Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AT COUNTY: HUNT AND ASS.TO GET $1.22 MILLION IN CONTRACTS WITHOUT COMPETITIVE BIDDING THURSDAY

By Juan Montoya
Whether it's fixing leaky roofs at Adult Probation or cell doors at the old county jail, it seems that contractor Hunt and Associates has the inside track on projects originating in Cameron County, all without the benefit of competitive bidding.
In all, this firm is scheduled to receive $1.22 million in contracts when the commissioners court meets Thursday at 8:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Dancy Building.
The justifications for awarding the repairs to the Carlos Tapia Adult Probation Building for $69,126 to Hunt and Associates is that they've done work for Cameron County before and – this is the bureaucrats' favorite excuse when they want to avoid bidding –  the emergency for the county to "have this building repaired before additional, or disastrous damage occurs is imperative."
This last tidbit claiming emergency powers to evade competitive bidding is directed at the commissioners court directive that "(whenever possible) the court would like bids utilized rather than interlocal agreements.
In this case, department head Arnold Flores sates that "the company is familiar with the Carlos Tapia Building and its repair needs" and therefore should be awarded the work.
Now, the backup material for this proposal "submitted by Hunt and Associates," according to the agenda, includes a detailed proposal and pricing breakdown based upon a thorough inspection of the building" by Hunt and Associates."
That should send up red flags.
How is it that they got access to the building, examined the proposed repair sites, proposed the solutions and came up with a quote for the work?  Surely someone at the county (Flores or his boss Asst. County Administrator David Garcia?) allowed them access and a head start on other contractors (c,mon other contractors have also done work on county buildings besides Hunt) so their proposal could be hurried through the court.
On top of that, apparently there is no money on the budget for the repairs since Flores is proposing that lapsed salaries mounting up in the various county departments be used to pay Hunt. Why?
These and other questions will probably be asked by the commissioners court since Flores (or Garcia) will be required to appear before the commissioners to answer questions when interlocal agreements rather than competitive bidding is proposed for county projects.
In the case of the repairs on the cell doors at the old jail, the script is very much the same. Hunt and Associates have done "extensive research into the scope of the work and assessment of its costs" before they submitted the "Job Order Contract Program Delivery Order Request" to Garcia and Jail Commander Fermin Leal.
Again, there appears to have been no other contractors allowed to inspec the jails and bid for the work and no other proposals are attached to the request. And the request makes no mention by Garcia of other contractors being asked to take a gander at the cell doors and propose installing touch screens and a control panel for the operation of the doors.
Keith Hunt, the principal contact with Hunt and Associates, states in the proposal for the work that Southern Folger, the original supplier of the cell door mechanisms had been contacted about the work and that the company would have to supply the materials to refurbish the cell doors.
Additionally, he states that Eddie Pinnell, the project manager who authored the originally scope of work back in 2012, now works for Southern Folger.
In other words, this is the classic inside job.  
The price for this exclusive service to Cameron County? How about a cool $1,153,416?
Well, in this case there seems to be no emergencysince the prisoners aren't going anywhere. 
Once again, what special relationship exists between Hunt and Associates, Cameron County and its Asst. County Administrator exists that gives it the inside track on $1,222,542 (both projects) without the benefit of competitive bidding or a Request for Proposals?
      

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BROWN NAMES MATA NATIVE TO CALIFAS SUPREME COURT

By Matthew A. Reed
JDSupraBusiness Advisor
Governor Jerry Brown has nominated Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar to fill the most recent vacancy on the California Supreme Court created by the impending retirement of Justice Marvin Baxter. 
Cuellar is “a renowned scholar who has served two presidents and made significant contributions to both political science and law,” Brown said. “His vast knowledge and even temperament will – without question – add further luster to our highest court.”
Cuellar was born in Matamoros, Mexico. 
As a child he crossed the border each day to attend Catholic school in Brownsville, Texas, until he and his family relocated to California’s Imperial Valley when he was 14. 
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 3 years (magna cum laude, 1993), he received a Master’s degree in political science from Stanford in 1996, followed by a law degree from Yale in 1997, and his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford in 2000. He then served as law clerk to Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Since the culmination of his clerkship in 2001, Cuellar has been a professor at Stanford. He is currently the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, as well as the Director of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he is also a Senior Fellow. According to his faculty biography, his work at Stanford involves “the intersection of law, public policy, and political science.” 
His courses deal with issues of administrative law, regulation and bureaucracy, executive power, and national security. 
Professor Cuellar’s tenure at Stanford has included governmental, as well as academic, endeavors. In fact, even before he assumed his faculty position at Stanford, he interrupted his Ph.D. program to serve as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary (Enforcement) of the Treasury from 1997 to 1999, focusing on financial crime enforcement, terrorism financing countermeasures, immigration, and border security. 
In 2008 and 2009, he served as Co-Chair of the Immigration Policy Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Project, where he worked to formulate policies on immigration, borders, and refugees.
In 2009 and 2010, he served as Special Assistant to the President for Justice and Regulatory Policy, leading the White House Domestic Policy Council’s work on criminal justice and drug policy; civil rights and liberties; immigration, borders, and refugees; public health and safety; rural development and agriculture policy; and regulatory reform.

ERIN NOT OUT OF THE WOODS WITH JUDICIAL COMMISSION

By Juan Montoya
The Cameron County District Attorney's Office may not be acting to address the issue of the sale of waivers to the state's 72-hour waiting period before couples can get married, but the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has put Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Place 2 Erin Garcia Hernandez on notice that she is not out of the woods yet.
In a confidential letter mailed July 8, a CJC attorney notified a complainant that the entity was actively investigating the allegations that she might have violated the law when she manufactured and sold at least 13 such waivers. The waivers – which were sold to couples – allowed them to marry before the 72-hour mandated waiting period was over.
A Texas Attorney General's opinion stated that justices of the peace  in the State of Texas were not authorized to issue the waivers. The opinion did not address their sale.
"We are continuing our investigation into the complaint you filed with us on October 21, 2013...," the letter written by E. Anthony Martinez, CJC counsel wrote.
"We will be presenting this matter to the Commission as soon as we have completed our investigation, and we will notify you of its decision...Also, please understand that the Commission's jurisdiction is limited to the review of allegations of judicial misconduct and does not preclude other remedies that may be available to you."
The waivers issued and sold by Garcia-Hernandez became an issue after investigators found that Cameron County Clerk employees were not filing them because there was no place where they belonged.
The accepted manner of getting waivers to the 72-hour waiting period involve getting one issued by a district judge and filing it with the Cameron County District Clerk for a fee. In her case, Garcia Hernandez would take the fee for the waiver, then marry the couple on the spot and charge them between $150 to $250 for performing the ceremony.
The justice of the peace said she was unaware that she could not issue or sell the waivers and said she was acting "in good will." That led to Cameron County District Attorney to request the opinion from the Texas AG which said JPs were not authorized to issue them.
Garcia Hernandez lost her bid for reelection during the March Democratic Party primaries and will be vacating her office at the end of the year. Her father, former Brownsville city commissioner and Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner, Ernie Hernandez also lost in the primary and then had to resign his office as part of an agreement in exchange for the DA dropping seven official misconduct cases against him in a case involving the illegal hiring of his brother-in-law.

BALTAZAR SALAZAR AND THE BISD'S UNDUE DILIGENCE

By Juan Montoya
It is March 2013.
The Brownsville Independent School District board of trustees has sent out Requests for Quotes (RFQ) to hire a new legal advisor for the district.
Among those who answered the BISD's RFQ is one Baltazar Salazar from Houston. In his cover letter, he plays the education and local card to the hilt.
"As a former classroom teacher and a product of the BISD, it is my distinct privilege to submit my proposal..."
After listing his background and qualifications, his narrative goes on to say – among other things – that he has "litigated on both sides of construction defect and insurance coverage cases for educational institutions..."
Further down in the narrative, in his backup to his litigation history, he cited his work on the American Standard and Trane Company vs. the BISD in the 357th District Court dealing with the construction defects and mold issues in an elementary and middle school. He lists the late Enrique Escobedo, BISD board president as his reference.
In the next citation, he lists his work on behalf of the BISD in the federal lawsuit brought against the Royal Surplus Lines Insurance Company dealing with the company's refusal to pay for the mold damage in both schools.
To make the long story short, the district was not able to collect on the insurance to pay claims against it by students at teachers at the schools mainly as a result of Salazar's feeble defense of the district.
Federal Judge Andrew Hanen minced no words about his view of BISD's legal representation at the very top of the June 2, 2005 order and memorandum granting the insurance carrier its motion for summary judgments.
"Before this Court are three motions for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff, Royal Surplus Lines Insurance Company (“Royal” or “Plaintiff”). Each will be discussed in greater detail below but, suffice it to say, each seeks a judgment that Royal is not liable to the defendant, Brownsville Independent School District (“BISD”), for damages suffered by BISD due to the presence of mold at two of its schools: Bruce Aiken Elementary School (“Aiken”) and Raul Besteiro Middle School(“Besteiro”). Despite warnings by the Court and a direct order setting a deadline, BISD has not filed a response to two of the three motions. Also, despite warnings from the Court, including an admonition to supplement its sole response, and the issuance of a firm deadline, the one response filed was not supplemented to provide the Court with any competent summary judgment evidence that raises an issue of material fact. That being the case, the Court hereby GRANTS all three of Royal’s summary judgment motions."
All this seemed lost on the BISD administration and the majority of the board of trustees (the late Escobedo, Otis Powers, Hector Chirinos and Minerva Peña) when they elected Salazar to represent the district on April 2013.
Only trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria voted against Salazar and warn the rest of the trustees that there might be hell to pay down the road.
In his narrative about having "represented the Port of Brownsville in potential environmental claims for asbestos landfills, above-ground storage tanks, underground storage tanks, soil contamination and water contamination," he listed then-Port Chairman Mario Villarreal as his character reference.
That was news to Villarreal who denied that Salazar had been the port's attorney.
"He didn't do anything," Villarreal said when notified of the claims in Salazar's RFQ.
In fact, just this year, Villarreal filed a complaint against Salazar for failing to produce any results for which he hired the attorney two years ago even after he had taken a partial $3,500 payment promising to expunge the record of one of his relatives.
After two years, at least seven letters and 30 to 40 emails, Salazar failed to respond to any of them and had not informed Villarreal on the status of the case.
We have documented how Salazar failed to disclose on the application he filed with the district that he was trying to expunge three arrests and at least one felony conviction for theft ( a crime of moral turpitude) at the time that the board majority hired him as counsel.
However, even after a local court granted him the motion for expunction, an appeals court sided with the Texas Department of Public Safety and reversed the order.
That alone, according to the BISD's policy would have been enough to terminate his employment with the district. The policy states that: "a school district may terminate a contract with a person or business entity if the district determines that the person or business entity failed to give notice as required...or misrepresented the conduct resulting in the conviction..."
Just how thorough was the due diligence performed on Salazar by the BISD? Or was the support by Escobedo, Powers, Peña and Chirinos enough to bowl over any objections stated by the Human Resources staff?

IN ARIZONA; THE HUALAPIE TRIBE'S SKYWALK

(Ed's Note: Some friends of El Rrun-Rrun made the trek out o the Grand Canyon in Arizona and sent us some pictures of the Hualapie Tribe Reservation in Arizona. The reservation once measures in the millions of acres, but encroachment by new arrivals and the government has reduced the reservation substantially. The tribe's plan to build a skywalk over a part of the Grand Canyon has proven to be an economic godsend and our in-laws (outlaws?) sent some photos of this desolate, yet beautiful, land.)







Monday, July 28, 2014

CAMPIRANO TO PORT: "3-YR CONTRACT, $$ RAISE OR I GO"

By Juan Montoya
Has Port of Brownsville director Eddie Campirano given the port commissioners the ultimatum to give him a three-year contract, a hefty pay raise, or else he will split to the Port of San Antonio where he is said to be a finalist for its director vacancy?
That, in a nutshell, is the scuttlebutt making the rounds at the Brownsville Navigation District, its offices and warehouses as the potential departure of Campirano, the highest paid official at the port.
Sources close to the board say that the port director has told some administrators that he has learned that he is one of the finalists for the Port of San Antonio. Two years ago, Campirano was drawing a $175,618 annual salary plus $8,400 (700 a month) auto allowance. We would hazard to guess that his pay now approaches $200,000.
At that time (2012), the commissioners refused to go along with hefty pay increases for top administrators and reigned in some of the excessive spending by commissioners and some department administrators.
Not long after that marketing German Rico, Director of Business Development, sought greener pastures and landed a position with the Port of San Antonio. He is now the General Manager of the port's East Kelly Railport. In its website, the Port of San Antonio states that Rico's stint in Brownsville "helped the organization grow cargo volume by 55 percent since 2000."
Now, we're sure that some of his former colleagues would take issue with those claims, but hey, when you are the one who writes your own resume, a little bit of poetic license is allowed.
If Rico is Campirano's inside guy at San Antonio, then perhaps the nest has been feathered for Eddie's eventual move to the Alamo City.
Let's not forget that German Rico just happens to be married to the daughter of University of Texas at Brownsville president Julieta Garcia. Eddie was a trustee at the UTB-TSC "partnership."
As a Texas Southmost College-University of Texas at Brownsville trustee, Eddie Campirano was at the beck and call of kingmaker and president Juliet Garcia and rubber stamped each and any initiative that flowed from her office and Michael Putegant's.
No tuition was too high, user fee to set not to be raised even higher. What Juliet wanted, Eddie gave. As a result, local students and residents pay the highest tuition rates for a junior college in the state, if not the country.
His willingness to follow Garcia's dictates translated into appointments to other boards, including the United Brownsville shadow government where he proved a willing follower of IBC President Fred Rusteberg, who along with Garcia and Irv Downing, form the so-called Coordinating Board.
Rusteberg, who just happened to be a board member of the Port's Brownsville-Riio Grande Railroad, got the port administration (Eddie) and trustees to let out the port railroad as a franchise to a private rail company. Within seven years of the agreement signed earlier this year, the port will no longer have a railroad.
Always the quintessential insider, he was able to have his son Eddie Jr., land the newly-created position of "Go Green" coordinator with the city of PUB, where Eddie Sr. used to be an assistant director.
And Garcia, at UTB, returned the favor of a pliant Campirano on the UTB-TSC board, by having his daughter appointed Director of Alumni Relations at UTB-TSC at  $52,200.
According to the job description first issued in April, the preferred candidate should have at minimum a "Bachelor’s degree in business or public administration, marketing, finance, law, or a related field. Candidates should have a minimum of 12 years of progressively responsible experience in an executive level capacity in a high growth environment. He/she should have domestic and international trade experience and
exposure to mixed-use real estate development. Having an understanding of the unique nuances of working for a public enterprise entity comparable to the complexity and size of operations found at Port San Antonio is highly desirable. Candidates must have the ability to undertake frequent domestic and international
travel. Qualifications that are preferred, but are not an absolute include an MBA or other advanced
executive leadership training. Spanish language skills would be a distinct plus."
If anything, Campirano has been able to stage manage the local media (particularly the newspaper) by taking credit for numerous accomplishments under his watch. We don't doubt that - like Rico - those newspaper clippings eventually made their way into his application for the Port of San Antonio director's positions.
Now we'll see whether the port commissioners knuckle under the Campirano ultimatum. If he hollers, will they let him go?

WHAT CRISIS? TONY "WHAT ME WORRY?" MARTINEZ

By Juan Montoya
On June 29, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited a Border Patrol facility in Brownsville that held unaccompanied children. Since last October, more than 65,000 unaccompanied children, most from Central America, have been apprehended entering the U.S. illegally.
Not only did Pelosi make the trek to the border, so did Texas Senators Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and even U.S. Rep.Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
Back then, the exodus of unaccompanied minors and women was in full swing. National and international media flocked to the border. Their photos of young children walking through the brush along the Rio Grande were carried throughout the world.
Yet - with the eyes of the world on little old' Browntown - there was neither hide nor hair of our illustrious City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez.
In fact, just about the only major political figure besides President Barack Obama was Martinez.
Now, again, almost a month later, Martinez has emerged from his self-imposed public exile with the help of the Brownsville Herald give us the news that on July 17 - almost two weeks ago - he appeared to appear in a round table discussion to belie the fact of the thousands of undocumented Central American immigrants to by claiming that, sorry senores, no crisis.
And he told this to noNE other than Pelosi herself who saw the thousands of children piled up wall to wall sleeping on blankets on the floor.
We guess that Martinez wanted to wait until things had cooled off before using City of Brownsville public funds to travel and spend some quality time with national Democrats to tell them that what they and the Republicans saw was all an illusion. 
Martinez said he and other local officials, including Cameron County Commissioner David A. Garza, attempted to explain to Pelosi and other lawmakers during a round table discussion on Capitol Hill July 17 that the situation along the border isn’t posing a security concern for the region.
"Ya no me ayudes, Tony," Obama is probably thinking.
Martinez is making his claims that no crisis exists during the same time that President Obama is asking for $3.7 billion to pay for processing and handling the refugee overflow.
The Democrat-led Senate is considering a package closer to $2.7 billion.
Cornyn and Cuellar filed legislation that would eliminate an exemption within that law that stipulates that apprehended unaccompanied children from non-continuous countries be sent to live with family to await an immigration hearing.
Whether the funding or the legislation will be considered previous to the summer recess has yet to be seen. But rest assured that once the dust has cleared and there are no risks involved, Da Mayor will emerge from his favorite hiding place, travel somewhere meaningless, and then come and have the newspaper publish a favorable report two weeks later.

ALMOST THREE YEARS LATER, NO JUSTICE FOR COUPLE STRUCK BY UNINSURED CAR OWNED BY RENE OLIVEIRA


By Juan Montoya
Three years ago come this November 9, Ofelia Garcia and Paul J. Rodriguez were driving along the 2500 Block of U.S. 77 Frontage road in their van near Charlie Clark Nissan when they were jolted by the impact of a speeding red Chrysler PT Cruiser.
The police report on the crash indicated that the impact had occurred at about 9:48 p.m.
The force of the crash  sent the couple's van hurtling out of control and into the grass median on the southern bound expressway lanes.
Shaken, they could see that the red Chrysler had veered through the fence around the Charlie Clark Nissan dealership and had ended up inside the lot.
When the Brownsville Police Department officer arrived, the couple refused medical treatment and inquired on the condition of the other driver. The driver of the van, Ms. Garcia, complained of pain to her body as a result of the crash, but both she and her passenger refused transportation to a hospital.The van had heavy rear-end damage as a result of the impact.
When the police arrived, they found that the red Chrysler had traveled some 200 feet after the impact, crashed through the dealership fence, and came to rest just short of striking display autos sitting on a ramp in the car lot. They found a woman in a high state of intoxication behind the wheel who appeared to be alone. The police officer noted that there was extensive front-end damage where the car had struck the couple's van.
It turned out that upon checking the vehicle identification number, the car belonged to Texas State Rep. Rene Oliveira, and not the woman operating the vehicle. Although the woman, later identified as Guadalupe Molina – Oliveira's then-girlfriend – was uncooperative and refused to get out of the car, officers later discovered that the car carried no insurance.
"I asked Ms. Molina to step out of the vehicle but she refused to move, as she had been doing when (another officer) made initial contact with her," wrote police officer Everardo Longoria. "She once again stated that 'she knew her rights.' I then reached in and grabbed her left wrist and started pulling her toward me in an attempt to extract her from the vehicle."
It took two officers to drag Molina out of the car and when they placed her near the police car on the dealership property line, she could not stand on her own."
Molina eventually – with Oliveira's assistance – entered a treatment regimen and carried on with her life.
At the time, various eyewitnesses said they saw a disheveled Oliveira run into the Cheddar's Restaurant next to the dealership and talk excitedly into his cell phone from the bathroom.
One commenter to this blog wrote (anonymously) that:  "I saw Rene at the restroom at Cheddar's at about 10:00 pm. He shirt was out. He was sweating profusely. He was on his cell phone."
November 28, 2011 6:48 PM.
Was Rene riding in the car when it struck the van and left the scene before police arrived as is claimed by the commenters? That was never determined one way or another by police who could have examined surveillance cameras in the restaurant and the car dealership.
Meanwhile relatives of the couple whose van was declared a total loss say that at least two law firms in Brownsville refused to handle any legal action against Oliveira and that at least one told her that the alleged driver (Molina) could not be sued because she was enrolled in a rehabilitation program.
Efforts to contact the woman who was driving the van at the time of the accident have been unsuccessful.
However, sources say that apart from the loss of her vehicle, she now has medical bills that she cannot pay.
"The best thing that she can do is to hire legal help from outside South Texas," said a local attorney. "You will find that many local lawyers will shy away from filing against Oliveira because of his political position and influence."
Meanwhile, people close to the victims are hoping that Oliveira or his legal representatives will step forward and assume their responsibility so they won't be force to incur further costs pursuing a legal remedy.
"They should do the right thing for these people," said a relative. "It's almost been three years, the driver was intoxicated, and neither she nor Oliveira have taken any responsibility and helped Ofelia for her losses."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

REYBOTICS , ENCORE HOST WEEK-LONG CAMP ON ROBOTS

By Raul Garcia 
Jr.
Editor
McAllen – Rio Grande Valley youth have been meeting in the McAllen Creative Incubator to build robots, learn engineering concepts and talk to industry professionals from Boeing, NASA, Space X and Microsoft.
"The activities are fun, challenging and hard," said Aries Rawlings, a 13-year-old robotics enthusiast from Mission. "I was expecting to use Legos because that's what we did in fifth grade."
The week-long camp hosted by Reybotics, a local organization founded by former NASA Engineer and Brownsville native Heriberto Reynoso, was held at the McAllen Creative Incubator during the week of July 21. Reybotics is a partner with Texas Valley Communities Foundation's ENCORE Program.
Engaging Communities for College Readiness (ENCORE) is an extended learning program that works with school districts, parents and the community to promote college and career readiness in the Valley.
Reybotics Camp Scholars built laser-cut hexapod robots, which were manufactured in Mercedes, Texas. They included a microcontroller designed to give the robot artificial intelligence. The six-legged machine crawled throughout the McAllen Creative Incubator using wireless handheld controls manipulated by the Scholars.
"This is the first cohort of the Reybotics Camp," said Reynoso, Reybotics CEO. We are building two kinds of robots; one is a hexapod that is controllable via Bluetooth and the other is arm-like with grippers capable of manipulating objects in 3-D space.
Inspiring students with robotics became a passion of Reynoso’s due to his lack of mentoring as a youth.
"We are really offering the big picture in [science, technology, engineering and math] and diving into each field to give Scholars an overview, said Reynoso, who previously worked with industry giants such as NASA and Google. “I want to spark an interest so young minds pursue these careers.”
Camp Scholars come from as far as Harlingen and Mission to attend the week-long event in which they were introduced to topics such as binary code, algorithms and concepts important to the engineering industry.
"Anything that can help my son we don't think twice about it," said Nick Cruz, a Harlingen parent whose 10-year-old son, Julian, attended the camp. “This was the perfect opportunity for him to have a hands-on experience."

Cruz was surprised that his son was able to manipulate the same tools used by industry professionals to assemble the robots.
"It was pretty cool seeing this all come together and knowing we actually did something that is really-really cool," said Robert Aiden Gump, 13-years-old from Mission.
Gump attended a robotics camp at Texas A&M where he focused on soldering circuit boards, but the Reybotics Camp places emphasis on building the frame of the robot as well as artificial intelligence and locomotion.

COMPANY CLAIMS SAFER ALTERNATIVE TO WIND TURBINES


By Ron Terrazas
Co-Founder, Co-Manager
Prudencia LLC

Avoiding controversy over government support for alternative
energy, Cheyenne based Prudencia LLC, has introduced sustainable technology that produces electricity for as little as 6 cents per kWh, less than half what most Americans pay. Prudencia is a selling agency of vertical axis wind turbines manufactured by Change Wind Corporation of Jewett City, Connecticut. www.changewind.info.
Unlike the monstrous subsidy-dependent horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs) on wind farms, a Change
Wind turbine typically stands only 30 feet. Instead of blades spinning like a pinwheel, the CWC turbines
use a helical wing design than can produce power from a turbulent breeze from any direction.
Innovated patented mechanical advances inspired by auto racing technology make the Change Wind turbines super-efficient, producing electricity in 6 mph breezes, reaching optimal power production at just 12 mph, generating 36kW.
The Change Wind turbines are a green power solution that’s not only sustainable, but even happens to be more economical than conventional power. “It’s good for the environment, and great for business,” says Prudencia co-founder, Ronald Terrazas. At $59,950, FOB Jewett City, CT the Change Wind 36kW turbine is economically viable even without government subsidies or tax breaks. 
Big wind turbines stir opposition from nature conservation advocates who disparage them as hulky, ugly, noisy bird killers. But at just 30 feet tall the Change Wind turbines are lower than many trees and roof  lines. They capture turbulent air from all directions. Birds seem to perceive the spinning wings as a solid vibrating object not to be flown into or landed on. 
Another compelling argument for CWC turbines is “distributed generation,” producing electricity close to where it is actually consumed, reducing need for long transmission from centralized generation. Besides the stresses from increasing demand from a burgeoning population, the United States’ power transmission grid is susceptible to cyber-attack and physical sabotage. “Disable the transmission grid and pretty soon you can’t pump gas, harvest crops, operate cash registers, process electronic transactions, or deliver fuel and food to the cities. Massive civil unrest would quickly follow a sustained grid failure,” says Prudencia co-founder, Michael Ferrara.
Widely dispersed Change Wind turbines offer a practical supplement to utility grid power. They can operate for decades with very little maintenance. According to Jim Bardia, Change Wind founder, “maintenance is more or less just an annual oil change.” Because the 36kW is low, and quiet, there is little public resistance and few zoning prohibitions preventing it. 
In areas of steady breezes one 36kW can power up to 10 standard households. In less developed countries, one turbine could power a small village. The CWC turbines can be paired with a battery that stores power for when there is no wind. Finally, there is the option to link the turbine to the utility grid, selling excess power to utility companies on so-called “net metering” arrangements.
Change Wind turbines have been developed and operated since 2009. Repurposing a shuttered hydro-electric powered wire factory in Connecticut, Change Wind has installed modern computer numerical control (CNC) machinery to produce the 36kW.
Prudencia also arranges programs called “power purchase agreements” (PPAs) that enable investors to capitalize micro-utilities that sell cheap power to consumers on a fixed term contract. In states that give
special preferences to alternative energy systems the economics get even better.

WE'RE NOT ALONE: AFRICAN MIGRATION TO EUROPE MIRRORS CURRENT CENTRAL AMERICA EXODUS

By CAROL J. WILLIAMS
Los Angeles Times
Pope Francis lamented the mass drowning of African boat people off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday as "shameful" evidence of human indifference to those in despair.
President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, where tens of thousands of desperate migrants cast up on remote shores each year, deemed the deadliest migration accident in the Mediterranean Sea this year a "massacre of innocents."
But U.N. officials tasked with protecting those fleeing their homelands put into unemotional perspective the tragic end to a boatload of migrants' dangerous gamble for a better life: an everyday occurrence.
Poverty, injustice and armed conflict have long been the instigators of African migration to Europe. And in today's ever more unstable world, where Islamic militants terrorize much of Africa and political instability grips the Arab world, the numbers willing to risk perilous sea voyages for a chance to start over in affluent Europe have exploded.
"Lives are lost every day in the most cruel of circumstances because people flee out of despair and try to cross the sea in rickety boats," said Volker Tuerk, director for international protection with the Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"Because of human misery, because of despair, for reasons of persecution in their home countries, these people have nothing else but to take an unseaworthy boat to a European haven," Tuerk said. He called on the European Union to halt overcrowded boats leaving Northern Africa and come to the aid of those who encounter peril when they do manage to set off.
The search for better jobs and higher incomes still drives much of the human tide across the Mediterranean. But the economic migrants are now joined by swelling crowds of Syrians fleeing their civil war-racked country, by Somalis escaping lawlessness and sectarian strife, and by political refugees from the "Arab Spring," the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East that have traded authoritarian rule for near-anarchy in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
Italian rescue crews plucked about 150 survivors from the waters off Lampedusa, where the 66-foot fishing boat that sank Thursday had caught fire and capsized just half a mile offshore. Few among the estimated 500 Eritreans, Somalis and Ghanaians on board could swim, and recovery workers expected the death toll to reach or even exceed 300 when the emergency operation was over.
Tragedies at sea have been a fixture for decades in the global movement of the miserable. And the intervention of professional smugglers who charge the desperate upward of $1,000 per head for a space on the boats has accelerated the traffic.
UNHCR figures show that nearly 22,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy so far this year, a shocking rise over last year's total of 7,981. Eritreans and Somalis make up the biggest groups, but Syrian arrivals have increased more than tenfold from 2012 and now rank third behind the Horn of Africa migrants.
In a 40-day stretch between August and September, "3,300 Syrians, of whom more than 230 were unaccompanied children, have come ashore, mainly in Sicily," said Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva.
The Syrian influx swelled noticeably as fighting ground down this past summer between rebels and government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, culminating in the now-confirmed use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in suburbs of Damascus.
Most of those in the surge of Syrians reaching Italy fled Damascus, which has been the scene of intense fighting for months. Many of them are Palestinian refugees born in Syria, forced to flee from one shaky refuge to another, Edwards said.
In a July report, the U.N. refugee agency took note of increasing arrivals in Southern Europe from Egypt, Pakistan, Gambia, Mali and Afghanistan, all scenes of political, ethnic or religious conflict.
Afghans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others from the impoverished Asian underbelly north of the Indian Ocean have mostly set sail for Australia and its outlying islands in attempts to escape turmoil and repression at home. But there, too, shipwrecks occur with numbing regularity, like the June capsizing near Christmas Island of a smuggler's overloaded boat in which at least a dozen perished. In December 2011, more than 200 asylum seekers drowned or went missing when their overcrowded ship sank off Indonesia's main island of Java.
To read full article, click on link: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/04/world/la-fg-wn-migration-africa-europe-causes-20131003

THE NOOSE TIGHTENS; ARE NORMA AND SYLVIA NEXT?

By Juan Montoya
It is no secret that Cameron County Clerk-elect Sylvia Garza-Perez and the principals in the Hernandez vote harvesting machine have been great pals.
But now, as the six women indicted last week on mail-in vote fraud scramble to seek legal counsel to defend them form the charges brought up as a result of the joint state-federal task force, all indications are that more than one of the politiqueras will cut a deal with the prosecution that will lead them to the paymasters and candidates who shelled out the dough for their services.
Our sources tell us that at least one has told investigators that Norma Hernandez and Garza Perez were the conduits through which their payments came. Depending on what deal prosecutors make with the women, their statements implicating the two may result in further indictments.
Garza-Perez, who doesn't face any opposition in November's general election, may enter office under a cloud. It is expected that the trials – if there isn't a plea bargain entered before that – will probably happen next January.
Between then and now, it is expected that some of the women's attorneys will try to cut deals in return for testimony implicating those further up the mail-in fraud chain.
And while the focus seems to be on the races in the 2012 local Democratic primary runoffs, we have also learned that Texas State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez has also received visits from the task force investigators and has acquired counsel to face any possible repercussions from the large number of mail-in votes he received in his win over Celeste Sanchez, the San Benito Independent School District assistant superintendent and now mayor of San Benito.
That could, in turn, place the spotlight on the efforts made by his mother  Justice f the Peace Precinct 2, Place 1, Linda Salazar on his behalf.
During those elections, several candidates running as a slate garnered the majority of the mail-in votes, including Carlos Masso, (345), Abelardo Gomez (415) and Erin Garcia Hernandez (319).
Cortez received 407 and Denise Blamchard 293. Masso was running against Luis Saenz for Cameron County District Attorney. Gomez was running against Pete Avila for Precinct 2 Constable. and Garcia Hernandez was running for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 2 and Blanchard was running for the the District 27 U.S. Representative seat against Filemon Vela, Jr.
For years, persistent rumors have held that not only were the women managed by Norma Hernandez, but that some will go as far as to tell investigators that they personally witnessed ballot tampering at her residence on behalf of her candidates. At least two or three eyewitnesses say they saw mail-in ballot envelopes being opened and the votes changed to make up a deficit.
If such testimony is forthcoming from some of the women charged in the indictments, it could further tighten the noose on the vote-harvesting that has been going on for decades in southeast Cameron County.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FINGER-POINTING WITH NOBODY TO BLAME

By Juan Montoya
The story seems tragically the same.
An armed surrogate of a superpower is given weapons and defenses to hold its own and occupy another's territory.
The proxy lives in continuing hostilities with its neighbors until a de facto state of war is recognized.
Then comes the fateful day. Responding to what it takes to be aggression from its enemy, they fire their weapons at what they perceive to be an attack.
There results a massive loss of civilian life. It's self defense, the proxy claims. It's homicide, charge the victims.
Are we talking about simmering (and seemingly eternal) Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or are we talking about the Ukrainian-Russian border war?
In both cases, the result has been the same: a staggering loss of life as a result of high-tech weapons launched against a predominantly civilian population.
In the case of the Russia-Ukrainian dispute, separatists armed by Russia brought down a plane with 298 civilians on board after they say they mistook for a transport plane of the armed forces of the Ukraine. International observers and spokesmen for the Ukraine government say that pro-Russian separatists fired a surface to air missile that brought the Malaysia Air jet liner down killing all those on board.
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the massive retaliation and invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel to what it considers a mortal danger of Hamas-fired rockets that have so far killed one Israeli civilian. The retaliation has resulted in more than 797 Palestinians killed and more than 5,100 wounded since the start of an Israeli operation on Gaza.
United Nations observers say that more than 70 percent of Arabs dead were civilians, and some 140 were children trapped in the crossfire.
The casualty numbers are so disproportionate that even Israeli spokesmen decry them, but blame Hamas for
them.
An Israeli military representative said Thursday that the violence has killed 32 soldiers and three civilians.
Governments will point fingers and blame each other. Each will claim they have the high moral ground in the conflict. But the dead can't speak for themselves. And each time someone dies, a seed of revenge and retaliation is planted in the hearts and minds of the survivors.
And it's the same old story all over again.

THE WIND ENERGY DEBACLE: NO SUBSIDY, NO INDUSTRY

By Juan Montoya
In spite of the incompetence shown by Texas legislators – or perhaps because of it – the development of wind energy in the state has happened and caught communities in the Lone Star State woefully unprepared to reap its benefits.
Even though Texas is the leading state in wind energy generation, and seven of the largest wind farms are located here, local communities have not benefited from the bonanza.
The reason? At the heart of the industry's aim here in to the establishment of a self-sustaining energy sector, but rather the reaping of tax credits by large corporations that leave little, if any, residues for the local economy.
At the heart of the industry's survival is the congressional tax incentives – the Power Production Tax Credit (PTC) – which have gone through a boom and bust on-again, off-again cycles of funding.
The tax incentive for wind power expired last year, and the debate over its extension is now underway. Opponents say the wind power PTC is a wasteful boondoggle while supporters say it’s crucial for renewable energy and jobs. The Sierra Club calls it “one of the best bets we’ve made on clean, domestic energy.”
The limited funds available under PTC have stopped the development of wind energy projects short in many areas of the country.
Locally, a wind-energy project by Austin-based Baryonyx Corp.’s allowed a 19,794 acres lease about five miles offshore of South Padre Island to expire after the company was bypassed for a possible $47 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants in May.
The following month, the company stopped making its annual payments of $2.08 per acre, or $41,171.52, to Texas General Land Office in Austin.
A second lease held by the company of 21,672 acres a few miles farther north will expire Aug. 12 unless the company pays $45,077.76 by the expiration date.
An article in The Hill written by reporter Curtis Ellis says that "Congress created the PTC in 1992, a tax credit of roughly 2 cents per kilowatt-hour of wind electricity, to nurture the infant wind energy industry. Government incentives to promote crucial industries are time-honored. That’s not the problem with the PTC.
What’s important is that only big investors who want to offset tax liabilities on other investments need apply. The PTC can only be taken against 'passive income' - income from other investments. Private equity firms put together investors who need a tax write-off courtesy of the PTC. Warren Buffett admits he uses the PTC to lower his Berkshire taxes: 'we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them.'"
Ellois goes on to write that the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a green energy cheerleader, says renewables work best “at small scales across the country,” what’s known as distributed generation, “a network of independently-owned and widely dispersed renewable energy generators” rather than “a 20th century grid dominated by large, centralized utilities.”
In fact the Institute explicitly says the PTC is a significant barrier to greater investment in renewable energy. Removing this barrier “makes smaller projects more accessible to the local community, and draws local investors back into the process,” says John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance."
Even given the haphazard economic picture of relying on wind energy to bolster the local economy, legislators in Texas have lagged far behind in creating a taxing scheme on the energy produced to benefit local communities instead of the large energy conglomerates.
Cameron County, for example, has no building codes for wind turbines and neither do other counties or the cities. The smattering of guidelines to control their construction or tax their production is virtually meaningless.
 Some pie-in-the-sky planners suggest that "additional wind projects in South Texas could be an economic catalyst for the region.
The so-called "Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan" for which the Brownsville Greater Incentives Corporation, the Port of Brownsville and the Public Utilities Board paid $452,000, weasel-words its way through endorsing more wind farms with the caveat that if tax credits are not renewed (as happened), "it would probably impact the industry's prospects for South Texas and elsewhere."
We once approached Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre with a set of ordinances drafted by the State of Minnesota and local counties that had created a taxing scheme so that local communities, school districts and counties would get a share of the profits received from harnessing the wind and were told in so many words that local state legislators would never carry a bill that would tax industry.
So we are to endure the sight of those turbines dotting the South Texas countryside until the tax credits stop and then be left holding an empty wind bag and skeletons of rusting turbines.

IS HE A BILINGUAL, OR AN ALIEN NO ONE UNDERSTANDS?

By Juan Montoya
Everyone does it.
Sooner or later if you're into a journalism gig, something will slip by and readers are left wondering whether anyone is minding the store.
Sometimes it's done purposely, as in the case when Pat Lehmann ran against Jackie Lockett and she beat him by 69 votes in the early 1990s. The headline in the El Bravo's English Valle Section read: "Lockett Licks Lehmann with 69."
No one could miss the presence behind that headline since local pundit Dr. G.F. McHale-Scully and his understudy Anthony (don't cal me Tony) Gray were in cahoots running the section for the Carretero sisters Nancy and Christina.
Which bring us to the unintended errors of the trade.
If you look at the graphic accompanying this post you will notice that the headline is missing a word. The story is about an interim committee addressing human. What kind of human, the head doesn't say. But if one reads the story, it becomes abundantly clear in the text that the word "smuggling" was inadvertently left out.
It's a good thing that Texas senators Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio Jr. – rumored to be humans themselves – are on the case. They will probably draft a bill that establishes a research center to study the best way to address humans, and then lobby Texas Gov. Rick Perry to establish a satellite office in Brownsville and an administrative and research center in McAllen.
They are, after all, human.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ROLLIE OLVERA ON SHORT LIST FOR FEDERAL JUDGESHIP

By Juan Montoya
With his leukemia in remission, sources have told us that Presiding Judge of the 5th Administrative Judicial Region, and also the 445th State District Court Judge Rolando Olvera has made the short list for consideration as a federal judge in the United States Southern District of Texas.
The sources, which preferred to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to release the information prior to the final decision being made, said that Olvera is the likely candidate to get the nod to the federal bench.
Olvera - originally appointed to the court by Republican governor Rick Perry - was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. The Olvera family has a long heritage in Brownsville that goes back to the 1890s. He attended college at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, and graduated in 1985. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin in 1989. Before going on the bench he was in private practice with a concentration in general civil practice, commercial litigation, international law and alternative dispute resolution.
Gov. Rick Perry named Olvera as judge of the 138th judicial district court serving Cameron and Willacy counties in 2005. Olvera served for a term until the next general election. Perry appointed Olvera as the presiding judge of the 5th Administrative Judicial Region on January 4, 2011. He was re-elected November 6, 2002 without opposition to a term that expires in 2015.

DO WE HAVE A STAKE IN MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT?


(As the incursion by Israel into the Gaza Strip reaches its third week and Palestinian deaths climbs past 600, – with some 70 per cent of them civilians – some commenters to this blog have questioned why we should care about what goes on in the part of the world. The U.S. has a lot at stake in that conflict since we have basically footed the bill for its militarization with heavy outlays since 1949, the year after the State of Israel was founded. We  never really  knew how large a role the United States taxpayer had played in arming Israel. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush committed this country to a $10 billion aid package stretching into 2018. The Obama administration is continuing this practice in its FY 2015 budget requests.) 
US. Foreign Aid to Israel 
By Jeremy M. Sharp
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
The Congressional Research Service
April 11, 2014
This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and an analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.
To date,  the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance.
Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers.
In addition, U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments, and Israel (as is also the case with Egypt) is permitted to use cash flow financing for its U.S. arms purchases.
In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs. Israel pursues some of those programs jointly with the United States.
In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package for the period from FY2009 to FY2018. 
During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress.
The FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) provides the President’s full $3.1billion request in FMF for Israel.
In addition, it provides another $504 million in funding for research, development, and production of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system ($235 million) and of the joint U.S.-Israel missile defense systems David’s Sling ($149.7 million), the Arrow improvement program (or Arrow II, $44.3 million), and Arrow III ($74.7 million).
For FY2015, the Administration is requesting $3.1 billion in FMF to Israel and $10 million in Migration and Refugee Assistance. The Missile Defense Agency’s FY2015 request for joint U.S.- Israeli programs is $96.8 million. The Administration also is requesting $175.9 million for Iron Dome.
For full report, see fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf

MONTOYA IS HERE TO STAY: CCISD TURNS HIM DOWN

By Juan Montoya
Well, we might as get used to having Carl Montoya as the superintendent of the Brownsville Independent School District at least fro another year.
A report in the Corpus Christi Caller states that the only one of forty nine candidates for the superintendent's position with the Corpus Christi Independent School District was called back for a follow-up interview. That was Roland Hernandez, who has been the Chief Administrative Officer for CCISD since 2009.
Among the 49 who were applying was none other than our own Dr. Montoya (no relation to the writer), who first denied that he had applied to the CCISD, but later grudgingly told some board members that he had not interviewed for the position about two weeks ago.
Superintendents and administrators from around South Texas confirmed that they had learned that Montoya was among one of the applicants for the CCISD position, though the Corpus Christi board of trustees did not release the names of the candidates. However, sources close to the CCISD board indicated that Montoya and "two applicants from within the CCISD district" were among the top five strong candidates being considered by the board.
As time goes on, the daily requirements of running a $500 million system with 7,000 employees and 40,000 students is taking its toll on Montoya, who has proven vulnerable to the demands of some trustees like Minerva Peña, who seems to be intent on imposing her will on his administration.
That and the continuing embarrassment of having an ethics-challenged board counsel in Baltazar Salazar must cost Uncle Montoya his sleep. Time to gird those loins and bite the bullet, Carl.

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: UNITED BROWNSVILLE, MARIN SOAPBOX

By Juan Montoya
Ostensibly, the piece in the local daily was about the coming oil and gas boom in oil and petroleum in northern Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico and the opportunities for investment for U.S. companies there.
But if that's the way it started, it quickly became a plug for Ambiotec's Carlos Marin and the plan by the United Brownsville cabal to push for local resources to promote their "bi-national" plan which they want to control.
Herald reporter Steve Clark interviewed J. Carlos Marron, senior investment and trade commissioner for ProMéxico, who was accompanied by accompanied by Mexican Consul Rodolfo Quilantán and Marco Saldivar, president of AEM Brownsville-South Padre Island.
AEM is a non-profit trade association for Mexican nationals interested in doing business in the United States, though it also facilitates U.S. investment in Mexico.
Carlos Marin, head of the Ambiotec Group, the architect of the $1 million Imagine Brownsville plan which has morphed into United Brownsville and its offshoots, is identified as being the owner of "an infrastructure planning, engineering and management firm, and Brownsville’s leading torchbearer for a bi-national regional approach to economic development."
True to form, Marin repeated the mantra contained in both the United Brownsville playbook and the $452,000 Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan" which cites the need in Mexico for "outside technology, expertise and capital in developing the Burgos Basin, and about the role the Brownsville-Matamoros region can play in terms of manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and other services."
And just like the old chamber of commerce tourist brochures lauding the area's "semi-tropical year-round temperatures and traditional southeast trade winds," Marin spoke of the advantages of the Matamoros-Brownsville areas such as "the Port of Brownsville’s deep-water shipping capacity, with plans in the works to make the channel even deeper; existing advanced offshore oil platform engineering and construction capacity at the port; and the fact that the region is “located at the epicenter of vast onshore and offshore oil and gas reserves.”
That statement probably made the newsroom shake. One could almost see the co-eccentric boom radiate from the daily's offices at Van Buren and spread throughout the region.
Of course, we'll need his guiding hand – as well as the self-appointed United Brownsville Coordinating Board – to show us the way to economic Nirvana.
It's a wonder that Marin didn't tell Clark that all the answers on how to get to the Emerald City are contained in the strategic plan and that the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation – which paid for a third of the $452,000 "comprehensive plan."
He also didn't get a chance to tell the daily that the GBIC had already dished out $185,000 to Oscar Garcia Jr., the son of one of the three coordinating board members, to tell them how to "implement" some of the "findings" of the plan. Garcia was vice-chair of the Public Utility's Board  when they approved paying for the study, only to bolt to San Antonio-based Jacob's Engineering just in time to cash in on the $185,000 contract to "implement" it.
In the section titled "Limited Partnerships and Connections With Mexico," the plan states that "there is no active partnership with Pemex to keep abreast of the exploration trends in the Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or to think about ways to more effectively improve refining, marketing, and distribution activities within the region."
"...There are no refineries in the Brownsville region...nor are there any oil refineries in Tamaulipas, although there is a natural gas refinery."
The plan goes on to suggest that "better partnerships could help each side think about the potential investments needed, how to plan and implement them. and how they could improve the economic vitality of the region as a whole."
This is where Marin, the maquiladora industry and his United Brownsville compadres fit in quite nicely. Now all they need is our money to make their dreams come true.
Coming in the next United Brownsville-Marin act: How to fleece the rubes and leave them feeling warm and fuzzy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SOUTH TEXAS HISPANIC DEAD REMEMBERED IN KOREA

By Juan Montoya
Once in a while we get notes from some of our readers who have visited places abroad and we'd like to begin sharing these with you.
One of the most poignant we have received is from little sister Dr. Maria Montoya-Hohenstein, who spent 10 days in Korea. One of the last things she through she'd find there when she visited the capital in Seoul was a reminder of the sacrifices made by soldiers from Texas who died there defending South Korea during the Korean War.
Mary wrote that:  "Juan, I spent 10 days in Seoul and visited the war monument. This is what I saw: Spanish-surnamed Texans killed in action. The guide explained the debt South Koreans felt to the many states that sent soldiers during the Korean War. Korea is a beautiful young republic with immaculate cities and lush countrysides. Don't know if the folks on the wall are from Brownsville or the Valley. Someone should know that they were appreciated."
Doe any of out three readers know if any of those on the wall
are from our little corner of the world?
Our respect and gratitude to the people of Korea for remembering and honoring our fellow citizens' sacrifice on their behalf.
Thank you, sis.

STAFF UPRISING AT PORTER OVER PRINCIPAL REASSIGNMENT

By Juan Montoya
Brownsville Independent School District staff and other personnel have come to expect reassignments of principals as a matter of course in the district.
One day you're a principal here, a few years later you're a principal there. Once in a while, if you play your cards right and reach out and touch the right lever, you'll find yourself propelled into a corner office at the main building in the Glass Palace at Price Road.
Well, when the staff at Gladys Porter High School heard that their current principal Liz Valdez was getting reassigned, so they – as the so-called Porter Nation is wont to do – and the cheerleading brigade jumped into action and is now threatening to march into the streets and man the barricades to keep them ol' bureaucrats from destroying their school.
The word is that Hector Hernandez, the former Rivera High School principal, was assigned to Porter for the 2014-2015 school year.
None other than history teacher, webpage editor and Porter High School Cheer Coach Catherine Valdez (no relation to principal Valdez?) is said to have been at the forefront of the protest and had been a busy been sending out emails – and now we hear that the principal's assistant is sending emails to students – asking them to participate in a protest march against the transfer.
History teacher Valdez is said to have been brought on board at Porter from the precious school where she and the principal Valdez used to work together. In the call to arms, the writer texts:
Msg:
Sent: Wed, Jul 23 14 10:43 a.m.
"As some of you may know, our principal, Mrs.Valdez, has been reassigned from Porter to Main Office and a march  is underway to move to have her reinstated... Porter High School has been moving on up and we are fighting for our principal and our school... We will be making posters and banners tomorrow in L Building at 10 am and the march will take place on Friday at 7:30. Please forward the information, and all students, parents, faculty and staff are encouraged to help. The more we have participating, the better. Let's come together as the Porter Nation we are and keep our school in tact!"
After our post we received an email at 3:46 p.m. Wednesday from someone saying they were "Catvaldez" denying the veracity  of the narrative and demanding we remove the post. She said: "read your post about Porter High School and your post is completely incorrect. Please remove immediately." We stand by the story.
That is not all. We have also learned that principal Valdez's secretary ( Yvette Rubalcaba, Principal's Administrative Assistant ) is also texting former student to man (and women) the barricades and march on the main building on Friday. Her message is dated Wednesday at 9:36 a.m. when she is supposedly on the clock.
Now, we had heard rumblings about uneven student scores over at Porter and that there was some grumbling among the BISD administrators on why they hadn't improved the way they wanted them to.
Be that as it may, it is interesting that there are more than a few board members with some link to Porter High School. Minerva Peña was a former pom-pom girl like teacher Valdez. Hector Chirinos was principal there. Cesar Lopez has strong ties to the Southmost barrio and Catalina Presas-Garcia is a Porter graduate.
Will the stirring of the so-called Porter Nation check the hands of the administration which ordered the reasignment? Or will the tail wag the dog again and the administration have to back down in the face of the Porter Nation (well, the staff at least) marching in the streets?

RUBEN EDELSTEIN: A LESSON IN PRAGMATISM


Special to El Rrun-Rrun
By Bill Rusteberg
Risk Managers
Ruben Edelstein practiced managed care in his own way. The son of immigrants, he ran a successful furniture business in South Texas. An astute businessman, he grew the business with locations throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas.

I was fortunate to know him. Mr. Edelstein ran a lean operation and took care of his valued employees. He knew each one by name. And he provided health insurance although he didn’t have to in those days. I was his broker for many years and learned more from him than he did from me.

One day he called me. “Bill, when you are in the area, please come by to see me” he said. “Of course Mr. Edelstein, I will be right over” I replied. I entered his office, sat down and asked what was on his mind. “Well, I just noticed we received a bill for an MRI for $4,200. I think that is too high, can you do anything about this? I have only so much money, and this self funded plan is not a welfare plan with unlimited funds!”

I took the bill down to the MRI center and asked to speak to the business manager. “Hi, I represent Mr. Edelstein, owner of Edelstein's Better Furniture with over 300 employees, and we would like to contract with you for MRI services” I said. “Certainly, we can provide MRI’s for $750″ replied the business manager. “Good, let’s start with this one” I said and handed him the invoice.

On another occasion, Mr. Edelstein called me and said “Bill, we have a first year employee whose coverage is limited to $10,000 under our plan. She just found out she needs an emergency hysterectomy and was told the bill would be around $28,000. Can you help?” I met with a local hospital administrator that afternoon and told her “I have $10,000, will write you a check right now if you can arrange a global fee of $10,000 for this valued employee of Edelstein's Better Furniture.” The result of Mr. Edelstein’s managed care protocol: patient was treated for $10,000.

Mr. Ruben Edelstein passed away this week at age 96.
E mail your comments to Bill at : riskmanager@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GENEROUS UNITED BROWNSVILLE "GIVES" CRUMBS TO CITY

By Juan Montoya
On the same day that we heard about the death of former mayor Ruben Edlestein – a founding member of the Public Utilities Board, United Way and the Brownsville Community Health Center – we heard how the city utility had "donated" $25,000 toward the All American City award venture.
That is on top of the annual $25,000 it "donates" as a member of the United Brownsville shadow government.
Now, according to one of its first electrical department managers, when the PUB was first established, the plan was to remove it from politics and concentrate on making it a solvent, viable city asset.
"Believe it or not, when the PUB was created in 1960, many of us felt that by separating the board from the city, politics would be eliminated from hindering its operations," said businessman Mario Villarreal.
"Boy, were we mistaken! Those of us who worked on the very first PUB administration after the board's first meeting on July 15, 1961, inherited a system lacking in some basic requirements of a municipal utilities system.
The electorate had just approved the creation of the board by a mere 38 votes (2,741 to 2,703) that would be responsible to the city commission and to the voters of the city.
"Hard-nosed business decisions and changes in policies to help PUB survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the utility market generated controversy and resistance from many quarters. Yet, in a very short time, the utility could report to the city that its finances were on solid ground and that transfers to the city – which continue to this day – could be made to the city's general fund."
To this day, annual PUB cash and free utility contributions transfers to the city budget total millions. (see graphic, click to enlarge.)
The transfers in the coming years will remain more or less on course because, despite the increasing demands on the utility from the $325 debt incurred by the planned Tenaska gas-powered electric generating plant, planned increases in the utility costs paid by ratepayers are also programmed to increase to keep the cash cow giving.
As a result of the encumbrance of the $325 million carried out without the voters having a say-so in the matter, rates will jump to the highest they've evern been in the history of the city. (see graphic, click to enlarge)
When we read that United Brownsville had "contributed" $550.80 toward the city's application to be designated an All-American City (?),  we were in wonder at their largesse. After all, United Brownsville gets $200,000 in membership donations from at least eight public-funded entities, including $25,000 from the City of Brownsville and another $25,000 from PUB.
We wonder what Edlestein would have thought of the utility that he had created and nourished to financial health had he only known that it was going to be used as a cash cow for groups of parasites who contribute nothing to the betterment of his city on the backs of overburdened ratepayers?

MARTINEZ RUNNING AGAIN: SYLVIA G-P ON THE HUSTINGS


By Juan Montoya.
Paleontologists have indirect and deductive ways to learn the lifestyles of dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago.
Whether it's fossilized bone remains, so-called trace fossils or dinosaur tracks, they are able to glean information not readily discernible to the untrained eye.
Astrologers do the same. They don't have to actually see a star, a planet or other heavenly bodies to know that something is there. Black holes, for example, are detected by their effect on the orbits and movements of nearby visible stars and light and matter.
Political pundits are similar.
For months, there has been an ongoing question on whether City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is going to run for reelection. The candidate has been holding that decision close to his vest. One day you hear that his personal worries over family and profession are forcing him to withdraw from the public arena. The next indication is that he is, indeed, running for reelection in 2015.
Now word has reached us that some members of the local Indian community have been approached by none other than Cameron County Clerk-elect Sylvia Garza-Perez soliciting their political (and considerable financial clout) for Martinez in a reelection bid in 2015
The Hindu community differs in a very real sense from other ethnic communities in Brownsville. Unlike the Korean community which prefers to keep to itself and mind their retail businesses, this community has taken to democracy with a vengeance. They have fielded candidates for city office and some have talked of seeking positions on the board of the Brownsville Independent School District.
And no serious candidate for city office ignores them.
That's why when we heard that Garza-Perez had been approaching them to solicit their support for Martinez, the rumors that he is running for re-election took on more credibility. Martinez helped her in her run for county clerk, and she is not one to forget.
Yet, Martinez has not been very receptive to the Hindu community needs, opting instead to keep the benefits of public office close to his United Brownsville buddies and their cronies. His public-funded real-estate speculation in downtown properties have benefited no one but his close associates and a university in Austin, Texas.
In other words, prominent Hindus leaders in this city are not sold on the idea of a second Martinez administration. And now that William Garza, whom they have supported in the past and who is their employee, is letting people know that he is considering running for mayor himself, their support for Martinez ma be even more difficult to attain. 
With Garza-Perez making political probes  on behalf of Martinez, the notion of his running for reelection becomes more real. But has his performance in office made him an endangered political species, much like a dinosaur?

Monday, July 21, 2014

REARRANGING THE CHAIRS ON THE DECK OF THE GBIC

By Juan Montoya
We understand that Sandra Langley has decided she's done enough to the citizens of Brownsville as the president of the board of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and stepped aside to allow milquetoast Cameron County Treasurer David Betancourt take over United Brownsville's personal ATM.
It's not as if the First Community Bank officer has left a lasting mark at the GBUC. Between her, Al Villarreal, Betancourt, commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa and Ed Sikes, they have virtually handed over the keys to the vault to the sycophants and associates of IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB president Julieta Garcia, United Brownsville CEO Mike Gonzalez, and a host of "consultants" and relatives of the United Brownsville clan..
The latest gift compliments of the city taxpayers was to Juliet's son Oscar Garcia Jr.in the form of a $185,000 contract to develop a "plan" to implement a third of the 30 economic clusters contained in yet another "comprehensive" development scheme for which they paid $452,000 in conjunction with the Port of Brownsville and PUB.
Garcia Jr. made the pitch as a representative of San Antonio-based Jacob's Engineering.
Garcia Jr., who was vice-chair of PUB when the utility approved awarding the $454,000 contract to UB's CEO Gonzalez's buddies Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates to draft the  "comprehensive plan," jumped ship and is now the operations manager for Jacob's. Sweet, ain't it?
 Robin McCaffrey of Needham, McCaffrey and Associates were the same firm that drafted a master plan for Gonzalez when he was mayor of Kyle. When he left, the city's finances were in hock and property tax rates more than doubled under his watch. For being a conservative Republican like Rusteberg, Gonzalez shows no qualms about spending someone else's money.
Betancourt, Tetreau and Villareal fell over themselves to give Juliet Garcia's boy the plum even though there was no backup documentation provided to the troika for the project. It was, as they say in smoke-filled rooms, a "done deal."
So this means that Betancourt comes to the position with the right credentials and with impeccable references. It's someone the economic elite who have taken over representative government here and hijacked the keys to the city treasury can live with.
Somewhere along the way everyone has forgotten that the quarter penny that funds the annual $4 million GBIC budget was meant to improve the economic opportunities of the public, not of the insiders who look it it as their personal piggy bank.

ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT REACHES SOUTH TEXAS

By Juan Montoya
Who would have thought that the recurring clashes between Arabs and Jews in the Palestine would reach out and touch residents of South Texas?
The most recent bloody encounter has gone on for the last two weeks and more than  604 Palestinians and some 27 Israelis are dead, one of them a civilian and on a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen. Reports indicate that more than 70 percent of the Palestinian dead are civilians and that tens of thousands Palestinians in Gaza have been left homeless . Some 80 Palestinian victims were children.
The Israeli Consulate in Houston confirmed that 21-year-old Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, who lived in South Padre Island, was among 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed Sunday when the Israeli Army marched into the Gaza strip. Carmeli had moved to Israel about four years ago.
Many of us who have been watching this tragedy unfold are so far removed from the scene that – listening to the media blitz in the Sunday news talk shows – it would appear that the Jewish state was fighting for its life against "terrorists" and Hamas, the elected government of Gaza which Israel calls a "terrorist" organization.
In fact, the spiral of violence that has led to all-out war was started by isolated incidents by zealots on both sides that led to the conflagration.
This didn't start with the three Jewish teenagers killed and buried by unknown assailants, or by the four vigilantes who sought out Arab teens to kidnap and burn alive in retaliation for the murder of the three teens.
And despite what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu claims are the attempts of the Israeli military to minimize civilian casualties, the truth of the matter is that Israel is facing an overwhelmingly inferior fighting force which uses rockets without any semblance of  guidance systems which are no match for the Jewish state's U.S-provided sophisticated armaments to lead the assault against the Palestinians.
Israel has courted the evangelical Christian element in the U.S. to buttress its claim that the entire Palestine formed Greater Israel of the Old Testament and therefore is entitled to reclaim it because of its people's antecedents to the land.
But if that was the measure, how about the the Chicanos and Mexican-Americans claims to Aztlan, their mythological homeland, now the U.S. Southwest?
No, this dispute goes much further back.
Following WW II, on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 ultimately led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs.
Even before that, Jewish irregulars had been advocating the establishment of a Jewish state despite the fact that Palestine was populated by predominantly Arab countries.With the establishment of the partition of Palestine and the displacement of the Arab population there, it was a recipe for the disaster we're facing now.
Netanyahu and the spokesmen for the State of Israel can wring their hands and whine about the "terrorists" on the Sunday morning talk shows (and they did) all they want. But they know that the tens of thousands of newly-displaced refugees from Gaza are the direct result of the decades-long policies by Israel to marginalize the Arab majority.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have shown that they are not honest brokers. They – along with conservative Republican hawk Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), have given the Israeli Army the green light to enter and destroy the Palestinian state under the justification that everyone there is a  "terrorist."
Funny, the images on television showing the blown up bodies of children and women "terrorists" don't appear to show them carrying weapons or firing rockets at the Israeli soldiers of civilians. Netanyahu said the army had tried through telephone calls, text messages and leaflets to warn civilians and get them to leave the area.
And where are they supposed to go? UN refugee centers are overwhelmed. Entire families are fleeing through the streets as Israeli tanks fire at them in the distance. There is no light at the end of that tunnel. In fact, there is no tunnel at all.
At the heart of the dispute is the fact that the last thing Israel wants is a Palestinian state and labels adherents to the idea "terrorists."
It wasn't that long ago that a small band of "freedom fighters" (or was it terrorists?) under the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin called the Irgun, carried out indiscriminate murders of innocent Arabs and even British soldiers in their quest for an independent state of Israel.
Wikipedia states that "During the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine against the Mandatory Palestine, the militant Zionist group Irgun carried out 60 attacks against Palestinian Arabs and British soldiers. Irgun was described as a terrorist organization by The New York Times, the Anglo-American Court of Inquiry, and prominent world figures such as Winston Churchill, and Jewish figures such as Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, and many others. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand,  describes it as "an underground organization. (Isn't today's Palestinian Hamas the equivalent of the Irgun?)" 
The New York Times at the time cited sources in an investigative piece which linked the Haganah
paramilitary group to the Irgun terrorist attacks such as the King David Hotel bombing. Irgun launched a series of attacks which lasted until the beginning of World War II. All told, Irgun attacks against Arab targets resulted in at least 250 Arab deaths during this period."
We can only hope some sort of agreement will put the current troubles to an end. Right now Netanyahu and his U.S. allies in the mainstream media own the airwaves. But until the Arabs are given what Israel got through force of arms and their own brand of "benign terrorism," don't expect this tragedy to stop no matter how it's sugar coated.

rita