time to acknowledge that the system we have in place does not work. City officials talk up the Impala pump as if it were the salvation to all our drainage problems. Obviously, it is not. It takes a long time to prime the pump, and when it works the city has already been under water for hours.
The dike and levee systems in place to keep water from spilling into the city from the Rio Grande actually prevent rainwater from getting to the river, the natural drain for runoff from the Rio Grande watershed. Until a hurricane makes a direct hit (as in Beulah), it has been decades since there was any danger of the river overflowing its banks.
Cameron County faced recurring problems with flooding in Valle Escondido and found a solution by building an outfall to the river. Recent experience indicates the outfall works and kept the colonia from flooding, and with septic tanks still being used still used in some colonias along the river, the health justifications for preventing disease-bearing sewage from flowing through the subdivisions is critical.
Isn’t it time the city and county got together and explored whether we can construct two or three outfalls along the river where water collects to divert water to the river? Under the current system, water is diverted toward the port channel, where it flows out into the Gulf of Mexico. However, if there is a high tide, it will take longer for the water to drain since we are practically at the same water level as the port.
What we have in place in Brownsville and the surrounding (and rapidly developing) rural areas is basically an irrigation system passing as a drainage system. That irrigation system worked fine if the goal was to water crops. It does not work as well in carrying off rainwater. To argue otherwise is to ignore the sad reality we have experienced in the recent past.
The system dates back to the 1920s, with minor improvements made over the years. Still, it remains what it was designed for: to carry water from the river to the farmlands. Our region is basically a watershed of the Rio Grande. Before it was dammed upriver, it periodically changed course when it was running full from rains upstream and from its tributaries. The resacas are testament to that fact. They take us back to the times that the river changed course on its way to the Gulf.
Now is the time for the city, the county, the PUB, and all irrigation and drainage districts to come together and form a solution to this recurrent problem. Otherwise, we can continue pumping money into street improvements only to see them washed away because we have not had the political will to tackle this problem. 
Since many of these projects are to be paid from future taxes on local properties, we are actually indebting ourselves and future generations. Currently, we are literally throwing money down the drain.
Enough is enough. It’s time for our leaders to act and solve this problem. We don’t need to create new taxing entities. We are already taxed to death.
Additional outfalls to the river may only be part of the solution. But it’s a beginning. And we need to start now.

WILL SPACEX WATER COSTS BE SPREAD TO PROPERTY OWNERS?

By Juan Montoya
At one time it was sold as a pristine beach location with a future as a resort for sun and beach worshipers from here, nearby Mexico, and the frozen reaches of the upper Midwest.
Since then, Boca Chica Beach has lost some of it luster to resort developers after the failed attempt to establish it as a prime investment area for retired Midwest farmers and urban dwellers.
If you drive to near the end of Highway 4, the hamlet (subdivision?) of Koepernick Shores is to the left nestled against the Laguna on the south side of the Brownsville Ship Channel. Koepernick is Polish for Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer best known for his discoveries of the solar system the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe.
As with most Boca Chica ventures, some of the land developers and hucksters platted subdivisions that stretched out into the Laguna itself and lured unsuspecting Polish ethnicity residents of Chicago with tales of tropical climes and a retirement home surrounded by surf and sand.
When some of them arrived to claim their piece of paradise, they often found that their lots were five or six feet under the waters of the bay.
The other scam that attracted widespread support was the proposed Playa del Rio Resort development that was pushed by local developers, legislators and assorted propagandists. The story line was that the Playa del Rio development would encompass both sides of the river and be a truly international resort. The slick brochures featured multistory hotels nestled among the sand dunes.
Those of us who were here in the 1970s still remember the effort to have someone (the state to issue bonds, the county to back them) to extend the needed infrastructure to the site some 25 miles away from Brownsville.
When residents (and the state) balked, the developers did the next best thing, they encouraged a local businessman to build a water treatment plant at the last bend before Koepernick Shores, ostensibly to service the subdivision, but actually to further the Playa del Rio development. The water quality never passed state tests and the state prohibited it from operating for potable purposes and the project died a quiet death after much hoopla.
Nonetheless, someone (and no one is saying who did it) did extend a two-inch line from the city along Boca Chica Blvd. and out close to the project. By that time, however, the project was dead and the line was forgotten. Add the occasional hurricane scare and the polluted water flowing down the Rio Grande and it was no surprise that the plans were quietly shelved and forgotten.
All this comes to mind as the new SpaceX rocket launch pad (reas spaceport) is apparently getting off the ground.
The critical utility, potable water, remains the sticking point, and the answers we have received from the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation and from SpaceX itself are not encouraging.
When representatives from Rene Oliveira's office asked the firm's representatives how they were planning to overcome that problem, they got an answer that they would be using "gray" water. "Gray" water in technical terms means water that has been used already for household purposes other than sewer (that's black water). Where they were going to get that fluid in a place lacking potable water to be made "gray" was left unanswered.
Then, during yet another meeting held later, project managers said that they weren't going to use "gray" water after all, but were going to truck it from the city to the site. Now, we're no engineers, but that seems like a lot of water to suppress fires, wash down the site after the launch, and generally keep the rockets from burning up their payloads when they achieve ignition. In other words, millions of gallons with the resulting contaminated
runoff going into the tidal flats.
The question still lurks in the background: Is the Port of Brownsville contemplating providing potable water to the SpaceX project? Will public funding be required to extend water lines out to the site and make the project viable? And how much and in what form?
So far, we have received no answers to these questions. After all, the $15 or $20 million in "incentives" to be provided by the state and by local governments to try to make this project happen won't even tap into the amount needed to run the water lines out 19 miles to the site.
Will SpaceX create a water district so that the cost can be borne by the property owners out there?
Given, the quality of answers that we received when this project was introduced we can only surmise that local officials and development corporation executives are trying to sell us another Playa del Rio at our expense.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SOSSI: CITY LOSES $2 MILLION VERDICT, HANDS $204,000 IN LEGAL FEES TO HIS DEBTORS...AND STILL COUNTING

By Juan Montoya
Remember the $2 million verdict that a federal jury awarded a man who had been falsely accused and imprisoned in the penitentiary for four years only to have an appeals court throw out the conviction because a videotape showed the officers and investigators had not been forthcoming with the defense attorneys and the courts?
The federal jury awarded $2 million in damages to George Alvarez, the Brownsville man wrongfully convicted of assaulting a public servant. He even served four years of eight-year sentence for a conviction of which he was later found innocent
The lawsuit named the city of Brownsville, former police chief Carlos Garcia, jailer Jesus Arias, Sgt. David Infante, Lt. Henry Etheridge, and former Cmdr. Robert Avita as defendants. The assault happened on Nov. 27, 2005.
According to that lawsuit, three jailers, went into the cell to remove him, and when he attempted to ask a question to the jailers, Arias lunged at him from behind, seized him by the neck and placed him in an illegal choke hold. The local newspaper reported that the jailer claimed that the prisoner had assaulted him while in jail custody and that reports filed by the BPD only obtained accounts from the jailers and not from Alvarez. 
The appeals court eventually cleared the prisoner of the charges, but not before he had served four years.
His lawyers said that they came upon the videotapes of the incident which disproved the police version when another attorney investigating another assault discovered their existence. Until then, it was his word against the police officers and the jail guards.
Well, after we made an information request to find out how much it had cost the city (and its insurance) to pay for the legal defense in the case, we found out that it had been referred to the firm of Guerra, Leeds, Sabo and Hernandez and that the TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) had paid $204,080.23 for the defense of this case so far.
That raised a couple of red flags. The law firm at one time (before Charles Willette retired) had been Guerra and Willette. After Willette retired  in light of the revelations in the judicial corruption trial of Abel Limas, the firm changed its name.
Nonetheless, his firm and its successor have had a cozy relationship with the city which has been documented on this pages before. We have the late Moses Sorola and Argelia Miller to thank for the initial scrutiny of why city contract Attorney Mark Sossi seesm to gravitate to steer business to his old law firm.
In the course of their investigation, Sorola and Miller found out that:
"Sossi lost a judgement of $167,00 because he took money that belonged to the firm...and was sued and lost..."
"At the time I wrote the letter," Miller wrote Mayor Tony Martinez "he had given Willette and Guerra city contracts in excess of $37,000. Now in 2011, records indicate he has given them contracts for over $75,000 from January to March 2011."
Miller wrote Cabler and Mayor Tony Martinez that it was hard for her and others to understand how Sossi "could favor a firm that sued him and that he owed $167,929 to as of 8-09-2009. It is also hard to understand how the city of Brownsville allows this arrangement."
Well, with the additional work Sossi is giving his old firm, that old debt has been paid. And what did the city residents get from the services of Sossi and his preferred legal firm?
Probably just higher insurance premiums and bad legal advice.
This is about par for the course for Sossi. Remember the firefighters' lawsuit against the city over pay raises they felt they were owed?
Listening to unsound legal advice from Sossi, the City of Brownsville lost its appeal to the Texas 13th Court of Appeals regarding application of "Me-Too" clause contained in the Brownsville Fire Fighter's Association Local 970 contract.
Labor attorney Rick Navarro (another Sossi favorite), who has made a small fortune in legal fees with the city by appealing unwinnable arbitration cases, on Sossi's urging, advised the city to go ahead with appeal, despite losing in Rolando Olivera's 445th Court October 24, 2011.
At that time, visiting Judge Hinojosa, not only ruled in favor of the union, but attached 6 percent interest to accrue from the end of the previous contract.
(That's Navarro at the far end of the table with Fire Chief Looney Lennie Perez in the middle.)
We guesstimated the figures back last November:
Let's do the rough ball park math.
If the fire fighters lump sum supplement to the last contract is $2,700,000 (the interest added to that from the end of the last contract to the date Judge Hinojosa ruled in their favor(I'm compounding the 6 percent interest annually), the added interest would be $515,743.20 for a total owed of $3,215,743.20.
Now, if we add the 5 percent ongoing interest Judge Hinojosa added in his 2011 ruling, we add an additional $329.613.60 for a grand total of $3,545,356.80. Of course, if the interest is simple, not compounded, the grand total will be somewhat less, but, in any event, the longer the city takes to settle this, the more interest accrues."
But what's a few bucks between friends, right?
Based on a five-paragraph "agreement for legal services" between the City of Brownsville and ethics-challenged Sossi inked July 2009, the taxpayers of Brownsville will have paid this lawyer $600,000 this past July 15.
Sossi, who signed the flimsy "contract" with Mayor Pat Ahumada and City Manager Charlie Cabler, has managed to ingratiate himself to a majorities of the subsequent city commissions holding office since. At $10,000 a month, plus the $5,000 per month that he has contracted out with the Greater Brownsville Investment Corporation, Sossi makes $180,000 for his mighty labors.
If he is allowed to continue his contract work for the city and the GBIC at the current compensation, he will have amassed a tidy $900,000 over the past five years for part-time work.
A cursory reading of the "contract" shows that it is an open-ended deal that can be terminated at the whim of  a majority of the city commission or by Sossi himself.
What does Sossi have on the member of the city commission that allows him to continue to dispense costly advice to his clients while losing millions in lawsuits that should have never been defended? And will he advise the city to appeal the Alvarez $2 million jury verdict and continue to dish out gravy to his old debtors?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WHO IS WIGHTMAN TO CALL M. ESTHER A "WELFARE QUEEN?"

By Juan Montoya
Drama Queen and blogger Robert Wightman  has grown fond of throwing wild accusations against everyone and their mother.
To him. if you hold a different opinion than his, you are a moron, an idiot, or any number of choice insults.
But this latest drivel stating that the creation of the Justice of the Peace 2-3 court that JP-elect Mary Esther Garcia won in a runoff with former constable Pete Avila makes her a "welfare queen" goes even beyond his wildest rantings up to now.
If Pete had won, would Wightman call him a "welfare queen," too? I dare him.
Wightman says that the fact that Cameron County Pct. 1 commissioner Sofia Benavides voted to create the office even before her daughter had decided to run for the new position confirms his newest conspiracy theory.
We all remember that it was former Pct. 2 commissioner Ernie Hernandez who was behind the creation of the new JP office saying that the new court should be located at Veterans Bridge so that the traffic violations levied by the Texas Department of Public Safety could be handled there.
When the late Tony Torres died and Erin H. Garcia beat Yolanda Begum for the JP 2-2 position, Hernandez changed his tune and started campaigning to do away with the JP 2-3 court he helped to create. To make matters worse, Erin Garcia didn't even make the runoff in 2014 primary for JP 2-2 between Begum and Jonathan Gracia.
But' let's examine the accuser and the accused closer.
Ms. Garcia has worked in county offices (including Road and Bridge office and county court-at-law courts as an administrator) and in legal offices as a paralegal.
Wightman, on the other hand, alighted in Brownsville after he was disbarred in Dallas. He has made his money initiating litigation to intimidate people and businesses into giving him money to get him off their back.
For example, Wightman has the nerve to call someone who has been working all her life doing honest work a "welfare queen" while:
*He borrowed money from the taxpayers to pay for his legal education, and then welshed on paying them back. Wightman then got himself disbarred on Jan. 11, 2002 in the the 298th District Court of Dallas County. The court found that: Wightman brought or defended a frivolous proceeding. The court also found Wightman took a position that unreasonably increased the costs or other burdens of a case and delayed the resolution of the case. Wightman, in representing a client, engaged in conduct engaged to disrupt a proceeding. Wightman was also found to have communicated with another party regarding a case when he knew that party was represented by counsel. The court also found Wightman made a statement that was either false or with reckless disregard to its truth regarding the qualifications or integrity of a judge.
He then claimed that he had no money and was medically disabled so he could have the loans forgiven. In his motion for the discharge of the loans he claimed he hadn't worked in 12 years. A loan analyst with the Dept. of Education said Wightman's earnings disqualified him from having his loans discharged, which triggered the lawsuit. According to Delfin Reyes, Wightman owed the government $40,340 at the time he filed the lawsuit claiming disability and asking to have his loans forgiven even though he earned $17,053 in 2003, which exceeded the poverty guidelines of $12,120.
Nonetheless, Wightman persisted and after more than a year of threats and litigation, the U.S. Dept. of Education threw up its hands and agreed to discharge the $40,000 in student loans.
*Wightman – after spending less than two years in the peace-time Army and getting a discharged based on a psychiatric condition – claims a 100 percent service-related disability and gets a 100 percent taxing exemption on his $109,000 residence from the Cameron County Appraisal District..
The information request to the Cameron County Appraisal District sought the VA disability rating only and the number of the claim, and not any specific private medical information.
The CCAD asked for a Texas Attorney General's opinion on the matter and the AG sided with Wightman on the districts' decision to withhold the information from the public. Based on whatever documentation Wightman provided the district, he continues to receive the exemption from paying taxes and allows the rest of the county's taxpayers to shoulder the tax load. Wightman fought the release of any information tooth and nail and labeled the request for the information on his claim an assault on the rights of all veterans.
So, someone who stiffed the taxpayers from paying the $40,000 he borrowed from them to pay for his education, and who now claims he has a service-related disability and unloads the burden on other county taxpayers, now calls someone who earned the trust of the voters who elected her to office a "welfare queen?



DA: GRAND JURY NO-BILLS CHIEF DEPUTY GUS REYNA


DA: GRAND JURY NO-BILLS CHIEF DEPUTY GUS REYNA
By the Cameron County District Attorney's Office
Luis Saenz, District Attorney
In Re: Chief Deputy Gustavo Reyna Jr.
September 24, 2014

The investigation was conducted and handled by Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Ranger Rolando A. Villarreal Jr. The investigation focused on identifying any criminal violations in reference to a motor vehicle collision on 08/24/14.

Factual findings:
1. The collision occurred on 08/24/14 around 2:30 p.m. on the turning lane of Pablo Kisel Boulevard by Gold’s Gym in Brownsville.
2. Chief Reyna was operating a county vehicle that rear-ended a Jeep driven by A.R.
3. Both vehicles were safely driven onto the Gold’s Gym parking lot. There were no injuries resulting from said collision.
4. A.R. “voluntarily” decided not to call the police.
5. Chief Reyna paid the damages to both vehicles from personal funds.
6. Chief Reyna was the sole occupant of his vehicle.

Applications of facts to the law:
1. Did Chief Reyna commit an offense by not calling the police?
Texas Transportation Code 550.026 requires immediate notice to a police department or sheriff’s office of an accident resulting in injury to or death of a person or when damage to a vehicle is to the extent it cannot be safely driven away. There was not a requirement for immediate reporting since there were no injuries and both vehicles were safely driven away.
2. Did Chief Reyna commit an offense by telling Sheriff Omar Lucio the collision happened in the parking lot of Mi Pueblito Restaurant when in fact it happened on the turning lane of Pablo Kisel Boulevard by Gold’s Gym?
While a potential offense of Tampering with a Governmental Record existed due to a discrepancy in the location of the collision, the statute provides in Texas Penal Code section 37.10(f) “It is a defense to prosecution under subsection (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(5) that the false entry or false information could have no effect on the government’s purpose for requiring the governmental record.” 
In this case, the inaccurate information did not affect the course or outcome of the purpose of prosecution under Penal Code 37.10(f).
Conclusion:
Based on the facts and the applicable laws, Chief Reyna did not commit a criminal violation in not calling the police and in giving the wrong collision location to Sheriff Lucio.
The Grand Jury was informed of said investigation and findings.
Nonetheless, there remains certain issues and concerns regarding potential County Policy violations that are to be addressed by the Human Resources Department.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WILL THE REAL JUAN MAGALLANES STEP FORWARD?

By Juan Montoya
Where did Juan Magallanes, Democratic candidate for 357th District Court judge graduate from law school?
If you go to the Texas Bar website, texasbar.com the information there indicates that he graduated with a J.D. in Jurisprudence from the University of Texas in 1980. Texas is recognized as a top law school in the country and visitors to the site often consult it to determine a lawyer's credentials.
But someone pointed out that on his campaign website, Magallanes lists another school – Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law '80 – as the place from which he graduated.
Now there is a world of difference in the ranking of both schools. And the State Bar site accepts the lawyer-submitted education history from attorneys and takes them at their word that the information is correct. The Thurgood Marshall Law, when compared with nine other major law schools in the state, is ranked dead last while UT Law is at the very top.
Was this an oversight on part of the Texas Bar or was it a deliberate attempt at deception? Or maybe he graduated from both schools in the same year, perhaps?
This is the content on the Texas bar website:
Firm:
Law Schools:
Law School Graduation, Date Degree Earned
University Of Texas 05/1980 Doctor of Jurisprudence/Juris Doctor (J.D.)

And this is the content on Juan's FaceBook page:
(FB) About
Official FB page for the "Juan A. Magallanes for 357th Judicial District Court Judge" campaign.
Description: To improve the dispensation of Justice through our Judicial System in a fair, thoughtful, and ethical manner.
Education Info
Grad School:
Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law '80
Doctorate of Jurisprudence

College:
The University of Texas at Austin '77
Bachelor of Liberal Arts

DAN SANCHEZ, SPACEX BOOSTER AT BOCA CHICA; NOT!

By Juan Montoya
If you saw the televised or newspaper overage of the SpaceX groundbreaking at Boca Chica you couldn't have helped but notice rotund Cameron County Pct. 4 commissioner Dan Sanchez near the front and center of the event.
All the other city and county commissioners were also there to join the welcome to SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with his new designer glasses.
The minutes of the meeting clearly shows that in the fist item to approve the Economic Development agreement between  Cameron County and SpaceX, Dan abstained.
He did the same thing on the second item where the commissioners took action to approve tax abataments to entice the company to develop the launch site.

Some county observers, however, question the presence of the Pct. 4 commissioner by pointing out that during the meeting held August 21 to consider granting of incentives and abatements to the company to build their vertical launch site at Boca Chica beach Dan abstained from voting for the measures.
All the other commissioners voted aye on the two items. (Click on graphic to enlarge)
Apparently, Sanchez – a lawyer – was not entirely satisfied with the wording on the agreement and voiced his displeasure by abstaining on the vote.
But not one to pass up a gathering or party where he has the opportunity to press the flesh and ingratiate himself with the South Texas legislative delegation and other VIPs, there he was front and center of the affair.
Although much was made of Musk's remarks that someday manned space flights to other planets – Mars in particular – could be launched from Boca Chica, the launches planned to begin as early as 2016 will only be commercial payloads for private customers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

CAMERON PARK RESACA A CESSPOOL OF REFUSE AND DISEASE

By Juan Montoya
The story is often told that the first attempt to settle what today is Matamoros was abandoned after the original attempt was thwarted by disease and pestilence-loaded esteros that drove them away.
At that time the raging river flooded massive areas of the region as the flood-swollen waterway cut new channels to the Gulf of Mexico. The resacas we see today are some of the old channels.
Stagnant waters often breed mosquitoes which sometimes carry diseases. In the past, there were recurring epidemics of yellow fever and malaria.
Believe it or not, there is a recurring problem with one of our resacas in Brownsville. Well, maybe not exactly in Brownsville, since it is located on the north side of the Cameron Park colonia. By a series of actions by governments and  individuals, the resaca north of the colonia has become a repository for trash, dead an animals, and a haven for vermin and disease.
Through a series of land developments and action by an existing irrigation district, the resaca has become landlocked and the water does not circulate as it originally did not too long ago. The Brownsville Public utility Board claims it has no responsibility since the colonia lies in a unincorporated area outside the city. And the Texas Water Quality Board says that aside from fining land owners adjacent to the resaca for throwing trash into it, it has not power to order the irrigation distirct to allow the water to circulate freely into the rest of the waterway.
The Texas Department of Transportation that has water runoff draining directly into the landlocked resaca claims it has not responsibility for the waterway.
Past Precinct 2 county commissioners had only minimal  success in addressing the problem. And yet, it wasn't that long ago that the water in the resaca was allowed to circulate to the resaca system on the northern side of town.
For years, the pleas of Cameron Park residents have often fallen on deaf ears. The recent rains created flooding conditions there when the water in the litter-filled resaca spilled over into adjacent properties.
It is inarguable that the majority of the trash in the form of old furniture, scraps of lumber and construction material comes from some of the colonia homeowners themselves. Yet, the fact that the water is not allowed to drain into the rest of the resaca system is something that can be fixed. At the rear of the colonia, the water used to run east into the resaca that starts off by Fish Hatchery Road in the west and east as far as Highway 48 next to the Walmart.
Why the stretch from Paredes Road to the beginning of the resaca managed by the irrigation district was left to stagnate is anyone's guess.
Cameron Park will eventually have to be absorbed into the City of Brownsville. Will the residents of this colonia have to wait that long before this health hazard is addressed? Or will elected officials at the city and county – as well  as the appropriate state agencies – step up to the plate and deliver?

BIG MONEY IN BISD ELECTION FOR BIG COACH JOE


Texans for Public Education, Texas Forward Committee, and the Valley Political Action Committee were all established by Mostyn in 2010 to allow him to contribute to individual candidates without voters knowing directly that the money was coming from him.
These guys are definitely in the Big Leagues of campaign contributions and king making, as is evidenced in the graph tracking Mostyn's contributions to various candidates and causes.
We have also learned that Mostyn's money was used to hire Miguel "Mike" Carrera, of Carrera Communications, to orchestrate the takeover. Carrera, a McAllen consultant who is listed on most political campaign expense reports in Hidalgo County races has managed numerous Valley campaigns.
 Joe Rodriguez's opponents in his race are Shriley Bowman and Mary Rey. Rey was said to have been encouraged to jump in that race to split the female vote.
Lopez is running against Lucy Longoria, Juan Pacheco, and Roland Guerra.
In the other race, Carlos Elizondo is facing Robert Rodriguez.
Valley Political Action Committee is ubiquitously housed at the UPS Store on Price Road. The Texas Ethics Commission lists the principal at the Valley PAC as Jonathon David Gins at 1474 W. Price Rd., Ste. 7, Box 426. The TEC lists its starting date as June 25, 2010.
With all these pieces in place, local residents would do well to scrutinize the campaign expense reports of the candidates to see who gets money from where. The BISD's $500-plus million budget is a lucrative one for vendors and providers. Legal firms compete fiercely for its business as do vendors of everything from insurance of all types to computers, food, athletic equipment and school supplies.
Will the Big Money behind Baltazar Salazar and Joe Rodriguez decide the outcome of this year's elections? If Salazar manages to keep a majority on the board, expect the goodies to continue flowing his way and to his friends.

DID YOU MAKE THE INVITE LIST TO SPACEX SHINDIG?

By Juan Montoya
The groundbreaking for the SpaceX vertical launchpad atr Boca Chica Beach was by invitation only.  So was the VIP luncheon held at the city's events center on Paredes Line Road.
However, the shindig to welcome SpaceX to Brownsville to be held at the Sports Park will be open to the public as will be the party held at Clayton's on South Padre Island tonight.
Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is expected to speak at the public celebration which will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today at the Brownsville Sports Park on Merryman Road.
Because only a select group of  people were invited, those that weren't were hustling around for an invite to the groundbreaking and luncheon to which Texas Gov. Rick Perry and SpaceX owner Elon Musk were scheduled to attend.
One of those scrambling to get an invite was none other than Cameron Cameron County administrator assistant David Garcia, who was miffed when his invitation didn't materialize.
"David sent a SpaceX rep an email inquiring as to whether there had been a mistake made that they didn't send him one," said a county employee. "I heard that they emailed him back saying that there had been no mistake, that he hadn't been invited."
Another county employee said that only about 60 people from throughout the valley had been invited to witness the groundbreaking and that a large contingent of security was on hand to protect the governor and the invited guests. Among those attending were the county commissioners, the county judge, and other valley elected officials.
Things got off to a late start and instead of making it to the Brownsville events Center by 11 a.m. as had been planned, the groundbreaking did not start on time and was about an hour late.
"It was a cluste----," said one. "They were going to put signs welcoming the governor and Musk to Brownsville last night but they were afraid they would get stolen so they waited until this morning to put them along the highway."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

IS THIS BROWNSVILLE'S SHORTEST STREET?

By Juan Montoya
Is Lerdo Street sandwiched between an alley and the U.S. 77 Frontage Road one of the shortest streets in the city?
Although there are other short streets along the frontage road, this one comes close to the thin edge of a wedge that ends at the parking lot of the law office and congressional HQ of Filemon Vela Jr. near the Ebony Street/Frontage Road intersection. The roads on this section of the city all along the frontage road were named after Mexican figures all the way to the McDonald's at the opposite side.
We tried to speak with someone (anyone) at the City Engineer's office all day Friday to no avail. The city dispatcher tried several times to connect with someone there but no one was in the office. Or perhaps they took off early for the weekend. Who can tell?
We walked off the distance between stop signs (from the alley to the frontage road and we marked all off 28 steps. Now, we're not big people, so if we multiply that by 3 feet (give or take a few inches)  we get 84 feet.
The Google maps show that another street just north of this stretch also bears the name of Lerdo, so we don't know if both stretches are part of the same street. This reminds us of a publication printed a few decades ago that spoke of the laying out of the city using the names of presidents except that between Lincoln and Taylor someone inserted Ringgold, a president we don't remember.
But that's about par for the course in Browntown, though. Take, for example, E. 11th and 12th streets. Eleventh Street appears to come to a halt at the doors of the Brownsville Herald on Van Buren Street. Twelveth Street seems comes to an inglorious end on Arthur Street.
But 11th and 12th streets don't really end there. Ask the guys at the U.S. Post Office. They reemerge several miles away on the north side of South Padre Island Highway off Portway Street.
For all we know, there may be shorter streets than Lerdo in the city, but we admit we don't know which one.
Lerdo, by the way, was the Mexican president (Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada) who succeeded Benito Juarez and was deposed by dictator Porfirio Diaz. Diaz, coincidentally, was in Brownsville at the invitation of the Stillman family and was allowed to use the Stillman House on Washington Street in his unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Juarez by fomenting revolution in Tamaulipas before his forces were routed by a Mexican army.

LOCAL PEOPLE'S MARCH TO STOP ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE


TIME TO RENEGOTIATE THE 70-YEAR-OLD WATER TREATY

By Juan Montoya
Here we go again with the demands by U.S. water users to pressure drought-stricken Mexico to fork over its water obligations of a treaty based on conditions that date back some 70 years.
Thirty five members of the Texas Congressional delegation sent President Barack Obama  a letter this week asking him to intervene in the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico. 
The move was spearheaded by by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D- Brownsville, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. 
News reports say that the letter states that the group is frustrated by Mexico’s lack of commitment to regularly deliver water to the United States as required by the treaty.
“We are approaching a critical juncture and feel strongly that the matter must be elevated from the IBWC (International Boundary and Water Commission) to the highest levels of the United States government in order to mitigate further harm to the U.S. and avoid detrimental impact to the relationship between our two countries,” a portion of the letter states.
The 1944 water sharing treaty between Mexico and the United States obligates Mexico to deliver water to the United States in cycles of five years. The current five-year cycle began in October 2010 and ends in October 2015, which means Mexico has until then to deliver the water it owes, officials said.
The total volume Mexico must deliver before the end of the five-year period is 1,750,000 acre-feet — providing there are no exceptional drought conditions in Mexico, officials said.
The IBWC has been trying to resolve the issue and recently developed a model to show how the water should be distributed equally and how it isn’t, said Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, in an earlier interview. Although the model was shared with Mexico, the responses they provided to the U.S. were “not very promising,” he said.
Defenders fo teh Mexican side say that in the 70 years since the treaty was signed, agriculture and urban development have exploded on the U.S. side and that recent drought conditions have made it impossible to deliver the amounts of water demanded by communities and their representatives on the U.S. side. Additionally, the flocking of U.S. and other multinational corporations to the border area to take advantage of cheap labor on the Mexican side has also placed unforeseen industrial and population pressures on water use there, they say. 
Most of the water used in Texas originates in the watershed of the Rio Grande River.
According to the International Water and Border Commission, "the entire Rio Grande/ Rio Bravo watershed covers an area approximately 924,300 square kilometers (335,000 square miles), with approximately half the watershed in the United States and the other half in Mexico. 
Roughly 50,000 square miles of the watershed are within Texas. The river runs 1,255 miles along the international boundary with Mexico. The Rio Grande Basin encompasses this international reach of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo from the New Mexico/ Texas/ Chihuahua border (El Paso/Cuidad Juarez area) to the Gulf of Mexico (Brownsville/ Matamoros area)."
The IWBC further states that "Water diverted for agricultural use has long been the primary use of water from the Rio Grande. Seventy-five percent of the water is currently allotted for agriculture. The concentration of dissolved solids can effect whether the water can be used for farming or drinking which can lead to increased costs for treatment of the water."
Further, it states that: "It is projected that municipal use (on the U.S. side) will increase by one-hundred percent over the next fifty years and industrial use will increase by forty percent (Texas Water Development Board, "Water for Texas: Summary of the Regional Water Plans").
Much has happened in that time and projections are that the continued growth along the border  fueled by industrialization and population growth will place more stress on the rapidly depleting resource.
"As a result of the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the border area along the Rio Grande faces many challenges in the years to come. The Rio Grande supplies water for drinking and irrigation uses for more that 6 million people and 2 million acres of land. Both groundwater and surface water resources have become and remain seriously threatened by the border regions' rapid industrialization coupled with increased population explosions. 
"The availability of a relatively inexpensive labor force has brought rapid economic business growth along the border. The majority of these businesses include the assembly plants commonly referred to as maquiladoras. As the region continues to grow, some of the new residents establish themselves in unincorporated communities, known as colonias. 
"From El Paso to the Lower Rio Grande Valley near Harlingen, Texas, nearly 400,000 people live in colonias. Even in the incorporated areas along the border, the infrastructure to adequately handle the environmental consequences of human and industrial waste generation and disposal is lacking."
Things are vastly different today than they were 70 years ago, and the continued clamor by representatives on the U.S. demanding Mexico's compliance with a  seven-decades old treaty is not helping matters any, say representatives of various government and business groups in that county.
"These groups should be looking to modernize and renegotiate this treaty in light of the vastly changed conditions on both sides of the border," said an attorney with a Mexican business group. "Simply demanding Mexico to turn over its water without taking the changed situations into consideration – while it plays well with their constituents and is good politics – isn't helping matters much."

Friday, September 19, 2014

ONGOING WAR NEXT DOOR GOES UNNOTICED

By Juan Montoya
Every week, Maria (not her real name), a Brownsville business woman who runs a restaurant and lounge goes across the Gateway Bridge to shop for the makings of Mexican food in the mercados of Matamoros.
At one stop she buys freshly toasted peanuts for her lounge. At another, over by Diagonal Street, she buys large slabs of chicharrones. At another place, just up the road, she gets beef chicharrones, or bofes, a favorite dish at her restaurant.
Although the commodities are also available on the Brownsville side of the Rio Grande, the cost in Matamoros is about one third what it would cost here.
"A kilo of bofes costs about $5 there and about $15 here," she said.
Last week she took a female friend with her and they went about their business. After the shopping, they were going to stop and have a bite to eat.
Things were going smoothly and al they needed to buy were the peanuts that they would get on 12th Street near the Juarez Mercado and were driving on Diagonal when she thought she heard small pops behind her.
"What was that?" she asked the friend.
"It's probably some boys popping balloons," the friend answer
When she looked in her rear view mirror, she was alarmed to see a convoy of Mexican Marines at full throttle firing their heavy weapons at a car racing far ahead and weaving among traffic on Diagonal.
"It wasn't balloons," she said. "It was the soldiers chasing and shooting at some mañosos. They were firing over our heads all over the street. There were a couple of windows in the second stories of the houses above us that were shot out and pock marks where the bullets had hit the walls."
Unnerved at being caught in the crossfire of the running gun battle in broad daylight, she swerved her vehicle and tried to park on the side. Her fright and momentum carried her onto the sidewalk and she stopped the truck.
"My friend was telling me to lean down in the cab but we had bags of groceries on the seat between us and I couldn't get down far enough," she said. "I could hear the whizzing of the bullets flying overhead."
She said that the trucks of Mexican soldiers included one marine with a bullhorn giving the driver direction on where the car with their targets had turned.
"He was shouting at him to turn left and then right, and all the time the soldiers were firing indiscriminately down the entire length of the street," she said. "I heard that there have been several people who have been killed by stray shots being fired by the soldiers and nothing has been done about it."
Now this small business woman is thinking twice about going to do her weekly shopping in Matamoros. She says that even though groceries cost less there, her experience last week gave her cause for pause.
"How can people get used to living like that?" she wonders. "After the gunfight passed by, the people just resumed what they had been doing and went about their business. Some were looking at the broken windows and the shot up walls with curiosity as if they were used to it already. I'm thinking twice about going over there again."

PRESIDENT NOMINATES ROLLIE OLVERA TO FEDERAL BENCH

Office of the White House of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 18, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, President Obama nominated Judge Joan Marie Azrack, Judge Alfred H. Bennett, Judge Loretta Copeland Biggs, Elizabeth K. Dillon, Judge George C. Hanks, Jr., Judge Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr., and Justice Jill N. Parrish to serve on the United States District Courts.
"I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates for the federal bench," President Obama said. "They will be distinguished public servants and valuable additions to the United States District Court."
Judge Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr.: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Judge Jose Rolando Olvera, Jr., has been the Presiding Judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region of Texas since 2011 and the District Judge for the 445th District Court of Texas since 2009. From 2005 to 2006, he served as the District Judge for the 138th District Court of Texas, and from 2001 to 2002, he served as the District Judge for the 357th District Court of Texas. Judge Olvera also worked as a solo practitioner and served as a part-time Brownsville Municipal Court Judge from 2007 to 2008. From 2003 to 2004, he worked first as a solo practitioner and then with the law firm of Spain Olvera. Judge Olvera worked in private practice at Fleming Olvera, PC, and its predecessor firms from 1994 to 2000 and at Atlas Hall LLP from 1990 to 1993. He received his J.D. in 1989 from the University of Texas School of Law and his B.A. in 1985 from Harvard University.


Judge Joan Marie Azrack: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
Judge Joan Marie Azrack has served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of New York since 1990 and served as Chief Magistrate Judge from 2000 to 2005. From 1982 to 1990, she was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, where she served as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division and Chief of the Business and Securities Fraud Section from 1986 to 1990, and Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Section from 1985 to 1986. Judge Azrack began her legal career as a Trial Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice from 1979 to 1981. She received her J.D. in 1979 from New York Law School and her B.S. in 1974 from Rutgers University.

Judge Alfred H. Bennett: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Judge Alfred H. Bennett is the Presiding Judge for the 61st Civil District Court of Texas, a position he has held since 2009. From 2010 to 2011, he served as the Administrative Judge for the Harris County Civil District Courts. From 1998 to 2008, Judge Bennett was a solo practitioner, representing individuals and companies in litigation before both state and federal courts. From 1994 to 1998, he worked at Solar Fernandes LLP and from 1991 to 1994, he worked at Fulbright Jaworski LLP. Judge Bennett received his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1991 and his B.S. from the University of Houston in 1988.

Judge Loretta Copeland Biggs: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
Judge Loretta Copeland Biggs has been a partner at Allman Spry Davis Leggett Crumpler, PA, since May 2014 and previously was a partner and managing shareholder at Davis Harwell Biggs, PA, from 2003 to 2014. From 2001 to 2002, Judge Biggs served as a Judge on the Court of Appeals of North Carolina. From 1994 to 2001, she worked in the United States Attorneys Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, serving as Executive Assistant United States Attorney from 1997 to 2001. Judge Biggs also served as a Judge on the Forsyth County District Court from 1987 to 1994 and as an Assistant District Attorney in Forsyth County from 1984 to 1987. She began her legal career as Staff Counsel for The Coca-Cola Company from 1979 to 1982. Judge Biggs received her J.D. with honors in 1979 from Howard University School of Law and her B.A. cum laude in 1976 from Spelman College.

Elizabeth K. Dillon: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia
Elizabeth K. Dillon is a shareholder at Guynn, Memmer Dillon, PC, where she handles both trial and appellate matters in federal and state courts. Previously, she worked as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Roanoke from 2000 to 2003. From 1999 to 2000, Dillon was a shareholder at Guynn Dillon, PC, a predecessor to her current law firm. She began her legal career at Woods, Rogers Hazlegrove, PLC, from 1986 to 1998. Dillon received her J.D. in 1986 from Wake Forest University School of Law and her A.B. magna cum laude in 1983 from Lenoir-Rhyne College.

Judge George C. Hanks, Jr.: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Judge George C. Hanks, Jr., has served as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Texas since 2010. From 2003 to 2010, he served as a Justice on the First Court of Appeals of Texas and from 2001 to 2002, he served as a District Judge for the 157th Civil District Court of Texas. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Hanks was a shareholder at Wickliff Hall, PC from 1996 to 2000, and an associate at Fulbright Jaworski LLP from 1991 to 1996. He began his legal career by serving as a law clerk for Judge Sim Lake of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas from 1989 to 1991. Judge Hanks received his LL.M. from Duke University Law School in 2014, his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1989, and his B.A. summa cum laude from Louisiana State University in 1986.

Justice Jill N. Parrish: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Utah
Justice Jill N. Parrish has served as a Justice of the Utah Supreme Court since 2003. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Justice Parrish served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Utah from 1995 to 2003, during which time she supervised the Financial Litigation Unit in the Civil Division. Previously, she worked at the Salt Lake City law firm of Parr Brown Gee Loveless, where she was a shareholder from 1990 to 1995 and an associate from 1986 to 1990. Justice Parrish began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge David K. Winder of the United States District Court for the District of Utah from 1985 to 1986. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1985 and her B.A. summa cum laude from Weber State College in 1982.

IS IT TIME FOR SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICTS FOR BISD?

By Alex Hinojosa
El Paso Times

Clint Independent School District trustees decided they would welcome petitions from the community seeking to change the school board's at-large representation to single-member districts.
On Wednesday, trustees voted 5-2 to invite voters to achieve the required number of signatures and present the petition to them at a later date. Trustees Janice Armstrong and Robert Lara voted against it.
If residents were to petition the school board to change to single-member districts, they would have to collect about 5,000 signatures.
"The board approved endorsing an effort for community members to achieve the required number of signatures on a voter petition for a possible voter referendum," said Laura Cade, spokeswoman for the district.
Voters do not need the approval of a school board to take that action.
The Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero, co-chairman of the El Paso Inter-religious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO, said that the trustees completely missed the point of what the community wants and what is best for the students. For more than a decade, Roden-Lucero and members of the public have urged trustees to change from an at-large representation to single-member districts.
Residents and members of EPISO also asked that trustees order that an internal audit be conducted on the district's legal expenses regarding single-member districts and whether the district attempted to cheat federal accountability measures, as in the El Paso, San Elizario and Canutillo districts. In December 2012, trustees decided not to investigate whether student credits were manipulated to cheat federal accountability measures. Clint trustees said there had not been any concerns raised to order an audit.

Javier solis - Cuando calienta el sol (Video)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CAVA: REGISTER AND VOTE: IT REALLY MATTERS

By Mary Helen Flores
Citizens Against Voter Abuse
As we enter September, it is the perfect time to make sure you and your family members are registered to vote. Oct. 6 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general elections. These elections will determine who wins at key positions in our county and in our state. We can all do our part by being informed and ready to vote when the time comes.
Mary Helen FloresThe following are the election code requirements (Sec.11.002) to be a qualified voter in the state of Texas: “1) A qualified voter is 18 years of age or older. 2) A qualified voter is a United States citizen. 3) A qualified voter has not been determined by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be: (a) totally mentally impaired; or (b) partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote. 4) A qualified voter has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if so convicted, has: (a) fully discharged the person’s sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court; or (b) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote. 5) A qualified voter is a resident of this state. 6) A qualified voter is a registered voter.” (www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us)

Registering to vote is free and easy. Contact the Cameron County elections office at (956) 544-0809 (www.co.cameron.tx.us/election/) to find out the most convenient way for you to get registered. For all high school seniors out there, the election code requires all high schools to offer their students eligible to vote an opportunity to register to vote on his or her campus. If your campus does not offer this service, please report it to the Texas Secretary of State at (800) 252-8683 (www.sos.state.tx.us).

To cast an informed ballot, go directly to the source by questioning each candidate about your concerns or interests. Research their websites, Facebook pages, or call their campaign treasurers to find out when you can attend the next meet and greet they may be hosting. By law, contact information must be made available on each candidate’s campaign sign or push card. It is our civic duty to hold a standard of quality for the people who wish to represent us in public office. They should be responsive to their potential constituents at all times. If one is not responsive as a candidate they certainly won’t be responsive as a public official.

Your vote is your personal seal of approval on the candidate of your choice. You are entrusting this person to do the best job on behalf of the greater good. Each informed vote submitted should help our county move out of the category as the poorest county in the nation. It is in our hands to make a brighter future for the next generations in our communities. And please never forget that – YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN SECRET AND FREE FROM INTIMIDATION.

Retaliation is a form of voter intimidation and is a federal crime. Please make sure that you document any instance if you are made to fear for your job, your home, your safety or any public service you are receiving because of the way you may wish to vote. Report voter intimidation to the FBI at (956) 546-6922 (www.fbi.gov).

Each and every registered voter is a powerful part of improving our county. As our voter turnout increases, so will our funding by state and federal entities which will benefit things such as infrastructure, schools and small businesses. So I encourage everyone to get out there, get registered, get informed and VOTE. Do not ever be fooled into thinking that your vote does not count because it counts now more than ever.

Please join Citizens Against Voter Abuse on Facebook. We have a LIKE page and a Group page. CAVA would like to hear from anyone turned away from voting in the May 10th San Benito school board or city elections to contact us.

God bless America!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CANDIDATES FOLD THEIR ARMS AND DON'T COMPLY ON SIGNS

By Juan Montoya
Just what about City of Brownsville Permitting Director Evaristo Gamez's determination that signs violating the size restrictions contained in the municipal ordinance must come down don't some candidates understand?
On Sept. 8, nine days ago, Gamez emailed complainant Cris Valadez and said : "Mr. Valadez, all political signs must comply with the maximum 36 square feet area as per Ordinance 2012-1452-D. Any other political sign that is larger must be removed by tomorrow morning."
That would have been the next day, Sept. 9.
It's Sept. 17th. Ride around town.
Over by Duran's Foreign Car shop stood (and still stands) a larger than legal campaign sign belonging to 357th District Court judge candidate Juan Magallanes.  And a couple of our readers have told us of other, even larger signs, are up over by the 77 Highway Flea Market, still inside the city and coming under the ordinance.
Joe Rivera, over whom the initial complaint was filed with Gamez, has removed his and placed them elsewhere in the county where there are no restrictions on sizes. But so far, Magallanes and at least one Brownsville Independent School District candidate (Cesar Lopez, see graphic), continue to have the oversized signs by public thoroughfares.
The Lopez sign is along Ruben Torres Blvd. (FM 802). It's tilted to the left a bit and it might not be  a bad idea to remove it if simply for that cause.
One thing we do notice is that both of these candidates chose to have their campaign pictures depicting them with folded arms.
Was that a circumstantial indication that they are going to continue with their arms folded and not comply?

NASA'S SPACEX CHOICE DOES NOT INCLUDE BOCA CHICA

By Juan Montoya
Before City commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa dons her SpaceX jumpsuit to get on board a spacecraft to go to Mars from Boca Chica, we will repeat what we have said time and time again.
There are no plans for manned space flights to take off from the Boca Chica launch pad that will be used by SpaceX to launch private satellites into orbit.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named the winners of the competition at the Kennedy Space Center, next door to where the launches should occur in a few years.
NASA will pay the companies $6.8 billion — $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX. The manned SpaceX capsule would use the company's own Falcon 9 rocket. Cape Canaveral will be the sole launch site.
That should put an end to the fairy tale that was perpetrated during the Federal Aviation Administration's 2013 Environmental Impact Statement hearing  held at the ITEC that the SpaceX site will see astronauts taking off to interplanetary travel.
Remember Bob Lancaster, President of the Texas Space Alliance during the cheerleading session?
"It is exciting to think that you will be able to see the launch of a manned space mission to Mars," Lancaster said to wild applause.
But this did not stop the Brownsville Herald and the Brownsville Economic Development Council's Gilbert Salinas from repeating this impossibility as an opportunity for Brownsville to send off astronauts from Boca Chica.
"Musk," the Herald stated in an editorial, "whose dreams of space flight were inspired by the 'Star Wars' films, is not content to merely shoot satellites into space and supply space stations. His goal, according to the company, is to 'revolutionize space transportation and ultimately make it possible for people to live on other planets.'”
"Now that the shuttle program is history and the way has been cleared for private space transport — with SpaceX leading the way — NASA has more time to spend on exploring Mars and beyond.
“What’s funny is that Elon Musk wants to do the same thing,” Salinas said. “It’s just a matter of who you think is going to get there first. Imagine, if we could do that from here.”

In fact, just today, Pct. 1 Commissioner Sofie Benavides – a strong SpaceX suporter and in whose jurisdiction the Boca Chica launch site is located – said she was told at a meeting this morning that "for the next several years NASA will require any manned space launches to the International Space Station to be launched from governmental space launch facilities and thnat Boca Chica would handle only private payloads."
Believe it or not, those of us here at El Rrun-Rrun are space exploration enthusiasts. But the fact is that those NASA millions for manned space travel are not coming to Boca Chica Beach. It's better to foster dreams of space launches from here with our feet firmly planted on real ground.

rita