By Juan Montoya
Let's see if we got this right.
In today's front-page article in the Brownsville Holler, an article written by a local reporter (not Mark Reagan as previously reported) repeats Mayor Tony Martinez's assertions that in May's first-ever $50-per-plate State-of-the-City luncheon, the city actually turned a "profit."
In fact, Da Mayor says that the for-pay event closed to the general public earned $11,507 for some lucky nonprofit yet to be selected. Of $47,750 in revenues, Da Tony Show tallied expenditures of $36,242, the bulk of it – $23,342 – going to Message Audience Presentation Inc., Martinez's mayoral campaign ad agency from Austin .
Reagan then goes on to list some of the sponsors of the event.
1. PUB: $8,500
2. United Way of Cameron County: $4,000
3. United Brownsville: $3,000
Other notable sponsors noted in the newspaper's report include private donors like:
1. La Carcel: $3,000
2. IBC: $3,000
3. HEB: $3,000
In fact, we don't mind taking the risk of saying that the vast majority of the ratepayers of PUB who helped fund the for-pay event probably could not afford the $50 fee to attend the ritzy smoke-and-mirrors affair.
As for the $4,000 United Way "donation," we were always under the impression that donations from city workers and those in the private sector were to be used to uplift the needy in the city. How helping to fund a private, for-pay affair gives the needy a helping hand is beyond us. Was there a table in the back for recipients of social services?
(Those of our four readers who read this initial post probably noticed that we included Cameron County among the donors. We erred. It was the United Way of Cameron County. We regret the error. County Judge Carlos Cascos graciously pointed out our mistake. We regret the error.)
And then there's United Brownsville. You know them. It's no skin off their nose to "donate" $3,000 to the city since they get a $25,000 donation annually from Brownsville as "membership" fees to the shadow government created by IBC banker Fred Rusteberg, Carlos Marin, UTB President Julieta Garcia and the other interests of the city who want to hide behind this corporation and guide the economic direction of the city much as the tail wags a dog.
They can move and shake the way the taxpayers' money is spent toward their pet projects without having to account to anyone for their actions. So far, with Rusteberg on board as one of three a co-chairs, United Brownsville has managed to live on without any funds of its own.
Rather, it survives and pays its staff by extracting a $25,000 "goodwill" tribute from the City of Brownsville, Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation, Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, Brownsville Public Utilities Board, University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, and the Port of Brownsville.
So not only did the PUB buy it $25,000 membership this year, but the utility – where Martinez sits as an ex oficio member – was hit up for yet another $8,500 for the event.
So far, only the BISD and Cameron County have refused to ante up for membership on the UB board.
La Carcel, we assume, is the entity made up of the mayor's law firm with his partner Horacio Barrera. They bought the old county jail years ago and turned it into their law offices. That and the other two, Rusteberg's IBC and the HEB corporation, seem to be the only private donors involved in funding the luncheon. Given the Dallas Federal Reserve's mystification at how IBC's revenues can't seem to be explained by the normal income streams of the South Texas area, we hesitate to speculate of the origin of those funds.
If those $15,500 garnered from the public entities are subtracted from the $47,750 in "revenues," a very different picture emerges. Instead of a $11,507 "profit," the city is actually some -$3,992 in the hole. That's not even counting the "free" use of the Events Center or the security provided Da Mayor and his revelers compliments of the long-suffering Brownsville taxpayer and the local cops.
Then again, the average Brownsville taxpayer who didn't attend the light show and luncheon to be dazzled by the local luminaries probably doesn't need to pay $50 to see what state the city is in. All he has to do is drive around its potholed-streets, smell the stench of excrement emanating from the PUB lift stations, see the elderly bus patrons wilting at the unsheltered bus stops and realize that whatever tale was told at King Tony's banquet crumbles when it meets the reality of everyday life in his town.