Saturday, June 29, 2013


By Juan Montoya
The pretentious purveyor of journalism non-scoops at Brownsville Voice claimed when he wrote the non-story that the grand jury would not indict Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Ernie Hernandez could not help himself when he gloated that he had learned the decision of the secret grand jury proceedings and had been assured by "very reliable sources."
There followed a cyvberdialogue between him and his three readers where he just about confirmed that his "very reliable sources" was someone working for Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz.
Some of the intricacies of journalism escape this blogger. On of the basic tenets of the craft dictates that if you have a confidential source, it stays that way, confidential. To reveal that Saenz would "be the only one shocked to learn who spilled the beans" to him just about confirms that someone in that office is the source of his information.
When another reader asked if it could possibly be Melissa Zamora, the DA's Public Information Officer, the blogger quickly shifts ground and defends her by comparing her to another DA employee who – as far as we know – had no involvement in the leak, community outreach part-time employee Zeke Silva.
Even we (El Rrun-Rrun) got dragged into this morass by this Tar Baby.
How this blogger – a disbarred lawyer from Dallas – has wormed his way into the inner sanctum of the Cameron County DA's Office boggles the mind.
Yet, there he is stirring the pot in his quest for relevancy and credibility alleging he is privy to the secret proceedings of the grand jury deliberations through leaks by a DA employee. This is sure to lead that office to conduct an inquiry into the identity of the alleged leaker that gave the blogger the non-information, a negative, in fact. Saenz would be within his right to subpoena the would-be reporter and bring him in front of a grand jury to find out. But, of course, that is probably the attention this blogger is seeking.
He not only drags in Silva, but also PIO Zamora, who as far as we know, also had nothing to do with the issue.
How did we get to this point?
County employees on Friday morning saw sheriff deputies lead Raul Salazar in handcuffs through the Dancy Building and hauled him off to jail and the account spread through county ranks like wildfire and soon reached the ears of this blog. We had reported before that Ernie Hernandez had been testifying before the grand jury in a previous post, and, since we received that from a "reliable source" not in the employ of Cameron County and confirmed by multiple other sources in law enforcement and the courts, we ran with it.
If push comes to shove and a court asks us to reveal who it was, we would only be too glad to ask the person if she would release us from the bond of confidentiality we promised her when she gave us that information. Until then, we will stick by our pledge. There will probably be no need for that since Hernandez himself told the local daily that he had been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.
Bobby WC should closely consider what he wishes when he says he would "love an investigation" because his wish may come true. Until then, perhaps a reading of Journalism 101 might be in order.


By Juan Montoya
When word spread through the body politic and chismosos that Raul Salazar, the administrative assistant to Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Ernie Hernandez, has been arrested on an indictment handed down by a grand jury, people called up Norma, the commissioner's wife to inquire about her husband's long time associate.
"No va a dormir una noche en la carcel," Norma told them.
Sure enough, according to Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, when Salazar got to Carrizales-Rucker county lockup, Justice of the Peace Linda Salazar was there to set bail on him. Soon, the requisite $100,000 bond was provided by the county's pre-trial release program.
Salazar, as Norma had asserted, never slept in jail.
"Usually the jail magistrate sets bond for them in the morning," Lucio said today. "But Judge Salazar came over and set the bond on him. He was released after he posted the bond."
And today, el sinverguenza de Ernie told the local dialy that Salazar will be there at the precinct office where he was arrested and led off with handcuffs to meet and greet those doing business with Precinct 2.
Across town, supporters of Margarita Ozuna, the politiquera who has long been associated with the
Hernandez vote harvester machine looked on in amazement. Ozuna, who pleaded no contest to a voting violation that occurred three years ago when Ernie Hernandez ran against Ruben Peña and won on the weight of mail-in votes harvested by her and the likes of Herminia Becerra, chafed under the differnece in her treatment by the Hernandezes.
"If it hadn't been for Mage neither Ernie nor his daughter Erin would be in office right now," said one of her supporters. "And when she needed them to help her with her fines, they wouldn't even talk to her."
In fact, they said, when they approached Ernie and Norma they said the commissioner refused to help her with $100 to help her pay the court-ordered fines that go along with probation. In addition, the court prohibited from engaging in political activities for a year.
"We walked the barrios helping to get him votes so he could be in office and then he turns around and ignores her when she gets in trouble because of him." said one. "And now, when she needs them, they choose to ignore her. They made faces when she approached them for help."
Political operatives in town have a long memory, however. With Ernie and Erin up for reelection, it might not be too long before their candidacies feel the wrath of the scorned politqueras and their base of supporters. It was these bloc of votes that catapulted Ernie Hernandez into political office from the city to the county. In fact, the mail-in votes were the difference that helped him get elected commissioner over Peña and which became the subject of a lawsuit where Peña challenged their validity.
Ernie's critics say that his followers advised the women to leave town. In fact, current Cameron County Democratic chairwoman Sylvia Perez-Garza was overheard telling people that they could go home during one of the breaks in the trial.
Peña brought Hernandez to court and came within 7 votes of the 49-vote difference to overturn that election before a judge from Hidalgo County put an abrupt halt on the process.
You remember.
In the 2010 Democratic primary, Hernandez received 1,206 votes to Peña’s 1,121 votes. But in the runoff, after Peña had beaten Hernandez in the runoff election votes 1,863 1,701, it was the mail-in votes harvested by Ozuna and Becerra (240 for Hernandez to 34 for Peña) that gave Hernandez the win.
Hernandez was declared the winner over Peña, who then sued and was "able to prove fraud, but due to Hernandez's abuse of the discovery process, was unable to prove a sufficient number of illegal votes to overturn the election.
"Hernandez and his wife (Norma), who is also a politiquera, avoided being served with subpoenas and did not attend the trial. The politiqueras also avoided service and absconded rather than appearing at trial. Numerous persons who supposedly voted by mail refused to appear at trial after being served..."
A judge decided that there would not be enough time for the lawsuit to be heard before Hernandez took office.
That was similar to the results of the Erin Hernandez Garcia and Yolanda Begum ran for Justice of the Peace last year. In a similar lawsuit filed by Begum against Garcia in the 357th District Court, Begum charged that Garcia, her family and network of politiqueras like Ozuna used numerous illegal tactics to obtain votes in the runoff: discarding or altering mail-in votes intended for Begum; paying personnel at adult day care centers and nursing homes to allow drivers to take vans full of voters, many elderly or mentally disabled and influencing their votes; taking mail-in ballots from voters; and offering meals and gift cards in exchange for votes.
“The Hernandez family, aided by their network of politiqueras, has stolen two consecutive Democratic primary runoff elections in Cameron County,” the election contest states, referring to this election and the 2010 runoff between Hernandez and Ruben Pena for the county commissioner seat," charged Begum's lawyers.
That case was also thrown out because the visiting judge ruled that if Garcia lost in court, she would not have time enough before she was to take office to appeal any adverse decision.
Next time around neither Hernandez nor Erin will have that vote cushion, the women swear. If each dog shall have his day, then Ernie and Erin might find out that heaven hath no fury like a politiquera scorned.

Friday, June 28, 2013


(For what it's worth, right before we published this post, we were notified that another local blogger, citing "very reliable sources" [the Cameron County District's Office?] had asserted that the grand jury had not issued an indictment against Commissioner Ernie Hernandez.)

By Juan Montoya
Courthouse sources indicate that Raul Salazar, Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner's Administrative Assistant,was arrested at his workplace today and taken into custody a day after a grand jury finished its probe into the alleged illegal hiring of the commissioner's brother-in-law Roberto Cadriel.
Hernandez was the last witness before the grand jury Thursday.
(Later in the day, the Brownsville Herald reported that "Raul Garza Salazar was indicted on one count of tampering with governmental records and two counts of abuse of official capacity, court records show.
The indictments pertain to a civil service test that Salazar is said to have ordered be taken on behalf of Robert Cadriel - Hernandez's brother-in-law - for a job with Cameron County.
The indictment also alleges that Salazar provided Cadriel with the answers to the civil service test.")

Salazar was issued $100,000 dollars in bonds for the abuse of officials capacity indictment but is expected to spend the night in jail to be arraigned for the tampering with a government record indictment.
It is instructive to know that all the the indictments handed down by the grand jury have not been released, possibly pending the arrest and booking of those who will be charged with offenses as determined by the jury.
Salazar, a longtime friend of Hernandez, was the Brownsville Fire Department Chief when Hernandez was a city commissioner. He left the department after he was indicted and convicted of abusing the power of his office to aid the fire department's fundraising efforts in 2002.
In a plea agreement with the Cameron County District Attorney's Office, Salazar pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of theft by a public servant.
In return, the Cameron County's district attorney's office agreed not to oppose probation at Salazar's  sentencing and he was ordered to pay back $10,000 in restitution to the fire department's Christmas Charity Fund and agreed to testify truthfully in any upcoming cases.
Salazar was indicted Jan. 9, 2002, on 13 felony counts listed in four indictments ranging from bribery to official abuse of capacity. The count of bribery, to which Salazar pleaded guilty, was accepting or agreeing to accept money from Seunghoon Lee, manager of El Gran Mercado on 1232 E. Elizabeth St., in exchange for not enforcing fire codes at the store.
Evidence introduced by the district attorney's office at the plea showed that the bribery was discovered when Lee bungled delivering an apparent payoff to Salazar.
The investigation into the August 2011 hiring of Cadriel and the subsequent resignation  of former HR interim director Robert Lopez raised questions about the commissioner's possible involvement in placing his brother in law in the position in violation of Civil Service rules.
The county probe indicate that it may have been someone in the HR office who took the exam the third time instead of Cadriel in violation of Civil Service rules.
The case stirred suspicions that the civil service process had been subverted to allow Cadriel to get a job as a non-commissioned security guard at Veterans Memorial Bridge even after he had flunked the civil service exam miserably twice. Tallying scores in the middle 30s, Cadriel then supposedly took it again and the third time it was a charm with a score in the upper 90s. Nobody swallowed that piece of work and the heat got to be too much for Cardriel who resigned after one day on the job. Then Lopez followed up and left the county.
No one expect that this will be the only indictment handed down by this grand jury.
Cadriel is the brother of Ernie's wife Norma. Salazar is Ernie's assistant. Salazar does what his boss tells him. Salazar is a convicted felon thankful that Hernandez has hired him on as his assistant. It is highly unlikely that Salazar would take it on his own to fix it so that someone would take the Civil Service exam so that Cadriel will be given a job as a security guard at the county.
You connect the dots. Whoever Salazar's attorney is will doubtless advice his client that as a convicted felon he can ill afford to have another conviction and take the fall for someone else. Stay tuned.


By Juan Montoya
Just as we suspected, the trustees of the Texas Southmost College and the representatives of the UT System are working out an agreement on the real estate and facilities that will keep both the community college and the four-year university just where they are.
Adela GarzaJuan This leads to the overwhelming question then: Just what was Da Mayor Tony Martinez and Rose Gowen up to when they placed two items on the city commission's agenda to give way City Plaza to the UTB and then to lease the Cueto Building for administrative offices.
Sandwiched neatly in between was the scheme to move all the functions (and personnel) of the city at City Plaza to the hulk of the Casa Del Nylon bargain-store front on Adams Street. Why?
Francisco Rene TorresOnce we found out that the fate of our city facilities would indirectly depend on the TSC trustees, we began to give a sigh of relief. If their past bargaining performance vis-a-vis the UT System behemoth was any measure, we're in good hands.
Ramon Champion HinojosaRobert Lonzano, M.D., PHDIt's difficult to see how anyone could put something past Trey Mendez, a downtown booster who knows the ins and outs of real estate in the city better than most, Kiko Rendon, a construction supervisor who can talk blueprints, costs and construction with the best, Rene Torres, a staunch defender of local residents, Adela Garza, who when she was on the TSC board minority gave no quarter and took none, Ray Hinojosa, a consultant on Valleywide educational facilities, and the two doctors Roberto Lozano and Reynaldo Garcia, who have taken a page from the majority and formed a united front in the community college dealings with the UT System.
Unlike the majority on the city commission who have been lulled to a stupor by the Martinez-Freed Rusteberg, Juliet Garcia-Carlos Marin siren song, this bunch takes nothing for granted when dealing with the slick city flatlanders who come down to the Valley trying to dazzle the rubes.
Raynaldo Garcia, DDSYou see, guys, there was no "urgency" to hand over city assets and facilities, approve millions in expenditures for real-estate speculation that benefit the mayor's friends and Garcia, or to give away the farm in the hope of appeasing the voracious UT System.
There was, we now learn, enough space for both institutions to survive side by side like "hermanitas" and provide accessible educational opportunities to all our residents.
Still, the UT System won't look a gift horse in the mouth and will probably accept the 58 acres of land that Martinez and the commission have offered as tribute for the staying in place. Included in that offer is Lincoln Park, which itself was a mitigation for its removal from the island in the resaca now under the US 77-83 overpass over International Boulevard leading to Los Tomates Bridge.
That, too, will have to be mitigated so that the park space that will be taken will be replaced for the citizens of Brownsville.
For the meanwhile, however, the designs of the four horsemen of pillage – Martinez-Rusteberg-Garcia-Marin – on city other assets have been thwarted. But you know the saying, the wicked never rest.
Take solace from the quote the local daily attributed to Trey Mendez: "TSC was going to do its part, not only to take care of the community as a junior college, but also to insure that the university was going to stay here in Brownsville."
Amen to that, brother.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


By Juan Montoya
Wouldn't you know it? An honest woman like our own City of Brownsville Commish Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa is doing her public duty and walking into City Hall when some "d*bag" confuses her for a working girl and puts the make on her.
According to our precocious miss, the suspect in the red car in the photo accosted her while he was passing by in his car (that red one in the picture) and allegedly invited her into his rolling parlor to see some of his sketches.
She says the perv perp hurled "insulting and derogatory comments" at her as she walked toward the doors of the old federal courthouse.
Cyberbod Sharon Guerrero tried to make light of it by saying "Was he willing to pay?"
George Treviño tried to allay our indignant miss and said the perp "probably read the Cheese's post on the mayor and the commissioners and he wanted to throw his two cents."
Not so, countered Jess: "No, no, he was being gross and wanted me to get n his car."
(And lest someone thinks we're making this up, those words come straight from the horse's mouth when she posted her comments on her FB page.)
Well, we never. 
Can you imagine that someone would put the make on a decent woman like out commissioner in downtown Browntown in broad daylight (well, actually toward evening) and confuse her for a lady of the night? What's the world coming to, uh?
On the other hand, maybe it is like Guerrero suggested that at her ripening age Tetreau-Kalifa can still swing for the fences. As they say in the barrio: "El que tiene pegue, tiene pegue."
Or maybe it could be that the high-heel stilettos and the blue mini might have had something to do with it?


By Juan Montoya
The United Brownsville bunch say they're all for civic engagement, participatory democracy and the people's right to choose their own representatives.
But as we found out with District 3 commissioner-elect Deborah Portillo, sometimes their actions speak louder than their words.
In Portillo's case, we found out before the election that she had not bothered to vote in municipal election until she ran for office even though she is 28 years old. In fact, she never even voted in the election two years ago that put her benefactor Mayor Tony Martinez in office.
We also found out that even though United Brownsville encourages political participation, one of the co-chairs of the group is none other than IBC President Fred Rusteberg who just happens to live in the Rancho Viejo Resort, outside the Brownsville City limits. Word is Fred is building himself a new crib in Browntown.
One of the anchors of United Brownsville, UTB President Juliet Garcia, is also trying to sell her $929,000 two-story beach condominium on South Padre Island and keeping the old Pan-Am president's house she was allowed to buy for a song through a special dispensation of the Texas Legislature. Her buddy Rusteberg provided the financing.
Now we find that Mike "Miguel" Gonzalez, the executive director of United Brownsville (and former Mayor of Kyle), voted in the May 2013 city council election in Kyle and maintains a residence there with his wife Linda.
Neither has ever voted in a local election in Cameron County or in Brownsville. There's every good reason for that. They're both still registered in Hayes County.
In fact, even though Gonzalez has been the executive director of United Brownsville since April 2011, he and his wife voted in the early elections in Kyle May 6, 2013. In fact, he voted in the in May 2011, a month after Rusteberg announced he had been picked as the executive director of the shadow government organization.
One of the anchor "Initiatives" of United Brownsville is listed on their website as "CIVIC AND LEADERSHIP: WHAT ARE WE DOING?," and states that: This initiative is based on a very simple premise: an engaged and civically-minded community is a prerequisite for a quality community."
So why is it that the Cameron County Elections Office does not have its executive director or his wife listed as registered voters in Cameron County? However, the Hayes County Elections Office has Miguel and  LInda Gonzalez listed as registered voters there. In addition, the Hayes Appraisal District lists them as owners of a home at 116 Fall Creek Dr., in Kyle.
Perhaps what attracted Rusteberg's eye to Gonzalez were his Tea Party credentials. He is the former  mayor of Kyle, and  resigned in December 2009 to unsuccessfully seek the Republican nomination for a seat on the Hays County commissioners court.
Initially, the United Brownsville Coordinating Board awarded him a one-year contract at $6,500 a month, or $78,000 for 12 months, to assist in the implementation of strategies identified in Imagine Brownsville, the hodge-podge comprehensive plan bandied as the blueprint for the city's future. Inquiries on his present salary to his office have gone unanswered.
United Brownsville is financed primarily though "membership" dues of $25,000 donated by he city of Brownsville, Brownsville Public Utilities Board, Brownsville Navigation District, Brownsville Independent School District (BISD), University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, Brownsville Community Improvement Corp. and Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation.
Just recently, the BISD refused to contribute the $25,000 annual "dues." Cameron County has never been a member or donor to the group.
When he was hired, Gonzalez said his primary aim was to create jobs. So far, it's hard to see which jobs this bunch has created aside from Gonzalez's assistants and the lobbying firm of Patton Boggs LLP which was paid $75,000 for three months of work.
More and more, it seems, Brownsville is becoming a "bedroom" community with people from the outside  the city coming in like gigolos, screwing us, and taking our money.
By the way, did you know that as of March 2012 Brownsville had become a (paying?) member of something called the South Texas International Economic Development Alliance out of San Marcos, Gonzalez's stomping grounds?
And if the executive director – after more than two years of milking the cash cow called the city and people of Brownsville – doesn't care enough about its political life or leadership to cast a vote, just why are all those publicly funded entities still handing out their $25,000?
More importantly, why should anyone support these absentee overlords?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


By Juan Montoya
Multiple sources close to law enforcement and the courts have confirmed that Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Ernie Hernandez and his assistant Raul Salazar are testifying today before a grand jury investigating the alleged illegal hiring of his brother-in-law Roberto Cadriel.
According to these sources, Hernandez was scheduled to testify before the grand jury last week but a previously scheduled trip to Corpus Christi for a county officials' conference had prevented him from appearing. When he returned to Brownsville after he was warned to appear, there was no stenographer
available and his testimony was required today.
Nonetheless, his and Salazar's appearance before the grand jury indicates that Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz has been preparing to subpoena both men and at least 20 other to get to the bottom of the hiring of the brother of Norma Hernandez, the commissioner's wife, as a non-armed security guard at the Veterans Memorial Bridge owned and operated by the county.
The investigation into the August 2011 hiring of Ernie's brother-in-law and the subsequent resignation  of former HR interim director Robert Lopez raised questions about the commissioner's possible involvement in placing his brother in law in the position in violation of Civil Service rules.
The case stirred suspicions that the civil service process had been subverted to allow Cadriel to get a job as a non-commissioned security guard at Veterans Memorial Bridge even after he had flunked the civil service exam miserably twice. Tallying scores in the middle 30s, Cadriel then supposedly took it again and the third time it was a charm with a score in the upper 90s. Nobody swallowed that piece of work and the heat got to be too much for Cardriel who resigned after one day on the job. Then Lopez followed up and left the county.
Sources close to the county probe indicate that it may have been someone in the HR office who took the exam the third time instead of Cadriel. They indicate that some of those involved then were called to testify and were questioned by DA investigator Gus Garza.
It is noteworthy that both Cadriel and Salazar have been in legal trouble before.
Cadriel was found guilty of a felony and Salazar – former acting Brownsville Fire Chief and Fire Marshal – has had to live down a conviction himself having to do with abusing the power of his office to aid the fire department's fundraising efforts in 2002.
In a plea agreement with the Cameron County District Attorney's Office, Salazar pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of theft by a public servant.
In return, the Cameron County's district attorney's office agreed not to oppose probation at Salazar's  sentencing if he is ordered to pay back $10,000 in restitution to the fire department's Christmas Charity Fund and agreed to testify truthfully in any upcoming cases.
Salazar was indicted Jan. 9, 2002, on 13 felony counts listed in four indictments ranging from bribery to official abuse of capacity. The count of bribery, to which Salazar pleaded guilty, was accepting or agreeing to accept money from Seunghoon Lee, manager of El Gran Mercado on 1232 E. Elizabeth St., in exchange for not enforcing fire codes at the store.
Evidence introduced by the district attorney's office at the plea showed that the bribery was discovered when Lee bungled delivering an apparent payoff to Salazar.
In the case relating to the Cadriel, there were some leaks from the county that there were some affidavits on record from some bridge employees that then-Human Resources director Robert Lopez or one of his representatives had told them that Hernandez wanted his his brother-in-law hired.
News stories from 2006, when Cadriel was employed by the City of Brownsville as a code enforcement officer, indicate he was indicted by a Cameron County grand jury following an investigation into allegations that he and another city employee abused their positions by soliciting and taking bribes from local mechanic shop owners between 2005 and 2006. They were accused of selling building permits. Cadriel was charged with various counts under a law preventing a gift to a public servant by a person subject to his jurisdiction, abuse of official capacity, and tampering with governmental records. He was convicted on six of the counts. He also has a felony theft conviction dating to the 1980s.
County observers expect that Salazar may well fall on the sword for Hernandez as a show of gratitude for having hired him as his admin assistant even with a felony conviction. Salazar and Hernandez's acquaintance goes back to the many years that Hernandez was city commissioner and Salazar was a Fire Department employee.
"We may see Teflon Ernie emerging from this unscathed," said a county courthouse watcher. "It depends on what other evidence the grand jury gathers from the other witnesses before them whether he (and his wife Norma) escape unscathed from this without an indictment." 


By Juan Montoya
Why id City of Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez falling over himself trying to give away our city's assets to the Juliet Garcia's University of Texas at Brownsville?
Yesterday, after it was revealed during the city's regular meeting that Texas Southmost College and the University of Texas were negotiating to rent or lease buildings for the new and improved Super-Duper University of the Americas at Brownsville, the item he had placed on the agenda to rent the Cueto Building to UTB for administrative offices was pulled from discussion.
In this past two weeks Tony has had a slump. It was only last week that the city administration had to pull off another item dealing with city real estate being leased, rented or just "transferred" to the UTB. This time – even though he would be the last to admit it – he was trying to his damnest to give away City Plaza, the heart of municipal operations.
It's bad enough that he has gotten the tacit acquiescence of the rest of the city commission to give away "donate" 58 acres of prime real estate to the oil-and-gas wealthy UT System so they wouldn't move away from downtown. That was the justification he has used to rush (and take the rest of the city commissioners) into a binge of real estate speculation that has seen the local taxpayer be encumbered with at least $3.2 million in debt through the issuance of Certificates of Obligation to make the purchases.
As a local wag has said, he is spending other people's money like it was other people's money. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. And what for?
As a fellow member of Juliet Garcia on the United Brownsville shadow government, he has not realized that she has been relegated to the backwater of higher education and Brownsville made a satellite campus to the administration in Edinburg's UT Pan-Am.
As the devout catholic believer that he seeks to portray himself as, he should take his faith's tenets and "stop praying at the altar of a dead idol."
That dog, as a more secular Texan would say, won't hunt no mo'.
The tabled agenda item deal with entering the UTB and city into a The four-year lease that would grant the University of Texas Board of Regents the Cueto Building and the adjacent Lucena House for general office and educational use beginning Sept. 1. The Lucena Building is now occupied by the offices of the United Brownsville executive director and staff. The Cueto Building is now housing the UTB's Center for Civic Engagement.
According to the local daily, "In lieu of paying $10 per square foot annually in rent, the terms of the lease stipulate that the tenant will make parking lot improvements to the property adjacent to the leased property. The lease also dictates that there are four one-year options included in the lease, each with a base rate of $10 per square foot annually or about $92,580 per year."
This is very enlightening because the city is currently renting the property adjacent to the Cueto and Lucena buildings at $2,500 per month for three years, which means that it will pay the renter $90,000 after those 36 months. The rental agreement with the owner stipulates that after the three-year rental is over, the city has an option to buy at a fair market value. But now that the city wants to let UTB have the property in return for them paving the parking lot, this means that they thought the UTB parking lot paving and the rent the city pays would be a wash.
Unfortunately, Tony will have to wait until the dust clears this Thursday when the final TSC-UTB bargaining for rental or sale of TSC buildings is over before he can fall over himself to give the store away.


By Juan Montoya
Expect Sharon S. Putegnat and her cadre of Healthy Communities of Brownsville sympathizers to be out in force at the next Hands Across the River celebration during Charro Days.
Putegnat, in her half-page editorial published in today's Brownsville Herald "Your Voices" section, railed against gaily colored inflatable balloons as one of the human creations  "lethal" to man and beast. She said that despite their colorful appearance, "balloons do not go to heaven...Up, Up, and Away...Not!!!"
That bunch is nursing their ulcers and insomnia brought on by such things as discarded cigarette butts (toxic and don't decompose), balloons, discarded gum (unsightly, and deadly to birds), and plastic bags and bottles (kill marine animals and don't decompose).
We all want to contribute to a better planet, we guess. But given the "traditional easterly trade winds," as the Chamber of Commerce Sunshine Boys used to say, unless we get a rare northern whatever balloons float away from the Hands Across the River are going to blow toward the west away from sea turtles and feral children. And next time you have a birthday party remember her words that "according to research, no child under age of 8 should be left unsupervised with a balloon."
And lest you decide to discard a piece of gum as you enter a building, she says those become unsightly dots on the pavement that an innocent bird could mistake for food and end up stuck to the sidewalk or worse, choke on the wad because, research has shown, birds have no teeth!
We've all gone through the trauma of the plastic bag ban at local grocery stores. Rather than buy a reusable bag every time you dart in the store to buy bread and milk (or if you're obese, flour tortillas and a Coke), you emerge with the stuff in your hands looking for your car because while fretting over carrying the stuff in your hands, you forget where you parked.
As far as the cigarette butts, that is a double-edged sword. Remember that the City of Brownsville passed an ordinance that prohibited smoking inside any establishment in the city. If you are in a bar and want to have a smoke, you must go outside at least 20 feet away from the entrance and engage in your filthy habit. If it happens to be a sidewalk with people passing by, they'll get a whiff of nicotine and countless carcinogens they otherwise would not have gotten if the ban was not in place.
And once you're done with your cigarette, what do you do with the butt?
When smoking in bars was legal, there was a handy ashtray that workers periodically emptied in an trash can that eventually ended up in a dumpster and in the city landfill. Most bars in town don't provide a can of sand 20 feet from their entrance, so the toxic and fauna-lethal butts end up constituting the equivalent of toxic IED's to animals wandering through the streets and alleys of the city. So for the sake of alley cats and stray dogs, carry a napkin where you can wrap you butts and gum and wait until you're next to a receptacle to discard them.
Ok. So plastics, balloons, gum and butts are next four horsemen of the apocalypse according to Ms. Putegnat. Her counterpart Rose Timmer is waging a crusade against soft drinks, candy and everything with any animal fat content. So far, the sacred cows of barbacoa de cabeza, carnitas, tamales, hot dogs and hamburgers, chamoyadas, raspas, and just about everything else that is fun and tasty. These guys would have railed against apple pie if they had been around when it became a slice of Americana.
I have a friend who says he agrees with Putegnat, Tony Martinez and even Rose Timmer about the problem with butts.
"I'm tired of Martinez, Putgeant and Timmer butting into my life and telling me what I can eat smoke or put into my body," he said. "If you ask me, they should just butt out of other people's lives."
Meanwhile, the population of Brownsville is suffering from illiteracy, cartel-related violence, high dropout rates, teen pregnancies, drug addictions, unemployment, judicial and official corruption, and entrenched economic class of elitists who think they are entitled to loot the public treasury.
But those are such small things compared to Killer Balloons, uh?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


By Juan Montoya
I'd be lying if I was to say that I'm a big fan of barbacoa de cabeza.
Each Sunday you can see the lines forming at the well-known places all over town that specialize in this typical Sunday fare. Entire families crowd around the doors of these establishments to purchase a few pounds of the steamed beef-head meat. They either drive through the places or emerge from the stores and restaurants with brown paper bags spotted dark with the grease from this delicacy.
Add in a few dozen corn tortillas, salsa, cilantro and diced onions, and presto! you have the traditional South Texas Sunday barbacoa.
As I said, I'm no fan. Oh, yeah, I will partake of a taquito or two, but just looking at the grease coagulating on the wax paper makes my heart hurt.
However, as the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
I was in the middle of the Michigan peninsula (the Middle of the Mitten) in the mid-1980s working for a Saginaw paper and living near Mt. Pleasant about an hour and a half away. In those days the Mexican food craze hadn't reached out in to the Michigama hinterlands. If you wanted fresh menudo or even barbacoa, you just about had to cook it yourself. That opportunity presented itself one night when my late father-in-law and my cuñados – all of them Chippewa Tribe members – went out hunting for a deer on their 80 allotted acres. Unlike many Natives, they hadn't clear-cut all their property so the Bureau of Indian Affairs could not rent them to local farmers for a song and instead kept them in their natural state of tall pine and thick underbrush. It was an ideal habitat for animals, not few of which were entire herds  of white-tail deer.
Natives are allowed to hunt on their allotted property without restrictions year-round, a throwback to the old treaties that allowed them to hunt for subsistence any time of the year.
About an hour or so after they left they returned with a large doe. They set about to skin it and hung it from its hind legs to a nearby tree as they set about to butcher it. I was watching them as they did it and after they cut off the head, I asked them what they were going to do with it.
"We'll give it to the dogs," they answered and were about to heave it nearby when I asked them if I could have it.
"What for," they asked.
"I'm going to make barbacoa out of it," I said to their startled looks.
Since it was the dead of winter the ground was frozen hard and there was no way that I could even get a spade into the ground, I skinned the head of hide and hair and wrapped it in thick aluminum foil. I made a small hole at the top an prepared some spiced which I mixed in water and poured it into the opening. I then set the oven at 350 degrees and forgot about it for the rest of the night.
My late mother-in-law had heard about me asking for the doe's head and had wandered over to see what her crazy Mexican son-in-law was going to do with the doe's head. When she came in the door, she was met by the glazed-eye gaze of the doe head resting on the oven's open door, it's tongue hanging out of one side of its mouth.
"Geez, Faithy," she asked her daughter genuinely frightened. "What is that?"
In the morning the household woke up to the fragrance of freshly-made barbacoa. The thin bones of the doe's head literally slid off the tender, succulent flesh. Since the doe was a woodland animal and ate the foliage of the Michigan forest, there was little, if any, fat at all on the carcass.
The smell wafted through the nearby homes and it wasn't long before my in-laws and cuñados were crowding int eh door to investigate. My ex had learned how to make flour tortillas by hand under the tutelage on my mom in Brownsville and a fresh batch was coming off the comal. I had cooked up a green salsa and the plates were ready.
When my mother-in-law entered the door attracted by the smell, I pulled up the chair of honor and placed a fresh flour tortilla with barbacoa before her.
"In honor of your place of respect for our elders we saved the eyes for you," I told her.
It was a while before we could convince her that I had only been kidding.


By Juan Montoya
Every once in a while City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria likes to get on what he thinks is his bilingual soapbox and stammer his way through Spanish in a dismal effort to show he can communicate with his Southmost constituency.
He will wax eloquently through a few phrases, stumble, correct himself in English, and then trudge through and pick up the Spanish thread again, in his vain effort to demonstrate that a kid from the barrio can handle the language like an arcane Real Academia Española de Madrid scholar.
It convinces no one, but in the high-ceilinged old federal courthouse, it probably resonates like music in a cathedral to his ears.
Tonight he has a chance to take to the soapbox again during the mandatory public hearing to be held at City Hall – 1001 E. Elizabeth, Second Floor – to use and mangle the language to his liking in defense of his community.
The item reads: 8. FIRST Public Hearing for the proposed 2012/2013 HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program Funding allocation. (Stephanie Reyes – Grants)
The "substantial" part of the amendment is the proposal to shift $535,000 from a construction of the planned Southmost Community Center (Dome) to provide hurricane protection to that community and add $300,000 to the Oliveira Skate Park's $150,000 and another $235,000 to meet the needs of additional amenities to the Portway Acres Park which was originally programmed for $107,692.
According to the notation included in the proposed amendment submitted for consideration to the city commission by Stephanie Reyes, Director of Grants Management and Community Development Department, the money originally allotted for the Southmost project will be scavenged to benefit other part of the city "due to the delay in procuring architectural services for the Southmost Community Center..."
Reyes doesn't explain who's to fault for the delay, or whether the administration knew that such domes are quite common now along the Texas coast and could have easily been acquired by local firms.
Of the $750,000 proposed for the hurricane protection dome/community center, only $215,000 will be left, not enough apparently, to even begin to think about building it as hurricane season approaches.
According to municipal sources, there will be three domes built in the city. One will go to the Sports Park. Another will go somewhere on Central Boulevard, and another in Southmost.
Adding to the confusion is the agenda action item included by Asst. City Manager Jeff Johnson.
29.  Consideration  and  ACTION to  award  a  contract for  Architectural  and Engineering  Services
for the  construction of two (2)  Safety Shelter Domes at the Brownsville Public Library Main Branch  and  Southmost  Branch  Library  (Dr-1791-361  &  DR-1791-362).  (Jeff Johnston -Assistant City Manager).
Community Development's Reyes has proposed that the Southmost project will be delayed for another year and be included in the 2013-2014 year when funding becomes available in October.
Are we to assume that the remaining $215,000 in the Southmost project will now be awarded and the construction delayed until after October because of the delay in acquiring these services?
The amendment document justifies the increase in the other projects with the money meant for Southmost with letters written by City of Brownsville Comprehensive Planning Manager who says that after the public hearing held at Portway Acres, he wants the money to go there.
The Oliveira Skate Park amendment is requested by City of Brownsville Director of Parks and Recreation Department who also cites a public hearing held where "young and veteran skate board enthusiasts" and skate park contractors (American Ramp) convinced him that the city should fleece the Southmost barrio of $300,000 to build a state-of-the art skate facility to allay their desires to have a nice place to play.
Nowhere in the document is there any mention of any public hearing held in the Southmost area to determine whether the residents there were OK with having the money go for hurricane protection for their neighborhoods be siphoned off for such crucial necessities as a $450,000 place for skaters to hang out.
"The contractors were on hand at the Public Input Meeting to incorporate the comments and suggestions from the public...," Patterson wrote.
This is the same Patterson who was rooked by the rap group from Houston who got paid up front and then reneged on the concert they were supposed to perform. Remember? If a street-wise black rapper from Houston could beguile Chris, what can we expect from slick contractors who said the paltry sum of $150,000 wouldn't cut the mustard to give the "young and veteran skate board enthusiasts" the quality recreational needs they deserve?
Both Patterson and Gonzalez buttressed their arguments in the guise of preventing crime and giving neighborhood youth an alternative to criminal activity. In other words, "If we don't make this substantial amendment and take this $535,000 from the Southmost area and give them what they want, why we might be inducing these impressionable youth to a life of crime."
If ever there was a time for an elected official and community leader to make a stand for the people of Southmost and clear this up, this would seem the appropriate time, ne c'est pas? 
Oops, wrong language.

Monday, June 24, 2013


By Juan Montoya
A jury sentenced a 34-year-old Rio Hondo man represented by Cameron County Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez to 50 years in prison after he slammed his car into another and killed a Harlingen woman.
All through the trial, Sanchez had blamed the Harlingen Police Department officers who were involved in the high-speed chase of Eric Christopher Gonzalez who slammed into Maria Osorio and Javier Osornio on the intersection of Ed Carey and Highway 77 on March 24, 2011. Maria Osorio was pronounced dead at the hospital and her husband sustained major injuries.
Harlingen police attempted to stop Gonzalez for a traffic violation that morning authorities said. But he took police on a high-speed chase that ended when he ran a red light and hit the victim’s car, authorities said.
Gonzalez was also found guilty and sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault, 20 years for evading arrest, and two years for possession of marijuana, all sentences to run concurrently.
The convicted man's wife will also be tried for murder. Gonzalez also has a  pending case for unlawful possession of a firearm.
District Attorney prosecutors say that Gonzalez never inquired about the victims' well-being, but instead repetitively asked officers for his wallet, which was left inside his vehicle.
“The jury made the right decision in rejecting defense attorney Dan Sanchez’s repeated claim that the victim’s death was the fault of the Harlingen Police Department,” District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said.
But the drama didn't end there. All  through the trial, Priscilla Guarjardo, who works in Judge David Sanchez's 444th District Court, was in the audience. The judge is the commissioner's brother. 
Court spectators say that during a break in the trial, the woman rose to give Sanchez a bottle of water and Saenz turned around and asked her why she wasn't working at her office instead of sitting in the courtroom as a water carrier for Dan Sanchez, her boss' brother.
"She glanced up at him and left the courtroom as fast as she could," said the spectator. "When the court reconvened, she never returned."
Sanchez, a practicing attorney, not only lost his case and had his client sentenced to 50 years, but also had to suffer the indignity of having to go for water himself and not have the county taxpayers for a personal water carrier.


By Juan Montoya
Although the case lists the City of Rancho Viejo and Falcon International Bank as defendants and Golf and Resorts Investments (GRI) as the plaintiff, the battle has been joined by at least 28 member-residents of the golf residential resort who say both the town and the GRI have acted in bad faith and are already prepared to build homes on the golf courses there.
In a case filed May 28 in the 107th District Court, the intervenors say they are seeking temporary and permanent injuctive relief from the court to stop the city and GRI from following their plans to raze a golf course, build single-family residences on it and to build a wall to separate the new development.
One of the principals of GRI is Sergio Arguelles, the maquiladora and industrial park magnate from Matamoros who owns a good chunk of the resort and who wants to build the walled compound on parts of the golf courses.
However, the intervenors say that they are residents/landowners with a financial interest in preserving the characterization of the community as a peaceful resort community with two 18-hole golf courses and/or club members who have been promised and charged for two 18-hole golf courses..."
The suit harks back to 1983 when RanchoViejo, Inc. (RVI), the predecessor to GRI, filed a lawsuit against the city due to the zoning restrictions because RVI wanted to change some of its property to residential lots, although zoned in the "recreational district."
This past February 25, 2013, GRI filed a petition for declaratory judgment against town and its aldermen. Specifically, GRI sought a declaration to "eliminate the uncertainty regarding how to proceed with an application to re-zone a portion of the real property in light of the legal impossibility of holding the required referendum."
The parties reached a settlement of the initial lawsuit on September 26, 1986. The first part of the settlement laid out the terms. The second part  of the settlement gave RVI and its successors the opportunity to submit its proposed zoning changes under strict compliance with State laws.The intervenors claim that the settlement was contingent upon certain conditions being fulfilled, which included:
1) The joinder by Rio Grande Savings and Loan Association, mortgagee of the property in the proposed restrictions.
(2) The final approval by the Town of Rancho Viejo of the zoning change requests of all of the real property, and
(3) The submission of the plat of the real property described in the agreement
The settlement stated that "Rancho Viejo, Inc. and/or its successors and will have the right to apply to the Board of Alderman for re-zoning of that area at some time in the future."
The 28 residents say that although GRI conveniently inserted land "(covered by the land-use restriction)" they say this is not what the settlement stated, and instead states very clearly that: "the real property depicted on Exhibit "A" as Areas 17 and 18 and containing approximately 6.669 acres is neither being re-zoned, platted, nor made subject to the Land Use restriction (Golf Course dedication)."
The settlement, they charge, did not give RVI, or it successors, such as GRI, authority for the right to apply to the Board of Alderman for re-zoning of the area generally known as the Diablo and Angel Golf Courses. Further, they say that RVI descriptively identified five different parcels of real property, and generally identified all five parcels as the Diablo and Angel Golf Courses. RVI emphasized that it wished to restrict those five parcels of land to recreational use, primarily that of golf courses.
RVI is so clear on its intent, they say, that it went so far as to essentially create a restrictive deed, because it states that "[t]his restriction shall run with the land and furthermore shall be binding upon Rancho Viejo, Inc., its successors or assigns."
RVI at the time agreed that "the Land Use Restriction may not be revoked or amended except with the written consent and joinder of the Town of Rancho Viejo, acting through the Board of Alderman or the equivalent thereof, should the form of government change, which consent and joinder will be given only after a referendum within the Town is held, submitting the proposed change to the voters and the same is approved by Two-Thirds (2/3) of the votes cast at said election."
Both RVI and the town gained from settling out of court. RVI was able to rezone some of its properly, and the town secured an ever-binding covenant, which runs with the land, and which guarantees the town and its residents that Angel and Diablo will always remain as golf courses.
There was no mutual mistake in the execution of this settlement, they say. It's a binding contract and both parties are bound to what these documents assert. Further, the intervenors say that as members, they are intended beneficiaries under the law.
In addition, they say that RVI has  misinterpreted what the settlement  actually states. The settlement states that it may only be revoked or amended should the residents of Rancho Viejo wish to do so.
"At this time the residents neither wish to join or give their consent for GRI to re-zone the Diablo and Angel golf courses. Furthermore, when GRI bought RVI in December 2011 membership soared. Old
members have always been promised and have always had access to two golf courses, Angel and Diablo. New members, those who have joined since December 2011, joined under the misrepresentation that two golf courses would be included in membership.
"On or about January 2013, the Angel Golf Course was shut down and members were given fliers and were
sent e-mails mat GRI was aerating and essentially beautifying that course. This was also addressed in the March newsletter. Since that announcement was made, members and residents have witnessed dirt being shifted from one side of Angel and dumped off on the other, the golf course has never looked worse and all of the ponds on this side of Rancho Viejo have been drained, forcing wildlife elsewhere and creating an eyesore for us residents and members.
They claim that both the City and GRI attempted to keep the suit hidden from residents and club members, in an attempt to push it through the court system and rid intervenors of their rights.
During a meeting May 14, the residents confronted the aldermen and city attorney Daniel Rentfro who told them that they hadn't been informed until the city knew what was going to happen in a court hearing June 11. At that hearing, GRI was seeking a declaratory judgement on their plans for rezoning. Since Rentfro's response was just a general denial without defenses, the residents did not believe him when he said that "this lawsuit would not change the zoning currently in place."
"Intervenors believe that (GRI) and (the city) worked out a deal behind closed doors, which would allow (GRI) to rezone Angel and Diablo into a residential compound; thus, destroying the club for members and Rancho Viejo in general...(GRI) has already had the land marked off and has shown plans to numerous residents. This is a done deal in (GRI's) mind."
Te residents requested that the court "make temporary orders for the preservation of the rights of the parties, and further issue orders dismantling construction on the golf courses pending final resolution of the claims. They further request from the court an order prohibiting retaliation against their membership in the club and enjoining the city from agreeing to entry of a declaratory judgement as requested by GRI.
So far, at least two judges have recused themselves from the proceedings.


By Juan Montoya
A legal tug-of-war has resulted over DNA evidence used by former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos to convict Mazz frontsman Joe Lopez in 2006.
In the latest salvo in the case (NO. 2013-DCL-00210-I), Lopez's appellate attorney Timothy Hootman filed a motion June 10 in the 445th District Court to compel a deposition from a member of the DA's office who has personal knowledge of the timeliness of the A key fact issue in this case is the date that the office of the timeliness of the DA's office to repsnd to the release of the evidence.
When Joe Lopez requested the evidence, his attorneys stated that Vilklalobos failed to respond to their request in a timely manner and that as a result the state had waived certain rights.
His successor Luis Saenz has taken the position that Villalobos had requested an Attorney General opinion letter in a timely manner, despite the finding that the Attorney General stated in its opinion letter that respondent's answer to the request was not timely.
"Untimeliness results in waiver of certain defenses that respondent, would otherwise be entitled to assert," Hootman charged in his motion.
Lopez then requested dates to take the deposition "of the person in respondent's office most knowledgeable about the timeliness of the request for an Attorney General opinion letter, but was told that no such person would be provided for deposition absent a court order."
He is now requesting that the court to order respondent to make available for deposition the person in respondent's office most knowledgeable about the timeliness of the request for an Attorney, and asks the court to compel the DA's office to produce the person and make him available to be deposed by Lopez's attorneys.
The DNA evidence has become central to the Lopez appeal because his supporters say that the DNA evidence that was presented at court may have been contaminated because a p[air of shorts allegeldy containing bodily fluids had been mixed together with the family's other dirty laundry in a plastic trash bags some three months before it was introduced at trial.
The Lopez defense team included local attorney Mike Trejo, who during the Villalobos bribery and racketeering trial, was said by the government to have acted as a conduit for a referral fee by attorneys the law firm of Michael Cowen and  Conrad Bodden for Villalobos referring a 2005 civil case involving his sister-in-law’s death.
The case was settled for a substantial amount in April 2006. According to prosecutors, Villalobos received a referral fee in two checks, one for $60,000 and the other for $96,000.
The $60,000 check was made payable to attorney Trejo, who was not involved with the case, but funneled the money to Villalobos, the court record states.
Lopez's family said that when the DNA evidence was introduced by Villalobos at his trial some three months later, neither Trejo nor his fellow counsel Michael Young introduced rebuttal witnesses to question the validity of the evidence.
Later, they said that they had hired a private investigator who said he had gathered enough evidence to call the validity of the DNA samples into question. That investigator said he had the evidence but was awaiting a payment from the singer and would not release it without the payment or consent.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


By Juan Montoya
There's trouble brewing in the old ranch.
That's right. A movement is afoot among the residents of Rancho Viejo to thwart the designs of Sergio Arguelles, the maquiladora and industrial park magnate from Matamoros who owns a good chunk of the resort to build more residences on parts of the golf course there.
Arguelles, linked to former Matamoros mayor and Tamaulipas Governor Tomas Yarrington as a "prestanombres," is said to have designs to build over the golf course he now owns with new homes.
In January, the Mexican Procuradoria General de la Republica (PGR), the equivalent of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, issued a directive restricting the movement out of the country of three former Tamaulipas governors and 43 other people for their alleged connections to organized crime.
The list included many prominent former government bureaucrats and not a few businessmen.
Among those was Arguelles, known as the "King of the Maquilas," one of Matamoros' most prominent businessmen with extensive business and real estate holdings in Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley, including numerous properties in Rancho Viejo, South Padre Island and McAllen.
He also happens to have been named as the Matamoros counterpart to United Brownsville.
A University of Texas at Brownsville Business School recognition of Arguelles' deeds reads so:
"The recent acquisition of Rancho Viejo Country Club increases FINSA’s presence in the U.S."
Various news accounts in the Mexican media say that the elder Arguelles is known in narcopolitico circles and that his $4 million purchase of Ranco Viejo, where he lives now, was made from questionable sources.
When he was honored by UTB, among the sponsors were  Brownsville's Public Utility Board, the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), Ambiotech, Burton, McCumber and Cortez, Cardenas Development, Fred Rusteberg's International Bank of Commerce (listed in a DEA complaint as one of the banks that funneled millions in drug profits from Matamoros to San Antonio), FINSA, and Gobar Systems, among others.
The details surrounding Arguelles' involvement as a front man for Yarrington have not been released.
However, some of the companies and corporations associated with Yarrington in South Texas are:
Cano y Gracia Financial Group; AGM Financial Group; Pesquera Investments; Royalty Homes; Lakeway 2; Grupo Premier; Ramos and Gracia Investments; RGC Development; Cantera-Parway Development Partners; Albens Group Premier International Holding, South PI AJCG; SPI Palace Sudivision Condominium Development; SPI Ling and Marlin Townhome Project, the majority of the properties are located in Brownsville and South Padre Island.
However, some homeowners at the resort have let Arguelles know that they will not take his plans for their resort lying down and are actively opposing the construction plans.
They have already sought legal representation to forge a plan to oppose the plans. An email sent by the group states:
"Hello, we are like you! We're very upset, we think this is not right. We will send to the town a letter with all the names and address, like "support" them; but is the opposed, we want to let them know, that we count like owners. Please send us you address."
Will the world-famous golf resort be filled with the sounds of hammers and electric saws? Or will the homeowners thwart the plans of the millionaire?


By Juan Montoya
If you thought Mayor Tony Martinez was a self-righteous autocrat before Saturday's election, hang on for the next two years as he enters it with a super majority with the election win of Deborah Portillo in the District 3 runoff.
If the election-day results were any indication of the sentiments of the electorate, it is obvious that the voters who turned out Saturday were well aware that a Portillo victory will mean that Tony can do just about anything he wants from now on.
Portillo's 687 votes – 501 during early voting – were enough to overcome Sarkis' 535 to to replace Commissioner Melissa Zamora on the commission.
Portillo received 501 early votes to Sarkis’ 304. Sarkis totals on Election Day were 230 of the 413 ballots cast.
Now, those 687 votes did give Portillo the win, but put into context, it really wasn't a "mandate" by any stretch of the imagination. We think we heard Cameron County Elections Administrator Chris Davis say that there are some 20,000 voters in District three. The 687 votes make up a paltry 3.435 percent of that population. But the added vote on the mayor's side of the ledger give him the power to do and undo as he sees fit.
Rumors circulating at City Hall have focused on City manager Charlie Cabler getting the boot and perhaps Finance Officer Pete Gonzalez as well as Martinez sets to solidify his control and lays his plans out for the city's future.
It is obvious that the nonprofit that has the mayor's ear – United Brownsville – will have a free hand to wheel and deal for themselves and the benefit of the inside crowd around IBC President Fred Rusteberg, UTB President Julieta Garcia, and Carlos Marin, the Matamoros transplant who has engineered most of the city's business his way. His Ambiotech has city business cornered for the past few years and it's bound to get even cozier with Martinez firmly in the saddle with Portillo's vote.
Portillo, if you will recall, started her working career as an executive secretary for United Brownsville's CEO Mike Gonzalez. With Martinez, commissioner John Villarreal, Rose Gowen and Estela Chavez-Vasquez on the United Brownsville board, it has become increasingly clear that the United Brownsville tail is wagging the dog at City Hall.
Now, even if the citizens and the majority of the people in the city are against the city speculating in real-estate deals for downtown properties, it's a sure bet that this new commissioner won;t be the one to speak up an d voice their concerns.
It is doubtful that once the United Brownsville power play gets rolling at full strength, it won't be Ms. Portillo voicing an independent opinion against the hand that fed her. The city commission is supposed to represent all the residents of the city and to look out for their interest. This United Brownsville bunch has shown that it pays lip service to the rights of representative government and more about steering the resources of the city toward special interests.
Remember when Martinez was bamboozled during a trip to Florida where a slick salesman sold him on the idea that Brownsville had been "chosen" to participate in a banner promotion? Tony – on his own – accepted the prestigious "recognition" on behalf of the city and basically handed over the resources of the city to that outfit. Before long, the salesman – armed with an introductory letter from Da Mayor and Cabler to encourage local businesses to buy into the scam – showed up with a comely Stilettos lass in tow. When local business people began asking questions of City Hall, it was learned that city contract attorney Mark Sossi had played a part in opening the doors to the group on Tony's behalf, perhaps even finding the babe for him to convince local business to buy into the program.
Now, if a loony salesman can flummox the mayor so easily, can you imagine what bill of goods he has been sold by Tenaska on the $200 million electric power plant the city wants to build in partnership with them?
Look out guys. There is about to be a run on city resources, property and future debt. Right now Martinez wants to give up City Plaza to Juliet Garcia (also on the board of United Brownsville) so she can have her offices there.
Who did we elect to represent us and protect our interests? We sure didn't elect Martinez to give away the assets of our city to a wealthy university. We are already on the hook for 58 acres of city property going to the UT System compliments of the city because of Martinez and his bunch.
It is bad enough that TSC lost its accreditation to get in bed with UTB in that infamous "partnership." A conservative estimate of the amount of resources that TSC has "transferred" (that word again) annually over the last 22 years is now approaching $1 billion (with a B) and counting. And we (the TSC taxpayers) are on the hook for the bond debt used to build UTB facilities on the TSC campus.
Now, with Martinez, Rusteberg, Garcia and the silent commissioners acquiescing to the sucking of the city's lifeblood, it is doubtful that Ms. Portillo will be anything else but a silent witness to the continuing scheme to raid the people's treasury.     

Friday, June 21, 2013


By Juan Montoya
We got word that the 2013 Mr. Amigo Eduardo "Lalo" Yanez is in Europe promoting his telenovela and he Twitted to say that "por llevar este Mr. Amigo a Matamoros" is the most beautiful thing that has happened in my career."
Well, we always thought that Mr. Amigo was something that would put Brownsville, not Matamoros, on the map. But, alas, Yanez is promoting Matamoros instead.
"Como Mexico no hay dos," he says.
Oh, well, that brings the inevitable question: Where is the concept about the Mr. Amigo Association promoting Brownsville, Texas? Isn't this what Mr. Amigo booster Bobby Torres Jr. mentions in his email that stated IT ONLY MAKES ME STRONGER.
Well, Mr. Torres, Jr., where
is the promoting of Brownsville?
Outgoing Association president Yesenia Patino said that Mr. Amigo Association was being promoted not only in the good ol' USA, but also in Mexico. Now we are known in
Europe. Well, not really, Europeans know Yanez because he was in the old continent there promoting his soap opera and tweeting and promoting himself and Matamoros. As you can see for yourself, Yanez doesn't know or care to know the difference about Mr. Amigo or Fiestas Mexicanas. He just knows free publicity for himself.
Other details have come to light about his stay here. In the picture, the 2013 Jeep was sponsored by Luke Fruia to be used in the Saturday Charro Day Parade by the Mr Amigo association.
However, as can be plainly seen, it is being driven by  a Mexican national in Matamoros. Patiño and SylviaPerez decided to drive it across into Matamoros without any authorization fom Luke Fruia Motors or the Mr. Amigo board's knowledge to cross it without Mexican insurance.
If anything would have happened to it, the Mr. Amigo Association would have to not only pay for the damages, but also suffer the embarrassment of knowing that the expensive Brownsville Police Department security detail was left at the bridge scratching their heads about the safety of Eduardo Yanez since there was no security, escape route, and didn't know how long, with whom, or where Mr. Amigo would be.
At the time, reports indicated that when Yanez crossed over to Matamoros, some very colorful people were waiting on the Mexican side and pulled Miguel over and told him to get off the jeep because the girlfriend of a colorful and mañoso man wanted private pictures with Yanez.
Patiño was ordered off the jeep and was holding on for dear life while his wife waved to the crowds, basking in the limelight of the delirious masses cheering as becomes a budding movie star. The chauffeur and navigator don't look that friendly, do they?
We're sure that the truth will surface behind as what is developing to be a most salacious urban myth around Mr. Amigo is embellished. Is there in some major mañoso's house a treasured photo of Yanez and his movida, compliments of the Mr. Amigo Association?
Come to think of it, the private jet plane cost Mr. Amigo Association donors more than $13,000 and the room and board another $4,000. The least the ingrate could do is mention little ol' Browntown in Urp, don't you think?
For now, however, Yanez is crowing up the virtues of his trips to Matamoros where he had a rollicking good time at the expense of the Mr. Amigo bunch and the Brownsville yokels. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
(As we went to cyberpress, we learned that there has been enough concern generated about the past performance of the Mr. Amigo president and board that a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at Valley Regional Hospital at the Texas room. We'll keep you posted.) 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


By Juan Montoya
In last Sunday's history whitewash column by Herald mainstay Carl Chilton, he wrote at length of the way people used to travel in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
He included the picture of the convoy at right without mentioning some of the local people involved in the endeavor.
Luckily, some of our readers had knowledge of the local people involved and we are told that their names read like a who's who of familiar local Hispanic names.
Since Mr. Chilton may not have been aware, or even bothered to list the names under the photo he included in his article, we'll do it.
The people who accompanied John Young as his drivers, footmen and midwife, were listed on the original photo. We cannot understand why Chilton did not deem it important to include them in his article.
Those in the ambulance convoy included Bernardo Tijerina, Simon Diaz, Susana(?) Diaz, Alberta Balli Young, John Young, and Juan Mata.
Those of us who have followed the writings of Mr. Chilton know that he is loathe to mention any accomplishments by any local Mexican-Americans, preferring to idolize old Anglo families instead of the common people.
In some cases, as in Chilton's column two  Sundays ago, he even went as far as to ascribe Dr. William Crawford Gorgas's "research" as leading to finding the cause for yellow fever when a Cuban-born doctor – Juan Carlos Finlay – was publishing research papers years before Gorgas was even out of medical school.
As newer generations of researchers and historians begin discern truth from fiction, we are sure that some of the mythology passed off as local history by Mr. Chilton will be seen for what it is, a continued effort to whitewash our heritage.


From: Concerned Citizens of Brownsville
Dear Mayor,
When you ran for office two years ago, we believed that you had the best interests of Brownsville at heart.
Some of us believe you still do.
We have gone along with most of what you have proposed. You voted to make public places smoke-free, and we went along with that even though some businesses might have been affected. 
But we are worried about some of the recent activities reportedly supported by you and a majority of the City Commission. We know that you want to give the Market Square area a facelift, and you explained that the real-estate purchases that you made by issuing Certificates of Obligation including paying $350,000 for the decaying San Fernando Building were part of your strategy. Another $82,000 was spent to buy two lots across 12th Street from Market Square – two of them a successful restaurants – with plans for renovation.
You also voted to pay $2,500 for 36 months to rent ($90,000) the vacant lot next to the Cueto Building with an option to buy after that time. You also paid $431,000 for the old U.S. Armory Building and another $2.3 million for the Casa Del Nylon Building. Your justification that you wanted to entice the UT System to keep the university downtown we believe was a worthy one.
However, at the time that last purchase was made, we were told that it was to build a parking structure to provide parking for the traffic at the Intermodal Terminal, a worthy concept that was long overdue. But now we hear that you and the commission want to negotiate a transfer of the magnificent City Plaza (Duffey Plaza, the old bank on the corner of 11th and Levee) to UT-Brownsville. 
As we understand the plans, you and the majority of the city commission want to move out the city functions and employees from the City Plaza to the remodeled bargain-sales outlet that was La Casa Del Nylon. We think this would be a tragic mistake for our city. Not only is there no parking available at the site (try getting a parking space when you visit the terminal), but the appearance of the building would be two steps back into the 20th Century for Brownsville.
It hasn’t been that long that the City of Brownsville purchased Duffey Plaza from the university because its administrators said the building would not meet the needs of an institution of higher education. Since then, the city has funded extensive modifications and now it is a stunning, state-of-the-art One-Stop Service Center which is generating millions in income in the form of fine collections, copies of marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, building and health permits, traffic fine payments, its municipal court, city planning, etc., In short, it is a jewel of the city and a source of pride for all of us when business people from out of town visit our city and tour the premises.
Even if the city were to lease it (never mind donating it), it would take years for that lease income to equal the amounts of income being generated for the city by its present function.
Why fix something if it’s not broken?
As negotiations continue between UTB and Texas Southmost College, we believe that there are enough empty classrooms space and buildings that could house its administration without sacrificing the functions of the municipal government at City Plaza. Why not offer them space at Amigoland Mall at the ITEC buildig which is nowhere near full?
It will cost millions to remodel la Casa Del Nylon to meet the needs being fulfilled by the City Plaza today. UTB and TSC can work out some sort of arrangement that needn’t destroy what the citizens of this city have nurtured for so many years with their labor and love.
The city deeded the Old Capitol Theater to the University for $1 a year. What have they done with it? The same goes for the Alonso Building. Both buildings have yet to fulfill their potential as cultural and heritage anchors of out downtown area years after they received them on such generous terms. We hope they do some day.
We urge you to reconsider this proposal. If City Plaza is turned over to the University, it will set Brownsville back 20 years. You asked us to Believe in Brownsville. We want to. But we believe that doing away with this fine municipal building – a source of pride for our city – is not the way to go.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


By Juan Montoya
Last time it was the Brownsville Independent School District who pulled the plug on the annual $25,000 hit to the district's fund balance on behalf of the shadow government entity called United Brownsville.
At the time there was no mention on the district's agenda on who had placed the item for consideration.
The item read: 15. Discussion, consideration and possible action to pay United Brownsville annual membership fees to the City of Brownsville in the amount not to exceed $25,000 from budgeted Local Maintenance Funds.
Since the agenda item did not specify which trustee placed the item on the agenda, we have to assume that it was done by Superintendent Carl Montoya at the behest of one of the board members. We also assume that it was board president Enrique Escobedo, who along with Montoya form part of United Brownsville's 27-member board and "advisers."
A former BISD trustee pointedly asked how it was that the board could vote to pay United Brownsville, a nonprofit, through the City of Brownsville, as the item read.
"Is the district going to pay the city so that they, in turn, can pay United Brownsville the $25,000 in membership fees?," he asked. "What kind of arrangement is that? That is a poorly worded agenda item. It makes no sense."
At Tuesday's meeting the item read differently. It said16. Discussion, consideration and possible action on United Brownsville Membership Fees (MP, Board Member).
"MP," of course, means the item was placed on the board's agenda by Minerva Peña.
And just as the administration pulled the $25,000 hit from the agenda last January, the precocious Ms. Peña, seeing that no support existed to give away district money when it is at the same time considering a move to raise property taxes to pay off the BISD's debt, also pulled it.
Overall, Tuesday was a bad day for the schemers at United Brownsville. United Brownsville's anchor at UTB President Juliet Juliet Garcia was unable to get the city administration and commission to hand over City Plaza to UTB even though it was the only item placed on the special meeting agenda be her fellow United Brownsville colleagues Mayor Tony Martinez and Commissioner Rose Gowen.
Now, with the city's biggest employer out of the United Brownsville loop, and Cameron County refusing to give away taxpayers' money to that group, perhaps other taxpayer-funded entities will realize that the people don't want to see their money go to someone who is accountable to no one and is not elected by them.