Friday, August 29, 2014

FREE FOURTH ANNUAL FREDDIE GOMEZ CONCERT SATURDAY

By Juan Montoya
Four years ago, Timo Ruedas' the South Texas Conjunto Association teamed up with George Ramirez's Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts and established an annual memorial concert to remember Gomez and musicians who followed in his footsteps. The City of Brownsville is also a co-sponsor.
The first concert was a hit as were the rest of the following memorial concerts.
This year, the Fourth Annual Freddie Gomez Memorial Conjunto Concert will be held from 6 to 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 in Brownsville's Historic Downtown District at the corner of Levee and 11th streets.
The event is free in celebration of Labor Day, the working man's holiday. Gomez died Sept. 3, 2005.
Freddie Gomez was a simple man, and singing with a conjunto was a side gig (he worked at J.C. Penney's in Brownsville and retired from there without ever missing a day of work.) One can only imagine what he could have achieved is he had devoted his full time to his musical pursuits.
The program includes the Memorial Ceremony, Conjunto “Ambassador” Award presentations, Youth-Musician ensembles, a Dance Marathon and three Conjunto performances.
This year, Conjunto music legend, Pepe Maldonado, will be the featured artist for the memorial conjunto venue. Pepe was born in Rio Grande City in 1941and his family relocated to Edinburg in 1945. While he plays a variety of instruments, including the accordion, bass and bajo-sexto, he especially enjoys Singing. Pepe first performed in front of a live audience during the 1950’s at a theater in Alamo that hosted weekly amateur events for local musicians.
He and accordionist, Juan Antonio Tapia, participated in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. in 1998. In 2002 he opened La Lomita, a Western aesthetic park, to host weekly dances and promote local area Conjunto groups.
Pepe Maldonado y Su Conjunto will perform at 8 p.m. and followed by the versatile accordionist/vocalist, Arturo Nino y Su Khromaticos and Brownsville’s popular group, “La Farra” de los Hermanos Lozano.
The Concert venue includes a 25-minute marathon dance competition with seven styles and rhythms of Conjunto dance music that starts with a slow Vals (waltz) then progresses to a Bolero, a Redova, a Shotiz, a Cumbia, a Polka and ends with the rapid beat of a Huapango.
Food and beverage concessions will be available and tables and chairs sitting will be provided.
For further information, call the STCA Brownsville Chapter, 956-545-8446 or visit www.conjunto.org.

GIVE B'TOWN TEJANO STAR A BOOST; CLICK AND VOTE

By Jim Barton
Meanmisterbrownsville.blogspot
Veronique Medrano
We just got off the phone with J.J. Struebelt, the drummer for local bands The Lords of D'Nile and Earthmen, also former bar manager for the Crescent Moon Cantina.

"Jim, we have a young woman, a Brownsville native, who has a real chance at making the Tejano Awards in San Antonio September 20, 2014," stated Struebelt.

"Veronique is 23, a graduate of the University of Texas."

"I'm trying to help her and the band get the invitation. She has to get the most votes on the internet site www.tejanomusicawards.com. Cutoff for voting is midnight Friday, tomorrow night."


Nena & J.J.
"Jim, if you would put this out there, I would appreciate it. Say 'hi' to Nena for me," said J.J. in closing.


Vote Veronique Medrano for New Female Artist at:www.tejanomusicawards.com

Voting is a bit tricky. Once you get to the Tejano Music Awards site, put 2014 General Ballot in the "Search" at upper right. You will have to make a selection in every category for your vote to count.

JUST WHAT PART OF CORRUPTION DON'T MAGALLANES' FANS UNDERSTAND?

(Ed.'s Note: We have been approached by some of our close associates with messages from the Juan Magallanes camp that we stop posting articles about his intimate association with convicted 404th District Judge Abel Limas. We have asked what specific portions they object to, but they have no specific subjects, other than to say Juan is a nice guy. As a public service, we re-post a portion of what we published and ask that they tell us the objectionable material so that we may consider their request. This post was first published on August 14. Magallanes is the Democratic Party nominee for the 357th District Court against Oscar X. Garcia))

By Juan Montoya
...If it hadn't been for Magallanes, Gilberto Hinojosa, Eddie Treviño, and even Ernesto Gamez, (Abel) Limas would not have run for office.
In fact, Magallanes was one of four Brownsville attorneys who helped to secure a loan from IBC Bank  to allow Limas to finance his 2000 campaign.
In an article written by Emma Perez-Treviño in 2011, she wrote that, aside from contributions, "A good portion came from a $25,000 loan that Limas secured from the International Bank of Commerce. Four Brownsville attorneys and a relative put their names on the line for Limas, each guaranteeing $5,000 of the loan. These were not reported as campaign contributions, and individually they exceeded state limits on contributions to judicial candidates.
The attorneys were Ernesto Gamez Jr., who was Limas’ campaign spokesman; Leonel Alejandro, now (then) judge of the 357th Judicial District; and former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa’s partners at the time, Juan Magallanes and Eddie Treviño, now (then) former Brownsville mayor, with the then-law firm of Magallanes, Hinojosa and Treviño."
Then, in 2005, after Limas had been in office for one four-year term and was embarking on a second one, the partners heard he was thinking of resigning his bench.
During the Ray Marchan trial, Limas told prosecutors that he had told them he wasn't going to resign and they talked him out of it.

LIMAS : "I was going to resign in 2005. I had a letter for Gov. Rick Perry in 2005.
ASST. U.S. Atty. "And they told you don't resign. Please don't resign."
LIMAS: "Yeah, they told me not to resign. They didn't tell me 'Don't resign. We'll do this for you.' No. They encouraged me not to resign. And I said 'I'm going to resign.'"

It was in 2005 that the Magallanes and Limas relationship grew closer, even to the point of impropriety because Limas accepted a $30,000 loan from Magallanes as collateral for a property in Ft. Bend while Magallanes had a case before the court.
Lawyer Baltazar Salazar stated that Limas had bent over backwards to make sure Magallanes received his due in the form of court-ordered payments even when a jury did not award him any damages or attorney's fees in that case.
Salazar alleged that Limas issued orders that went against a jury decision that put $100,000s of dollars into Magallanes' pockets.
"This (the Magallanes $30,000 loan) came a few months after a Cameron County jury awarded Magallanes nothing, zero. Limas then on his own awarded Magallanes $195,000 in damages and $50,000 in attorney's fees..."
The case (2004-10-5058) was styled Bob Torres Properties vs. Southern Stone Properties, according to Salazar, who commented on Magallanes; opponent Oscar X. Garcia's FB page that "this was not a loan. This was a payback for ignoring a jury's verdict."
In fact, during the Ray Marchan trial, Limas testified that Magallanes loaned him the money in 2005. Limas himself admitted that it was unethical fro him not to tell opposing counsel of the personal loan.

ASST. U.S. ATTY: ...And you were in a bind in 2005 and you accepted $30,00 0 from a lawyer, according to Magallanes, in 2005...
LIMAS: It was unethical.
ASST. U.S. ATTY: Ok. Well it's not unethical unless you're doing favors or they're bribing you.
LIMAS: No, sir.  
ASST. U.S. ATTY: So you're saying taking money is unethical period?
LIMAS: No, sir. You can get a loan form a lawyer as a judge. You can have a transaction as a judge. The only thing that makes it unethical is me, that I did not advise the opposing counsel that I was engaged in a form of transaction that benefited me, I never told that lawyer."

BIG JOE RODRIGUEZ, CHAVEZ GET A BARR AND GRILLING

By Juan Montoya
For the past two days, former Brownsville Independent School District Athletic Director cum trustee and his longtime protege (and now football coach) Tom Chavez have been getting deposed by one of the best.
Rodriguez and Chavez – like former BISD CFO Tony Fuller – sued the district, a forensic auditing firm, and four trustees – over the findings of an audit that recommended Chavez's termination for alleged favoritism on contracts involving the sale of athletic equipment for two new district schools.
The auditors – Defenbaugh and Associates – examined the role played by Rodriguez and Chavez in the procurement of equipment and recommended the board adopt a policy that includes a no-solicitation clause in future employment contracts with respect to a vendor (Rodriguez) and that BISD consider disciplining Chavez with termination as a consideration.
The majority on the board at the time (Enrique Escobedo, Christina Saavedara, Lucy Lingoria and Catalina Presas-Garcia) agreed to hire Defenbaugh on September 2011 and that the firm complete the forensic audit within four months at a cost of $250,000.
After the results were published in the report, Rodriguez and Chavez sued the district and the four trustees for defamation. One of their defense attorneys is none other than Rick Zayas, the former BISD trustee who was defeated by Longoria in 2010.
Fuller – like Rodriguez – filed suit in federal court saying that the trustees and BISD administrators had used Defenbaugh's forensic audit findings to not renew his contract.
U.S. Magistrate Ronald G. Morgan recommended to the federal district court presided by judge Andrew Hanen that Fuller's state law claims against Deffenbaugh be "dismissed with prejudice pursuant to the Texas Citizens' Participation Act, or in the alternative, be dismissed without prejudice for lack of pendent jurisdiction."
Still, that hasn't stopped either Fuller or Rodriguez and Chavez from pursuing the brass ring. In fact, Rodriguez – even though he resigned as AD with a $90,000 golden parachute to sweeten the deal (Zayas voted to award it) – is running for the board against Shirley Bowman and Mary Rey.
John Barr, who deposed Rodriguez and Chavez and is representing the defendants, was named as one of Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly Magazine in 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, AV rated to the top 3 percent of lawyers by Martindale Hubble in 2009, AM best approved lawyer defense counsel and best company in 2005, one of the top four best injury defense lawyers in Tarrant County Fort Worth, by Texas Magazine, selected by Peers 2001 as top defense lawyers in Tarrant County by Bar Association, and Ft. Worth Magazine named him as one of the top defense lawyers in 2001.
This is what Rodriguez and Chavez objected to:
1. Joe Rodriguez matter relating to affiliation with BISD's substantial purchasing activity from BNS Sports
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
The role Joe Rodriguez in the procurement of sports equipment after he left the district was also examined by the forensic auditors. In a section devoted entirely to his business dealings with the district through his longtime protege (and then A.D.) Tom Chavez, they wrote that they investigated allegations of Rodriguez used undue influence to do business with the BISD.
There was entirely no mention of the two previous audits performed by BISD on his scholarship fund-activity using his nonprofit where allegations that district, state, and federal laws may have been violated.
Initial allegations against Joe Rodriguez include that he was using undue influence and coercive tactics to pressure BISD coaches, athletic coordinators, and athletic personnel to purchaser sports uniforms and equipment from a company, BNS Sports, for whom Rodriguez became a sales representative for after he left BISD in Dec. 31, 2009.
In addition, Rodriguez, in a telephone call made to BISD Lead Auditor Margarita Pizano-Flores in Sept. 2011, threatened to sue BISD because the Purchasing Department had changed and improved the Catalog/Co-op procurement process.
Investigation and analysis subsequently revealed that a substantial amount of payments of uniforms and equipment totaling $497,117 in fiscal year 2010-2011 was completed compared to the previous fiscal years (2009-2010) total of $175,715; an increase of 283 percent.
Interviews identified most of the purchasing was made by the athletic department, in general, and by Tom Chavez, in particular. Chavez, an admitted close friend with Rodriguez for over 30 years, succeeded Rodriguez after he left BISD.
The audit stated that record review of purchase orders also supported the fact that the athletic department fulfilled most of those purchases, predominantly for Manzano Middle School and Veterans Memorial High School, both newly constructed schools, with no prior uniforms or equipment.
Although Chavez denied giving preferential treatment to BNS and/or Joe Rodriguez in the purchasing process for both schools, the auditors found that Chavez never gave any due consideration to at least three other approved vendors sports distributors.
At the beginning of September 2011, BISD's Purchasing Department changed the Catalog/Co-op procurement procedure shifting control of catalog procurement process from the end-user, Athletic Department, to the Purchasing Department. This change provided more internal control and was the apparent reason for Rodriguez's telephone call to  Margarita Pizano-Flores after the realization that BNS would have to be more competitive in terms of price.
Shortly thereafter the other sales representative at BNS informed the Purchasing Department that a 10 percent discount would be rendered on BNS catalog item, this time without Rodriguez's involvement.
It was the opinion of the Forensic Audit Staff that no doubt existed that the Athletic Department in general, and Tom Chavez in particular, exercised undue influence and misuse of authority in choosing BNS Sports, through their sales rep. Joe Rodriguez, particularly in the purchasing of uniforms and other sports supplies for Manzano Middle School and Veterans Memorial High School in school year 2010-2011.
(This) resulted in close to $500,000 of purchases being given to Chavez's close friend and former Rodriguez. The audit concluded that Chavez allowed his and Joe Rodriguez's personal relationship to interfere with what should have been a business decision causing a potential loss of revenue to be sustained by the district.
The Forensic Audit Staff recommended that a no-solicitation clause be included in future employment contracts and that BISD make a determination with respect to a (vendor such as BNS) whose representative (Joe Rodriguez) issue a threat over the telephone to file a lawsuit against the district.
It was the opinion of the (auditors) that Chavez and his AD staff afforded BNS preferential treatment to the detriment of the district. Consideration should be given to administrative action disciplining Tom Chavez with termination as a consideration.
There is a saying in Spanish that if you choose to tangle with someone, make sure it's not the big dog on the block.
Barr, as his credential prove, is no lightweight.
Barr was board certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocates in 2000.
His firm lists diverse specialties in litigation ranging from construction defects to international insurance and products liabilities.
Among some of their clients listed are Aerocozumel, Aerolitoral, Aeromexico, Crisa Corporation,
Ford Motor Company, Honeywell, Local, State and  foreign Governments, Mexicana Airlines
Procemex, Republican Party of Texas, Republic of Mexico, Smith Alarm Systems, Inc., Vitro Packaging Inc., and even Yellow Checker Cab Company.
We can hardly wait to see the videos of the Rodriguez, Chavez depositions.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: TEAM ELIZONDO ON THE HUSTINGS



























(Ed.'s Note: We were on our way to Las Casuelitas Restaurant for a caldo right after the rainstorm hit Brownsville around noon when we ran into Da Team Elizondo Campaign crew placing a 4'x 8' campaign sign on the corner of Adams and Seventh streets. Carlos – president of the Firefighters – is running for Place 2 on board of the Brownsville Independent School District. He yelled out as we snapped the pic: "Voten por el Pelon.") 

MORRIS: "I RESIGNED, I RESIGNED NOT"; HASSE APPEAL ON

By Juan Montoya
Cameron County Republican Party 102 Precinct Chair Tad Hasse says he is preparing his appeal to the decision by visiting judge Menton Murray who ruled that outgoing county chair Frank Morris' emailed resignation was not binding since it did not contain his signature.
Murray was sitting in for Rolando Olvera in the 445th District Court bench.
Originally, Murray cast doubts on whether the court had jurisdiction in the intra-party dispute, but with the issue of the court's jurisdiction stipulated by both parties, Murray cited the missing signature as his reason for not issuing an injunction to keep Morris from heading the party.
The whole dispute centered around a group of local Republican party members who challenged Morris with the credentials committee during the party's convention in March. Morris, instead of fighting the charges, resigned from his position and did not attend the convention.
During the convention, an electronic marquee (see graphic, click to enlarge) thanked all the "outgoing" county chairmen for their service.
Morris' name was listed under Cameron County fifth from the top on the first column of the right hand screen.
Later, he was elected to the chair for a new term during the party's primary and he withdrew his resignation saying it applied only to the expired term.
In yet another email introduced into evidence by Hasse and his attorney, Morris told the county GOP secretary that he would resign yet again in June if necessary.
Hasse and the other members took that to mean that not only had Morris resigned from the expired term as chair, but that he was also resigning from the new two-year term to which he had been elected during the primary.
However, Murray told Hasse and is attorney that they were free to appeal if they found other cases where such communications were considered official.
Morris had also asked for $7,500 in sanctions against Hasse. Murray found that request to have Hasse pay the  sanctions had "no merit."
Hasse and his attorney say they had already found precedent for emails to be accepted as formal documentation and are confident that they will prevail in the end.


WILL WASHINGTON PARK FOUNTAIN EVER REGAIN GRANDEUR?

By Juan Montoya
He's tried petitions, emails, phone calls and even personal visits with various city commissions and city managers, all to no avail.
Mario Villarreal, president and owner of Pesa Enterprises and a former Public Utilities Board administrator and elected official, has tried for years to have the city restore the water fountain in Washington Park to its former grandeur. The fountain was built in 1929 and was heralded all over the area for its synchronized water geysers and multi-colored lights that drew visitors from throughout South Texas.
After decades of operating, the fountain was allowed to fall into disrepair, and was restored in time in December 1975 just in time to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the park. Some of those who helped to restore it were Frank and Fausto Yturria and Pansy Yturria.
In a petition circulated back in May 2005,  local luminaries like developer Bill Hudson, Villarreal, former city commissioner Ernesto De Leon, Rudy Falcon, the late Port of Brownsville commissioner Dan Reyna, among others, urged the city to "repair the fountain to its original condition."
When Mario Villarreal's father Faustino and A.S. Garcia, an employee at Putegnat Hardware joined Mary Yturria and other City of Brownsville administrators way back in the 1960s to work on the Washington Park fountain, it was already a city landmark known throughout the Valley.
"My dad helped Miss Yturria and the other people at PUB to get the fountain to shoot out water and synchronize the different colors so that it looked like the water was changing colors," remembered Villarreal, a local business man and former Brownsville Navigation District commissioner. "Now it's a shame for me to pass by there every day and see the condition it's in."
Mary Yturria, who spoke before the city commissioners years later, said that repairing the fountain to its former greatness was her personal dream. She recalled the children of the city and nearby towns gathering around the cement pool to collect water in bottles to take home with them.
"They thought the water would remain colored when they got home," she said with a smile.
Yturria's dream never became reality and hard times have fallen on the old fountain. The old tubing that made the water shoot geysers as tall as 65 feet in the air and then diminish in size as the colored lights alternated eroded over time and had to be replaced. Today, the geysers are mere spouts of varying sizes that are colored by lights so dim they seem to be but of a single hue.
Recently, workmen were trying to get the water to shoot higher, but found that when the level of the water in the pool got too low, air seeped into the system and diminished the flow.
"When it gets to a certain level, air goes in the pipes and we have to purge it," said a worker. "The lights work, too, but they are not as bright as they used to be so they seem to be of only one color."
Villarreal has tried to work with the city to repair the fountain that was a source of pride for his late father. As a businessman who does extensive business in Mexico, he took it on his own to find the original replacement parts in the interior and passed along the information to the city.
"They already had a committee working on the fountain and they didn't pay much attention to what we told them," he said. "Instead they went out to other parts dealers in the United States and that's what we ended up with. It's nothing like what it used to be."
The committee reportedly spent thousands of city tax dollars to complete its job, but to Villarreal, the result left much to be desired.
"It makes me feel sad because I have a personal relationship with that fountain because my dad worked on it," he said. "If they ever decide to really restore it to its original condition, I am ready to help."

BIZZARRO HERALDO LAUDS GARCIA'S DISMAL TENURE

By Juan Montoya
Remember when we were kids and read Superman and Spiderman comic books?
Superman comics sometimes came up with the Bizarro episodes, a kind of bizzare mirror image of the superheroe who did everything the opposite of Superman.
Bizarro first appeared in a a Superboy edition in 1958) as a character that looked like Frankestein's monster that possessed all the powers of Superboy.
He only appeared a single comic book story. Later that year, the adult Superman version featured him in "The Battle With Bizarro."
According to Wikipedia, "This storyline also introduced the strange speech patterns that became synonymous with the character, with all of Bizarro's comments meaning the opposite (e.g."bad" means "good"). The newspaper version also wore a "B" on his chest, as opposed to the distinctive "S."
If you read today's editorial in the Brownsville Heraldo in support of former UT-Brownsville President Julieta Garcia, you will immediately be struck with the bizarre similarity between Superman's Bizarro and the convoluted logic of the editorial writer.
For starters, the writer argues that Garcia's history at UTB-TSC "portends success in new post."
Just what success is the writer referring to?
Was it the annual TSC "transfers" to the UT System that amounted to about $1 billion over the course of the "partnership."
Or was it the 17 percent graduation rate for UTB-TSC students over six years that the "partnership" had achieved?
Or perhaps it was the less than 50 percent retention rate for freshmen?
Or maybe it could have been that residents here – living as they did in the poorest community in the United States – were paying the highest tuition and student service fees of any community college in the State of Texas.
Garcia –earning a salary of $340,000 a year –didn't take credit for all these "successes."
Garcia showed her true colors when she tried tro ramrod a proposal through the trustees to transfer all of TSC's assets to the UT System to remove the burden of some $200 million in real estate and college assets from local residents. They could, of course, keep their district functioning until the bond debt she incurred over the past 21 years to build the monuments to those luminaries was paid.
The Herald can "thank her and applaud her for the 'remarkable' work she's done...," if they want to.
But we remember that the voters of the district shunned her candidates to the board and told her in no uncertain terms that they had had enough of these "successes" which only impoverished them even more than when she appeared in the picture.
The Heraldo can make believe all they want that "up" is "down" and that "bad" is "good."
But we all know that Bizarro Julieta was not the Superwoman she has been made up to be. And the editorial writer of the Herald should not wear the Olde English "H" on his chest, but instead a distinctive "S" which would be more true to his finished work product.

DEMOS SKIRT LAW WITH LETICIA DE PUTTE FUNDRAISER

(Ed's Note: Following yesterdays post of the Sept. 3 Democratic fundraiser for Texas Democratic party Lt. Governor Candidate fundraiser and "Night Honoring Cameron County Judiciary," we received various criticisms for questioning the propriety of having local county court-at-law and district judges in attendance lending the prestige of the judge and the power of his office to support a fundraiser for a political candidate. Below are opinions issued by the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct committee addressing the same issues.)


SUPPORTIVE COMMENTS AT FUND-RAISING EVENTS FOR ANOTHER
Opinion No. 60 (1982)
QUESTION: May a judge sit at the head table and make supportive comments in behalf of another person seeking public office at a fund-raising event for the other person?

ANSWER: The Committee is of the opinion that sitting at the head table and saying supportive comments about a third person at a fund-raising event for that person would be using the prestige of the judge and his office to benefit the third person. Such conduct would be in contravention of Canon 5B(2)* and is prohibited.
JUDGE AS MEMBER OF HOST COMMITTEE FOR FUND RAISING EVENT
Opinion No. 150 (1992)
QUESTION: Should a judge permit the judge's name to be included in a list of the members of the "Host Committee" on an invitation to a fund raising event?
ANSWER: No. Canon 5B(2)* provides that a judge shall not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, political, or civic organization.
+ Canon 10** provides that the word "shall" when used in the Code means compulsion. The Committee concludes that if a judge should agree to be listed as a host on an invitation to a fund raising event, that would constitute soliciting funds for the cause benefited by the event and, therefore, would violate Canon 5B(2).**
Canon 2B is also relevant. It provides that a judge should not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the interests of others. Such use of a judge's name would use, or at least would give the appearance of using, judicial prestige for fund raising even if the invitation does not identify the host judge as a judge, because a judge cannot realistically separate the prestige of judicial office from the judge's personal affairs. (Compare Opinions 73 and 136.)
Canon 2B also provides that a judge should not permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. By hosting a Fund raising event a judge would create an opportunity for a litigant to attempt to curry favor by contributing generously, and then to convey such an impression.
The applicable principles are also addressed in Opinions 11 (1976), 16 (1977), 41 (1979), 61 (1980), 59 and 60 (1982), and 131 (1989). The same rules apply to judges' personal participation in public fund raising activities for organizations devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice. Canon 4C.***
+Committee Footnote: As the Cannon 5B(2) distinction between soliciting funds, and being a speaker or guest of honor at such an event, is quite specific, the Committee does not reach or consider the rationale for that distinction.
SELLING TICKETS
Opinion No. 11 (1976)
QUESTION: Is the selling of tickets for various fund-raising activities prohibited by Canon 5B(2)* ("A Judge should not solicit funds for any educational, religious, charitable. . . .")?
ANSWER: Canon 5B(2),* forbidding the solicitation of funds or the use of the prestige of his office for that purpose, includes "the selling of tickets for various fund-raising activities" and the answer to the question is in the affirmative.

CHAIRMAN, FUND-RAISING EVENTS FOR ANOTHER
Opinion No. 59 (1982)
QUESTION: May a judge act as a co-chairman of a fund-raising event for another person seeking public office?
ANSWER: No. Canon 5B(2)* states in pertinent part as follows: "A judge should not solicit funds for any...political... organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of his [or her] office for that purpose...." The Committee is of the opinion that Canon 5B(2)* prohibits a judge from acting as a co-chairman of a political fund-raising event for another person.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DEMOS: HONOR THE JUDICIARY, BUT ONLY OUR DEM JUDGES

By Juan Montoya
Look at the invitation to the Sept. 3 fundraiser for Democratic Party candidate for Texas Lt. Governor Leticia De Putte scheduled to be held at the Historic Brownsville Museum.
The invite combines the fundraiser for De Putte with a "Night Honoring The Cameron County Judiciary" as well.
But hold on!
There appears to be an oversight. There are only seven of the eight district judges listed on the invite by the Cameron County Democratic Party. The 357th District Court Judge Oscar X. Garcia is missing.
The 103rd District Judge Janet Leal is there.
So is 107th District Judge Benjamin Euresti.
Ditto for 138th District Judge Migdalia Lopez.
404th District Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez is also there.
44th District Judge David Sanchez is listed also, as is 445th District Court Judge Rolando Olvera.
So why was Garcia left out? A simple oversight?
Or is it perhaps because Garcia is the Republican candidate for the 357th against former Democratic Party chairman and 357th Demo Party candidate Juan Magallanes?
So this "honor" or "fundraiser" is really a blatantly partisan event which allows the Cameron County Democratic Party to use the prestige of the district judges' office and position to promote  one of their political candidates?
And while we're at it, aren't the three County Court-at-Law judges – Artutro McDonald, Laura Betancourt and David Gonzales III – also doing the same thing when they lend themselves to this type of affair?
We always thought that the Code of Judicial Conduct strictly forbids this type of political pandering and use of the political office for partisan politics.
And this is not a man-on-the-street event.
The Gold Sponsors are expected to plunk down $5,000 to help out Leticia. The Silver Sponsor is asked for $2,500 and the lowly Bronze Sponsor a mere $1,000. Individual tickets are $100 a pop.
"All proceeds to fund the get out the vote campaign," the invite states. Is this for Democrats and Republicans, or just for Democrats?
If we remember correctly, wasn't there another "Night Honoring the Cameron County Judiciary" held about six months ago at about primary time? This at a time when Cameron County is known throughout Texas and the United States for its notoriety after the involvement of local attorneys and judges in judicial corruption.
Now, we don't know whether Democratic Party Chair Amber Medina is aware of the restriction on partisan politics by judges on behalf of any candidates, so we looked up the applicable law and found this:
Canon 5: (2) A judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party. A judge or judicial candidate may attend political events and express his or her views on political matters in accord with this Canon and Canon 3B(10).
Is the Cameron County Democratic Party skirting the gray areas of the law here? Or is this a cute way to get around the law?

DISTRICT JUDGES TO COURT: PAY NOW, OR PAY LATER. TELL COMMISSIONERS TO UP AUDITOR'S SALARY TO $120,000

By Juan Montoya
Not only have the Cameron County Public Works Dept. employees not gotten a raise for the past decade or so, but now it appears that – unlike their supervisors – the district judges are demanding that the commissioners court give their staff and reporters a 5 percent across the board pay raise.
At a hearing of the district judges held Tuesday, a majority of those attending awarded County Auditor Martha Galarza a pay increase that would raise her salary from $97,000 to $120,000.
Under Texas law, the salary of the county auditor is set by the district judges. However, the salary of the court staff and the reporters is up to the commissioners.
Now, it just so happens that all the county commissioners are in Austin to push for the county's legislative agenda and lobby for monies for their area. When they come back to consider the 2014-2015 budget (county budgets start Oct. 1), they will have the district judge's demands on the table.
Sources knowledgeable about the district judge's meeting say that the raise for Galarza was agreed to by the majority who attended. However, the judges also put out the across-the-board 5 percent increase for their staff including court reporters.
"The commissioners can either choose to give all the court staff the 5 percent, or the judges will ask that they award the court reporters 10 percent each," said a source. "If they give the reporters the 10 percent, it will be less than giving the court staff the 5 percent. It's up to them."
If Galarza's salary goes up to the proposed $120,00 she will be making more than any of the four commissioners (between $43,423 and $48,133), the county judge ($69,642) and other elected officials. About the only one she will not be making any more than will be County Administrator Pete Sepulveda ($141,000 from Cameron County plus an annual stipend of $75,000 from the CCRMA for a total of $216,000 a year), the district and county court-at-law judges.
Below is a list of the salaries of the county's highest-paid elected officials:
Sheriff Omar Lucio: $97,160
Tax Assessor-Collector: $87,190
County Clerk Joe Rivera: $81,960
District Clerk Aurora de la Garza: $81,960

The other non-elected official – aside from Spulveda– that earns more than the elected officials listed above is Sepulveda's administrative assistant David Garcia, who earns $115,000 and used to make an extra $75,000 stipend from the CCRMA before the commissioners asked the authority to reimburse the county for the time Garcia performed any work for it.
Other high-paid appointed officials who earn high salaries are Tobin Lefler at $121,617 and Chief legal counsel $121,500. Health Administrator Yvette Salinas earns $84,500.
As the big boys carve out their share of the pie, will the county workers at the bottom receive any of the gravy through the trickle-down theory?

DEMS: HONOR THE JUDICIARY, BUT ONLY THE DEM JUDGES

By Juan Montoya
Look at the invitation to the Sept. 3 fundraiser for Democratic party Texas Lt. Governor Leticia De Putte scheduled to be held at the Historic Brownsville Museum.
The invite combines the fundraiser for De Putte with a "Night Honoring The Cameron County Judiciary" as well.
But hold on!
There appears to be an oversight. There are only seven of the eight district judges listed on the invite by the Cameron County Democratic Party. The 357th District Court Judge Oscar X. Garcia is missing.
The 103rd District Judge Janet Leal is there.
So is 107th District Judge Benjamin Euresti.
Ditto for 138th District Judge Migdalia Lopez.
404th District Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez is also there.
44th District Judge David Sanchez is listed also, as is 445th District Court Judge Rolando Olvera.
So why was Garcia left out? A simple oversight?
Or is it perhaps because Garcia is the Republican candidate for the 357th against former Democratic Party chairman and 357th Demo Party candidate Juan Magallanes?
So this "honor" or "fundraiser" is really a blatantly partisan event which allows the Cameron County Democratic Party to use the prestige of the district judges' office and position to promote  one of their political candidates?
And while we're at it, aren't the three County Court-at-Law judges – Artutro McDonald, Laura Betancourt and David Gonzales III – also doing the same thing when they lend themselves to this type of affair?
We always thought that the Code of Judicial Conduct strictly forbids this type of political pandering and use of the political office for partisan politics.
And this is not a man-on-the-street event.
The Gold Sponsors are expected to plunk down $5,000 to help out Leticia. The Silver Sponsor is asked for $2,500 and the lowly Bronze Sponsor a mere $1,000. Individual tickets are $100 a pop.
"All proceeds to fund the get out the vote campaign," the invite states. Is this for Democrats and Republicans, or just for Democrats?
Now, we don't know whether Democratic Party Chair Amber Medina is aware of the restriction on partisan politics by judges on behalf of any candidates, so we looked up the applicable law and found this:
Canon 5: (2) A judge or judicial candidate shall not authorize the public use of his or her name endorsing another candidate for any public office, except that either may indicate support for a political party. A judge or judicial candidate may attend political events and express his or her views on political matters in accord with this Canon and Canon 3B(10).
Is the Cameron County Democratic Party skirting the gray areas of the law here? Or is this a cute way to get around the law?

"JOE CAVAZOS MUST BE TURNING IN HIS GRAVE"

By Juan Montoya
Well, it seems like Robert Lopez will have a Republican opponent this November in his run as the Democratic nominee for the Constable, Pct. 3 race in the November general election.
On the last day of the Aug. 25 deadline for the Republican party to name a nominee to go against Lopez November 4, none other than the other son of the late Joe Cavazos, Roel, filed as the challenger for the GOP against Lopez.
"His daddy must be turning in his grave," said a longtime San Benito resident. What it does say about the younger Cavazos is that he had not voted in the Democratic Party primary. To run as a Republican in November, it was not necessary to have voted in the GOP primary.
The Lopez-Cavazos debacle started about three years ago.
In 2011, the Cameron County Commissioners Court decided to eliminate two constable positions. One of them was Pct. 4, which covered Rio Hondo and Arroyo City. Lopez was the Constable of Pct. 4 and was left without a jurisdiction. 
The commissioners consolidated it with Pct. 3, a huge precinct stretching across the middle of the county.
The reduction left Lopez and Pct. 7 Constable Cesar Diaz without the benefit of incumbency if they chose to run for the new consolidated precincts.
Lopez, in fact, did run.
But realizing that his Rio Hondo and Arroyo City constituency could not compare numerically with Joe Cavazos' in Precinct 3 in San Benito, Lopez  decided to run as a Republican in November 2012 and took on Cavazos after the incumbent there had defeated Frank Robles earlier that year in the Democratic Party primary.
In November, Cavazos beat Lopez 7,289 to 4,126 votes in the general election.
Following his defeat, Lopez was hired by Pct. 2 Constable Abelardo Gomez and became a familiar face as he worked security at the entrance to the Cameron County Courthouse's Judicial Wing.
The term of office for Texas constables is four years. However, when vacancies arise, the commissioner’s court of the respective county has the authority to appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining term.
Unexpectedly, Cavazos died January 26, 2014, and his son Rolando Cavazos was appointed by the commissioners court to fill his unexpired term ending January 1, 2015.
Since Cavazos death came after the deadline to file for the Democratic primary on March 4 this year, Rolando Cavazos was not on the Democratic ballot in March.
According to the Texas Election Code, it is then up to the precinct chairs in the Precinct 3 Constable's jurisdiction to vote and decide who will appear on the November ballot.
They, however, handed the cosntable an unpleasant surprise. After six voting precinct chairs interviewed the potential candidates, instead of opting to give him the nod, they chose Lopez, his father's Republican opponent in November 2012.
During the voting to choose their candidate, there was a bit of partisanship demonstrated by Democratic Party Cameron County Clerk-elect Sylvia Garza Perez when she berated some of those present because she had seen a car with a Carlos Cascos bumper sticker. Cascos is the Republican county judge incumbent who will face current county clerk Joe Rivera in November.
The intra-party jockeying didn't stop there.
At the time, appointee Rolando Cavazos looked at the option of running as a Republican, but, alas, he had voted in the Democratic primary and was ineligible to run as a Republican candidate in November.
Now, Precinct 3 is a combined JP and Constable Precinct stretching from the Laguna Atascosa area in the northeast to to the banks of the Rio Grande in the southeast corner, including, coincidentally, the old Cavazos ranch along Military Highway. In fact, it cover all of San Benito, Rio Hondo, Arroyo City, Lozano, La Paloma, El Ranchito, Treasure Hills, the Rangerville area and surrounding areas.
Now, smarting from the snub by the precinct chairs, Rolando Cavazos considered running as a write-in candidate in November, a long shot by any measure.
Instead, it seems that Rolando will be satisfied now that his brother Roel got on the GOP slate.
Gven the roller-coaster ride that Lopez has endured these past three years he will now have to face a Cavazos again in November to assume the Pct. 3 cosntable's position.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MAD DOGS, ENGLISHMEN AND COUNTY P. WORKS EMPLOYEES

By Juan Montoya
With temperatures hovering near the century mark, construction of a 50-parking space addition to the Cameron County Courthouse continues in the sweltering heat.
A 10-person contingent of Cameron County Public Works Department is laboring through the heat and say that at the rate they work is progressing, it is likely that the job will be finished and turned over to the county by mid-September.
"This crew of 10 workers know how to do every facet of the job," said foreman Hector Garza. "We've got people from the Brownsville precincts and a couple from Harlingen on this job."
Parking, or lack thereof, has been a recurring problem ever since the courthouse was built on Harrison and 12th streets. It is especially harrowing to find a parking space on Mondays when hundreds of people report for jury duty.
"You're lucky to be able to park within two blocks of the courthouse," said a county worker. "The parking lot on front and on the east side along Van Buren are packed. "We really need a new courthouse and more parking."
The 10-worker crew will build the sidewalks and level the site in anticipation of laying the asphalt, Garza said. Later, lines for the parking spaces will be painted before it is opened to the public.
It is instructive that there are no pay raises being contemplated for county workers in this year's budget. Some workers said it has been nearly 10 years since they received a raise, the last time they were awarded a pay increment was when the court approved a one-time stipend instead of a raise. 
"We're saving lots of money doing it in-house," Garza said. "But we have to be careful with the heat. You've got to protect yourself from the heat. It could be dangerous."  
 
  

ANOTHER STYMIED RESIGNATION; SEPULVEDA AT COUNTY

By Juan Montoya
Word hes reached us that Cameron County Administrator Pete Sepulveda has emailed commissioners his intention to resign and join the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority full time.

It is unknown what time frame Sepulveda gave commissioners for his departure.
However, it appears that some of the members of the court are asking that he stay on the job pending the completion of several projects now on the drawing boards such as the West Rail Relocation, SH 550, the FM 511 Tollroad, and the second causeway to South Padre Island.
We have been trying to obtain Sepulveda's email sent to the court where he indicates his wish to resign from the county. However, some commissioners have told us that they would prefer to speak with Sepulveda about his plans before releasing the email or making any comments.
Some indicated that they were concerned that projects currently underway might be affected by Sepulveda's sudden departure and hoped that arrangements could be made to assure their completion.
Sepulveda is currently working as county administrator in overall charge of numerous departments including all non-elected County Departments including: Building Maintenance, Copy Center , Health, Human Resources, Parks, Planning and Development and Transportation.
Since it is not humanly possible to oversee all these different departments, he has an adminisitrative assistant in David Garcia.
The employment status of the county administrator has been the object of confusion. Although he is listed as the county's full-time administrator, he is also the executive director of the CCRMA.
In February 2013, the CCRMA announced that Sepulveda would take the helm of the Authority at an annual salary of $225,000. So far, that transition period has extended for more than  a year going on two.
Sepulveda has been the CCRMA's administrator since 2004 when Cameron County Commissioners Court moved to establish it. He has been receiving money from both the county and CCRMA.He has been receiving money from both the county and CCRMA. Sepulveda receives a yearly salary of $141,000 from Cameron County plus an annual stipend of $75,000 from the CCRMA for a total of $216,000 a year.
His assistant Garcia was also receiving a $75,000 stipend from the Authority until the commissioners drafted an agreement with the authority that it pay the county for the time Garcia spent on CCRMA business.
One commissioner said the court's members wanted to get together with Sepulveda to initiate a search for his replacement as soon as possible.

ANOTHER VIEW OF SPACEX'S FALCON 9 EXPLOSION



(Ed's Note: The explosion of the unmanned SpaceX rocket shortly after launch at the company's Central Texas development site.in McGregor, Texas, about 23 miles southeast of Waco last week was captured by more than one camera. In this shoot, we can see the rocket explode into  ball of fire in mid air after the launch was terminated. Had this explosion occurred on the Boca Chica site, the burning debris would have been scattered across a wide swath of beach, and possible toward the Port of Brownsville and South Padre Island. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said such explosions occur because "Rockets are tricky." Mmm.)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

EXPLOSIONS, IN ECONOMY AND LAUNCH, AROUND SPACEX

By Juan Montoya
On a day when the local daily attempts to link the purchase of a local tooling company by a supplier of bolts to SpaceX and the boost in the economy of billionaire Elon Musk's commercial satellite launch pad, a bit of a wake-up call is given local residents by news that a rocket such as the one to be used here exploded in mid-air during a test over Central Texas.
The explosion of the unmanned SpaceX rocket came shortly after launch at the company's Central Texas development site.in McGregor, Texas, about 23 miles southeast of Waco. (to see a video of debris falling after the explosion, click on link.) http://nasawatch.com/archives/2014/08/video-spacex-gr.html
 Locally, the daily is announcing that the purchase of Rio Grande Tool Co. by SpaceX supplier Paragon D&F, of Grand Rapids, Mich., is  sign that industry is being attracted here by the announcement that Musk has chosen the site at Boca Chica to construct a commercial satellite launch pad.
The type of rocket that exploded in mid-air over McGregor, is the same as that being contemplated to propel commercial payloads into sub-orbit at Boca Chica Beach.
Paragon spokesmen said their purchase of the Brownsville-based tool and dye company was not linked to their SpaceX contracts, but that they stand ready to "help them" during the construction. For now, they say they will concentrate on trying to drum up customers from auto and truck manufacturers in Texas and Mexico.
Whether the company will increase its business with SpaceX or not is still up in the air, but the explosion at the test site in McGregor should raise a red flag here.
McGregor, for example, does not sit near a beach or habitat known for a proliferation of endangered species. It is not near an industrial port with tanks of stored oil and petroleum products. It is also not near a storage area for hazardous chemicals or the InterCoastal waterway.
Boca Chica Beach is. What if one of those rockets blew up here?
CBS reported that Musk said in a Twitter posting the "three engine F9R Dev1 vehicle auto-terminated during test flight. No injuries or near injuries. Rockets are tricky..."
SpaceX uses a two-stage version of the Falcon 9 rocket to launch NASA space station resupply missions and commercial satellites. The Falcon 9 first stage uses nine Merlin 1D engines while the second stage uses a single engine.
SpaceX is scheduled to launch the AsiaSat 6 communications satellite next week from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by launch of a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station on Sept. 19.
Company engineers carried out a launch pad first-stage engine "hot fire" test of the Falcon 9 slated for the AsiaSat flight Friday, but it's not yet clear what impact, if any, the Texas test failure might have on the upcoming launches.

GOWEN, A LA ATKINSON, PEDALS BCIC PURSE STRINGS

By Jim Barton
www.Mean MisterBrownsville.blogspot
Last year $8,400,000 was diverted from Brownsville's sales tax dollars to be used for economic development. Half, $4,200,000 went to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
The other half, $4,200,000 went to the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation for so-called "quality of life" projects.
Commissioner Rose Gowen has been the primary manipulator of the BCIC, the board deciding how such "quality of life" funds are spent.
 (Her boss, Carlos Marin, completely controls projects vetted by the BEDC, the symbiotic syster of the GBIC. All his projects pass the GBIC without discussion. He's already wined and dined the board members, explaining what he wants, and they comply like naive school kids.)
Rose Gowen and two other BCIC board members, Jude Benavides and Blanca Perez-Moreno, are leaving at the end of the year, having completed 2 two year terms, the maximum allowed.
Three new members commencing in 2015 have the possibility of changing the thrust and focus of the BCIC. While half of their funding is still committed to former city commissioner Charlie Atkinson's pet project, the Brownsville/Olmito Sports Park, the other monies have largely been used for bike trails, bike trail maintenance, bike trail design, etc. While this leaves infrastructure that will stay with the city, the actual interest of Brownsville citizens in cycling has been greatly exaggerated. Staged, subsidized events like Cyclobia appear to show spontaneous interest, but would fade without consistent BCIC funding.
The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art has also been a favorite of the BCIC, while the Gladys Porter Zoo (the main tourist magnet to the city) has been overlooked.
The BCIC met to consider hiring another director. 
Originally, five, but now six candidates will be considered. Ramiro Gonzalez from the Planning Department is Rose Gowen's choice. Selecting Gonzalez as director would effectively continue Rose Gowen's control of the BCIC board.

4TH ANNUAL FREDDIE GOMEZ MEMORIAL CONCERT ON TAP

By Juan Montoya
I may be dating myself a bit here, but back in the day when cotton was the king of agriculture in South Texas, our parents used to send us kids with a local truck driver (contratista) to pick cotton in fields around Brownsville.
The work was hot, low-paying and tiring. But it was also a kind of adventure. The money we made during the week (between $10 to $15 ) would be used to buy clothes for school. A dollar went a long way back then.
A lot of the neighborhood kids of the Las Prietas and Southmost areas would be out in the fields and to pass the time, we'd sing the favorites songs of the day.
Inevitably, the songs made popular by Freddie Gomez would reverberate across the fields, the sound of youthful voices losing themselves over the mirages of heat across the green and white expanse of the endless cotton rows.
One particular favorite at the time (the Vietnam War was on) was "El Soldado Raso," that dealt with a soldier (a private) leaving for the war and leaving behind his family and friends. It was a somewhat melodramatic tune but it conveyed the feelings of many young soldiers and the families they left behind.

Me voy de soldado raso

voy a ingresar a las filas
con los valientes muchachos
que dejan madres queridas
que dejan novias llorando
llorando su despedida. 



Mañana salgo temprano

al despuntar nuevo dia
y aqui va otro mexicano
que va a jugarse la vida
que se despide cantando
que viva la patria mia.


Now, Freddie wasn't the first singer to interpret this song. But his high nasal voice and accordion gave the song a distinctive sound that earned him fame as the "Cyclon del Valle."
Ask any Hispanic veterans of the time who the artist was who sang that song and inevitably, Freddie's name will be the first from their lips.
Four years ago, Timo Ruedas' the South Texas Conjunto Association teamed up with George Ramirez's Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts and established an annual memorial concert to remember Gomez and musicians who followed in his footsteps. The City of Brownsville is also a co-sponsor.
This year, the Fourth Annual Freddie Gomez Memorial Conjunto Concert will be held from 6 to 12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 in Brownsville's Historic Downtown District at the corner of Levee and 11th streets.
The event is free in celebration of Labor Day, the working man's holiday. Gomez died Sept. 3, 2005.
Freddie Gomez was a simple man, and singing with a conjunto was a side gig (he worked at J.C. Penney's in Brownsville and retired from there without ever missing a day of work.) One can only imagine what he could have achieved is he had devoted his full time to his musical pursuits.
The program includes the Memorial Ceremony, Conjunto “Ambassador” Award presentations, Youth-Musician ensembles, a Dance Marathon and three Conjunto performances.
This year, Conjunto music legend, Pepe Maldonado, will be the featured artist for the memorial conjunto venue. Pepe was born in Rio Grande City in 1941and his family relocated to Edinburg in 1945. While he plays a variety of instruments, including the accordion, bass and bajo-sexto, he especially enjoys Singing. Pepe first performed in front of a live audience during the 1950’s at a theater in Alamo that hosted weekly amateur events for local musicians.
He and accordionist, Juan Antonio Tapia, participated in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. in 1998. In 2002 he opened La Lomita, a Western aesthetic park, to host weekly dances and promote local area Conjunto groups.
Pepe Maldonado y Su Conjunto will perform at 8 p.m. and followed by the versatile accordionist/vocalist, Arturo Nino y Su Khromaticos and Brownsville’s popular group, “La Farra” de los Hermanos Lozano.
The Concert venue includes a 25-minute marathon dance competition with seven styles and rhythms of Conjunto dance music that starts with a slow Vals (waltz) then progresses to a Bolero, a Redova, a Shotiz, a Cumbia, a Polka and ends with the rapid beat of a Huapango.
Food and beverage concessions will be available and tables and chairs sitting will be provided.
For further information, call the STCA Brownsville Chapter, 956-545-8446 or visit www.conjunto.org.

Friday, August 22, 2014

NO RAISES FOR COUNTY WORKERS, ONLY FOR SNOOZING DAN

By Juan Montoya
Remember how generous Cameron County  Pct. 4 commissioner Dan Sanchez when the court was tweaking the budget back in 2012 and a majority of the commissioners voted to go along with him and grant County Clerk Joe Rivera and District Clerk  Aurora De la Garza a raise at his expense?
Rivera and De la Garza complained that the raise would get them closer at salary parity with County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre.
The commissioners court then approved increases of $2,855 each only for De la Garza and Rivera.
Sanchez said that he voted for the proposal in order to get De la Garza's and Rivera's $78,105 salaries as close as possible to the $86,690 salary that is paid to Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre.
The increase granted the two from Sanchez's salary line item brought their compensation to $80,960.
The collector's compensation was $85,690.
Once approved, Sanchez's salary was lowered to $42,462 plus $960 for a phone allowance to total $43,423. The other three commissioners earned salaries ranging from $47,173 (Pct 1's Sofia Benavides), $48,133 (Pct. 2's Alex Dominguez), and $48,133 (Pct. 3)'s David Garza. Benavides turned down the $960 phone allowance.
County Judge Carlos Cascos earns $64,042, no phone allowance, and $5,400 for his service on the county's Juvenile Board to total $69,462.
This year, the commissioners were  considering passing a $1,000 increase for all elected officials, but rejected it because of a tight budget and the fact that there would be no pay raises county employees.
The vote was 4 to 1 to give Sanchez the raise with only county judge Carlos Cascos voting against.
With the four county commissioners voting to raise Sanchez and all county commissioners to $48,173, the only county employee to receive a raise was Sanchez whose salary will be increased by $5,710 to $48,173.
"No one else is getting a raise but Dan Sanchez", said a county employee who attended the hearing where commissioners voted to restore his salary to match the rest of the commissioners court. "He's getting back what he gave up in the 2013 budget."
However, the county will  now have to continue to  pay the county clerks at the rate that they reached when Sanchez chipped in the $5,700 from his pay. So despite the fact that Sanchez is no longer paying for the duo's raise , taxpayers will continue them at the higher rate as a result of the Pct. 3 commissioner from now on.
All together: "Thank you, Commissioner Dan Sanchez!"  

HONDURAS, EL SALVADOR CONSULS VISIT BROWNSVILLE

By Juan Montoya
Now, more than ever, residents in South Texas have been made plainly aware of our symbiotic relationship with Mexico, Central America and the rest of Latin America.
It's not just the recent humanitarian crisis involving 60,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America that has brought home this relationship. It sued to be said that when the U.S. sneezed, Mexico would catch cold.
Those relationships have become even closer, if not thornier and more knotty.
During the conflict in El Salvador, we saw thousands of Salvadorans fleeing from the guerrilla war that was decimating that nation. Honduras was much the same as was Guatemala. When things go wrong – and most of the time it is a result of some U.S. intervention – the refugees start moving north.
But ask people at the Port of Brownsville or at the Chamber of Commerce and they'll tell you that this are has always enjoyed a commercial and trade relationship with Mexico, Central America and the rest of the continent. The U.S. has established numerous consulate offices in these countries to smooth the commercial and diplomatic relations between nations. Mexico, also, has numerous consulates in the United States to handle the day-to-day needs of Mexican citizens in this country.
Just recently, Guatemala recognized the need of its citizens in the United States for assistance in many fronts. Now, partly as a reaction to these longstanding relationships that have been highlighted by the recent upsurge in undocumented minors from Honduras and El Salvador, those countries, too, have established a consulate presence in South Texas.
The latest additions to the diplomatic corps are Sandra Agreda, consul for El Salvador (left in the photo), and Lilian Gomez, consul for Honduras (right). They were accompanied to the City of Brownsville offices by Mexican Chamber of Commerce official for exterior affairs Gerardo Danache, in the middle.
Both these consuls are stationed in McAllen, but traveled to Brownsville to be introduced to the city. There is a significant number of citizens from these countries residing in South Texas and the need arises occasionally for them to seek some sort of assistance from their countries' diplomatic representatives.
We welcome these ladies to South Texas and will soon acquire telephone numbers and email addresses for people from those countries who are here to contact if they need to.
 

PEDO EN EL EJIDO: JOE DITCHES LETTY PEREZ, SYLVIA IN


By Juan Montoya
Word has reached us that the three-decades long working relationship between Cameron County Clerk (and Democratic Party county judge nominee in November) and his administrative assistant Letty Perez has come to an unamicable end.
Perez, who publicly expressed her disappointment when her boss Rivera did not back her to run for the position he was leaving when he chose to run for the county judge in the primary, then supported Arnold Flores for county clerk.
Rivera, who had reached an agreement with Sylvia Garza-Perez to switch from her bid for county judge and run for county clerk instead, then threw his support behind her instead of his longtime employee and confidante.
Now, most Cameron County politicians expect a certain sense of loyalty to their decisions from their underlings, and apparently the fact that Perez was backing the opponent of his candidate did not sit well with Joe.
That led to a strained relationship between Perez and  Rivera which culminated in Perez taking family leave and then  upon returning – also taking vacations, only yo find out she no longer was employed with the county.
At yesterday' s meeting of the Cameron County Commissioners Court, Joe presented employee Jose Tovar with a service resolution for his work on the county's investment program. Many people took if for granted that Sandra Sanchez, on Joe's left, would be present, as well as Tovar, the award receiver.
Sanchez, by the way, is the daughter of Gloria Moreno, a longtime influential political activist in Cameron Park.
But what people were asking themselves was why Garza-Perez was asked to pose with the resolution award with Rivera. Our sources tell us that – a la Ernie Hernandez and John Wood – Garza-Perez will soon be on the county clerk office payroll. When Wood lost in his race for county judge and Hernandez won the Democratic Party nomination, Pct. 2's administrative asst. Carlos Cisneros resigned due to a altercation with his wife in S. Padre Island. Wood then had Hernandez serve in that capacity pending his installment as Pct. 2 commissioner.
If so, now we know why she was there, then.
We are not Cassandras, mind you, but when you're a candidate to countywide office, the last thing you want to do is make people mad. Letty Perez is a woman of not inconsiderable political clout in Los Fresnos, and a woman scorned is not something to take lightly.
We have also heard rumblings that Perez will file a Texas Workforce complaint against her former boss making allegations that border on the criminal. This is definitely not the time to irk someone who may stand in the way of the critical vote getting needed to be elected for public office.
The rupture, coming as it is just a little over a month before the November election, is just plain bad timing.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

UB: "LETS' RIDE THE BI-NED MAQUILA ROLLER COASTER"

By Juan Montoya
On it's face, the announcement of a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Administration to United Brownsville to analyze how Brownsville can compete with suppliers to the maquiladoras across the Rio Grande seems like a plausible idea.
They're there. They use manufactured parts shipped in from elsewhere in the United States and foreign countries to to put assemble everything from automobile parts to electronic components.
Why not, asks the United Brownsville boosters, have some of those parts manufactured here, so that instead of merely being a pass-through location Brownsville can manufacture the products they need?
This would make sense only if we overlook a most critical issue. The manufacturing companies located along the border are here for one crucial reason, and one reason only: to save money on labor and boosts their profits.
By espousing an economic development approach that supports U.S. manufacturers to remain on the other side of the river, we are in fact, placing ourselves on the Mexican side of the river as providers of cheap manufactured goods. We will be gearing the entire thrust of our development based on being competitors with other manufacturers around the world by providing these runaway industries with cheap goods. Brownsville, in effect, will become a maquiladora on this side of the river.
The reason that these former U.S. manufacturers earned the name of "runaway" industries is because after the initial boom in U.S. manufacturers relocating from the Midwest across the river on Matamoros, Reynosa, Rio Bravo and the length of the U.S-Mexico border, some learned thaey could get labor at half the cost in other places in the Third World and in places like China and India and "ran away" from Mexico.
Guess what? They're still running. But not hat far. They're leaving the border because of security issues and because the labor costs and costs of development are much lower in the interior of Mexico. Much has been made of some of these "runaways" coming back from these locales and returning to the interior of Mexico.
Is this the star that the mavens over at United Brownsville and Imagina Matamoros would have us hitch our wagons to?
This sort of thinking convinced institutions like the Chamber of Commerce, the Brownsville Economic Development Council, the Greater Brownsville Investment Corporation, the Port of Brownsville, the University of Texas at Brownsville (now UTRGV)  and other state and federal agencies to place all their economic development golden eggs in that basket.
The in-bond plant program is a facet of the foreign investment law of Mexico which allows for the creation of Mexican companies that import component parts or other materials into Mexico for assembling or processing with Mexican labor. The finished product is then exported. The in-bond plant concept started as a border development plan by Mexico in 1965, the legal framework was established in the in the 1971 and evolved into a fully institutionalized into a formal governmental policy in 1983.
The nut of the legislation is that Mexico benefits from increased employment and foreign currency exchange, while the United States manufacturers receive the benefits of the lower labor costs available in Mexico not available in the United States. The Mexican tax program allowed imported components to be shipped into Mexico, assembled for export products and then shipped out and therefore the companies could avoid very high import tariffs.
Many U.S. manufacturers – companies like RCA and Sylvania – fled the Midwest and other regions of the county to flock to the border. One of this was the old Saginaw Steering Gear Corp., which used to employ thousands of workers in Saginaw, Mich. and sell its steering gear components to General Motors.
Saginaw Gear was owned by Troy, Mich.-based Delphi Corporation, one of the larges maquila plants along the border, and was one of the companies that moved to Matamoros.
When it left Saginaw to "runaway" to Mexico, it left thousands unemployed and – along with other General Motors suppliers – established plants outside the United States. According to industry journals, "Steering," as it is now called, has 18 manufacturing plants, 16 customer support centers and six regional engineering centers in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, India, Australia, China, Korea and Japan. North America brings in the largest share of revenue, but Europe and Asia-Pacific are growing fast.
These jobs that were performed by U.S. workers will never return to this country. It makes no economic sense. Why pay a U.S. worker $13 to $25 an hour when maquilas in Matamoros average $5 a day? Who know what they pay in China? Logically, it would have to be less to compensate for the cost of transportation to the maquilas and then to U.S. markets.

Maquiladora Jobs By The Border

Maquiladoras Along The U.S.-Mexico BorderMaquilador...SonoraTamaulipasCoahuilaChihuahuaNuevo LeonBaja California2004006008001000As of May 2011; Source: Gov't. of Mexico
About 62 percent of the Maquiladora industry's jobs are in Mexican states along the border with the U.S.

United Brownsville would have Brownsville "capitalize" on this "opportunity," and fully invest its assets and economic development dollars to literally "chase the maquila dragon."
Toward that purpose they have "commissioned" publicly-funded study after study to steer the direction of the area's economic development to service these industries. They managed to convince the Brownsville Public Utility Board, the Port of Brownsville and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to pay  for Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates to chant the maquiladora mantra the tune of $454,592.02 in their "Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan."
They came up with something called the Bi-National Economic Development Zone (BiNED) and named a Coordinating Board to be made up by equal Representation from United Brownsville, Imagina Matamoros, and the City of Harlingen in order to promote and plan the development of the Bi-Ned Zone.
That, in turn, generated another outlay of another $185,000 in public funds for San Antonio-based Jacobs' Engineering to identify 10 of the "economic clusters" in that plan and to "suggest" ways which they can be implemented. Thus was the BiNED Coordinating Board to be made up by equal Representation from United Brownsville, Imagina Matamoros, and the City of Harlingen in order to promote and plan the development of the Bi-Ned Zone.This latest EDA $300,000 grant will also be used to "conduct research and an analysis" over the next 18 months to see how the city's economy can be geared toward supplying the maquiladoras across the river with manufactured parts.
If you add the initial $1 million cost of the original "Imagine Brownsville" comprehensive plan, the annual $200,000 in public funds that local entities of Brownsville have paid United Brownsville to "study" and "analyze" since its inception.
These entities – as we have pointed out before – are: the City of Brownsville, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), the Brownsville Independent School District, the Brownsville Navigation District, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) and the University of Texas-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College."
Since 2009, this group and their willingly co-opted public officials have gone to the public-treasury well to strong-arm eight public entities for their $25,000 "annual membership" payment.
From 2009 to 2012 the public had shelled out $810,000. That doesn't include the $200,00 from 2013 and the $200,000 to be collected for 2014.  All told, the taxpayers of Brownsville will have shelled out $1,210,000 to United Brownsville for the privilege of having a troika accountable to no one "implement" their dubious "plan."
That troika is made up of none other than IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB President Julieta Garcia and banker-cum-academic Irv Downing and form what they called the United Brownsville Coordinating Board and. They use the annual $200,000 in "membership" contributions to hire an executive director (Mike Gonzalez, former mayor of Kyle) to do their bidding.
The United Brownsville board consists of people from the eight entities and set about to do business. That business was the hijacking of elected and representative government handed over on a silver platter to these bunch to do as they saw fit with the people's money.
The people's investment of $1 million for the initial Imagine Brownsville plan, 1.2 million in annual membership dues to United Brownsville, the $454,592 for the comprehensive study, and $185,000 to suggest how to implement the economic cluster "plan," in addition to the EDA's $300,000 equals to $3,149,592 without one job so far to show for it.

The $1 million for Imagine Brownsville went to United Brownsville Carlos Marin's Ambiotec Group, the $454,492 wen to Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates, the same company that United Brownsville CEO Mike Gonzalez used to form a comprehensive plan for Kyle, Texas, when he was the mayor there. And the local operations manager for Jacob's Engineering which got the $185,000 contract is none other than Oscar Garcia Jr., the son of United Coordinating Board member Juliet Garcia. Garcia used to be the operations manager for Su Clinic Familiar, a facility run by Marin's wife, a doctor.
Garcia was the vice-chair on the PUB when it approved the $454,492 award to Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates, but resigned from the board just in time to latch on to the $185,000 contract for his new employer Jacob's Engineering.
As if all this self-dealing wasn't bad enough, we have allowed this group to hijack the direction of our economic and social development. Neither our nor I can fire Rusteberg, Garcia or Downing if we don't agree with their policies. They answer to no one. They are accountable to no one. Instead, they have been allowed to funnel and attract public monies in our name to this dubious economic development approach based on the maquiladoras.
Very few people on this side of the river benefit from these plants. Instead of warehousing their goods here, they store them in warehouses in the ports of Altamira and Tampico, Mexico, to lower their costs. By the same token, the much-vaunted industrial park touted by BEDC as a way to attract industry remains empty. Baesa, the company that wanted to import spices from Mexico, process them, and sell them to U.S. customers never came. Why should they? Labor in Monterrey easily undercuts local labor.
However, maquildoras do require financial service sin the United States (IBC's Rusteberg's bailiwick), accountants, some engineers, and real estate. In the case of engineers, the UTB quickly moved to produce industrial engineers, a type of "tecnicos" that amount to nothing more than old-fashioned "efficiency experts" who get paid to show the maquilas how to speed up the production line and pay workers less.
Is this the type of future that this city wants for itself and its residents? If we accept this approach, we will be relegated to nothing more than scrambling for crumbs from the maquiladora industry and hope that international market forces don't send them packing somewhere else where they can get their products produced more cheaply than we can.

THEN THERE WERE NINE IN BISD NOV. 4 ELECTION

By Juan Montoya
Count out two candidates of the 11 for the three positions available on the board of directors of the Brownsville Independent School District.
BISD administrators confirmed this morning that Susan Fox, candidate for Place 2 and Armando Rodriguez, candidate for Place 1, had announced their withdrawal from the November 4 election.
That leaves Lucy Longoria (the incumbent from Place 4) at the top of the ballot followed by Rolando Guerra and Juan Pacheco and Cesar Lopez, who was appointed by the board after trustee Chris Saavedra moved to San Antonio.
Fox's departure leaves firefighter union chief Carlos Elizondo on a one-on-one contest with Robert Rodriguez, coincidentally, the brother of Armando Rodriguez, who left the Place 1 race.
The Place 4 race hasn't changed. That contest pits former BISD trustee and athletic director Joe Rodriguez  against longtime educator Shirley Bowman and Brownsville resident Mary Rey.

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