Thursday, July 20, 2017

BOARD TABS RODRIGUEZ FOR NEXT TSC PRESIDENT

By Juan Montoya
Jesus-Roberto-RodriguezWith all the members participating in the selection process, the board of the Texas Southmost College selected Roberto Rodriguez to be the next president of the community college after nationwide search.

The board went into executive session at 5:50 p.m. and emerged at 6:12 – 22 minutes later.

A board executive committee narrowed the search to four candidates and – after a series of public forums – the choice came down to two: Rodriguez and David E. Pearson.

 Rodriguez's experience includes serving as the dean for the Business Center of Excellence at Houston Community College since July 2015 and dean for the Lone Star Community College System from February 2006 to July 2012. In between he worked at the Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, from August 2012 to July 2015.  

Pearson – who was vice president of partnership affairs at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College from 2006 to 2010 – is also a U.S. Army veteran and was the dean of the San Diego State University Imperial Valley Campus in Calexico, Calif., from 2010 to 2015.

SOME LOCAL QUIRKS IN THE LANGUAGE OF SOUTH TEXAS


By Juan Montoya
Call it Spanglish, bastardized English, or even South Texas patios, but the language spoken here is unique and particularly creative.

Sometimes its funny. Other times it's downright crude. And sometimes it has nothing to do with the words spoken by other people. Let's go through a few examples.

Remember Chappaquiddick?
You know, the one-car accident Friday, July 18, 1969 that forever tarnished Sen. Ted Kennedy's reputation and resulted in the death of his 28-year-old companion Mary Jo Kopechne. It was determined that Kennedy had been negligent and he pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury. He later received a two-month suspended jail sentence.

Well, at about that time when the news was hitting the airwaves, I had a friend who was working at Great Society social service agency in Mercedes who considered himself quite the galan. There wasn't a clerk or new employee at the agency who had not been targeted by the guy whose name was Marcos Chapa.

One day he invited a new hire for dinner and the girl – feeling somewhat obligated to Marcos for her job – she accepted. After a nice dinner and drinks, Marcos drove out to one of the irrigation and flood control ditches by the levees in the area and after a while tried to put the make on her.

As the action got a bit too heavy for the girl, she stepped out of the car and yelled: "Chapa quit it. Chapa quit it."
And that's how Chappaquiddick came to be identified with the ditches in Mercedes.

That's just one example. Hark back to the days of the Iran hostage crisis. That was when 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981 in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Before it was all over, the Shah of Iran had fled to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio and hard-line clerics, the ayatollahs, in Iran demanded the U.S. turn him over to them for execution.

Now, San Antonio is has four military bases and the town is full of military personnel at all hours of the day. So ti was surprising when the top brass issued an order that soldiers should stay away from the West Side (Zarzamora Street, in particular) because of possible threats against them from Iranian extremists.

Everyone was puzzled and when the military was asked why the area was declared off limits, the answer surprised everyone. It seems that military intelligence had overheard some customers ask the waiter at a Mexican restaurant during a particularly brisk day what dishes they had on special for the cold.

"Ay atole," the waiter had answered.

FUTURE OF INDEPENDENT TSC HINGES ON TONIGHT'S VOTE



Image result for GROUP PICTURE OF  TEXAS SOUTHMOST COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
By Juan Montoya
This afternoon, during their special meeting to be held at 5:30 pm. at Gorgas Hall, the members of the board of Texas Southmost College will go into executive session.

When they emerge, they will vote on who will take the helm and become the second president of the institution after its separation from the partnership formed with the University of Texas System in 1991. It has only been since 2013 that the community college has operated independently from the UT  System. The college first opened its doors in 1926, 91 years ago.
Jesus-Roberto-Rodriguez
david-e-pearsonAfter a series of public forums, the choice has come down to two candidates: Jesus Roberto Rodriguez and David E. Pearson.

TSC, in its website, states that Rodriguez's experience includes serving as the dean for the Business Center of Excellence at Houston Community College since July 2015 and dean for the Lone Star Community College System from February 2006 to July 2012. In between he worked at the Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, from August 2012 to July 2015.  

Pearson – who was vice president of partnership affairs at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College from 2006 to 2010 – is also a U.S. Army veteran and was the dean of the San Diego State University Imperial Valley Campus in Calexico, Calif., from 2010 to 2015. 

The selection will surely be influenced by the dynamics of the TSC board. Pearson seems to be a candidate favorable to TSC board president Adela Garza and her majority made up of of Ruben Herrera and Raymond Hinojosa. The opposition against him and for Rodriguez is probably headed by Dr. Rey Garcia, Art Rendon and Dr. Tony Zavaleta. Straddling the middle ground is trustee Trey Mendez who has not shown his hand on the selection.

The Garza majority seems to feel that Pearson has a first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of TSC and will hit the ground running. The learning curve will be smaller than with a newcomer with little knowledge of TSC's past history. As TSC grows – its student enrollment has grown every year – it needs a knowledgeable hand at the helm to steer its course, Pearson' supporters say.

This dynamic is interesting given the historical context of the board. 

Chair Garza and Mendez were two of the four trustees who went against UTB-TSC president Julieta Garcia's plans to allow the UT System to swallow up TSC and all its assets including its bank deposits, real estate, buildings and student scholarship foundation and establish a university doing away with the community college. Two other two former trustees who sided with Garza and Mendez were Kiko Rendon and Rene Torres.

They opted instead to return the community to its original mission and hired former TSC president Lily Tercero to be the first post-partnership TSC president. But, after a few years – because of differences between the board and the president that are being argued in a federal court – the board terminated Tercero and launched this presidential search.

Garcia has had differences with the board majority over Tercero's dismissal and has even filed a complaint with TSC's accrediting agency over allegations that the board's actions violated the accreditation requirements. The agency dismissed the complaint saying there was nothing there.
But that action on Garcia's part indicates that he will be against any candidate he feels is favored by Garza.

Zavaleta, who was a UTB-TSC partnership provost, has expressed his disapproval of the selection process because he feels that given his experience in reading resumes, he should have held center stage. Will Tony act out of spite because of his exclusion and go for Rodriguez? Or will he put his personal differences aside and vote for the best candidate for the college?

Rendon is a weird fish. He has often indicated a willingness to work with the majority, but was one of the "no" votes to terminate Tercero. He is also an employee of the Brownsville Independent School District which has a close relationship with TSC which has been fostered by chair Garza and the majority. Will he jump ship?

That leaves Mendez as the potential swing vote. Mendez was one of the original Fab Four who opposed Julieta Garcia when she was trying to destroy TSC. He also was named as a defendant in the Tercero lawsuit against the college. Will he go along with Dr. Rey Garcia and oppose chair Garza and the usual majority?

Observers say that both choices are excellent administrators and would serve the college well as it moves forward in its mission to provide affordable and accessible academic and vocational education to the poorest community in the United States.

They say that whichever side finds itself in the minority should cast their votes with the majority that mustered the four votes so that the new president will be selected with a unanimous decision that will show board unity and will give him a mandate to lead the college.

NEECE'S CASINO FUNDRAISER HOSTED AT ANCHOR HALF MOON

(Ed.'s Note: Former Chief Municipal Judge Ben Neece, now District 4 City of Brownsville Commissioner, will host a post-election fundraiser tonight to retire some campaign expenses with a Casino Night he will hold at the Half Moon Saloon.

The Half Moon itself is a testament to Neece's commitment to the rehabilitation of downtown because – ever since its genesis years ago as the Quarter Moon – is has been a venue for live music and an anchor for the revitalization of this historical district. Before the Half Moon the only live music downtown were the weekend conjuntos in the local cantinas. The rock and roll acts, classic music, jazz and even and even belly dancers featured there brought a diversity never seen in the district before. After that, a number of other venues have opened that include grunge and other genres that appeal to younger audiences.

Since taking office, Neece and his colleagues on the commission have voted for several initiatives they hope will improve the city's mission "to provide safe, efficient, and reliable public transportation with courtesy, concern and professionalism to all passengers, visitors, and citizens of Brownsville."

So far, they have passed initiatives to form audit, budget and agenda committees which will scrutinize the various departments in their performance. The members of the committees have yet to be appointed, but there is no mistake that they want to hold city officials accountable to the public.
Stick your guns and hold their feet to the fire, guys! See you at the Half Moon!)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

NEW RUNWAY EXPANSION WILL MEAN ADIOS SUNNY SKIES

By Juan Montoya

For decades now, city officials, planners, and economic developers have lobbied the Federal Aviation Administration to lengthen the main runway at the Brownsville-South Padre Island international Airport on the city's southeast side.

And for years, plans have been drawn up to accommodate larger planes, service anticipated SpaceX freight loads, and compete with the Valley Regional Airport in Harlingen. A Capital Improvements Projects projection by the city's financial consultants shows that lengthening the runway will cost at least $83 million, the majority of that ($74.7 million) is expected to be acquired through grants.

But before a runway can be built, the city must clear residences and housing developments that are on the approach lane of the runway. And smack in the middle of that approach is a former colonia called Sunny Skies.

(In the Google photo at right, Sunny Skies is the development in the extreme lower right-hand corner on South Indiana Avenue. Click to enlarge.)

Sunny Skies was illegally established in the early 1980s. The developer – an administrator at the local Social Security Office – formed the irregular lots himself and not one was in compliance with state or county regulations for water, sewer, paved roads and other services.

When the county and state stepped in and halted his business, the developer (who was not the owner) declared bankruptcy, there were several liens, property taxes were owed, and titles to the properties were clouded, officials found.

At that time Frank Bejarano was the director of the Cameron County Planning and Management county planner and it was up to him with the help of contract lawyers and state officials to take on the role of developer to untangle the legal nightmare. They formed a non-profit corporation to clear liens, foreclose on the original developer, secure street easements, and convert contracts for deed to warranty deeds.

Even then, officials found that the colonia, which had one water spigot at its entrance which served the 250 or so residents for more than 15 years, would require a lot more work to bring it into compliance with the various county, state and federal departments involved in its legalization. After another five years of work by Cameron County, community leaders, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Texas Rural Legal Aid and the Sunny Skies Land Corp., the colonia was finally finished.

Before that happened, the lone spigot by S. Indiana had been shut off at least once by El Jardin Water Supply manager B.C. Price who complained that the residents had extended the line to the end of the road in the interior of the colonia without permission. He only relented and hooked it up again after residents removed the clandestine piping and promised not to do it again.

At the end of the process El Jardin eventually extended its lines into the colonia, and the Brownsville Public Utility Board provided sanitary sewer along the half-mile or so right-of-way of the cul-de-sac.


In fact, the last lot was sold to a local resident less than five years ago. No one can estimate the cost over those two decades or more of work, but millions have been spent on that project.

Now, with the coming expansion of the airport runway, the city must now spend another chunk of money settling with the the residents of the 41 properties and negotiate their departure.

It is a bittersweet event for those who worked on Sunny Skies – including former commissioners Lucino Rosenbaum, the late Pete Benavides and current commissioner Sofia Benavides – to see the fruit of their labors be abandoned and the colonia (now a legal subdivision) be vacated.

"It depends on whether you want to improve the airport and the local economy, or you want to keep the airport runway at its current size and limit its potential," a city official said. "In the long run, Brownsville needs to improve its airport and capacity to handle bigger planes to encourage development. It's something we think needs to be done." 

ELEVEN UFOS DRIVE EL MANTE BAR PATRONS WILD


(Ed.'s Note: Patrons at Moy's El Mante Lounge facing the corner where 14th Street meets Southmost Road, were astonished to see 11 lights flying in an irregular pattern this past Saturday night. Many took video with their cell phones and posted the images on social media. Take a gander and see if you can figure what the mysterious lights were. And enjoy the local slang of patrons of La Catorce as they witnessed the unusual spectacle.)

AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN: TRANSMIGRANTES TRAVEL


By Juan Montoya
Around mid-June, an accident involving trucks being sent into Latin America by local transmigrantes resulted in the death of a Guatemalan man who was crushed when a semi-trailer cab slipped off its moorings and killed him.

Authorities identified him as 43-year-old William Francisco Samayoa Vasquez from Guatemala. The fatality was ruled an accident and no charges being filed against the company where the trucks were parked for further transfer.

Just today, several transmigrantes were adjusting the tie downs on a similar transport carrying semi-trailers (top photo). They were parked on the frontage road in Brownsville off southbound 3th Street.Apparently, some of the tie downs had became loose due to the vibrations of the road and they said they were tightening them. It is not difficult to see that an accident like the one that happened last June could easily happen again. At the time of the June accident, a commenter said that the potential for accidents of these transmigrantes (and possibly the general public on the road) was heightened by the lack of controls by local and state law transportation enforcement agencies.

"Just like it happened on the transmigrantes yard, it can happen on the interstate especially when nothing is done when they are pulling up to 3 junked cars on the highway, half asleep from driving all night," the commenter said. "There ought to be more controls over all these potential accidents and deaths."

The June accident happened at Transmigrantes Vida Nueva, 30471 Rangerville Road in San Benito, according to the Cameron County Sheriff's Dept. That business is owed by Florentino Piñon who at the time was unavailable for comment on how the man came to be trapped under the semi truck.

NEECE HOSTS POST-ELECTION FUNDRAISER AT 1/2 MOON

(Ed.'s Note: Former Chief Municipal Judge Ben Neece, now District 4 City of Brownsville Commissioner, will host a post-election fundraiser Thursday to retire some campaign expenses with a Casino Night he will hold at the Half Moon Saloon.

Since taking office, Neece and his colleagues on the commission have voted for several initiatives they hope will improve the city's mission "to provide safe, efficient, and reliable public transportation with courtesy, concern and professionalism to all passengers, visitors, and citizens of Brownsville."

So far, they have passed initiatives to form audit, budget and agenda committees which will scrutinize the various departments in their performance. The members of the committees have yet to be appointed, but there is no mistake that they want to hold city officials accountable to the public.
Stick your guns and hold their feet to the fire, guys! See you at the Half Moon!)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

UTRGV STUDENTS GET CLASS CLOSURES WHILE IN CLASS

By Juan  Montoya


Several classes of students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley think they got shoddy treatment from the school's administration after they were told by email that the courses they were taking were being cancelled for the semester.

In some cases, some students said in social media that the the teachers were holding classes and they were taking notes when the notices arrived in their electronic mail.

The sudden cancellations left some students in the lurch and searching to see if more students could take the classes in Summer 2.











The administration only told students that they "regret to inform you that your (course)...has been cancelled from your Summer 2
schedule" and directs them to contact the department and "apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you."

SAN BENE CITIZENS QUESTION LEGITIMACY OF "INVESTIGATION"


By Juan Montoya
The dust hasn't cleared on the San Benito Recordingsgate scandal.
Less than a week after the City Attorney Ricardo Morado said three "outside investigative agencies" cleared Police Chief Michael Galvan of any wrongdoing in connection with some 500 privately recorded conversations that were leaked to the public, a concerned citizens group has questioned the legitimacy of the probe,

"Concerned Citizens of San Benito disagree with outside agencies reviewing the recordings. When
recordings started to circulate among the public, Commissioner Rene Villafranco warned
Chief Galvan about the leak. Almost immediately Galvan started erasing the recordings
from computer.

"How can agencies review recordings when they were erased? In addition we have reviewed almost 100 recordings in a longer time. Someone is lying," said Concerned Citizens of San Benito Ben Cortez in response to the city's press statement that the matter was over.

The group's statement also raises other allegations:

"From Chief Galvan’s own words come various violations that include abuse of office,
official oppression, obstruction, evidence tampering, retaliation, sexual harassment and
other departmental and city policies including ethics. In addition, he ridicules the Mayor,
a Justice of the Peace, the District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney with no
supporting documentation."

"I am sure there is more to come out when all recordings are reviewed. In closing, I would like to ask you “who records himself and other officers urinating”? This individual has no business wearing a badge, let alone carry a gun. Terminate Galvan. The recordings need to made public so San Benito Citizens know who Galvan really is."

Gomez declined to disclose the name of the outside law enforcement agencies which investigated the matter and issued only the press release regarding the investigation’s findings.  The commissioners commissioners launched the investigation after Galvan’s recordings were downloaded from the police department’s computer system. Nearly 500 of those recordings were apparently downloaded from a public server at the San Benito Public Library and distributed to individuals.

The Valley Morning Star reported that Officer Guadalupe Andrade said her attorney will determine if she will continue to pursue a sexual harassment case based on a conversation between Galvan and former Police Chief Martin Morales.

In a May 31 letter to commissioners, Andrade wrote the recent disclosure of Galvan’s private recordings show Morales agreed to dismiss her sexual harassment case to protect Galvan about two years ago.

Galvan’s recordings apparently reveal an hour-long conversation with Morales in which Morales agrees to “keep it to himself and that no one needs to know” and “this could blow up in our faces and ruin our careers and positions,” according to Andrade’s letter.

City Manager Manuel de la Rosa told the daily that he would conduct an inquiry to see if Galvan had violated the city's administrative procedures.

PRIMOS, UNCLES AND BROTHERS (P.U.B.), B'TOWN SYNDROME

By Juan Montoya
In 1997, when the Brownsville-Matamoros Bridge Company erected a new concrete, four-lane toll bridge adjacent to the original (old) bridge to handle automobile traffic, the late bridge manager Prax Orive was asked to say a few words.

Orive, who would die a few years later, was already infirm and his voice shook as he addressed the dignitaries gathered for the grand opening.
Pointing to federal judge Reynaldo Garza who was seated with other U.S. and Mexico dignitaries, he said he had risen to the position of manager because of the judge.

"I was fresh from the U.S. Marines and I had a wife and baby at home and I needed a job," he said. "I went to talk to judge Garza and he picked up the phone and told them that he was sending over a veteran who needed a job and I got it. If it hadn't been for the judge I wouldn't be where I am today."
Judge Garza was visibly chagrined that Orive had told that story but smiled wanly as the crowd clapped politely.

The way that Orive got the job at the bridge mirrors how hiring and firing was done in those days. Find someone with enough influence, get him to move a few palancas, and the job was yours.

To a degree, hiring at local governmental entities such as the Public utilities Board, the Brownsville Independent School District and even the City of Brownsville remains the same. If you have a relative or compadre already inside, te acomodan, or put in a good word for you with the boss.

Granted, the B and M Bridge was privately owned and personnel policies that apply in public service were niceties to them.
Now that Human Resource polices are in place in the city and county there are rules to follow to make sure that influence and compadrismo no longer guide public employment.

Cameron County, for example, consolidated the four county precincts from Road and Bridge to Public Works back in 2002 to remove the hiring and firings by individual commissioners and give everyone an equal chance at the jobs available.
They adopted the Civil Service for all county employees below supervisory rank in 2006.

As former county Pct. 2 commissioner John Wood wrote in a letter to the local daily, "The Commissioners Court adopted a Civil Service system that protects prospective county workers as well as those seeking advancement. These tests are administered without regard to whom you know; they are based on what you know, and hiring and promotions are to be based on those most qualified."

Yet, even as late as 2011, Pct. 2 county commissioner Ernie Hernandez was indicted and later resigned over his role in the "fixing" of the system to hire his brother in law Roberto Cadriel. Testimony in the trial of Hernandez's assistant Raul Salazar indicated that Cadriel had flunked the civil service exam twice before a HR staffer was told to take it for him and he passed.

We felt a little sorry (but just a little) for poor Ernie because we can only imagine the henpecking that his wife Norma gave him over getting her brother Robert a job. During the trial, Cadriel testified that it was Norma who filled out his application for employment since he could neither read nor write. To begin with, he was a convicted felon and couldn't be an armed security guard.

Later, it was disclosed at the trial that Salazar gave Cadriel the answers to a test for a noncommissioned security guard at a county international bridge. Cadriel – as well as Robert Lopez, the HR director at the time – resigned after the facts in the matter were revealed.

The Gilbert Hinojosa regime was probably the apex of political patronage. Hinojosa had a personal staff which included people with constituencies all around the county. Frances Domenski represented El Ranchito. "Silver" Garcia represented Combes, and Remi Garza – the son of  a popular doctor and lawyer mother – kept San Benito in the Hinojosa camp. The county taxpayers, of course, paid them hefty salaries to "assist" Gilbert.

The county has tried to wean itself from the past practices when the extended families of elected officials virtually filled the ranks of the various departments. The large extended family of Gonzalez (Aurora de la Garza's brothers) were present in just about all the departments from the sheriffs office, the constables and the DA's office. For a long time, Arturo was the longtime constable and his cantina in downtown Brownsville was a popular gathering spot for his supporters and political allies.

Will the compadrismo that prevailed in local governmental entities ever be eliminated? Probably not, but human resources officials now have some say so in separating the chaff from the wheat and recommending qualified candidates to important positions.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A STORY OF KNEE-SLAPPING DISCRIMINATION IN THE MIDWEST

By Juan Montoya
Some time back in one of our former lifetimes, we lived and worked in a small southwest Minnesota town named Worthington.

To call it rural would be an understatement. There were perhaps some 13,000 inhabitants not counting turkeys and hogs. In fact, the annual festival (as our Charro Days in Brownsville) was Turkey Days. The folks at Worthington, harking back to when a Campbell's Soup plant was open there, hailed the city as the turkey capital of the United States.

I'm not making this up. There was actually a Turkey Race called the Great Gobbler Gallop where a the local turkey (named Paycheck) would race down 10th Street (the main street) against a challenger turkey from Cuero, Texas, which also called itself the turkey capital of the county.

Then Paycheck and a racing team would make the trek to Cuero and race down their main street. Whoever's team won gave the bragging rights to the town to claim the national turkey town title.
Ah, rural America. You gotta love it.

But I digress.

The local newspaper (The Globe) catered to it rural readership and often (maybe four times a year) feature a Farm Beat section. One of the main features was a story on Century Farms recognized by the state and issued a proclamation by the governor. To be recognized as Century Farm, farms must have remained in continuous family ownership for 100 years and be a minimum of 50 acres in size.

Reporters on the staff dreaded the coming of the issues, but everyone swallowed the bitter pill, bit the bullet, and contributed stories to the issue. It fell on my lot to write a story on a Century Farm located just west of Worthington near the town of Rushmore. Now, Rushmore wasn't your average metropolis. It had perhaps 350 people if you counted the motorists passing on I-90 to the north at the time you did the census.

I went along with staff photographer Bryan Korthals. Bryan was an old hand at The Globe and had done scores (if not more) assignments on Century Farms for the Farm Beat. He was actually a pretty good photog just as Brad Doherty and Mickey Torres were in the Herald of old.

We got to the farm and set about to interview the couple who lived there. Their kids were all grown up and gone and they lived alone. The farmer and his wife were in their 70s and he had suffered a stroke which made interviewing him a team project between me and his wife. We were pulling it off when a brother – we'll call him Maynard – came in the house and sat next to Korthals as I took notes.

All of a sudden Maynard interrupted and asked me: "Hey, where are you from?"
I turned around and said, "Texas."
"What's the matter," Maynard persisted. "Aren't there any jobs in Texas?"

As I turned to look at him, I noticed the farmer's wife was getting exasperated with Maynard's intrusions.
"Let me get through with this and we'll talk then," I told Maynard as amiably as I could.

I turned to the lady and asked her a few softball question. One of them was: "What changes have you noticed in Rushmore when you go to town?," I asked.
"Mexicans are thick as flies," Maynard butted in.
Korthals smothered a laugh as I plodded on through the interview.

I finally finished taking notes and turned to Maynard, who was sitting smirking smugly at me.

"Now, what is it you wanted to know, Maynard?," I asked.
"How come you're not in Texas working instead of here," he answered.
"Well, Maynard, they tell me that people here don't know how to write and they hired me," I answered with a smile.
He looked at me sideways with a puzzled look and then laughed.
"You know what? I like you. You can come visit any time you want."

We parted good friends and as we drove down the long driveway of the farm Bryan burst out laughing and we kept laughing all the way back to the newsroom where the incident became part of the Farm Beat lore.

SPANISH-CHALLENGED FOLKS DON'T GET EL RRUN-RRUN




Image result for rrunrrun
(Verbo Intr.) RONRONEAR: producir una especie de ronquido, en demostración de contento. Murmurar. Real Academia Española

(Ed.'s Note: We have been asked by our Spanish-challenged monolingual friends where the name of our blog came from. Is El Rrun-Rrun a kind of slang or colloquial word made up in the innards of the local fire department station where the guys have nothing else to do but gab and gossip about everyone else?

Or is it a made-up word specific to South Texas, El Vallusco, or just Browntown?

No. It's really a take off on the intransitive Spanish verb ronronear, to make a sound like the purring of a cat, a motor idling, or the murmur of people talking. It's something akin to the pulse of the social body. What are people talking about? Que dice el rrun-rrun?

We were talking to some folks over at the City of Brownsville Finance Dept. yesterday and the subject came up. Do you pronounce it rrun-rrun, as in the verb different from walking, skipping, or hip-hopping down the street? Or is it (as we take it) pronounced rrun-rrun as in sand "dune" or (like our logo), a "cartoon?" We admit it. Instead of two "rrs" the word should have only one, but that is our compromise to the local readers who probably don't know the rules of the language. But we'd rather be understood than smug and grammatically correct, anyway.

We first heard the term years ago when we ran into our friend, the retired firefighter Pete Avila, who was one of the major purveyors of gossip and hearsay emanating from the Central Fire Station. Pete would sidle up to us (Jerry McHale, Rey Guevara, me and other Herald ink rats) and ask: "A que no saben que dice el rrun-rrun?," meaning, "Do you know the latest gossip?"

In other words, it is a widely used term in our community and is immediately understood if one has any connection to the local lingo. If not, well, you got a ways to go...)

Monday, July 10, 2017

6 YEARS AFTER HIS PASSING, WE REMEMBER GIL SCOTT-HERON

(Ed.'s note: Many of us who grew up listening to the origins of "political rap" as practiced by The Last Poets that included ghetto bard par excellence Gil Scott-Heron were saddened when he passed away May 2011.

We mourned his passing not because he was a great poet or musician because he was both, and much more. But we mourn his checking out because with his loss we lost a man of feeling for his fellow beings that was reflected constantly in his creations.

Before you conclude that Scott-Heron was a practitioner of gangsta rap or such other nonsense, listen to what he had to tell the young rappers of today in an interview toward the end of his life.)

"They need to study music. I played in several bands before I began my career as a poet. There’s a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. There’s not a lot of humor. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms, and you don’t really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing."

Here's one example:

On May 5, 1977, Houston Police officers arrested Army veteran Jose Campos Torres in a bar on Houston's East End. On the way to the city jail, the police officers stopped along the banks of Buffalo Bayou and beat Torres.

Later, when they tried to book the injured 23-year-old Vietnam veteran, other officers told them he had to be treated at the hospital first. Instead, the officers took Torres back to the bayou, beat him again, and pushed him into the water.

Torres was handcuffed and couldn't swim and drowned. His body was found on May 8, 1977. After a state trial, the officers involved were given probation and fined $1 each. A federal civil rights trial in 1978 ended with short sentences for some of the officers.

Brother Gil, a Black man, wrote this song and included it in his album "The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron" released in 1979.

A POEM FOR JOSE CAMPOS-TORRES

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends
That awareness, consciousness, poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets
And therefore, my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, outlaws, and besides – they already knew
But brother Torres, common ancient bloodline brother Torres is dead

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I had said I wasn't going to write no more words down about people kicking us when we're down
About racist dogs that attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down

But the dogs are in the street
The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished
It has scarcely brought us the comfort we suspected
The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition
Has not removed the certainty of that knowledge – how could it

The dogs rabid foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance
Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers
And spread death as night lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
But the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics
Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming

The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos
Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total
It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms
The motherfucking dogs are in the street

In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers
In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers
In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers
Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn't need no new niggers

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
But dogs are in the street

It's a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around
It was turned around so that right looked wrong
It was turned around so that up looked down

It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace became enemies of the state and risk to national security
So that those who questioned the operations of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality became the vanguard of a communist attack

It became so you couldn't call a spade a motherfucking spade...

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I made a mistake

MARTINEZ AND BILLIONAIRE PAL MUSK: THE FUTURE IS HERE

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez  asked Elon Musk – the billionaire owner of SpaceX – what he saw when he looked out at the water off Boca Chica Beach.
"The future," Martinez said that Musk had answered.
But Martinez didn't hear the rest of what Musk said that day.
"The future...$35 million in public subsidies," Musk finished.


By Juan Montoya
Well, the future – according to Musk and Martinez – is here.
The billionaire whiz-kid who appropriated Pay Pal and hawks Tesla electric cars as the mode of transportation of the future is now getting the first down payment of the loot promised by the state. 

News reports indicate that SpaceX will receive a $2.6 million grant from the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corporation after the board received its first disbursement from the Office of the Governor last week.

The funds come from the State Spaceport Trust Fund Account and are the first installment of a $13 million allocation (see graphic at right). Nearly everyone and their uncle has jumped aboard the SpaceX bandwagon to throw millions at the billionaire.
Everyone – from Cameron County Parks to the University of Texas System, and even the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation – has pitched in to help the valiant efforts of Musk to push back the frontiers of ignorance and economic injustice.

The Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport is pegging the lengthening of the city airport runways to accommodate the envisioned coming of large freight and aircraft to service the SpaceX facility. Cameron County is spending millions to construct an amphitheater at Isla Blanca Park so the millions of tourists can see the satellite launches. UTRGV-TSC has already tailored its courses to begin training aerospace engineers and and the Brownsville Independent School District has fashioned a space-based curriculum to start educating the future astronauts who will take off from Boca Chica Beach for Mars and beyond as the huckster billionaire has promised.

Perhaps this is what poor cash-strapped Musk was waiting for before he started construction of what has been hailed as the first commercial vertical launch facility in the United States. 
So far, only a mound of dirt rumored to have been the base of an ancient Olmec pyramid is visible at the Boca Chica site. That was later proven to be a hoax propagated by a certain Dr. G.F. McHale-Scully.                                                                                                                               But it all may be wishing upon a star. Remember when Martinez, Rene Oliveira and Eddie Lucio Jr. jumped aboard the Musk-SpaceX bandwagon and heralded its coming as the next best thing to rapture? The Brownsville Economic Development Council fell over itself telling us about the 600 well-paying jobs it would bring to Brownsville. Even McAllen and Harlingen chipped in to get a piece of the on the rocket man's dream.

And what have we gotten after all that? This is the timetable that Musk promised when he brought his show to town. Not 600, not 500, not even 400 jobs, but 250 (part time) jobs after the shooting got going. This is what he told the U.S. government he was going to bring.

Table 2.1-2. Personnel for Proposed SpaceX Texas Launch Site Operations
Year Full-time SpaceX Full-time SpaceX Employees/Contractors Employees/Contractors plus
Working On-Site Additional Local/Transient Workers
during Launch Campaigns

Year                                Full time                               Local/Transient
2013                                      30                                           130
2014                                      75                                           175
2015                                      100                                         200
2016                                      100                                         200
2017                                      110                                         210
2018                                      130                                         230
2019                                      150                                         250
2020                                      150                                         250
2021                                      150                                         250
2022                                      150                                         250

Well, it's 2017 and five years into the "plan" already and the only thing out at Boca Chica are mounds of dirt. There are no jobs. There are no rocket launches. Maybe if we give it a couple more years something will happen.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, who came late into the give-the-billionaire-what-he-wants game made up for it when he told the Brownsville Herald:
“I have been working diligently since taking office last November to get these funds distributed to the Spaceport Board and to SpaceX. I am thankful for the coordination at the state level and for the Spaceport Corporation receiving and disbursing the funds,” Treviño said.

BUNGEE JUMPING COMING TO 14TH STREET CANTINA

By Ima Lush
Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Bungee jumping is coming to La Catroce Bar!
That establishment, which has traditionally catered to brown-collared patrons from the local barrios since its original owner Mike Chapa – since departed – opened it up at the old Domino's Bar that was left vacant after Juanita retired.

Minda Roberts, the new La Catorce Bar manager, said she hit upon the idea after Charlie's Bar across the street started selling Mexican dishes on the sides for its patrons who felt a yen for a little snack after watching the 11 p.m. floor show.

"I asked myself, now what would attract clients away from Charlie's place where they are watching scantily-clad nubbies wiggle across the floor and sit on customers' laps?" she said. "Besides sex, deathly danger is the next attraction, I told myself. But not just your garden-store variety danger de cajon like getting stabbed by a drunk or shot by a barrio thug claiming to be from Gulf Cartel or La Maña. I mean real danger, like dropping through the air headfirst toward an asphalt parking lot. Now, that's thrills and chills."

Roberts said she convince the owner, Chapa Jr., to try out the idea. At first he was reluctant because of the legal liability. But after consulting with friend's at Louie's Back Yard at South Padre Island, he learned that – if all the precautions are taken – the bungee jump is actually a very safe form of recreation.

"We're not going to let obviously inebriated people make a jump," Roberts said. "And we're not going to allow recently-divorced individuals up to the launch area. You got to screen them before they jump. Oh, yeah, and those customers who owe tabs to the bar can't get up there either. That would be an easy way to welsh on the bar."

This morning, crews were busy measuring the distances using burlap bags filled with sand approximating the average weight of a man who had consumed at least a six pack (72 ounces) before he jumped. El Tenampa Bar owner Willy next door was gracious enough to allow the La Catorce regulars to use his parking lot while the jumps are in progress.

"I can hardly wait to see the first guy jump," Willy, who trouble speaking because of a throat problem, said through his bar employee. "I just hope no one has a corporal accident and we end up getting sprayed by stuff."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

DID SAN BENE PROBE REALLY CLEAR P.D. CHIEF GALVAN?



By Fernando del Valle
Staff Writer
Valley Morning Star
SAN BENITO — An investigation has cleared Police Chief Michael Galvan of any wrongdoing in connection with his privately recorded conversations that were leaked to the public.

An outside law enforcement agency found Galvan violated no laws when he recorded nearly 500 conversations that were later downloaded from the police department’s computer system, Mayor Ben Gomez said yesterday.

“There was no wrongdoing,” Gomez said. “There was not anything there.”

Gomez declined to disclose the name of the outside law enforcement agency which investigated the matter.

The city plans to issue a press release regarding the investigation’s findings, Gomez said.

Galvan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In late May, commissioners launched the investigation after Galvan’s recordings were downloaded from the police department’s computer system.

Nearly 500 recordings were apparently downloaded from a public server at the San Benito Public Library and distributed to individuals.

The recordings apparently focus on conversations. Topics include police officer cases and citizen complaints.

Meanwhile, Officer Guadalupe Andrade said her attorney will determine if she will continue to pursue a sexual harassment case based on a conversation between Galvan and former Police Chief Martin Morales.

In a May 31 letter to commissioners, Andrade wrote the recent disclosure of Galvan’s private recordings show Morales agreed to dismiss her sexual harassment case to protect Galvan about two years ago.

Galvan’s recordings apparently reveal an hour-long conversation with Morales in which Morales agrees to “keep it to himself and that no one needs to know” and “this could blow up in our faces and ruin our careers and positions,” according to Andrade’s letter.

To read rest of story, click on link:

GBIC BYLAWS CHANGE COULD BE BEDC'S DEATH KNELL

By Juan Montoya
A change in the bylaws of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation's bylaws establishing a committee to vet potential economic development projects the 4A organization could fund could spell the end of its relationship with the Brownsville Economic development Corporation.

The GBIC, which was formed to oversee the disbursement of a ¼ cent sales tax collected in Brownsville and takes in nearly $5 million annually. The GBIC board, appointed by the Brownsville City Commission approves funding for job creation incentives and various grant programs related to infrastructure and education.

The GBIC board, Chairwoman Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, Commissioner Cesar de Leon, member John Cowen, and past chair David Betancourt (Cameron County Treasurer) have placed the proposed bylaws change to be considered and acted on by the city commission. Former commissioner Deborah Portillo resigned upon not seeking reelction and there is a vacancy on the board.

Under the proposed changes, the GBIC will appoint its own vetting committee to recommend (non-binding) approving companies or economic development projects it could fund.

The changes are:
There are some differences between the BEDC's makeup and the new proposed committee. For example, it will be composed of seven members, not 33, as is BEDC. Also, no member of the committee shall be currently serving on the GBIC board or be an elected official.

The seven members shall serve for two years unless removed (by a majority of the GBIC board), resign, or cease to qualify for membership.

The split from the BECD-GBIC structure was written on the wall ever since a study of its feasibility and efficiency was undertaken by a three-person panel made up of representatives from the UTRGV School of Business, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, and the Texas Southmost College Workforce Development Office. The study found that neither of the entities had clearly defined their goals or objectives.

"Neither GBIC nor BEDC has undertaken a comprehensive yearly strategic planning effort for some time," the report states. "BECD has produced some 'planning documents' which appear to be sporadically done, and in large measure are repetitions of prior years' documents. There does not appear to be any external environmental assessment, internal assessment, or stakeholder input...measurable goals are not readily apparent."

"In such a vacuum, BEDC has apparently in large measure gone its own way," it concluded.
BEDC is the subcontractor for the GBIC to vet potential companies and to provide the support for the entity to foster economic development and create good-paying jobs.

Under a three-year contract with the GBIC, they get paid $1,672,400 each year, for a total of $5,017,200. That contract ends this September.
It is safe to say that that BEDC did not attract anywhere near that $5.07 million in new jobs or industry that it spent on its "operations."

To put it mildly, the BEDC's performance has been an abject failure and currently does not even have an executive director after Jason Hilts, the unqualified CEO which had been hired by the BEDC since 2002, suddenly resigned amid rumors of federal scrutiny of the organization's activities here and in Latin America, specifically Colombia.

The current state of affairs between GBIC and the BEDC can only be described as a "disconnect," with each entity going about its business with little communication on a number of crucial economic development parameters that directly impact on their stated missions to create good-paying jobs to the community that funds them.

To begin with, when the new board of the GBIC met for the first time, they asked GBIC attorney Mark Sossi for the contract between both entities. It took Sossi months before he could come up with the document to provide the new members. For this ethically-challenged lawyer, it's about par for the course.

Once they had the contract in hand, GBIC members discovered that under the agreement both signed, BEDC is obligated to provide GBIC:

1. With an annual audit which it had not done until they demanded it.
2. With BEDC's annual budget to GBIC for review, something the BEDC board and administration never did

3. BEDC was to keep GBIC appraised of its activities and operations to insure compliance with the goals and endeavors set forth in the contract, something else which BEDC has also failed to do.

4. A GBIC "performance committee" was to meet annually with the BEDC Executive Committee over the life of the three-year contract to review the goals, activities and performance of the BEDC as previously agreed upon and to set new goals, activities and performance criteria for the coming fiscal year. The BEDC also failed to observe that part of the contract and the annual meetings have never been held.

5. The BEDC and GBIC were to meet on a quarterly basis (every three months) to discuss activities and performance completed to date in relations to established goals. The quarterly meeting would give GBIC the ability to monitor goal achievements and modify goals when needed. That was also never done.

6. Additionally, during each of the quarterly meeting that never happened GBIC was to be shown the cumulative expenses and revenues for the preceding quarter together with all prior fiscal quarters of the contracted years to be reviewed collectively.

7. BEDC was to provide the GBIC the minutes from the BEDC board meetings. It never did.

8. BEDC was also under contractual obligation to provide GBIC with a certified audit of all its funds prepared annually by a certified public accountant within 90 days of the close of BEDC's fiscal year. This was also not done by the BEDC.

9. BEDC was to make available for inspection, at a reasonable time and place, at the request of the GBIC, any and all of BEDC's financial records. Not only has this contractual obligation been ignored by the BEDC Executive Board and administrators, but it has strongly resisted opening is financial to the GBIC.

The contract can be terminated prior to the term by mutual agreement of both parties, by either party for cause or without cause, for any reason and upon 120 days with written notice, or should either party default in conforming with or adhering to any requirement and the default is not corrected within 15 days.

In the event of termination, BEDC shall be entitled to all compensation earned by it to the date of the termination computed pro rata through the date, but shall not be entitled to any further compensation under any circumstances.

Given the BEDC administration and its board's failure to meet its contractual obligations on its three-year $5,017,200 contract, as we said at the top of this post, the proposed GBIC bylaw changes may signal that the board feels it's time to move past it to achieve the true economic development this community so desperately needs.


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