Wednesday, July 27, 2016


(Ed.'s Note: If the employees of any public entity live up to the logo of their organization, it's got to be the workers of the Brownsville Public Utility Board. If you look at the PUB logo, imagine that the dots around the flowing water icon (a water leak?) are workers studying the problem. Then the workers at the work site above working on a water line on Old Port Isabel Road across the street from the Treviño Funeral Home parking lot mirror their logo almost to a T. More than half a dozen PUB guys (and one gal) were photographed watching the guy in the white overalls work on a line below street level and giving him moral support. Some of them were said to be behind the PUB truck at left and could not be seen in the photo. For as long as we can remember, the common wisdom is that if you somehow got on the payroll with the city. the school district, or the PUB, just keep your nose clean, don't work so hard that you show up the other guys, and do busy work, you could retire after you put in your 20 years. The formula at PUB, apparently, seems to work just fine.)  


(Ed.'s Note: Below is a list of local individuals who have filed as candidates for the different four positions that will be on the ballot of the Brownsville Independent School District. The list was acquired from the BISD website. Below them is a list of individuals rumored to run for the same positions. Positions 3, 5, 6, and 7 held respectively by Otis Powers, Catalina Presas-Garcia, Minerva Peña, and Jose Chirinos are up for grabs in the November election.)

Applications for a Place on the Primary Ballot
Position 3 (currently held by Herman O. Powers, Jr.)
• Herman O. Powers, Jr.

Position 5 (currently held by Caty Presas-Garcia)
• Laura Perez-Reyes

Position 6 (currently held by Minerva Peña)
None as of today

Position 7 (currently held by Jose H. Chirinos)
None as of today

Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Candidate
Elia Cornejho-Lopez (CTA)
Laura P. Perez
Rigoberto Bocanegra

Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Reports
Herman Otis Powers

We had heard of the entry into the fray of 404th District Judge Cornejo-Lopez and wondered whether she would be required to resign her position under the "resign to run" rule where two elected positions are incompatible. A previous Texas Attorney General's Opinion said about as much, but now we learn that – according to their interpretation of the law – Lopez-Cornejo would have to resign only after she won the election. There are other issues awaiting the make-up of the board, as the apparent violation of the city's personnel policy manual that states that a city employee (like Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo) cannot serve on the local school board. So far, no one has pressed the issue of this apparent violation of the city's own policy. Will anyone?  Laura Perez-Reyes is the court administrator for County Country-at-Law David Gonzalez and Rigoberto Bocanegra is a Lt. on the Brownsville Fire Dept. Will there be questions there as well?)

List of people we heard were considering running for the four open positions:
All four incumbents (Powers, Presas-Garcia, Peña, and Jose Chirinos)
Rick Zayas (local attorney and former BISD trustee, Joe Rodriguez's lawyer)
Erasmo Castro (Head Cheezmeh guy, fomer city commission candidate)
Phillip Cowen (Local attorney, said to be allied with trustee Joe Rodriguez)
Grciana de Peña (Another blast from the past, also allied with Rodriguez)
Joe Colunga (Former trustee, aslo Coch Joe's guy)
Kent Wittenmore (BISD administrator)
Orlando Treviño (A BISD employee and uncle of Otis Powers)
Robert Uresti (Perennial candidate for a lot of positions, including city commissioner)
Gilbert Rendon (New York Deli Beatle guy and brother of BISD administrator an TSC trustee Art Rendon)
JRodriguez, JRod (Prolific letter writer to the Herlad and former BISD teacher)
Robert Rodriguez (A former BISD trustee candidate who lost to Elizondo last time attorney)
Anyone else out there?


By Juan Montoya
This Saturday, as some of us sat on the grass at the Dean Porter Park listening to rock and roll bands in the open, a la 60s and 70s, we wondered where my "tocayo" Big John might be. 
We all knew him as Big John  because he was big compared to us, and to many Mexican-Americans locally. He always took it all in stride and joked about "you little guys" as he made his way to the jukebox to play his music. Downtown street people down on their luck knew the big man was an easy touch for a dollar every now and then. His heart was bigger than his body.
His taste ranged from Frank Sinatra to the 50s, 60s 70s and even into jazz. Steely Dan, Yes, and Steppenwolf were some of his favorites.
When he was playing "la llorona" you never knew what to expect. All you could be sure of was that it would be something good, even though you may not have known the songs.
That's why when we were at the concert on Saturday, we wondered why a rock and roll aficionado like Big John wasn't around and called him on his cell. There was no answer.
It wasn't until we got a call from a friend the next morning who told us he had passed on the Big Stage upstairs that we learned our brother had died early that morning. As they told us, he had been with friends listening to his music downtown and had parted, shaking hands all around to make his way home. He didn't make it to his work truck before a massive heart attack brought him down and he left us. No one knew that his last name was Gonzalez. We just knew him as Big John.
We will never forget this big, affectionate man who loved to work cutting expansion lines into concrete parking lots driveways. It's strenuous, heavy work that requires wielding a heavy cutter with diamond or graphite blades, often enveloped in a great cloud of gray dust. Big John loved it.
The only thing he loved more than work was his aged mother Aristea, who he took care of, and over who he fretted and loved dearly. He was also fiercely proud of his family, and particularly of his two sons, Justin and Jonathan, who he worried about when they were serving overseas in the military (U.S. Marines and Army) in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he spoke about them when they were overseas, his normally happy countenance would turn serious and we would assure him that Providence would look after their safety. When both returned safely to stateside, Big John played his music all that evening.
He was only 57 years old and he beat us to the punch.
The local daily says that visitation will begin at 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with the recitation of the Holy Rosary at 7:00 p.m. Friday, July 29, 2016 at Garza Memorial Funeral Home Chapel and private cremation will follow.
As is the case with good man who leave us, we will miss him dearly and even the more so when we hear some of his favorite songs on the radio or in some local lounge where he and his friends used to meet and enjoy his music.
We pass on our condolences to his family and friends. Rock on tocayo

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


"We are informed says the New Orleans Bulletin that about thirty of the American troops had deserted, ten or twelve of whom were shot in endeavoring to make their escape. This had the effect of checking further desertions." 

By Juan Montoya
Various Sources
Even before the first battles of the Mexican-American war were fought at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Guerra, the U.S. Army under Zachary Taylor had a major problem with deserters.
Suddenly, soldiers who had traveled with Taylor's Army of Observation and been transformed into an expeditionary force and, much later, an army of occupation.
This came after the President James Polk's had named John Slidell’s as his emissary and handed him the official task of negotiating a deal with Mexico. Polk Slidell to offer a settlement of all U.S. claims against Mexico, in exchange for recognition of the Rio Grande as the boundary between the two nations. In addition, Polk instructed Slidell to try and buy California for $25 million.
The Mexicans rejected Slidell and his mission outright and informed him he would not be received. He responded to President Polk by hinting that the Mexican reluctance to negotiate might require a show of military force by the United States. Based on this intelligence, Polk ordered Taylor  to head for the Rio Grande. Slidell remained in Mexico until March 1846, but left as war became unavoidable.
The troops under Taylor – about 4,000 strong, the bulk of the U.S. Army at the time – got a first taste of what awaited them as they made their way from Corpus Christi when they made their way down into South Texas.
Secretary of War William Learned Marcy had issued the order to Taylor to head out from Corpus Christi to the mouth of the Rio Grande on January 13, 1846 and reached the general on Feb. 3.
A number of actors prevented Taylor from obeying this order immediately. Lt. Colonel Ethan Allan Hitchcock, the commander of Taylor's 3rd Infantry Regiment, described the Corpus Christi campsite as a focus of disease and pestilence. Brackish water, a poor diet, poor tents, camp sanitation, temperature fluctuations and an inadequate supply of firewood soon put a large number of the men on the sick rolls.
Then the march south began. On March 8, the first dragoons left the Corpus Christi site with some pieces of artillery and the rest of the army followed on the 11th. While officially 4,000 strong, it was missing those who had taken fevers at Corpus Christi and those who had deserted through the swamps.
"The army was badly supplied, the insufficient trains trailing far behind it. It had little discipline, it's equipment was scanty and shoddy, and its arms were a chaos of diverse and mostly obsolescent models – smooth-bore muskets, flintlock and percussion-cap rifles, a handful of Hall's breech-loaders, a good many of the "Harpers Ferry" rifles mostly made by Eli Whitney Jr., and even a few repeaters. It had never moved as an army. Neither Taylor nor any of his juniors could maneuver it. Textbooks of drills and tactics were in everybody's saddlebags, for consultation en route, and Taylor had a healthy democratic contempt of the West Pointers who knew the things he badly needed to know.
"But anything was better than the stagnation of Corpus Christi and they were off for the Halls of Montezuma. There were swamps at first, then a waterless stretch, finally the chaparral country. food was bad and there was never enough water under the Southern sun. It was a land rich in rattlesnakes, which buzzed by the hundreds underfoot and slid into blankets by night. Mirages flared across the horizon and there were more rumors than rattlesnakes and mirages lumped together.
"On March 20 the advance reached the Arroyo Colorado, a salt pond, where General Francisco Mejia, who commanded Matamoros, drew up some skirmishers and and informed the Americans that if they came any farther they would begin a war. The advance splashed through; the first headlong flight of the Mexican army was well started before they reached the farther bank..."
Mejia, whose ornate language in his exhortations to the population under his care far surpassed Taylor's dry prose, had, just two days before, in Matamoros, issued one of those grandiose declarations so typical of Mexican officials.
"The cabinet of the United States...not only aspire(s) to the possession of the department of Texas, but it covets also the regions on the left bank of the Rio Bravo. Its army, hitherto for some time stationed at Corpus Christie, is now advancing to take possession of a large part of Tamaulipas; and its vanguard has arrived at the Arroyo Colorado, distant eighteen leagues from this place. What expectations, therefore, can the Mexican government have of treating with an enemy, who, whilst endeavouring to lull us into security, by opening diplomatic negotiations, proceeds to occupy a territory which never could have been the object of the pending discussion? The limits of Texas are certain and recognized; never have they extended beyond the river Nueces; notwithstanding which, the American army has crossed the line separating Tamaulipas from that department."
This did nothing to stop the advancing American troops to what they though was a better, more sanitary place from which to attack the Mexicans. But that turned out to be a false hope.
Conditions deteriorated still further when the army took up positions along the Rio Grande, and the desertions increased.
Hitchcock notes that American deserters had been shot while crossing the Rio Grande soon after the army arrived. "Probably they were just bored with army rations, but there was some thought that they might be responding to a proclamation of General (Pedro de) Ampudia's which spies had been able to circulate in the camp. Noting the number of Irish, French and Polish immigrants in the American force, Ampudia had summoned them to assert a common Catholicism, come across the river, cease 'to defend a robbery and usurpation which, be assured, the civilized nations of Europe look upon with the utmost indignation,' and settle down to a generous land bounty."
Eventually,a group, the San Patricio Batallion ended up fighting for Mexico and many wre handed upon the taking of the Catle of Chapultepec on orders from Winfiled Scott. 
The earliest shooting of deserters as they swam the Rio Grande led the Whig press (Polk's enemy) into a sustained howl about tyranny. Bernard de Voto writes that in the House, John Quincy Adams sought to pass a resolution to court martial every officer or soldier who should order a killing of  a soldier without a trial or inquiry into the reasons for the desertion. Although he was voted down, the theme of deserters was in every Whig speech on the conduct of the war.
De Voto says that the National Police Gazette, a struggling periodical that had started out as a sports magazine, gained sound financial footing when it started printing the names of the deserters and the War Departmetn bought up big editions to distribute among the troops to discourage them from deserting.
Despite the executions, however, Tayor's army lost more than 200 soldiers before hostilties began. 
Things only got worse after the fall of Matamoros when Taylor established his base of operations at Camargo, a village below the Rio Grande. 
"In June and July 1846, volunteer regiments that had been formed in response to the declaration of war began to arrive, swelling the size of the Army of Occupation to more than 10,000. The volunteer regiments’ failure to take adequate sanitation precautions soon turned the camp into a quagmire of filth and disease, made all the more unbearable by blistering heat. 
The troops suffered from a variety of diseases, such as influenza, smallpox, measles, malaria, and scurvy. However, dysentery caused the most problems. By the end of August, 1,500 troops, a staggering 12 per cent of Taylor’s force, had died of dysentery and other diseases. 
The war with Mexico had the highest mortality rate of any of America’s wars, 110 per capita versus 65 per capita in the Civil War. In a typical regiment, more than 10 percent of the troops never lived to see the end of their enlistment. A significant percentage of these deaths were due to sickness and disease. Whereas 1,548 U.S. army deaths were combat-related, almost ten times that number, 10,970, fell to illness during the course of the war. 
The volunteers succumbed to disease at twice the rate of regular troops. In addition to suffering from poor sanitation, the volunteers from rural areas were not immunized against smallpox, a requirement in the regular army. In the rush to raise troops, moreover, many states accepted volunteer recruits who were unfit for service."

Monday, July 25, 2016


By Juan Montoya
With almost a month to go before the Aug. 22 deadline to file for one of the four positions up for election at the Brownsville Independent School District, Otis Powers has let everyone know he wants to be back on the board.
Herman Otis Powers, Jr.Powers filed for reelection to his position Monday. The filing period started June 23, but since it fell on a Saturday, he filed today.
Powers', Jose Hector Chirinos', Minerva Peña's, and Catalina Presas-Garcia's four-year terms are up this year. That means that a majority of the board is up for grabs. There have also been many rumors suggesting that the majority now headed by trustee Joe Rodriguez of which Chirinos and Peña have been a part of may be in danger if they lose. Many BISD observers are convinced that Rodriguez will field a slate to keep his majority and some of the names that have cropped up include former trustee Graciana de Peña and local attorney Phil Cowen.
Depending on which position they choose to run for, all new candidates will have to choose between running for Powers' Position 3, Chirinos' Position7, Peña's Position 6, and Presas-Garcia's Position 5.
There will be, of course, much jockeying to choose a position to run depending on the incumbent that is targeted. There is no love lost between Rodriguez and Presas-Garcia, for example, and rumors even have former trustee Rick Zayas as a candidate on the Rodriguez slate. He is rumored to have struck a deal with Dallas car-leasing mogul Mike Hernandez III to run in a OP 10.33 slate and accept their funding. So far, that group has seen its fortunes falter with none of their candidates doing well at the Port of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
Zayas and partner Ruben Cortez were ousted by voters amid charges that he and his majority had depleted the BISD's $110 million fund balance to nearly $65 million to avoid deficit budgets.
He is also Rodriguez's lawyer in a lawsuit filed against Presas-Garcia.
Powers was elected to Position 3 in November 2012 and was elected to serve as board president following the suicide of Enrique Escobedo. He remained president until the new majority under Rodriguez voted to make Minerva Peña president. She served until she was replaced by Chirinos.
There are at least a dozen or more would-be candidates hanging in the wings who have voiced a desire to run for the board that handles a $540 million annual budget, some 7,700 employees (nearly three time more than the nearest employer) some 45,000 students, approves every contract, and impacts nearly every facet of life in the city.
And, of course, Mike Hernandez's OP 10.33 with United Brownsville's Carlos Marin, Ed Rivera, Kiko Rendon, and State Rep. Eddie Lucio III as consultants and members of the group's staff will surely fileda slate to accompany Zayas and to try to finally make their mark in local politics.
By filing early, Powers is putting potential challengers on notice that he is here to stay and to discourage would-be candidates to seek another position other than the one he holds.
The position of BISD board member does not carry a salary.


(Ed.'s Note: We were happy to read the announcement from the office of U.S. Rep. 
Vela Jr. that six community colleges in his district will share $1,742,399 in grants to assist disadvantaged students to get through high school and on a post-secondary education. But we were disappointed when we saw that own own Texas Southmost College was not on the list. Now, the college has been paying United Brownsville $25,000 annually since 2012 in "membership" fees to "have a seat at the table." What happened? Did they even know about these grants and/or encouraged President Lily Tercero to apply? Did she? Or was something wrong on the application that it was turned down as were the first two attempts at accreditation? Congratulations to the other community colleges for getting the funds to encourage needy and worthy high school students to go to college. Ours will have to do without, we guess.)

WASHINGTON, DC – Local South Texas colleges awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Representative Filemon Vela announced the U.S. Department of Education awarded Talent Search Program grants to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley UTRGV, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Coastal Bend College and Texas State Technical College TSTC.

The grant funds will support academic, career and financial counseling for students from low-income families to encourage them to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education.

“These federal grants will give thousands of high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds access to much-needed resources and higher education opportunities,” said Vela.

The awards represent only one year of commitment from the U.S. Department of Education, but it is expected that the Talent Search Program will continue to receive support for a total of five years for each of the recipients.

UTRGV will use one of the grants to provide assistance to disadvantaged students in Willacy County.

Talent Search Grants have been awarded in the following amounts:

UTRGV: $434,400 for students in Hidalgo County

UTRGV: $240,000 for students in Willacy County

TAMUK: $240,000

TSTC in Harlingen: $265,919

Coastal Bend College-Beeville: $322,080

Coastal Ben College-Alice: $295,679

Sunday, July 24, 2016


By Juan Montoya
It was the Age of Aquarius, when Luz was about 13, way back in the mid-1960s.
In those days, the majority of crops were still picked by agricultural workers in the fields that ringed most Valley towns. Just about everyone except for established families in town knew how to pick cotton, okra or other local crops, including citrus and onions every winter.
One summer day, Luz and his father boarded a labor contractor's pickup truck which had rolled out in front of the old Valley Transit Station next to the old Lopez Supermarket on Adams Street looking for a work  crew.
They jumped aboard and became part of a crew that the troquero (Don Gollito, Luz thinks was his name) had recruited as he slowly passed in front of the store and workers – men and women – had clambered on board.
Many had just crossed the bridge, and some evidently had waded across the river by the rocks. In those days the Border Patrol did not bother the workers. They knew that they would go work in the fields, return to Mexico with their daily earnings, and then come back again the next day.
Today Don Gollito informed them they were going to pick a cotton field just past San Pedro along the river levee. As they made their way to the field, a few of the men took out their jackknives (everyone had one, it seems) and made a slit on the canvas covering the bed of the pickup to let in fresh air. Don Gollito would be angry when he saw the slits in the canvas, but he would never know who was responsible and accepted it as a part of the daily routine. After a few days, the canvas would be replaced by another, and the game would continue until the end of the cotton harvest.
Rolling on Military Highway on the way to the field, Luz's father sidled up to him and asked him "Sabes come se nota el que es trabajador y el es un guevon?" (Do you know how to tell who really came to work and who didn't?)
Luz shook his head.
"When we get to the field, the person who really came to work will say nothing and take the first row of cotton available," said his father. "The lazy guy will fiddle around with his sack harness, wander about the end of the field asking which row is next, or hanging out by the trucks drinking water even before they pick one boll of cotton. You just watch."
Luz had never paid much attention to such details and when the crew got to the field, he walked out toward the middle of his father's rows (he picked two at a time), and started piling the cotton in the middle of the rows for his father to scoop as he passed and throwing it in the sack. Pickers like Luz's father were known as quinienteros because when the cotton was good they could pick as many as 500 pounds a day. Contractors loved them and treated them with respect.
The cotton scale, where they weighed in, had Roman numerals instead of numbers, and was called la romana.
From his perch down the field, Luz watched as the other pickers alighted from the back of the truck and – just as his father had said – some dove right into the next row and took off down the field while others dilly-dallied complaining of this thing or the other.
Many years later, after Luz's family had moved out of the migrant stream, he would often apply his dad's lesson to the people around him. Sure enough, just as there were lazy people among the agricultural workers looking for an excuse to delay the hard labor awaiting them, he saw the same thing among his fellows when he was in the military, college and then the workforce.
The Thermos water cooler was replaced by the office water cooler, the coffee klatsch, a feigned computer glitch, medical malingering, and other imagined obstacles to avoid work.
Over the course of a lifetime in the workforce, his father's lesson on the work ethic and human nature never failed him. And to think that such wisdom was dispensed to his son in the back of a pickup truck by a man who had never finished the elementary grades.


By Juan Montoya
Dubbed as a family-oriented event meant to revitalize the city's inner core, the first annual Rock the to Park went off without a hitch and drew hundreds of music lovers to hear local bands and then capped it off with a band led by Fran Cosmo, the former lead singer of Boston.
Cosmo and his crew came after the crowd was warmed up by local bands including Allied Forces, Sidewinder, the Chris Rivera Band, JC Stone, Awayout and the Click.
It had been a while since a big rock blowout was staged in the city, with the bands playing local venues like Cobbleheads or on the island. The last big concerts held here probably happened during SombreroFest. In fact, Rock the Park organizers thanked that group for assisting them to put the shown on at Dean Porter Park .
We can't remember the last time we felt the earth reverberate with out and out rock and roll the way Cosmo and his band made the ground tremble as spectators filled the space before the stage and spilled out onto the grass. Even from a distance, the walls of Boston-like sound blew across the park.
"Cool the Engines," "Don't Look Back," and "More than a Feeling" drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd which Cosmo encouraged to sing along.
When one considers that the entry fee of $25 supports live music and guaranteed a full afternoon of music and rock camaraderie, the price, most agree, was well worth it.

Friday, July 22, 2016


By Juan Montoya
If you go out tho the old gold course of Texas Southmost College you will see an overgrown, desolate wasteland separated from Mexico by a thin strand of the Rio Grande that curves around, leaving the site like a river peninsula.
This was the site that Zachary Taylor ordered his men in May 1846 to construct an earthen fortification from which to keep Matamoros under vigilance and from which to bomb the town with his artillery.
It was, in effect, a fort built upon disputed territory, and, until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February 1848, recognized as Mexican territory.
But it was here that Major Jacob Brown was killed during a bombardment by Mexican cannon fire from across the river when he wandered out and a cannonball bounced off a wall and broke his leg. Gangrene set in and he died a few days later.
When Taylor had his engineers build the fort, some of his officers were critical of the site and the location where he had ordered it built.
In "1846 Year of Decision," historian Bernard De Voto wrote that: "Taylor had crudely fortified Point Isabel, at the mouth of the river, but the bulk of his force was in the vicinity of Ft. Brown, a set of textbook field works which he had built opposite Matamoros, on a site no textbook would have approved. (Ethan Allen) Hitchcock (the commander of the 3rd Infantry and considered Taylor's most capable senior officer) called it a cul-de-sac, it commanded nothing but a stretch of river, it was open to enfilade from three sides, and any competent enemy would have pinched it off from the rear. All that prevented its capture was now and hereafter was a Mexican incompetence as splendid as Taylor's own."
After the war, the fort was built to military specifications and was used on and off until the U.S. Government removed the troops and left the buildings that now comprise Texas Southmost College. The earthen bulwarks were soon eroded and the original fortifications forgotten. Today, a cannon turned upside down in the dirt signals its approximate location.
Even the national cemetery that used to occupy the island in the middle of the oxbow lake (resaca) was removed and the soldiers' remains were reburied in Louisiana.
Now a group headed by Brownsville Historical Association associate Craig Stone has started a petition to have the site declared a National Park and has asked Congressman Filemon Vela to assist the petitioners to make this become a reality.
Stone started this petition with a single signature, and now has 244 supporters.
Jose Borjon, a spokesman for Vela, said that initial meetings to determine the support and feasibility of declaring the site as a national park have started and that the congressman's staff is exploring the roles that the International Boundary and Water Commission, the City of Brownsville, Texas Southmost College and other stakeholders might play in making this possible.
"We're at the initial stages of the process and we've held a couple of meetings with Mr. Stone," Borjon said in a telephone interview.
The process is complicated by the number of "stakeholders" that have to come on board to make it possible, he said, but the initial response has been positive.
Stone has been vocal locally about opposing the removal of the stone monument at Washington Park honoring Confederate States of America president Jefferson Davis, even to the point of attending ceremonies at his birthday wearing a Confederate uniform. However, the petition for the national park is separate and distinct from this controversy, Borjon said.
The invasion of Mexico in 1846 through Matamoros does have a link to the Civil War 15 years later in 1861.
Stationed at Ft. Texas (renamed Ft. Brown after the major's death), were officers who would later become generals on both sides of the Civil War.
Fifteen future generals (six Union, nine Confederate) were present during the siege of Ft. Brown across from Matamoros.
It can be safely said that the seeds of the Civil War were planted at Palo Alto and at Resaca de la Guerra the next day, although those battlefields were watered with U.S. and Mexican blood and not exclusively American as it was during the Civil War.

To sign on to the petition to make Ft. Brown a national park, click on the link below.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Carlos Strength - OP 10.33'S Education Initiative Director

Education: MBA, University of Texas at San Antonio, 2002

Applicable Experience:

Abilities Holding (ATI), Inc. | Texas & Florida

President and CEO, 2010- 2012

President and COO, 2005- 2010

Led and managed all business operations for $300M educational service system, spanning 23 campuses. Led extensive market analysis and leveraged analytics to develop comprehensive succession plan to support growth. Developed and supported standardized operating reports package.
By Michelle Cassidy
Law 360
Carli Strength, the education director of Mike Hernandez's OP 10.33 messianic organization which aims to eradicate poverty in Brownsville by October 10, 2033, has been embroiled in a dispute where the bankruptcy trustee for a group of the schools has alleged Strength allowed the law firms  picked to defend him to bill for attorneys' fees and expenses that “exceeded the bounds of reasonableness,” for work done in arbitration of students' claims against ATI Enterprises Inc.

Jeoffrey L. Burtch, Chapter 7 Trustee for the bankruptcy estates of ATI Enterprises Inc., Ability Intermediate Holdings Inc, ATI Acquisition Company, ATI Enterprises of Florida Inc., and E&K Vocational Nursing Program sued Williams & Connolly LLP, Duane Morris LLP and Carli Strengthfiled suit in state court in Dallas in January alleging law firms Williams & Connolly and Duane
Morris billed them for attorneys' fees and expenses that “exceeded the bounds of reasonableness,” for work done in arbitration of students' claims against ATI Enterprises Inc.

The group, collectively called ATI Entities, alleged in its petition that the law firms committed breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty when it billed for, among other things, $60,000 for a stay at the Ritz Carlton hotel, $47,000 for first-class airfare and $31,000 for copying charges in a single month.
“These are just a few examples. Suffice it to say, the attorneys' fees and expenses for which W&C billed the [ATI] Entities, and collected payment therefrom, were unconscionable,” the petition reads.

In total, ATI was billed and paid more than $13 million in attorneys fees and expenses, for what it described in the petition as a “short arbitration involving standard claims.”

“To make matters worse, the law firm defendants were unsuccessful, and an arbitration award was entered against the ATI Entities exceeding $1.7 million,” according to the petition.

ATI owned and operated a number of vocational schools in the fields of automotive, business administration, heating and air conditioning and welding, according to the petition, and was sued by several former students in Dallas. A subset of those claims were submitted to arbitration.

The time keepers would often bill for more than 12 hours a day, ATI alleges, and in June 2011 the billed hours came to nearly 100 hours a day. Williams & Connolly would “routinely” utilize more than 20 time keepers a month and regularly would have three or four partners, six or more associates, seven or more special project attorneys, five or more paralegals, a few agency attorneys and a system consultant log hours on the case.

Carli Strength, who is named as a defendant alongside the law firms, was an officer of ATI and responsible for procuring legal services for it.

“Despite his obligations to do so, defendant Strength did nothing to monitor, review or question the outlandish fees and expenses charged by W&C, or to monitor the need for, and value of, services provided by Duane Morris,” the petition alleges. “Instead, defendant Strength intentionally ignored his obligations to the ATI Entities, and simply approved all bills for payment, regardless of reasonableness or necessity of the fees and expenses billed.”

ATI also alleges that Duane Morris billed for “unreasonable and unnecessary” fees and expenses, including the cost of utilizing San Diego and Houston attorneys for a Dallas arbitration. ATI told the court that the services provided by Duane Morris were duplicative and unreasonable, especially considering all the work W&C billed them for.

Michael Silverman, general counsel for Duane Morris, discounted the allegations.

"Duane Morris played a very limited role in the litigation and firmly stand by our excellent work and reasonable billing," he told Law360.

The case is Jeoffrey L. Burtch, Chapter 7 Trustee for the bankruptcy estates of ATI Enterprises Inc., Ability Intermediate Holdings Inc, ATI Acquisition Company, ATI Enterprises of Florida Inc., and E&K Vocational Nursing Program v. Williams & Connolly LLP, Duane Morris LLP and Carli Strength, case number DC-16-00674, in state District Court in Dallas County, Texas.

For more information on the original charges against Strength and ATI, click on link below:


(Ed.'s Note: Word is out that the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct a hunt for Nilgai Antelope again justifying the mass kill as a away to deter the spread of fever-tick in cattle in South Texas. This has drawn disbelief among local ranchers and conservationists who say the hunt is nothing more than a money-making enterprise for the state and individuals who profit from selling the meat of the butchered animals. We reprint a post describing the hunts and the profit motives behind them.)

By Juan Montoya
Comments made by Texas Animal Health Commission Executive Director and State Veterinarian Dr. Dee Ellis last year during a gathering between ranchers and state and federal agency officials should have raised a few red flags.
But they didn't.
Besides incurring the wrath of  U.S. Fish Wildlife Service refuge manager Boyd Blihovde who did not appreciate being singled out as the source of fever-tick infested Nilgai antelope, discussion at the meeting revealed that of some 190 Nilgai killed only four had ticks.
"But the Nilgai is still the problem?,” asked a hunter present at the meet.
South Texas residents in the rural areas by the Port of Brownsville Ship Channel have seen the hunts using helicopters with shooters felling the large bovine-like beasts. Many who live in the area said that they imagined that once the animals are killed, they were buried with the use of a backhoe.
But that is not the case at all, according to the president of the Broken Arrow Ranch whose crews butcher them on the spot in a mobile dressing unit. What gets thrown away are the  unusable parts like organs, heads and bones. What is saved is actually sold on the market by his ranch.
And Nilgai meat – said to be delicious – is a pricey cut of meat averaging anywhere from $17 a pound to as much as $40 or more. Some say the New York market can pay as much as $100 on choice cuts from the antelope. (To see catalog, click on link:
KC Cunningham, the ranch president, told us after the hunts that they had just finished "harvesting approximately 181 Nilgai Antelope off of two National Wildlife Refuges. These harvests were done under contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We did this in conjunction with the Texas Department of Animal Health and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This was done for two reasons. First, was to slow down the northern migration of the Fever Tick which can cause sickness and death in cattle. (This, despite that of 190 Nilgai harvested, only only four had ticks.)
Cuuningham continued and said the following:
"This tick will ride on many different animals but only has adverse effects on bovine. If this tick continues its northern movement and gets into the cattle ranches along the coast, the economic impact would devastate South Texas. Effected cattle are treated, the ranches are quarantined and in many cases the effected herd must be killed and burned. Jobs would be lost and many incomes would disappear.
Secondly, the Nilgai Antelope is a native of Nepal and is considered an evasive specie in Texas. Brought into Texas in the 1920's this specie has spread from Kingsville to Mexico. It competes with the native animals and domesticated cattle for food sources. If not controlled they could cause irreparable damage to the unique Eco system of the southern Texas coastal plains."
Broken Arrow Ranch is located in the Texas hill country that specializes in exotic deer and antelope population control. We harvest the exotic animals humanely, process there meat and sell it to restaurants and individuals across the U.S. 
We pay the land owner for each pound of meat that we harvest. We have been in business for over 32 years. I cannot speak for anyone else that is selling Nilgai meat but, we do not sell ours for anywhere near the number you stated. On average our Nilgai meat sells for about $17 dollars a pound. The premium cuts do cost more."
"The meat has a mild flavor with a good texture, much like veal," the website states. "It is extremely low in fat, averaging well under 1 percent for most cuts. These are large animals (bulls can weigh up to 600 pounds or more), weighing an average of 280 pounds on the hoof. This larger size reduces our harvesting and processing cost when calculated on a per pound basis and allows us to offer this meat at very attractive prices."
So if only four of the 190 animals had the fever tick, who reaped the profits of the expensive meat?
On the low end of the scale, if they get 200 pounds of marketable meat from one animal and then average of, say, $30 a pound, that would net them $6,000 per animal. With 186 animals that would translate into $1,160,000.
Did, as Cunningham said, some of the money to to the landowners? Did it go to the state? Did it go to the federal government? Or did Broken Arrow Ranch get the meat in return for its hunting and butchering of the animals?
Food bank managers say they have never gotten Nilgai meat donations from the state as a reuslt of the hunts.
"Imagine feeding the homeless meat that costs about $20 a pound," said one. "They would think they died and went to heaven."
At least two landowners out by Boca Chica – Bobby Lerma and George Gavito – deny that they ever got a red cent from the animals hunted on their lands.
And are these hunts – given the low number of infested animals of the 190 killed – really just a cover for a money-making scheme by the Texas Department of Animal Health and the and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?


By Juan Montoya
In the effort to ingratiate himself to the Brownsville community, self-made millionaire and auto salesman and leasing mogul Mike Hernandez III is hosting a scholarship award in conjunction with the Texas A & M Foundation called the Brownsville Scholars Program Gift Ceremony.
While this is certainly laudable, the jarring disconnect is that the ceremony will be held at the second floor of the IBC Bank building at 1600 Ruben M. Torres Blvd.
That's the lair of former IBC President and chairman of the United Brownsville Coordinating Board, the same outfit that has take money from Brownsville schools and the community college to forward their own self-serving vision of progress, whatever that may be.
And what has United Brownsville given back to the school and college and the other six entities which have paid their annual $25,000 extortionist "membership" dues for the past four or so years? Nothing, or next to nothing.
Despite being self-appointed, they have duped Texas Southmost College, the Port of Brownsville, the City of Brownsville, the Public Utility Board, the Brownsville Independent School District, the Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation, Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation into contributing $25,000 to support their club.
Jim Barton, of the Brownsville Observer blog opined that: "Recently, the misguided, uninformed OP 10.33 advocacy group has become intertwined with United Brownsville in political intrigue, even adding Carlos Marin to their staff.
"In short, United Brownsville is an elitist, self-appointed board with an inappropriate interest in controlling industrial development at the Port of Brownsville and the so-called industrial corridor along FM 550. Both United Brownsville and OP 10.33 are meddling in politics to the detriment of our community."
OP 10.33, fresh from being rebuffed in its efforts to remove the people's elected representatives from the port and the community college, now wants to make itself out to be the benefactor of the people.
Since 2012, United Brownsville has received $25,000 annually from the BISD, a total of $100,000 from the district's budget. They have received the same amount from Texas Southmost College, with negligible contributions to the educational betterment of the students there. Between BISD and TSC, that's a hefty $200,000 in "dues." 
Whatever Rusterberg and his pal Hernandez dish out to the scholars July 28 probably won't be that much, certainly not the more than $1.6 million United Brownsville has received from these entities over that time. Now, instead of Rusteberg, the face of United Brownsville is Irv Downing, a vice president with UTRGV who served under Juliet Garcia.
We welcome the scholarship awards to deserving students as a down payment on the raid on the BISD and TSC treasury that Rusteberg, when he was chair of United Brownsville, perpetrated on the school district that serves the poorest community in the United States. 
And believe us, United Brownsville and their well-paid executive director Mike Gonzalez (at a salary of $80,000 paid for by the "dues" from these tax-funded entities) will be back with his collection plate this budget go-round. 
This happens as two community organizations – the Brownsville Trailblazers and the A Hand Up organization – are teaming up to collect basic school supplies for two BISD elementary schools.
These two groups will distribute the supplies collected to students attending Putegnat and Longoria elementary schools.
Their drive will run through Aug. 15 and donations can be dropped off at CSL Plasma, 1601 E. Price Rd., Suite C in Brownsville. The group is asking for 100-page composition books, kid blunt scissors, 24-count box of colors, glue sticks, 70-page notebooks and No. 2 pencils. For more information, donors can call Cesar Mercado at (956) 832-9008.
It's deplorable that while on one hand United Brownsville is taking money from the schools by the handful, it rests on community groups to go around asking for donations from the community to provide basic school supplies for schools in the poor sections of town. If United Brownsvillle and their pals at OP 10.33 really wanted to help, they should stop extorting money from these districts and work for their money instead of demanding handouts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


(Ed.'s Note: See that  bird on the lower right hand corner of the photo above? It' not a sand piper, a sparrow or a similar species. It's, we are told by one of our readers who contributed this shot, a duckling. We were intrigued when they wrote that the bird had made its way from the resaca side of Central Blvd., crossed five lanes of traffic, and safely made it to the other side and onto the grassy property of the old motel across from Media Luna Dr. So how, the reader asked us, did this duckling decide it could safely cross the wide thoroughfare at high noon when traffic is at one of its peak hours? Was it just bird luck that it wasn't struck by a driver rushing to stretch his or her lunch hour? Or was it old enough to have learned how to time the traffic light well enough to make it across safely? Whether it was dumb luck or learned behavior, the duckling waddled across the boulevard unmolested during the time the light was red for the north and southbound lanes. Keep an eye out for this little guy when you're near this intersection. He may not be a lucky ducky next time.)


By Juan Montoya
No sooner did the downtown denizens who feast on crack and the occasional joint in the alleys hear that the City of Brownsville Chief of Police Orlando Rodriguez was out patrolling the town that a half dozen of them renounced their life of crime.
Rodriguez, who rolled along with two other burly officers in cute matching yellow vests, police blue shorts, helmets, and  mountain bikes, told the local daily that the Tour De Browntown was a welcome break from his daily routine of fighting crime and pushing back the frontiers of ignorance and injustice.
After the chief's brief (but effective) ride around the inner city core, both the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported a precipitous dive in the number of serious crimes in the immediate area. Analysts are trying to fully asses the downward curve of crime in the city's inner core after Rodriguez's foray into the belly of the beast.
For example, city attorney Mark Sossi was said not to have driven his vehicles without a current registration or inspection as he was wont to do and was seen instead walking from the Municipal Court to City Hall in the old federal building on Elizabeth St. And, in contrast to his usual dour demeanor, Sossi was actually seen greeting and shaking hands with a local resident.
And some new businessmen who were at the permitting department on the second floor of the Municipal Court on Levee St. say that the inspectors suddenly stopped insinuating that their permits would be processed a lot faster if the applicants contributed to the Christmas Party fund in their department when the trio made their pass.
Mayor Tony Martinez, who was eyeing a piece of downtown real estate for potential purchase using millions of dollars in Certificates of Obligation was said to have put a stop to the negotiations when he spotted the Three Yellowjackets slowly pedaling by.
Even a businessman who was about to overcharge for a bronze-coated foam statue of the Archangel St. Michael with his foot on the demon's head thought twice about it and gave the senior citizen customer the correct price. And a man who was about to pass a counterfeit $20 at the Subway at the Multimodal Terminal took out some real bills instead as Orlando and the bipedal crime unit rolled by ominously.
And the legion of car washers who ignore the "Don't Wash Cars here" signs on the city parking lots took a sudden break from their brazen lawbreaking to seek concealment at local second-hand stores. We heard that Miriam (not her real name), a local crack queen, put away her pipe as she was about to light up in the alley behind La Movida Bar and coaxed the other heads to join her at the misa at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral as a preemptive penance to the sin they were about to commit.
One look at the mobile crime-fighting team and a shoplifter at the downtown HEB thought twice about it and hurried back to pay for the bag of adobado potato chips he had just stolen and was about to munch on the steps of the old federal courthouse as Sossi whizzed by.
Such was the feeling of security and comfort that the chief (and his guaruras) cast over the area that even some coyotes from Matamoros' Maña who were about to ferry their pollitos near Hope Park slithered back into the thick cane across the river and postponed their dastardly deeds until he was out of sight.
George Gavito, the new owner of the El Barril Lounge, said that when the chief was making his pass near the old Jardin Hotel, a homeless man who customarily relieves his bodily needs between the Dumpsters in the alley next to his business apologized to him and ran down the alley to an alternate spot.
"That in itself is a testament to the impact of what the chief is doing by example," Gavito was overheard telling one of his early customers. "Downtown just got a breath of fresh air, and not the dank stench of the usual smells. Things are looking up."
About the only ones complaining were the crack dealers who said that yesterday will be known as Black Tuesday because their business dried up and their horrified customers stayed away in droves because of the heat.
"It's getting to the point a man can't make an honest buck in this town," said a disgusted dealer whose height has earned him the name of La Escalera. "I may have to look for another gig."
Will the chief continue striking fear into the hearts of downtown evil doers? He has hinted that these patrols may not be limited to the daylight hours and that nighttime cruising may be instituted depending on the results of the test ride.
"The crackheads are on tenterhooks," said a local barfly. "The chief's ride may have permanently altered their daily routine. It's keeping these criminals off balance."


By Juan Montoya
To the migrant workers picking cherries at the Lester Southwell farm between Omena and Peshawbestown, Michigan, July 20, 1969 was just another muggy day made bearable only by the proximity of the chilly waters of Omena Bay across Michigan Highway 22 from their labor camp.

There were families from Brownsville, Bluetown, San Pedro, Texas, Matamoros, Florida, and from across the Southwest at the labor camp.

They were picking black cherries after they had gotten done with the napoleons (light red) sweets, and toward the end of the season in August, would move on to the tarts, or sour cherries favored by pie makers all over the world.

Today was special.

Not only were they picking their favorite cherries, large lumpy syrupy blacks (bings), but the kids and teenagers in the camp had rigged a black and white television they had bought at one of those garage sales that seemed to sprout each Friday and Saturday along the Suttons Bay to Traverse City route where local residents knew migrants passed on their weekend runs for food and other household necessities.

They had all pitched in and paid $10 for the set and rigged it with aluminum foil and wire clothes hangers to acquire a somewhat discernible image of nearby television broadcasters, most notably the Traverse City CBS affiliate Channel 9-10.

The kids who were too young to work in the orchards would watch cartoons and sitcoms during the day that the teens and adults were out in the orchards with their ladders and pails and in the evenings the young adults watched the prime-time comedy and adventure shows.

But today, July 20, we knew that man was set to land on the moon. That evening, the moon waxed near three-quarters and reflected off the clear waters off Omena Bay as it merged with Grand Traverse Bay to the south. The night was clear and cool, hovering in the upper 60s.

As we kids gathered around the set, Walter Cronkite narrated play-by-play as the astronauts made ready their descent toward the lunar surface. We were all enthralled at the prospect of man landing on the moon.

Outside, the adult males stood in a small circle around their cars parked in front of their respective cabins in the campo and talked adult talk about how much their families picked today, what was coming tomorrow, and where they would travel at the end of the cherry season when the sour cherries trees had been plucked clean. These were the days before the tree-shaking automatic machines replaced agricultural labor. It had been a good year.

Then, as Cronkite and CBS switched to the NASA transmission from the lunar surface as Neil Armstrong (just a blurry, bouncy, bouncing image on the set), pronounced his famous words, "This is just one small...." Cronkite had to cut in and translate the staticky slurs pronounced some 250,000 miles away and finish the sentence.

We burst out in shouts and screams and ran out of the small cabin in celebration to the amazement of the adults gathered in front of the camp.

"Que tienen?" my father asked.

"La luna!" we replied. "El hombre llego a la luna!"

"The men looked up at the moon, bright and distant, in the sky.

To some of them, who had never finished elementary school and some who had spent their entire lives without getting a chance to get near one, our claims must have seemed ludicrous.

"Tan locos," they said turning back to subjects that really mattered.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


By Juan Montoya
It warmed the cockles of our cold, cold, hearts to see Cameron County District Attorney bestow the much-coveted "Pillar of Justice" award to his former Pubic Information Officer Melissa Landin.
This lead us to wonder why the choice. Saenz said in his warm remarks at the award that Landin, who left for greener pastures in Harlingen last November, that her "hard work and dedication" merited the recognition.
Now, as far as we can remember, Landin's job at the DA's Office was to get her boss Saenz reelected, and left before that came about.
Saenz could have well awarded it to Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio for a lifetime as a law enforcement officer, but that wouldn't do because Mellie is helping his Republican challenger (and Saenz's former Public Integrity Unite boss) Victor Cortez to try to unseat Lucio in November.
We're still waiting to see what October Surprise Cortez and Landin will pull off to try to unseat Lucio. A scandal involving the Reyna brothers, perhaps? We'll see.
We were a bit hurt that El Rrun-Rrun, Robert Wightman's Brownsville Voice, Jerry McHale, or even Jim Barton, of the Brownsville Observer, weren't even considered for the honor. After all, it was through Landin that Wightman was played like a fiddle to buttress Saenz's reputation. It even got to the point where Landin was receiving PR suggestions from Wightman in return for exclusive access to the DA's criminal files.
And we though we was friends!
Even those members of the DA's staff who have stood by him through thick and thin were tossed aside like so much chewed bagasse. Rene comes to mind as does Janie and Ismael, the rest of the ADAs and investigators, the tireless workers the Crime Victims Unit, and those current and former politicians who assisted Saenz in the past.
Instead of remembering folks who have spent their lives in law enforcement, or friends in political position who have made his ascent to the DA's office possible, Saenz chose to honor Landin, a figure who has skirted the law – and came near to being charged for obstructing justice for political purposes – all too recently.
We will mention only one instance.
On December 2011, when Landin (then Zamora) was working for State Rep. Oliveira's reelection campaign, one of Rene's girlfriends was driving (or was it really him?) an uninsured car registered under his name and hit a couple from behind.
Accident and arrest reports filed on by arresting officer Everardo Longoria (city commissioner Rick Longoria's brother) indicate that at about 9:48 p.m. in the evening police were called to a serious accident involving two cars on the frontage road next to Charlie Clarks' Nissan.
The reports indicate that a 1999 Ford Windstar van with two passengers was struck from behind at a high rate of speed by a 2009 Chrysler PT cruiser operated by one Guadalupe Molina, identified as an employee at the college media department.
When officers arrived at the accident scene, they found the van with heavy damage to the rear parked in the grassy area between the expressway far right lane and the frontage road in front of the Nissan dealership. A woman passenger complained that she was hurting as a result of the impact, but did not require ambulance transport. After ascertaining that the passengers in the van were not seriously hurt, officers walked over to the Chrysler and found an the driver was uncooperative and refusing to emerge from the car merely stating that she "knew her rights."
After getting her license information, officers bodily removed her from the wrecked car which had traveled over the curb, knocked down a fence at the dealership and almost struck a demonstration car on a ramp inside the car dealer's.
A check of the vehicle's VIN indicated that the car belonged to State rep. Rene Oliveira, who was not in the vehicle. Additionally, on the box corresponding to "proof of financial responsibility" (auto insurance) the "no" box is crossed out. Apparently, it was not insured at the time of the accident.
We understand that Molina was later seen tooling around town in a new car – a Caddy at that – that she was lent for her personal transportation. Quien pompo and in return for what, her silence?
As the officers investigated the crime scene and attempted to elicit information from the obviously intoxicated driver, a woman identifying herself as a "city commissioner" showed up on the scene.
Longoria wrote in his report that: "As I was documenting my report I heard officer (Alfonso) Garcia yell to someone outside my patrol unit. I then heard a female voice yell out 'I'm a city commissioner.' I then observed that there was a female dressed in gray sweat pants standing next to my police unit by the back door where Ms. Molina was. I heard officer Garcia tell her that the female was in custody and that she could not talk to her. The female walked away onto the grass of the Nisssan dealership," Longoria's report reads.
Despite the verbal warning that she was not to speak with Molina and being informed that the woman was being very uncooperative and highly intoxicated, Zamora merely answered that "I know," and went back to her car to speak with someone on her cell phone. However, that was not the end of her involvement in the Molina arrest.
Longoria writes that: "I informed her (Zamora) that the minimum confinement was four hours because it was an intoxication charge and she told me she was already arranging (to take care of) that. She then walked away and got back on her phone...I walked down the road to the van and heard yelling coming from the area of my patrol unit. I then observed the same female standing by the back door of my patrol car unit yelling at Ms. Molina through the closed door. Officer Garcia then stepped towards her once again but I was not able to hear what was said."
Later, the victims who were struck from behind told relatives that they were never paid for their medical care or for the damages to their vehicle and that Molina (and Oliveira) never took responsibility for the wreck.
A pillar of justice, indeed. 


(Ed.s Note: Sometime back we had a post where we decried the fact that the City of Brownsville and its elected representatives and administrators seemed more preoccupied with pet projects that would contribute toward their self-created legacies. You have Rose Gowen steering millions toward bike trails while whole neighborhoods lack sidewalks, others championing mass zumbas to get into the Guinness World Records, and others using public funds to speculate in downtown properties on behalf of their cronies. Previously, the entire commission approved the giveaway of prime downtown property to entice (bribe) the University of Texas System to stay downtown, and started the process to hand over Lincoln Park for a fraction of its appraised value. Yet, they are willing to ignore the need for basic necessities such as bus shelters to protect riders like this man in a wheel chair from the elements as they go about their merry way. So what good was the money that was spent on Da Mayor's directions to bring Gil Peñalosa, the executive director of the 8-80 Cities, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada,to tell us at a conference at the Cueto Building that we should be ashamed of ourselves for having such bad streets, sidewalks and phantom bus shelters. Following Peñalosa's regañada of local citizens, city administrators, and local bigwigs over the condition of our infrastructure and lack of sidewalks and shoddy streets, the city meekly approved payment to him for $7,974 that included $6,500 for professional services, $988 for air transportation, and $485 for accommodations and meals in good old "American dollars," as he requested, not in discounted Canadian currency.We have also pointed out in other posts that some staffers at the Brownsville Urban System (BUS) have sent us photos of unassembled bus shelters that are still in the box because they are not on the list of top priorities for the company that the city has hired to manage the city's mass transportation system.
And, like clockwork, every time the issue of bus shelters comes up, the directors of BUS show up at the city commission meetings announcing a new grant to guessed it, bus shelters.
Oh, well, they're just bus riders, so who cares, right? Next time you're on the city's streets see what pass off as bus shelters. If the riders are lucky, there will be a mesquite tree or a building nearby to provide a little protection from the double-digit and 100-plus degree weather. If not, then they'll have to do like the mobility-challenged gent in the photo and bear the heat. Da Mayor recently returned from what can only be described as a junket to several cities in Colombia compliments of the taxpayers of Brownsville. After spending $100,000s there, we have yet to see one Brownsville resident with a job generated by those trips. And we bet Martinez didn't have to wait for the jet under the searing sun.)


(Ed.'s Note: Well, it was bound to be just a matter of time before eight-liners appeared on La Pulga Online or other social media outlet. This one, sent to us by one of our eight reader's, appeared on Craig's list and makes a pitch for a customer. I says the seller has "Over 400 Games for sale. Games include Pot O' Golds, Life of Luxury, IGT's, 8 Liner Games, VGA, Southern Golds, Mexican Lotteries, Happy Farms, Big Money Shows, and some other titles. Also selling cabinets and spare parts, bill accepters, monitors, wiring harnesses, touch screen controllers, chairs. Pricing in the games starting at $400 and everything can be negotiated, financing available with a down payment. Please contact me for more information. It's OK to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests." The question becomes, then, where is the buyer going to put these maquinitas to work? We know it's not against the law to sell them, but could selling them be construed to abet a wrongdoing? In that case, maybe Cameron County D.A. Luis V. Saenz could give the seller a few pointers on how to unload the machines. If you remember, after Saenz vowed never to sell them after he confiscated them, he turned right around and sold 500 for $100,000 and later claimed he never inhaled because he didn't touch the $100,000. Buyer beware!) 

Monday, July 18, 2016


(Ed.'s Note: The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art has brought you flying men, overturned Greek [or Roman?] heads, a fake King Tut, and some stuff that is, frankly, undecipherable to the average layman without the benefit of art appreciation training. But their new exhibit, the "Soul of Urban Man" has struck a chord on local motorists passing by the frontage road near the intersection with East Price Road. Where some may see a tangle of rebar and concrete, the artist, Rosendo Perika, of the art commune outside San Miguel Allende, sees the deterioration of modern culture and man's reach for redemption. The BMFA is paying Perike untold bundles of cash to exhibit his works of art in the open air around town. "Mr. Perika likes to exhibit his works where the people can see them, where they travel, where it can have an impact on their daily lives," said a curator at the museum. Perika uses mixed media such as rebar and concrete chunks to impress the futility of modern man to survive in an urban setting, according to a pamphlet on the exhibit. While the average observer may think that the chunks of concrerte are just that, to someone who appreciates fine art and expression they actually symbolize the uprooting of modern man from his connection with Mother Earth and the strands of rebar his aspiration for freedom for the everyday bonds that keep the soul entangled in the material world. The exhibit will continue indefinitely or until the owner of the property can afford to construct a new building on the lot.)    


By Juan Montoya
The undcercurrents of passionate discord over the vigil held by the a group calling itself the Xicanx and Latinx supporters of the Black Lifes Matter movement has unleashed criticism from those who feel that holding such an event immediately following the shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge was inanppropriate.
A few score of people showed up to what was dubbed a "family event" at Washington Park, at the opposite end of the monument to Confederate States of America president Jefferson Davis. The group gathered there just past 6 p.m. and stayed for about two hours.
“The goal of this vigil is to send a message to the Black Lives Matter movement telling them that we’re standing with them and will support their message and will help in any way we can,” Sadie Hernandez, an organizer of the vigil told the local daily before the event, “As Xicanxs, we cannot speak for or over black struggles, so we emphasize that this is a solidarity event run by brown people in support.”
Hernandez and Antonio Castillo, another organizer, told the local newsppaer that the support to the BLM movement across the United States "ranges from engaging in meaningful conversations to raise awareness and combat anti-blackness, to raising money for the activists and families of victims, not only for the Black Lives Matter movement, but also for Xicanx and Latinx brothers and sisters."
“This is a peaceful candlelight vigil. As non-black people, it is not our place to march and take the streets,” said Castillo.
But this did not sit well with some anonymous commenters to this blog who took unbrage that a vigil would be held for the black victims of police when just this past week two separate attacks on police  left nine officers dead.
In both cases, the attackers have been identified as black military veterans, one a National Guard member and another a former U.S. Marine.
"It was a total failure, hardly anyone showed up," commented a critic. "About 30 adults and lots of young kids...I give credit to the intelligent people of Brownsville for refusing to join this racist and violent group. Shame on you Antonio Castillo for doing this a couple of hours after more police are killed."
In all fairness, the vigil was scheduled prior to the attack on the police in Baton Rouge. But that fact meant little to the anomynous commenter who chided the vigil, chastising them for "cebrating" the officers' deaths and warned the organizers ominously.
"Shame on the few people who went. You are racist and part of the problem and not the solution. Brownsville does not need you and the problems you bring. Tonight I will pray for the fine officers who lost their lives recently while you and your black lives matter friends celebrate their deaths. May god have pity on you because I do not. You are vial (sic) Antonio Castillo. I look forward to meeting up with you in person one day Antonio Castillo."
The confrontational tone of the comment cannot be missed as is the wish of the commenter to confront Castillo, an instructor at Texas Southmost College who has been actively attempting to have the city remove the stone monument to Davis from Washington Park and have it placed in a museum.
In any event, it is clear that the antagonism between law enforcement and minorities has detriorated to the point where armed confrontation has become the rule of the day despite pleadings from black and white clergy and elected officials, including President Barack Obama.
Is the summer of 2016 going to be another Long Hot Summer?

Sunday, July 17, 2016


"For the first time ever, the NASA press site at Kennedy Space Center will be evacuated for Monday's launch attempt, as will the neighboring Vehicle Assembly Building and the rest of the former shuttle launch complex. A risk evaluation by the Air Force shows that the Dragon capsule, full of toxic fuel, could parachute down into this targeted area in the event of a launch failure. The wind is expected to be blowing right in the press site's direction, thus the evacuation order.  Journalists as well as NASA and SpaceX public relations staff and VIPs have been ordered to find alternative viewing sites...On June 2015, a Dragon and all its contents were destroyed when the Falcon rocket failed shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in June 2015."

By Juan Montoya
That quote, from an Associated Press story about the Monday launch of a Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule should make all those who have been cheerleading the coming of the SpaceX commercial vertical launch to Boca Chica Beach take a good hard look at their support for this project.
SpaceX mogul Elon Musk has already been given $25 million in incentives to bring his rocket show to the lomas of Boca Chica. And – as is his trademark for these projects – the flights he predicted would begin in 2013, have not materialized. Yet, the restrictions on local residents to use the beach have been passed into law. When and if the launches start, the company would virtually own the public beaches and even spectators would have to crane their necks from as far as 10 miles away to see the takeoffs. That would happen 12 times a year, or once a month. SpaceX would have full control of access to the beach days before and after the launch.
Photo: SpaceXAfter the announcement, we took the liberty of measuring the distance from the Kennedy Space Center NASA press site and the Vehicle Assembly building. They are both approximately three miles from the launch site.
Measuring the distance from the proposed SpaceX site to Koepernick Shores, it is just about a quarter of a mile.
It is just a little over five miles to the nearest town, Port Isabel.
That's why statements like Brownsville Economic Development Vice President (and former Herald reporter) Gilbert Salinas who blithely stated that the fuel that the Falcon and Falcon Heavy launch rockets used was kerosene, the same, he said, that "you would use in your campfire" sound ludicrous in retrospect.
In fact, the Falcon launchers use 119,100 Kilograms (262,570 pounds) of Rocket Propellant 1 (RP1) and 276,600kg (276,600 pounds) of Liquid Oxygen.
 RP-1 is significantly more powerful than Liquid Hydrogen 2 by volume. RP-1 also has a fraction of the toxicity and carcinogenic hazards of hydrazine, another room-temperature liquid fuel.
But, experts say, any hydrocarbon-based fuel (like RP1) when burned produces more air pollution than hydrogen. RP1 combustion produces carbon dioxide (CO2), toxic carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbon (HC) emissions, and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), while hydrogen (H2) reacts with oxygen (O2) to produce only water (H2O), with some unreacted H2 also released.
Now, would you feel safe if you lived in Port Isabel knowing that you are a mere five miles downwind from the SpaceX launch site? Mexico, to the south, is less than three miles away.
Also, the SpaceX launch site lies within the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to the South Bay of the Laguna Madre, the spawning waters of gulf shrimp, redfish, and other aquatic species native to South Texas and of immense economic importance to tourism and commercial fishing.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife sates in its website that:
Laguna Madre tarpon "With much of the upper and lower Laguna Madre shorelines protected from development by large ranches on the west and Padre Island National Seashore on the east, these bays are as remote and pristine as any in Texas. Their clear shallow waters promote the growth of extensive sea grass beds. In fact, about 80 percent of the remaining sea grass habitat in Texas is located in the Laguna Madre system.
These sea grass meadows provide protective nursery areas for larval and juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs as well as cover and feeding areas for adult fish including spotted sea trout and red drum.
Because of low fresh water inflow, little rainfall, and high evaporation, the salinity of the Laguna Madre often exceeds that of seawater. The Laguna Madre system is the only hyper-saline coastal lagoon in North America and one of only five in the world. Despite harsh conditions imposed by high salinities, the Laguna Madre is an extremely productive bay system and is renowned among anglers for its world class fisheries."
And, "Oyster reefs are common in most other bay systems along the Texas coast. Because of the Laguna Madre’s high salinity, they are found only in South Bay at the southern end of the lower Laguna Madre where salinities are more moderate. Rock reefs represent another natural hard substrate found in the Laguna Madre. There are two types of rock reefs found in the Laguna, both of which provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals."
Now, imagine that what happened to the Spacex Falcon rocket last June was to happen over this aquatic nursery and the toxic gases are carried by the traditional southeast trade winds over the South Bay, to Port Isabel and to the Laguna Madre. Would Musk have enough money to pay for the ecological damage that would result from all those toxic gases and sludge falling into the water and over the people there?
Oh, and remember those 600 jobs at a minimum of $55,000 that BEDC's Salinas was using to sell SpaceX?
This is what SpaceX actually promised the FAA in its Environmental Impact Statement.

Table 2.1-2. Personnel for Proposed SpaceX Texas Launch Site Operations

Year Full-time SpaceX Full-time SpaceX Employees/Contractors Employees/Contractors plus
Working On-Site Additional Local/Transient Workers
during Launch Campaigns

Year                           Full time            Local/Transient
2013                              30                                   130
2014                              75                                   175
2015                            100                                   200
2016                            100                                   200
2017                            110                                   210
2018                            130                                   230
2019                            150                                   250
2020                            150                                   250
2021                            150                                   250
2022                            150                                   250
We're in the middle of 2016 and so far there is only a mound of dirt out on Boca Chica and none of the 100 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs Musk promised. And we hope Salinas doesn't use RP1 to light his campfire when he is allowed to go fishing in Boca Chica.
His credibility (and BEDC's) couldn't take any more burning.