By Juan Montoya
Despite the hand-wringing and self-flagellation by the likes of Brownsville Independent School District trustees like Minerva Peña and Otis Powers, a 5-2 majority of the board opted to give $25,000 of the taxpayers' money to a board which is accountable to no one and which is led by a millionaire banker even as the administration says it must be frugal in its finances.
Board member Enrique Escobedo, Peña, Powers, Jose H. Chirinos, and newly-appointed Cesar Lopez voted Tuesday night to become "partners" with United Brownsville for a slight fee of $25,000 from the district's general fund.
Trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria voted against the measure.
This was the third time that United Brownsville had come before the board with its hand outstretched asking for money. It subsists by accepting "membership donations" from public funded entities that include the City of Brownsville, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, the Brownsville Navigation District, The University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board.
So far, only Cameron County has opted not to give away the public's money and BISD had turned them down twice. We also hear that the new TSC administration and board are rethinking the 25,000 "partnership" payment.
Tuesday night was different.
Instead of just sending United Brownsville's executive director Mike Gonzales as the sole supplicant before the board, Lord of the Manor Fred Rusteberg came before the members to make the pitch. Undoubtedly, Rusteberg's bank probably holds some of the notes of some of the board members, their relatives, businesses or friends, making it night improbable that the majority would cast a negative vote.
Powers voted "yes" justifying it in the name of "unity" with United Brownsville, but there was scant, if any, evidence presented by Rusteberg or his acolyte Gonzales that the $25,000 would benefit the district's students.
Gonzalez will be the main beneficiary of the district's largess for his $80,000 salary, even though we know he hasn't bothered to register to vote in Brownsville in the two years he has lived here. If he doesn't vote, what does that say about him caring what happens here. Rsusteberg, last time we checked, lived in Rancho Viejo, far from the maddening masses of Brownsville which he taps to fund his pet organization.
We have often used this blog to rail against public funds being donated to this shadow government which is held accountable by no one. No one elects Rusteberg or Gonzalez. Neither do they elect Juliet Garcia or Carlos Marin, two of the organization's main movers and shakers. And the "comprehensive" plan Imagine Brownsville upon which United Brownsville pegs its usefulness is neither codifiable nor set in city ordinance.
In other words, when a new city commission comes into office, they don't have to abide by any of its grandiose tenets.
Then again, the new emerging majority on the BISD board – as the other seven entities that donate public money to this shadow government – have proved that they have no compunction about giving away the public's money.