Friday, December 2, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Ever since the monks in Ethiopia threw the bunch of worthless seeds a goatherd brought them that made his animals act frisky into fireplace and were intrigued by the aroma emanating from the coals, people have been drawn to the smell of roasting coffee beans.

Smell is one of the most lasting senses that triggers memory. Who doesn't remember waking up some cold morning and smelling the coffee brewing that your mom made to send of your dad to work?
In those days, hardly anyone but connoisseurs knew the true value of a good cup of coffee. But with the advent of Starbucks and other brewers, that has changed.

Now Brownsville transport company owner Zeke Silva has decided to open his own roaster and has gotten into the wholesale-retail roasted coffee business.
What does he know about coffee, especially the exotic blends preferred by those in the know?

"I have done my homework," he said recently at his new business (that's his ad on the right side of this blog). "I went to Utah and visited one of the largest coffee roasters in the West Coast and learned from the people who have been at this for decades. I want to bring that to Brownsville."

Those who know Silva know he's somewhat of a stubborn streak when he gets an idea.
In fact, he has gone the whole nine yards and even bought a coffee roaster from an Oklahoma manufacturer (made in the USA, he says) and imported coffee beans from across the world. Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Chiapas, Mexico, the Netherland Antilles, etc., and even an organic blend from Peru. (And you though Peru was only famous for other plants.)

In fact, he has even taught himself how to operate the roaster to get the most band from the bean.

This Saturday, he wants you to come over from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to the Roast Shop and have a free taste of their freshly-roasted brew. They are located at 1393 E. Alton Gloor (Mike Garza's mini mall). He is so sure you'll like it that he is willing to take a chance and give you the first one gratis.

"If you love good fresh-roasted coffee, you'll be back," he said.


By Juan Montoya
They should have known there was trouble coming when Brownsville Police Department Chief Orlando Rodriguez decked out in his blues and bike helmet and three of his cycle sidekicks wheeled down Elizabeth St. yesterday.
Once the Bike Patrol was in  motion, it was just a matter of inertia to arrests someone, for something.

The first guy they nailed was a man (in blue shirt) who was standing across the Jefferson Street from the Intermodal Terminal (the bus station) who was watching some carpenters work on the roof and facade of a restaurant.

The man, who posed no danger to anyone, was apparently violating the city's (and B-Metro's) anti-loitering law by merely standing on the sidewalk. A police officer in a black-and-white had stopped him as the Bike Patrol wheeled down Jefferson and provided backup to arrest the perp.

The carpenters, who were watching the scene one floor up, said the man had been doing nothing but looking at them work.
"No estaba haciendo nada," one of them told a passerby. "Nomas se lo llevaron."

That was par for the course when Orlando pedals around town with his crew. Some witnesses say that a number of old guys who sit on the steps of the old post office (the new city hall in the federal building) were also admonished for hanging out in a public place by the anti civil-rights patrol who advised them to move on or else. We don't know how the old guys fared, but we hope they didn't meet the same fate of the guy in blue who just happened to be standing across the bus station doing nothing when he was picked up.

Well, apparently, he was.
Inside the bus terminal, a new sign warns the public that by violating  a number of rules in or near the bus terminal constitutes grounds for arrest or even banishment from the facility.
In fact, the list of transgressions seems endless. There is to be, for example, no use of the facility or in the B-Metro area for any other purpose than for what it was designed or designated. i.e. Restrooms - not to be used for grooming. (?) So now you know. If you comb your hair when you go use the bathroom at the terminal, be prepared to have Orlando or his bike patrol breathing down your throat.

And if you are waiting for your bus (which are always late, it seems) and catch yourself nodding off, you better be careful. There will be no sleeping on the floor or on the tables. And if you have a bottle of Starbuck cold coffee, you done broke the law  by having a glass bottle, padner.

As a matter of fact, Orlando better watch out because B-Metro also prohibits skating, skateboarding, or use of bicycles around the facility.
"Violations of the rules and regulations may result in fines, removal (banned, etc.) from the premises and/or arrest" and may be enforced by Plaza management and the Brownsville Police Dept.

In the last city commission meeting, B-Metro manager Norma Zamora said that in order to cut down on the number of homeless who congregate in or near the facility, B-Metro was restricting the hours of operation closing at 11 p.m. and opening at 4 a.m. Those arriving on buses after 11 would be left outside the facility.

So there you have it. If you are anywhere around the tto city block-square area of the terminal from 13th And Adams to International Boulevard, just forget about civil liberties because B-Metro lives by its own rules. And Orly will see to that.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


(Ed.s Note: This afternoon numerous callers alerted us to the fact that SWAT teams and a heavy contingent of armed Cameron County Sheriff's commandoes and heavy armor were surrounding the administrative side of the Cameron County Courthouse on Harrison Street. Since a similar contingent had already taken our Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre out a few months before, we wondered who their target was this time? Was it Jesse Garcia at the tax office? Or perhaps Sylvia Garza-Perez at the county clerks? 

Well, others also wondered why the troops were concentrated on the two top floors where the Cameron County DA's Offices are located. Had a gang of frenzied senior citizens protesting Luis V. Saenz's crackdown on their beloved maquinitas finally cracked and stormed the DA's citadel?

Or could it have been a probationer unable to handle the daily drug tests with the company hired by the DA's Office and that sometimes required daily urine samples?

Well, not to worry. Apparently, Saenz himself requested the sheriff's mock drill to make sure he and his staff were protected from evil doers just in case. Workers in the tax assessor collector's office on the first floor and the county clerk's staff on the second might be in some danger from angry property taxpayers or disgruntled grooms or brides wanting a refund on their marriage license, but those workers are apparently expandable. For now, Saenz and his minions can rest assured the county commandoes will be there if needed.)  


(The legend says that the Virgen of Guadalupe appeared to Mexican native Juan Diego who was not believed by the local priests.  According to the story generally accepted by Catholics, Juan Diego was walking between his village and Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), where the Catholic mission was headquartered, on December 12, 1531. Along the way, in the village of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mary appeared, speaking to him in his native Nahuatl language. She told him to build a church at the site, but when Juan Diego spoke to the Spanish bishop, the bishop did not believe him, asking for a miraculous sign. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from a hill, even though it was winter, when no plants bloom. He found Spanish roses and presented these to the bishop. When the roses fell from his tilma (a kind of apron) an icon of the Virgin remained imprinted on the cloth. This photo was taken at Guadalupe Church on Lincoln Street today and gracisoulsy sent to us by one of our Catholic readers.)


(Ed.'s Note: All the preparations were being made ready for the launch of Santa's reindeer from the roof at the house next to the intersection of St. Francis and 10th St. in downtwon Brownsville. Under the direction of Mrs. Santa (standing behind the Jeep in the foreground), the barrio elves on the roof readied the team for flight. Numerous homes in the city are being decorated for the Xmas season.)


By Juan Montoya
The Fire Marshal Section of the City of Brownsville Fire Department report has issued its findings on the fire that caused more than $100,000 in damages to the B-Metro Intermodal Terminal and found that the accidental blaze was caused by the wrong electrical box placed outside the building's cupola for lighting.
It also found that the fire alarm panel was reg-tagged on December 2014, January 2015, and was red-tagged at the time of the fire and  has a current red tag today.

According to the Texas Fire Inspection Code, the red tag is placed on a system if it is impaired, faulty or inoperable. It has been two years since the fire alarm panel at the terminal has been red tagged, meaning that the fire-alarm panel system has been out of compliance with state fire inspection codes since December 2014.

Although the cause of the Nov. 26 fire has been determined to be "accidental" the conclusion makes it clear that the wrong electrical box was allowed to be placed outside of the cupola at the mercy of the elements that eventually led to the mishap.

In the report, Fire Marshal Daniel Villarreal states that "It is (my) opinion...the only source of possible ignition was electrical, because of the metal box instead of a weather-resistance box was used outside exposed to the elements it caused the box to rust letting rain in causing an electrical short close to the electrical box powering the outside lighting." (See graphic, click to enlarge).

The ground-breaking ceremony for the new Brownsville Intermodal Terminal was held on Dec. 2009. It was built, in part, with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds. Mayor Tony Martinez and commissioner Rose Gowen were instrumental in requesting an additional $1.5 million from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to cover unexpected cost overruns.

The completed $31.3 million project started operating in 2009.

The fire marshal's report raises more questions than it answers. Did the contractor, Carlos Marin's Ambiotec, know that the wrong material box had been placed by its electrical subcontractors outside the cupola at the mercy of the elements? Did the construction supervisor, Spawglass, know that the box was a potential fire hazard but installed it nonetheless?

And, most importantly, did the city inspectors give the contractor supervisor – and BUS Metro – the go-ahead to have the workers install the incorrect material electric box there?

A local businessman who sells electric components to manufacturers on both sides of the Rio Grande says that the fire should have never happened and its spread would have been prevented if the electrical box was correctly installed and connected to breakers which would have jumped and stopped the flow of electricity to the box.

"You don't put a metal electric box outside where it could get wet and cause a short circuit," he said. "Why were they allowed to do it?"

Although damages to the terminal's cupola is estimated at $100,300 to replace, we're sure this does not include labor costs to demolish the burned part, specialty construction materials and other incidentals that will surely raise the price past the quarter million dollar mark. And will the city's insurance carrier fork over the money now that it has been revealed that the contractor, the contract supervisor, and the city building inspectors allowed the unsafe condition to exist?

Some of the players have moved on since then. Marin's Ambiotec continues to monopolize city contracts. Rene Capsitran, formerly South Texas President of  Spawglass Contractors, has since left his company to form Noble Texas Builders and snare municipal and county construction jobs. His board of directors includes "talented" people like Eddie Lucio III as legal counsel and supporters like Ramiro Garza, and Ruben Gallegos Jr.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


By Juan Montoya
In the days just prior to the election of the second term of Tony Garza as Cameron County Judge, Port Isabel's Baldemar Port Isabel declared himself a candidate for the Democratic nomination.
He used to sit in the old commissioners court on Harrison Street and point to a spot above the picture of Judge Dancy and say "See where that nail is? That's where my picture is going to be hung when I'm elected county judge."

Alaniz was slightly more flamboyant than most Democrats. At 26 the youngest mayor ever elected to office there, he moved to rename Second Street after himself and was nominated to receive the Bum Steer Award by Texas Monthly for that bit of self-aggrandizement.

Alaniz liked to wear a $20,000 diamond ring, a $6,000 watch, drive fancy cars and live in a house that sort of looks like, and as he described it, the White House of South Texas. He sought a special look with silk suits, big cigars and Stetsons. He earned a living administering $2 million in estate interests for an Oklahoma oil and gas heiress.
But alas, he was also a kind of bon vivant who eventually got in trouble with the PI cops for brandishing a handgun and making one of his victims waddle like a pet in a parking lot.
Well, Alaniz will never get to see his portrait on the county commissioners court meeting room. Now that venue has changed to the old Dancy Building on Madison Street where the portraits of former county judges now hang. But visitors to the court will notice that there is a recent county judge whose portrait is not hanging along with the others.
No, it's not Pete Sepulveda's, the outgoing appointed county judge who will be replaced by elected judge Eddie Treviño. His portrait is still in the works to join the rogues gallery at the courthouse. The one missing is that of two-time county judge Gilberto Hinojosa, now the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
Why isn't it there alongside Tony Garza, Moises Vela, Jack Goolsby, D.J. Lerma and even Ray Ramon?
Apparently, Hinojosa was irked that Republican Carlos Cascos was occupying the seat he thought rightfully belonged to a Democrat and asked that it not be placed while Cascos held office. And, like Pablo Picasso's Guernica, it did not see the light of day until Bad Old GOP dictator Carlos was gone from the throne.
In fact, Hinojosa lost to Cascos after holding office for 12 years. Later, as the state's Demo Party chief, he saw Carlos beat Democrat John Wood. With Treviño, a kindred Democratic spirit taking office, the photo is going up.
"It's been ready for a long time but it's never been put up," said a county insider. "But come January 2, it will be hung at the commisisoners' court. I guess Gilbert can live with Treviño's taking over the county judge's office."


By Juan Montoya
People at the Cameron County Courthouse are scratching their head at the new thrust by Luis Saenz's District Attorney's Office to actively seek tips to prosecute drug dealers, even small-time ones. To that end, he is media showcasing the tip line against drug dealers of all shapes and sizes.

Saenz, if anything, has been one of the most successful DA's to utilize the social media to increase the presence of his office in the public's mind. Whether it's Operation Bishop targeting eight-liner (maquinita) operations, domestic violence, the Public Integrity Unit, or a number of others, he has jumped into it with a relish seldom seen before or used by his predecessors.

But now, as he activley courts tipsters to denounce drug dealers dispensing mota, pase, or any other controlled substance, he seems to be going back on his statements made when he first took office in 2012. His office will actively investigate all tips, he told the local daily.

At that time, he justified the termination of DA's investigators saying that the office was organized to prosecute, not to be policemen.
On Dec. 2012, Saenz told a reporter that 10 of the employees who would not be returning were investigators. The office was left with 20 investigators. He pointed out then that the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department has 20 investigators itself.
“There are too many investigators,” Saenz said, noting that five of the 10 investigators in the DA’s office are in special operations, developing cases. “We are prosecutors. We are not policemen,” he added, pointing out that the office already receives many cases from law enforcement agencies.

All that seems to have changed over time. Before he ran (and was thrashed) for sheriff against incumbent Omar Lucio, Victor Cortez – a former DEA agent – was the head of the Public Integrity Unit. The results of that endeavor, to be charitable, were nothing to crow about. Many of those cases – except that of his rival for the Republican nomination John Chambers – ended up in disappointed plea bargains.

But now, as the DA's office targets small-time dealers as cops do, the new poster child of the department has to be George Delaunay, another former DEA agent who was introduced when Saenz took over the scandal-plagued DA's Office which had fallen into discredit with the conviction of former DA Armando Villalobos.

“The biggest challenge facing my new administration is restoring the public’s trust and faith in the office. To that end, I have looked to the federal ranks for help,” Saenz said.

Judging by the new emphasis on drug dealing, the luster seems to have worn thin on the previous media splashes of the prosecution of  maquinitas, money laundering and corrupt public servants.


By Juan Montoya
Brownsville Police Dept. Chief Orlando Rodriguez dropped a wet towel on the members of the local Brownsville Police Officers Association just in time for the holiday and vacations schedule.
Now, instead of having the 4 10-hour days, the new schedule calls for police officers to work a five-day, eight-hour 40.
For those police officers who had counted on the previous schedule and arranged their holidays and time off with their fellows to write their ports and cover their beats, this means that all those plans are out the window.
"These changes, coming as they are, just before the holidays, throw a wrench in the works," said a cop who requested anonymity. "The chief could have waited until the New Year because everyone had already worked out their work schedule under the four-day, 10-hour work week."
Rodriguez is not the rank-and-file's favorite administrator. Many officers resent the fact that he has handed out choice job slots to sentimental favorites and sycophants. But with this sudden turn of events, it will force officers to spend extra time filling out their reports, possibly straining the department's overtime budget.
That, in turn, might mean that there will be less of a police presence on the street as they will be forced to dedicate a couple of hours to report writing.
"There's no telling why this was done," said out source. "But ti came at precisely the wrong time."
With the winter weather approaching, will there be a sudden increase in "blue flu" as a result of the new work schedule?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Remember the bad old days when virtually all Cameron County elected officials had their relatives placed in the departments of their fellow elected officials?

One of the main dispenser of patronage jobs was none other than now-retired Cameron County District Clerk Aurora de la Garza. For years, she ruled the roost and had relatives and relatives of relatives in the various departments. If you were in her good graces, chances are that she could whisper into someone's ear to fix someone up with a county job.

One could literally walk into the courthouse and find one of her relatives (or relatives of her relatives) working for the county and drawing a n ice paycheck.
That has been the case in the county and its Road and Bridge departments for as long as one can remember. In Pct. 1, the Cisneros family has been entrenched in the various positions with the road crews. In Pct. 3, the same could be said for the Ramos clan.

The way it works is that these employees were beholden to the office holders so when election time comes around, they can be counted on to knock on doors and get out the vote to keep them there. One hand, as it were, washes the other.

This expected loyalty to the master goes as far as facing consequences should you not suppport the politicalpicks that the boss wants. Inevitably, the

For example, when constable Horacio Barrera was beaten for his position, the county quickly revived the park ranger department make a place for him on the payroll. They also gave him a park ranger crew that included, you guessed it, another Cisneros. In fact, Silverio Cisneros even made a run for Pct. 2 Constable Abel Gomez's position and failed. But this attempt at showing the family's political muscle has not gone unnoticed by local political observers.

In the days when Pct. 1 was run by D.J. Lerma and his crew his main supporter was a grader operator named Anastacio Guillen. Working with him was his brother-in-law and Chavira and people who were loyal to the boss. Guillen has since passed, and Chavira has retired. It didn't matter that Guillen's brother-in-law was a mediocre loader opoerator. The fact that he was related to him was enought to bring him on board.

At times, it seems that the level of skills of the county workers counts very little compared to the political connections. The level of public service does not seem to rank very high among the personnel priorities.
And even after the workers came under civil service, it was not unusual for the county commissioner to pick the workers they wanted regardless of the screening by the civil service people.

We have heard that when a new supervisor was being considered for Pct. 4 new commissioner Gus Ruiz sat in on the interviews and helped personnel people choose the new guy. This is exactly the type of interference that the consolidation of the county Public Work crews was supposed to prevent. Yet, it obviously continues to this day.

It wasn't very long ago that former Pct. 2 county commissioner Ernie Hernandez lost his position for having meddled (with his Asst. Raul Salazar) and try to place his brother-in-law as a non-commissioned security guard at one of the international bridges. News reports indicated that the relative was a convicted felon and that he could neither read nor write.

In the scandal that followed, Hernandez was allowed to resign and had a handful of  charges dropped against him in return.

And in the Gilberto Hinojosa administration, his political supporters from El Ranchito, Combes and San Benito had a desk in the front office space before you got to his office in the rear. Silver, Mrs. Frances Domenski, and Remi Garza all worked for Gilbert and pitched in on his campaigns.

Treviño inherits this system as he takes over the county. Will he prove to be a reformer, or will he accept the system as it is and hope not to step on any toes so he can run for reelection in two years?


By Juan Montoya
Remember the wave of criticism aimed at OP 10.33's Mike Hernandez for having his boys pass out cases of mosquito repellent in downtown Brownsville neighborhoods where the bloodsuckers could breed and spread the Zika virus?

There was his cous (and former lawman) George Gavito and a gaggle of St. Joseph Academy football players knocking on doors and handing out fliers and cans of spray alerting residents to the danger of the virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Many dismissed it as a publicity stunt.

Well, now it appears that the fears of mosquitoes spreading the virus locally might have been well founded after all.

Cameron County health authorities have now confirmed that a 43-year-old Brownsville woman living in the same area where Hernandez's minions passed out the cans of repellent had contracted the virus through a mosquito sting. In response, the city has stepped up its spraying of the inner city neighborhoods where the woman lives.

Authorities also said that the woman poses no danger to others because she can no longer infect anyone with the virus. They also advice residents to use insect repellent with an active ingredients such as DEET or picandin and reapply as needed.
Who knows, maybe Mike and George and his boys will start handing out more cans of the repellent in the city again now that the worst fears about the virus have been confirmed.


By Juan Montoya
Each year, Cardenas Motors donates a new car to a deserving student enrolled in the Brownsville Independent School District.
Whether it's done for the publicity or because they want to really help out the community, the gesture is a nice touch at giving something back to the community.

We are all acquainted with the Cardenas family and its construction company that seemed to want to cut corners and get away with meeting the very basic requirements in their subdivisions. For many years, Cameron County has been good to the family, even when they tried to skirt the model subdivision rules and not install sidewalks or curbs and gutter. That's just the nature of the beast.

Each year the BISD administration and board of trustees members present the donated car to the student with much fanfare and use the presentation to thank Cardenas Motors for their generosity.
So what does BISD trustee and new Brownsville Fire Dept. Chief Carlos Elizondo do when he got appointed to his new gig and drew his hefty paycheck?
Did he go to Harlingen and buy his Mercedes Benz from the Cardenas Metroplex and patronize the people who pay taxes and live in Cameron County?

Not exactly. We were surprised when we were told that Carlos and his folks were on television posing for Mercedes-Benz of San Juan, in Hidalgo County.
Sure enough. a perusal of the San Juan car dealer shows our new chief with his family posing in front of the new Mercedes-Benz ride.

We have always been told to shop local and help out the economy. But going out to San Juan instead of doing business with the folks who support the school district is probably not sitting well with Renato and Mary Rose, never mind Ricky, Rene and Reba.

And do the public officials make the trek to Cameron County to buy their cars here? We doubt it.
Elizondo probably got a good deal from San Juan that would justify going out of the county and that's understandable. It is, after all, a free country. But then to appear in a  commercial for the Hidalgo County Mercedes-Benz franchise might have been rubbing it in just a tad too much.

Monday, November 28, 2016


From: The Ben Shapiro Report
Over the weekend, murderous dictator Fidel Castro died at the ripe old age of 90. It was a taste of long-delayed and insufficient justice for one of the worst human beings to inhabit the planet, but that did not stop lamentations from the left. 

President Barack Obama, who re-enshrined relations with the Cuban regime under the Castros, issued a statement welling up with tears: “We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation…we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family.” Mass-murderer-worshipping former president Jimmy Carter mourned, “We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of country.” 

Secretary of State John Kerry cried, “Over more than half a century, he played an outsized role in their lives, and he influenced the direction of regional, even global affairs.” Clinical idiot Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Castro “remarkable…a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” 

The New York Times called Castro “the fiery apostle of revolution” and headlined, “A REVOLUTIONARY WHO DEFIED THE US AND HELD CUBA IN HIS THRALL.”
Here are a few thoughts.

The Left Doesn’t Mind Communist Dictators.
Castro was one of the most evil people of the 20th century. And the West has forgotten that because the American left treasures leftist evil. It’s why college students still wear T-shirts with mass Che on them. It’s why Americans take Hitler seriously, but make jokes about Stalin, who murdered far more human beings. 

Communism isn’t a horror, according to the left – all of its attendant horrors are just means pursued to justify a worthwhile end. The left has soft-sold communism since Stalin – Walter Duranty of The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize after whitewashing Stalin’s genocidal starvation of his own people to demonstrate that communism worked. 

Castro was a low-rent Stalin, and the left is still soft-selling him. They worked so hard to soft-sell him (Ed Sullivan called him Cuba’s George Washington) that they covered up the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald had reached out to the Cubans before assassinating JFK, instead blaming American racism.

Castro Was Deeply Evil. 

Castro conspired with mass murderer Che Guevara to overthrow General Fulgencio Batista, then began a guerilla campaign resulting in his takeover of the island. He immediately exiled priests, destroyed religious schools, nationalized businesses, imprisoned and murdered his enemies (he had hundreds shot within months of entering Havana). 

Here was Che Guevara: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create a pedagogy of the paredon (the execution wall).” 

Castro imprisoned more of his citizens by percentage than Hitler or Stalin. He asked the Soviet Union to nuke the United States during the Cuban missile crisis. Castro supported terrorist groups ranging from FARC in Colombia to Shining Path in Peru and the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled, many drowning in the ocean as they attempted to sail to Florida; at least 2 million Cubans fled Cuba between 1959 and 1992.

Communism Impoverished Cuba. Cuba was one of the richer nations in Latin America when Castro took over, with a per capita GDP of approximately $2,000. By 1999, per capita GDP in the nation was just $2,307. Discover The Networks explains, “the average daily wage for an agricultural worker in Cuban in 1958 was $3. The average daily wage in France at the time was $2.73….In 1958 Cuba had a higher standard of living than any Latin American country and half of Europe.” 

As The Wall Street Journal points out: “The Cuba that Castro inherited was developing but relatively prosperous. It ranked third in Latin America in doctors and dentists and daily calorie consumption per capita. Its infant-mortality rate was the lowest in the region and the 13th lowest in the world. Cubans were among the most literate Latins and had a vibrant civic life with private professional, commercial, religious and charitable organizations. 

Castro destroyed all that. He ruined agriculture by imposing collective farms, making Cuba dependent first on the Soviets and later on oil from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. In the past half century Cuba’s export growth has been less than Haiti’s, and now even doctors are scarce because so many are sent abroad to earn foreign currency. Hospitals lack sheets and aspirin. The average monthly income is $20 and government food rations are inadequate.”


(Ed's Note: Talk about intermodal! In what may have been the most documented fire in the history of the city of Brownsville, the fire over at the Brownsville Intermodal Bus Terminal has left may people scratching their heads at how a fire could have erupted in the cupola. Was there bad wiring? How did the building pass its fire inspection? And could it have been bad pigeons loitering inside that caused a short circuit and lit the blaze? Now we are receiving reports that it may have been an aborted SapceX launch that went awry. Browntown pundits are nothing if not creative, We thank one of our seven readers for sending us the photo above that depicts a SpaceX rocket as it is about to crash into the blazing inferno. We've got to admit that it made our day!)  


By Juan Montoya
Ready for this?
What would you say if someone told you that Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. is already sending out feelers for support to install his son Eddie Lucio III for his senate seat and has aligned the heavyweight (and former county commissioner) Dan Sanchez to pull it off.
The scenario goes something like this: Sanchez would run (with the Lucios' support) for the position District 38 state rep position now held by the III and put his heavyweight support behind Lucio for his daddy's senate seat.

Since the district encompasses most of Harlingen and middle Cameron County areas, Sanchez would be a shoo-in for the post. remember, it was Brownsville he did not carry in his bid for the county judge's seat now being held by Eddie Treviño. District 38 covers only the northern part of Brownsville, but covers half of Harlingen and most of the river area where Sanchez carries some political clout.

And some folks who have been privy to some of the alcohol-fueled blabberings of our own state rep Rene Oliveira over at Cobbleheads say he is already picking his successor and it is none other than Brownsville City Commissioner Cesar de Leon.

Now, we must confess that something sticks in our craw when we hear of political positions that represent us being handed out out like family heirlooms. There is something undemocratic about the Lucios (and Oliveiras for that matter) treating the positions as entitlements. Why not let the people decide instead of shoving it down our throats?

In the years that come, Lucio the Elder will look at the legacy he has left behind and see the detritus of payoffs and "consulting" fees that he has acquired to build his palatial enclave behind the isolated resaca property. What he will not see is the deep resentment that many people feel toward him and his kin for using the public trust for his enrichment. Private prisons, bridges to nowhere, golf knickers, and costly orthodontist work to fit the fake smile. That's about it.

Maybe it might be worth to have Lucio III take over after all.
Now, many people thought that Sanchez would jump into the county judge's race this next cycle because Treviño has to run again in two years since he is serving the unexpired term of former county judge Carlos Cascos, now the Texas Secretary of State.

What's going over in Austin?
We hear that the Big Money people are whispering sweet nothings into Carlos' ears about taking on Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat. Lately, Casco has been a virtual dervish as he whirls around the state addressing many groups as secretary of state. That, plus the cordial relationships he enjoys with Mexican politicians and movers and shakers make him a credible candidate for a statewide political post.

We have seen the Cascos evolution since he first took office as a county commissioner for Precinct 2 after beating incumbent commissioner Mike Cortinas. He first ran as a Democrat but grew disenchanted with the insular and isolated group headed by Gilbert Hinojosa. Hinojosa's aspirations for higher officer were crushed with the defeat of Ann Richards by George W. and now he heads the state Democratic Party, a virtually useless and ineffective position that gets chronically thrashed by the Texas GOP.

Will Cascos take the plunge? Why not?


By Juan Montoya
Right after we posted the rumor that with the ascendancy of sister Sylvia to the ranks of the board of trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District Faulk Middle School coach (and former city commissioner) Charlie Atkinson's fortunes had risen as well, he came out of hiding and laid the rumors to rest.
In a Facebook post, he lauded current Athletic Director Tom Chavez and said that he'd dearly love the job, but that he would be content to work alongside of the Living Legend at Rivera and be part of Team Chavez and gain experience.
"My AC and I would love to work under him and learn from him as his freshmen coaches. We are hungry coaches wanting to make a difference," Chuck wrote.
Now, coming from a board member's brother, Chavez might well want to consider the political benefits accruing from establishing a relationship with young Mr. Charlie. Now , we remember that the Faulk Middle School team went undefeated in the 2016 season, so there's some material to work with there.
We are not accustomed to see a fawning Charlie, but after all, he did convince some folks to vote for him and elect him commissioner. If anything, it proves that there are some folks with ambition over at Faulk Middle School.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Just who is City of Brownsville commissioner Jessica Tetreau's press agent?
If we knew him or her, we would have fired them years ago.

It seems that nothing can happen that she does not think would be a good PR opportunity. Whether it's dressing up as a SpaceX astronaut to appease billionaire Elon Musk, staging a meeting with visiting movie stars, or forcing the Brownsville P.D. to provide her with a chauffeur to motor her around Charro Days, her craving for media attention never seems to end.

One of those precious and forgettable PR moments came about this Thanksgiving (and went virtually unnoticed by media), much to her chagrin. It seems that Mother Tetreau went to the McDonald's Restaurant on 14th Street and bough a whole lot of Super Value Meal burgers (at 99 cents a shot) and then invited whoever would come with her to go accost downtown street people and force her goodwill down their throats.

Alas, the Brownsville Herald and the local television station didn't bite and Jess and her lemmings had to keep their warm and fuzzy feeling all to themselves.
On the other hand, perhaps commissioner Rose Gowen and Healthy Communities leader Rose Timmer would not have approved of her feeding the sodium- and grease-laden morsels to the homeless and substance-abuse street dwellers that type of nutrition.

Besides, they probably would prefer cash to buy a few 16-ounce Naturals or a few rocks to make that hunger go away for a few hours.

Here's another bright idea! With Christmas coming, perhaps Jess could dress up as Santa Claus and distribute toys to the homeless in the colonias. But we should warn her that perhaps she should find out where the Marines, Sheriff Omar Lucio, the Brownsville P.D. and other established gift givers have their territory so she won't step on any toes.

Has she ever thought of giving a healthy money contribution to places like the Good Neighbor Settlement House or the Ozanam Center? It's a lot more effective, but it doesn't give you the PR bang we're sure she's seeking.


(Ed.'s Note: With Cuban exiles and their offspring celebrating the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Little Miami, it's only fitting that we remind ourselves that before the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. controlled the island's sugar industry and had taken over the gambling mecca through the Mafia's infiltration of casinos and prostitution with the acquiescence of the Cuban middle class. The vast majority of the people lived squalor and misery. Illiteracy was widespread and health care for the people was virtually non-existent. Castro changed all that. His first move was to seize 7,500,000 acres from foreign owners and distribute the land to Cuban peasants (photo above). Today, Cuba's literacy rates are the highest in Latin America. It's health care system is admired throughout the world and the regime sends its doctors to aid Third World nations. But the people paid a price as the government eased into a virtual dictatorship and Castro cult. The U.S. embargo did not help hem either. President Barack Obama's normalization of relations with the Cuban government through executive orders is now threatened with the ascension of president-elect Donald Trump who has vowed to change the terms of the "deal." Will we go back to the bad old days of pre-Castro when Carlos Puebla wrote this poem?)

Aquí pensaban seguir
ganando el ciento por ciento
con casas de apartamentos
y echar al pueblo a sufrir

Y seguir de modo cruel
contra el pueblo conspirando
para seguirlo explotando...
y en eso llegó Fidel

Se acabó la diversión,
llegó el Comandante
y mandó a parar

Aquí pensaban seguir
tragando y tragando tierra
sin sospechar que en la Sierra
se alumbraba el porvenir

Y seguir de modo cruel
la costumbre del delito
hacer de Cuba un garito...
y en eso llegó Fidel

Se acabó la diversión,
llegó el Comandante
y mandó a parar
Aquí pensaban seguir
diciendo que los ratreros,
forajidos bandoleros
asolaban al país

Y seguir de modo cruel
con la infamia por escudo
difamando a los barbudos...
y en eso legó Fidel

Se acabó la diversión,
llegó el Comandante
y mandó a parar

Aquí pensaban seguir
jugando a la democracia
y el pueblo que en su desgracia
se acabara de morir

Y seguir de modo cruel
sin cuidarse ni la forma
con el robo como norma...
y en eso llegó Fidel

Se acabó la diversión,
llegó el Comandante
y mandó a parar


(Ed.s Note: A day spent rebonding with friends and family from far and near at Bastrop eating turkey and fixings before watching the Dallas Cowboys beat nemssis Washington and then the long drive to the Rio Grande Valley. And so Thanksgiving 2016 comes to an end. The photo above was taken about midway through the King Ranch and heading south. We hope that everyone got home safely and that the memories shared with your folks will tide you over until Thanksgiving 2017.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


By Juan Montoya
We sure hope this is not true, but the rampant rumor mill at the Brownsville Independent School District has aged coach Joe Rodriguez (with two strokes in the bag) stepping down and rethread board member Rick Zayas taking over for his mentor.
That comes as other rumors swirl on the possible hiring of 404th District Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez replacing Baltazar Salazar, the board's counsel and inheriting his $264,000 salary.

Rodriguez, whose control of the board's majority oversaw the spending of millions of this cash-poor BISD budget on artificial turf for high schools and even middle schools while the administration was asking teachers to spend just a bit more of their personal money of classroom supplies for students.

A firm championed by Rodriguez – Paragon – has kept its workers and managers in the dough. We hear that they have become the favorites of some ladies who brag about spending only 15 minutes for a $300 payoff. The BISD taxpayer no sabe pa quien trabaja.

"Lo paga todo el BISD," one of them told us recently.
Rumors also indicate that Dr. Sylvia Atkinson's ascent to the BISD board will also carry her brother Charlie (former city commissioner and aduanal) upward in her tide. There's already talk of Charlie catapulting over the ranks of the district's coaches and assuming an important position, perhaps even AD.

Noting is impossible. Remember that he was allowed to work on his certification while holding a job as a coach at Faulk. His hiring led to charges by at least one unemployed (but certified) coach that there was favoritism (gasp!) being practiced at the district.
If Zayas does come in through the back door, it will be a vindication of his assertion that he was beaten by Lucy Longoria way back when because of dirty politics.

But unlike the time when he was on the board, there is no $130 million in the BISD fund balance to play with anymore. After his and Ruben Cortez's stint on the board, that went down to $68 million, and the BISD is at that point again.

Newly-elected trustee Philip Cowen came in bragging about how he built schools, raised teachers wages omparable to those in Dallas, and did all that without a bond issue. Well, Phil, this ain't your granma's BISD anymore. Now we have an aggregate of special interests gnawing at the $525 million budget that won't take no for an answer.

Good luck to you with that one.


By Juan Montoya
One city commissioner said that she loved her dog so much and wanted the public to become responsible pet owners so she pushed for the ordinance going into effect January 2017 that requires all pets to have a microchip implanted in their skin to make it easier to find its owner.

For a slight fee, or through the use of their private veterinarian, she is hoping all dogs in the city will be microchipped. If an animal control officer picks up a dog without one, it runs the risk of euthanasia if no one adopts it.
Commissioner Deborah Portillo said she was hoping that the Brownsville Animal Shelter would adopt a no-kill zone policy. But the ordinance, in effect, spells a death sentence for any animal caught without the chip.

Another commissioner – Rose Gowen – wants you to adopt a healthy lifestyle and is using millions of city and grant dollars to make you ride a bike or stroll through the city and lose some of that longa.
Both have championed the United Brownsville boondoggle while on the city commission and Portillo – who started off as the group's secretary – is now its president after the executive director was fired. Gowen also sits on the UB board.

This was the same commissioner who wanted to ban hot dogs and hamburgers at the Brownsville Sports Center and soft drinks and candy from vending machines in city facilities.
That comes on top of the recently challenged plastic-bag ban passed during the Pat Ahumada administration when he looked askew at the proliferation of bags adorning our mesquite trees and ditches.

If only a certain 10 percent of shoppers littered by throwing their plastic bags anywhere else but the trash receptacle, the other 90 percent has to put up with the inconvenience of hauling grocery bags around in their car trunks or pay $1 to buy plastic bags from the stores.

The State of Texas has warned the city it could end up in court for charging fees justified as waste removal without authority. Legal Eagle (and ethically-challenged) city attorney Mark Sossi is our David in the battle with Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General. Don't pin your hopes on this one, guys. I got $5 on Kenny.
It seems that these pet projects advocated by these elected officials have to be funded by the rest of the public so they can get a nice warm feeling that they are looking after our best interests. Of course, if they had to use their own money they probably wouldn't be quite as adamant of doing all these great things for us.

And then there's the support by these two ladies for the parasite organization United Brownsville. That organization – which is accountable to no one – was formed to be funded by public tax dollars at a rate of $25,000 each. Its leaders were IBC President Fred Rusteberg and former UTB-TSC "partnership" president Julieta Garcia. For good measure, they threw in banker and former city planner Irv Downing.

For more than six years, the UB parasitic organization has been leeching off the public teat to the tune of more than $200,000 a year. Late this year, with diminishing returns and a general realization that not one job had been generated, and that its self-appointed mission to "lessen the burden of government" on city and other elected officials and provide "a forum" for public projects was getting stale, it fired its $80,000 executive director.

That was Mike Gonzalez, the former Tea Party mayor of Kyle, Texas. He is now gone, but in reality he was never really here. Not only did he remain registered to vote there, but he also kept his homestead in that city. He just hung out here making speeches and collecting his check.

Ask Rusteberg or Garcia why they formed the United Brownsville Coordinating Board and you'll probably get the paternalistic answer that they were doing all these things for us because they know better than we what we need to make our lives happier.
Perhaps the most paternalistic of them all is none other than Da Mayor Tony Martinez.

He has been able to pass off as  devout Catholic who has the ear of God through his connections in the church hierarchy. He even has a private chapel in his back yard for those moments of solitude and mediation where he can think of yet another venture into real estate speculation as he did in the infamous Casa Del Nylon purchase from his buddy Abraham Galonsky.

The inflated $2.3 million price tag it carried was made possible by the issuance of $12 million in Certificates of Obligation that do not require a public vote. He merely got the other pliant members of the city commission to go along with the plan. It came to him in a vision, we would imagine.

Do we need to mention the Tenaska debacle? Ever since 2013 the rate payers of the Public Utility Board have been saddled with increases in electricity, water and waste water bills to pay off for the $325 million it will cost to build the $500 million plant and get 25 percent of the electricity produced.

That is, if the plan ever get built because there is a glut of electricity on the grid and at least two gas-fired electric plants are coming on line in Edinburg and Harlingen. Tenaska said it has the option of building (or not building) the plant when and if they have customers for the other 75 percent of the electricity generated.

Meanwhile, the rate payers keep on paying higher bills that will never go down despite the plant not being built.
Each year, the PUB milk cow "transfers" about $8 million from these rates to balance the city budget deficit. In lean times, city manager Charlie Cabler has not hesitated to go hit up the PUB and strong-arm the board as he used to do to perps when he was a cop to fok over another "prestamito" to tide the city over.

So now all pets have to have a microchip, stores won't give you plastic grocery bags, the PUB bills keep increasing with no plant in site, there are more bike trails than sidewalk space, and the overburdened taxpayers continue to pay off the UB parasites so they can "lessen the burden" on elected officials who don't think twice about dipping into the public treasury to satisfy their personal whims.

Monday, November 21, 2016


(Ed.'s Note: During the recently concluded campaign for Cameron County Sheriff, Republican candidate (and Cameron County DA Luis V. Saenz's protege) Victor Cortez staked his political career on his "youth" continually repeating the fact that his opponent incumbent Omar Lucio was pat his prime. Yes, he is old. Can you believe that? Well, the old man beat him on Nov. 8 like he caught hims stealing chickens. He took him to the shed once, and then took him to the shed again. IN the photo above taking on Charro Days a year ago, Cortez thought he had a fighting chance because Saenz was in his corner. Well, that turned out to have been a kind of misplaced confidence in Team Saenz. People just don't like Victor, sad to say. But there's always the election four years from now. With any luck, the old man might be gone by then and the new kid on the Charro Days block may venture out into the hurly-burly of elective politics.)


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Texas Southmost College is well on its way to becoming the community college that many of us recall from our days on the bustling campus.
There is a new sense of pride, collaboration, mission, and enthusiasm at TSC. Signs of its growth are evident, especially on the main campus where parking is becoming scarce and students are seen all over the campus.

Other signs of growth are enrollment numbers, with TSC hitting a significant milestone by breaking the 5,000-student enrollment mark for the first time since TSC re-opened as an independent entity in the Fall 2013.

The record enrollment for Fall 2016 was a 25.3 percent aggregate increase over the previous fall. TSC's on-campus enrollment reached 3,603 students this fall, a 13.8 percent increase over fall 2015.

The College's dual and early college high school enrollment also saw an increase as it reached 1,448 students in fall 2016, a 67.8 percent increase over the previous fall.

Another obvious change is that interim president Mike Shannon, the TSC Board of Trustees, and the College’s leadership team are out in the community promoting the College, engaging with industries, and listening to faculty, staff, and students. Shannon has challenged the staff to “think outside the box” and to find new creative and innovative ways to enhance a student’s learning and campus life experience. The board of trustees are highly-engaged and very supportive of the College’s faculty and staff. They are supporting the mission and making sure the faculty and staff feel valued and supported.

Unlike the past experience the college had with the top-down approach under former TSC-UTB "partnership" president Julieta Garcia and later, the insulated (and isolated) approach by terminated president Lily Tercero, the board and administration have opened the doors to constructive suggestions and advice from instructors, staff and students. Everyone – from board president Adel Garza to instructors and students in the classroom and residents and business owners –  has a voice in shaping the new direction of the community college.

Under Shannon's leadership and in partnership with the board of trustees, TSC is quickly assessing its resources and re-staffing critically underfunded program areas such as student recruitment and outreach, workforce training and continuing education, health care, and technical education.

A new dean was recently hired in the area of health care, career, and technical education. The dean is developing plans to strengthen current programs and to develop new ones in areas of high career potential and demand. Efforts are also underway to complete, the once stalled, renovation project for the health care programs housed at ITECC.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected to take place in the near future. Also, new partnership agreements are being developed to provide students with essential real-world experience and long-term career opportunities in Brownsville. The Licensed Vocational Nursing program is said to be thriving and continues to graduate LVN nurses. TSC is the only college in the RGV to offer an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography. While most of the students in this program are from the local area, several also commute to TSC from the Upper Valley. 

They are highly sought-after students, earning great wages. Other health care programs are thriving and successfully graduating students. Shannon, the board of trustees, and the new dean are diligently working to strengthen the associate degree in nursing program so that TSC can continue training nurses. 

Additionally, there is a collective effort to engage with the college district’s communities, stakeholders, and the economic development community. The College’s efforts to preserve and promote its brand is also evident with a consistent promotion and advertising campaign in English and Spanish for television, radio, billboard, and even cinema theater advertising. The College leadership is also more accessible to the public.

A student life director has been hired to make certain that students have opportunities for leadership training, civic engagement,community service, and career opportunities. A new partnership agreement with the United Way of Southern Cameron County, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce will create paid internships for TSC students.

Under the new partnership, eligible students will be selected to participate in $10/hr. paid internships in a variety of industry and career-elevant internships. The program which was funded by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation will make it possible for TSC to hire an internship coordinator and place 45 students in internships. Plans are also being taken to provide greater access to TSC to first generation college students. New and innovative summer and year-long camps have been developed to make it possible for more students to get an affordable quality education at TSC. 

Another new promising area of growth for TSC is in the workforce training and continuing education area. Shannon created a new division – institutional advancement and workforce training – which encompasses marketing, community relations, grants, fundraising, alumni relations, the TSC Foundation, special events, and workforce training and continuing education.

The recent hire of a vice president to lead this new division has already resulted in new economic development partnerships with local industries such as health care, industrial maintenance, construction, as well as historical preservation. Also, the TSC Foundation will hold its first meeting in December with the newly elected board of directors. The TSC board has assured local residents that all it scholarship monies will go exclusively to TSC students.

The College is also in the process of relaunching a partnership with the City of Brownsville’s Fire Department for training of future firefighters. TSC plans to launch new workforce and continuing education training in welding, pipe fitting, nurse’s assistant, and others. Plans are also underway for alumni events and fundraising activities.

Also, TSC is working very closely with the Texas Workforce Commission to provide skills development funds to help area industries train their workforceand improve their operations and with the Brownsville Economic Development Council to create workforce training programs to meet current and future workforce demands for current and new industries and companies such as SATA USA. 

One of the most noticeable changes is the strong sense of family that the faculty and staff have with their president Shannon and the TSC Board of Trustees. It is said that President Shannon, the board of trustees, and the staff are planning a family holiday party, which welcomes faculty and staff to bring their spouses, children, and significant others.

This ain't your grandma's TSC from the days of yore. The new president and board of trustees are on the right track. They are intent and highly focused on preserving the 90 year history and tradition of our beloved TSC.

After all, TSC has always been tightly woven into our community. TSC is our college! It is the lifeline to building a strong, economically prosperous community with a great quality of life. Go Scorpions!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


(Ed's Note: We have been getting queries about the attorneys who have cashed in on the Brownsville Independent School District's reliance on external attorneys over the past 10 years following our post Friday that stated that more than $5 million has been spent on outside legal services.
We are now reprinting the results of the compilation of legal firms in descending order of payment totals put together by the two lead auditors of the BISD. The list only goes to June 2015 so the real totals to the present are yet to come. As you can see, the BISD has become a cash cow for legal referrals since the district's general counsel Baltazar Salazar does not specialize in educational law.
A former board majority appointed him there and subsequent majorities have kept him. This "kept" lawyer has made cash contributions to many board members and board candidates to grease the wheels and keep himself in the BISD gravy.) 


(Ed.'s Note: Undoubtedly, art purists will thumb their noses at this new method of print making introduced by local UTRGV artists and their supporting cast, including the operator of the rented steamroller. The nouveau art exercise took place on Adams Street which was blocked to traffic (again) as they literally rolled off a number of prints as the steamroller waited for the pre-rolled preparation of the print. The artists first prepared the master and placed in on a mat (picture one), placed the blank print paper on it, placed hard plastic protector over both (2), a sturdy carpet cover over these (3), then had the steamroller go over the whole (4,5), and viola!, the finished print is lifted off the street and into the room in the San Fernando Building (6,7) where they prepared the next one. Everyone thought it was nifty and great fun except for the merchats along Adams who complained about the closing off of Admas on Saturday morning. Oh, well, one man's art is another man's economic downturn.)