Saturday, May 23, 2015

DIST. 1 COMMISSIONER LONGORIA'S BODS STAND BEHIND HIM

(Ed's Note: It'll be  while before City of Brownsville District 1 commissioner Rick Longoria – locked in a runoff with opponent Roman Perez – can live the graphic released by his former girlfriend after their messy breakup. To make maters worse, gremlins in the Internet have Photoshopped this graphic and distributed it on cyberspace. The man pictured behind the Star Wars light sword-wielding commissioner is none other than Brownsville Visitors and Convention Bureau honcho Mariano "Bean" Ayala. Ayala was dragged into the Longoria vs. girlfriend controversy after she told bloggers that she had personally seen him hand Longoria $250 in cash through a car window in front of his home. A cursory examination of the commissioner's campaign reports does not show that contribution or that of others like Ambiotec's Carlos Marin or American Surveillance's Jaime Escobedo. Whether anyone will look into the alleged illegal contributions is anyone's guess. We, after all, in Cameron County. Meanwhile, just enjoy the creative streak loosened by the episode.) 

TREJO'S COVERT SHERIFF BID "PREMATURE" CRITICS SAY

Anonymous said...
"Folks, I still think Judge Michael Trejo from La Feria is our best candidate for sheriff...he is young and energetic. He is not looking for a "cushy" job after retirement."


Anonymous said...
"TEAM TREJO 2016" 

By Juan Montoya
For the past few months since former Cameron County District Attorney investigator Victor Cortez announced his resignation from that office to run for sheriff against Omar Lucio, comments like the ones above have been sent o this blog. 
Now, with our publication yesterday of Mr. Trejo's propensity to recur to the social media to publicize his comings and goings for the world to see, they have returned in full force.
But  so have, alas, the criticisms.
"He hasn't even completed the first year of being JP  Precinct 5, Place 3, and his supporters are already making noises about running for sheriff against Omar Lucio," wrote one. "He should consult with his elders before he allows people to say stuff like that."
That's Trejo in the graphic of last years' Stand With Texas Woman rally at the Cameron County Democratic Women's Club in Brownsville. The president of that club is Cindy Hinojosa, wife of current Texas Democratic Chairman Gilbero Hinojosa (at far right). To Trejo's immediate right is former Cameron County Clerk Joe Rivera. To Rivera's right is Brownsville Independent School District chair Minerva Peña. Ironically, Rivera, Hinojosa's candidate for county judge, lost to Republican Carlos Cascos. Peña also lost in her bid for justice of the peace.
Trejo was elected in 2012 and has not announced that he is a candidate for sheriff himself, although from the comments placed by "Team Trejo 2016," it is pretty obvious that he may have plans to go for it.
If he does decide to announce, he will have to overcome the skepticism of his critics who feel that he is biting off more than he can chew with the likes of incumbent Lucio and maybe even Cortez. The comments may not be fair, but it is something he will have to deal with, such as the following:

Anonymous said...
Trejo a la Alex Perez, Armando, Limas, is putting too much light to his 2016 candidacy and then jail path. We all know Alex somehow got out of his crooked path, Raymond couldn't maybe; Mike with Janie will make a great couple a la Minnie and Lupe with the tow truck business transporting que?????"





AS COLD CASES GO, DA SHOULD LOOK INTO HIS OWN HOUSE

By Juan Montoya
For the past two years, Cameron County Luis V. Saenz has been resurrecting "cold cases" of at least two murders that happened 15 and 20 years ago and has generated the predictable headlines in the local news media, a la NCIS.
Old cases are the favorite of defense attorneys.
Not only is the evidence dated, witnesses memories have faded, and police officers and prosecutors involved in the investigations either dead or gone, but the constitutional guarantees to the defendants of confronting and cross examining your accuser are almost nil.
These are cases that require the prosecutors to build up such a formidable case based on circumstantial evidence that in the majority of cases they can't prevail.
But they make for damn good press and elicit the sympathy of the victims, relatives and friends.
Just in the last two years, two such cases have been reopened by the DA's Office under Saenz.
The first was that of Antonio Santos, accused of killing his wife Evelyn Santos back on October 12th, 1998.  According to the original police report,officers found no signs of a forced entry but a bloody crime scene inside their home. They reported finding blood and clumps of hair in what what looked like the scene of a domestic disturbance. 
Santos claimed he gave her CPR and tried to revive her by slapping her, shaking her and throwing water in her face but nothing worked. He said that he even tried to carry her but ended up having to pull her by her hair because she became heavy.
Prosecutors now believe that Santos used his hand to suffocate his wife and Saenz  decided that they had enough evidence to go forward with the charges.
The other case involved a 41-year-old Brownsville man who was questioned about the 1993 disappearance of a 17-year-old High School student Carol Reed who was last seen walking into a now-defunct Lopez Supermarket off Ringgold Street in Brownsville.
It is not clear what role Medina might have played in the disappearance of Reed, and authorities have not yet charged him in the case.
The details of how he was arrested also raised some eyebrows since Medina jumped a fence at a football game in Brownsville after his son was injured on the field. He was charged with criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct and driving with a suspended license.That’s when investigators learned he was wanted for questioning in the Reed case.
In the Santos case, 138th District Court Judge Arturo Nelson granted a lowering of his bond from $200,000 to $150, despite pleas by Assistant District Attorney Gustavo “Gus” Garza who opposed the bond reduction. Defense attorney Louis Sorola told the court that prior to the 1998 murder accusations, Santos was under investigation by the federal government for money laundering, a crime to which he pleaded guilty. He served time in prison from 2001 until 2006.
Sorola told the court that Santos had since remarried, lived in San Antonio, and was making $90,000 a year plus bonuses before his arrest that cost him his job.
It is curious how Saenz has chosen to resurrect these two cold cases just now.
Loose tongues say that if he wanted to clean his files, he might have started with a case involving the son of one of his Asst. DAs who was never brought to trial after he was caught taking money to lower bonds at a county office.
The incident happened during the former DA Armando Villalobos administration who heeded the request of a district judge to allow him to take care of the charges "in-house." No charges were ever field against the man and the case was never made against him.
In fact, since it never got to the stage when it could be brought before a grand jury and the statute of limitations has probably already come and gone, it is not only a "cold case," but rather a dead and buried one, not to say swept under the judicial rug.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

TREJO IS LA FERIA'S FB PAGE MAN FOR ALL REASONS

By Juan Montoya
Whether it's the ice bucket challenge, a political function, or even someone's 80th birthday, look on  Justice of the Peace of the recently enlarged Precinct 5, Place 3's Facebook page, and it will be there.
Mike Trejo, who just took over the office after winning the election in La Feria, seems to be anywhere and everywhere.
If it's the holidays, he is wishing the world joy and peace. If it's someone's political announcement, he will be there, too. (Joe Rivera's for example). He even posts photos of the wedding site on South Padre Island (without any people in it) where he said he married a very nice couple form Dallas.
Even former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson made a cameo on his page. (He's the tall guy next to Trejo)
Operating out of the La Feria Cameron County Annex Building, he seems to have settled into his new role as JP.
Now we hear that he has also gotten hitched to the former Angie Castaneda, widow of wrecker service owner Raymond Peña, of Brownsville.
Like we said, he's everywhere! He's everywhere!
He recently told the La Feria newspaper that he describes himself as "a hardworking businessman with a long history in law enforcement on the local and county level. He also told them that he will be a "hardworking justice" of his precinct.
“My goal is to give 110% of my efforts to unite local school administrations, school boards, city commissioners, and law enforcement agencies in Harlingen, La Feria, Santa Maria, Palm Valley, Santa Rosa, Combes, Primera, and Los Indios,” he said.
Now, those are pretty ambitious plans considering that the JP's office is rather limited in its  jurisdiction. Sure, there are some truancy cases that involve the local school districts, but "uniting " school administrators, school boards, city commissioners, and law enforcement agencies" may not be in the state mission statement for JP offices.
What it does denote, perhaps, is Trejo's desire to use the JP offices as a stepping stone for countywide office.
Why do we say that?
Because we routinely receive comments from soneone under the title of "Team Trejo 2016" who is advocating Trejo for Cameron County Sheriff.
Stay tuned to see whether we see Trejo bolt the JP spot for something a little higher a la Alex Perez.

BISD DEADLINE FOR SUPERINTENDENT APPLICATION SUNDAY

By Juan Montoya
In case you didn't know, Sunday is the last day for candidates to apply for the position of superintendent to the Brownsville Independent School District.
Yes, we know. On Feb. 16, there was much discussion on hiring a consultant (George H. McShan Consulting Services, of Harlingen) and to appoint 14 community residents to assist him in deciding who to recommend after conducting a nationwide search.
But, as the application deadline indicates, some trustees and administrators had a better idea and totally disregarded the sentiments they expressed in the meeting. They advertised forf the position and limited it to internal applicants only.
McShan, who has acted as superintendent search consultant for numerous school districts in Texas, was proposed by trustee Joe Rodriguez. Most recently, he submitted his proposal to the San Antonio ISD in their search for a consultant.
"For the past eight years I have been actively engaged as a consultant, conducting Superintendent searches for school districts throughout the state of Texas, including Valley districts (McAllen, Sharyland, Mission, Port Isabel, La Villa, Mercedes, Raymondville and Corpus Christi)," he wrote Ms. Pamela Morrison, of the SA ISD.
"I have conducted Superintendent searches for public school districts in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Ohio. The most recent Superintendent searches that I have personally conducted over the last 12 months are Ysleta in El Paso Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas, Roma ISD, and Mission CISD. As a current school board member, serving my 27th year in Harlingen, I know firsthand what it takes to be an effective leader to meet the needs of raising student achievement for all students and building a cohesive relationship with the board and Superintendent," he concluded.
McShan also put the cost of his services up front.
"The professional fee for performance of the Superintendent search will be $20,000.00 and expenses, will not exceed $5,000.00. This fee does not include travel costs for candidates or any costs associated with travel for members of the San Antonio School Board to visit the School District finalists."
On February 16, a unanimous board of trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District announced that it was hiring Dr, Esperanza Zendejas as interim superintendent and promised the district would launch a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Dr. Carl Montoya which would include a citizens' committee's input.
At the time that Zendejas' appointment as interim was announced, the Brownsville Herald and remarks made by trustees on the district's public channel agreed to hire a consultant at the March 3 board meeting to conduct a national search for a permanent replacement for Montoya.
That did not happen, and in fact, videotapes of that March 3 meeting  are not available online for some reason.
Each board member was select two community members to serve on a committee to assist in the final selection of a superintendent of schools.
“The board believes that Dr. Zendejas will provide the necessary leadership and stability required during this transition period,” Board President Minerva Peña said. “We look forward to having a new permanent leader in place in the near future.”
Additionally, the trustees had an understanding that Zendejas would not be allowed to apply for the permanent position. As it is, unless the board decides after the May 24 deadline to hire someone else, it'll probably be Zendejas for next year, if not the next two.
Things, apparently, somehow have changed.
If you look in the BISD Human Resources page, you will notice that the posting for a district superintendent was placed there May 15 and revised May 19 for the 2015-2016 School Year – Until Filled (Applications will not be accepted once the screening process begins.)  https://hr.bisd.us/Jobs/Jobpost.exe
And a cursory check with several school board members indicates that none have appointed the two community representatives the board promised. For that matter, the district has not even hired a the consultant to assist the board and citizens' committee to make the choice.
In fact, the posting indicates that the selection of the new school year superintendent is limited to BISD employees. "Internal Applicants Only! Closing Date: May 24, 2015 (this Friday)," the posting states.
During that February 16 meeting, just about all the trustees expressed their support for a committee made up of community residents.
Board president Peña emphasized that "we do need community residents to participate in the choice," and suggested two per board member.
Catalina Presas Garcia also chimed in with support for a committee and made a motion to do it. Trustee Joe Rodriguez – who wanted only a three-member committee and not 14 (two per member) eventually joined the rest to vote unanimously for 14.
Hector Chirinos said that the search should be done nationwide and said "we must not close the door so fact" on the search. "This  search is going to take time."
However, with the posting for the superintendent's job for the next school year due to close in four days and limited to BISD employees only, all this seems to have amounted to no more than lip service.

CASCOS WANTS TO MOVE PAST VOTER ID, PARTISAN POLITICS

By Julian Aguilar
The Texas Tribune

Less than two months into his new role as Texas secretary of state, Republican Carlos Cascos traveled to Mexico City, where he met with foreign dignitaries to discuss international trade. It was the first time someone in his position had made such a trip in almost six years — and Cascos said it's going to become a familiar occurrence.

“You have to go more often than once a term,” Cascos said. “I am thinking I’d like to go at a minimum twice a year.”
Cascos is not your typical governor-appointed official. He's Mexican-born, a former Democrat and from the Rio Grande Valley; he was a Cameron County commissioner and county judge before Gov. Greg Abbott named him to his current post.

And he hopes his tenure represents a shifting tide in the secretary of state's office – away from the partisan gridlock over voting issues that has plagued his predecessors, and toward bolstering Texas' relations with Mexico and improving life along the state's southern border.

Cascos' move is not out of line with his office's official responsibilities. In addition to housing the state’s elections division, the secretary of state's office also oversees Texas-Mexico relations.

d he hopes to prove that his position really is nonpartisan. During the debates that raged at the Capitol in 2009 and 2011 over requiring voters to show photo ID to cast ballots, the office was accused of being a proxy for Gov. Rick Perry, who supported the measure.

“I don’t see (the perception) as a hurdle at all. Whomever the sitting governor is and they appoint, obviously it’s going to be implied that, ‘Oh, it’s got to be a partisan office,’” Cascos said. “This office is not a partisan office.”

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who led the charge against voter ID in sessions past, said it was up to Cascos to change that perception. But Martinez Fischer also said he welcomed the new secretary and was eager to see his ideas on how to grow voter turnout.

“The elections division is a division that involves politics, and frankly, it’s very difficult to avoid administering that office without coming off as a partisan," he said. "To the extent that Secretary Cascos has ideas on how he can be pragmatic and bipartisan when it comes to voting, I think we all welcome that.” 

To read the rest of the articloe, click on link: http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/21/sos-cascos-ready-move-past-voter-id-partisan-issue/

Thursday, May 21, 2015

YZAGUIRRE BASH MOVED TO PALO ALTO RESTAURANT (REAR)

(Even though Cameron County Tax-Assessor Collector's Tony Yzaguirre vowed that neither hell nor high water would postpone his semiquarterly BBQ and get together, high water has forced him to move it to the Palo Alto Restaurant on Elizabeth and Fourth streets (354 E. Elizabeth). There is plenty of parking along Elizabeth and side streets. The restaurant celebrates the battle that launched the Mexican-American War. The rear gathering room is ample and those who have their tickets will be admitted and others can pay at the door. If you now someone who was going to go and may not have heard of the change of venue, please call them and pass the word. Y'all come.). 

By Juan Montoya
Every four months or so Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector hosts one of his tardeadas at his Ranchito Escondido at 1305 Honeydale Rd.
Today, due to the inclement weather, it has moved to the Palo Alto Restaurant at 354 E. Elizabeth St.
The occasion is looked forward to by just about everyone who is anyone in the city and surrounding towns. At any one of these gatherings you will see elected officials, candidates for office, city and county employees, attorneys and people from the building trades.
They all pitch in $20 and spend the afternoon partaking of fajitas, cabrito, ceviche, frijoles a la charra and all sorts of antojitos mexicanos washed down with cold beer or refreshments.
Yzaguirre says the tradition started many years ago after he bought the property and rear lots from the Faulk matriarch, Rusty's mom.
"When I first got it, there were old fence posts that the ranchers used to divide their land," he said. "We were standing under a tree and a friend said that it looked like a ranchito escondido (a small hidden ranch) and it stuck."
During election time, it is not unusual to have the candidates in the differing races mingle with the crowd pressing the flesh. But all is not political. Just as you could meet doctors, lawyers, judges and businessmen, there are also common people who ply their crafts such as plumbers, carpenters, house contractors, and just about any service that one can use.
"People pass out their business cards in case someone can use their services," Yzaguirre said. "It's more of a networking gathering than a pachanga."
The entertainment there has range from having mariachis serenade someone celebrating their birthday, a conjunto playing the crowd's favorite corridos, or a group playing nonteño music to the milling crowd.
Yzaguire first started public service when he was in high school and entered a shadow program where students were given part time work to get their feet wet in public service. After he graduated, he worked for the city tax assessor. That was in 1968 and after he left the city, he ran for the county tax assessor-collector position and won. After 47 years of public service, he has met just about anyone who has been in office here and in surrounding cities in Cameron County. (The photo at right shows him in those bygone years.)
There in his office a group portrait when Bill Clinton visited Cameron County in 1998 to deliver the bridge permit to the Port of Brownsville. Over the years, he has put an "X" over those that have passed on through the years.
"There's not that many of us left," he quipped as he showed the framed photograph. "Adolfo Betancourt is gone and so is Oscar de la Fuente, and some others like (Port of Brownsville commissioner) Dan Reyna. There's just a few of us left. Lucino (Rosenbaum) was the county commissioner then and he's still around."
During Clinton's trip to Brownsville, the Secret Service detail joined the crowd at el Ranchito Escondido to the surprise of many of the guests.
"They came in with coats and ties and really stood out," recalled Yzaguirre. "The were tall white guys with crew cuts and dark glasses. They had fajitas and BBQ before they had to leave. They really enjoyed themselves."
This Thursday, Yzaguirre is having another gathering at his Ranchito Escodido and is inviting his friends to attend. If you haven't gotten a ticket, you can pay at the door. Among those who attends the gatherings religiously is local businessman and former Port of Brownsville commissioner Mario Villarreal.
"The food is always good and the talk is even better," Villarreal said. "Everyone know each other and it's a good chance to touch base with old friends. Sometimes you meet people you haven't seen in years."

DE LEON'S SWEARING IN A BREATH OF FRESH AIR AT CITY HALL




























By Juan Montoya
As Mayor Tony Martinez, commissioners Rose Gowen, Jessica Tetreau and Ricardo Longoria looked on, 357th District Judge Juan Magallanes swore in 29-year-old newly-elected At Large "A" commissioner Cesar de Leon.
In his remarks, Magallanes encouraged young people to become involved in local politics and pointed to the election of the young attorney as an indication that they could be successful in setting the city in a new direction.
Notable for their absence were commissioners John Villarreal and Deborah Portillo. A number of supporters accompanied De Leon as did his mother Clarita Zendejas and his father, engineer Cesar Sr.
De Leon garnered 4,445 votes, outpolling his three challengers and even outpolling the mayor by 800 votes.
In his brief remarks, de Leon thanked the public for its support and promised to work with the commissioners to implement new ideas in the city. He is already known to have established close relationships with most of the sitting commissioners and was joined by commissioner Tetreau after the ceremony with his followers.
Tetreau narrowly beat challenger Sergio Zarate by 18 votes and Longoria is caught in a runoff with Roman Perez for District 1. Martinez is in a runoff with former mayor Pat Ahumada. Early voting starts June 1 and election day is June 13.

THIS BABY IS NOT JUST CUTE, SHE'S SMART AS A WHIP

(Ed's Note: Being parents as we are, we have a weakness for cute babies and smart kids. This young lady, a student at Oliveira Middle School is near and dear to us. Her parents and friends tell us that Marisol Isabel here is not only a cutie, but also a straight A student as her trophy demonstrates. She and her brothers used to be students at Hudson Elementary, the Oliveira feeder school when Dr. Rita Hernandez used to be principal there and they still recall her tenure fondly. Ms. Hernandez is now an Area Assistant Superintendent for the Pace/Veterans Clusters with the Brownsville Independent School District. She is also the surrogate daughter of Texas Southmost College trustee Adela Garza and keeps a photo of her brother Miguel Angel and her with Ms. Garza when she was the chief of staff for congressman Blake Farenthold. As if that wasn't enough, she also has politics in her blood and has worked on campaigns including Catalina Presas-Garcia's first try at public office as city commissioner. Congrats Marisol! Keep up the good work.)  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

AFTER 80 YEARS, CONTRERAS LOOKS BACK ON SPORTS LIFE

(We ran into our old friend Ray Contreras at Capt. Bob's where he was trying to collect donations to help his granddaughter Alyssa Contreras Garcia attending college in Sugarland continue her career trying to get a fast-pitch softball scholarship. The Contreras from San Benito enjoy fame as some of the best semi-pro baseball players in the Rio grande Valley when Baseball was King here. We run this article that originally appeared on November 2009 in this blog.)

By Juan Montoya

When he was playing semi-pro baseball as a young man for teams in Brownsville and San Benito, Rey Contreras never thought that at 75 he would have been named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The San Benito native, who has lived in Brownsville since he returned from military service, said he was honored earlier this year (2009) when he was inducted into the Mission-based Hall of Fame during the 38th Annual Leo Najo Day celebration in October.
“My dad, my two brothers, and I played ball for many years,” said Contreras, who turns 80 Nov. 11, on Veterans Day. “I remember playing in San Benito
for the Merchants, in Brownsville for the Regals, and also in San Benito for Pearl Beer. You don’t even hear of Pearl Beer anymore.”
The observance of Leo Najo Day is named after Leonardo Alanis, (1899-1979), who was one of the first Mexican-born players to play professional baseball in the United States, first in 1924 with the San Antonio of the Class A Texas League.

In 1925, he was drafted by the major league Chicago White Sox. Racism and a severe leg fracture limited his permanence in the majors.

Later, he became the first player selected to the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, known as Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Profesional de México. In 2001, Minor League Baseball named Leo Najo's 1932 Tulsa Oilers team as one of the top 100 minor league teams of all time, in part because of his contributions.

“It was an honor for me to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame because my dad and I knew a lot of the early players,” Contreras said. “My dad, Jesus, and my brothers, Robert and Rico, would sometimes play together. Those were great memories.”

Contreras wielded a mean bat. His batting average while with the San Benito Merchants was an incredible .538, and led the local Valley Semi-Pro League teams.

But while baseball was his passion, Contreras was also a football and track standout and was named a co-captain of the 1952 San BenitoGreyhounds along with teammate Vernon Hallbeck. He played guard on defense and fullback on offense.

Also on the team was Bobby Morrow, a native of Rangerville, who would go on to win three gold medals four years later in the Melbourne (Australia) Olympics.
“Bobby was the unassuming sort,” said Contreras. “He would go out there and run circles around everyone else and then walk around as if nothing had happened. I asked him why he didn’t cash in after he got his Olympic medals and he said that it was a gift that the Lord had given him and he didn’t want to go around selling it. He was that kind of guy.”

Contreras was the only Bloodhound named to the 1952 8-AAA All-District team. He earned that spot because of his defensive work as guard. Newspaper articles of the day described his performances as “sparkling” and “stingy.”

He and Morrow and the rest of the Bloodhounds played under legendary coach Jim Barnes, who after he left San Benito, would go on to superintendent positions in Mission and later in Seguin. Barnes was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame for his coaching achievements. Barnes died in 2002, but before he died, Contreras traveled to Seguin to visit him.

“He was getting along in years, but he was still like a father to us,” Contreras recalled. “If we had a problem, he would always be there to help out and guide us. If you got the wind knocked out of you in the field he would stand next to you and asked you if you were going to bellyache and feel sorry for yourself, or if you were going to get up and face life.”

In 1992, Contreras organized Old-Timers Baseball Reunion in Brownsville, where former standouts gathered to commemorate their days on the baseball diamond.
“There were fewer of us left,” Contreras remembers. “We even received a letter from Sam Ayoub, who worked with the Atlanta Braves as a player trainer.”
Now Contreras is happy to watch his children and grandchildren enjoy baseball and football just as he did. His daughters excels at golf.

"When you reach 75, you can look back over the years that you spent in sports and I can tell you that every bit of it was worth it,” he said. “Sports isn’t just about hitting a ball with a bat or tackling someone. It’s what you learn about the character of the people you play with and how they react to a changing situation that keeps things interesting. It’s about life itself.”

(If you want to contribute to Contreras' granddaughter Alyssa, you can call him at (956) 546-8384 or email her at acg485@yahoo.com  )

BISD FOOLS COMMUNITY: LIMITS APPLICANTS FOR SUPER TO INTERNAL EMPLOYEES, WILL NOT ALLOW RESIDENTS' INPUT

By Juan Montoya
On February 16, a unanimous board of trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District announced that it was hiring Dr, Esperanza Zendejas as interim superintendent and promised the district would launch a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Dr. Carl Montoya which would include a citizens' committee's input.
At the time that Zendejas' appointment as interim was announced, the Brownsville Herald and remarks made by trustees on the district's public channel agreed to hire a consultant at the March 3 board meeting to conduct a national search for a permanent replacement for Montoya.
That did not happen, and in fact, videotapes of that March 3 meeting  are not available online for some reason.
Each board member was select two community members to serve on a committee to assist in the final selection of a superintendent of schools.
“The board believes that Dr. Zendejas will provide the necessary leadership and stability required during this transition period,” Board President Minerva Peña said. “We look forward to having a new permanent leader in place in the near future.”
Additionally, the trustees had an understanding that Zendejas would not be allowed to apply for the permanent position. As it is, unless the board decides after the May 24 deadline to hire someone else, it'll probably be Zendejas for next year, if not the next two.
Things, apparently, somehow have changed.
If you look in the BISD Human Resources page, you will notice that the posting for a district superintendent was placed there May 15 and revised May 19 for the 2015-2016 School Year – Until Filled (Applications will not be accepted once the screening process begins.)  https://hr.bisd.us/Jobs/Jobpost.exe
And a cursory check with several school board members indicates that none have appointed the two community representatives the board promised. For that matter, the district has not even hired a consultant to assist the board and citizens' committee to make the choice.
In fact, the posting indicates that the selection of the new school year superintendent is limited to BISD employees. "Internal Applicants Only! Closing Date: May 24, 2015 (this Friday)," the posting states.
During that February 16 meeting, just about all the trustees expressed their support for a committee made up of community residents.
Board president Peña emphasized that "we do need community residents to participate in the choice," and suggested two per board member.
Catalina Presas Garcia also chimed in with support for a committee and made a motion to do it. Trustee Joe Rodriguez – who wanted only a three-member committee and not 14 (two per member) eventually joined the rest to vote unanimously for 14.
Hector Chirinos said that the search should be done nationwide and said "we must not close the door so fact" on the search. "This  search is going to take time."
However, with the posting for the superintendent's job for the next school year due to close in four days and limited to BISD employees only, all this seems to have amounted to no more than lip service. En otras palabras, dandonos atole con el dedo.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BEDC BOARD GIVES THUMBS DOWN TO $407,878 STUDY

By Juan Montoya
Citing a lack of urgency to dish out an additional $407,878 for a Phase II Small Area Plan after the Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation board had already voted to give them $185,000 for Phase I and concerns that no other proposals were considered besides the one by Jacobs Management, the full Brownsville Economic Development Board voted to table the proposal indefinitely.
The proposal was made by Jacobs Project Manager Oscar Garcia Jr..
The process of considering awarding contracts begins with the BEDC board which vets the and then sends its recommendation to the GBIC. In this case, the BEDC board voted not to recommend the project.
Some of the members were wary that the GBIC was left alone to fund Phase II after the Port of Brownsville and the PUB declined to co-fund it as they did Phase I.
"If GBIC funds the study, will other organizations have access to the data?" a member asked.
"And is something bad going to happen if we don't fund this new study right away?" asked another.
Garcia replied that there wasn't any urgency involved and that the planning process was for one phase to follow another. No oine from the city showed up in support of the proposal except for City Manager Charlie Cabler who did not comment on Garcia's proposal.
The overriding sentiment of the board seemed to be that there was no clear benefit that would come to the city as a result of further funding the project.
"It was the full board's decision," said a member. "No one felt the need to spend that money on yet another study."
When Garcia Jr. was the chairman of the Brownsville Public Utility Board, he signed off on the $454,000 Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan and the utility split the cost three ways with the Port of Brownsville, and the GBIC.
That study was drafted by Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates, the same firm that worked on the City of Kyle Comprehensive Master Plan, under the name of Mesa. McCaffrey was hired when Mayor Mike/Miguel Gonzalez was still in office in Kyle. Gonzalez is now the executive director of United Brownsville. At the time McCaffrey went under the name of  Mesa
The so-called master plan identified 35 small-area sites and called for the development of commercial corridors and recommended that the development of the plan be split into three phases at a total cost of $750,000.
The firm recommended that United Brownsville be placed in charge of implementing the plan using funds from public entities.
The Coordinating Board of United Brownsville includes IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB vice-president Irv Downing, and Julieta Garcia, former UTB president and – coincidentally – mother of Garcia Jr.
The availability of the $750,000 spurred Garcia Jr, into action and he bolted the PUB and latched on to Jacobs Project Management Co. Jacobs Project Management Co. is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, which is an international engineering, architecture and construction firm. The main company is headquartered in Pasadena, Calif. although the nearest office to Brownsville is in San Antonio.
Although Garcia Jr. isn't an engineer, he has parlayed his parental connections and his pull at United Brownsville to climb the financial ladder.
Before he was appointed to the PUB, he was the operations manager for Su Clinica Familiar, a federally-funded health provider whose director is none other than Dr. Elena Marin, the wife of Carlos Marin, also listed an at-large board member of United Brownsville and the Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC). City commissioner Rose Gowen was a member of Marin's clinic's staff and also – you guessed it – an at-large member of United Brownsville. She now works as a director of a UTB medical research facility.
Jacobs initially submitted a bid to implement all three phases of the Small Area Plan for the $750,000.
With a copy of the McCaffrey study in hand, all Garcia had to do was to whittle down the 35 small area sites to 10 and collect his first $185,000. It's something akin to shooting fish in a barrel. You just chose 10 sites in the plan. The next time you choose another 10 and so forth until you get the full $750,000 smackers.
On the night of June 19, 2014, a bare quorum of the GBIC board voted to give Jacobs Engineering the $185,000 contract to "find funding for the industrial corridor project and also locate investors during a 4 month timetable."
Jacobs was the only company that responded to the Request for Proposals during the short period that it was advertised.
The three GBIC members voting for it were city commissioner Jessica Tetreau, County Treasurer David Betancourt and Al Villarreal, an employee of IBC's Rusteberg.
So far, the combined $639,000 spent so far on the McCaffrey plan and on Jacobs Phase I have not generated – except for Garcia Jr. – one job for a Brownsville resident.
Theoretically, now that BEDC has tabled the request, the GBIC could still consider it and go against the BEDC recommendation not to fund the project. Only the chairman of the GBIC – Betancourt – can place the proposal on the GBIC agenda for its board's consideration.
They are:

                                                      David Betancourt - Chairman                                                       
Emaildavid.betancourt@co.cameron.tx.us

Ed Sikes


Al Villarreal

Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa

John Cowen
Email: jcowen2@cowen-group.com

THE BEGINNING OF A BAD DAY FOR TWO DRIVERS






























(Ed.'s Note: Looks like at least two motorists have had a bad day. The van in the photo apparently rear-ended the pickup truck at the intersection of Eagle Drive and Pride Road near the entrance to Hanna High School. As far as we could see, no one was seriously hurt but the damage to the front of the  van is considerable. The use of cell phones near schools is prohibited and we hope that no one was on the cell when this happened.)

THE DAY WHEN ADOLF CRIXELL STOOD UP AGAINST CARDENAS

By Juan Montoya
There was, at one time, a photograph of a full-page Brownsville Herald Lifestyle article dealing with the petition before the Brownsville Planning and Zoning Commission for a permit to use septic tanks on a trailer park subdivision called California Estates.
The photo of the article was displayed prominently by Adolph Crixell on the door of this bathroom and when he and his mate had a party or get together, visitors could read it.
The developer was none other than Renato Cardenas, whose family still develops subdivisions and now run successful car dealerships here and up the valley.
At the time Cadenas was just starting his push to become one of the most important subdivision developers in town and had paved his way by having a son-in-law as a city commissioner (Harry McNair) and his many political acquaintances.
Crixell, a pharmacist whose family dates back to the early 1900s, was a member of the P and Z board when Cardenas presented his proposal.
In those days (the mid-1970s), there was a push in Brownsville to do away with outside privies and septic tank use within the City of Brownsville. A citywide program was implemented to get rid of the potential contamination of the ground water with outhouses and overflowing septic tanks.
So when Cardenas presented the proposal to build his California Estates trailer park subdivision and asked the he be allowed to install septic tanks, red flags went up at the P and Z.
Would the city's plan to do away with septic tank use within the city limits and the ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction) be adhered to? Or would Cardenas' political influence override the ban?
Leading the charge against the granting of the septic tank permits was Crixell, who as a P and Z member came out against the proposal. Cardenas argued that the use of septic tanks would allow poor people to have a home since the Public Utility Board did not have sewer lines to service the development. California Estates is just south of the Brownsville airport on California Road. Running alongside the trailer park is a city resaca used by the irrigation district to supply water to area farms.
At the time Bill Salter was the city editor and he thought it might be an important public-issue story to have both sides give their arguments for and against the granting of the septic tank permits. He sent me to interview both Crixell and Cardenas.
At first, Cardenas did not want to speak with a newspaper reporter since the paper had been running articles about city landlords renting substandard homes and he was among those named in a few of them.
He was understandably reluctant to sit with me, but it just so happened that his wife Mary Rose was in the office at the car dealership when I arrived. She urged him to grant the interview and reminded him that Reba, their daughter, was also attending college to get a journalism degree. Renato relented and he got to make his argument for the granting of the septic tank permits.
Crixell was more forthcoming. He had gone to the research on potential contaminants in human waste that could potentially spill over into the resaca and expose the people there, specially children, to all sorts of contagious disease.
Crixell's arguments carried the day and the P and Z denied Cardenas the permits to install septics at the trailer park. Planners at the city cheered the decision. In those days Flo Peña ruled the roost, but among the staff were Graciela Salinas, Richard Waldman, and Frank Bejarano, among others.
It must have been around 2:30 p.m. or so a few days following the publishing of the point-counterpoint article when Renato came storming into editorial at the Herald. He was livid because they had turned down his proposal and blamed me personally for losing money on the deal.
City planners, on the other hand, saw the denial of the permits as a victory and a turning point for the city's efforts to clean up its image and bring it into the 20th Century.
From that day forward, local developers knew that any new subdivision within the city or in its ETJ would not pass muster if it included septic tanks for its sewer services. And it took one voice on the P and Z to lead the city on that road to progress.

YOU CALL IT PACHANGA, YZAGUIRRE CALLS IT NETWORKING

By Juan Montoya
Every four months or so Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector hosts one of his tardeadas at his Ranchito Escondido at 1305 Honeydale Rd.
The occasion is looked forward to by just about everyone who is anyone in the city and surrounding towns. At any one of these gatherings you will see elected officials, candidates for office, city and county employees, attorneys and people from the building trades.
They all pitch in $20 and spend the afternoon partaking of fajitas, cabrito, ceviche, frijoles a la charra and all sorts of antojitos mexicanos washed down with cold beer or refreshments.
Yzaguirre says the tradition started many years ago after he bought the property and rear lots from the Faulk matriarch, Rusty's mom.
"When I first got it, there were old fence posts that the ranchers used to divide their land," he said. "We were standing under a tree and a friend said that it looked like a ranchito escondido (a small hidden ranch) and it stuck."
During election time, it is not unusual to have the candidates in the differing races mingle with the crowd pressing the flesh. But all is not political. Just as you could meet doctors, lawyers, judges and businessmen, there are also common people who ply their crafts such as plumbers, carpenters, house contractors, and just about any service that one can use.
"People pass out their business cards in case someone can use their services," Yzaguirre said. "It's more of a networking gathering than a pachanga."
The entertainment there has range from having mariachis serenade someone celebrating their birthday, a conjunto playing the crowd's favorite corridos, or a group playing nonteño music to the milling crowd.
Yzaguire first started public service when he was in high school and entered a shadow program where students were given part time work to get their feet wet in public service. After he graduated, he worked for the city tax assessor. That was in 1968 and after he left the city, he ran for the county tax assessor-collector position and won. After 47 years of public service, he has met just about anyone who has been in office here and in surrounding cities in Cameron County. (The photo at right shows him in those bygone years.)
There in his office a group portrait when Bill Clinton visited Cameron County in 1998 to deliver the bridge permit to the Port of Brownsville. Over the years, he has put an "X" over those that have passed on through the years.
"There's not that many of us left," he quipped as he showed the framed photograph. "Adolfo Betancourt is gone and so is Oscar de la Fuente, and some others like (Port of Brownsville commissioner) Dan Reyna. There's just a few of us left. Lucino (Rosenbaum) was the county commissioner then and he's still around."
During Clinton's trip to Brownsville, the Secret Service detail joined the crowd at el Ranchito Escondido to the surprise of many of the guests.
"They came in with coats and ties and really stood out," recalled Yzaguirre. "The were tall white guys with crew cuts and dark glasses. They had fajitas and BBQ before they had to leave. They really enjoyed themselves."
This Thursday, Yzaguirre is having another gathering at his Ranchito Escodido and is inviting his friends to attend. If you haven't gotten a ticket, you can pay at the door. Among those who attends the gatherings religiously is local businessman and former Port of Brownsville commissioner Mario Villarreal.
"The food is always good and the talk is even better," Villarreal said. "Everyone know each other and it's a good chance to touch base with old friends. Sometimes you meet people you haven't seen in years."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

GARCIA JR. INVITES THE BIG BOYS TO THE GBIC FEAST

By Juan Montoya
Those who have seen the work product offered by Jacobs Management project manager Oscar Garcia Jr. to the Port of Brownsville, the Brownsville Public Utility Board, and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation in return for the $185,000 these three publicly-funded entities paid them to do so-called Small Area Plan, can't get over the feeling that they've seen the stuff before.
And, in fact, they have.
The SAP, to sue planners' parlance, is contained in the  $454,000 Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan delivered to the three entities by Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates.
That so-called master plan identified 35 small-area sites and called for the development of commercial corridors and recommended that the development of the plan be split into three phases at a total cost of $750,000.
The firm recommended that United Brownsville be placed in charge of implementing the plan using funds from public entities.
In so many words, Phase I, the $185,000 SAP, merely rehashed the overall study and focused on 10 of the 35 identified sites.
Now, without the benefit of a Request For Proposals, the GBIC is being asked by Garcia Jr., of Jacobs Management, to give them another $407,878 to rehash another 10 from the same study, widely available in the Master Plan.
Let's rewind the tape.
In 2010, Michael Paul, a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of California and a senior technical analyst in the information services division of n that state's Judicial Council, sued Jacobs Management – among others –  because he said it had "grossly overcharged" for its services.
He charged that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) through its Facilities Management Unit had assigned the project to Jacobs and its associates and disregarded and in-house plan submitted by Paul and his colleagues in the hire of the state.
The resulting study, submitted by Jacobs as its own work, Paul charged, was "a plagiarized study of the Army Corps of Engineers in building and managements systems, a study widely available on the Internet. (Jacobs) submitted the study as a bid to the AOC, a public agency, in order to engage in business and act as contractor..."
Sound familiar?
Paul then went on to compare the prices for the services offered by "Team Jacobs" and showed that in many instances, the group was charging more than double the going rate other engineers and planners were offering.
In the GBIC SAP studies, we'll never know what other groups or companies would charge because there is nothing to compare since there was no Request For Proposals to Phase II. And since Garcia Jr. and Jacob's was the only RFP considered in the $185,000 Phase I, we won't know whether the public is getting a good deal or is being overcharged as in the California case.
Jacobs is not your mom-and-pop outfit. Jacobs Project Management Co. is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, which is an international engineering, architecture and construction firm. The main company is headquartered in Pasadena, Calif. although the nearest office to Brownsville is in San Antonio.
It is a Fortune 500 publicly traded company with 66,000 employees and 2014 revenues of more than $12 billion.
And its executives earns millions in compensation. John W. Possner, the Executive vice-president  of Finance and Administration of Jacobs Management, for example, was paid $2,169,775 in 2014.
How much is $2,169,775?
How about $248 an hour, $4 a minute, and 0.07 per second 24 hours a day 365 days a year? This si five times the U.S. president's salary and 41 times the median U.S. household income.
In the Jacobs proposal presented by Garcia to the GBIC board, aside from the $37,878 for Phase II, ther is included a total of $35,000 for budgeted expenses. There is, however, a separate attachment (Exhibit B) which lists Additional Professional Services rates it will charge over the total $407,878 Lump Sum compensation.
The project executive, if any change orders are approved, will earn $200 an hour, and technical consultants another $225 per hour. A "Subject Matter Expert" will cost GBIC $200 per hour and a "3D Modeler" a paltry &5 per hour. Even someone called "Program Support" fetches $77 per hour.
Let's think about this. Don't we have local planners and engineers who are capable of doing the same work (if the Phase I and contemplated Phase II proposals can be called work) for much less. We are, after all, the poorest community in the United States.
The Port of Brownsville and the PUB took one look at the $750,000 additional price tag for the implementation plan and pulled stakes. It is only the GBIC now who has been left holding the bag.
They are :

                                              David Betancourt - Chairman                                                       
Emaildavid.betancourt@co.cameron.tx.us

Ed Sikes


Al Villarreal

Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa

John Cowen
Email: jcowen2@cowen-group.com

Do you want Mr. Possner to make and additional load of money through Project Manager Oscar Garcia Jr. to rehash a Master Plan that has already cost us $454,000 plus the $185,000 they have already given Jacobs (Oscar Jr.) for the useless Phase I?
Or will we put a stop to the vultures picking at the carcass until all the meat is gone?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

GARCIA JR. BACK FOR ANOTHER $407,878 IN GBIC GRAVY

By Juan Montoya
When Oscar Garcia Jr. was the chairman of the Brownsville Public Utility Board, he signed off on a $454,000 Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan, the utility split the cost three ways with the Port of Brownsville, and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
The study was drafted by Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates.
Robin McCaffrey is the same person who worked on the City of Kyle Comprehensive Master Plan, under the name of Mesa. McCaffrey was hired when Mayor Mike/Miguel Gonzalez was still in office in Kyle. Gonzalez is now the executive director of United Brownsville. At the time McCaffrey went under the name of  Mesa
The so-called master plan identified 35 small-area sites and called for the development of commercial corridors and recommended that the development of the plan be split into three phases at a total cost of $750,000.
The firm recommended that United Brownsville be placed in charge of implementing the plan using funds from public entities.
The Coordinating Board of United Brownsville includes IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB vice-president Irv Downing, and Julieta Garcia, former UTB president and – coincidentally – mother of Garcia Jr.
The availability of the $750,000 spurred Garcia Jr, into action and he bolted the PUB and latched on to Jacobs Project Management Co. Jacobs Project Management Co. is a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, which is an international engineering, architecture and construction firm. The main company is headquartered in Pasadena, Calif. although the nearest office to Brownsville is in San Antonio.
Although Garcia Jr. isn't an engineer, he has parlayed his parental connections and his pull at United Brownsville to climb the financial ladder.
Before he was appointed to the PUB, he was the operations manager for Su Clinica Familiar, a federally-funded health provider whose director is none other than Dr. Elena Marin, the wife of Carlos Marin, also listed an at-large board member of United Brownsville and the Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC). City commissioner Rose Gowen was a member of Marin's clinic's staff and also – you guessed it – an at-large member of United Brownsville. She now works as a director of a UTB medical research facility.
Jacobs initially submitted a bid to implement all three phases of the Small Area Plan for the $750,000.
With a copy of the McCaffrey study in hand, all Garcia had to do was to whittle down the 35 small area sites to 10 and collect his first $185,000. It's something akin to shooting fish in a barrel. You just chose 10 sites in the plan. The next time you choose another 10 and so forth until you get the full $750,000 smackers.
On the night of June 19, 2014, a bare quorum of the GBIC board voted to give Jacobs Engineering the $185,000 contract to "find funding for the industrial corridor project and also locate investors during a 4 month timetable."
Jacobs was the only company that responded to the Request for Proposals during the short period that it was advertised.
The three GBIC members voting for it were city commissioner Jessica Tetreau, County Treasurer David Betancourt and Al Villarreal, an employee of IBC's Rusteberg.
Jacob's Engineering lists Garcia Jr. as its local project manager.
Jacobs – through Garcia Jr. – originally presented his proposal for Phase II to BEDC to be forwarded to the GBIC, but was told to wait until after the May 9 elections. The BEDC was unsure whether commissioner Tetreau would be reelected and did not want to "stir the water" to harm her chances.
Now that Tetreau has won her reelection, the proposal has been brought forth and Garcia Jr. wants an additional $407,878, although no one can produce the work product for Phase I which cost the three entities (GBIC, PUB and the Port of Brownsville) $185,000.
And what does Garcia Jr. promise in return for the $407,878?
Jacob's Scope of Work states that it will "take what was developed as a concept in the (McCaffrey) lan and convert it into real and actionable effort...the development of a intermodal hub integrating and enhancing the existing modality assests (sic).
"The Phase II of implementation will weave together the synergistic tapestry of an integrated multimodal hub with to reposition Brownsville a global player for logistics. This will in turn along with other strategic infrastructure investments provide a competitive advantage to grow the advanced manufacturing sectors on both light and heavy sectors."
Uh?
The small print in the contract provisions makes the GBIC liable for DIRECT EXPENSES, including but not limited to "necessary transportation costs including mileage at Jacob's current rate when its automobiles are used, meals and lodgings, laboratory tests and analyses, computer services, word processing services, telephone, printing and binding charges."
Further, "in the event legal action is brought by Jacobs to enforce any of the obligations hereunder or arising out of any dispute concerning the terms and conditions hereby created, CLIENT shall pay JACOBS reasonable amounts for fees, costs and expenses as may be set by the court."
In other words, if we sue you, you'll pay for our legal costs.
The preponderance of slim returns at exorbitant costs have made the Port of Brownsville and the PUB gun shy and they have informed the GBIC that it is on its own in funding Garcia Jr.'s newest display of double-talk and gobbledygook. In other words, they have told the GBIC board "thanks, but no thanks" to the new proposal.
So far, the combined $639,000 spent so far on the McCaffrey plan and on Jacobs Phase I have not generated – except for Garcia Jr. – one job for a Brownsville resident. Will the GBIC fork over an additional $407,878 – to total $1,046,878 – and continue throwing good money after bad to line Juliet's little Junior's pockets?

END OF PART 1

Next: Who the hell is Jacobs Management?

FOR RICK AND THE B'VILLE COMMISSION, WITH SQUALOR...

By Juan Montoya
After going though the 82 provisional ballots cast in the City of Brownsville Commission election, the ballot board has determined that the results have remained the same.
Both incumbent Tony Martinez and challengers Pat Ahumada are still in the runoff for mayor. Ahumada picked up two votes and so did Martinez that makes it 3,540 for Martinez and 1,469 for Pat.
Sergio Zarate picked up one vote that still had him lose to incumbent Jessica Tetreau in District 2 1,048 to 1,030. There was only one provisional vote in District 1 and it was ruled invalid. In fact, only four of the 82 provisional ballots counted.If any of these candidates wants to order a recount, they will have to wait until the votes are canvassed. If not, the runoff races are on.
It'll be Martinez against Ahumada for mayor and Longoria against Perez for District 1.
But while some may may see Perez's chances to beat Longoria as a long shot, the stench of the squalid revelations that have emerged as a result of the split between Longoria and his ex-girlfriend (and neighbor down the street) Julie Olvera may just drive enough Longoria supporters away from the scandal.
We understand that when Olvera arrived at Longoria's home at 2928 Impala Street home accompanied by police Thursday attempting to recover $4,000 in cash as well as a spare key for her  personal vehicle,supervisor Rolando Avitia arrived at the scene.
The fact that Avitia was present was coincidental, since he is assigned to that shift.
However, Olvera called a female friend of tpolice chief Orlando Rodriguez and demanded that she tell him to send another officer because she thought that Avitia – Longoria's friend – was there to push the matter under the rug for his buddy Rick.
After she didn't find the $4,000 that she said belonged to her in a dresser drawer wher she had last seen the money, she was allowed (and Longoria acquiesced) to keep the $1,300 in cash that was found there.
 "I want to recover the missing $2,700," she told a local blogger Jim Barton.
Meanwhile sources close to the police department said that when Longoria was asked of the origins of the $4,000 in cash,  Longoria said that they had been political contributions made by his supporters.
That statement, they said, will be in the police report filed in the matter.
Other revelations that Ms. Olvera made to other social media are even more damning,
Olvera said that:
*Longoria had told her that Carlos Marin of Ambiotec and Jaime Escobedo of American Surveillance had made sizable cash contributions in the $1,000s through a private fundraisers and cash payments.
"He's received up to $3,000 in just only one transaction I witnessed," she said. "There were of lesser such as $240. The main individual is (American Surveillance)  Jaime Escobedo...sets up meetings with these people...
"I understand he runs a security company that he needs to get contracted by city so Rick is his man to get him to sway votes for contracts. He's stashing it away and not reporting his campaign contributions."
Carlos Marin, who also sits on the Brownsville Economic Development Council and was the force behind United Brownsville, is also mentioned by Olvera as a secret contributor to Longoria's  campaign.
"Ms. Olvera said Ambiotec honcho Carlos Marin staged a 'private fundraiser' for Longoria, during he was handed $4,000. On other occasions, she said Longoria would meet people (Jaime Escobedo, for one) at La Rancherita Cafe across the street from J.T. Canales Elementary, where he would receive as much as $2,500 in cash campaign donations."
*One other individual mentioned by sources include city employee Mariano "Bean" Ayala,  director of the Brownsville Visitors and Conventions Bureau. Ayala reportedly gave  Longoria a $240 cash donation through a car window that was also not shown on the last two campaign contributions reports.
Under state law, any contribution made to a candidate of $100 or more must be reported in the campaign and expenditures and contribution  reports filed with the Brownsville City Secretary's  Office.
An examination Friday of the last two reports (30 days before the election and eight days before the May 9 election) do not show any of the three individuals listed as contributors.
And now, sources in the Brownsville Independent School District (both Longoria and Olvera are BISD employees) indicate that Longoria has filed a complaint against Olvera accusing her of harassment and asking for action to be taken against her.
According to her, the times when Longoria was together with at least two other women occurred during school hours when the commissioner should have been at work at the BISD.
Withe these embarrassing disclosures, will the Brownsville Police Officers Association continue its endorsement of Longoria for District 1. Longoria's brother is a police officer. But will loyalty to a fellow officer transfer to continued support for someone tarnished with squalor?

IF A FIRETRUCK CRASHED INTO A STORE, AND NO ONE SAW IT..




















By Juan Montoya
Have you heard the one about the three-alarm fire in downtown Brownsville that happens many years ago?
Bear with me.
A fire alarm came from a used clothing warehouse  downtown that was threatening other buildings. Firefighters determined that the fire merited a three-alarm designation because the fire fire was in full bloom. They sent out calls for mutual assistance from brother departments in the valley and into Matamoros.
The other units got there, sized it up, and determined that there was nothing they could do because the fire was fully involved. They feared the fire could spread into nearby buildings.
At about that time, the unit from Matamoros came racing across the bridge, turned toward the warehouse district and didn't hesitate for a moment before driving straight into the inferno. The Matamoros firefighters jumped out, pulled out the hoses from their tanker amid the flames and doused the fire. A great cheer went up and all admired the courage of the traga lumbres.
The Brownsville city council gave them a resolution and presented them with a $10,000 check in gratitude for their quick action that prevented a greater conflagration that could have destroyed other buildings.
"What are you going to do with the money?" they were asked.
"The first thing we're going to do, señores," said the jefe of the bomberos from Matamoros," is to fix the brakes of the tanker."
About two weeks ago, a female fire fighter was handed the wheel of a fire engine at the main fire station on Adams St. Perhaps it was the power of the engine under her, or the size of the machine that alarmed her, no one knows. But what is known is that she lost control of the engine, hurled across the street and crashed into the storefront of  local segunda. (see graphic)
The building's owner was understandably tight-lipped about the details concerning the negotiations for damages with the city, only saying that they were talking.
But maybe she should get a guarantee from the chief that the department makes sure that the brakes are working on the fire engines just in case...

IT'S MR. AND MRS. LOUIS AND MARY ESTHER SOROLA

J.P. TIES THE KNOT

It's been just a little over a week ago that local attorney Louis Sorola and Justice of the Peace Pct.2, Place 3 Mary Esther Garcia joined their lives in holy matrimony. We had heard rumors to that effect and it wasn't until the happy couple provided us with the photo to confirm them that we felt comfortable announcing it to the cyberworld.
 We knew the groom's father, Moses, and we're sure that he approved of the match. The bride's mom is none other than Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner Sofie Benavides and now that this is done she can put away the shotgun since they're no longer living in sin. If not Sofie, then Mary Esther's dad Chuy can now sleep soundly. This s the second marriage for both and we wish them the best. We'd throw rice, but things are tough all over. Felicidades!

Friday, May 15, 2015

WITH ALL THAT BAGGAGE, IS ERIN SERIOUS ABOUT RUNNING?

By Juan Montoya
Word has reached us that former Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 Erin Garcia Hernandez is telling everyone within earshot at the Cameron County Courthouse that she will be a candidate for the soon-to-be-created County Court-At-Law #4 in 2016.
The creation of the new court has been in the works for years as the judges in the other three courts-at-law struggle to handle the crush of cases that are generated yearly in the county.
What some people find amazing is that Garcia Hernandez, after failing to make the runoff in the JP 2-2 race in 2014 can still be considering running a countywide race for the position. Already, there has been talk of former County Court-a-Law Judge Daniel T. Robles, who lost to County Court-at-Law #1 Arturo McDonald in the Democratic Primary March 2014, throwing his hat in the ring as well.
In that race, Robles' links to Jim Solis and Austin attorney Mark Rosenthal led to his resounding defeat by McDonald. Both Solis and Rosenthal were convicted of bribery and racketeering and sentenced to federal prison
But what surprises many people is that Garcia-Hernandez, who has been linked to various criminal prosecutions of staff members of her court implicated in cash-for-favors schemes, would believe she can be elected, especially in a countywide race.
During the 2014 Democratic primary for JP 2-2, Garcia came in third behind Jonathan Gracia and Yolanda Begum. Gracia eventually won the race in a subsequent runoff.
 “I can’t imagine anyone from Harlingen voting for her after the indictments of some of her staff members and her implication in the politiquera indictments of main-in vote fraud and vote harvesting,” said a local courthouse observer. “The cases aren’t over.”
Garcia Hernandez was identified as the main beneficiary of fraudulent mail-in ballots harvested by many women associated with what has been called the Hernandez vote-harvesting machine headed by her mother Norma and her father Ernie Hernandez. Hernandez was the county commissioner for Pct. 2 but agreed to resign in return for the Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz dropping six official misconduct charges stemming from the illegal hiring of his brother in law Roberto Curiel. Curiel is his wife Norma’s brother.
Hernandez pleaded to a charge of coercing a public servant in an unrelated case and was given deferred adjudication for his plea.
Just within the last few months, there has been movement seen in the local courts as the Texas Attorney General's Office prosecutors move against politiqueras who have been associated with different politicians to harvest votes.
In March, Facunda Banda Garcia pleaded guilty to Unlawful assistance of a voter and fined $233 and sent to a three-day jail sentence with one day credit. She served her time and was released.
Yet, still waiting in the wings is Sara Perales, a politiquera closely allied to the Ernie-Norma and Erin Hernandez vote-harvesting machine. Perales was indicted on two counts of a mail-in vote offense for handling a carrier envelope by a person other than the voter.
She attended a pre-trial hearing in Judge David Gonzalez's Cameron County Court-at-Law 3 and her case was moved to August 19 after her attorney Enrique Juarez failed to show. Her alleged offenses date back to the 2012 elections.
Alongside her was Vicenta Guajardo Verino who is charged with 10 counts of the same offenses as Perales stemming from the 2012 Democratic primary and runoff. Her attorney is Rey Cisneros, who also failed to show and her case was reset to Aug. 19 also.
Sources close to the AG's Office and the local chapter of Citizens Against Voter Abuse (CAVA) indicate both women are prepared to enter guilty pleas and accept at least a year's probation plus fines on the charges.
Sources say that as part of their pleas, they have agreed to give a full disclosure of their vote-harvesting activities to the AG's Office, including the names of he candidates who paid them to manipulate the votes on their behalf.
"This is not over by a long shot," said source. "Prosecuting the perpetrators – the people who paid them – is a little more difficult. But more is coming."
Politiquera Margarita Ozuna is fighting the indictments against her stemming from the 2012 election. She has been  historically aligned with the Hernandez machine. The current charges date to the Erin Hernandez-Yolanda Begum runoff election in 2012.She was charged with seven counts stemming from allegations she committed mail-in fraud by handling the carrier envelopes of voters without their consent.
In her defense, court-appointed attorney Richard Nuñez filed a special plea of double jeopardy in Judge Laura Betancourt's County Court At-Law 2 because he claimed that the offenses arose out of the same criminal act, and therefore Ozuna could not be tried again.
In response, Asst. Texas AG Jonathan White countered that Ozuna was not entitled to the protection because "each instance of 'ballot harvesting is a separate and distinct criminal act, the prior offense occurred more than two years prior to the current offenses charged, in a different election, involving different candidates; and the prior offense involved different victims."
Additionally, White told the court that "even within the same criminal episode (which Ms. Ozuna's 2010 and 2012 offenses are not), the same criminal offense can be committed multiple times, without invoking double jeopardy."
"Here," continues White, "the voters were different, the places where the ballots were harvested were different, the dates were different. the elections were different, the candidates were different, the potential victims (voters, candidates, and populace) were different, and the Election Code statutes violated were different."
Judge Betancourt agreed with White and denied Nuñez's motion and the case is set to go to trial on August 10.
As if that wasn't enough there have been charges of bribery against three women who prosecutors claim were involved in a cash-for-favorable decisions scheme in Garcia-Hernandez's court. Tape recordings introduced into the case of Maria Velia Silguero indicate that she claims that the JP was paid to rule favorably in a case involving a couple. Another tape recording indicates that Garcia had participated in the scheme. Garcia-Hernandez has never been charged.
Silguero was the sister of Iliana Cantu, a clerk in Garcia's office.
Those cases are also pending.
"With all that hanging over her head, why on earth is Erin running?" asked a county staffer. "Doesn't she think that her opponents will comb the court files and bring it out?"

LONGORIA'S TIFF WITH LOVER REVEALS ALLEGED ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS BY MARIN, ESCOBEDO

By Juan Montoya
A lovers' tiff between a city commissioner involved in a runoff in an upcoming election has revealed  a far-reaching pattern of illegal campaign contributions by individuals doing business with the City of Brownsville whose companies have received lucrative contracts.
As details of the incident involving District 1 commissioner Rick Longoria are bared in the social media, the implications of the allegations contained in the police report filed by former girlfriend Julie Olvera who arrived at his 2928 Impala Street home Thursday with police attempting to recover $4,000 in cash stored in the home as well as a spare key for her  personal vehicle have stunned the Brownsville community.
While Olvera says that the $4,000 she was seeking belonged to her, Longoria allegedly told officers that  the money was  part of cash contributions made by suporters to hep in his  reelection campaign.
Olvera, who reached out to social media in her ire to let people know the real Longoria, told blogger Jim Barton that the police located her  money in the top drawer of a dresser in Longoria's home, but only in the amount of $1,300.
"I asked that a report be filed about the missing money, but Mr. Longoria called the police supervisor for the area requesting the matter be kept quiet," stated  Ms. Olvera. "I want to recover the missing $2,700," she told Barton.
Meanwhile sources close to the police department said that when Longoria was asked of the origins of the $4,000 in cash,  Longoria said that they had been political contributions made by his supporters.
After the Thursday police visit to Longoria's home, Olvera also reached out to blogger Eduardo Paz-Martinez where she disclosed that she had personally witnessed Carlos Marin of Ambiotec and Jaime Escobedo of American Surveillance make cash contributions in the $1,000s through private fundraisers and cash payments.
"He's received up to $3,000 in just only one transaction I witnessed," Paz-Martinez reported she told him. "There were of lesser such as $240. The main individual is (American Surveillance)  Jaime Escobedo...sets up meetings with these people...
"I understand he runs a security company that he needs to get contracted by city so Rick is his man to get him to sway votes for contracts. He's stashing it away and not reporting his campaign contributions."
Carlos Marin, who also sits on the Brownsville Economic Development Council and was the force behind United Brownsville, is also mentioned by Olvera as a secret contributor to Longoria's  campaign.
"Ms. Olvera said Ambiotec honcho Carlos Marin staged a 'private fundraiser' for Longoria, during he was handed $4,000. On other occasions, she said Longoria would meet people (Jaime Escobedo, for one) at La Rancherita Cafe across the street from J.T. Canales Elementary, where he would receive as much as $2,500 in cash campaign donations."
One other individual mentioned by sources include city employee Mariano "Bean" Ayala,  director of the Brownsville Visitors and Conventions Bureau. Ayala reportedly gave  Longoria a $240 cash donation through a car window that was also not shown on the last two campaign contributions reports.
Under state law, any contribution made to a candidate of $100 or more must be reported in the campaign and expenditures and contribution  reports filed with the Brownsville City Secretary's  Office.
An examination of the last two reports (30 days before the election and eight days before the May 9 election) do not show Escobedo, Marin or Ayala as contributors.
Longoria's philandering may be viewed as mere misbehavior by an elected city official and Olvera's revelations as the wrath of a scorned woman, but that would be like grinding a sirloin steak into hamburger for the consumption of tabloid readers.
What these disclosures indicate is that the movers and the shakers have bought some city commissioners lock-stock-and-barrel in return for favorable decisions (and votes) on their part and have placed a hefty down payment on the rest through organizations such as United Brownsville and their stable of political cronies.
On the political side, pending the revision of provisional votes cast in the District 1 election, Longoria may face either Roman Perez or Michael Gonzalez in the runoff.
We await the action from the appropriate authorities on this matter.

rita