Thursday, May 5, 2016

VANITY OF VANITIES SAID THE PREACHER....ED RIVERA.

By Juan Montoya
Ward Colwell used to tell us that the worse thing you can do is to get into an argument with a newsman because he was sitting on a barrel full of ink.
Colwell used to be the city desk man at the Brownsville Herald way back when in the mid 1970s and he and Don Duncan virtually ran the editorial pages on their own.
The saying comes to mind after I was shown a Facebook post written by Texas Southmost College trustee Ed Rivera where he takes us to task for being – as he alleged – hypocritical in our support of Brownsville Navigation District commissioners Tito Lopez and Ralph Cowen. Rivera is running against Lopez after he first filed to run against incumbent John Reed.
We also hear that Reed had been told that if he doesn't do what the OP 10.33 bunch wants, he will be targeted in his race four years from now. Them is fighting words in South Texas and Reed didn't take it kindle. He openly endorsed Cowen and Lopez in a letter being distributed along with the men's campaign literature.
Rivera does have a point. In the past we have been critical of Cowen, the so-called Goodwill Ambassador for the City of Brownsville. We have also been critical of Lopez as well. We are somewhat flattered that someone has taken the time to dig up a six-year-old post where we took them to task.
A lot of things change in six years, however. The criticism that we heaped upon them back them was probably well deserved. However, as they like to say at the Golden Ditch, a lot of water has gone under that bridge.
At the time that these men took office the port was struggling to regain its footing following the scandal of the missing $21 million for the Bridge to Nowhere. There was a complete lack of trust by the citizens of their port and its trustees. Cargoes were flat and the junkets that some of the board members took to far off places like China and the Netherlands seemed to us, unwarranted because of the slim pickings we got in return.
But in those six years the port had reversed the bad fortunes of the past.
Incumbents Cowen and Lopez debunked claims made by Rivera and Villanueva both men (and paid by OP 10.33 moneybags Hernandez) that the port is seriously lagging behind others on the Gulf Coast.
The claims that Rivera and Villanueva  that they "can do better" flies in the face of the fact that the port has been having a banner year.
"The Port of Brownsville's performance is mediocre when compared to other ports in the United States," they charged in newspaper ads and a barrage of mailers.
These claims have been made, say Cowen and Lopez "...even though we've had a record year in terms of movement and, and have outperformed the Ports of Houston and Corpus Christi when the national trend for ports has shown a decrease."
In fact, said one of Cowen's half-page ads, "Our port has ranked in the top 3 Foreign Zones in the nation in the past three years and ranked Number I, two of the last three."
"(They) have never even attended a single port meeting, or visited the port other than to apply for the ballot or film a campaign video."
Lopez followed suit with his quarter-page ad which shows the Port Watch magazine indicating that the Port of Brownsville has led Houston and Corpus in in crease of tonnage.
"There was at least one port that ended the year as strongly as it kicked off 2015. Specifically, the Port of Brownsville took home top honors for all Texas ports with a 19 percent annual jump after a 4.5 percent monthly rise."
Come to think of it, six years ago the port didn't accomplish the things that they've done right now. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we think they should be reelected. Did we have a change of ehart? Maybe we did.
But how about this for being hypocritical?
Rivera did a 180-degree change when it comes to the LNG plants. Sensing a popular distaste for tax abatements for LNG plants, he is now shifting course and is now pronouncing himself against tax abatement for LNG plants just weeks after he was part of the "Texas For LNG" steering committee. If we changed our tune after seeing the port rebound from six years ago, it is nowhere comparable to his shift from just a few weeks ago.
https://www.facebook.com/EdRiveraBND/posts/481086965415062:0
http://www.texansforlng.com/about-us
Someone might want to ask his girlfriend whether she knew he was going to use her address to run for the port even though he has his home in Laguna Vista outside the port district. It is said that Cindy does no much care to be included in his scheme to take over the board on behalf of the OP 10.33 group funded by millionaire Mike Hernandez III.
Obviously, River can smell the bucks along with his Harvard roommate Carlos Marin.
It is said that community organizer Joe Angel Gutierrez – of Raza Unida fame – was livid when he found out that someone had stolen the group's database (Army of V) and were using it to call people to vote in the TSC race between Ruben Herrera and Daniel Pizaña. This was after the group's public spokesman stated that OP 10.33 was not endorsing anyone for the TSC board.
Well, we've kind of gotten used to the double talk emanating from the Virtue boys.
Ask them to explain how these founts of virtue can ignore the stench emanating from the fake residency issue surrounding Rivera
 The Cameron County Appraisal District knows he doesn't live on Ebony Drive in Brownsville. In fact, so does port election administrator Debby Duke and legal counsel Dan Rentfro and port CEO Eddie Campirano. Yet, they have chosen to do nothing about this obvious fraud.
And you call us hypocrites, Ed?
That website lists his homestead exemption for a home in 22 Harbor Town in Laguna Vista. Or is that one tiny little fib that a Harvard seminary student can make as long as he is on your side? Below is a picture of the house where Ed doesn't live.

 

QUICK: HOW MANY FIREMEN DOES IT TAKE TO WASH ONE BOAT?

(Ed.'s Note: We were sent this photo by one of our eight readers (we're growing) which shows a gaggle of firefighters congregated around one of the department's boat. Our readers asked how many firefighters it took to wash one boat and we count about half a dozen. We're sure some of them are there to lend moral support to their fellows and point out if they miss a spot. On the other hand, maybe it's just one guy actually doing the work and the others are supervisors.)

A LIFETIME OF HEROISM: ZARAGOZA 154 YEARS LATER

(Ed.'s Note: As time passes, we are seeing that the victory of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza in the heights of Puebla on that May 5, 1862 was merely the culmination of a lifetime of achievements. Zaragoza died at age 33, but in those three decades and three years, he packed what many men take lifetimes to achieve. Below is the translation of a proclamation to his Ejercito del Centro after they defeated the forces of Conservative Gen. Miguel Miramon during the Three Years War, or War of Reform. Puebla and the Cinco De Mayo were still two years away when he made the proclamation. At this time, he was 31 years old.)

"Courageous Companions:
In the midst of all the privations, and overcoming the incredible punishments that you have endured, you have undertaken a campaign that started with the Battle of Loma- Alta and ended in the glorious attack on Guadalajara, and the expedition to Sayula, where you made the reactionary hordes and their vain general before your terrible onslaught.
You have dislodged the enemy from his positions from where he – vain and conceited – did not dare do battle, and advanced to any battlefield he chose to measure yourself against him with his arms, blackened with the blood of free men, and darkened even more with the encouragement of tyrants in whose service they have earned their infamy.
In all this time you have not had payments, nor half the equipment you needed, nor blankets to cover you from the rain and cold; but you had a full heart of ambition for glory, fervid and vehement for the liberty and greatness of our nation, possessed of a demonstrated love for our popular institutions, daughters of justice and right, and these have proven enough that armed with these noble sentiments in your souls you have been content and satisfied.
The victory that you have attained in front of the gates of this city yesterday has extolled your glories, realized your aspirations and the yearned hopes of our Republic. This impulses have been enough to defeat the army of the reactionary forces and to raise over foundations, now indestructible, the monument based on just law, the magnificent and great banner of Reform.
In the most engaged moments of combat I could read with pride on your proud and embattled faces the anxiety with which you wanted to charge the enemy lines; you received my orders and were the first to step upon the battlefield of Miramon, the last refuge for their destroyed hopes of those miserable beings who dreamed of planting despotism on our land, forgetting that in the soil of Mexico exist men like you.
Courageous Soldiers of the Division del Centro:
We have little left to do here. A few more days' march and you can return to your homes, to place the laurels of your triumphs in the breasts of you spouses, of your mothers, of the beings which you most love, and receive in return the benedictions form those who love our nation, and the ovations that a grateful people confer upon their liberators.
Soldiers of the People: Long Live Freedom! Long Live the Constitution of 1857! Long Live the Reforma! Receive the best wishes of your compatriot and friend."


The statue on the top of the hill at El Presidio near Goliad was given to the State of Texas by the City of Puebla, Mexico. It features a young-looking bespectacled Zaragoza and at its base is this inscription: "Mexicanos: Los hijos de este generación nacimos libres así nos conservaremos o moriremos en la demanda." – Ignacio Zaragoza.
"Mexicans: The sons of this generation were born free and free we will remain or die demanding it." – Ignacio Zaragoza.
On March 24, 1829, Zaragoza was born in Espiritu Santo, Texas, present-day Goliad.
At the outbreak of the Texas Independence in 1834, his family moved to Matamoros where he attended elementary school for a few years.
They later moved to Monterrey in 1844 where he entered the seminary and later, worked for a local store keeper.
In the aftermath of Zachary Taylor's invasion of northern Mexico in 1846, he joined the local militias in 1847. By 1853, he had reached the rank of captain at the age of 22.
He joined the Liberal armies and in 1855 and participated in important battles including one against Conservative Gen. Adrian Woll in Saltillo, an action that earned him the rank of colonel. When Commanding General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega took ill, Zaragoza, named quarter master of the army, was assigned command. He was also assigned the pacification of Mexico City before Benito Juarez entered the capital, a recognition partly as reward for his defeat of the Conservative forces in the heights of Calpulapan.
In 1861 he was named Minister of War by Juarez and the following year he left that post to head the Division del Ejercito del Oriente to face the French army and its mercenaries at Puebla. His wife died as he battled the French and he was unable to attend her funeral or burial.
His report to Juarez consisted of two sentences. "The national arms have been covered with glory. The French troops conducted themselves with valor, their commander clumsily."
In Sept. 8, 1862, he contracted typhoid fever and died when the Republic most needed his valor and strength. He was 33.  
    

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

WHY NOT NAME HUNTER ROOM COLLECTION AFTER YOLANDA?

By Juan Montoya
A lifetime ago I had returned from attending a Midwestern university and had collected some old newspapers I had found strewn about in the basement of one of the old houses where I lodged as a student.
One was The first copy of The Woman's Journal, a collaboration of articles by women suffragettes Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe and H.R. Blackwell and daughter Alice Stone Blackwell, among others. That copy was published in 1870.
I had collected other old newspapers dating back to the 1800s that featured serial stories by the likes of Jules Verne and other notable authors.
I did not want to keep all these treasures to myself and contacted Yolanda Gonzalez, then curator of the John J. Hunter Room at Texas Southmost College.
Gonzalez quickly recognized the historical and research value of the newspapers and we struck a deal. She would copy, then laminate the Woman's Journal for me so I could pass on the laminated copy to my three girls, and she could keep the copy and the original newspapers with the serial novels by Verne and the other authors.
As far as I know, they are still in the Hunter Room collection.
Later, while doing research on Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, the president of Mexico who succeeded Benito Juarez, I came across a book on the shelves of the then-Arnulfo Oliveira Library which had been published in Brownsville in the late 1800s.
Much later we learned that the book may have been a fictionalized account of his presidency by a local writer, but the fact that the historical book (fake as it may have been) was on the shelves, surprised me as much as it surprised Yolanda. She promptly placed it in the Hunter collection.
Years later, after Ms. Gonzalez had unfortunately passed away, I came upon a copy of Jose Luz Saenz' dairy of a World War I Mexican-American veteran. I found the book in a pile of tomes in an alley behind the house that had belonged to Ricardo Molina, a Chicano activist who was a surveyor and at one time also was the engineer for the City of Brownsville. His family probably got tired of having the boxes of his books mildewing in the garage and heaved them in the alley by the trash.
I thought might be of interest to local readers and researchers. This was the first time I had ever heard of a published diary of a Mexican-American veteran from that war. Just like before, I went to the Hunter room and met Javier Garcia, a UTB-TSC staffer who wrote about historical buildings and local history. I showed him the book and he was ecstatic. So we made a deal. He kept the original and I received a bound Photostat  copy of it and he threw in a disc copy to sweeten the deal.
Just a few months later Javier told me that several students had already used the book to make research papers for their classes. It was written in Spanish.
Much later I learned through friends that a translation of the book had been made and that students limited in Spanish could now read the contents in English. But there is something unique in reading Spanish as it was written back then that a translation doesn't quite convey.
We have now been told that the Hunter Room Collection – the extensive archive of documents and maps detailing important events in South Texas history – may have a new home.
A story in the local newspaper says that the Brownsville Historical Association was granted guardianship of the collection by TSC.
It is planned that the collection would be included with other valuable archives at Market Square inside the future South Texas Center for Historical and Genealogical Research, including the Chamber of Commerce Archives, the Cameron County Land Deed Record and the A.A. Champion Collection.
The paper says that Patrick Gonzales, associate vice president for marketing and communications, said the University of Texas RGV is currently working with TSC to ensure that access to the collection will be available in the best way possible.
“It’s early enough that nothing has been decided, but discussions are underway between our university librarian, Paul Sharpe, and Mike Shannon, TSC vice president of Student Services,” Gonzales said.
As a promoter of making every available resource accessible to local students and history buffs, I hope that when that decision is reached it won't be one that will limit the access to that trove of data to the hours of operation of the BHA.
And I sincerely hope that TSC will insist that its students be allowed permanent access to the collection whether the BHA or the UTRGV want to or not.
Come to think of it, maybe naming some sort of room at the new digs after Yolanda might not be such a bad idea. 

OUR PORT OF BROWNSVILLE PICKS AND WHY WE MADE THEM

 

PORT OF BROWNSVILLE
Ralph Cowen (inc.)
Raul Villanueva (banker)
Pick: It is too bad that Villanueva felt he had to run as a ticket with fellow traveler Ed Rivera running against Tito Lopez. He is running on the OP 10.33 ticket at the behest (and control) of millionaire and self-anointed messiah Mike Hernandez III who targeted Cowen and Lopez as "detrimental" to the growth of the port. This flies in the face of the port's record-breaking year in cargo and value-added contributions to the region. If anything, these two races will be the litmus test for this organization made up of the shadow government United Brownsville supporters and a leadership that expects the rest of us to follow like lemmings in the direction that Hernandez and "job developer" Carlos Marin dictate. Granted, Cowen is not a dynamic leader, but he has proven in the time at the port that he can make decisions based on the well-being of the district. We already had a banker, Fred Rusterberg, on the board of the port's Brownsville-Rio Grande Railroad, and he managed to sell this profitable operation to a Denver-based consortium for a song. Bankers like profiting from other people's money, and one was enough. The fact that OP 10.33 contributed $10,000 "in kind" to both Villanueva and Rivera and then another $10,000 in cash to each to defeat Cowen and Lopez makes us feel as though they will be indebted to take their marching orders from Hernandez and Marin. Thanks, but no thanks.        

John Reed (inc.)
No opponent (Ed Rivera switched)
Pick: It's unfortunate no one ran against Reed in this election because we probably would have gone with his opponent. OP 10.33 pulled Rivera from his position and told him to run against Lopez. If they were really serious, they would have realized that the stevedore company belonging to Reed's brother-in-law, Mark Hoskins, of Gulf Stream Marine, single-handedly busted the local longshoremen's union and lowered their hourly wages to the lowest of any port in the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard. If OP 10.33 had really wanted to improve wages and opportunity, they could have targeted Reed as a message that they were against the slave wages for workers at the dangerous and heavy jobs that they perform for Hoskins and other stevedores who have profited like thieves as a result of Gulf Stream Marine's breaking of the local longshoremen union. To his credit, Reed has come out in support of his fellow trustees Cowen and Lopez. A vote for or against Reed won't really matter. We'll just pass on this one.

Tito Lopez (inc.)
Patrick Anderson (anti-LNG)
Ed Rivera

Pick: Lopez has a personal stake in making the port profitable and seeing it succeed. He employs literally hundreds of truck drivers, mechanics and other workers who make sure that cargoes get from there to Mexico and vice versa. His opponent Rivera has none of this, although he claims he is a master of manufacturing and logistics. Trustees don't manufacture anything out there. Professionals like Lopez do. Let's face it. This port is symbiotically attached to northern Mexico and its mode of production. As goes the northern Mexican economy, so does the fortunes of the port. What's worse, even as OP 10.33 preaches the virtues of sincerity and honesty, they turn a blind eye to the fact that Rivera borrowed his girl friend's address in order to run because he lives outside the district in Laguna Vista. His homestead exemption is there and the TSC website indicates he lives in Laguna Vista. In fact, when he went to replace a lost voting card, he had them issue him on with the address 22 Harbor Town, in Laguna Vista. 
Anderson, is, as far as we know, a decent, righteous candidate. He started as a one-issue candidate but later clarified his stand and his platform emphasizes economic growth with a concern for environmental protection and sustainable growth. Those are worthy planks and we tend to agree with him. However, Lopez's experience and his being a known quantity make him, we feel, the best candidate at this juncture. 

Whether you agree with us or not, those are our reasons for our picks. And we know that this year, especially, going to vote has become a repetitive act. But voter fatigue aside, these two elections are important for the districts and for the region as a whole. Please vote.  

OUR TSC CHOICES AND THE REASONS WHY WE MADE THEM


 
By Juan Montoya
Early voting in the Brownsville Navigation District and the Texas Southmost College boards' elections start at 8 a.m. Monday.
Although we usually aren't in the habit of endorsing candidates we feel that these two boards are critical to the economic and educational development of this city and region that we will take the unprecedented step of endorsing candidates in both races.
The candidates for TSC positions are (the bold ones are our picks) :



Place 3: (Ed Rivera's old seat)
Evelyn Cantu
J.J. de Leon
Tony Juarez
Tony Zavaletta

Pick: It is with no small degree of sadness that we must part ways with our dear old friend Dr. Zavaleta in his bid for this position. Tony and I go way back to my days with the Brownsville Herald when he was a college instructor. He has since reached greater heights and as an anthropology major he has made great contributions to the knowledge of local history, culture and medicinal plants through numerous publications.
However, the reason we pick Dr. Juarez is based on his specific set of skills, namely his being a Certified Public Accountant, a skills set that the board desperately needs at this reconstruction juncture. Another, and perhaps more important reason is because as a high-ranking administrator in the Julieta Garcia administration of the UTB-TSC "partnership," he was privy to her plan to abolish the community college and turn over all of the assets (from bank accounts, buildings and real estate) to the oil-and-gas wealthy University of Texas System...and said and did nothing.
It is now, we feel, disingenuous for him to seek a position on the board of a community college that he was willing to see abolished. For that, most of all, we have to go with Juarez.
Cantu is being pushed by the likes of Mary Rose Cardenas (the main sponsor of the "partnership" which funneled millions – some say more than $1 billion over 22 years) to the UT System. She is also receiving bucks from United Brownsville and Ambiotec's Carlos Marin and wife Dr. Elena Marin, of Su Clinica Familiar. She may be great at chaperoning the Municipal Ambassador students of the BISD to the places of power, but she has had little or no policy-making experience. The need now is for the college to rebuild itself and provide more accessible and affordable education to its students. Cantu has little or no experience in those affairs. At this time, On the Job Training cannot be an option. We do, however, think her pretty campaign sings are catchy. It's too bad that attractiveness and good presentation is but a small factor in running a community college.
De Leon is also lacking in independent policy-making experience. For years he has been a receptionist and gofer for various high-ranking BISD administrators. Although that may swing a small number of votes, what the board doesn't need now is another "yes man" as it did when Garcia was president of the "partnership." TSC can do without him at this critical juncture of its new existence.

Place 4: (Held by Trey Mendez)
Beatriz M.  Hockaday
Trey Mendez

Pick: We really have nothing against Hockaday, we have noted in the past that she was a staff member of the OP 10.33 when its CEO Michael Hernandez III urged young people in the headquarters to take an active part in local politics through voting, registering voters, or being candidates. Bea took this to heart and filed for the position held by Mendez. Horrified, Hernandez and Marin (in charge of job development with OP 10.33) rushed to contribute cash to Mendez's campaign as a sign of contrition. We usually part ways with Marin and Hernandez, but in this case, they know a winner when they see one and rushed to be on the winning side.


Place 5: (Kiko Rendon's seat)
Ruben Herrera
Daniel Pizaña

Pick: All we know about Dan Pizaña is that he is young, an attorney on the make, and that his association with TSC board member Art Rendon (of BISD fame when he sued in federal court and won) as his son's law career mentor probably pushed him to run. Art Rendon (another dear friend) has been a disappointment to many on the board of TSC. He has resisted pulling the plug on the annual $25,000 "membership" to United Brownsville, and has generally swung in the direction of the prevailing wind. At BISD, he has been shuffled from here to there by an administration and a board who are reluctant to mess with a TSC trustee with which the district must, of necessity, must work very closely. We admire his loyalty and gratitude to Pizaña for allowing Rendon's law-school son to "shadow" him for a summer. But the future of this college cannot be based on a personal relationship. Herrera, on the other hand, has ample experience serving on various boards and is adept in the nuances of policy making which are going to be critical in TSC's formative years as a community college born anew. We have to go with Dr. Anthony Knopp on this one. He is Herrera's treasurer, and if anyone loves TSC and knows its critical importance to the development of our city and region, it is him. We're with you on Ruben, Dr. Tony.  
 
 

THE LUCIOS' PLOY: PLAYING BOTH ENDS AGAINST THE MIDDLE


By Juan Montoya
So how is it that on one hand, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. is outwardly supporting Ralph Cowen in his bod to remain on the board of the Brownsville Navigation District while Son of Lucio Eddie Lucio III is a paid consultant with OP 10.33, the group that wants to oust him and replace him with banker Raul Villanueva?
Lucio III's role in the group's slash-and-burn strategy of targeting politician they consider "detrimental" to their goals has become all the more apparent because of his visits to local elected leaders trying to grease the skids for its acceptance into the local political pecking order. Call it "consulting" as the senior Lucio did when he "introduced" Dannenbaum Engineering to a former port board and had them oust Brown and Root to set up the $21-million heist of the Bridge to Nowhere. Before that, Sen. Lucio also talked the Willacy County commissioners to give the prison contract to his "clients" that resulted in four commissioners getting indicted for taking bribes from people associated with that company.
If you remember, Ralph Cowen is the brother of Paul Cowen, the longtime (20 years plus) administrative assistant to the senator. The senior Lucio obviously feels some sort of feigned loyalty to his trusted aide.
Yet, while the senator has come out for Ralph, his son is running interference for the very group that is trying to oust him.
How that does that work?
"That's the typical Lucio strategy of playing both ends against the middle," said a longtime political observer. "If one wins, the Lucios win. If the other wins, a Lucio still wins. The Lucios look out for the Lucios.
The father-son one-two punch has been finessed by Lucio Jr. and Son-of-Lucio III in past races. For example, in the past race for Cameron County Clerk, while one (Lucio III) was ostensibly supporting Arnold Flores, a former office staffer, the senior Lucio seemed to be in countless photos with current clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez, the eventual winner.
Do the Cowens know this is happening? And if they do, will their longtime alliance to the Lucios blind them to the sleight-of-hand the Lucios are playing on them? Or are they so beholdent o the Lucio Dynasty that they will overlook the obvious manipulation (for money) of their families' friendship?
So whether Cowen wins in this race for the port or not, guess who will come out on top anyway? You guessed it! The Teflon Lucios.

Monday, May 2, 2016

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS BEWARE: TSC NURSING PROGRAM HINGES ON TRUSTEE ELECTIONS: VOTE HERRERA, NOT PIZANA

By Juan Montoya
In their blind loyalty to Texas Southmost College President Lili Tercero, several trustees, including Art Rendon and Ed Rivera, have shown they could care less about losing the college's nursing program in which millions have been invested over more than a quarter century and voted to give her a year's extension on her $228,228 contract instead.
In their view, possibly losing the hallmark TSC nursing program is justifiable because there are "only" 50 student enrolled there now.
"Why should we care about 50 students when we have 5,000 other to worry about?," goes their way of thinking.
Rivera and Rendon poo-hooed trustee Trey Mendez when he protested that the college had invested millions over the years to build the program, which, before the "partnership" with the University of Texas at Brownsville, was a gem in the TSC academic and vocational crown.
In fact, after the meeting of the trustees last Thursday, Rendon berated Mendez for his support of the program and could be heard belittling his views.
Rivera, who did not run for reelection as a TSC trustee this year, is running for commissioner with the Brownsville Navigation District, even as questions arise over his living outside the district boundaries in Laguna Vista. Both his voting card address is listed there as is his homestead exemption with the Cameron County Appraisal District.
Rivera has managed to worm himself into the good graces of OP 10.33 Mike Hernandez and engineer Carols Marin who have made no secret that they want to take over the port to steer business toward their cronies and business associates. Toward that end, OP 10.33 has invested more than $40,000 in cash donations (by Hernandez alone). The group's website states that the candidates they oppose – like Cowen, Lopez and Herrera – are "detrimental" to their goals.
In the case of the suspect Rivera residency, neither Debbie Duke, the port's elections official, nor port counsel Daniel Rentfro, took any stand on the issue and he remained on the ballot.
Rendon has also led a charmed elective existence.
He and former TSC trustee filed on the last day for the TSC board and then – after no one else filed at the end of the day – Torres withdrew leaving Rendon without an opponent.
Rendon is supporting Daniel Pizaña for the TSC board against local attorney Ruben Herrera. They have painted Herrera as a bon vivant and have circulated pictured of Herrera carousing during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. What they don't say is that the photos displayed of Herrera with chorus girls and a sign saying "Help to get drunk" were taken by his wife and placed on his Facebook page as a gag.
The graphic above with Rendon in a hairnet is due to the fact that the Brownsville Independent School District Administration has relegated him to the district's Food and Nutrition Service, a dead end for administrators who have fallen in disfavor with the district.
Pizaña's signs are also featured prominently on the front door of the OP 10.33 headquarters near the intersection of Palm Boulevard and Boca Chica.
Under an order issued January 21, 2016 the Texas Board of Nursing – citing dismal examination pass rates under 80 percent during the last three years – ordered the change in its status from Full Approval With Warning to Conditional Approval.
It was news to some of the trustees.
"We had been kept in the dark about these problems of the nursing program up until now," said one. "The administration never told us anything until now."
As a result, the TSC program is prohibited from enrolling students, will remain on conditional approval until it demonstrates a pass rate for first-time candidates of at least 80 percent on the 2016 National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam). That exam has one purpose, to determine if it's safe for students to begin practice as an entry-level nurse.
The slide in the scores nursing program exams back in 2013, when the test exam results dipped from 81.02 to 71.30 percent. They continued plummeting to 46.36 percent in 2014 to 57.14 in 2015.
And while 81 out of 102 passed in the 2011 test, only 40 out of 70 candidates passed the exam in 2015 after TSC's status was changed to Full Approval with Warning to Conditional Approval (Click on graphics to enlarge.)
Currently, there are 52 students enrolled in the program. 13 were to have graduated in December 2015, another 30 in May 2016 and nine in May 2017. Their fate is up in the air.
Pizaña is Rendon and Rivera's choice to replace trustee Kiko Rendon on the board who chose not to run for reelection. Pizaña acted as Art Rendon son's mentor" and allowed him to shadow him during his work as an attorney, Rendon's son in currently attending law school.
If Pizaña has the same philosophy as does his booster Art Rendon and Rivera, it will just be a matter of time before the opportunity for local students to enroll for a nursing career vanishes, and they could care less about the students and won't lift a finger to save it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

LOCAL BOYS TAKE GLOVES OFF: WILL OP 10.33-FUNDED MISLEADING RIVERA-VILLANUEVA CLAIMS CARRY PORT DISTRICT ELECTION? REED BACKS COWEN, LOPEZ

By Juan Montoya
After an election season keeping quiet about claims made by OP 10.33-bought candidates Ed Rivera and Raul Villanueva about the Port of Brownsville's performance, the local boys (Ralph Cowen and Tito Lopez) have taken off the kid gloves.
Joining them in denouncing the antics of the Dallas-based cadre of OP 10.33 is port commissioner John Reed, who sent an open letter to voters urging them to vote for the incumbents. (Click on graphic of letter below to enlarge.)
This after enduring a barrage of numerous slick mailouts, paid crews of pro-Rivera-Villanueva-(TSC candidate) Daniel Pizaña handing out their campaign literature, politiqueros hauling voters on the OP 10.33 volunteer list, and a newspaper ad campaign featuring misleading claims about the port's "dismal" performance under the incumbents.
On Sunday, also, OP 10.33 honcho Mike Hernandez III was featured on the front page story in the daily saying he will decline to invest in the renovation or purchase of the crumbling Jardin Hotel. In a previous article, Hernandez had been portrayed as a knight in shining armor who was going to restore it to its former glory.
In three ads (a half-pages and one quarter page) in Sunday's Brownsville Herald, incumbents Cowen and Lopez debunked claims made by both men (and paid by OP 10.33 moneybags Hernandez) that the port is seriously lagging behind others on the Gulf Coast.
They charge that the Rivera-Villanueva claim that "we can do better" flies in the face of the fact that the port has been having a banner year.
"The Port of Brownsville's performance is mediocre when compared to other ports in the United States."
These claims have been made, say Cowen and Lopez "...even though we've had a record year in terms of movement and, and have outperformed the Ports of Houston and Corpus Christi when the national trend for ports has shown a decrease."
In fact, says one of Cowen's half-page ads, "Our port has ranked in the top 3 Foreign Zones in the nation in the past three years and ranked Number I, two of the last three."
"(They) have never even attended a single port meeting, or visited the port other than to apply for the ballot or film a campaign video."
Lopez follows suit with his quarter-page ad which shows the Port Watch magazine indicating that the Port of Brownsville has led Houston and Corpus in in crease of tonnage.
"There was at least one port that ended the year as strongly as it kicked off 2015. Specifically, the Port of Brownsville took home top honors for all Texas ports with a 19 percent annual jump after a 4.5 percent monthly rise."
And sources say that port commissioner John Reed, who did not have a challenger for reelection, was livid when Hernandez's reps told him he was in their debt because they did not field a candidate against him and should be grateful. If he does not comply with their wishes and their agenda for the port, he was told, he would have one next time around.
Miffed, Reed fired off a letter where he denounced the backing of Rivera and Villanueva by a "Dallas businessman and a local engineer (Carlos Marin) who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on their campaigns" and urged voters to support Cowen and Lopez.
"Because of this, you have to ask the obvious question and that is, what are they going to be asking in return for their large cash contributions?," Reed asks in his letter.
Rivera had first filed against Reed but unexplainably changed places later in the last day of filing for the position and filed against Lopez..
The question now has become: With only two days left in early voting (Tuesday is last day) and the election this Saturday, is the Cowen-Lopez response too late to save their seats and will Hernandez be able to buy this election?
Put 'em up! Put 'em up!

THE GOOD PEOPLE'S LITTLE WAGON THAT STUNK: PART 2

Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Part 2:
(Ed.'s Note.: In Part 1, the Good People built a wagon to ride in a parade to celebrate them being Good People even if some of their challenged offspring could only reach Wannabe status.)

The very special wagon was built and the Good People thought it was very special as well and united to see the shiny new wagon that the Little People had paid for. It was fluffy and shiny even though it was built mostly of air and paper and flour paste.
This was what their mommies had meant! This was what it meant to be special!
It was time to go out and bask in the admiration and praise that they deserved for being so very, very special.
Then a curious thing happened. Every time they would all climb on the wagon for a parade, beaming with pride over how very, very special they were, the Little People along the parade route would turn away in disgust and quickly step away.
Some were seen vomiting on the roadside or heaving like they were about to. Some of Good People wondered if it could have been all the Wannabes trailing behind clamoring for a place on the wagon, begging with their cries that they were special, too, that was ruining the parade.
Some of the other Good People pointed out that this was happening when the wagon approached, not when it passed, so it could not have been all the Wannabes in the rear. The Good People just couldn’t understand why the Little People along the way couldn’t see how very, very special they were. The situation got so bad that some of the Little People had risen to positions that had been the birthright of the Good People or at worst filled by some starry-eyed Wannabe.
The more they paraded, the worse it got. Some of their most loyal Wannabes were losing hope and actually had the gall and audacity to deny food and comfort to some of the Wannabe children of the Good People!
Something was very wrong.
They were all Good People because their mommies told them they were special and they deserved to parade, so it had to be something else. But what could it be? OF COURSE! It was the wagon that stunk! That just had to be the answer!
Since not one of the Good People would be so rude as to point out that another of the Good People made a horrible mistake, especially the creation of a wagon that apparently stunk to high heaven, they cast about for another way to have parades to show how very, very special they were.
Some of the Good People saw that someone from out of town was building a new wagon. This wagon looked like something that the Little People would notice and cheer as it went by. They weren’t sure if it had been built by undiscovered Good People or just a Wannabe, but it didn’t matter. It was the shiny new wagon that they wanted.
The original builder of the first apparently very stinky wagon barged in on the builder of the new and very shiny wagon and insisted that he knew how to drive one of these things. Very quickly he hitched up a few Wannabes to pull the wagon through town on a parade and got a lot of Wannabes to push as well.
They put up lots of signs and posters announcing the parade and how very, very special they all were. They spent a lot of the new wagon builder’s money and some of Good People climbed up on the wagon as well as a new parade was started.
The parade hadn’t gone even one block when the sounds of retching again filled the streets and the Little People were throwing rotten vegetables at the Wannabes pulling the wagon, causing them to stumble and make the wagon jerk with fits and starts.
Pieces started to fall off of the new shiny wagon and the wheels started to wobble. The Good People were confused. Wasn’t this a new and shiny wagon? Didn’t it look like something the Little People would cheer? Why did this wagon seem to stink as much as the other one did?
The answer was simple if the Good People would have asked anyone other than each other what was wrong. If they had asked one of the Little People, they would have gotten the answer: It wasn’t the wagon that stunk.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

THE LITTE WAGON THAT STUNK: A GRIM B'TOWN FAIRY TALE



Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Part I
Once upon a time there was a very small village with lots of people in it.
There were so many, many people that most would have thought it was a city. The village did what villages do.
Children grew up sometimes holding funny ideas until convinced by their friends to abandon them or risk being shunned as spoiled rotten. Occasionally as happens one or two would manage to slip through childhood still harboring these notions. Generally they just grew up living miserable lives blaming everyone else for their unhappiness and that was the end of it.
BUT when there were enough people in the little village a strange thing happened. These people who had been destined to live miserable, unloved, and unfulfilling lives started to gravitate toward each other and meet and talk.
They discovered an amazing coincidence: In each case their mommies had told them they were special!
Having been convinced of this fact for their entire lives, when they met each other for the first time they immediately recognized this bond that they held in common, “Why my mommy told me I was special, too!”, they would gush and cry and hug each other and discover all the good and special things about each other that had made their mommies proud.
They came to know each other as “The Good People”, but it would have been bad manners and rude to say that in front of “The Little People” that were less fortunate than themselves and not special at all.  They kept this knowledge among themselves and they just referred to each other as “Important People” in public because that didn’t seem quite so offensive to the Little People, who they found out didn’t like to be called Little People at all.
It wasn’t very long before The Good People discovered that praising each other for how very, very special they were had an almost magical effect: The more money and favors they granted each other, the more they got in return.
Not just money, but praise from the other Good People as well!  Their mommies were right; they were very, very special indeed! The best part was that everything they need to give each other was furnished by the Little People who foolishly used to leave it in big piles on tables in boardrooms and put it in a silly place called the tax rolls.
So the Good People created boards and commissions to put themselves and each other on. These gave the Good People a place to share how special they were with each other and to make rules and recommendations for the money left lying around by the Little People.
 There never seemed to be quite enough to actually do anything really important with so they simply borrowed more and more.
A few of the Little People had spent most of their lives trying to convince the Good People that their mommies had told them that they were special, too. All the Good People had to do was to pat them on the head and tell them that soon they would be good people, too. 
Little People who wanted to be Good People were so foolish and stupid sometimes. The Good People knew that you were born that way and could not simply become Good People because you wanted to, but it was cruel to dash the Little People’s dreams, so they came to be known as The Wannabes. Sometimes the Wannabes worked so, so hard to become Good People that they rose to positions where you would expect to find Good People.
These Wannabes, still being foolish Wannabes, gave the Good People everything they asked for in return for nothing more than the promise that someday they, too, would become Good People.
You know the expression, “Sometimes bad things happen to good people”? Sadly, it often happened that the Good People would give birth to a Wannabe.
Having no worth and no real skills it would have been unthinkable to just cast them into the world of the Little People, where they had little hope for survival.
So the Good People created jobs among themselves for these poor unfortunates and used the free resources from the boards and committees to care for and look after them.
Not content to simply congratulate each other on how very special they were at parties and board meetings, they decided that they needed (and well deserved!) their own parade from time to time to show everyone else how very, very special they were. Some of the Good People decided that they needed a wagon for the parade.
The other Good People thought this was a good idea because quite naturally, any idea proposed by one of the Good People was always a good idea.
 
Next: Part 2: The Good People and Wannabes come up with a new wagon for their parade.

OP 10.33'S HERNANDEZ ADDS $20 K MORE, BACKS PIZANA

By Juan Montoya
OP 10.33 honcho Mike Hernandez III just raised the ante for his two candidates against Port of Brownsville incumbents Tito Lopez and Ralph Cowen by giving them $20,000 more to take over the navigation district.
So far, Hernandez has given Ed Rivera and Raul Villanueva $20,000 each, $10,000 "in-kind" in the previous reporting period and another $10,000 each in cash this time.
The stated goal of the political engagement: To take over important boards and to oust candidates and office holders he finds "detrimental" to the progress of the area.
Lopez and Cowen, apparently, don't fit the bill while Rivera, whose residency in the port district has been questioned, and Villanueva, a banker and a newcomer to local politics, are his kind of folks.
And despite protests that the group is not backing anyone in the Texas Southmost College race, Daniel Pizaña's campaign signs are adorning the front of their headquarters. Pizaña is running for Kiko Rendon's seat and has local attorney Ruben Herrera as his opponent.
And while Cowen's report for eight days before the election lists $7,625 in donations (and $6,477 in expenditures) from longtime port stevedores and local professionals, Villanueva reports $22,550 with $19,304 in expenditures.
Cowen's contributors are a list of Brownsville's Who's Who such as: attorney Alex Begum, Alamo Iron Works CEO William M. Connor, S & S Seafoods CEO Sammy Snodgrass, Stevedore Kenton Schaefer, pediatrician Asim Zamir. CPA Billy Bradford, Robert A. and Robert Lee Ostos, of Dix Shipping, and port commissioner John Wood, Pat Pace, Frank Parker, and Joe Rivera and among others.
Villanueva's main contributors for this reporting period are OP 10.33's Mike Hernandez, $10,000, of Colleyville, and his boss (Plains Bank Chairman of the Board) Alan B. White, $5,000, of Dallas. Contractor Carlos Medoza chipped in $2,500 and Rafael Chacon, of Terrazas Contractors another $500 as did ERO International (no name), of McAllen.
Tito Lopez lists no contributors except for the $20,000 loan to himself.
Rivera, on the other hand, lists $13,157 in contributions and $11,409 in expenses.
He also list as "in kind" contributions $675 from LAD T-shirts, and $2,500 for voter file access by the Texas Democratic Party in Austin.
Both Rivera and Villanueva list about the  dozen door-to-door campaign workers and a contract labor manager as "contract labor."
Even City of Brownsville commissioner Rick Longoria got a piece of the OP 10.33 pie with his $500 payday for providing music to one of Villanueva's events April 26.
Meanwhile, passing motorists by the OP 10.33 headquarters can see that Rivera and TSC candidate Pizaña are the featured flavor of the day judging by their large signs in the front.
Early voting in the port and college elections continues Monday and Tuesday, May 3. Election day is May 7.

Friday, April 29, 2016

BULLETIN: PERMITS DIRECTOR EVARISTO GAMEZ RESIGNS

By Juan Montoya

We have received reports – unconfirmed by the the City of Brownsville administration – that City of Brownsville Building Department Director Evaristo Gamez has handed in his resignation.
The news emerged just a few days ago after applicants for occupancy permits before the City of Brownsville Building Department complained that a member of the staff was taking bribes in return for facilitating the approval of their applications.
Other sources say that Gamez had submitted his request for his retirement  but that he was talked out of it until his replacement had been found and the mess inside the permits department had been straightened out.
Jaime Alberto Buentello, a Commercial Plans Examiner was charged with two felony and three misdemeanor charges.
Buentello was charged with bribery, a second-degree felony and Theft, a state jail felony. Other charges include two Class A misdemeanor charges of tampering with government documents, and abuse of official capacity .
Buentello turned himself  himself in to face the charges. At least one – maybe two – applicants for the permits have said that part of the fees charged by Buentello was a $1,000 "consulting" fee to expedite the permit process.
At the same time, we understand that some residents who have had their application for occupation permits languish at that department have been approached by members of the staff under director Gamez to inquire whether there's anything that they can do to get them their permits.
In one case, we have learned that Gamez personally invited an applicant whose permit had been denied for at least three months and bought him dinner to see how he could help. Then, as if by a miracle, the long-south permit was issued to the applicant this Monday.
"It seems like they are going through all the permits that had been delayed and are trying to clear up their waiting list," said the relative of one applicant who was contacted.
Apparently, the list has a good many names on it since Gamez and his staff were trying to whittle it down before too much time passes.
We first reported that Buentello was being investigated after an applicant complained that he had paid $3,500 for a commercial permit and still had been denied. This was followed by a second complaint where the applicant said he had paid him $2,500 for the permit and another $1,000 for "consulting" and seven months later no permit was forthcoming.

TSC NURSING PROGRAM ON HOLD: NO ENROLLMENT TIL 2017

By Juan Montoya
For months, nursing student candidate Enrique Sandoval (not his name) had been told that he might be able to register for the Texas Southmost program sometime this Spring.
But although he tried to talk to the directors and admissions counselors, no one seemed to be able to tell him anything definite.
Finally, he was told that he could try to register for the program at the end of 2016.
Yesterday, during the April meeting of the TSC board of trustees, the truth finally came out.
Under an order issued January 21, 2016 the Texas Bard of Nursing – citing dismal examination pass rates under 80 percent during the last three years – ordered the change in its status from Full Approval With Warning to Conditional approval.
It was news to some of the trustees.
"We had been kept in the dark about these problems of the nursing program up until now," said one. "The administration never told us anything until now."
As a result, the TSC program is prohibited from enrolling students, will remain on conditional approval until it demonstrates a pass rate for first-time candidates of at least 80 percent on the 2016 National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam). That exam has one purpose, to determine if it's safe for students to begin practice as an entry-level nurse.
The slide in the scores nursing program exams back back in 2013, when the test exam results dipped from 81.02 to 71.30 percent. They continued plummeting to 46.36 percent in 2014 to 57.14 in 2015.
And while 81 out of 102 passed in the 2011 test, only 40 out of 70 candidates passed the exam in 2015 after TSC's status was changed to Full Approval with Warning. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)
Currently, there are 52 students enrolled in the program. 13 were to have graduated in December 2015, another 30 in May 2016 and nine in May 2017. Their fate is up in the air.
If the trustees were disappointed that they had been kept in the dark, the students who were trying to get into the nursing program were devastated.
"I'm going to have to change my plans in the middle of my courses," said Sandoval. "The nursing program did not accept microbiology courses that were taken with UTB-TSC. As a result, many people had to pay out of pocket to pay for them at TSC. This is so very unfair to us."
During yesterday's meeting, a majority of the board  except for Adela Garza voted to extend the contract for TSC President Lily Tercero for a job well done.
Her one-year extension comes at a price tag of $228,228.
Trustee Raymond Hinojosa abstained. Along with Tercero comes the de facto TSC Co-President Leonardo de la Garza budgeted at $180,000  per year.
TSC may well be the only community college to have two presidents. De la Garza is Tercero's old boss in Ft. Worth.
"I said that I in good conscience could not extend her contract when our nursing program is in trouble and so is our EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) program and our Dual Enrolment," Garza said.



IS PIZANA RUNNING ON OP 10.33 CAMPAIGN COATTAILS?

By Juan Montoya
The spokesperson for Mike Hernandez III's OP 10.33 messianic group may claim it's not supporting any candidates in the Texas Southmost College race, but at least one prominent political observer isn't so easy to convince.
None other than TSC professor Tony Knopp, the campaign treasurer for candidate Ruben Herrera, said the group's campaign workers showed up at his door with literature from Ed Rivera and Raul Villanueva – both acknowledged OP 10.33 candidates to the Port of Brownsville – but also literature for TSC candidate Daniel Pizaña.
Pizaña is running against Herrera for the position left vacant by Kiko Rendon.
Trustee Art Rendon is said to be pushing Pizaña – a family friend – against Herrera, with whom he served at the Brownsville Housing Authority.
"The people at OP 10.33 said they weren't backing any candidates in the TSC race, but including Pizaña's literature along with Rivera's and Villanueva's doesn't make their story plausible," said an Herrera backer. "This is about par for the course for these people. They say they won't say anything until they are ready to announce something and expect us to just wait around for their pronouncements."
Pizaña, who graduated from law school in 2013, had been a frequent visitor at the OP 10.33 headquarters on Boca Chica and was said to have been encouraged to run – as was Beatriz Hockaday, an office staffer – by Hernandez during a pep talk on civil engagement.
Yet, when the group found out that Hockaday had picked to challenge Trey Mendez, they paid their tribute of contriteness by making a monetary donation to Mendez instead of Hockaday.
Hernandez is listed on Mendez campaign reports as having donated $2,500 and job developer (and Ambiotec owner and United Brownsville architect) Carlos Marin an additional $1,000.
Knopp told Herrera that the campaign workers – paid by contributions from Hernandez and other OP 10.33 supporters – had included propaganda on Pizaña at every doorstep they visited.
"If OP 10.33 isn't supporting anyone in the college races, why are their workers passing out Pizaña literature?," asked the same supporter. "It seems like the same double talk they had before."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

MENDEZ'S PLATFORM FOR REELECTION TO TSC BOARD


ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHAT WONDERS PHOTOSHOP CAN DO

(Ed.'s Note: One of our seven readers sent us this before Photoshop and after comparison of Texas Southmost College candidate Evelyn Cantu. Cantu is running for Place 3 on the TSC board on a ballot that includes Dr. Tony Zavaleta, Dr. Tony Juarez, Cantu and J.J. de Leon. We've got to admit that the contrast is astonishing. That's Evelyn's photo on the left from her website http://evelynfortsc.com/bio/   The photo on the right is Cantu with her bod Cameron County Clerk Sylvia Garza-Perez. Before anyone accuses us of picking on the ladies, we have often commented on male candidates who used pictures from their high school yearbook to run for office 20 years later. We poked fun at trhe likes of Lucino Rosenbaum and Pete Avila, to mention but two. The last time one of our readers sent us a similar photo it was that of Estela Chavez-Vasquez (in a runoff with Chuy Garcia for the Cameron County Court-at-Law #5.)

























In the case of Chavez-Vasquez (as in the Cantu photo as well), the difference is like night and day. We have seen Chuy during one of the debates prior to the election and he looks just about the same he does in his campaign signs. He has a face his mom and mate can only love. But, ah well, good thing he didn't try the Photoshop avenue.

WOULD U BUY A USED TECH SCHOOL FROM THIS OP 10.33 GUY?



By Juan Montoya
Mike Hernandez III and Carlos Marin's OP 10.33's  Education Initiative Director is one Carlos (Carli) Strength, also of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
OP 10.33 makes much of its technically-oriented trade school which will prepare students with the needed skills to enter and be competitive in the global market.
The linchpin to this endeavor is Strength, who claims he "led and managed all business operations for $300 million educational service system, spanning 23 campuses from Texas to Florida." He left that the ATI gig in Nov. 2011 for no apparent reason.
 In fact, he was so "successful" at his educational system that it caught the notice of the U.S. Dept. of Justice which in August 2012 filed a complaint against the Dallas-area for-profit chain schools under the False Claims Violations.
The government’s complaint alleges that from 2007 through 2010 (when "Carli" was one of its CEOs), at three campuses in Dallas and North Richland Hills, Texas, ATI Enterprises knowingly misrepresented its job placement statistics to the Texas Workforce Commission in order to maintain its state licensure, and therefore its eligibility for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. On Aug. 9, 2011, the Texas Workforce Commission revoked licenses for several of ATI’s programs at the three campuses after a third party audit of ATI’s reported placement statistics.
The government intervened and filed a complaint against  ATI Enterprises Inc. based in North Richland, Texas, which does business as ATI Technical Training Center, ATI Career Training Center and ATI Career Training, operates career college campuses in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
"The government’s complaint alleges that from 2007 through 2010, at three campuses in Dallas and North Richland Hills, Texas, ATI Enterprises knowingly misrepresented its job placement statistics to the Texas Workforce Commission in order to maintain its state licensure, and therefore its eligibility for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. On Aug. 9, 2011, the Texas Workforce Commission revoked licenses for several of ATI’s programs at the three campuses after a third party audit of ATI’s reported placement statistics.
Furthermore, the complaint alleged that ATI employees at the three campuses knowingly enrolled students who were ineligible because they did not have high school diplomas or recognized equivalents; falsified high school diplomas, including five Dallas Independent School District diplomas for students who later defaulted on their federal student loans; fraudulently kept students enrolled even though they should have been dropped because they had poor grades or attendance; and made knowing misrepresentations to students about their future employability.
The alleged misrepresentations included telling students that a criminal record would not prevent them from getting jobs in their fields of study, quoting higher salaries than the students would be likely to earn and reporting inflated job placement statistics both to the students and the Texas Workforce Commission. The complaint alleges that the executive directors at each campus, as well as various ATI corporate officers, including the chief operating officer, chief executive officer, executive vice president of operations, national director of career services, regional director of education, regional director of career placements and vice president of recruitment were aware of and in some cases encouraged the alleged conduct.
The complaint further alleged that ATI engaged in these practices in order to induce students to enroll and thereby increase the school’s receipt of federal dollars at the expense of students, who incurred long-term debt, and the taxpayers."
Is it any wonder that Carli left "for unknown reasons" and alighted here to dispense his brand of knowledge under the auspices of Hernandez's OP 10.33?
And are we going to let his bunch of carpetbaggers take over the Port of Brownsville with Ede River and Raul Villanueva just after a record cargo year under Tito Lopez and Ralph Cowen?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE PORT ELECTION: THE OP 10.33 FACES BEHIND THE SCAM

By Juan Montoya
As admitted by the spokesman for OP 10.33, the group, headed by millionaire Mike Hernadez III and his job developer Carlos Marin want to take over the Port of Brownsville.
Toward that end, they will spend $100,000s to achieve the goal of defeating incumbents Tito Lopez and Ralph Cowen and replace them with their pliant candidates Ed Rivera and Raul Villanueva.
But who are these nice folks who want to lead us to the land of wealth and nirvana?
We know Marin all too well.
He has managed to squeeze the turnip of eight publicly-funded entities at a cool $25,000 per year for "a seat at the table" of United Brownsville. In case you've never heard of this no-profit, it is an invention that was created  by Marin and a gaggle of local movers and shakers who have succeeded in replacing the representation of the people with their own cadre of yes-men (and women) to steer the economic, educational and social development to their own ends and that of their cronies.
Those on this United Brownsville Coordinating Committee are IBC President Fred Rusteberg, former UTB President Julieta Garcia and UTB VP Irv Downing.
Their mission statements includes a phrase that they are willing to take over some of the onerous tasks of elected officials to "lessen the burden of government," for a slight fee, of course.
Up to now, they have collected some $1.4 million without having to account to anyone on what the money was used or who has benefited from it. So far, not one job has been created by this group aside from several "plans" put together by former planners of United Brownsville's director Mike Gonzalez ($50,000) and Julieta's son Oscar Garcia Jr. ($185,000).
They have teamed up with Hernandez's OP 10.33 through the participation of job developer Marin, the link between United Brownsville and this new group. The group says it is seeking to eradicate poverty through the creation of a technical training center coupled with aggressive political action to place its candidates on boards like the Port of Brownsville, Texas Southmost College and other public entities.
OP 10.33 lists Hernandez as its executive director and lists his home in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Cameron County and Starr County.
His  Education Initiative Director is one Carlos (Carli) Strength, also of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and his Community Organization Director is Jose Angel Gutierrez of Raza Unida fame. He was also residing in Dallas before moving to Brownsville to hook up with Hernandez and Marin.
Their Director of Communications in one Roger Roger Lee, also of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area (Colleyville). Aside from his 32 years in marketing, his only other claim to fame is that he was the New York Mets 11th round draft choice in 1980, some 36 years ago.  (That's Mike and the ace Roger at right.)
OP 10.33 makes much of its trade school which will prepare students with the needed skills to enter and be competitive in the global market.
The linchpin to this endeavor is Strength, who claims he "led and managed all business operations for $300 million educational service system, spanning 23 campuses from Texas to Florida." He left that the ATI gig in Nov. 2011 for no apparent reason.
 In fact, he was so "successful" at his educational system that it caught the notice of the U.S. Dept. of Justice which in August 2012 filed a complaint against the Dallas-area for-profit chain schools under the False Claims Violations.
The government’s complaint alleges that from 2007 through 2010 (when "Carli" was one of its CEOs), at three campuses in Dallas and North Richland Hills, Texas, ATI Enterprises knowingly misrepresented its job placement statistics to the Texas Workforce Commission in order to maintain its state licensure, and therefore its eligibility for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. On Aug. 9, 2011, the Texas Workforce Commission revoked licenses for several of ATI’s programs at the three campuses after a third party audit of ATI’s reported placement statistics.
The government intervened and filed a complaint against  ATI Enterprises Inc. based in North Richland, Texas, which does business as ATI Technical Training Center, ATI Career Training Center and ATI Career Training, operates career college campuses in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
"The government’s complaint alleges that from 2007 through 2010, at three campuses in Dallas and North Richland Hills, Texas, ATI Enterprises knowingly misrepresented its job placement statistics to the Texas Workforce Commission in order to maintain its state licensure, and therefore its eligibility for federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. On Aug. 9, 2011, the Texas Workforce Commission revoked licenses for several of ATI’s programs at the three campuses after a third party audit of ATI’s reported placement statistics.
Furthermore, the complaint alleged that ATI employees at the three campuses knowingly enrolled students who were ineligible because they did not have high school diplomas or recognized equivalents; falsified high school diplomas, including five Dallas Independent School District diplomas for students who later defaulted on their federal student loans; fraudulently kept students enrolled even though they should have been dropped because they had poor grades or attendance; and made knowing misrepresentations to students about their future employability.
The alleged misrepresentations included telling students that a criminal record would not prevent them from getting jobs in their fields of study, quoting higher salaries than the students would be likely to earn and reporting inflated job placement statistics both to the students and the Texas Workforce Commission. The complaint alleges that the executive directors at each campus, as well as various ATI corporate officers, including the chief operating officer, chief executive officer, executive vice president of operations, national director of career services, regional director of education, regional director of career placements and vice president of recruitment were aware of and in some cases encouraged the alleged conduct.
The complaint further alleged that ATI engaged in these practices in order to induce students to enroll and thereby increase the school’s receipt of federal dollars at the expense of students, who incurred long-term debt, and the taxpayers."
Is it any wonder that Carli left "for unknown reasons" and alighted here to dispense his brand of knowledge under the auspices of Hernandez's OP 10.33?
And are we going to let his bunch of carpetbaggers take over the Port of Brownsville just after they have recorded a record cargo year under Lopez ands Cowen?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LITERATE "REV." RESENDEZ GOES OFF THE DEEP END

By Juan Montoya
Well, it's not everyday that anyone tells me that I've made the columns of the local daily.
This morning a few friends called me to tell me I had.
I bit the bait and bought a copy of the lean offerings in the Tuesday Brownsville Herald. Sure enough, in one of the eight new pages (Section A), was a letter by one of our local gadflies, the Rev. Alex Resendez.
You remember Alex. He was one of those local residents who made frequent use of the public-comment section of  city commission meetings, often pointing out the immoral and sinful nature of some city policy or public official. After the city commission heeded city contract attorney Mark Soss's advice, they discontinued the airing of the public comments (illegally, some contend) and left poor Alex and others like Dagoberto Barrera and the late Fernando Ruiz without a forum to their discontent. In Alex's case it was religious-laden diatribes.
In his letter to the editor, the good reverend let loose on the lack of security and the general misbehavior by some library patrons. Young girls dressed revealingly, homeless off their meds causing a scene, babies crying, and students discussing some topics a bit too loud for his liking.
In fact, he said that a "man possessed by evil spirits attacked him as he walked next to one of the library managers."
This holy man – as is their calling – "had to stop and rebuke his evil spirits in Jesus' mighty name and then report it to the security man in charge of the library."
Well, to make the long story short, the police got there too late after the demon-possessed homeless man wandered off into the desert-like heat off Central Boulevard.
My part came in where he railed against "a man running an online newspaper business; he should be told that the computers are not for any moneymaking scheme...but not for a cheap newspaper that abuses and insults people."
Many people use the library computers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they don't have a computer at home and want to buy something off E-bay, pay a fine from the state online, sell some item in the pulga online, etc. In fact, you can get sell or buy anything on line by doing business from a computer.
If you're a researcher, a writer, or an author, there is no better place to find the resources to finesse your work. We thought that was what libraries were for. That's what Benjamin Franklin felt.
I am somewhat flattered that Alex is reading this blog. In fact, he has been the subject of some stories in the past and he may have felt insulted by his characterization.
We wouldn't mind, however, if the reverend could tell us how this blog is raking in the cash hand over foot.
We'd hate to see the institution of a surveillance policy to make sure everyone who uses a Facebook account there doesn't post anything offensive to anyone in the cyberworld. Good luck.
But going back to the subject of security at the library. There is no security guard in the morning there because the city turned down the bids for a private security company to keep order there and in other city facilities after some city commissioners objected to the low bidder (American Surveillance).
Instead, they directed the city administration to create an in-house security force and use police academy students and pay them instead. Predictably, the public-funded security ended up costing more than would have the private companies, but isn't that the way things usually work out when government competes with the private sector?
My friend Alex sounds like a Calvinist, the religious sect whose adherents were against card-playing, showy dress (or undress), and boisterous speech. But today's libraries aren't your grandma's libraries anymore. If you can get a kid near a book or a PC where he can do his homework, so what if they're a little noisy? Babies will be babies and cry. Even Alex's Lord Jesus rebuked those who complained they were loud and told the disciples to "Let the children come on to me."
Now, with early voting going on, it might get a little noisy because that's the way democracy is, a bit noisy and messy.
I will do my part and try not to insult or abuse anyone when I occasionally stop by the Central Library to write a post.
But maybe the good reverend will do his part and stop using the public space there to proselytize to the infidels and unbelievers. And maybe he should also stop using the library's computers to write his book (which he hopes to sell) where he lays out the thesis that – according to his reading of the bible – Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ incarnate.
Alex had asked me to look at his electronic manuscript and see if I could suggest some edits. Then he became concerned that I might steal his work and publish it myself and take the credit for his novel idea. I eased his fears by returning the email with the attachment.
If he ever does finish his book, I might be tempted to contribute to his efforts by plunking down my coin to buy one and contribute to his money-making scheme. After all, isn't that what the library is for?

PERMITS INSPECTOR VICTIM MEETS A CITY WALL

By Juan Montoya
A few months ago, Jesus "Don Chuy" Silva Treviño applied for a permit from the City of Brownsville Building Permits Department.
The man's property lies next to the southbound frontage road adjacent to the one of the exits of the 77 Flea Market. The  s of the  elderly man wanted to sell fruit to customers who went to the flea market and might want to buy some produce.
The inspector city inspector who showed up was none other than one Jaime Buentello, a commercial plans examiner..
After several visits, Silva – an elderly man past his 70s – paid the required $2,500 permit fee and said that he was asked to chip in an additional $1,000 in "consulting" fees to facilitate the process.
After months of wrangling with the city, no permit was forthcoming. Buentello, who at first was obsequious, was refusing to answer his calls. City manager Charlie Cabler and pemits department director Evaristo Gamez wouldn't either.
Then, about a week ago, he heard that Buentello had been arrested and charged with five criminal counts. Buentello, a Commercial Plans Examiner was charged with bribery, a second-degree felony and Theft, a state jail felony. Other charges include two Class A misdemeanor charges of tampering with government documents, and abuse of official capacity. He is out on bond awaiting trial.
A friend told Don Chuy about it and his name was given to detective Juan Alvarez as a potential victim. Alvarez visited Don Chuy and took his report.
Meanwhile, after repeated calls to building permits and to the city manager's office without a response, he got a call from Gamez to visit his office.
He went, expecting a fair resolution to his problem and the permission to start his sidelined business.
What he got was something totally unexpected.
Gamez said that he would have to install footings around the building, remove some trees for that have been growing for years next to a fence, and to remove several cars parked there.
"To install footings in the existing building would mean tearing it down and constructing a new one," said a friend who has been trying to help the old man. The trees have been there for years and were never a problem before. Now Gamez says they are."
As a result, Don Chuy cannot use his building to sell fruit and is prohibited from keeping any produce there. There was nothing said about returning the $1,000 he paid to Buentello for his "consulting."
This is a vastly different scenario than that which happened in an case where Buentello was involved. This one belonged to another man who was trying to start a business and had even hired someone from the city engineer's office to draft the commercial plans.
"We figured that if we hired someone from the city to draft the plans, they would know what not to do and that the permits would be issued faster than if someone who doesn't know the city codes and requirements, said one of the man's relatives. "Boy, were we wrong."
Time and time again the plans came back with some added requirement and were rejected.
Then, in the days after Buentellos's arrest, Gamez personally called the applicant and invited him to have lunch...on a Saturday.
The following Monday, the permit was issued and the man is setting up his business.
What was the difference?
Don Chuy is not "connected" politically with anyone and the other man is.
'Apparently, the city permits department is going though the list of permit applications that were delayed under Buentello trying to clean things up,' said the friend. "In Don Chuy's case, they apparently feel they can risk a little criticism and placed more hurdles before he is issued his permit."
Buentello's bribery charge is not related to the case involving "Don Chuy." In fact, it is not listed as a second bribery charge against him.
Will Don Chuy fall through the cracks in the haste of the city administration to squelch the burgeoning scandal at commercial permits?

rita