Thursday, October 23, 2014


By Juan Montoya
The overblown rumor about Brownsville Independent School District trustee Catalina Presas-Garcia having a so-called "meltdown" earlier this month after learning she had to pay a $25 baggage fee to United Airlines at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport has gone national.
Thanks to local misanthrope blogger Robert Wightman, school districts throughout the United States who are members of Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) and its steering committee will be filled in the latest anonymous gossip and a video of the so-called altercation between Presas-Garcia and the United Airlines ticket clerk.
We wonder who at the airport provided the video Wightman claims he has and which he says he will distribute to every member of the CUBE steering committee and the member school districts. All he has posted is the still photo below of Presas directig her remarks at Tetreau who can be seen seated at the far top right.
 Now, the last time we went through the airport we clearly remember the heavy presence of Brownsville Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Enforcement, and even U.S. Customs officers there. If there had been an altercation or even a semblance of one, we're sure they would have arrested her or not allowed her to get on the plane. Of course, nothing even resembling that occurred. But it makes for titillating copy for those adherent to his warped views of people.  
The rumor started with the posting of an anonymous email sent to Jim Barton of the Mean Mister Brownsville blog who quoted a tipster who said he was behind Presas-Garcia at the ticket counter.
He said:
FYI Cata Presas-Garcia was ahead of us in line for a flight from Brownsville to Miami yesterday. When she was told she would have to pay extra for her bags, she threw a fit. She even shouted out to Jessica Tetreau who was behind us with her kids saying 'Better get your money ready commissioner. They're charging us for bags.' Just thought her behavior was odd and classless for a woman in her position."
Now, by coincidence, a delegation of the City of Brownsville Commission were also present who remember things quite differently. Mayor Tony Martinez was among them as was, as Eightman mentions, city commissioner Jessica Jessia Tetreau-Kalifa and her husband and kids.
The mayor and commissioners remember things distinctively different than Barton's anonymous tipster.
According to Presas-Garcia, she did protest the $25 United Airlines baggage charge and turned to the commissioner to tell her that Southwest Airlines out of Harlingen did not charge a baggage fee. She then turned to ask her when Brownsville residents could expect to see Southwest back in Brownsville again. We would venture to say that the majority of frequent flyers would agree with her opinion. And as a supposed defender of free speech, why isn't Wightman defending Garcia-Presas' right to protest the baggage charge?
And that should have been the end of that.
But from such meager journalistic fodder, Wightman has fabricated a scenario where Presas-Garcia is yelling and foaming at the mouth with rage at the ungodly $25 baggage fee.
Not only that, he takes a devious and malignant swipe at the CUBE and likens the organization (a branch of the National School Boards Association) to "United Brownsville, and the All American City Civil League. It was created to allow school board members to go on free vacations at the expense of the taxpayers...Cata was on her way to a bogus CUBE meeting which serves no benefit to BISD except draining limited funds from the district which should be going to the children."
He also throws in a snide comment about Presas-Garcia reporting that a part of the CUBE meeting dealt with teenage pregnancy.
"Maybe if she would stop traveling on the taxpayers nickel and stayed home she might learn something from the hundreds of girls who get pregnant at BISD. Ah, but that would not be fun."
Here is the agenda for the CUBE meeting held in Miami:
The Brown Imperative
As we bring our year-long theme to a close, we celebrate the successes of addressing pertinent subjects such as:
*Strengthening the Nation: Expanding Educational Opportunities for African-Americans
*Brown v. Board to Race to the Top: An Overview of the State of Public Education
*Using Data and Community Partnerships to End the School Pushout Crisis
*With all Deliberate Speed: Enacting Board Policy to Achieve Racial Equity
*Defining Leadership for Equity in the Digital Age
*“Race” Matters in Education
*School Desegregation: Learn, Preserve, and Empower
*Why Race and Culture Matters
*Living a Legacy
Do you really think these topics are already readily available to BISD trustees?
But Wightman's gratituous remarks about CUBE Steering Committee member Bruce Alexander hit a nerve in Akron. He sent Presas-Garcia an email after he received Wightman's distorted view of CUBE and of his candidacy for the Akron, Ohio School District where the legal malingerer states:
"This man from the Akron, Ohio school district, Bruce Alexander. pushed for Cata to fill an opening on an interim basis. Under the standards to even be able to get your name on the ballot for a formal election, Cata would not qualify. To understand how easy it is to be elected to the CUBE Steering Committee Mr. Alexander won his election in Akron with a mere 18.6% of the vote. With just under 19% of the people voting for you, how can you claim to speak for the people? His own dismal numbers could explain why he thinks Cata is what CUBE needs. CUBE like so many organizations exist to boost the egos of the Board Members or City Commissioners - worthless awards which serve one purpose - to mislead the people as to the truth. But then when you are paying for the award through dues, it's easy to win."
What Wightman fails to mention is that in Akron, the top four vote-getters at an at-large election are elected to the board. Alexander won the second spot in both elections where he has run. All, except for one other candidate, drew less than he did. It stands to reason that if there were seven candidates (2013) and eight (2009), they would split the 100 percent of the vote amongst them.
If that isn't a valid reason for Wightmans demeaning evaluation of Alexander's candidacy, could it be that somehing else – his race, perhaps – roiled his displeasure?
This drew this from Alexander after he received the distorted missive from Wightman via his email:

From: Bruce Alexander
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2014 11:03 AM
To: Catalina Garcia;
Subject: Fw: 
See attached. I need to find out who put this out. If you know, please forward their information to me. This will probably go to my attorneys. 
You see, what he doesn't know is that it wasn't Alexander who nominated Presas-Garcia for the CUBE appointment and that that individual who did has also conveyed his displeasure at Wightman's fabrications to Presas-Garcia.
Wightman can't help himself when he thinks he is on a roll. He continues his attacks by saying:
"The BISD Board needs to stop all funding for any more trips to this con artist organization. Think about it, Cata and Luci are suing BISD for $2 million because they cannot get their way with the votes, and CUBE finds her to be the type person they want on their Steering Committee. Think about that!!!. The video and this post are going to the entire Steering Committee and all of the school board presidents for the 100 member school districts."
So far, he has claimed he is technologically-challenged and has not posted the incriminating video to either his three readers or the members of the CUBE and its Steering Committee. We're all dying to see it, including, we've heard, Da Mayor and his party.
So Wightman thinks nothing about bad-mouthing the BISD and spreading his distorted version of events throughout the nation and bad-mouting the CUBE, an organization that, by the way, awarded the BISD its annual award in 2008.
In addition, former trustees Ruben Cortez and Christina Saavedra were members of the CUBE Steering Committee. Why wasn't it a worthless organization then?
And if it's such a drain on the school district budget and "draining limited funds from the district which should be going to the children," why isn't he protesting the bloated legal fees being sucked from the district, too?
If the CUBE, indeed, is a worthless organization, perhaps Wightman should also be imnparting that opinion to his buddy trustee Minerva Peña, who has never hidden her ambition to get on the CUBE Steering Committee but has not been able to get elected? Do we detect the green-eyed devil (envy) behind Wightman's ravings?
 Once the "100" school board presidents of the urban member school districts get Wightman's poison, we wonder what they will think of the people of Brownsville who actively seek to discredit a board member who represents the interests of their school district at the national level?
Of course, he alos injects a few tidbits about himself taking steps to avoid paying the baggage fee cause he's just so smart. He was smart enough, for example, not only to get himself disbarred, but also to claim he hadn't worked in 18 years and likened himself to a returning ill Iraq war veteran to welsh on paying back U.S. taxpayers the $40,000-plus in student loans. He also claimed a service-connected disability with the Cameron County Appraisal District to get a reduction on his property taxes when by his own words he has admitted that he served in the peace time Army at most for a year and a half before being discharged after a negative psychiatric diagnosis.
It's no wonder that this bitter man can create such flights of fancy and spin a simple protest over a baggage fee into a confrontation of gigantic proportions not becoming a "professional." He willingly drags the BISD through the mud and spreads his vile far and wide to descredit one of its school board members throughout the nation.  
Does Wightman have such a poisoned soul that he plain doesn't give a damn if he cuts off the BISD nose to spite its face?


By Juan Montoya
Remember the headlines announcing the nearly $10 million in wind damage settlement announced by Houston hurricane-damage lawyer Steve Mostyn and his cadre of Hidalgo--based lawyers?
Mostyn represented the Brownsville Independent School District against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and used numerous racist and hateful emails from TWIA officials he obtained from the association through the discovery process.
Well, at the time we thought it was too good to be true, and apparently, it was.
BISD is not getting $10 as it was reported. In fact, the district will  be lucky bit it gets $2 million of the $9.2 million the BISD settled with  the TWIA, and from Gab Robins North America Inc., an insurance underwriter.
The lawsuit was filed by the then-BISD trustees for claims they say weren't paid following a 2008 hurricane.
Steve Mostyn, a Houston-based lawyer, revealed the details of the settlement Saturday to the BISD.
"The bulk of the settlement will be split between Mostyn and the lawyers, who will net about $4 million, the insurance companies, who will get another $4 and the rest – about $2 million, will go to the district," said a lawyer acquainted with the case.
Many of the local counsel associated with Mostyn and his firm are based in McAllen, among them Ramon Garcia, the Hidalgo county judge and his associates.
Mostyn, who has made an empire specializing in hurricane damage claims, has also contributed heavily to the campaigns of prominent Democrat candidates, and specializes in going after the claims denied by the TWIA.
In 2012, Mostyn, founder of the Mostyn Law Firm, established himself as a mega donor when he contributed $3 million to Priorities USA Action, a pro President Barack Obama PAC.
Some local attorneys say that Mostyn, through local go-betweens and Political Action Committees, (PACs) is also contributing heavily in the 2004 school board elections of the BISD.
Sources say that foremost among the candidates said to benefit from Mostyn's interest in the BISD have been former Coach Joe Rodriguez and, incidentally, Cesar Lopez. The go-between to the candidates is said to be BISD board attorneys Baltazar Salazar whose offices are also located in Houston.
In an article published online in the "Washington Examiner" this month, writer David Yates states that: "In just the past three months, the Mostyns have contributed more than $2.3 million to Texas candidates, with the bulk of the funds going toward state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, campaign finance records show."
In his webpage, Mostyn says that the three hurricanes that devastated the Texas Coast from Houston to Beaumont, and Galveston to the Rio Grande Valley damaged countless homes, businesses, churches, schools, and government office buildings.
A large number of cases filed for damages by insurance companies in these areas for their clients were denied by the TWIA.
"In courthouses in Galveston and the Rio Grande Valley, and in the state capitol in Austin, we revealed tens of thousands of instances of insurance company misconduct," he wrote in his company's website.
"Our team of lawyers and investigators spent thousand of hours reviewing millions of pages of documents, emails, and internal insurance company memos. And our engineers and experts proved that insurance companies had denied, delayed, and underpaid billions of dollars in covered claims."Mostyn claims that "evidence we uncovered led to a criminal investigation of one major national insurance company and a US Department of Justice investigation of another."
Mostyn made hundreds of millions of dollars suing TWIA, the sole provider of windstorm insurance in the state.
As previously reported by a tort-reform group, in the latest round of campaign finance reports reveal the Mostyns donated $200,000 to Texas House candidate Susan Criss, a former Galveston judge who presided over the majority of Hurricane Ike suits.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Judging by the thousands of dollars that Position 1 Brownsville Independent School District trustee Cesar Lopez is spending on slick, flashy ads to convince the voters to vote for him over three other candidates, it is obvious that he and his money backers intend to buy this election with smoke and mirrors to hide the truth.
On Sunday it was a full-page color ad ($2,200?). The Wednesday before another color half page ($1,600?). Today it is another full-color half page (1,800?). Add that to the two mass mailings also costing thousands of dollars each and you can see that the players behind Lopez are shelling out big bucks to keep the BISD tit available to them.
Today, instead of harping on the lawsuit filed by Luci Longoria, one of his opponents and a trustee herself, he takes positive high road and focuses on "issues." Surrounded by children (whose?), he exudes a benign aspect in his message. Since everyone knows Cesar is the father to a new-born infant, it's obvious that he's using someone else's children as mere props to advance his candidacy.
But, alas, telling the truth is not Cesar's forte and a scrutiny of his "top five priorities" demonstrates that conclusively.
His first priority is universal a pilot program of Pre-K for all students in Spring 2015 when he knows full well this lead balloon has been floated around for some time but always falls to the ground with a thud because there has to be a way to pay for the buildings to house the program, the teachers and support staff, and other services necessary for this group.
How will he pay for it without raising taxes? Indebt the district even more?
He has already promised voters he won't raise taxes, but failed to mention that on Sept. 2 he voted to approve the tax rate that did exactly that. And guess what the additional tax rate was for? Would you believe to pay for debt service?
Another of this "priorities" is to "increase college and career opportunities for all students." Well, those board members before him (including his nemesis Longoria) established the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at Veterans to service all the district's high school despite resistance form entrenched interests in the district. And there were already dual-enrollment and college-level course taught to BISD students. Maybe that is not such an original idea after all, is it?
His number 3 priority is to "recommend pay raises for all BISD employees." Well, where was he that June 25 Special Meeting meeting when the administration proposed their budget that did not include raises for the teachers? He was conspicuously absent. Yet, as Longoria has pointed out, he was present he and the majority gave records manager Martin Arambula a $15,000 increase – $75,940 to $90,061 – making more than 53 campus principals who are responsible for the education of hundreds of students and the supervision of teachers, staff, and campus security.
"And where was he July 15 when the board majority voted to hire two extra Area Assistant Superintendents not included in the 2014-2015 Adopted Budget or Compensation Plan and not posted correctly on the agenda, a violation of the Open Meetings Act?," Longoria asked.
Answer: Cesar was there for these highly-paid administrators and voted for the hires despite the apparent illegality. I stood up for teachers and other deserving professionals and voted against it.
Well, let's move on to Priority 4. Cesar says he wants to increase "transparency in  district and board operations."
Oh, he does, does he?
Why doesn't he begin by telling people why he has refused to provide the third signature to Longoria and Catalina Presas-Garcia's request that an item be placed on the agenda allow the board to review the employment of general counsel Baltazar Salazar and the charges that he lied on his application withe the district about his three felony theft arrests?
Not only were Salazar's offenses listed as crimes of moral turpitude which have kept other individuals from working for the district, but he also voted in December to extend Salazar;s contract and give a 10 percent increase to his $240,000 annual retainer fee?
Salazar, by the way, has so far contributed $4,000 in reported campaign contributions to Cesar's campaign. Isn't this the same attorney who has a contract – which you approved as a board member – prohibiting from making any "gifts" to a public servant in connection with his employment?Transparency say you, Cesar?
And last, but not least, of course, is his priority to improve "district-wide facilities and campus playgrounds." We come to the same little problem of district debt. Issue more bonds? Raise more taxes?
We must admit he did "put students first" in his newspaper ad, even if they were not his. But if he can "borrow" a couple of students without anyone the wiser, why can't the district also sink into debt to accomplish his so-called priorities as well?
...And some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." - Abraham Lincoln


Drawing by Alice Leora Briggs
(On two consecutive mornings in late August, an unknown woman shot and killed two bus drivers in Ciudad Juarez. Then a mysterious email showed up at a local newspaper, claiming to be from someone called, "Diana, Hunter of Bus Drivers." We asked artist Alice Leora Briggs, who creates elaborate, chilling scenes from Juarez with a method called sgraffito, to make this image based on the story of Diana. Zoom in for etching detail. You can see more of Alice's work at her website and find her book on Juarez here.)
The first murder happened at 7:45 am, on August 28th, on bus route 4A.
That morning, a woman hailed bus 718, climbed the steps, pulled a gun and shot the driver. The driver jumped out of the bus trying to escape but died on the sidewalk. The killer, witnesses said, was a middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair -- or maybe it was a wig -- wearing a cap, plaid shirt and jeans. Nobody saw how she escaped. Or at least nobody would say.
The second murder happened twenty-four hours later, on the same route. A woman boarded the bus downtown and a few blocks later requested a stop. She walked towards the exit and motioned as if she were looking for the bus fare, but instead drew her gun, spat words into the driver's ear and shot him twice in the head -- then fled the scene.
One day later, a news website from El Paso called La Polaka, which specializes in covering the political gossip of Juárez, received an email:
"You think that because we are women we are weak, and that may be true but only up to a point, because even though we have nobody to defend us and we have to work long hours until late into the night to earn a living for our families we can no longer be silent in the face of these acts that enrage us. We were victims of sexual violence from bus drivers working the maquila night shifts here in Juárez, and although a lot of people know about the things we've suffered, nobody defends us nor does anything to protect us. That's why I am an instrument that will take revenge for many women. For we are seen as weak, but in reality we are not. We are brave. And if we don't get respect, we will earn that respect with our own hands. We the women of Juárez are strong."
The email was signed by someone calling herself "Diana, Hunter of Bus Drivers."
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the first disappearances of young women in Juárez. Or, at least, when people started recording these disappearances, and considering them as being related, after a 13-year-old girl was kidnapped and then found dead with signs of rape and strangulation. After that, the number of women who were killed just kept growing. It went from dozens of reported murders in a year, to hundreds. So many women it was hard to count accurately. In 2010, the number peaked: at least 304 women were murdered that year.
The circumstances of the crimes were eerily similar. One day, a girl would disappear on the way to work or on the way home, and if there was any news about her, it would be when her body was found in the desert or an abandoned lot, often with traces of rape and torture. Sometimes they were found together in mass graves.
(To read the rest of this story, click on the link below.)


By Juan Montoya
Quick, somebody call the All-American City judges and let them see what is happening to one city they designated wither their logo.
Then again, maybe the judges and their organization have already spent the $50,000 or so the good citizens of the City of Brownsville gave them for the designation and they are no longer interested.
All around town – from Boca Chica Boulevard, Los Ebanos, Tupilan, McDavitt, 13th Street, Security Drive Four Corners, you name it – the scene was the same, a widespread flooding that got into people cars, spread trash and debris all across the city and taxed the patchwork drainage system past its capability.
It's nothing new, really.
The city administration – starting with City Manager Charlie Cabler, the mayor and commissioners, and the rest of the city bureaucrats – will talk about retaining ponds, clean drain ditches, new studies, etc., that will not change the fact that the drainage system we have to serve this city sucks.
On Tulipan Street, carts floated down the street. On Coolidge, trash cans were carried by the waters and small whirlpools sucked trash and other debris as residents tried to clear the drains to help the water recede.
After spending millions of dollars on streets and drainage, what happens after we get a good downpour?
Yup. The usual flooding and washing away of the improvements (and patchwork) performed over the last five or six months and the cycle begins anew.
A former mayor used to say that Boca Chica Blvd. at Four Corners always flooded when a large dog took a pee. Well, looks like Fido had to relieve himself again today.
Retaining ponds and clean ditches and gutters are just stopgaps in a system that really isn’t working. In fact, it has never worked.
We recall that in an instance prior to a recent city commission election Cabler “found” $1 million to patch up potholes in streets and several commissioners then running listed all those “improvements" in their campaign ads? (Yes, we mean you Rick Longoria.)
Guess what's going to happen to those improvements aftertoday's downpours? Merely drive down our main strips and see the “patched” blackholes start to suck in our bucks again. Once again we’ll pour a few millions down the drain in patchwork and repairs until the next rains come, then again, the cycle starts anew.
In the meantime, we’ll continue ruining our cars, living in what looks like a shelled-out city and handing over our hard-earned bucks to tire and car repair shops to fix our tires, replace cracked windshields, and replace our shocks.
Sometime down the road we’re going to realize that unless we undertake a comprehensive system-wide drainage project that covers the entire city – and not just piecemeal strategies – this vicious cycle will continue to be repeated time after time ad infinitum.
Man has altered the natural flow of water in this watershed toward the river with dams upriver and a levee system that effectively prevents the water from following its natural course to the waterway. We need a series of outfalls along the river to divert the water while we gather the necessary political courage to propose the most logical solution to our flooding.
But we have a core of city commissioners who want to establish world records for zumba dancing, mass fishing parties, healthy eating, bike trials, real-estate speculation to benefit their friends, and push for other of their pet priorities. Simple, non-sexy issues like basic drainage escapes them.
Until we have a mayor and a city commission that has its priorities in place, be prepared to continue pouring money down the drain and suffer the consequences of ignoring the obvious.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Some of our regular readers probably know that we are not in favor of the City of Brownsville's "sale" of relocated Lincoln Park to the University of Texas System for a song.
More than one commenter to the blogs have charged that the $6.5 million price quoted by the city administration and UT System-lovestruck mayor and two city commissioners is a sweetheart deal that will see the 48 acres of prime city property go to the oil-and-gas wealthy UT System for a song.
Da Mayor Tony Martinez and commissioners Rose "La Chisquiada" Gowen and Debbie "Nose for Gold" Portillo make up the core of the commissioner's support for the giveaway.
Gowen is a pedal pusher who is a staunch supporter of making Brownsville the bicycle capital of South Texas and using tons of public money to do it. Included in the Request For Proposals the city offered UT is a promise to dedicate city property to construct a myriad of bike trails throughout the city and even county property.
Portillo, who used to be the secretary for the shadow government parasitic entity known as United Brownsville, has since been installed as one of the three co-chairs of the publicly-funded entity. City commissioner Estela Vasquez-Chavez, also a member of United Brownsville and an attorney, was bypassed in favor of Portillo. The Portillos once rented property from Abraham Galonsky for their jewelry store which has since been moved to Sunrise Mall. Galonsky was able to finagle a sale of half a block of buildings to the city for a mind-boggling $2.3 million. It didn't hurt that the lawyer representing him in the negotiations with the city was the matyor's legal firm partner Horacio Barrera, also, incidentally Galonsky's neighbor.
It is obvious that neither commissioners Vasquez-Chavez, Ricardo Longoria, or even John Villarreal, are considered of the silk-stocking crowd or entitled to sit at the master's table presided by Martinez, Portillo and Gowen.
But be that as it may, the commissioner who actually represents the area – District 1 commissioner Longoria – has told constituents asking about the relocation of the park if the sale is closed, that John Bruziak, the manager of the Public Utility Board, has promised him that the utility will use chemicals to mitigate the stench of sewage emanating from the treatment plant.
The city plans to relocate the park on real estate directly across the treatment plant.
When UT offiicals came to see the properties in the city's RFP, they literally turned their noses up at the flatulent aroma wafting from the plant and which would have been directly in front of the proposed campus site. They politely said "no."
Now the city is proposing to move the park to the same site and doesn't seem too concerned that kids in the East Brownsville Little League or playing on the fields will be exposed to sudden gusts of traditional southeast winds (and an occasional northern) blowing the stench over the park. And one can only imagine families having a cookout being exposed to the mouth-watering aromas of human excrement as they munch on hot dogs or a pollo asado.
Longoria apparently thinks that Bruziak's promise is as good as Portillo's gold and as vigorous as Gowen's pedal-pushing legs. But all he has to do is ask for a map that shows where the smell-mitigating chemicals have been placed in the various lift stations and treatment plants across the city and he will see that the PUB and its administration car every little if the barrios have to bear the smells.
We did.
Of about 60 applications of the chemicals by PUB, the overwhelming majority were made in areas north of Boca Chica Boulevard and perhaps only one or two to lift stations in the Southmost, Las Prietas and downtown areas.
Suddenly now, because of Da Mayor and Gowen's rapture with the UT System and their desire to entice its regents with a gift of Lincoln Park, does Longoria believe that Bruziak and the board of PUB directors will develop a sense of social justice overnight?


By Juan Montoya
We hear from reliable sources that the machinations to insure that the same majority remains at the helm of the Brownsville Independent School District is largely being orchestrated by trustee Minerva Peña and district general counsel Baltazar Salazar.
The negative onslaught against Luci Longoria unleashed by opponent Cesar Lopez in full-page and half-page expensive newspaper ads state in the opening lines that he feels victimized by their "negative" ads won't lower himself to that level, disingenuously try to strike a high tone on the moral road, and then reverts to the lowest type of innuendo against them.
Lopez – basically a snake-oil salesman – want to have his cake and eat it, too.
Already, at least one of the candidates in his race – Juan Pacheco – has told intimates that Lopez took him to lunch at a high-class joint and tried to entice him to leave the race in exchange for some unspecified benefit in the future. To his credit, he refused.
And behind the Lopez smoke and mirrors are trustee Minerva Peña and district general counsel Baltazar Salazar.
Despite the protestations of Lopez adherents, they say that it is Peña and Salazar who are behind the scenes pulling out all the stops on money going to Lopez, Joe Rodriguez and Roberto Rodriguez to assure a continuation of what can only be classified as a continuing criminal enterprise run by the current majority.
Peña is a retired Texas Department of Public Safety officer who has made at run for Justice of the Peace and came in a poor third behind Mary Esther Garcia and Pete Avila. She then endorsed Avila and he lost.
Now she's backing Lopez and the Rodriguez (squared) slate to keep control of the board.
Salazar is no stranger to squalor.
He lied on his application to the district by stating that he had been charged with two felonies but that they were "set aside" by the courts.
In fact, Salazar was arrested and charged with three felony theft by check charges, and convicted and sentenced on one. The record is there for all to see.
Theoretically, Salazar should have never been hired by the BISD because he was convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.
Minnie, as her friends call her, should know that while she was pushing for the board to hire her pal Salazar, her former employer (DPS), was successfully challenging the expunction of the three felony charges that was issued in the 107th District court in Cameron County.
But a majority of the board – at that time the late Enrique Escobedo, Peña, Jose Chirinos and Otis Powers – ignored the policy and voted to hire Salazar as board counsel with a $240,000 a year retainer. Then, to make matters worse, the new majority with Cesar Lopez on board appointed by Escobedo to replace Christina Saavedra (with Powers, Chirinos and Peña) renewed his contract (this time as district general counsel) for another year and gave him a 10 percent salary increase.
In a lawsuit filed in the federal courts by trustees Luci Longoria and Catalina Presas-Garcia, they point out that Lopez was appointed to the board by Escobedo for his part in helping his security company land a lucrative surveillance contract with the Mercedes ISD for which he worked at the time.
Now, Peña as a former law enforcment officer with the DPS is aware of that. So where is the rectitude she preaches?
It's no wonder that Salazar has been hustling the big bucks to keep Lopez on the board. In fact, the last election campaign report indicates that he gave Lopez $4,000 in campaign contributions despite a clause in his contract where he agreed not to make any gifts to a public servant.
The stakes are high in this race. There is a $520 million district budget at stake and Salazar and his cronies will be damned if they can't control it. That Lopez, Powers, Peña and Chirinos are willing to give this apparent violation of district policy a nod and a wink shows that the rules don;t apply to their favorites despite their chest beating and sack-cloth lamentations.


D. Recommend approval of the following Contract(s)/Agreement(s):
19. Recommend approval to contract with Cameron County Elections Office and to pay 60%
deposit for estimated costs of election services for a joint Election to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 and to authorize the Superintendent to sign the contract.

Item on BISD agenda for meeting of Sept. 2, 2014

By Juan Montoya
ast month during the meeting of the Brownsville Independent School District board of trustees, the members voted to pay Cameron County Elections Department Administrator Chris Davis 60 percent of the $95,714 it will cost to print the district's election ballots and run the polls.
Everyone at the district assumed that there would be separate ballots for the district, until they saw the sample ballots handed out by the Cameron County Elections Office headed by Director Chris Davis.
After all, there are some 50,000 registered voters in the precincts within the BISD.
Instead of two separate ballots – one for the general election and propositions, there was only one. The BISD election – a nonpartisan election – was printed on the back of the ballot.
Theoretically, if a palanca voter for either party (Republican or Democrat) blackens the oval in the front of the ballot, he or she may think they are done with the voting and ignore the propositions and the school district race.
Did Davis prepare the ballot – which by the way, was signed off by both parties on the elections commission – in the interest of economy and for the county to make a little extra cash?
Or was there some other motive involved?
It hasn't taken long for some supporters of school district candidates to point out that Davis' father-in-law Joe Rodriguez is a candidate on one of the positions for the BISD. Rodriguez is running for Position 4 against Shirley "La" Bowman and Mary Rey. Rodriguez drew the last place on that position. Rey drew the first and Bowman the middle.
The conventional wisdom is that the candidate in the first position on the ballot will benefit by at least 10 percent of the impulsive vote by voters who just glance through the ballot.
Who would it benefit most not to have a big voter turnout in the district elections?
County reps have told us that elections workers have been trained to tell voters that there are also races on the back side of the ballot. But is that really enough for traditional straight-party ticket voters who blackened the oval in favor of their party to scrutinize the back side of the ballot searching for the proposition and district election races?
 An elections administrator should strive to enfranchise as many voters in as many races as possible. Davis, in this case, opened the door and did the exact opposite. Can we attribute this to a sense of frugality, or was there an ulterior motive in the design?
If the totals of the vote of races that overlap the BISD yield different totals, one can deduce that the design of the ballot disenfranchised some district voters from exercising their right to choose their BISD representatives.

Monday, October 20, 2014


By Juan Montoya
If there ever was any question that three of the candidates for the board of the Brownsville Independent School District were running as a slate, that doubt was quashed by none other than "Coach" Joe Rodriguez during his remarks at his shindig at Ben Neece's Half Moon Sunday.
Instead of asking those present for their vote and support – or even to state his platform –  Rodriguez urged those present to vote against "those two women" on the board and vote for Cesar Lopez and Robert Rodriguez.
The old coach must be getting near senility and it might be as contagious as the Ebola virus because Lopez, like himself, also took out a full-page ad the same day on the local newspaper and addressed it to Catalina Presas-Garcia adn Luci Longoria.
Thern, in what is rapidly becoming known as Lopez Doublespeak, he declines to go "negative" and says he will "leave the attack ads and accusations to both of you. Tweaking facts and planting lies for political gain makes me question your integrity and is the reason so many good people do not run for office."
As far as we can tell by the ballot we voted on, Presas-Garcia's name does not appear on any trustee position as a candidate. Someone whisper this in the "Coach's" good ear. Also mention the fact that since there are two plaintiffs in the First Amendment rights and retaliation lawsuit filed against a majority of the board (including Cesar), General Counsel Baltazar Salazar and the superintendent, Longoria could not possibly be suing for $2 million.
Let's see. Mr. Lopez says in his ad that he got a B.A. in Business Administration fro UT-San Antonio. What do you get when you divide 2 by 2? Unless Lopez got a BA using the "new" math, it could not possibly be 2. But it's OK to tweak facts and plant a little lie for political gain, integrity be damned, isn't it Cesar?
Back to the old "Coach."
Since Rodriguez decided to give up the charade of single candidates running their own races, why would the trio be running as a slate?
Lopez's appointment was pushed by the late Enrique Escobedo. At that time, Lopez was the purchasing agent for the Mercedes ISD. The minutes of the meeting when the Escobedo's bid was recommended by Lopez to the Mercedes ISD board reflect that some members had questions about the quality of the surveillance equipment to detect faces of perpetrators of break-ins and other vandals at Mercedes schools. The minutes show that Lopez and Jaime Escobedo admitted that the cameras lacked that qaulity but that that could be changed sometime in the future if need be.
So it was natural for Lopez to be appointed as a replacement for Christine Saavedra when she resigned and left for San Antonio. One good turn deserves another.
"Coach" Rodriguez was also a vendor with a sports equipment company that a forensic audit found was given preferential treatment by then A.D. Tom Chavez.
"It is the opinion of the Forensic Audit Staff that no doubt the Athletic Department in general and Tom Chavez in particular exercised undue influence and misuse of authority in choosing BNS Sports, through their sales rep. Joe Rodriguez, particularly in the purchasing of uniforms and other sports supplies for Manzano Middle School and Veterans Memorial High School in school year 2010-2011.
(This) resulted in close to $500,000 of purchases being given to Chavez's close friend and former A.D. Joe Rodriguez. Chavez allowed he and Joe Rodriguez's personal relationship to interfere with what should have been a business decision causing a potential loss of revenue to be sustained by the district.
The Forensic Audit Staff recommended that a no-solicitation clause be included in future employment contracts and that BISD make a determination with respect to a (vendor such as BNS) whose representative (Joe Rodriguez) issue a threat over the telephone to file a lawsuit against the district.
It is the opinion of the (auditors) that Chavez and his AD staff afforded BNS preferential treatment to the detriment of the district. Consideration should be given to administrative action disciplining Tom Chavez with termination as a consideration."
So it's all about sales and contracts with both Lopez and Rodriguez.
Come to think about it, this is not the first time that audits have bedeviled the old "Coach."
When Presas-Garcia came on the board, she found out that two audits performed on the annual Rodriguez ostensible fundraisers for scholarships has been shelved by the bard majority then and that they fought off releasing it. It got to the point that the majority sued the Texas Attorney General to stop the request from a citizen and the local newspaper from getting them. When they were released and made public, there was a litany of federal labor laws and district policy violations revealed.
Rodriguez is facing Shirley "La" Bowman and Mary Rey for Position 4. Bowman has developed a reputation for blunt talk and her non-nonsense approach, going as far as telling some people that when she worked some games for "Coach Joe," he was going to keep the pay for one of four games for himself because that was the way he "made things happen." She said no.
Rey, poor soul, was inserted in the race to split the female vote and hurts Bowman's chances.
It's no wonder then that Rodriguez hates "the two ladies" on the board, but gets along well with Minerva Peña, the former DPS employee who seems to have developed a blind eye for some district employees' misdeeds.
Robert Rodriguez, who is seeking the Place 2 position against Carlos Elizondo is touting the fact that he was in the Marine Corps ages ago and that he absorbed at least 14 "leadership traits" and cites them. Some of these included initiative, judgement, courage, unselfishness, etc. Of all these, Rodriguez apparently learned "tact" the best because no one remembers hearing him complain about the wrongs in the district. His "loyalty" to the system trumped his  "courage" to speak up against the wrongs and injustice that ended up in federal and state courts with settlements against the district.
Discretion was apparently the better part of "valor" for Rodriguez, and he was more interested in protecting his paycheck than in speaking up.
On the other hand, Carlos Elizondo, who has a personal stake in the BISD because his daughters attend the public schools, has battled the city bureaucracy on behalf of his fellow firefighters and first responders at the peril of his job and career at the hands of vindictive Chief Lenny Perez. Thi is  ano-brainer for voters who want a champion for the working man and women on the board.
The same things that happendd to Robert Rodriguez happened but on a much shorter time scale for Lopez, running in the race for Position 1 against Longoria, surprisingly articulate Juan Pacheco, and late-bloomer Roland Guerra. In his full-page ad (does overkill apply here?), Lopez lists six major issue to entice the voters. Reading his ad reminds one of Gollum when Bilbo Baggins found him inside the mountain. Gollum has been alone for so long that he talks to himself. "We must, we must, we must, we must...," he keeps repeating. Well, so far Lopez has been on the board since August 2013 and now were near November 2014.
Go back and watch the televised coverage of the meetings and see if Lopez once mentions any of these "we must" issues that he is now championing. Don't waste your time. Selling and marketing is his game and he is pulling out all the stops. Even as he criticizes the "two ladies," for "tweaking facts and planting lies for political gain," he has stated that he will not raise taxes, conveniently forgetting that he voted to do just that when the board passed the last budget. But don;t mention that because he considers stating of facts "negative" and "attack ads."
Perhaps now that the mask has fallen off, we can see that it is to board counsel Baltazar Salazar's benefit that Lopez stay on the board and allow him to continue to milk his annual $240,000 retention fee. He also can continue to pay his lawyer buddies $100,000s, like he paid $193,000 so far to Colvin, Chaney, Saenz and Rodriguez to defend against the "to ladies" lawsuit. He then turned around and paid another Houston firm another $191,000 to look over the work by the first firm. Coincidentally (or is it?), the Brownsville firm includes "Coach" Joe's son Tony, the "Rodriguez" in the firm's principals.
Is the school district all about legal fees and contracts, then, that makes these lawyers and vendors salivate at the thought of controlling the BISD's $520 million budget?
In Lopez and both Rodriguezes, they have found a slate of candidates willing to let them continue milking the district.  


By Juan Montoya
When Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz was in the Democratic party primary runoff with Brownsville Navigation District Port commissioner Carlos Masso two short years ago, the latter enlisted the aid of Erasmo Castro, sister Linda and the Cheezmeh legion of minor demons.
They trashed Saenz and accused him of everything from infidelity to womanizing, and to Saenz being the target of criminal investigations by two juries. Erasmo Castro even designed the trademark black T-shirts with a "Cheezmasso" logo to signal their support for Carlos.
A local group – apparently irked by the antics of the Cheezmeh gang  even came up with a graphic depicting Erasmo in the same body of Masso wearing the group's traditional black shirt.
Well, Saenz won that election and took office.
Many of us wondered at the time how Erasmo – having been charged with numerous criminal offenses –   had the chutzpah to go after a candidate for district attorney who could find out his background in a heartbeat.
Nonetheless, he did.
Later, there would be a falling out between the principals of the self-styled Cheezmeh nation and acrimony ensued after Erasmo made it clear that he was the only leader and that all homage should be paid to the Great Fromage.
But Erasmo had made enemies directing the group's targets and it wasn't long before a local blog came up with his rap sheet.
They found out that "a search of the National Criminal Records, Texas State Criminal Records, Cameron, Morris, Smith, Titus and Travis counties criminal records reflect that (he) DOB 01/20/1967, has the following three criminal records:
Erasmo Castro (DOB 1/20/67)
* 4/18/1994 - Felony forgery. Disposed on 4/25/1994. Probation.
*6/29/1997 - Misdemeanor Class B - Theft by check. Disposition Date: 4/23/1998. Guilty.
*10/15/1997 - Misdemeanor Class B - Theft by check (again). Disposition Date: 4/23/1998. Guilty."
Other searches on other websites indicates that a person with the same name and and the same birth date has operated at least two ministries and a public notary service up north and has sought bankruptcy protection at least twice to fend off his debtors.
When Saenz won, Masso was the first to congratulate him and endorse him, a kind of kiss and makeup play by both.
Well, now it's Cheezmeh and Saenz turn to kiss and make up to push back the frontiers of ignorance and injustice.
In a recent post on the web indicates that Saenz and Castro are partners in the never-ending battle against the criminal element seeking to destroy Western civilization as we know it.
Castro must have been titillated to post a cold case poster of a woman homicide victim that occurred 21 years ago.
It's commendable that Castro has mended his ways and is now partnering with the D.A. to find clues to the victim's assailants.
But some don;t think that the posting by Castro to show that he has the ear (and privately corresponds) with his former nemesis.
Erasmo, apparently, is in with Luis.
We guess we should applaud this very public example of rehabilitation. On the other hand, those in the community who grew jaded with the Castro's and Cheezmeh's antics have developed a more cynical outlook on any actions they may publicize. With Luis in his corner, anything is possible now.


By Juan Montoya
Democrats this morning were taking the motto of vote early (and vote often?) to heart early today, the first day of early voting.
This morning courthouse visitors saw Democratic Party faithful rallying around their candidate for county judge Joe Rivera (behind Gabino Vasquez in his quintessential pose with the white hat on the cell phone). Among the faithful who lined up to show Rivera their support were former elections administrator Roger Ortiz (in the white shirt with back toward camera) as well as a number of elected officials  and their staff.
County workers are often allowed to go vote during their break, although someone pointed out that collective efforts may not qualify as such. Voting was also brisk at the main library on Central Blvd., one of the busiest polling sites in all of Cameron County.


By Juan Montoya
If we were to describe the defenseive ad that Democratic party candidate for the 357th District Court Juan Magallanes placed in the newspaper Sunday in  one word, that word would be "lame."
Although it's true that the 13th Court of Appeals did side with Abel Limas in the case where a jury had issued a verdict against Magallanes and his client over a real-estate contract, the fact of the matter was that at the time the court of appeals justices had no way of knowing that Limas had borrowed $30,000 from Juan while he had a case pending in his court.
In response, Oscar X. Garcia, Magallanes' opponent in the general election going on now, issued this sttaement:


TRUTH No.1 Magallanes has NEVER DENIED giving the $30,000 to the Corrupt Judge Abel Limas  because IT IS TRUE!!!
TRUTH No.2 Magallanes has NEVER DENIED giving Limas the $30,000 while Magallanes had a case pending with Limas because IT IS TRUE!!!

TRUTH No.3 Magallanes wants to distract you from the $30K loan to the CORRUPT LIMAS!

Magallanes probably rues the day that he agreed to loan Limas the cash, as do other attorneys with close ties to Abel, who is now doing time in a federal camp in Pensacola, Fla. Garcia is hoping that county voters had enough judicial corruption buttressed by local attorneys who turned away or participated in the general bloodletting and carried away cash by the handful from local courts.
Early voting began today. The decision is now in the hnads of the voters. 


(Ed.'s Note: One of our favorite contributors sent us this photo of Elizabeth Street when it was still unpaved and lined with trees.We're not botanists and can't tell what kind of trees those were, but we notice that there isn't one palm tree to be seen. That makes us wonder how it was that palm trees were selected to be planted on downtown streets. Was it something to attract tourists, or an attempt to establish a "semitrpoical" setting that the Chamber of Commerce folks are constantly trying to foist in their literature?)

Sunday, October 19, 2014


By Juan Montoya
If you glanced at the Sunday newspaper today, you probably came upon the large ad paid by the Cameron County Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Now, usually, the ads crow up the Democratic candidates in the upcoming elections. That's what made the ad taking Carlos Cascos to task for "never calling for an investigation of the scandalous corruption in our county" a little different.
The ad says that "our former sheriff, DA, and a District Judge have all been found guilty."
We don't know what Cascos could possibly had done to stop Conrado Cantu from taking money from drug dealers, what he could have done to stop Armando Villalobos from racketeering, or what he could have done to stop Abel Limas from taking bribes.
There was also something about one of the employees of his accounting firm embezzling money from the firm that was settled quietly. And of course, there was an item about Cris Valadez "accused" of tampering with electric meters while a board member of the Brownsville PUB.
We knew that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa – who Cascos beat for county judge before – has a direct hand in the running of the Cameron Party Democratic Party as does his wife Cindy. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that it was Gilbert behind the ad. You see, it looks really bad for Gilbert for his home county to elect a Republican and now it's obvious that the resources of the state party are going to be used to try to prevent that.
But let's take a look at what Hinojosa balmes Cascos for.
Wasn't Conrado one of Gilbert's best friends and Gilbert one of his staunchest supporters before The Fall?
And wasn't Hinojosa and his buddy Juan Magallanes some of the local lawyers who had an open door to Villalobos when he was DA?
Yet, the ad tries to lay the blame the judicial corruption of Limas at Cascos' doorstep. Remember the testimony by Limas himself on who talked him into running for district judge? Let us refresh your memory:
In an article written by Emma Perez-Treviño in 2011, she wrote that, aside from contributions, "A good portion came from a $25,000 loan that Limas secured from the International Bank of Commerce' came from local lawyers. Four Brownsville attorneys and a relative put their names on the line for Limas, each guaranteeing $5,000 of the loan. These were not reported as campaign contributions, and individually they exceeded state limits on contributions to judicial candidates.
The attorneys were Ernesto Gamez Jr., who was Limas’ campaign spokesman; Leonel Alejandro, now (then) judge of the 357th Judicial District; and former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa’s partners at the time, Juan Magallanes and Eddie Treviño, now (then) former Brownsville mayor, with the then-law firm of Magallanes, Hinojosa and Treviño."
Then, in 2005, after Limas had been in office for one four-year term and was embarking on a second one, the partners heard he was thinking of resigning his bench.
During the Ray Marchan trial, Limas told prosecutors that he had told them he wasn't going torun and they talked him out of it.
LIMAS : "I was going to resign in 2005. I had a letter for Gov. Rick Perry in 2005.
ASST. U.S. Atty. "And they told you don't resign. Please don't resign."
LIMAS: "Yeah, they told me not to resign. They didn't tell me 'Don't resign. We'll do this for you.' No. They encouraged me not to resign. And I said 'I'm going to resign.'"


By Juan Montoya
It was a still early Friday evening and Panfilo thought about getting together with la raza at El Mante Bar.
El Mante was their usual watering hole. Not only did a lot of babes go dance and hang out there, but there was usually live music by a local conjunto and you could play a competitive game of pool with a wicked gang of hustlers who preyed on the unwary.
Besides, Moi, the owner, still sold cold beer at $1.50, one of the few remaining places where you could get one that cheap.
But Panfilo had a problem. His dress shoes had seen their better days and the front part of the sole had completely come off the from the leather upper of the right-foot shoe.
He thought about it and decided to stop at the Texas Thrift Store in front of the Walmart at Boca Chica to see if he could find a pair. As he walked down Old Prt Isabel Road, he became aware of the slapping sound made by the loose sole and cut across the Walmart parking lot to avoid pedestrians coming from the opposite direction on the sidewalk.
He walked into the thrift store and looked over the selection. There wasn't much to see. He was a size 8 1/2 and it appeared that most of the used shoes were from up north where people apparently seemed to wear bigger sizes.
Finally, he settled on a pair that were about a size bigger, but he also bought a pair of thick black socks to disguise the fact that they fit a little loose. He tried the pair and they felt OK, so he left them on, paid for them at the counter, and tossed his old pair in teh dumpster behind the store.
Fourteenth Street was a few blocks from the thrift store and he ambled over, trying to get used to his new shoes. The not only felt good, Panfilo thought, they also looked good, better than the old pair.
When he got to El Mante, all his buddies were there. It was still too early for the night crowd and they made a space for him around the wooden cable spool Moi used as bar tables.
"Hey, bro, traes calcos nuevos ? Quien pompo?" asked Raul, one of his friends, He was one of the few who still used the chuco jargon for shoes.
"Simon, carnal," Panfilo replied signalling one of the bar waitresses for a cold Natural. That was one of the good things about Moi's place. A Natural Light cost only $1.
The girl came over and brought his beer.
He sat there drinking and joking with his camaradas and was about to signal for another brew when the waitress came over and brought him one. He looked at her inquiringly and was about to pull out his dollar when she told him someone had bought him the beer.
"Fue aquella chava," she said pointing at a good looking, well-dressed woman sitting at a table with some friends across the pool table next to the wall.
"A ya pegaste, ese," said Arnulfo with a slight trace of envy in his voice. "Ta bien guena."
Panfilo acknowledged the beer and nodded in her direction wondering what he had done that had attracted her attention. A few minutes later, the waitress brought another beer.
"De la misma chava," she said. "Quiere contigo. No se porque, pero quiere."
The rest of the party at the table teased him and he got up and walked over to the table to thank her personally.
"Gracias, mi amor," he said in his best galan voice as he put his hand on the back of her chair. "Como te llamas?"
"Maria," she answered. "Nice shoes. What's yours?"
"Phil," he said. "Thanks, but well, they're a  little tight," he answered feeling a little self conscious, "Son Florsheim's."
"Bailas?" she asked as the conjunto started up again.
He said yes and they danced and he returned to his table.
The waitress came by again and told him that Maria wanted a word with him.
By now, he had become the item of conversation at the table. He ambled over and she asked him if he wanted to go somewhere. "Ya sabes pa que," she said coyly.
Panfilo was thrown for a loop. To be honest, although all the friends at the table boasted of their conquests with the babes and imagined sexual exploits, it was a rarity for a woman to come on to them. When and if it happened, it was usually toward the wee hours when the effects of the alcohol made them throw their inhibitions to the wind.
Panfilo and Maria left Moi's and she told him to drive her car to a motel on Boca Chica.
Less than half an hour later Panfilo came back by himself. Maria had dropped him off in front of Moi's and took off in her new car.
"Ya?" Raul asked. "Que paso?"
"We went to the motel in her car and she paid," Panfilo said leaning back luxuriously. "Then we made love and came back."
"She paid?" Raul asked incredulously.
"Yeah," replied Panfilo. "And she even gave me $50."
"She gave you $50!" Arnulfo almost yelled. "Why?"
"I don't know," Panfilo said signalling for another Natural Light. "She told me to get a new pair of shoes my size so that I won't go around fooling people."

Saturday, October 18, 2014


with apologies to Edwin Arlington Robinson

Old Aurorita De la Garza, partying one night
At the Events Center, in old Browntown
And there with some by-invitation-only friends,
Who loved the district clerk of 30 years
After all that time, paused warily.
The center was without an enemy near;
And Ricardo Longoria, MCing for her said aloud,
For no man else in Browntown to hear:

"Well, Aurorita, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The pajaro is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the boid." He raised up to the light
The tarro that he had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: "Well, Aurorita,
Since you propose it, I believe I will."

And then, with Bishop Dan Flores and the Alcalde Martinez there
Blessed as she was with Red Masses, a score,
She stood and basked in the plaudits given her
Like Judge Dancy's ghost blowing a silent horn.
Below Ricardo on the dais, yet not far, was Treviño
Da Former Mayor there, where friends had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till the bishop's eyes were dim.

Then, Aurorita, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
Set the jug down slowly at her feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on the table firm
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, she paced away,
And with his her hand extended paused again:

"Well, Mr.Magallaners, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many indictments they have come
But none to us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!"
Convivially returning to John Wood,
Again she raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
"Well, Ralph Cowen, if you insist, I might.

"Only a very little, Ralph
For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do."
So, for the time, apparently it did,
And Aurorita evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night the Consul Quilantan, uninvited, raised up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two guests listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang—

"For Aurorita, ahorita," the weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
She raised again the jug regretfully
And shook her head, and was again alone.
After 30 long years, there was not much that was ahead of her
And there was nothing in the county below—
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened for her long ago.

Goodbye Auro, you've had a good run
But like all ill-gotten gains
You have surrounded yourselves with sycophants
and smooth-talking, suave pedants
Who told you things you want to hear
And now it's gone, you're free and clear
Of evil law enforcement guys who want to know
And who you've told – where all the skeletons are –
Slither away, it's best we think...while you're still free


By Juan Montoya
On the eve of the start of early voting Monday, the former Cameron County Clerk Chief Deputy Letty Perez has filed a Whistleblower Act lawsuit against Cameron County naming her former boss – and current Democratic candidate for county Judge Joe Rivera – and alleging, among other things, that he retaliated against her for not supporting one of his political candidates and awarding "improper and illegal contracts."
Rivera claims that the suit is politically motivated and that although he hasn't been served with it, the fact that Perez never showed up for a grievance hearing and did not exhaust the remedies available to her with the county might cause the lawsuit to be thrown out.
"She filed a grievance and never showed up when we had it," he said. "Then she files the lawsuit three days before the start of early voting which makes it doubly suspicions that it is politically motivated."
Perez alleges that Rivera subjected her to "verbal harassment and front of county employees and others running for political office" after she said she reported these alleged "violations to investigators at the FBI, an appropriate law enforcement authority..."
In the lawsuit styled 2104-DCL-07082, Leticia Perez v. Cameron County Clerk's Office filed Friday in the 103rd District Court, Perez, who had been Rivera's right-hand-employee for the past 30 years, she claims that she worked without incident "until she was asked to support a particular candidate for County Clerk, Sylvia Garza Perez" by Rivera and that he started a "campaign of retaliation" against her after she told him that "she would not be supporting her Garza-Perez, Rivera's choice as his successor" that resulted in her wrongful termination.
She claims in her lawsuit that Rivera's retaliation "was also due to (her) obtaining knowledge of (him) utilizing his post as County Clerk to award illegal contracts and attempting to contact the proper law enforcement authorities concerning as such."
The filing of the lawsuit on the Friday preceding the start of early voting Monday for the general election immediately brought howls of protest by Rivera's supporters who charged that the lawsuit was politically motivated to influence the county judge's race.
Rivera was a surprise candidate for county judge and had told his supporters that he was going to run for reelection to the position that he had held for 36 years. Even more surprising was Garza-Perez's announcement that she would be running for county clerk after she had first announced that she would run for county judge herself.
It was assumed around county circles that Letty Perez would be Rivera's successor prior to the announcement that Garza-Perez had switched positions.
Justice of the Peace Benny Ochoa said he had wanted to run for County Clerk and asked Rivera if he was running again. When Rivera told him he was, Ochoa decided against throwing his hat in the ring. However, Ochoa said that just because Rivera did the opposite, that was no reason for Letty Perez to have filed the lawsuit and the allegations contained therein.
"Just because Joe did that that doesn't mean I am going to go against him like that," Ochoa said.
Garza-Perez easily beat back her opponents in the 2014 Democratic primary. She then beat Arnold Flores in the primary runoff 5,477 to 4,963. She does not face a Republican challenger in the general election.
The charges made by Perez – if proven – could potentially result in indictments in federal court. Although Perez does not specify which contracts Rivera allegedly made which were "illegal and improper," the faact that they have been filed in the court of public opinion might have the potential to sway some voters now on the fence.
Observers say that her filing the lawsuit without going through the grievance process could potentially derail her claims, but also disrupt any investigation that the FBI might be undertaking based on her allegations to them.
The Whistleblower Act (554.006) specifically states that an employee must "initiate action under the grievance or appeal procedures of the employing state or local governmental entity relating to suspension or termination of employment or adverse personnel action before suing under this chapter."
Additionally, the employee must "invoke the applicable grievance or appeal procedures not later than the 90th day after the date on which the alleged violation of this chapter."
It is unknown whether Perez filed a grievance with the county before she initiated the lawsuit under the Act. If she didn't, some legal observers say that her lawsuit may be thrown out.
However, the political fallout of a lawsuit by a trusted 30-year employee on the eve of the early voting in the county clerk elections does not bode well for Rivera.
Close associates of County Judge Cascos deny that they had anything to do with the timing of Perez's lawsuit, and that it had been brewing for months before the filing on Friday.
Her attorneys – Javier Peña, Uri Heller and Chad Fulda of Heller and Fulda – are based in Edinburg, Texas.
She is suing for injunctive relief, actual and compensatory damages , court costs, attorneys fees, reinstatement with fringe benefits and seniority rights lost because of her termination and lost wages.
The Act also calls for the Texas Attorney General to provide to the state auditor's office a brief memorandum describing the facts and disposition of the lawsuit.
It also calls for the auditor to investigate the state governmental entity (Cameron County) to determine any changes necessary to correct the problems which gave rise to the whistleblower suit.


By Daily Iowan Staff
Hassanali EspahbodiA University of Texas-Brownsville professor who sought treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is suing two doctors and the state of Iowa for negligence, according to court documents.
Hassanali Espahbodi, 61, was admitted to UIHC in June 2011 for surgery to repair a hernia. Clinical Professor Kent Choi and Kevin Bridge performed the surgery. 
Espahbodi alleges Choi and Bridge mistakenly cut one of his arteries and failed to properly detect and control bleeding. He also contends that the surgeons damaged his nerves and used an inappropriate mesh during the surgery.
He claims the surgeons and the state are responsible for “physical and mental pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.” His wife, Pouran Tolouian Hassanali, 61, is also suing, claiming she “[has] and will be deprived of the services, companionship, and society” of her husband due to the alleged negligence.
The couple is seeking trial by jury and compensation for damages.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Ever since current Brownsville Independent School District counsel Baltazar Salazar filled out his application for employment with the district in December 2011, that document has been in the public domain.
When the trustees met to choose law firms to represent the board, they were given copies of the application and a compilation of the firms' strengths and weakness. It is noteworthy to state at the outset that Salazar's firm was nowhere near the top of the strongest candidates. In fact, its list of shortcomings placed it somewhere near the bottom of the eight finalists.
Salazar was hired by the majority including the late Enrique Ecobedo, Otis Powers, Jose Chirinos, and Minerva Peña. Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria voted against his hiring.
This much we know about Salazar.
He lied on his application that he had been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, in this case, three arrests and one conviction of felony theft by check.
BISD policies clearly state that no one convicted of a crime of moral turpitude will be hired by the district. The trustees who voted to hire him knew this.
He kept the fact that he had been charged with those three crimes from the board claiming that the convictions had been "set aside."
Even as he stood before the board in April 2013, his application for expunction was being challenged by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
A local trial court (107th District Court) had granted the expunction only to have the 13th Court of Appeals overturn its decision when it found that the convictions had not been "set aside" as Salazar contended, but that he had served probation for at least one of those convictions.
Don't believe it?
Click on this link from the 13th Court of Appeals from August 2013. Unless the 13th Court of Appeals posts lies on its website, we think we should regard their decisions as true? Don't you?
He was hired that April and the court of appeals rendered its decision in August of the same year.
So even as he stood before the board members and made his pitch for the job, Salazar knew all along that the DPS had objected to the trial court's expunction of his criminal record. He also knew that he had lied on his application.
When a request for information was handed to the BISD seeking a copy of the original application, the district objected and sought a Texas Attorney General's opinion claiming that the application was confidential since there was "pending litigation" in the form of a lawsuit filed by trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Luci Longoria.
The AG, unaware that there were copies of the application floating around in the public already, granted the exemption based on the litigation.
So now we have a convicted felon as general counsel to the district whose superintendent is a law enforcement officer, and a trustee (Minerva Peña) who makes much about the fact that she was a former officer with the DPS.
If superintendent Carl Montoya is a true-blue law enforcement officer, shouldn't he put a stop to the continued employment of someone who lied about three arrest for felony theft – crimes of moral turpitude – and who is as close to an eighth board member as one could possibly be?
And, hey, Minerva, aren't you supposed to side with your former employers to weed out criminals from working in a school district which could potentially influence the minds of young children?
That bring us to trustee Cesar Lopez, an appointed trustee now running for election. He is Salazar's fourth vote on the board, and the lawyer knows it. So far, he has contributed $4,000 (reported) to Lopez's campaign to defeat Longoria, one of two trustees who voted against hiring him.
This past December, a new majority (Lopez, Peña, Powers and Chirinos) voted to extend Salzar's contract and gave him a 10 percent raise.
There is some question on whether Salzaar's campaign contributions to Lopez were legal, since a clause in his contract prohibits him from making gifts to any public servant "in connection" with his employment. Lopez voted to give him the extension of his $240,000 job and a rise to boot. He got a campaign contribution. Longoria didn't and she didn't get a campaign contribution. Seems pretty plain to us that the $4,000 constitutes a "gift" to Lopez. Why didn't he give money to Longoria? Was it because she voted against the extension?
Salazar is right. He was within the law to make campaign contributions to Robert Rodriguez and Carlos Elizondo. They are not yet elected "public servants." But Lopez is.
Now, Lopez, as a board member who signed on to the contract extension by voting for it is likewise prohibited from receiving gifts from Salazar, one would think. Or doesn't the law matter in this town?
You, the voter, get a chance to decide starting Monday with early voting or in the general election Nov. 4. Choose wisely.


By Juan Montoya
If you passed by Joe Kinney's Cobbleheads this morning and saw all the security and commotion, you probably wondered what the fuss was all about.
Well, Texas gubernatorial politics has reached out to our little corner of the world in the form of Republican candidate Greg Abbott, who if we are to believe the polls, is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by a double-digit lead.
While most Texans beyond Sarita are worried about the Ebola virus outbreak, the mid-term elections, and the like, down here on the order we're concerned with the immediate problems confronting our neighbors to the south and the social and economic effects of "The Troubles."
When asked about whether he was concerned about the problems facing Mexico and the border, Abbott conceded that a crisis, indeed, did exist.
He suggested that only a strong economic surge in the Mexican economy could assuage the cycle of violence an poverty that fed off each other into a deadly spiral that affects every facet of that society and spills over to the north.
Like Gov. Rick Perry, he said that one of his first acts if elected to office would be to invite Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to see the problems facing border residents on either side first hand.
Among those present were the usual GOP suspects like Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos and former Herald reporter Bill Young and the Republican faithful.