Tuesday, July 22, 2014


By Juan Montoya
On the same day that we heard about the death of former mayor Ruben Edlestein – a founding member of the Public Utilities Board, United Way and the Brownsville Community Health Center – we heard how the city utility had "donated" $25,000 toward the All American City award venture.
That is on top of the annual $25,000 it "donates" as a member of the United Brownsville shadow government.
Now, according to one of its first electrical department managers, when the PUB was first established, the plan was to remove it from politics and concentrate on making it a solvent, viable city asset.
"Believe it or not, when the PUB was created in 1960, many of us felt that by separating the board from the city, politics would be eliminated from hindering its operations," said businessman Mario Villarreal.
"Boy, were we mistaken! Those of us who worked on the very first PUB administration after the board's first meeting on July 15, 1961, inherited a system lacking in some basic requirements of a municipal utilities system.
The electorate had just approved the creation of the board by a mere 38 votes (2,741 to 2,703) that would be responsible to the city commission and to the voters of the city.
"Hard-nosed business decisions and changes in policies to help PUB survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the utility market generated controversy and resistance from many quarters. Yet, in a very short time, the utility could report to the city that its finances were on solid ground and that transfers to the city – which continue to this day – could be made to the city's general fund."
To this day, annual PUB cash and free utility contributions transfers to the city budget total millions. (see graphic, click to enlarge.)
The transfers in the coming years will remain more or less on course because, despite the increasing demands on the utility from the $325 debt incurred by the planned Tenaska gas-powered electric generating plant, planned increases in the utility costs paid by ratepayers are also programmed to increase to keep the cash cow giving.
As a result of the encumbrance of the $325 million carried out without the voters having a say-so in the matter, rates will jump to the highest they've evern been in the history of the city. (see graphic, click to enlarge)
When we read that United Brownsville had "contributed" $550.80 toward the city's application to be designated an All-American City (?),  we were in wonder at their largesse. After all, United Brownsville gets $200,000 in membership donations from at least eight public-funded entities, including $25,000 from the City of Brownsville and another $25,000 from PUB.
We wonder what Edlestein would have thought of the utility that he had created and nourished to financial health had he only known that it was going to be used as a cash cow for groups of parasites who contribute nothing to the betterment of his city on the backs of overburdened ratepayers?


By Juan Montoya.
Paleontologists have indirect and deductive ways to learn the lifestyles of dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago.
Whether it's fossilized bone remains, so-called trace fossils or dinosaur tracks, they are able to glean information not readily discernible to the untrained eye.
Astrologers do the same. They don't have to actually see a star, a planet or other heavenly bodies to know that something is there. Black holes, for example, are detected by their effect on the orbits and movements of nearby visible stars and light and matter.
Political pundits are similar.
For months, there has been an ongoing question on whether City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is going to run for reelection. The candidate has been holding that decision close to his vest. One day you hear that his personal worries over family and profession are forcing him to withdraw from the public arena. The next indication is that he is, indeed, running for reelection in 2015.
Now word has reached us that some members of the local Indian community have been approached by none other than Cameron County Clerk-elect Sylvia Garza-Perez soliciting their political (and considerable financial clout) for Martinez in a reelection bid in 2015
The Hindu community differs in a very real sense from other ethnic communities in Brownsville. Unlike the Korean community which prefers to keep to itself and mind their retail businesses, this community has taken to democracy with a vengeance. They have fielded candidates for city office and some have talked of seeking positions on the board of the Brownsville Independent School District.
And no serious candidate for city office ignores them.
That's why when we heard that Garza-Perez had been approaching them to solicit their support for Martinez, the rumors that he is running for re-election took on more credibility. Martinez helped her in her run for county clerk, and she is not one to forget.
Yet, Martinez has not been very receptive to the Hindu community needs, opting instead to keep the benefits of public office close to his United Brownsville buddies and their cronies. His public-funded real-estate speculation in downtown properties have benefited no one but his close associates and a university in Austin, Texas.
In other words, prominent Hindus leaders in this city are not sold on the idea of a second Martinez administration. And now that William Garza, whom they have supported in the past and who is their employee, is letting people know that he is considering running for mayor himself, their support for Martinez ma be even more difficult to attain. 
With Garza-Perez making political probes  on behalf of Martinez, the notion of his running for reelection becomes more real. But has his performance in office made him an endangered political species, much like a dinosaur?

Monday, July 21, 2014


By Juan Montoya
We understand that Sandra Langley has decided she's done enough to the citizens of Brownsville as the president of the board of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and stepped aside to allow milquetoast Cameron County Treasurer David Betancourt take over United Brownsville's personal ATM.
It's not as if the First Community Bank officer has left a lasting mark at the GBUC. Between her, Al Villarreal, Betancourt, commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa and Ed Sikes, they have virtually handed over the keys to the vault to the sycophants and associates of IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB president Julieta Garcia, United Brownsville CEO Mike Gonzalez, and a host of "consultants" and relatives of the United Brownsville clan..
The latest gift compliments of the city taxpayers was to Juliet's son Oscar Garcia Jr.in the form of a $185,000 contract to develop a "plan" to implement a third of the 30 economic clusters contained in yet another "comprehensive" development scheme for which they paid $452,000 in conjunction with the Port of Brownsville and PUB.
Garcia Jr. made the pitch as a representative of San Antonio-based Jacob's Engineering.
Garcia Jr., who was vice-chair of PUB when the utility approved awarding the $454,000 contract to UB's CEO Gonzalez's buddies Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates to draft the  "comprehensive plan," jumped ship and is now the operations manager for Jacob's. Sweet, ain't it?
 Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates were the same firm that drafted a master plan for Gonzalez when he was mayor of Kyle. When he left, the city's finances were in hock and property tax rates more than doubled under his watch. For being a conservative Republican like Rusteberg, Gonzalez shows no qualms about spending someone else's money.
Betancourt, Tetreau and Villareal fell over themselves to give Juliet Garcia's boy the plum even though there was no backup documentation provided to the troika for the project. It was, as they say in smoke-filled rooms, a "done deal."
So this means that Betancourt comes to the position with the right credentials and with impeccable references. It's someone the economic elite who have taken over representative government here and hijacked the keys to the city treasury can live with.
Somewhere along the way everyone has forgotten that the quarter penny that funds the annual $4 million GBIC budget was meant to improve the economic opportunities of the public, not of the insiders who look it it as their personal piggy bank.


By Juan Montoya
Who would have thought that the recurring clashes between Arabs and Jews in the Palestine would reach out and touch residents of South Texas?
The most recent bloody encounter has gone on for the last two weeks and more than  604 Palestinians and some 27 Israelis are dead, one of them a civilian and on a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen. Reports indicate that more than 70 percent of the Palestinian dead are civilians and that tens of thousands Palestinians in Gaza have been left homeless . Some 80 Palestinian victims were children.
The Israeli Consulate in Houston confirmed that 21-year-old Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, who lived in South Padre Island, was among 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed Sunday when the Israeli Army marched into the Gaza strip. Carmeli had moved to Israel about four years ago.
Many of us who have been watching this tragedy unfold are so far removed from the scene that – listening to the media blitz in the Sunday news talk shows – it would appear that the Jewish state was fighting for its life against "terrorists" and Hamas, the elected government of Gaza which Israel calls a "terrorist" organization.
In fact, the spiral of violence that has led to all-out war was started by isolated incidents by zealots on both sides that led to the conflagration.
This didn't start with the three Jewish teenagers killed and buried by unknown assailants, or by the four vigilantes who sought out Arab teens to kidnap and burn alive in retaliation for the murder of the three teens.
And despite what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu claims are the attempts of the Israeli military to minimize civilian casualties, the truth of the matter is that Israel is facing an overwhelmingly inferior fighting force which uses rockets without any semblance of  guidance systems which are no match for the Jewish state's U.S-provided sophisticated armaments to lead the assault against the Palestinians.
Israel has courted the evangelical Christian element in the U.S. to buttress its claim that the entire Palestine formed Greater Israel of the Old Testament and therefore is entitled to reclaim it because of its people's antecedents to the land.
But if that was the measure, how about the the Chicanos and Mexican-Americans claims to Aztlan, their mythological homeland, now the U.S. Southwest?
No, this dispute goes much further back.
Following WW II, on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 ultimately led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.
Even before that, Jewish irregulars had been advocating the establishment of a Jewish state despite the fact that Palestine was populated by predominantly Arab countries.With the establishment of the partition of Palestine and the displacement of the Arab population there, it was a recipe for the disaster we're facing now.
Netanyahu and the spokesmen for the State of Israel can wring their hands and whine about the "terrorists" on the Sunday morning talk shows (and they did) all they want. But they know that the tens of thousands of newly-displaced refugees from Gaza are the direct result of the decades-long policies by Israel to marginalize the Arab majority.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have shown that they are not honest brokers. They – along with conservative Republican hawk Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), have given the Israeli Army the green light to enter and destroy the Palestinian state under the justification that everyone there is a  "terrorist."
Funny, the images on television showing the blown up bodies of children and women "terrorists" don't appear to show them carrying weapons or firing rockets at the Israeli soldiers of civilians. Netanyahu said the army had tried through telephone calls, text messages and leaflets to warn civilians and get them to leave the area.
And where are they supposed to go? UN refugee centers are overwhelmed. Entire families are fleeing through the streets as Israeli tanks fire at them in the distance. There is no light at the end of that tunnel. In fact, there is no tunnel at all.
At the heart of the dispute is the fact that the last thing Israel wants is a Palestinian state and labels adherents to the idea "terrorists."
It wasn't that long ago that a small band of "freedom fighters" (or was it terrorists?) under the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin called the Irgun, carried out indiscriminate murders of innocent Arabs and even British soldiers in their quest for an independent state of Israel.
Wikipedia states that "During the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine against the Mandatory Palestine, the militant Zionist group Irgun carried out 60 attacks against Palestinian Arabs and British soldiers. Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by The New York Times, the Anglo-American Court of Inquiry, and prominent world figures such as Winston Churchill, and Jewish figures such as Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, and many others. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand,  describes it as "an underground organization. (Isn't today's Palestinian Hamas the equivalent of the Irgun?)" 
The New York Times at the time cited sources in an investigative piece which linked the Haganah
paramilitary group to the Irgun terrorist attacks such as the King David Hotel bombing. Irgun launched a series of attacks which lasted until the beginning of World War II. All told, Irgun attacks against Arab targets resulted in at least 250 Arab deaths during this period."
We can only hope some sort of agreement will put the current troubles to an end. Right now Netanyahu and his U.S. allies in the mainstream media own the airwaves. But until the Arabs are given what Israel got through force of arms and their own brand of "benign terrorism," don't expect this tragedy to stop no matter how it's sugar coated.


By Juan Montoya
Don't look now, but the lawsuit filed by former Brownsville Independent District Chief Financial Officer Tony Fuller in federal court against trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia, Lucy Longoria, Christina Saavedra, Enrique Escobedo, BISD administrator Sylvia Atkinson, and Superintendent Carl A. Montoya as well as the forensic auditor on June 7, 2013, is till alive and well.
Fuller sued the BISD trustees and administrators saying that they had used the forensic findings of Defenbaugh and Associates to not renew his contract.
It really doen't matter that U.S. Magistrate Ronald G. Morgan recommended to the federal district court presided by judge Andrew Hanen that Fuller's state law claims against Deffenbaugh be "dismissed with prejudice pursuant to the Texas Citizens' Participation Act, or in the alternative, be dismissed without prejudice for lack of pendent jurisdiction."
The former CFO' claims under federal law fared just as badly.
With the new makeup of the majority on the BISD board – Otis Powers, Jose Chirinos, Minerva Peña and Cesar Lopez – Fuller's attorneys have found a ready ear and could very well force the BISD's legal counsel to offer Fuller a settlement that might include guarantee of a position with the district.
Defenbaugh – hired at $250,000 to perform the forensic audit –  presented the audit to the board at a closed meeting on Feb. 15, 2012.
In it, the auditors stated that Fuller failed to to demonstrate "the competencies in both faculties and capabilities necessary" to function as a CFO. The report also stated that Fuller demonstrated an attitude of "indifference and nonchalance" regarding fiscal responsibility.
The BISD released the report Feb 16, 2012 and on March 28, 2012, Fuller was given a letter stating that the BISD intended not to renew his employment contract for the following school year. Then, on April 13, 2012, the board voted not to renew his contract. He remained on paid administrative leave until his contract expired at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.
In his lawsuit, Fuller charged that Defenbaugh and the other defendants conspired to violate his First Amendment rights, that they retaliated against him, that the audit report was defamatory under Texas law, and that it constituted tortuous interference with his contract with the BISD. He also charged that the auditors' actions constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress, and that Deffenbaugh's actions in concert with the other defendants constituted a conspiracy.
The first two claims were made under federal law while the last four were under state law.
Morgan ruled that Fuller failed to support his claim that the defendants conspired to violate his First Amendment Freedom of Speech under 42 USC 1985 as a citizen of the United States. Morgan ruled that the section of the code applies to a race or class animus behind the conspiracy and in his case there is none and should be dismissed.
His other claim that the defendants retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights was also recommended dismissed by Morgan who found that he had not provided any evidence to support his claim that an agreement existed between Deffenbaugh and the BISD-related defendants.
"Fuller seeks to have the court to conclude that there must have been an agreement between Deffenbaugh and Presas Garcia based upon:
1) a previous business relationship
2) the fact that the scope of the audit was expanded to include his performance
3) that Presas-Garcia was a political ally of the administrators he testified against (Art Rendon and Superintendent Hector Gonzales)
"None of these purported facts show an agreement between Deffenbaugh and Presas-Garcia – or any other BISd board member or employee – to violate Fuller constitutional rights," Morgan wrote. "In the absence of such an agreement, Deffenbaugh was not acting under color of state law.
"At the absolute worst, Fuller has pled facts to show possible ethics violations against Presas-Garcia. What he has failed to plead are any specific facts that show, or would tend to show, an agreement between Deffenbaugh or any governmental actor to violate his rights," the opinion states.
Morgan also ruled hat Fuller's claim of defamation were filed untimely since the statute of limitations for slander and defamation is one year after the day of action accrues. Since the audit was first published and circulated February 15, 2012 and Fuller did not file his complaint until June 7, 2013, the claim was untimely filed, he wrote.

The overriding question now is: Where is the legal representation for the BISD and its trustees and administrators? Defenbaugh got off the hook, but are the BISD's legal counsel going to delay and milk the cash cow that the district's legal counsel office has become under Baltazar Salazar?
Given the federal magistrate's lack of findings in relation to the "conspiracy" between Deffenbaugh and the defendants,  will the BISD majority still insist upon awarding a cash settlement and employment to their buddy?


"Minerva definitely had something to do with this, I was sitting in the Board room before the meeting started and I overheard Minerva asking Mr. Powers why did you take off the "s" (after the singular 'superintendent'), and lets ask if we can just add the "S." I'm sure the other people in the audience also heard, she was very persistent. What a disappointment they stoop so low in order to be liked."  Commenter on post on BISD trustee Minerva Peña behind hiring two area superintendents

By Juan Montoya
The commenter on our post of a few days ago outlining the micromanaging by Brownsville Independent School District trustee Minerva Peña in the possible illegal hiring of two (count them, two) area superintendents instead of the one listed on the board's agenda just confirms what district employees have known all along: we're back to the bad old days.
In the case of the hiring of both Terry Alarcon and Dora Sauceda when the agenda – and the compensation approved in the budget– only called for one, only points out the fact that favoritism, patronage and micromanaging is alive and well. It harkens back to the days when former trustee Ruben Cortez could into the Special Needs Department and demand that his relative be hired for the summer even though the application period had long been past.
And it goes even further to the administrative positions inbreeding that resulted when Otis Powers was trustee and a slew of his relatives found themselves in cushy jobs. Partly as a result of the public becoming aware of that, the voters rejected him once. Now it looks like Otis and his bods are up to their old tricks.
The following is a list of hirings and reassignments that have raised district employees eyebrows because the source of the acts are so obvious. For example, consider these placements:
– BISD counsel Baltazar Salazar and trustee Cesar Lopez are said to have been behind the reassignment of Jimmy Haynes from Operations to an assistant superintendent's position to remove him from the scene so they could act at will there.
– For years before Powers resurrected his political career and came back as board president, Teresa de la Jara had been applying for a principal's position but had never gotten her wish. Once Powers came on board, that changed and the administration gor her a spot at the Brownsville Education Center. It wasn't long before she wore out her welcome there and the complaints started coming. Administrative inaction has led to a drop in morale and continued strife.
– Trustee Jose Chirinos is said to have been the moving force behind the hiring of former BISD administrator Rachel Ayala's relatives (including one daughter?) who is rumored to have been selected for a spot as principal at Manzano Middle School.
– As they say, it all starts at the top, and BISD Superintendent Carl Montoya is not exempt from employee criticism. They point to both his wife and daughter being employed by the BISD, and allowing some trustees to dictate assignments and pay raises for their proteges. At stake?, their vote for his contract extension and pay raise requests.
The BISD has gotten to be a rumor mill and a pit of vipers as employees jockey for favor with the trustees and administrators. It's getting to the point where no one trusts anyone or believes their motives. We now have surveillance cameras in front of the superintendent and chief financial officer's doors. What has happened to the district when administrators have to look over their shoulders? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Last week, organizers in Matamoros held a march protesting the rampant violence and the acts of organized criminal groups who act with seeming impunity.
That followed the kidnapping and ransom of a local engineer and businessman Fernando Lugo Nieto and an unidentified fellow worker on contract with the FINSA group in Matamoros.
Lugo and his companion were abducted at gunpoint and whisked away by armed men and held for a $50,000 in Mexican pesos ransom since early week. The ransom was dutifully paid, but then the kidnappers then demanded that the price had gone up to $1 million pesos.
A few days later their bodies were found floating in a sewage canal along La Avenida de los Niños in Matamoros with gunshot wounds to the head. In one fell swoop, years of study and dedication to honest work were wiped out by armed thugs who hold the lives of the local populace at their whim.
Among those marching with the estimated 1,500 concerned residents of Matamoros was U.S. General Consul Thomas Mittnacht. He told media representatives that he had attended the march in support of the residents' call for peace and an end to the violence. He only hoped, he said, that something positive would result for the citizens' involvement.
Now, some may be critical of Mittnatch for getting involved in a purely internal and local issue, but showing solidarity with those desiring peace and an end to violence can't really be all bad. In fact, it's refreshing
On the other side of the Rio Grande, in Brownsville, with Border Patrol temporary shelters filled to overflowing with a torrent of unaccompanied minors primarily from Central Americans, Mexican Consul
Rodolfo Quilantan Arenas decided to issue pamphlets at the consulate office at the Old Amigoland Mall discouraging minors from Central American from trying to reach the United States.
Since he is the United States, it is difficult to see how these warnings will reach the children and women in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala contemplating the hazardous trek north. The tract advises potential immigrants not to believe the promises coyotes and human smugglers make to lure them to undertake the trip.
The deferred action rule only benefits those Central American minors who entered the country illegally before 2007, the pamphlet states.
We doubt that the unaccompanied minors and their mothers from Central America will swing by the Mexican consulate on their way up north to get a copy of the pamphlet to discourage them from reaching the United States.
We're sure that our intrepid Mexican consul has the best intentions in mind in publishing the pamphlets and having local media publicize his efforts. You've got to at least make it appear that they are doing something meaningful in face of the current immigration crisis. But how does passing these leaflets in Brownsville reach the Central Americans? If they come across them that means that they are already here, doesn't it?


By Juan Montoya
Did long-time Cameron County Republican Party Chairman Frank Morris resign last May 14 and then again June 16?
And if he did – as an email to GOP leaders and membership states he did – did he still have the authority to call an organizational meeting July 17?
That, in a nutshell, forms the statement of facts contained in a petition to the 445th District Court presided by Judge Menton Murray who has set a hearing to rule on a petition for a temporary injunction preventing Morris from continuing to act under the color of authority as GOP county chair.
The motion for the temporary injunction was filed by GOP precinct 102 chair Charles (Tad)  Hasse Brownsville who is asking the court for a declaratory judgement preventing Morris from exercising the authority of a county chairman.
The petition was filed on July 17, the same day that Morris had called an official organizational meeting of the county GOP executive committee members, office holders and invited party activists.
Hasse challenged Morris' right to call the meeting given the documentation that Morris had resigned his position.
Although the petition was filed July 17, the meeting was held nonetheless and business was carried out despite protests by members who questioned the legality of the event.
Murray set  July 31 as the date when he will hold a hearing on Hasse's petition to enjoin Morris from acting as chairman. The hearing is set for 9 a.m. in the 107th District Court.
Morris, who has been the face of the Republican Party for decades, has been facing a growing challenge from young Turks who assert that his high-handed ways of running the party not only exclude some groups, but also violate the party's policies and procedures.
But according toe local blogger Jim Barton, Morris is disputing that he really meant to resign as chairman.
"My letter that went to the party secretary addressed only the term ending June 15, " Morris told Valley Morning Star Staff Writer Emma Perez-Trevino in an article published July 19.
To Hasse, Morris's argument that "he was a little bit pregnant" doesn't fly.
"You either are, or you are not," he told this blog.   In his resignation letter to county secretary Ida Stacy, Morris said he had enjoyed being chairman for the last 20 years and a member of the executive committee for the past eight.
"Free at last," he wrote at the end of the missive.



By Juan Montoya
Now that the state of Texas and the U.S. Attorney voter fraud task force is beginning to produce indictments, there should be numerous people in town who are hearing footsteps behind them.
So far, eight women have been charged with voter fraud through the manipulation of mail-in ballots. Those eight are charged with a number of  illegal acts in the assisting and preparation of the ballots during the 2012 runoff election of the Democratic Party.
During those elections, several candidates running as a slate garnered the majority of the mail-in votes, including Carlos Masso, (345), Abelardo Gomez (415) and Erin Garcia Hernandez (319).
Otheres who were the beneficiaries of the mail-in ballots were Ruben Cortez (407) and Denise Blamchard (293). Masso was running against Luiis Saenz for Cameron County District Attorney. Gomez was running against Pete Avila for Precinct 2 Constable. and Garcia Hernandez was running for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 2. Cortez was running against Celeste Sanchez for the Texas State Board of Education and  Blanchard was running for the the District 27 U.S. Representative seat against Filemon Vela, Jr.
During the heat of battle in the Garcia-Hernandez-Begum race, Norma Hernandez (Erin's mother) posed with a group of her politiqueras, including Sara Perales (behind Norma), one of the women named in the indictment. Hermiinia Becerra, pictured on the right (Norma's left) said she had spoken to investigators but has not been indicted. As of this writing, neither had Norma Hernandez.
In at least two of those runoff races (Gomez vs. Avila and Begum vs. Garcia-Hernandez) the mail-in votes decided the outcome. For example, Gomez's total vote of 4,352 against Avila's 4,000 gave him a 352 vote advantage. His 415 mail-in votes far outstripped Avila's 57, a 358 vote difference.
Likewise, Garcia-Hernandez's 4,316 total votes beat Begum's 4,165  by 151 votes. However, her 319 mail-in votes compared to her opponent's 142 mail-in votes gave her the critical 177 votes to put her over the top.
As a result of interviews with some of the people who voted by mail Begum volunteers and supporters – including Citizens Against Voter Abuse under Mary Helen Flores and voting statistician Laura Miniel –
a Powerpoint presentation depicting how those voters, by precinct, determined the outcome of the election.
The team presented the evidence including taped interviews to the Texas Rangers, investigators with the Texas Attorney General, and agents with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
That, in turn, led to the formation of the joint voter fraud task force in which staff of the Cameron County District Attorney's Office also played a role.
Those who have seen some of the presentation say that proof abounds of outright fraud, manipulation of ballots, cases where one person is listed as having assisted numerous voters even though the voters do not even know the person who supposedly mailed the ballots for them. In others, an illiterate woman and her family is interviewed telling volunteers that she could neither read nor write but that "una señora" at a local adult day-care center filled out the ballot application for her and then showed up to collect it at her home.
"Ella fue la que firmo," she said.
When she was shown a photo of a number of politiqueras associated with the Ernie-Norma and Erin Garcia-Hernandez vote harvesting group, she pointed out one of the eight women who were named in the indictments Wednesday. Still not named in any indictments are a half-dozen other Hernandez operatives like Joey Garza (dealing cards in a Erin casino function in the photo) and father-in-law Ralph Elizondo. Both of their names appear on the envelopes mailed to the Cameron County Elections Office although tghe voters interviewed maintain that it was not them who picked up the ballots.
Still, other voters told the volunteers that they had just handed the signed (but unmarked) ballot to some of the ladies and they had taken them away to mail it on their behalf.
With the possibility of serving jail time if convicted of the charges, it will be interesting to see whether some may try to cut a deal with prosecutors and identify the people who paid them to harvest the votes. Sources at the DA's Office say that four of the six women indicted this week told the court that they would be represented by Masso, but he never showed up at their arraignment and bond hearing. It's doubtful that Masso will be able to represent them because he might possibly be subpoenaed as a witness in the case against some of the women, the said.
Prosecutors for the state have indicated that they are also targeting the candidates who may have paid the politiqueras and politiqueros to collect the fraudulent votes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Not content with having deprived poor women in South Texas the choice of having children or not, State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. now wants to subject them to an hour-long video on the joys of adoption before they can undergo an abortion.
If this isn't the classic case of imposing one's morality on another and using the power of the state to subject them to his wishes, we can't think of another more obvious than this one.
The senator, who has been known to attend Texas Stands With Women rallies says he will introduce the bill in the upcoming legislative session.
Lucio has been riding the anti-abortion wagon for all it's worth. During the last session, he hobnobbed with Republican Gov. Rick Perry when he signed the bill restricting abortions – and a woman's right to choose – under the guise of improving women's health.
The impact of that legislation became abundantly clear when it forced the shutdown of any abortion clinics operating in South Texas. Now, statistics gathered by the state by Fight Back Texas indicates that women who want to undergo the procedure are having to travel as far as San Antonio to have it performed.
If a woman is not a legal resident, that avenue is also closed. Lucio is one of those guys who doesn't care whether the pregnancy came about through rape or incest or whether the woman has chosen not to give birth for her own personal reasons.
Wealthy women, however, can travel anywhere and terminate their pregnancy. It is the poor, however, who are the most affected. And wealthy or poor, it is the woman who will live with her decision. Why impose your morality on top all the hurdles to make this most difficult decision even more so?
Lucio thinks that all women should be forced to carry the pregnancy to its end regardless of their circumstance or personal choice.
He probably figures that a child should have the privilege of living in his district where nearly half of the children suffer a life of poverty.
Senate District 27 includes all of Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Willacy counties and part of Hidalgo county.
Hidalgo County reported that 130,291, or 47.9 percent of children living there live in poverty.
Cameron County is not much different, reporting that 62,449, or 46.7 percent of children there are also poor.
Willacy County reported that 2,502, or 43.3 percent of children lived in poverty there.
Kenedy County actually fares better because of its smaller population, with 30 children, or 27.3 percent reported living in poverty.
These children of poor families reflect a sad truth, that while the Texas right-to-work economy is rising, the parents have to face unemployment rates higher than the state and nation.
Hidalgo County reported that it has 38,095 people unemployed, a 12 percent unemployment rate.
Cameron County is just behind Hidalgo with 19,171 listed as unemployed, or an 11.8 percent unemployment rate. Willacy County reported 1,351 of its residents out of work, a 14.3 percentage rate.
And Kenedy County reported the lowest rate with 131 people out of work for a 8.6 percentage rate.
That the good senator has been since 1990 and before that he served two terms (four years) as a state representative and amass these kind of sorry economic statistics is horrendous.
That's a total of 28 years in the Legislature and his constituents have sorry little gains to show for his presence there.
In fact, his hometown (Brownsville) has been named the poorest community in the entire United States.
If after more than a quarter century in Austin and he hasn't been able to deliver the goods, how on earth does he have time to worry whether a poor woman in his district decides whether she want to bring a child into this region of poverty or not?
It's time for Eddie to stop hamming it up for the media and hogging the moral spotlight and bring home the bacon.


By Juan Montoya
By his own admission, local blogger Robert Wightman admits that he was discharged from the U.S. Army based on a psychiatrist's finding that he had mental issues.
An article published in the Dallas Observer  March 2000 indicates that while in the U.S. Army, he was "transferred to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo for surveillance training, he grew ill and was hospitalized for a time with ulcerative colitis. He also became deeply depressed, but couldn't tell anyone why. "I thought I was betraying my government by lying that I wasn't gay," he says. "I couldn't tell them the truth without going to jail."
Although he told the writer that a previous Army mental exam found he had "no psychiatric disorder," his commanding officer at Goodfellow believed Wightman was malingering and ordered that he be evaluated at St. John's Hospital in San Angelo.
"The doctor who performed the evaluation, who Wightman-Cervantes says never examined him, offered this diagnosis in 1982: "It is my initial impression that the patient manifests a paranoid personality disorder." After reviewing his medical records, an Army psychiatrist determined that Wightman suffered from "atypical personality disorder (suspiciousness, self-dramatization, overreaction to minor events, angry outbursts, some grandiose ideation)."
On March 31, 1983, Wightman received an honorable discharge from the Army based on this psychiatric disorder, though he says the doctor attesting to his discharge never examined him either.
Starting in 1986, Wightman tried to change the diagnosis with the Veteran's Administration. He petitioned the military at least three times to reconsider his discharge, but the Army Discharge Review Board turned him down each time.
In 1989, he filed a federal lawsuit against the secretary of the Army, attempting to change the grounds for his discharge again. But the trial judge dismissed the case, and Wightman's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was equally unsuccessful.
After his discharge from the service, Wightan went to law school and became an attorney. He was 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. Wightman failed to timely respond to notice of the complaint from the grievance committee. He violated Rules 3.01, 3.02, 3.04(c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(5), 3.05(a), 4.02(a), 4.04(a) and (b)(1), 8.02(a), and 8.04(a)(1) and (a)(8). He was ordered to pay $48,700.72 in attorney’s fees, which is subject to reduction."
Additionally, a few months later he was later convicted of holding himself out to be a lawyer and served a 14-day sentence as a result of his guilty plea.
So here we have a person who served at the most a year and a half during peace time now holding himself out to be a disabled veteran using the cloak of military service to game the system. Not only does he recount every mundane (and perceived) illnesses he gets treated for at the overburdened VA health system, but he can't help but make himself out to be the standard bearer of all veterans.
His recent ravings that local attorney Alex Begum was somehow involved in trying to ascertain that Wightman was claiming that his 100 percent service-related disability to get a taxing exemption on his $109,000 residence are way off the mark.
Begum has never been involved in the matter or even brooked the subject with this blog.
The information request to the Cameron County Appraisal District was made by this writer who suspected the legitimacy of the claim. The request sought the VA disability rating only, 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. Wightman fought the release of any information tooth and nail and made out our request to be an assault on the rights of all veterans.
This is not the first time that Wightman has leaned on the medical crutch to avoid paying U.S. taxpayers.
Take for instance, his claim in a lawsuit he filed against then-U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret  Spellings claiming she had violated his constitutional rights because her department had rejected his application to have his student loans forgiven because he claimed total medical disability.
Dept. of Education rules stated that if the plaintiff earned more than the poverty level, he was not entitled to have the loans forgiven.
"To put this in focus," Wightman wrote, "if a veteran returning from Iraq with a permanent disability earned one penny over the poverty level on the day of his qualifying disability, he would not be entitled to discharge his student loans."
He claimed in is petition to file the lawsuit without having to pay the filing fee ( (In Forma Pauperis) that he had "no regular employer for 18 years" even though he was a practicing attorney in Dallas before he was disbarred.
Of course, Wightman is no Iraq veteran. But that doesn't stop him from covering himself with the disabled veteran's mantle to elicit the sympathy (and financial benefit) he so badly craves.
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.
His malingering – which started in his Army days – has served him well.
Now he has the unmitigated gall to use our attempt to investigate his claim of having a total service-related disability to inject himself into the 357th District Court race between Juan Magallanes and incumbent Oscar X. Garcia. The mere fact that Garcia advertises on this blog and that he refused to get involved on Wightman's behalf when he complained of our information request is enough – in his jaundiced view – to make Garcia's character suspect.
He sates that : "I went to Oscar Garcia and Juan Magallanes with the problem. Oscar Garcia was clear - not his problem and he was going to continue to fund Montoya's work into violating the rights of veterans. Juan Magallanes response was also clear - "I will do an amici brief defending all veterans." Oscar Garcia for power had no problem throwing every veteran in the state under the bus for his own personal gain. Juan Magallanes did not have to think twice - he offered to come to the defense of all veterans."
That was enough to clinch the deal for Wightman. "Juan Magallanes for veterans. Oscar Garcia against veterans."
No, Bobby, it's you for yourself and your continuing  usurpation of the honor and need of legitimately disabled veterans for your personal benefit. The honor and respect that you are claiming by calling yourself a disabled veteran are not deserved and you know it. Excuse us if not everyone wants to live your lie. 

Friday, July 18, 2014


By Juan Montoya
The six politiqueras indicted as a result of the ongoing joint state and federal investigation were arraigned on charges accusing them of vote fraud in the handling of mail-in ballots in the 2012 Democratic Party primary.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz represented the state.
At their arraignment, four of the women said their attorney of record was Carlos Masso, who failed to show up in court.
Bond was set at $2,500 for each charge.
The women were charged with voter fraud involving mail-in ballots cast in the 2012 Democratic Party primary runoff election where three candidates garnered an almost identical number of mail-in votes. They were Carlos Masso, Erin Garcia Hernandez and Abelardo Gomez. Masso was in a runoff with Saenz for county D.A. and Garcia Hernandez overcame a 500-vote deficit in the primary to beat Yolanda Begum for JP 2-2. Gomez beat out Pete Avila for constable of precinct 2.
The women are well known in politicla circles. They are:
Tomasa Ramirez Chavez, 84, charged with 13 cases,
Facunda Banda Garcia , 54, charged with one case
Bernice Garcia (daughter), 29, charged with three cases
Ozuna, 63, charged with six cases
Sara Virginia Perales,  51, charged two cases
Vicenta Guajardo Verino, 53, charged with 10 cases
Saenz said the indictments were the first of more to come and said that eventually those who paid the women to commit the voter fraud were also targets of the investigation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 1 Linda Salazar's request for commissioners court approval for her office to set up a $200 petty-cash fund was denied today when she, or anyone, failed to show up to speak on behalf of the item.
Salazar had placed the item on Thursday's commissioners court agenda and the backup indicated that the fund was to be "used by employees" of the office.
This raised red flags around te Dancy building since auditor's reports indicate that no other JP office in the county has such an account. Additionally, commissioners are gun shy about placing any amount of money within reach of county employees since at least one investigation has been launched into missing funds from the adjacent justice of the peace office in Brownsville.
Meanwhile, FB posts have appeared this week indicating that the JP and her office clerks are spending time in a condo in South Padre Island. Apparently, they thought better of pressing the issue after some blogs had alerted the county commissioners and administration of their proposal.
A county department may have such a fund if it complies with strict auditing and fiscal controls. However, no such measures were included in the backup to Salazar's proposal.


Books / Texas A&M University Press
"I am home, safe and sound, and reviewing all these memories as if in a dream. All of this pleases me. I have been faithful to my duty.”
Thus José de la Luz Sáenz ends his account of his military service in France and Germany in 1918. Published in Spanish in 1933, his annotated book of diary entries and letters recounts not only his own war experiences but also those of his fellow Mexican Americans.
A skilled and dedicated teacher in South Texas before and after the war, Sáenz’s patriotism, his keen observation of the discrimination he and his friends faced both at home and in the field, and his unwavering dedication to the cause of equality have for years made this book a valuable resource for scholars, though only ten copies are known to exist and it has never before been available in English.
Equally clear in these pages are the astute reflections and fierce pride that spurred Sáenz and others to pursue the postwar organization of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
This English edition of one of only two known war diaries of a Mexican American in the Great War is translated with an introduction and annotation by noted Mexican American historian Emilio Zamora.

(EMILIO ZAMORA is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. Recent publications include Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II.)

What Readers Are Saying:
“With the publication of this extraordinary diary titled The World War I Diary of Jose de la luz Sáenz, Professor Emilio Zamora makes available to both scholars and the larger reading public what stands as the only memoir of a Mexican American soldier in World War I (and for that matter, probably the only account by a Tejano serviceman who fought between WWI and the Vietnam War). 
 The narrative, by J. Luz Sáenz, provides not only first-hand information on military training and on action in France, but offers valuable insight into the social life of early twentieth-century Mexican American communities. 
 From Sáenz, historians learn of struggles by common working-class people to gain a passable life as well as of Tejano leaders whose political consciousness prodded them to develop plans for civic action on behalf of la raza. 
 Zamora’s painstaking translation and annotation of this primary source, done with a master’s touch, is certain to stimulate new research by those with interests in military, cultural, and intellectual studies.”—Arnoldo DeLeon, professor of history


By Juan Montoya
How is it that a woman who was rejected by the voters to be a justice of the peace, who endorsed a candidate who cost Cameron County taxpayers $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, and is now championing a candidate whose sons are serving time for murder is controlling a majority on the board of Brownsville Independent School District?
Additionally, Peña, a former pom-pom girl for the Porter High School Cowboys, is the biggest cheerleader for BISD counsel Baltazar Salazar who is accused in a federal lawsuit of lying on his application with the district that his three arrests and one conviction for theft had been "set aside" by the courts with no mention that he had failed to get them expunged when an appeals court agreed with the Texas Department of Public Safety's objections?
In other words, how is it that one BISD trustee (the tail) is wagging the $505 million BISD (dog)?
That's the question in everybody's lips as they watch in fascination as trustee Minerva Peña displays her meager leadership talents on the board.
During the last meeting of the board, Minerva's support for the hiring of two Asst. Area Superintendents might have gone over the legal limits because the board's agenda did not include action on two positions, but on only one.
The item read: "49. Recommend approval of probationary contractual personnel for the 2014-2015 school year – Area Assistant Superintendent. Subject to receipt of all outstanding documentation."
That item mentions only one position, but under Peña's prodding, not only was Hanna High School Principal Terry Alarcon approved for the position, but Curriculum and Instruction Co-Director Dora Sauceda was also added as an afterthought.
Now, those of us who are not savvy about education law didn't know that several violations occurred in the passing of the item that included Sauceda.  First, there had been no money allotted in the recently-passed school budget for an another Asst. Area Superintendent's position.
Secondly, the hiring of the second Asst. Area Superintendent on Peña's whim was not posted on the board's agenda, a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Another move by Peña during the meeting highlighted her vindictive nature when she demanded that the Administration ( and a pliant Superintendent Carl Montoya complied) place an item on the agenda showing the allocation of $15,000 in travel funds for fellow trustee Caty Presas-Garcia to attend meetings of the Council of Urban Boards of Education.
The item read: 10. Discussion, consideration and possible action to allocate additional travel funds for Caty
Presas-Garcia, Board of Trustee, due to her appointment to the CUBE Steering Committee,
in the amount not to exceed $15,000.00.
Presas-Garcia was appointed to a position on the CUBE Steering Committee by director Deborah L. Keys who to serve the unexpired term of Dr. Patsy Taylor of Sugarland "because of her consistent presence at and support of CUBE events and her energies and enthusiastic spirit..."
"Caty will certainly be an asset to the SC team, especially since we recognize the importance of having a representative from the great state of Texas," Keys announced. "Her presence on the SC ensures that CUBE will continue to have a strong voice from that region of our country."
The BISD was named as the recipient of the CUBE award in 2008 Award for Urban School Board Excellence, the same year that the district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual $1 million award that honors one U.S. school district each year making the greatest progress in raising student achievement.
The last time a BISD board member served on the CUBE Steering Committee was when Dr. Christina Saavedra was elected in 2013 and in 2010 when BISD vice-president Ruben Cortez was named to the position.
Since then, no BISD board member has been selected even though several, including Peña, have applied for an appointment but was turned down. At that time, regular funds from the school-board members' travel line item were used for without the need for the special item to be placed on the agenda.
The personal vendetta behind the item was so obvious that even board president Otis Powers and trustee Cesar Lopez chastised her in open meeting questioning why she  had not insisted that a similar item be placed for the board's consideration when Cortez and Saavedra were on the CUBE board.
If our three readers remember, it was Peña who placed the agenda item to spend $15,000 for a contingent of BISD personnel to travel to Denver, Colo., to make a pitch for the naming of Brownsville as and All-American City.
Now, the CUBE mission is to "support urban school boards and fosters effective leadership for excellence and equity in public education, with a specific focus on underrepresented students. CUBE provides educational opportunities that engage urban school districts and district leaders, working through their state school boards associations, while addressing challenges in urban centers."
If we compare the $15,000 spent to collect a plaque which doesn't add any tangible benefits to our city or improvements to the quality of life of its residents to the educational mission of the CUBE, it's a no brainer.
Peña's antics on the board – her protection of Salazar, her public endorsement of Pete Avila over Mary Esther Garica and her public championing of BISD candidate Mary Rey over Lucy Longoria – just about depleted her political stock.
With Lopez and Powers already registering their disapproval of her purely personal motives in performing her duty to further the educational mission of the district, how long will this blowhard be riding shotgun on the BISD?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


By Juan Montoya
While the indictments against the six women charged Wednesday with voter fraud remain sealed and the specifics unavailable, we can garner some idea from the charges that are listed when they were booked at the Cameron County Rucker-Carrizalez Corrections Center.
Agency (AG) refers to te Texas Attorney General's Office. The A.G. U.S. Attorney's Office and the Cameron County District Attorney's Office make up the joint state-federal joint task force on voter fraud.
They are:
Tomasita Ramirez Chavez:(13 cases)

Facunda Banda Garcia (one case)

Bernice Garcia (three cases)

Margarita Rangel Ozuna (six cases)

Sara Virginia Perales (two cases)

Vicenta Guajardo Verino (10 cases)

All six women remained in custody Wednesday evening pending a bond gearing before a magistrate at Carrizalez.


By Juan Montoya

State and federal sources have confirmed that six politiqueras  with a long association with the Ernie-Norma-Erin Garcia Hernandez vote-harvesting machine have been placed under arrest by state and federal agents and are being charged with voting fraud offenses under state law.
The arrests were the result of an ongoing coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Texas Attorney General's Office and the Cameron County District Attorney's Office.
This makes eight politiqueras who have been arrested and who have toiled collecting mail-in votes for the Hernandezes.
The first was Margarita Rangel Ozuna in state court followed by Sonia Solis in federal court.
The six politiqueras being processed in Cameron County's Rucker-Carrizalez Correction Center on voter-fraud charges are:
Tomasa Ramirez Chavez, 84, 13 cases,
Facunda Banda Garcia , 54, one case
Bernice Garcia (daughter), 29, three cases
Ozuna, 63, six cases
Sara Virginia Perales,  51, two cases
Vicenta Guajardo Verino, 53, 10 cases
Reports indicate that Chavez and the other defendants were arrested by agents of the joint state and federal task force and were being booked today on the voting-fraud charges.
Federal grand juries usually meet every Tuesday. It is unknown if the federal or state jurors issued indictments against the politiqueras. State sources indicate that the charges stem back to the 2012 primary and runoff elections.
However, the indictments against the six women have been sealed and specifics were unavailable for inspection by the media.
Based on comments made during the Solis sentencing in federal court, it is believed that they concerned the mail-in on hauled-in senior day care votes harvested by Chavez and her associates on behalf of Erin Gracia Hernandez, Carlos Masso and Abelardo Gomez.
Masso was running against current D.A. Luis Sanez. Garcia-Hernandez was running against Yolanda Begum and Gomez was running against Peter Avila.
During the sentencing, Solis told federal judge Hilda Tagle that she had been introduced to the Herandnezes and taught how to collect fraudulent votes.
The federal investigators' report noted that Solis had told them that before the runoff election she had been invited to meet with "TC, HB, NH and MO at EH's business where she was told who to vote for and TC showed her how."
Based on those initials, it is obvious that Solis met with Tomasita Chavez, Herminia Becerra, Norma Hernandez and Margarita Ozuna" at Fiesta Graphics, which is owned by the Hernandezes.
They said that Solis than picked five members of her family, including her son, and then filled out mail-in applications and forged their signatures.
During the Solis sentencing, Asst. U.S. Attorney William Hagen pressed for a 12-month prison sentence and relied on the pre-sentencing report indicating that the federal guidelines allowed judge Hilda Tagle to impose it on her.
Tagle, citing her concerns that Solis was "a little cog in a very big wheel," instead imposed a six-month sentence of home confinement where she would have to wear a GPS device and five years of probation after that. She also said she had concerns about her health.
But it was while Solis' defense attorney (and former Cameron County District Attorney) Ray Cantu objected to the narrative outlining the context of his client's actions that gave a glimpse into broadening investigation that includes numerous politiqueras and elected officials that caught listener's ears.
Cantu objected to the pre-sentence narrative that indicated that federal authorities reported it was the investigative work of JP 2-2 candidate YTB (Yolanda Teran Begum), her associates, and Citizens Against Voter Abuse activist Mary Helen Flores that triggered the federal and state investigation. A detailed statistical work on the mail-in vote was performed by Laura Miniel, working for Begum.
Begum first went to the FBI after several women (politiquereas) sought her out and promised her to haul in elderly voters or deliver mail-in votes on her behalf for $125 a week. She said she had refused.
Cantu said that the fact that there were "many more  people included in this and this has been going on for many years...This is normal in Brownsville and in the Valley."
This is the first time that federal investigators have showed their hand or confirmed that the investigation has broadened to include the other politiqueras.
After the 2012 runoff for JP, the CAVA and Begum workers' suspicions were piqued when they discovered that five people lived at the same address in Shidler Drive that Solis had written down and where she claimed she had assisted them with their votes. Begum and CAVA volunteers sought out the apartment and learned that even though they were claiming disability, the apartment had only one bedroom on the second floor.
During the course of the group's probe, an interview with the manager of the apartment complex indicted that only two people lived in the apartment in question and that seven people could not have lived there.
"If they were disabled, how could they go up an down the stairs," he told them.
At the time Solis was sentenced, Tagle and Hagen indicated that she was part of a larger picture.
"A vote is sacred," Tagle agreed with Hagen. "(You) are asking me to indulge in a fantasy...I can't accept that she didn't know it was wrong. It is a nasty and reprehensible business. Until and when others... who participated on a much greater basis (and) who have escaped prosecution to date (are prosecuted by the government), I believe she is a she is a small cog in a very large wheel. She is a small part in a much bigger operation."
Hagen, for his part, refused to disclose any further details on the individuals involved who might be targets of the government probe.
"I don't want to comment on an active investigation..." he said.
State sources indicate that the latest round of indictments is only the first part of the joint state-federal investigation that will continue seeking indictments against other involved in casting fraudulent mail-in votes and illegally assisting elderly voters to cast their ballots.


By Juan Montoya
It took a little prodding but the geniuses running the Cameron County Public Works Department finally found the trench retainer meant to protect county workers from cave-ins at excavations.
It took one injured and disabled employee and numerous photos to document that the county had the trench retainer in its possession before a search for the safety device was found.
"They found it way back of the county bark in San Benito covered by weeds," said a source close to the public works crews. "They had forgotten that they had it."
We have outlined here that the Powers-that-Be at Public Works decided to make Ruben Gonzalez supervisor there after Luis Ara resigned for unspecified reasons.
The scene at happened on Vermillion Road near Lucio Middle School where workers were made to go into the unprotected trench even though the trench is deeper than the four feet thresh hold where OSHA requires protection for workers.
Heavy concrete sidewalks overhanging trenches are notorious for sliding off their earthen retainers and come hurtling down on unprotected workers. The photo, as you see it, constitutes an imminent danger to the crews below.
The scene at bottom right took place recently on Houston Road, where Public Works employees were made to climb into the trench without the protection required by the federal government's Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that state that: "While the excavation is open, underground installations shall be protected, supported or removed as necessary to safeguard employees."
There is a diverse number of ways to protect workers specific to the excavation. But tell that to the current supervisors and foremen who now work for Cameron County.
"They were working in an unprotected trench a couple of streets from a private company where workers doing the same thing have the required protection," said our source. "The department already had one cave-in which resulted in injuries to one worker."

Gonzalez showed immediately upon arrival at the department that he didn't know his keister from a bar ditch. His first project was in Cameron Park where workers were working on a deep trench.
He had workers climb into the deep trench without the OSHA-mandated protection. OSHA mandates that entities doing the work may use a trench box or shield that is either designed or approved by a registered professional engineer or is based on tabulated data prepared or approved by a registered professional engineer.
Well, our Mr. Gonzalez knew nothing of this and one of the workers, Javier Mendoza (Nuco), had the misfortune of suffering the predicable: the trench collapsed and trapped him under tons of dirt.
He suffered serious injuries including damage to his internal organs and has now been declared disabled and can no longer work. The county was forced to pay for all the injured worker's medical and disability insurance payments.
Gonzalez was suspended for two weeks, but after Ara had to resign, county honchos (Administrative Asst. David Garcia) rewarded Gonzalez by promoting him to the supervisory  position and putting him in charge. Now – as we can see in the Vermillion Road work site (above, top right) – he continued to expose the workers (and the county) to injury and liability.
 Now that the trench-wall retainer has been found and dusted off perhaps the workers can get some protection, if Gonzalez and his underlings know how to use it.


By Juan Montoya
Long time ago, when the United Farmworkers were organizing in South Texas for better wages and water and bathrooms in the fields, the Brownsville Herald ran a story where an elderly Mexican-American farm hand was interviewed.
The reporter wrote the man criticized the organizers for striking for better conditions and said that they were a bunch of lazy communists who should get to work on the fields and stop complaining.
This was as biased and one-sided as any coverage could get, I though at the time; using an illiterate old man to push the conservative line.
Well, the Herald has outdone itself in allowing a letter by local loony and Republican zealot Dagoberto Barrera in its editorial page columns to spew so much hatred and vitriol against the unaccompanied children and women from Central America who have shown up at this country's doorstep.
Barrera, who makes a cameo every time a municipal budget is passed decrying the giveaway of the taxpayers' money to bureaucrats for higher salaries and benefits, is often seen draped in the stars and stripes at intersections along U.S. 77-83 frontage road to preach his message.
As supporters of the First Amendment, we have no quarrel with him expressing his opinion.
But when his speech (or writings) cross the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" thresh hold, we, in tun, feel we must speak out against his intolerance.
That is exactly what the Herald allowed Barrera to do when he was allowed to pen these lines:
"Americans get your guns end rifles before it's too late," and;
"Lock your doors and keep a gun on your side, because if you don't, your name will be in the obituary section of our newspaper."
"The word is out among sickly, poor and ignorant people with small children who will crowd our schools, welfare offices, housing, barrios and clinics, panhandling with diseases, etc."
"These South American illegals should stay in Mexico, Mexico has Pemex, the third largest oil-producing nation in the world, behind only Venezuela and the Arab nations. Why come to America?"
Barrera obviously didn't teach geography in the public schools from which he retired with a nice pension. South America has nothing to do with the current humanitarian crisis. It's basically three countries – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – all in Central America on the north side of the Panama Canal.
He even goes as far as to accuse the Border Patrol of "finding shelter for these lawbreakers," ignoring the fact that these men and women took an oath to uphold the laws that govern their mission.
If he would do his research he would learn that it was a law passed in 2008 – during Republican president George W. Bush's administration – that led to this current crisis. The Obama administration merely continued it. So why isn't Barrera protesting in front of his party's headquarters?
The shibboleth of contagious diseases has been a creation of the right-wing militias to justify the dehumanization of these unfortunates. New reports by mainstream media indicate there are no such widespread plagues or contagions that have erupted as a result of the current crisis.
If the international human-smuggling syndicates have discovered a loophole in U.S. law that allowed them to game the system for so long – remember that this has gone on at least since October 2013 – it is up to the Congress to close it if that is the consensus of the people. Unless the syndicates could demonstrate to the parents of these children that U.S. law would insure that once in this country their offspring would be transported safely to their relatives already here, what responsible parent would agree to place the lives of their children in the hands of just any stranger?
But it is probably more fun and satisfying for Barrera to spew his venom and cultural self-loathing at defenseless children and women than to call his government's actions to question. And it's even more despicable that the local daily has given an ethnocentric, senile chauvinist the soapbox on which to do it.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


By Juan Montoya
I don't know who Rose Cavazos is or whether she is a veteran or had family members who may have served in the military. If they are, or were, we thank them for their service here.
I read her letter to the local daily with interest. She speaks respectfully of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have been honored by the naming of Veterans Park on Central Boulevard.
Everything is fine until she uses the bully pulpit of the newspaper's columns to decry the use of the facility by the public for "soccer, barbecues and other such activities."
She then goes overboard and states that the park "was not built to have people run all over the etched names of the veterans."
In the first place – unless you are Spiderman – it is next to impossible to "run all over the etched names" of the veterans who are listed there because the names are listed on a granite slab on a wall. They are not on the ground. You'd almost have to take a running start to "run" on their etched names.
On the other hand, those veterans who are no longer with us – and I have a few friends listed on those walls – would be tickled pink to know that their fellow citizens are enjoying the liberties that they sacrificed and served for on a patch of land dedicated to their memory.
That reminded me about an incident that happened a few years ago during the Iraq war when I was visiting with friends in a southwest Minnesota rural community.
It was the Fourth of July and with everything closed, my friend and I walked over to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to shoot the bull with the local vets and quaff a few.
The vets were friendly enough and we were getting along just fine when the bartender in the well remarked loudly that his sister had joined a group that left on a bus to Minneapolis-St. Paul to protest George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.
Although he wasn't himself a veteran, he thought he would ingratiate himself with the customers who were by criticizing his sister and those in the protest group as being unpatriotic.
"It's a shame," he said, "that those bums are out there screaming on the street while our troops are in Iraq," he said plaintively. "I told her I didn't agree with what she was doing."
As he looked around for what he though would be unanimous agreement, a vet spoke up from the far end of the bar well.
"Good for her," said the vet who I later learned had served in combat in Korea and then Vietnam. "A lot of people went to war and fought and died so that your sister can enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. We went to fight overseas so that your sister could exercise her right to protest. We don't have to agree with her."
This, I feel, is the mature eyes-wide-open patriotism that we have to exercise as a nation to honor the service of these men and women. The rights we enjoy can be summed up in the First Amendment.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
But there is also a mirror image to these rights. One could very well read that an individual is not only free to speak, but also not to speak or to worship or not worship as he or she sees fit; to exercise his right to assemble, or not; and to pledge loyalty, or not, to the government short of trying to overthrow it.
The case involving children of Jehovah's Witnesses not pledging allegiance to the flag is but one example of the Constitution protecting differing viewpoints.
In that case, children of this sect were being forced to pledge allegiance to the flag when their religion taught them that "thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the children and declared that they, or anyone, should not to be forced to pledge allegiance to anything.
Veterans who saw combat are the first ones to say they are against wars and the last to glorify them.
They don't want their children or grandchildren to go through what they went through. By the same token, those who gave their all would probably feel good that the patch of land dedicated to their memory is being used by their fellow citizens to fully exercise the freedoms their blood and service guaranteed them. It is not, after all, a mausoleum, but a place where families can enjoy themselves and remember these heroes.
For them to know that children play there, or that their daddy grills a hot dog or hamburger for them to eat on the Fourth of July - Independence Day - while the bigger kids play a game of soccer in the grass would probably make them yearn to be home among them.
We respect their memory with the park, and we respect their service by enjoying the freedoms they guaranteed the rest of us. That, Ms. Cavazos, is the real testament to the lasting value of their service.


(It is kind of short notice, but "national experts" want your input on how to finally put a merciful end to UT-Brownsville and the endangered ocelot mascot, to participate in "mascot development" and to "shape the identity of UTRGV." The Brownsville "conversation" will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the UTB Grand Salon. Sackcloth and ashes are appropriate clothing for a wake.)

July 14, 2014

Calling all UTPA and UTB Alumni …

Please join us for a special conversation on 
UTRGV colors, word mark, and mascot.

 This is your opportunity to help shape the identity of UTRGV.
 We need you, so please join us,
 Thursday, July 17 1:30 p.m. -3:00 p.m. 
at UTPA’s Student Union Theatre

Friday, July 18 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m. 
at UTB’s Grand Salon

The discussion will be led by national experts on university brand and mascot development,
Chuck Reed, Vice President of Creative Services for STAMATS and
Eric Rickabaugh, Founder and Owner of Rickabaugh Graphics
Randa Safady, UT System Vice Chancellor for External Relations will open the discussion.

You may attend a session in Edinburg or Brownsville. 

For more information or special accommodations, please call

UTPA: (956) 665-2260

UTB: (956) 882-4326

To watch live, please tune in to
Join the discussion on Twitter #UTRGV

Monday, July 14, 2014


By Marc Boucher
©SpaceRef/Google (SpaceX proposed Texas spaceport area map.)

In providing a favorable environmental ruling for SpaceX's proposed private spaceport in Cameron County, Texas last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision brings SpaceX one step closer realizing its goal.SpaceX has been pretty coy as to where it would build its private spaceport with Texas being the frontrunner but with other locations always in the mix including Florida, Puerto Rico and other Texas counties.
The company appears to have been playing off each location in its quest to seek the best deal for itself. However, with this decision it appears Texas has the clear advantage though no final decision has been yet.

Exhibit B-1. Area of potential effects for direct effects.
According to the FAA Record of Decision (ROD) "the site (including the control center area and vertical launch area) consists of up to four parcels totaling 68.9 acres of land near the terminus of State Highway 4 (Boca Chica Boulevard), adjacent to the village of Boca Chica. The site is in a sparsely populated coastal area on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 3 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border, 17 miles eastnortheast of the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, and 5 miles south of South Padre Island."
The FAA ROD outlined SpaceX conducting up to 12 commercial launch operations per year through 2015. This would include Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, which would be limited to two launches per year, and smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles.
The smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicle could consist of a Falcon 9 stage 1 tank according to the FAA document.
SpaceX would attempt recovery of both 1st and 2nd stages of the Falcon rockets.
According to the FAA SpaceX would have approximately 30 full-time employees or contractors present on-site at the vertical launch area and/or control center area in 2016. Then by 2025, the FAA says there could be as many 150 full-time SpaceX employees or contractors on-site. (So why did the Brownsville Economic Development Council repeatedly say that there would be more than 600 jobs paying at least $55,000 created?)

Exhibit B-2. Area of potential effects for indirect effects.
The payloads Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy could consist of satellites, experimental payloads and the Dragon space capsule.
SpaceX would be limited to launching between 7:00 a.m and 7:00 p.m. with the exception of one night-time launch.
All launch operation would be conducted under SpaceX and FAA control with a letter of Authorization from Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center needed.
Exhibit A-1. Proposed launch operations closure areas.
- Download the complete FAA document (PDF).

For the complete story, click on link: http://spaceref.biz/commercial-space/spacex-private-spaceport-in-texas-another-step-closer-after-faa-decision.html