Saturday, October 3, 2015


(Ed's Note: We learned recently that as part of a school contest, middle-school students at Oliveira were asked to create an original poem for competition. Although some students lifted entire poems out of the Internet (plagiarized), some came up with good stuff. Below, is one we though was outstanding. We post this without the student's name so as not to influence the competition.)

I still remember you running
Up and down the field,
Openly laughing as you ran

And I remember you
Coming home from camp
After you signed up to go,
Openly laughing, as you ran
To meet your loved ones in the rain

Time passed, wars raged on
And you wrote home, about the fights
And how you wished you could
Come home and run again, laughing
In the wind and in the rain

You finally did, in your dress blues
Your medals, and missing limbs
Pushed by your brother
Serious and grim
In your wheelchair

And I asked you, why you had gone
And you replied,
I used to run and laugh, and dream of home
To run and play and love and live
And I went, and came and now return
                                                                   So that you can


(Ed's Note: The furor caused by the unilateral implementation of a new substance-abuse testing program by the Cameron County District Attorney's Office under the leadership of Luis V. Saenz that will increase the cost to defendants in the Pre-Trial Diversion program has escalated beyond mere words. Below we quote the give and take between Asst. DA Rene Garza and a few members of the defense bar. We omit the names of the attorneys because they did not authorize that we publicize their emails. Under the new policy, all defendants in the PTD must report to the Avertest testing site 365 days a week holidays and weekends included. If they are called to test, they must do so that same day regardless of whether they have to leave their job site or are out of town. Additionally, instead of paying $5 per test, the new cost will be $17 per test, with $8 going to the DA's Office PTD fund.)

Lawyer 1:
"I would also like to add that even those on federal probation are not required to report 365 days a
year. If accepted into a special program, the maximum amount they need to report is 6 months. So,
someone who pled guilty to a misdemeanor DWI is with a federal conviction? That's utterly ridiculous."

Lawyer 2:
"And for everybody's information, I've learned from a probation officer and an ADA that each program participant can expect to be selected for random testing 8-10 times PER MONTH. I really hope my information is bad and that this isn't correct, because that comes to $136-$170 per month, or $1,632-$2,040 per year. How else can this company from Richmond, Virginia profit on the backs of the poor of Cameron County?"

Lawyer 3:
"The fact is it is very easy for folks of our means to think little of the burden of the poor, and if we are being honest, we must admit these policies disproportionately affect the poor. It is one thing to say, well, they (the defendant) brought this on themselves. Many PTD participants have govt.- issued cell phones they can only use for emergencies, for example. They will suffer while this private company profits, and why? Because Cameron county probation can't do their job. 
We have heard the arguments. The first was that we must improve randomness. But I think we all know that is not a real issue. The second argument was that the county does a poor job administering RUAs, so the solution seems to be to have a third party private company dip even deeper into defendants pockets for profit and then require them to check in 365 times a year. I don't believe there is anything indecent or disrespectful about calling this 'solution' inane."

Lawyer 4:
With all that said, there are two issues. First, this change is a breach of contract for existing PTD
agreements. The solution is not to jump all over Rene; he's a good honest lawyer who works
very hard, and this most likely wasn't his decision. The solution is for the defense bar to
challenge revocations on the breach of contract.
As for future PTDs, we will just have to consider the reasons why PTD may not be appropriate
and fight more of these cases.
The dockets are backed up beyond belief in this county. In Harris county, a county of over 3 million, I believe, DWIs are charged within a week of arrest. The fact that it takes us months and months
is ridiculous. I happen to know of a case where a defendant here in Cameron county was
accused of aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated  assault deadly weapon and this DAs office couldn't get around to indicting the defendant for over 3 months, a week after the def got out on a Personal Recognizance bond. They must be more backed up than any of us realize.
The point is the defense bar has some leverage. Not much, but if the DAs office is serious about
relieving the docket clog, the answer is for us to carefully consider the benefits of advising our
clients to take PTD given its already burdensome provisions, with the long-term goal that these
types of decisions are made with some consultation with other officers of the court so that justice
and judicial economy can be mutually inclusive objectives for all of us. We will be better for it,
the DAs office will be better for it, and Cameron County will be better for it. None of us want
drunk drivers on the road and we all agree participants should stay clean while on probation. But
inanity must be acknowledged where it exists.

Lawyer 5:
"I agree...only I would add inane. There is NO real justification for this directive except to justify the existence of some bureaucrat buried deep in the bowels of the DA's office. Perhaps an enema is order?

Lawyer 6: 
"Everyone is being to nice! Requiring a defendant to report 365 times a year is just stupid."

Asst. DA Rene Garza replied to the storm of disapproval thus: 
"To-that-end..prior to Avertest there wasn't a set fee. Random UAs and BAC samples were collected in various unsanitary locations throughout the county by county probation officers who came to conclusions based on minimal trainings they received at County expense. These results were often challenged in Court, and it is my belief that Justice was not served as the tests were neither Random-or Lab-certified. Using county time and employees to collect and send samples by FEDEX to  a distant lab with questionable chain-of-custody situations. The county would charge the-probationer from five dollars to $25.00 for each UA.
Avertest has assured us that their collections and results will withstand a court challenge according to all recent scientific-testing procedure at a reasonable price. I appreciate your opinion as to overburdening your PTD client, I don’t feel that submitting to Random UA and a one-minute phone-call on a daily basis would discourage your clients from participating in the PTD program, imagine the burden of a conviction."

And a reply from Lawyer 7:
"...While the participants no doubt should stay clean and behave themselves, they should also be allowed to have a life. Is having them call in every day practical? More importantly, does it rise to level of a material change in the contract?
If the intent is to remind them of this opportunity and how seriously they should take it, this new measure seems to go overboard in my opinion."

Asst DA Garza:
In response I ask that you review your client's PRE-TRIAL AGREEMENT, looking specifically at the fourth condition of the agreement:
4. I will COMPLETELY avoid the use of alcoholic beverages to include beer and illicit drugs while participating in the PRE-TRIAL DIVERSION-PROGRAM.
And the fifth condition; 
5. I will attend the following services if checked below: Random urinalysis and/or breathalyzer testing. I believe that if your client knew of and agreed to these two conditions in the agreement, then there has been no substantial change to the agreement."
Thus, while calling in and submitting samples on a random basis is a new experience to your clients, it is not a NEW requirement or a change in the contract. Therefore, this agreement has not been modified from the basic terms and conditions as you explained them to your clients when signing the agreement."

Lawyer 8: 
"It's clear we'll just have to duke this out case by case. But if this DA's office insists on outsourcing the County's criminal justice responsibilities to private companies who profit by imposing these types of hardships on FIRST TIME OFFENDERS, including private prisons or probation companies, to the detriment and erosion of the civil rights of the citizens of Cameron County, then this defense bar must do what it can to see that a change in leadership occurs. It is our professional, ethical and moral responsibility to do so."

Lawyer 9:
"Rene, it is apparent that you just don't get it. Please step out in the sunshine and smell the fresh air (I have previously noted there a few windows in the Administration Building). No Defense lawyer wants these draconian measures, for all the reasons previously stated. So the DA's office will implement this daily reporting measure, notwithstanding reason and discussion. Hello, where is that enema bag when you really need it?"

NEXT: A view from an attorney and former District Judge against the new Avertest poicy implemented by the DA's Office:

Friday, October 2, 2015


By Juan Montoya
Well, someone might actually be listening to our illustrious U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr.
Or perhaps not.
Just the same, one of Fil's prayers was answered with the extradition of Cartel del Golfo (CDG) Capo Jorge Costilla Sanchez, known as "El Coss.," who was among 13 men wanted in the United States.
If you remember, Fil Jr. and one of his buddies from Austin want the U.S. government to hurry up and extradite the former governors of Tamaulipas Tomas Yarrington and Eugenio Hernandez to get their just desserts in U.S. courts.
Well, until they are, El Cos will do nicely.
After all, he used to be the chauffeur for current Matamoros police chief Humberto Garcia. Garcia was appointed to that post by mayor Letty Salazar. So Mr. Garcia might be feeling a mite feverish just about now, if not also his boss.
Not only that, but as the successor of Osiel Cardenas as head of the Gulf Cartel, he was intimate with the likes of Yarrington, industrialist Sergio Arguelles, and just about every other politician on the take on both sides of the border.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan arraigned him on multiple drug conspiracy and money laundering charges and ordered he be held without bond. 
El Cos, with a face only his mother could love, hired the services of Edmund K. Cyganiewicz (a hard name to pronounce, but a good lawyer) about two years ago when he was captured and imprisoned in Tampico, Tamps., Mexico.
Since then, despite the hoopla in the U.S. press, he has been wanting to go north and face the music.
So it was somewhat surprising when the feds pulled out all the stops and brought him to the federal courthouse in Brownsville with all the bells and whistles.
Snipers atop the courthouse, an armored car (well, the sheriff doesn't get to use it much, anyway), and a convoy of armed federal agents reminiscent of the recent papal visit, were seen escorting Costilla through the streets of Brownsville.
If El Cos and Cyganiewicz reach an accommodation with the Asst. U.S. Attorney, Lord knows what we might learn about the way the cartel operates on both sides of the Rio Grande. Some of the folks involved may even be some people that Little Fil associates with in his BiNED scam along with United Brownsville.
As the Chinese proberb said: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.



By Juan Montoya
The last time we saw Estela Chavez-Vasquez was when she got caught holding a seat on the City of Brownsville Commission while trying out her new crib in Los Fresnos.
In fact, we never saw her at all when she quit the position that she had convinced the city voters he wanted to have so she could represent them.
It took (of all people) commissioner Rose "La Chisquiada" Gowen to tell us that our little Estela was gone for good never to return.
In her letter of resignation to the city, she said that due to “circumstances beyond my control” she would unable to complete her term that ended this past May. She was elected in 2011.
Well, if it seemed too good to be true, it was.
She now wants to be the judge at the new County Court-at-Law Number 5, a countywide post.
She made her announcement yesterday at Toscafino's, a popular hangout for young lawyers in love.
We know that there are several other candidates for this position that pays $150,000, so Estela might want to save her pennies for the long haul.
The immediate question that comes to mind is: "If you couldn't fulfill your duties as a city commissioner and quit only when you got caught living in another jurisdiction, what makes you think the voters will fill in the oval for you this time?"


By Juan Montoya
For some time now United Brownsville’s mayor, Tony Martinez has been pressuring, cajoling, and moaning that the City should be paying "his" secretary because “She does so much city-related work.”
It looks like he may have forced this level of personal flim-flam to a new level. Cruising job openings at the city reveals this never before seen item: Community Engagement Coordinator
This caught my eye because it contained –THREE- job title words that meant bunkum all in a row, in a SINGLE TITLE!
All those with experience in the (dare we say Da Word?) bullshit world of made-up jobs that are paid for with other people’s money will recognize immediately that engagement is a screaming bullshit (again) word that means, “go to meetings if you want and otherwise throw that word around to bullshit your way into talking to someone who otherwise has no need or desire to talk to you” Coordinator is another baloney word meaning, “interfere with people doing their jobs and insinuate yourself into the control structure of any project or task where you feel the need to inject your nonsense.”
Any title including community means, as we all know, “put me on the meeting invite list, especially if there is food, but for God’s sake don’t expect me to do anything except bamboozle you at meetings and tell you what to do.”
Intrigued and yet horrified at the title I felt the need to actually read through the padding that described the “job”.
Just as I thought, there was a deluge of bullshit (that word, again. Mothers cover your children's ears), including the duplication of other City department duties and the description of how this “job” is to interfere (interface) with other department’s daily operations were there, of course. Most notable were the duplication of the City Public Relations Director’s and the City Manager’s and Health Department responsibilities. (see “Essential Tasks”), but essential to whom?
A quick scan of the listing also provided the required bullshit word of “facilitate”. This is like a notary seal on a bullshit job description and I was not disappointed. Now what in all of this bucket of crap stinks of Martinez and his secretary? Read the following:
Researches attitudes, opinions, and perceptions of selected internal and external groups and refines core messaging to ensure organizational consistency.
Serve as City liaison to coordinate City support for community events.
Serve as voice and image of the City in key discussions and issues, events and outreach programs.
Works closely with elected officials to provide assistance in public appearances, speeches and media interviews.
May assist in planning and implementation press tours, ground breakings, grand openings, dignitary receptions, and other special events.
This is exactly what Mayor U.B. Martinez has been claiming that he needs his secretary paid to do.
The most comical bull poopoo in the job description was a whole titled section called “Involvement With Things” Such drivel deserves special recognition
Go ahead and read it, I could not be making this bullshit up!
Coordinates the activities of those operating equipment that requires extended training and experience such as electronic telecommunications equipment, commercial video equipment; software used for programming custom applications; or the application of custom or commercial financial, accounting, administrative, legal or other complex software systems; may involve installation and testing.
A simple translation is “Tell other people who know how to do their jobs how to do their jobs because they are too complicated for you to have to understand.”
The sections titled “Data Involvement” and “People Involvement” are obvious, patent bunk as well.
Coordinates or determines time, place or sequence of operations or activities based on analysis of data or information and may implement and report on operations and activities.
Persuade or influence others in favor of a service, point of view, or course of action; may enforce laws, rules, regulations, or ordinances.
Perhaps the most telling of all, if one needed any more proof of Tony Martinez/United Brownsville bullshit is the following:
Provides briefings to the City Council and the City Manager concerning issues affecting public image and, works collaboratively with Public Information Officer to formulate strategies and policies which strengthen the City's image and brand.
This is logo bullshit at its best.
The same logo bullshit shoved down our throats with Debbie Portillo playing Girl Friday and making a point for the record of her bare minimum involvement in the process while taking point in protecting it from “premature disclosure” and being contradicted in public by Ronnie Olivera who thanked her for her efforts. Ronnie doesn’t look like he knows how to wing it when someone has to go off script.
If it smells like logo bullshit, like itinerary bullshit, like event bullshit, like involvement with "things" bullshit, we might have a slight suspicion that it might be bullshit. How about you?

Thursday, October 1, 2015


By Juan Montoya
A federal judge has ruled that evidence in the $1 million lawsuit brought against the Brownsville Independent School by Lucy Longoria and Catalina Presas-Garcia did not meet the requirements necessary to prove First Amendment violations and retaliation, but that the defamation allegations by Presas-Garcia against two trustees and the district's legal counsel can continue.
In a 57-page memorandum and order issues Sept. 22. Judge Andrew Hanen denied the women's complaints against the BISD, former board president Enrique Escobedo, trustees Herman Otis Powers, Jr. , Minerva M. Pena, Jose Hector Chirinos  Cesar Lopez, Dr. Carl A. Montoya, and BISD legal counsel Baltazar Salazar alleging First Amendment violations and retaliation.
Both had filed the lawsuit against the defendants alleging that they had been censured and retaliated against  by the late BISD board president Escobedo with the complicity of the other defendants after they went to the Texas Rangers, Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz and the Texas Attorney General's Office with their allegations of criminal acts.
In their lawsuit, they claimed that in their roles as BISD Trustees, they became aware of several corrupt or questionable practices involving the school district and the Board. They alleged a whole range of unscrupulous financial, administrative, and hiring practices, including nepotistic contracting with insurance vendors and construction companies, politicized hiring of unqualified or incompetent individuals, and giving inappropriate pay increases to certain favored BISD employees.
They requested a judicial declaration that their alleged public censure and censor was null and void, together with damages and other legal and equitable relief, on the grounds that Defendants violated their rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as various federal and state laws.
In a long-ranging discourse on the rights of public officials in the carrying out of their duties, Hanen granted the defendants motions to dismiss these claims stating that their actions were carried out in the performance of their duties.
However, in the case where counsel Salazar and trustees Lopez, and Peña accused Presas-Garcia of a criminal action and Salazar accused her of making sexual advances on him falsely during a public meeting did not entitle them to their immunity claim.
Hanes said that although the defamation claims were made under Texas law, the federal courts retain jurisdiction "in light of the federal law claims, which are based on the same or similar factual allegations as the state law claims."
Hanen's made a distinction between the right of public employees and elected government officials to free speech protections.
"None of the Supreme Court's public employee speech decisions qualifies or limits the First
Amendment's protection of elected government officials' speech," he wrote citing precedent. "...there is a meaningful distinction between the First Amendment's protection of public employees' speech and other speech, including that of elected government officials...(and ) on the specific issue of whether an elected official alleging retaliation by his peers (i.e., other elected officials who have exercised competing freedom of speech rights) is entitled to the same First Amendment protection afforded private citizens."
However, in the case of the defendants' motion to dismiss the defamation action, "the Court finds that Plaintiff Garcia has alleged “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” for her defamation causes of action against Salazar, Pena, and Lopez.
"Plaintiff alleges that on October 1, 2013, Lopez, Pena, and Salazar defamed her during a closed session of the Board when they allegedly accused her of criminal conduct for an email Garcia sent to a BISD employee," Hanen wrote. "This allegation sufficiently identifies the “time, place, content, speaker, and listener,” as required to plead defamation. Likewise, for the other alleged instance of defamation committed by Salazar, Plaintiff sufficiently identifies each of the above requirements to survive a...motion to dismiss."
Salazar had alleged that as a "professional employee," he enjoyed immunity for his alleged "conduct in telling the board and the public that Presas-Garcia solicited sexual favors from him and made 'other disgusting sexual innuendos' did not embody acts “incident to or within the scope of the duties of [his] position of employment" Hanen wrote. Therefore, Salazar’s request to grant him immunity as a “professional employee” of BISD was denied.
In a side note, Hanen said that "To the extent that Lopez and Pena also moved to dismiss asserting professional employee immunity, the Court, without evidence on the record, is unable at this juncture to determine whether Lopez and Pena could be said to be acting within the scope of their duties." Hanen then denied their claims of immunity.
In his conclusion, Hanen granted the motions to dismiss filed by all the defendants except to the extent that those motions sought dismissal of Presas Garcia’s defamation causes of action against Salazar, Lopez, and Pena in their individual capacities for the statements allegedly made during board meetings by those three defendants on July 23, 2013 and October 1, 2013. He denied the motions to dismiss the defamation claim against Salazar, Lopez, and Pena.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


By Juan Montoya
Just last week, Cameron County Luis V. Saenz sent his gopher Asst. DA Rene Garza to the Dancy Building to get the approval from commissioners for him to spend $24,999 to pay for three billboards addressing domestic abuse which featured his name and office shield prominently.
The fact that the billboards were to be placed in spots in the county which pushed him to victory four years ago gave commissioners cause to pause and they approved the contract with Lamar Billboard with the condition that only the name of the office, not Saenz's, be included on the billboard.
The separation of powers has always been a hallmark of county government. All contracts that are entered upon by the individual departments must be approved and bear the signature of the county judge. One arm of the government cannot usurp the other.
Saenz knows this well.
Virtually every state and federal grant and contract with vendors and other governmental bodies must first be approved by the court. His reps are always there requesting their approval (and the court's legal counsel) before entering into any deals.
But is Saenz's case, courthouse watchers have detected a tendency of Saenz to bypass the executive and legislative branches and go on off his own authority to cut deals that could potentially expose the county to liabilities.
Take, for example, his sale of 500 eight-liners to a Georgia corporation without the clearance of anyone but himself. That may have netted his office $100,000, but it did not have the approval fo the county commissioners. If those same machines are being used in a place where a crime is committed and someone gets hurt, who is liable for the sale?
On the political side, Saenz promised he would not emulate his predecessor Armando Villalobos by reselling the machines that they may be put to use again. That's a liability he will have to face on his own.
That is what is happening in Saenz's latest unilateral move to change the condition of his Pre-Trial Diversion contracts with first-time offenders. On August 31, Saenz – through Garza – surprised the legal community by saying that the rules under which PTD defendants must comply had changed.
He unilaterally contracted with Avertest, a company out of Richmod, Va., to administer substance abuse testing to PTD defendants. Instead of reporting once a month or randomly as they used to, they are now required to report 365 days (weekends and holidays included) upon penalty of revocation from the program.
That applies right now to the PTD defendants only, but the plan is to have it apply to all defendants on probation as well. As draconian as this may seem, there's another catch. Instead of paying the usual $5 fee for the test, they will now pay $17 per test, with $8 going to the DA's Office.
Our inquiries into whether the signing of the contract or the change in the PTD policy had been brought before the commissioners court for their approval indicate that neither has been done.
Legal counsel tells us that the contract and the change in policy was not brought before the commissioners court, but was approved by the Board of Judges. The judiciary, under the Texas Government Code, are limited to the hiring of the auditor, court reporters and judge's personal staff. In other words, it was an end-run by Saenz.
This led to a barrage of criticisms that may yet came and bite Saenz in the butt. There is already talk of legal challenges to the unilateral changes in the requirements under the PTD contract signed by the defendants on the advice of their attorneys.
And jut recently the Cameron County bar members are circulating a petition to have the new testing requirements and costs repealed.
In their website, they state:
"The Cameron County District Attorney's Office has announced their intention to utilize the third party company AVERTEST for Random Urinary Analysis as a condition of Pre Trial Diversion ("PTD") contracts, including those PTDs which have already commenced.

This policy would subject PTD participants to check in 365 times a year see if "randomly" selected for testing. If selected, they must report to one of two collection facilities in Cameron County by 5 p.m. that very day, unless it is a weekend or holiday, in which case they only have until noon. Failure to call in or report for testing on the day selected would be considered a violation of their PTD agreement. This means that no PTD participant, according the policy being implemented, would be able to leave Cameron County at all during the term of the program for fear of being selected.

While this may be appropriate for programs such as Drug Impact Court, it is grossly inappropriate for participants in the PTD program, who must meet stringent requirements just to be considered for the program, such as being a first time offender, among many others.

Moreover, the District Attorney's Office, while claiming AVERTEST helps them achieve true randomness in selection, has admitted that probation officers are able to influence the frequency of testing for specific individuals. This defeats the randomness of selection, and further allows AVERTEST to increase their profits by increasing the oppression imposed on these FIRST TIME OFFENDERS. This is immoral and unjust.

We are vehemently opposed to the implementation of this policy, and we urge the District Attorney's Office to change their course in this matter, and to further refrain from implementing ANY policy which shirks the responsibilities of the county in favor of private companies whose profits are directly proportional to the punishment of Cameron County citizens.

Justice, and the People of our County, are NOT FOR SALE.

To sign the petition, go to the link below:


By Juan Montoya
When Cameron County Program Management and Development Director Frank Bejarano left for retirement earlier this year, his department was full of top-level administrative talent.
There was a former planning administrator for a former county judge, a former director of the county health department, and the former interim director for the Private Industry Council before he came to the county.
All of them were highly qualified in program management, grant applications, implementation, reporting, etc., and thoroughly versed in the byzantine world of state and federal grants, deadlines and meeting the strict guidelines associated with them.
After the applications came in to fill the position Bejarano left, the county – under the direction of County Administrator David Garcia and HR Director Manuel Villarreal – picked Mark Yates, a former county auditor who left in disgrace and in handcuffs least time he worked for the county.
But Yates had a few qualifications that the the other three competent applicants did not have. He had political connections with the old Gilbert Hinojosa regime.
Pct. 3 Commissioner David Garza – David Garcia's longtime benefactor – championed Yates, also from his precinct. And so Yates was chosen. He has been in the position for the better part of a month.
If you get a chance to see Yates in action during a county meeting, the first thing that will come out of his lips is that he is not "yet in the loop," in particular grants, is still "in the learning curve," has "a bit of homework to do," and he will "get back to you on that issue," commissioner.
And when he needs a grant explained to the court, it'll be one of the three holdovers from the Bejarano regime who has to come forward and explain the intricacies of this or that grant to the inquiring commissioners.
Aside from being out of the public service loop for decades and not being up to speed on county services, what makes Yates different from the other three? His surname?
How did we gr to this fix?
County Administrator David Garcia replaced county judge appointee Pete Sepulveda when Carlos Cascos left. Garcia is himself a political appointee who was taken on by Gilbert Hinojosa at the behest of U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz's chief of staff Lencho Rendon.
Today, Garcia is raking in $180,000 for his troubles.
No one is going to say that Garcia is a crackerjack. He has played off his political connections and natural sympathies from people for his handicap to worm his way up the pecking order. Taking the tumultuous state of affairs in the county with an appointed county judge, the departure of HR Director Arnold Flores, and others, he might have well offered Bejarano an attractive raise to keep his expertise on board during these troubled times. But Bejarano wasn't a bootlicker or brown-noser like those people Garcia is used to dealing with. A straight talker, Bejarano gave you the straight skinny whether it pleased the listener or not. There was no sugar coating.
When he retired, Garcia did not make an effort to entice him to stay even though the work product coming out of that office was above reproach and much better than that coming from Garcia's own department.
Look at the hirings under Garcia:

At Program Management and Development:
1.Yates, who took a deferred adjudication plea in return for no conviction on approving an insurance contract and payments for it without the authorization of the county commissioners. He was accused of violating the competitive bidding process for renewing an insurance contract without Commissioners Court approval. The contract in question was worth $1 million with United of Omaha Life Insurance. The last thing he was doing was selling shrimp. He had been out of public service so long that even a planning degree from the days of yore did not make him a better candidate than the personnel already at PM and D. We understand he is earning $70,102, even more than Bejarano was earning when he left. Yates was an auditor, not a planner. These are two vastly different arenas and expect to see Yates lean on the staff as his learning curve turns into the Indianapolis 500.

At Human Resources:
2, Manuel Villarreal: Villarreal was hired to replace Arnold Flores at HR at $50 an hour. Villarreal was one of the Hinojosa holdovers and is known to be pliant to the powers-that-be like Garcia (and his boss Sepulveda. Sepulveda, by the way is getting paid $230,000 as county judge, but not by Cameron County. He is paid by the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority. He answers to no one and neither the taxpayers nor the voters have a say so in his employment.) There were qualified personnel at that office who applied and were turned down. They did not have the political connections Villarreal had.

At Elections
3. Remi Garza: Garza was hired at $76,000 for the Cameron County Elections as its administrator and chosen over eminently qualified elections administrators with decades of experience. He just happened to have been the chief of staff for Gilbert Hinojosa. That, apparently, was enough qualifications for Garcia to recommend his employment. There were also a number of staff at elections who were running the office when Roger Ortiz and Chris Davis were around and who were doing all the grunt work to make Davis and Garza look good. Their tasks turned out to be thankless.

At Emergency Management
4. Tom Hushen: Chosen to be County Emergency Management Coordinator at $65,317. He was – you guessed it – the emergency coordinator under Hinojosa. And yes, there were people there who could have done the job and were passed over, too.

At Administration:
5. Javier Villarreal: David Garcia's Asst. County Administrator. We have nothing against Javier. He was County Auditor Marta Galarza's right-hand man when it came to the budget. But bean counting and county administration are like day and night. His father, by the way, is Manuel Villarreal, at HR.

What kind of message does this give to staff at these departments who have been laboring to make the come-and-go administrators look good? It makes them realize that no matter how good you perform your job, you will always be bypassed when it comes to promotion or to get the top job because you're not willing to be a political hack like David Garcia was to get his job.
Take a look at Garcia's performance as administrator for Public Works. He turned a blind eye to his supervisors getting charged with stealing driveway pipes and selling them for personal profit, ignored the continuing lackluster performance of his Public Works Chief in exposing his workers to unprotected labor in trenches (see graphic at right), and allowed the injury of employees as a result.
Instead of progressing in the delivery of public services under Garcia, we are regressing back to the sordid past that Cameron County used to be.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


By Juan Montoya
By now we're getting used to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr.'s call for this or that action knowing full well that nothing will come of it.
We heard him rail against the deaths of three American citizens killed in Matamoros, against the "inaction" of Veteran Administration officials for a hospital here, and now for the extradition of
two former Mexican governors from the border state of Tamaulipas accused of working with Mexican drug cartels.
Vela and  U.S. Congressman Michael Maccaul sent the letter to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
In the letter the two congressmen ask for the extradition of former Tamaulipas governors Tomas Yarrington and Eugenio Hernandez Flores so that they can be tried in the United States.
“These two former governors of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas are accused of being key players in criminal enterprises that had a significant negative impact on communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico Border,” the congressmen stated in the letter.
Tomas Yarrington served as the governor of Tamaulipas from 1999 to 2005 while Hernandez held the post from 2005 to 2010.
News reports indicate that both Yarrington and Hernandez continue to live peacefully in Mexico. Yarrington reportedly travels continuously from Mexico City to Ciudad Victoria Tamaulipas while Hernandez frequents ritzy restaurants in Cancun with his family.
Yarrington is accused of having worked with the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartels to further their criminal enterprises. Federal officials have seized various houses belonging to Yarrington in South Texas, including a luxury condominium in South Padre Island.
 Hernandez is wanted on money laundering charges and federal officials have seized various properties in South Texas as well as in San Antonio.
Curiously, neither congressman demands that Lynch "immediately" take steps to extradite Matamoros Mayor Leticia Salazar, the main force behind the formation of the paramilitary Grupo Hercules under the direction of her Social Development coordinator Luis Biasi who are charged with kidnapping three American citizens in Progreso, (That's Fil and Lety in the photo at left. Get her, Fil!)
Progreso is part of the municipality of Matamoros.
 The three U.S. citizens Alex, 22,  Jose Angel, 21, and Erica Alvarado, 26, were picked up Oct. 13, 2014 by the group and their bodies were later found thrown in a roadside ditch.
According to their mother Raquel, the brothers came upon Grupo Hercules members beating up on Erica and her Mexican boyfriend and tried to intervene and all were hauled away in two trucks bearing the name of the Matamoros mayor.
Their bodies – showing signs of torture and beatings – were found in an empty lot west of Matamoros and east of El Control where they were picked up.
Salazar said her administration was ready to cooperate with state authorities investigation the siblings disappearance and deaths. However, in nationally televised interviews, she denied any involvement with the group or its formation. (That's her in her cute beret announcing the activation of Grupo Hercules.)
Salazar's actions as mayor have come under heavy criticism for what some say is her authoritarian manner. She has outlawed altars to La Santa Muerte in Matamoros and stopped women in scanty clothing from serving alcoholic beverages in convenience stores arguing that it will lead them to prostitution.
Her remarks that "next to God, I am the maximum authority" in Matamoros has added fuel to the fire.
Now, with the FBI reportedly investigating the case, it is expected that members of the Grupo Hercules will be questioned on the role they played in the students' disappearance and deaths. According to Tamaulipas state police sources, the three siblings and the Mexican national were killed the same day they were picked up by the group and were found last Thursday. Their hands and legs were tied with rope and each bore a single gunshot to the head.
Their vehicles were later found in the impoundment lot belonging to Biasi. Despite her involvement in the matter, Salazar has been feted by Vela on the Brownsville side and rode a car in the Charro Days parade. Apparently, pink-collar criminals are out of bounds for Fil Vela.


By Juan Montoya
Last January, Ten. Eddie Lucio Jr. was the lone Democrat to vote to make it easier for Republicans t\o consider and pass legislation without any support of Democrats.
Recently, he got his reward.
Lucio castrated his fellow Democratic senators by supporting the Senate’s Republican majority rule change that makes it possible for senators to consider GOP-backed legislation without the necessity of gaining support from any Democrats.
The move was approved 20-10 along party lines and the decades-old rule that required a two-thirds majority to debate a bill on the Senate floor was scrapped in favor of a new three-fifths rule. Instead of 21 senators, it will now take 19 senators to consider legislation.
Educators in South Texas decried the Lucio vote saying that by giving the Republicans in the Senate a free hand, deprives Democratic senators of fighting for compromises that protect school district funding for their poor Texas communities.
Republicans hold 20 seats in the 31-member chamber, so if they are united, they can control the Senate agenda without Democratic help. 
Under the old rule, which dated to 1947, taking a bill up in recent years generally required bipartisan support.
Only Lucio voted with the GOP majority, while one Republican, Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, abstained from the vote. Republicans hailed the change as one that “will make the Texas Senate even better and help us deliver a conservative agenda a majority of voters elected us to pass.”
Democrats decried the change, noting that whether majorities were GOP or Democratic, the rule forced bipartisan cooperation and compromise.
In the 2011 session, for example, Democrats blocked a bill to restrict abortions by using the two-thirds rule to keep it from coming up for debate. Republicans finally passed the measure in a special session, when the rule was not in force.
Democrats also used the rule to prevent consideration of a bill allowing college students to carry handguns on campus and another measure authorizing private school tax credits.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backed the change. As a senator from Houston, he pushed to alter the rule in previous legislative sessions.
Well, Lucio is now getting his 30 pieces of silver from Patrick.
He appointed Lucio Jr. to the state’s Joint Interim Committee to Study Border Security earlier this month.
The Joint Interim Committee was created in accordance to the Border Security Omnibus Bill (House Bill 11), which was passed during the 84th Legislative Session.
Lucio stated he was, “honored to be one of the five Senators appointed to the Joint Interim Committee to Study Border Security.”
“For the first time since 1993, I was the only senator on the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security to represent a border district.”
Lucio has also voted in favor of new law that requires underage women to provide additional personal information (including home phone number and address — i.e. information where their parents can be contacted), and judges will be allowed to take additional time to come to their decision. 
Democrats had pushed for an amendment that would allow for minors to obtain a bypass immediately upon request if the underage woman had been raped or abused by incest, but this amendment was ultimately thrown out under the justification that the bill was "intended to bring judicial clarity, and put more protections around the minor."
The "judicial clarity" implies that it's up to the individual judge to decide what is best for the teenage women hoping to get an abortion. (In the picture below, Lucio is in Brownsville attending the "Standing with Texas Women" rally. Notice the bloody coat hanger.)


By Juan Montoya
Up until two months before the March 1, 2016 primaries, voters driving along the major highways in Harlingen and La Feria will see three billboards at a cost of $25,224 compliments of public funds expounding the work against domestic abuse waged by Cameron County District Attorney's Office.
We had previously reported that the commissioners had knuckeld under the pro-DA Luis V. Saenz effort to have his name prominently displayed on the billboards – only two months before the Democratic primary in March 1, 2016. The contract is from October to the end of December.
Despite the objections raised by Precinct 3 Commissioner David Garza over the apparent political stock that Saenz might gain over his opponents in the upcoming primaries, Asst. DA Rene Guerra assured them that politics was not behind the erection of the billboards in the northern part of the county.
(Rene Garza, by the way, is the brother of Remi Garza, the new Cameron County Elections Administrator. Before that, in Gilberto Hinojosa's administration, Remi was his chief of staff. He also ran and lost against David Garza for Pct. 3 commissioner.) Commissioner Garza asked why the billboards could not state that the offenses would be prosecuted by the DA's Office and not have the name of the elected officials featured so prominently on them.
That made it appear, the commissioner contended, that the county was paying for election publicity for the incumbent. It was a point supported by Pct. 2 commissioner Alex Dominguez.
Rene Garza contended that it would be Saenz who was going to prosecute the offenses in court and that the inclusion of his name was appropriate.
Regardless of what fund is used, some argued, the money coming into the DA's Office was public money whether it was generated by forfeitures, fines, or county appropriations.
In the end, with some slight modifications (the exclusion of Saenz's name) by the commissioners, they voted to approve Saenz's request for the billboards. However, they did so on the condition that only the Cameron County District Attorney's Office name be included in the billboard, not his name.
Since he has took office four years ago, Saenz has been a prolific public persona who has sought the greatest bang for the buck with a number of issues besides the domestic abuse issue. He also took credit for the capture by the U.S. Marshal's Office of convicted fugitive murderer Amit Livingston in India, the closing of eight-liners arcades, and the forcing of DWI defendants to have their blood drawn if they refuse to blow into a  Breathalyzer.
Garza did promise that the signs using the roses and the "black and blue" would not be used. Some critics had said the signs using the roses, a battered woman, and the bars were "weird."

Monday, September 28, 2015


By Juan Montoya
Weary after a week's jaunt through Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis flew home accompanied by a Blood Moon and fond memories of catching a glimpse of City of Brownsville District 2 Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa and her grandma.
Although the pontiff showed no outward signs of fatigue, when he climbed the steps up to the PapaAvion, he stumbled near the top and was steadied by his aides.
After having met with Cuba's Raul Castro, President Barack Obama, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, and visiting the World Trade Center, he even had a near brush with City of Brownsville Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa who was among the crowd of 1000,000s who lined the route along the Pope's path in the streets of Washington D.C. Even though eight months pregnant, she managed to snap a photo of Francis as he sped by in his Fiat, waving to the crowds – or perhaps waving a benediction at commissioner Ttreau.
The Pope's proximity to where the commissioner and her grandma were standing thrilled her and she emailed the Brownsville Herald that:
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel like that doesn’t happen for people like myself, but it did. Listening to his advice and love for our country was surreal,” Tetraeu-Kalifa said.
News reports indicate that Francis gave the Congress and the crowds at his other stops a message of compassion and love.
With any luck, commish Tetreau will take the message to heart as did Speaker of the House John Boehner,  who decided to leave the fray of the Congress to return to a normal existence in Ohio.
To him it was like Paul being thunderstruck on the road to Damascus. To her, it was like being struck dumb on the way to D.C.
In the past, the feisty commissioner has resorted to fisticuffs with her significant other on at least a half dozen occasions.
"If it's true that she was interceding for her constituents with the Pope in her prayers, maybe she'll choose love and peace over her usual belligerence," said a resident of her district. "If that happens, it will truly be a miracle."
Meanwhile, the commissioner and her Fellow Travelers will have to face public scrutiny on whether they spent any public funds on their travels since as far as anyone can tell, none were approved in any previous agendas dating back to November 2014 when Pope Francis confirmed his trip to the U.S.A..


By Juan Montoya
A new policy put into place by the Cameron County District Attorney's Office in  late August that requires defendants placed in its Pre-Trial Diversion program to report 365 days by phone and may result in them being required to undergo more costly urinalysis testing up to three times a week has drawn the ire of the defense attorney community.
Only first-time offenders are allowed into the PTD program and are charged a $250 fee by the DA's Office.
When he entered office four years ago, Cameron County D.A, Luis V. Saenz suspended the PTD program saying his predecessor Armando Villalobos had turned it into a money-making scheme which had allowed defendants who didn't qualify to enter it.
This August 31, Saenz initiated the new policy for first-time offenders under the PTD program that will hike the cost of each test from $5 to $17 per test. Reportedly, about $8 of the additional cost will go to the DA's Office.
The new company introduced by the DA's Office is called Avertest and its offices are located next to Gomez Sheet Metal and  Roofing on Tyler Street across the street from the county parking lot.
The company is headquartered in Richmond, Va.
Local attorneys with clients in the program have charged that the new requirements break the PTR contract their clients signed with the the DA's Office. They charge that having their clients report daily, including weekends and holidays, and making them come in from their jobs to take the test places an undue burden on the poor and could result in the loss of their jobs to others.
Under the new policy, attorneys are required to notify clients that are participating in the PTD program at their own expense and to have them fill out new forms acknowledging the new requirements. They were also required to inform their clients of an orientation meeting where the new rules were explained by Avertest and DA representatives.
One attorney reported that his client had told him he was forced to strip and make a 360-degree turn before a testing supervisor before he gave his sample.
A further complication seems to have arisen in that the new policy has never been approved by the commissioners court although the County's Board of Judges signed off on the practice.
Asst. DA Rene Garza, who has been the front man for Saenz in the implementation of the new requirements for participants, defended the new requirements saying that the defendants knew what they were getting into and had been granted the "privilege" of participating in the PTD program.
"I would never attempt to judge your powers of persuasion while you negotiated an agreement with the prosecutor who has chosen to honor your client with the privilege of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement," Garza replied to an attorney questioning the new requirements. "Those negotiations are left entirely in your capable and diligent hands."
Another attorney said her client, a single mother, was being subjected to unfair financial burdens under the DA's new rules for testing.
"This is crazy because I have a client on PTD who has already paid $17.50 three (3) times this month alone," she said. "This comes out to $52.50 halfway through this month. She has yet to pay the balance of $720.00 by the end of this month. She has been on PTD since June 30th and has
completed almost everything except community service hours. Also, she has been having to call daily since August 31, 2015, the day of notice to all. She is barely working part time and she is a single Mom. These conditions are setting everyone up for failure!!!"
Garza defended the DA's new testing policies saying that Avertest uses a proprietary software program that determines who will be tested. He said that in the past, probation officers tested defendants in unsanitary conditions that could have produced legally questionable results.
"The randomness of a computer picking a name for a person to submit a sample is a different action from the frequency of testing, unless that frequency number is zero, 1, or depending on the month 28, 30 or 31..not including the variations of leap years, leap seconds, the Spring forward or Fall back of an hour for daylight savings time or the end of time and existence as I know it," he replied to another query questioning the frequency and randomness of the testing.
Another attorney was more blunt.
"So which is it?" he asked Garza. "Is it completely random per their super secret proprietary random name out of a hat program, or does the probation officer have latitude in the frequency of testing? It can't be both," he charged.
"If the latter, what assurances do we have that the company coming down from Virginia to profit from this arrangement will not be able to influence how many times defendants are tested? Since, you know, they make more money by forcing this garbage down the throats of FIRST TIME OFFENDERS here in our fair County?"
Another lawyer was even more to the point:
"Come on, Rene. I know for a fact you're not that dumb," he answered. "What shocks me is that you think we are. I can only assume you are feeding us the same bullshit sales pitch Avertest prepares for all its clients. 
"It's clear we'll just have to duke this out case by case. But if this DA's office insists on outsourcing the County's criminal justice responsibilities to private companies who profit by imposing these types of hardships on FIRST TIME OFFENDERS, including private prisons or probation companies, to the detriment and erosion of the civil rights of the citizens of Cameron County, then this defense bar must do what it can to see that a change in leadership occurs. It is our professional, ethical and moral responsibility to do so."

End Part 1
Next: Did DA's Office overstep its authority by skirting the approval of the Cameron County Commissioner Court and the legislative process?

Saturday, September 26, 2015


By Juan Montoya
Just a week after Ronnie Oliveira – State Rep. Rene Oliverira's cuz – was successful at selling a majority on the City of Brownsville Commission a "branding" program to change its image, he is the emcee and poised to turn in another sizzling performance at the Buda Fajita Fiesta.
The Buda Area Chamber of Commerce hosts its 2nd Annual Fajita Fiesta in Buda’s City Park September 25 and 26, 2015.
The chamber claims that the Fajita Fiesta attracts people and competitive cookers from across the Great State of Texas.
We wonder what terms of endearment Ronnie will conjure up to endear himself with his listeners there.
While he was in Brownsville selling his "Igniting the Future of Texas" logo and marketing program, he regaled the likes of Mayor Tony Martinez, and the rest of the commissioners with his Brownsville roots climaxing in a folksy story about how his father "worked here in this very courtroom."
It didn't matter that an online poll showed that an overwhelming majority (82 percent) were underwhelmed with his "Ignite Texas" logo, or that there were suggestions that a high school art student could have come up with a better one, Ronnie didn't skip a beat at the negative feedback to his firm's work product.
"My father and his brother always talked to us about giving back to the community," he deadpanned, ingratiating himself to his listeners.
However, at the end of the selling job, Oliveria walked away with a $140,000 check. So much to going back to your community and "giving back."
 In Buda, Texas, he'll probably regale the rubes with his accounts of how he drove pat the town back in the days of yore when he was in school in Austin and wondered what there was in Buda and promised hisself he would one day visit and "b'gosh folks, here I is."
If anything, Oliveira has been able to adapt himself to circumstances to come out on the positive side of things. But how he'll be able to stomach some of the "facts" that the Buda Chamber put in its Fajita Fiesta website may turn out to be even too much for his cast-iron constitution. We all know that fajitas were discovered (and consumed) in the Rio Grande Valley way before they were known in the Rest of the United States, Buda included. But, hey, hucksters were never ones to let facts get in the way of a good yarn.
Here are a few, for example:

"The word fajita is not known to have appeared in print until 1971, according to the Oxford English Dictionary." You mean that we've been speaking and writing words that didn't exist before then?

"The origin of what we today call fajitas, goes back to the 1930s to the Texas ranch lands of the Rio Grande Valley. During cattle roundups, beef were often butchered to feed the hands. Throwaway items such as the hide, the head, the entrails, and meat trimmings such as skirt were given to the Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) as part of their pay." Wellll, maybe, but not really. It's creative, though.

"Fajitas appear to have made their way from campfire and backyard grills to commercial sales in 1969. Sonny Falcon, an Austin meat market manager at Guajardo’s Cash Grocery, is believed to have operated the first commercial fajita taco concession stand September of 1969 at a Dies Y Seis celebration in Kyle, Texas." Damn, you mean that now Kyle is the Home of the Fajita? It's bad enough its former mayor Mike Gonzalez is fleecing us for $200,000 annually for his United Brownsville. Now the town where he was mayor has taken over our fajita lore, too.

(Now, here's a whopper.)
"Did You Know that General George Washington and his American Revolution soldiers more than likely ate Fajitas from Texas cattle?" Why not add barbacoa de cabeza and mollejas, too, while you're at it? Did George like the eyes or el cachete? 

We don't know how Ron will fare in Buda, but judging by his performance in Brownsville and his absconding with $140,000 of public cash for his defense of his ho-hum logo, he'll probably do alright and amaze the peasants with the "sonorous timbre of his voice and his twinkling eyes."


(Ed.'s Note: The news reported that the board of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation was considering entering into a contract with a California-based super developer to have him take over the North Brownsville Industrial Park brought back a flood of memories and glowing press releases by the GBIC and the Brownsville Economic Development Council, its parent corporation. The terms of the contract have not been divulged and we suspect that – like many other BEDC, GBIC productions – the local taxpayers will get screwed again. As usual, the GBIC has said it will not reveal the terms of the binding agreement until after it has been approved by the board. The BEDC's Jason Hilts and his sidekick Gilbert Salinas assured us the park was "poised" to launch Brownsville as the "epicenter" of North America and Latin America. That was four years ago. Today, it remains an empty trailer park used by long-distance haulers to snooze and rest their rigs at no charge. Below is some of the hype spewed by these two fine gents  over the years.)  

New industrial park aims for competitive edge
Brownsville Herald
June 13, 2011 

Construction is complete on the North Brownsville Industrial Park, which will hold its grand opening on Wednesday. 
The park, designed for light to medium industrial operations, took two years and $4.2 million to build, paid for through state sales tax revenues funneled through the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and nearly $200,000 in federal money from the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Construction entailed building roads and installing utilities at the site, which is divided into 11 lots and located at Paredes Line Road and the newly constructed SH 550 loop. 
Planning began in 2007. The lots range in size from 2.5 to 10 acres. 
The park is "Class A" certified and "shovel ready," according to Cleveland, Ohio-based site selection firm The Austin Company. "Class A" means the park meets a number of standards related to infrastructure, permitting, zoning, location, etc., while "shovel ready" means a company can move in right away and start building.
The park comprises a 73.5 acre tract, divided into 11 lots that range between 2 to 10 acres in size. This property has earned the coveted "Shovel Ready" seal by an international site selection firm, The Austin Company, which has also qualified Brownsville as a 
The park’s first tenant is PIASA, a food-flavoring and spice-processing company based in Monterrey, Mexico, that signed on after the project was announced in 2007 and bought the first two lots. 
Gilberto Salinas of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, which promotes economic and industrial development of the Brownsville-Matamoros region, said the company will create more than 100 jobs. 
"I think this is an excellent example of leveraging public funds to recruit industry," he said. "Here’s an example of a company that’s going to invest several million dollars in capital investment. They’re going to lay down bricks and mortar and employ people. This is how we create wealth in this region. This is how we get on the map in regard to industry." 
Salinas said BEDC has "some pretty strong leads" on other prospective tenants. Of the 10 or so prospects BEDC is actively courting, three are expressing interest in the new park, he said.

And the BEDC press release:
"Through the hard work, vision, and commitment from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), plans for the construction of a $4.2 million dollar 73-acre 'class A shovel-ready' industrial park have come to fruition."
Industry cheerleaders like Inbound Logistics applauded the GBIC for diving "directly into the real estate business, acquiring a 73-acre property four miles from the port and contracting with the not-for-profit Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC) to market the site's 11 lots.
"This is our first shot at developing land in the greater Brownsville 'borderplex,'" they quoted Gilberto Salinas, the BEDC's vice president.  
"Located at the epicenter of North America and Latin America, the North Brownsville Industrial Park is designed for light to medium industrial operations with the opportunity to suit an array of industrial operations seeking a clean environment, quality labor force, proximity to international hubs, excellent transportation services, and most importantly, a city with a pro-business environment." 

International Business Times
January 18 2012
"We've taken advantage of our truly geographic location, said Jason Hilts, president and CEO of the Brownsville Economic Development Council. He gave an example: We were able to reach out to PIASA and provide them with something that they couldn't really do out of Monterrey – to supply their U.S. customers overnight if need be.
PIASA is a Mexican company that sells spices and seasonings, and Brownsville gave it an opening into the U.S. market. It did the same for the airline AeroMexico, which wanted to provide more flights in and out of Brownsville because of its port access and its proximity to South Padre Island, a popular resort destination.
This past May 27, 2008 , the anchor company to the new industrial park PIASA, a Monterrey company that sells spices and other seasonings, announced plans to break ground on a $6 million plant in Brownsville.
It purchased land at ther industrial site at between $12,500 to $15,000 an acre then.
Later, when local businesses tried to buy land there, they found that just six months after the 11.38 acres were conveyed to the buyer, the remaining 73.5 acres were appraised at $60,265 to $80,398 an acre.
The local daily reported that the park took two years and $4.2 million to build, paid for through state sales tax revenues funneled through the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and nearly $200,000 in federal money from the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Construction entailed building roads and installing utilities at the site, which is divided into 11 lots and located at Paredes Line Road and the newly constructed SH 550 loop.

El Rrun-rrun
June 20, 2011
PIASA is a food-flavoring and spice-processing company based in Monterrey, Mexico, that BEDC spokesmen said had signed on after the project was announced in 2007 and bought the first two lots. Gilbert Salinas, the spokesman for the BEDC, said the company will create more than 100 jobs.
The PIASA promises have changed (more grandoise) at every reading. Salinas had said in 2008 that the firm plans to invest more than $1 million in a 52,000-square-foot, top-notch manufacturing facility that will create 81 jobs paying a minimum of $15 per hour.
The firm's website states that that it had , in 2003, "started operations in our new production plant in Apodaca, N. L., Mexico." Later, in "2005, we optimized our spices and chile operations inaugurating another factory in San Luis Potosi."
Local businessman Mario Villarreal, who has extensive business interests in Mexico's maquila industry – was not convinced that PIASA intended to establish a manufacturing facility at the site it acquired at land-rush bargain prices.
"We'll probably see them establishing a warehouse with maybe five or six people working out of the distribution center, if that," he said. "They made the same promises to McAllen and now that they got the GBIC to get the land at a bargain, I don't see them hiring 100 workers when they can get 10 times as many workers in Matamoros or San Luis, Potosi for the same price. It doesn't make economic sense."

Friday, September 25, 2015


By Juan Montoya
From La Feria to Brownsville, there are widening rumors that Cameron County District Attorney challenger Carlos Masso and perhaps Pct. 2 Constable Abel Gomez might be indicted before the March 1 primary, possibly over mail-ballot fraud charges.
Some rumors even include Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio.
The rumors have gained credence because they have become so widespread across the county.
At least six politiqueras have been indicted in state court and another in federal court over abuse of mail-in ballots during the 2012 Democratic Party primary elections. Several have pleaded with the state and some still face charges over the same issues.
Masso, Gomez, and Lucio were some of the principal recipients of mail-in ballots in that election.
After that election, a joint election-fraud task force was formed made up of the Texas Attorney General's Office, the Cameron County District Attorney's Office and local federal officials. In the pre-sentencing report filed in the case of Sonia Solis, the only politiquera tried in federal court, several other politiqueras were mentioned. Neither Solis nor any of the other defendants have publicly admitted they took money from specific candidates.
But as the March 1, 2016, primary election approaches and, rumors abound that DA Luis V. Saenz, as part of the joint task force, may have a primary surprise for his opponent in the form of an indictment.
"Don't put anything past Luis," said a source at the courthouse. "His aunt (former district clerk) Aurora de la Garza used to manage them during her reign at the district clerk's office. He's had a good teacher. But if he's going to do it, he better do it now or else it'll look like prosecutoral misconduct."


By Juan Montoya
Well as advertised, we're already getting the predictable reports of our City of Brownsville Papal Delegation working their little derrieres off on our behalf while they were on the four-day papal junket.
And while some say they paid for the trip out of their own pocket, the fact that they attempt to make it appear as a work-related trip on behalf of the City of Brownsville smacks of double talk trying to answer questions they never expected.
In fact, their claims that they were there on behalf of the city taking time on the four-day trip to touch base with federal officials doesn't wash because there was never any travel approved for that trip for the city commission or the mayor in the city agendas as far back as November. 2014.
The Pope confirmed his visit Nov. 17, 2014.
Just about every alphabet federal agency was visited by our diligent municipal representatives during the work junket to which – according to commish Jessica Tetreau – they were "personally" invited.
We understand that commissioner John Villarreal told customers at his family's tortilla and barbacoa shop that he had received an invitation from Mayor Martinez and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela to attend the papal ceremonies. According to a source, Villarreal took the opportunity to take along his family, especially his ill mother who had faith that her proximity to Pope Francis would allow a miracle to happen.
He also claimed he was paying for the trip.
Vela and Martinez – and perhaps Bishop Daniel Flores? – were said to have wanted a delegation from Brownsville to the papal visit. Now, with the reports that the trip to see His Holiness turned into a working trip by five commissioners and the mayor , the plot is unraveling.
Not only did Villarreal tell people that he was paying for the trip out of his own pocket. So did everyone else.
Portillo, Villarreal and even Cesar de Leon took the time to do the people business, or at least give the appearance of it. Portillo posted a FB entry where it depicts her and the other two commissioners visit the Federal Communications Commission and went on to say they had met with at least "16 representatives" of different agencies on business for the city of Brownsville in between prayers.
That's him with Portillo and De Leon on the posting by Portillo on her FB page. Now, who took that picture? Was it another commissioner (four makes it a walking quorum) or was it a friendly federal employee on his day off? Was the failure of the commission members to post their trip and travel on a city agenda and to possibly have a walking quorum a violations of the Open Meetings Act?
(After this post appeared, we got word from Portillo's camp that she had paid all the expenses associated with the trip, including air fare and lodgings because her mother had wanted to see the Pope. Why she took time to take photographs at federal agencies and say she was "planning great things for Brownsville" instead of looking for the Popemobile is beyond us.) 
Well, we took the liberty of calling the media line at the FCC and were told that except for a skeleton crew left at the FCC to mind the store, the majority of personnel was allowed to take the time off to go see His Holiness.
In other words, no one of anay consequence was available to do business.
In fact, that was true of just about every other federal department and agency in Washington D.C. Arlington, by the way is some five miles from downtown D.C.
Take a look, for example, at the FCC's News Room Headlines below. When Portillo posted on Wednesday and posed before the doors of the agency, it was Wednesday, Sept. 23. The schedule below shows that nothing of importance was scheduled for that day. In fact, September 23 was left blank.

September 24, 2015 - Statement Chainman Wheeler Announces Staff Changes
September 24, 2015 - Speech Commissioner O'Reilly Remarks Before Spotsylvania VA Town Hall
(Where's Sept. 23?)
September 22, 2015 - Statement Commissioner Rosenworcel's Satement on Digitial Learning Equity Act
September 22, 2015 - Speech Commissioner O'Reilly Remarks Before the Prosperity Caucus
September 21, 2015 - Statement Chairman Wheller Statement on Broadband Opportunity Council Report
September 21, 2015 - Public Notice FCC Announces September 29, 2015, TFOPA Meeting
September 21, 2015 - Speech Chariman Wheeler at NTCA Fall Conference, Boston MA

Commissioner Jessica Tetreau posted a photo of the papal visit from a distance of  perhaps five miles from where Pope Francis was passing. So much for the "personal invitation." It was surprising she didn't say that even at that distance, while she zoomed in on the tiny figures, her soon-to-be-born baby kicked as a sign that he/she had been blessed by Da Pope's proximity.
Let's face it guys.
You went because you wanted to see the Pope. And as the plot unthickens, there should be some smoking guns (or paper, in the case of checks to be approved by the city commission) that should prove it. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015


"The Pope? How many divisions has he got?" Joseph Stalin

By Juan Montoya
Count one Brownsville mayor and five city commissioners among the Pope's divisions.
If the information we are getting is correct, City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez and the five other city commissioners who just happened to be in Washington D.C. when Pope Francis visited the nation's capital will probably produce some sort of documentation that they were there on city business.
Of all the city commission, the only one who did not dare venture far from his Brownsville Independent School District gig was District 1 commissioner Ricardo Longoria. If sources with the BISD are correct, he was probably refining his DJ skills in his private district studio.
And regardless of whether some commissioners are now arguing on social media that they paid for their own expenses, we have word from at least two sources close to commissioners that they were handed $1,000 checks for expenses.
Blogger Jim Barton has filed an information request with the city inquiring the size of the entourage traveling with the city delegation and the cost to city taxpayers to get them there and keep them wined and dined. Let's see how far Jim gets. If prior responses to his queries are any measure, Barton will probably get the round around.
At least one commissioners said she was visiting the Federal Communications Commission on city business. Another mentioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to check up on stocks and bonds (?). She also said she was praying.
That's commendable, but why did six city commission members have to attend meetings in Washington at the some time? If four of them were in the same place, then you would have a walking forum, which we heard is what happened at the SEC. Maybe the money changers didn't go see the Pope.
"It's more like a flying forum," quipped a wag, "since they all flew there."
As usual, District 2 commissioner Jessica Tetreau could not help but gush that she had received "a personal invitation" to see the Pope at the White House. She also claimed that she paid for her expenses.
She might conveniently have forgotten to say that she requested and received tickets to the event from Fil Vela, the local congressman. Instead, she said she got a "personal invitation" to attend. We are impressed. 
A devout man once said that ""You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
This egregious example of Da Mayor and those commissioners is a perfect example of the last instance.