By Juan Montoya
We're still trying to sort out the details, but what we hear about the way Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is doling out city-owned property to the University of Texas System while at the same time squeezing the local community college for all he can leads us to believe that he is trying to curry the favor of the Boys in Austin at the expense of his constituents here.
People who heard Martinez address the trustees regarding the land deals that the city is involved with in the ménage-a-trois with UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College say that the mayor literally pulled the rug out from under the community college regarding 10 acres which the college was to get from the city to help it along in its negotiations with the UT System.
Martinez has already overseen the donation of some 70 ares to the third-largest endowment university in the United States to lure it to stay downtown next to the TSC campus. And as negotiators for both sides barter and horse-trade properties and facilities, a 10.2-acre tract that the city had promised the college turned out to be non-transferable because of a provision in a transfer deed under which the transferred property reverts to the grantor is the deed condition is violated.
In this case, the deed condition was that the land be used for a botanical garden and the promised transfer of it to the college for its use as a bargaining chip by the college in its negotiations with the UT System was scrapped.
In other words, Martinez could not deliver on his promise to deed the land to TSC.
"The trustees knew about the clause in the deed, but Martinez assured the board that he could find a way to get around it," said a source close to the board.
The failure of Da Mayor to deliver on the goods means that the college will now have to look elsewhere, or to its own funds, to make up the difference.
But that wasn't all the bad news that the good mayor had for the TSC trustees.
Whereas he willingly had staff counsel (the affable and devious contract lawyer Mark Sossi) draft up the documentation to hand over the city-owned 70 acres gratis to the UT System, Martinez now told the TSC trustees the city wanted would take back the George Kraigher House on 525 Paredes Line Road, the Neale House and the Young House in return for the 10.2-acre tract minus the restriction.
"Here he is giving away some 70 acres to the UT System and demanding that we give him the Neale and Young Houses and that we relinquish control of the Kraigher House," said the source. "Under Garcia (former UTB-TSC President Julieta Garcia), the college spent more than $200,000 refurbishing the Kraigher House, and then he wants TSC to transfer control of it back to the city, which owns it, and to transfer the other two houses in return for the 10.2-acre property."
Our source said that all told, the value of the two historical properties and the investment on the Kraigher House is near $1 million.
'The bottom line is that the mayor gave 70 acres away to the UT System for nothing, and then he didn't tell the TSC board anything about transferring control of the three properties to the city in return for the 10.2- acre tract," said the source. "He pulled the rug from under the community. While he's giving away the farm to the UT System, he is taking about $1 million away from the local taxpayers."