Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MADE IN DA SHADE

By Juan Montoya
With temperatures in Brownsville pushing the mercury toward the 100-degree mark, we stopped at a traffic light near the intersection of Price Road and the US 77-83 frontage road next to a restaurant and saw a local street person taking a respite from panhandling on the hot pavement there.
Even though the cedar bushes provided some shelter from the sun's rays, many locals, just as the circumstantial visitor pictured here, sought other cool spots to ward off the heat. The raspas stands are full until after nine o'clock at night and local convenience stores do a land-rush business in fountain drinks.
Likewise, a favorite hangout for teens and adults alike is Sunrise Mall with its air-conditioning and ice-cream stands. We don't know how much cooler it is for the gentleman lying under the bushes, but even a few degrees of protection with your dogs off and a bit of shelter from the blazing sun is a welcome rest.

SO YOU THINK MONEY EQUATES A QUALITY EDUCATION?

Anonymous said...
Employees at TSC are making almost half those at UTB in the same position. Obviously, only those who can't a job anywhere else will teach at TSC. Apparently quality of instruction is part of the price for a cheaper education at TSC. JULY 24, 2013 1T 9:39 P.M.

Anonymous said...
TSC diplomas are worthless, Juan. STOP LYING!!!!

JULY 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm
By Juan Montoya
The comments above are just a few sent by those who obviously think that saving the 80-year-old educational institution called the Texas Southmost Community College was not worth it.
If we take their comments at face value, it would seem to us that at least these two individuals think that the so-called "UTB-TSC Partnership" should have gone on to its ultimate completion for the next 80 years of its original 99-year agreement.
The UT System should have continued to use the community college taxing entity as a cash cow. The assets of the college should have been handed over to the UT Regents for them to do with the real estate, buildings, bank deposits (sans bond debt) as they wished. The community college would have disappeared into the coffers of the UT System. Open admissions would have been a thing of the past and an affordable education a pipe dream.
Yet, during the time it was an independent accredited institution, TSC provided a hand up to thousands of district residents to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Those who established the community college in 1926 envisioned an institution which would provide the first rung to students which would lead them in the direction of either a technical or vocational craft or allow them to seek a four-year degree elsewhere. That was its mission, and, until 1991, it was a mission that it performed admittedly well.
Of course, we have been cursed in our community with our share of self haters who would spew the "Tamale Tech" cliche at the first opportunity. 
No one is saying it was a tier-one institution. It lived within its means. But its courses were accredited and the hours the students earned there were accepted throughout the colleges and universities in the United States.
What happened after the "partnership" under the 20-year leadership of UTB-TSC President Julieta Garcia?
We had the TSC taxing district issuing millions in bonds and indebting the population into the foreseeable future. We not only had university-level salaries for instructors, but also university-level tuition rates for all students whether they were in a vocational, two-year certificate- or a four-year university track.
Each year – and it won't stop until 2015 – the TSC district will continue to "transfer" more than $50 million to UTB as part of the "partnership."
And what did all this money buy us? We had lavish spending on buildings that stand half empty. We had designs for a $640,000 mural desired by the president. We have Garcia's favorites appointed to cushy, high-paying jobs as administrators and fixers. Ben Reyna, booted from the U.S. Marshall's Office for incompetence is placed as a federal government liaison at $100,000 as a reward for his mediocrity. He rides around in a golf cart all day inspecting the real estate.
Then we have the academic achievements; A 17 percent graduation rate after six years, a 50 percent retention rate for freshmen; The highest tuition and fee rates of all community colleges in Texas; and Programs which performed so dismally that they could not even ranked with the lowest of the low.
Garcia did manage to feather her own nest. She is pulling a $360,000 salary, at one time buttressing this measly renumeration with a $30,000 "transfer" from the English Department while department heads across the  university were under orders to trim 15 percent off their budgets. 
Ah, yes. There was plenty of money to go around. And what did it get us?
Now, as TSC President Lily "Second to None" Tercero said recently: "TSC is back!" Tuition for a 15-hour semester full load has been slashed by $1,000. TSC will receive at least $26 million as past of the new lease and land-swap agreements with the UT System with more to come. Local students will get an accessible, affordable education with a chance to get a four-year degree without leaving home.
UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said it was about time we realized that the UTB-TSC separation was "the right thing to do." And even UTB diehard and South Texas Lord of the Manor IBC President Fred Rusteberg grudgingly admitted that having both independent institutions was a "good thing."   
And this, anonymous writers, still sounds like a "cheaper education" to you?

A FINE NIGHT OF CLASSICAL GUITAR AT THE HALF MOON


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

COME TO THINK ABOUT IT, BISD DID NOT RANK LAW FIRMS

By Juan Montoya
As the dust settles from the tumultuous Brownsville Independent School District meeting of this past
Tuesday, one of our readers pointed out that we had not included the overall ranking of the with law firms considered for providing the board with legal counsel.
Well, we went back over our notes and found out that, indeed, the board under president Enrique Escobedo did not rank the eight law firms who responded to the Requests for Professional Services, but only listed them under several categories.
For example, of the 51 areas of specialization in the specifications requested by the BISD, Baltazar Salazar's firm tied for fourth/fifth in listing as "Did not Disclose" their qualifications in 17 categories. They ranked there based on the  non-disclosure of their firm's lack of experience in:
1. Competitive bidding
2. Copyright Issues
3. Election Law advice
4. Employee Health Insurance Matters
5. Federal Voters Right Advice
6. Fiber Optic Communications System
7. Freedom of Religion Issues
8. Governmental Tort Claims
9. Intergovernmental Agreements
10. Intergovernmental Relations
11. Liability for Asbestos
12. Preventive Law
13. Public Utility Commission
14. State Whistle Blower Act Compliance
15. Texas Teacher Retirement System
16. University Interscholastic League
17. Utility Law Regulation
Three others –
1. Thompson and Horton (9), of Houston, who was the legal counsel replaced by Salazar's firm'
2.  O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath (0), Austin, and
3. Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra (0), of Austin – listed less.
4. Rogers, Morris and Grover, Houston (17), listed the same number as Salazar.
But the kicker here is that in the category of the number of school districts represented by the differing firms, Salazar ranked seventh of the eight having represented only 3 districts.
At the top of the list was O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath with 102 districts, Thompson and Horton with 90 school districts, Rogers, Morris and Grover with 51 school districts, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra with 15 school districts, etc...
Of the eight firms, Salazar came in sixth in terms of years of public education experience with 18 years total.
Other firms such as O'Hanlon, McCullom and Demerath listed 75 years, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra listed 40 years, Gustavo Acevedo listed 45 years, Rogers, Morris and Grover listed 20 years, etc...
So even with the Salazar law firm being way down on the list of the other law firms based on the breadth of specialization, their years of experience representing school districts, and the number of districts they have represented, a majority of the board (Otis Powers, Enrique Escobedo, Hector Chirinos and Minerva Peña) obviously ranked them higher than the other seven.
Only trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria, who Salazar targeted for "censor" by the rest of the board, voted to hire someone else.
Now, we have been told that it really is up to the board president to place items on the board's agenda, which leads to another question. If the professional services for legal counsel did not rate a ranking for that choice, why was it that Escobedo went over the administration's recommendation for an insurance consultant in an earlier agenda item and called for a motion to award the contract to the person of his choice?
Is there any consistency to BISD policy under this administration or its board officers? 

KING MARTINEZ, HERALD, MASTER CREATIVE BOOKKEEPING

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

We have a slight problem with considering the ratepayer-funded PUB donation of $8,500 "revenue" from the luncheon. After all, that money came from PUB funds that are buttressed by the utility rates and impact fees charged to the public. How can they be considered "revenue" produced by the luncheon?
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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

AFTER 20 YEARS OF FAILED LEADERSHIP, UTB SMELLS PUF $$

By Juan Montoya
Much has been said about the creation of the new 21st Century university in South Texas and the institution's access to the Permanent University Fund, the endowment set up by the Texas Constitution which on on June 30 was valued at $14.4 billion, making it the largest public university endowment in the United States.
Partly through a mutual agreement between the participants at the time when the UT Brownsville formed a "partnership," with the taxing district of the Texas Southmost College, it and UI PanAm were the only two institutions of the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System which did not share on the millions in royalties from oil and gas royalties and leases on the 2.1 million acres.
Those acres are located primarily in the Permian Basin of West Texas.
When questioned on why the two predominantly Hispanic universities were left out of the royalties feast, local legislators claimed that convincing the Texas legislature to share in the wealth would be "too
contentious."
In other words, they did not relish fighting for the monies and were content to allow the UT System to use the TSC taxing district to fund construction of the local university facilities through the issuance of bonds to be paid by the local taxpayers. In the case of Brownsville, an initial proposal to issue $128 million in bonds by the the administration under President Juliet Garcia was defeated. They then came back with a pared down $68 million bond issue that the voters approved.
Undeterred, through a series of borrowing from here to there, creative bookkeeping and shifting of funds from other accounts, Garcia's administration nonetheless spent nearly the same $128 million that they first proposed issuing.
San Antonio Express News writer Vivky Vaugh recently wrote an article updating the PUF's fund balance. She said oil production on the property reached almost 31.8 million barrels of oil in 2012, up from 19.8 million barrels in 2010.
She quoted Jim Benson, executive director of University Lands saying that  3 million barrels of oil were tapped in December, That — the highest monthly tally since March 1972. He also said that oil production on the property reached almost 31.8 million barrels of oil in 2012, up from 19.8 million barrels in 2010.
Vaugh wrote that "University Lands receives a 25 percent royalty from oil and gas production on its land. That translated to revenue of almost $505.7 million in fiscal 2012. In addition, University Lands made $394.9 million in lease payments in 2012. An additional $54 million from miscellaneous sources, including for water, brought the total to $954.5 million."
The PUF does not allow the money to be transferred directly to the universities, however.
The UT and A&M systems receive a distribution from the return on the Permanent University Fund's investments, and the systems are constrained in how they can spend what they receive.
Under the distribution rules, oil royalty funds are distributed from the  from the Permanent University Fund to the Available University Fund, where about 5 percent of that is distributed across the two university systems.
At that rate, a $1 billion increase in the Permanent University Fund would equate to a $50 million increase in distributions to the Available University Fund. Of that, Texas A&M would get one-third, or about $16 to $17 million, while UT would get two-thirds, or about $33 million,Vaughn quotes Scott Kelley, the University of Texas System's executive vice chancellor for business affairs.
Now the UT Brownsville administration and the legislative delegation from South Texas are salivating at the prospect of acquiring some of those funds to establish the new university and medical school after the legislation passed in the House and the Senate and was
signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry recently.
Just how much will be forthcoming is hard to tell. But there is already talk about establishing a hospital district to pay for some of the costs associated with the medical school. Hold on to you wallet.
So far, Perry has refused so far to allow the consideration of $150 million in tuition bonds to fund the Brownsville campus.
When the partnership was formed in 1991, State Rep. Rene Oliveira and Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. declined to take up the fight in the legislature to include UTB-TSC in the annual pie-cutting of the wealth generated by the Permanent University Fund.
We're sot talking small potatoes here. Monies from the Available University Fund can be used to to pay for construction, renovations, major library acquisitions and “significant educational and research equipment and academic excellence programs.”
For the past 22 years, the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses were denied access to those funds.
Lucio and Oliveira called it a "contentious" undertaking to pass a similar bill for heavily-Hispanic student bodies and were instead satisfied to receive the meager (and decreasing) offerings of the Higher Educational Assistance Funds (HEAF), and encumbering their constituents with bond debt for decades to come.
But just how "contentious" would it have been? The UT Prairie View campus – a predominantly and traditionally B;lack institution – was also lweft out of the PUF at its inception. But those legislators there did not sit back because they saw a "contentious" fight looming to keep them out. Instead, they managed to pass legislation to include Prairie View and it passed. in 1983. That campus has been receiving its PUF share since then.
What is the difference between Prairies View and Edinburg and Brownsville? Could it be the caliber of the political leadership the areas have to count on?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

DEATH AT THE CORNER OF OPI AND HACKBERRY

By Juan Montoya

Scampering, playful,
the two pals went down the walk
nipping, jumping, they scampered down the walk


to the light,
by Treviños, the funeral home
then nervous, halting, at a loss
with cars honking and whizzing by
they backed away
and stood still watching, frightened

it was still early, past 8 a.m.
and some were late
pushing the yellow, almost to red
the morning rush
on Old Port Isabel

they almost made the dash across
but honking cars deterred them and scampered back
and just stood shaking at the curb
That's when she, late, painting her lashes with a brush
didn't see them there and hit them both

Halfway down the street
I saw them struck, fall to the curb, twitch
 and then lie still
the two small friends, now dead
And she, late, glanced through the mirror
and saw them there
and then sped on
working the lash

Friday, July 26, 2013

DEJA VU: SALAZAR'S "FEEBLE" 2005 WORK FOR BISD

"...BISD filed nothing. The old adage comes to mind that you can lead a horse to water, tell him to take a drink, give him extra time to drink, but you still cannot make him drink."
(Federal Judge Andrew Hanen on then-Brownsville Independent School District contract lawyer Baltazar Salazar's repeated failure to respond to insurance company's motions for summary judgment even after the court bent "over backwards" to make him do it over the mold problem at Aiken and Besteiro elementary schools.) From a Rrun-Rrun post on April, 2013

By Juan Montoya
In their rush to fire the existing legal counsel, a majority of the Brownsville Independent School District chose Houston's Baltazar Salazar to be the district's legal counsel.
But did anyone in the majority do their due diligence in evaluating the new legal eagle?
Otis Powers, Enrique Escobedo, Jose Chirinos, and Minerva Peña could have easily googled his name on the Besteiro and Aiken mold problem and found the legal citations that would have repulsed them and prevented  them from entering into a contract with his firm.
He was chosen as outside counsel to help out the BISD by former district legal counsel Mike Saldaña. Otis Powers was a board member at the time. The agent of record for the insurance company was none other than the late Johnny Cavazos.
The BISD sued Royal Supplies Lines Inc.Co. in United States District Court in Brownsville to pay for the damages after several hundred students and teachers claimed they had been injured by the presence of mold.
In the case ( No. CIV.A. B-03-109), representing the BISD was none other than Salazar, who successfully sought the censure of trustee Catalina Presas-Garcis and failed to get a censure of trustee Lucy Longoria Tuesday. Along the way, he accused Presas-Garcia of sexual harassment and of inviting him to spend "two nights together" so he could really get to know her.
Let's be charitable.
To put it bluntly, Salazar's performance in defending the district in the mold case – in the opinion of the court – was dismal, "feeble," and totally incompetent. His performance resulted in the district paying thousands of dollars in personal injury damages to the plaintiffs.
In fact, Salazar – despite repeated efforts from the court to give him more time and directing the manner of responding – failed to file any response to two of the motions for summary judgment from Royal Supplies Line and the one he did file was not "competent," according to the court order. He lost all three judgments.
Federal Judge Andrew Hanen stated this exchange in his summary of the decision:

HANEN, District Judge;
Before this Court are three motions for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff, Royal Surplus Lines Insurance Company ("Royal" or "Plaintiff"). Each will be discussed in greater detail below but, suffice it to say, each seeks a judgment that Royal is not liable to the defendant, Brownsville Independent School District ("BISD"), for damages suffered by BISD due to the presence of mold at two of its schools: Bruce Aiken Elementary School ("Aiken") and Raul Besteiro Middle School ("Besteiro"). Despite warnings by the Court and a direct order setting a deadline, BISD has not filed a response to two of the three motions. Also, despite warnings from the Court, including an admonition to supplement its sole response, and the issuance of a firm deadline, the one response filed was not supplemented to provide the Court with any competent summary judgment evidence that raises an issue of material fact. That being the case, the Court hereby GRANTS all three of Royal's summary judgment motions.
http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?page=1&xmldoc=20051346404FSupp2d942_11267.xml&docbase=CSLWAR2-1986-2006&SizeDisp=7
Other short snippets of the decision give you an indication of the total incompetency demonstrated by Salazar in his representation of the BISD. For example:
"On May 17, 2004, Royal filed its first motion for summary judgment [Docket No. 42] to which BISD replied on June 3, 2004 [Docket No. 45]. Royal filed two more summary judgment motions on June 10, 2004 [Docket Nos. 47, 49], as well as a reply to BISD's response [Docket No. 50]. The Court then held a hearing on June 27, 2004, to address all outstanding motions. The Court at that time gave Royal until October 29, 2004, to supplement any pending motions for summary judgment, and BISD until November 19, 2004, to file its responses. See Docket No. 60. This Court made it clear that it intended to act upon these motions by the end of 2004. Royal complied by filing its supplemental motions on October 29, 2004 [Docket Nos. 76, 77, 78]. BISD filed nothing."

"This Court, concerned that an inadequate response had been filed to the first summary judgment motion and that no responses had been filed to the other two, instead of ruling, elected to hold yet another hearing on the motions.
Prior to that hearing, on January 19, 2005, BISD filed a motion to continue the hearing, which was eventually held on January 24, 2005. At that hearing, the Court with all counsel present told the parties in no uncertain terms: (1) that despite the fact that Royal's second two summary judgment motions were ripe for the Court's decision, BISD had not responded to them and (2) that the reply to the first motion for summary judgment was inadequate, i.e., that it contained no deposition testimony, affidavits, or other competent (authenticated) summary judgment evidence that raised a material fact issue in this case. 
Counsel for BISD acknowledged that he had not responded to two of the three dispositive motions. When the Court reminded him that the motions could have already been granted, counsel responded by saying "we don't feel like it's time."
 Further, when counsel for BISD suggested he had experts that would show this Court why the policy exclusions did not apply, this Court immediately asked ". . . do I have an affidavit that says that, because I don't think I do or summary judgment evidence in any form?"
Later the following exchange occurred:

"THE COURT: But be that as it may, I mean, Mr. Salazar [attorney for BISD], do we have any summary judgment testimony? Forget about the bad faith issue for a minute. I mean — and forget — kind of forget about the legal basis for some of Royal's motions. Let me talk about the factual basis for their motion.
They're basically saying that this is all excluded and that you have no summary judgment proof — evidence that gets you by the factual basis that throws them under their exclusions. Now, I may be talking about exclusions; I may be talking about coverage issues, but I'm using those interchangeably. I'm not using them as a form [term] of art.
But is anybody going to come in, any expert, engineer, construction guru, mold guru? Because right now I don't have anything that controverts their summary judgment.

MR. SALAZAR: If I may, Your Honor. I believe that there's plenty in the record. If one looks at the EFI records, the reports, and the same reports that they've used, the EFI reports that say this was caused because of high humidity, those are the same reports that we're going to rely on. It just depends on how the court looks at them.

THE COURT: Well, wait, wait, wait. Is any of that in summary judgment evidence form?

MR. SALAZAR: On behalf of the school district? Yes, Your Honor. We filed a response.

THE COURT: Sworn to?

MR. SALAZAR: It was in the deposition of EFI, yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. SALAZAR: The problem is that the EFI depositions were taken after we responded to the summary judgment.

THE COURT: Okay. Well, let me strongly suggest that you look at your response, because I don't think anything is in summary judgment form. I don't think there's anything that's summary judgment evidence. I mean, it's got to be sworn to in some form.

MR. SALAZAR: We understand that, Your Honor. And those depositions from EFI were taken after we responded to the summary judgment, and we have not placed them in affidavit form.

THE COURT: Okay. Well, that's what I mean. So I can't consider them.

MR. SALAZAR: Not at this point, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. BROWN: [Counsel for Royal] I would say, Your Honor, that some of the EFI testimony we've attached by way of supplementation to our motions, so it's out there. The deposition testimony has been taken in the case."

There was no response to the Celotex motion nor any response to the bad faith motion.
Much to the chagrin of Royal's counsel, the Court chose to give BISD one more chance to file an adequate response to the first summary judgment motion and any response at all to the other two. It continued the consideration of these motions yet again and ordered BISD to file responses to these motions by April 29, 2005. See Docket No. 90. The Court went one step further and urged both sides:
". . . in all the other summary judgments and responses thereto, make sure they comply with the rules, evidentiary. I mean an unsworn to report or segment of a report is not summary judgment evidence that I can consider.
I would strongly suggest, you know, if you have a good piece of evidence that says, hey, this is where the water comes from, this is why we have coverage that you . . . succinctly put it out for me where I can match it up with the policy exclusions that Mr. Brown is claiming that he doesn't have coverage for . . . so I'm looking at apples to apples and oranges to oranges as opposed to trying to cross-reference why this works.
Finally in closing, the Court told the parties to look at their responses and make sure that the items they were relying on were proven up in some fashion.

Following that discussion in which the Court practically set out for BISD the form in which its responses should be filed, pointed out the need for a better response on one motion, and pointed out the need for some kind of response on the other two, BISD filed nothing! Royal filed a supplemental summary judgment motion containing numerous affidavits which establish the competence of and/or authenticated many of the exhibits it had attached to its prior motions. Even after this was filed, BISD filed nothing. The old adage comes to mind that you can lead a horse to water, tell him to take a drink, give him extra time to drink, but you still cannot make him drink. This Court cannot make a non-movant file a complete response (or any response for that matter) to a summary judgment motion, but it can grant the motions."

(If you, dear reader, have not had enough, I strongly suggest you click on the link provided above to savor the full sordid story of our new BISD counsel's performance. We're back to the same old stuff we thought we had left behind, aren't we?)

UT SYSTEM AND TSC INK HISTORIC AGREMENT

By Juan Montoya
It was, by their own admission, a sometimes contentious process over many months that tried the participants' patience and steadfastness.
But on Friday, the two parties to the dissolved partnership between the UT System and Texas Southmost College sat at table as equals and inked an agreement laying down the conditions of the new arrangement between the two academic institutions.
All the TSC trustees were present at the signing ceremony.
Although the nuts and bolts of the new pact between the University of Texas at Brownsville and the college will be specified in the text of the agreement, both the UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and his  "tocayo" TSC Board President Kiko Rendon said the signing constituted a historic chapter in the evolution of higher education access in the region.
TSC President Lily Tercero told the audience that included Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez that TSC was back and credited the new arrangements between the two to many of those who were in attendance.
Among them was Weslaco native and UT Regent Ernest Aliseda, college and UT System administrators and Brownsville Independent School Disitrict trustee Lucy Longoria and superintendent Carl Montoya.
Conspicuous because of their absence was UTB President Julieta Garcia and BISD board president Enrique Escobedo. Also missing were Sen. Eddie Lucio or Rene Oliveira, the legislators who pushed for the "partnership" option that shifted the financial burden to the TSC district taxpayers instead of demanding that the UT system set up an independent four-year university with its own funds as it is doing now after TSC trustees opted to separate from the UT System.
Tercero updated the registration numbers at the new TSC and said that enrollment had already topped 2,000 and approaching 2,100.
"We're on our way to establish a seamless transition with our partnerships between the ISDs, the community college and the UT System," Tercero said. "We are also glad to have the city here represented by Mayor Martinez."
Tercero said that after the many months of negotiation, the rough spots had been levelled, differences overcome and that one outcome of the ordeal was that "many friendships had been developed."
Cigarroa, said that the separation of the UT System and TSC was "one of the first challenges I faced as chancellor. At the end of the day, our students are going to benefit."
He and Tercero said that much work remained to be done, but that the work would be worth it because "the potential here is immense" and local students "need every option" to get a quality education."
"We are the model for education in the United States of America and will have a global impact," he said. "I almost feel like I live here and feel right at home when I get to Brownsville."
Early indications are that TSC and UT System will share the campus through a series of land swaps and cash transfers that will initially leave at least $26 million to TSC with more to come pending the final resolution of remaining issues.




Thursday, July 25, 2013

THE PORTER ZOO BELONGING TO GLADY

By Juan Montoya
We can't take credit for the photo included in this post, but every once in a while one of our four readers sent us something that makes us take note.
We believe that the sign in this post is located on the US 77-83 frontage road approaching the intersection of McDavitt
leading to the Gladys Porter Zoo.
We're sure that one wouldn't have to go too far to find signs with misplaced possessives mistaken for plurals, or, in this case, the name of a person being turned into a possessive.
The shame of it is that the signs on the frontage roads are placed there by State of Texas crews with the Texas Dept. of Transportation. One could probably overlook municipal and nominally bilingual county Public Works crews messing up like this, but a state crew with its well-paid supervisors?
We remember when the Brownsville Herald would run a photo feature of misspelled signs around town, but that was a personal mania of Bill Salter, the city editor at the time. It might be time to dust off that section of the paper again.
Don't you think so, Glady?

IT'S BROWNTOWN AND I'LL DISS IT IF I WANT TO...

By Juan Montoya
At one time, City Commissioner Rick Longoria was a member of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
Those were the days when he and Carlos Cisneros gave Charlie Atkinson a full run of the treasury to dink into his Sport Park, the boondoggle out north of the city off US 77-83.
Rick talked like a Chamber of Commerce booster then. He was a veritable Mariano "Bean" Ayala cheerleader for Brownsville. The GBIC and the sister organization Brownsville Economic Development Council were going to put Brownsville on the map and provide the incentives to drive the city's economic future into the future and beyond.
Not that anyone believed them, or for that matter Ayala. But it sounded good nonetheless.
Fast forward to the new city administration headlined by Mayor Tony Martinez. There's Tony on the United Brownsville website waxing philosophically about the city's bright future and urging all of us to be "All In" for the sake of the coming generations. "Go to school kids. Pay your taxes adults. There's a coming boom and we're riding the crest of that wave."
He is, after all, Da Mayor, and people expect him to be at the front of the parade with his Drum Major hat and staff or maze. It's part of the show.  
Well, Tony has been doing such a good job it seems that even the Chinese, across the globe is you sail west like Columbus was urging, have heard Martinez leading the parade. They sent a television crew to film the optimist mayor and Martinez waxed on camera bout the coming boom to his little ol' city on the border.
Well, Rick, who is never at a loss for a discouraging word, just couldn't help himself but had to crack a guffaw at the very notion.
"Boom?," Longoria asked online.
Yes, Rick. Martinez is merely putting on a good face on perhaps a bad current situation. But as a city commissioner, once would expect that you would fall in line like a good soldier as you always have and join in the cheers. Dissing Da Mayor along with his critics when our guests are n town is not really good form, even if he's (as you like to say) is full of "--it."
    

GOT WHAT WE PAID FOR: BISD COUNSEL BALTAZAR SALAZAR

(During the diatribe that Brownsville Independent School District legal counsel Baltazar Salazar levied against trustee Lucy Longoria at Tuesday's meeting, he asserted that she had not right to contact the Texas Education Agency (TEA) without going through the administration or through him and "following protocol." He further charged that she was unprofessional and "sabotaging" ongoing litigation. Longoria countered that board members across the state call the TEA's Governance Division for guidance and direction on issues facing their districts and told Baltazar "You are a liar," and said he lacked education law experience. Longoria, with 23 years of district administrative experience, and fellow trustee Catalina Presas-Garcia, did not vote for Baltazar. Below are the reasons why.)   

By Juan Montoya
Even the most ardent defenders of the Brownsville Independent School District's new board majority winced when they (Otis Powers, Enrique Escobedo, Hector Chirinos and Minerva Peña) move to replace the district's legal counsel at their last meeting without so much as a workshop to compare firms, or even a ranking of the firms that submitted their answers to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
Without much discussion, the majority, in the blink of an eye, chose to terminate its contract with Thompson and Horton, L.L.P. and gave the firm a thirty (30) day grace period of transition.
Then they opted to hire Baltazar Salazar, the Houston attorney who defended the BISD way back when during the time that the controversy over the mold problem at Besteiro and Aiken elementary schools erupted.
No wonder Salazar addressed the board in such familiar terms. "I have been in touch with some of you before," he said at the meeting. "I know some of you personally. I grew up with some of you."
But if that was a faux pas on his part, of the eight law firms which submitted a reply for the Request For Qualifications to the district, Salazar and his firm firm failed to provide their qualifications for 17 of the 51 categories of basic legal services listed by the district. For example, they "Did Not Disclose" their qualifications on:

1. Competitive bidding
2. Copyright Issues
3. Election Law advice
4. Employee Health Insurance Matters
5. Federal Voters Right Advice
6. Fiber Optic Communications System
7. Freedom of Religion Issues
8. Governmental Tort Claims
9. Intergovernmental Agreements
10. Intergovernmental Relations
11. Liability for Asbestos
12. Preventive Law
13. Public Utility Commission
14. State Whistle Blower Act Compliance
15. Texas Teacher Retirement System
16. University Interscholastic League
17. Utility Law Regulation

We should note that three of the other firms "Did Not Disclose" more categories than Salazar.
They were:
1. Flores and Torres, of Edinburg (20),
2. Gustavo Acevedo, of Pharr (29), and
3. Jaime J. Muñoz, San Juan (42).
4. Rogers, Morris and Grover, Houston (17), did not list the same number as Salazar.
This is where the board majority's criteria gets perplexing. Three other firms listed less categories under "Did Not Disclose." They were
1. Thompson and Horton (9), of Houston,
2. the current legal counsel, O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath (0), Austin, and
3. Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra (0), of Austin.
In other words, there were four other firms that had the same or less "Did Not Disclose" responses to the 51 basic legal categories and the board majority chose Salazar.
Could it have been some other factor that led Powers, Escobedo, Peña and Chirinos to opt for the mediocre firm which is lacking in such important qualifications?
Of the eight firms, Salazar came in sixth in terms of years of public education experience.
Other firms such as O'Hanlon, McCullom and Demerath listed 75 years, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra listed 40 years, Gustavo Acevedo listed 45 years, Rogers, Morris and Grover listed 20 years, etc...
But the kicker here is that in the category of school districts represented by the differing firms, Salazar ranked seventh of the eight with only 3 years.
At the top of the list was O'Hanlon, McCollum and Demerath with 102 districts, Thompson and Horton with 90 school districts, Rogers, Morris and Grover with 51 school districts, Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra with 15 school districts, etc...
Clearly, the two firms that would have scored better on a ranking of the district by basic legal services provision ( of 51 listed as required by BISD),  number of years in public education experience, and school district represented would have been O'Hanlon, McCullom and Demerath. 
They had all 51 categories provided, 75 years of public education service, and 102 school district represented followed by Thornton, Biechlin, Segrato, Reynolds and Guerra, with all 51 categories provided, 40 years of public education experience and 15 school district represented, and Rogers, Morris and Grover with 34 categories of services provided, 20 years in public educations services and 51 school districts represented.
Compare this with Salazar's 43 categories provided, 18 years of public education services and three school district's represented.
And want to know some more? Why did this majority choose the mediocre firm when they knew that O'Hanlon, McCullom and Demerath has among its clients the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Association of School Boards?
"What's going to happen is that Salazar will be referring BISD cases to other law firms because the firm doesn't have the qualifications to handle it in-house," said  BISD administrator. "Why was this board in such a rush to hire this firm? And why didn't the administration provide the board members with a ranking of the firms by services provided, years of experience and number of school districts served?"
Voting against hiring Salazar were trustees Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria.

WHAT WAS BEHIND BISD COUNSEL'S SET UP OF CATA? THE LUST FOR ILLUSORY HEALTHSMART $$$ CONTINUES



By Juan Montoya
The hired gun from Houston hired by a majority of the Brownsville Independent School Board thinks he earned his salary at Tuesday's meeting.
And, if you compare the video of the meeting and compare it with the fictionalized account written by Gary Long of the Brownsville Herald, you would wonder whether Long lived in a neighboring inverted universe. 
The items slated for executive session were put on the board's agenda by board attorney Baltazar Salazar, an action that is usually limited to board members and its president Enrique Escobedo. Nonetheless, Escobedo allowed Salazar to place them for discussion in executive session, commenting that he would rather would not have it aired publicly since there would be "negative" comments about trustee Catalina Presas-Garcia and Lucy Longoria. How did he know?.
Both trustees, saying they had nothing to hide, opted to hear Salazar's gripes in open meeting.
With a studied spiel, Salazar went on a diatribe against Presas-Garcia and Longoria, only to be sent with his tail between his legs when Longoria demanded the facts behind his accusations.
But don't expect to read this in the Herald account. In fact, none of Longoria's counter charges against the attorney were even mentioned in the article.
 In order for you to see for yourself and reach your own conclusions, we have included the pertinent discussion of the items in the video accompanying this port.
Baltazar placed two agenda items asking for the board to "censor" both women (though he said it was a typo and he really meant "censure") for allegedly violating executive session rules, interfering in criminal investigations, and – ready for this? – Presas-Garcia allegedly coming on to him sexually in the parking lot and telling him he would never really know her until he spent a couple of nights with her. The specifics of his allegations against her were never disclosed by Long in his one-sided front-page piece.
Despite Presas-Garcia's protest and demands from board president Ernrique Escobedo that she be allowed to defend herself against the accusations, Escobedo closed the discussion after Baltazar's charges and asked for a vote to "censure" her over Salazar's allegations.
The vote passed 3-2 with Escobedo, Hector Chirinos and Otis Powers supporting the motion and Presas-Garcia and Longoria voting against. In a sense, Presas-Garcia was not only "censured" by the likes of Powers, Escobedo and Chirinos, she was also "censored" because despite the fact that the Herald says she was given two opportunities to respond, the video will clearly show that Escobedo did not allow her to speak before the censure vote.
"We're not going to get into discussion match," Escobedo said after Salazar laid out his accusations. "We are going to declare our peace and then move on. Comments, questions to the board? ( pause of one second) No? With that said do I have a motion to approve item 61a?"
(Don't believe it? See the video for yourself).
When Rick Zayas was on the board, it was common knowledge that he would put whatever spin Zayas and his associate Cortez wanted on a particular issue, Long would be only too glad to accommodate them. The story on Tuesday's meeting when compared with the video of what actually happened, is illustrative of this. Long was no watchdog. Instead, the term lapdog is more appropriate.
However, it didn't go so smoothly for Salazar with Longoria.
Longoria had placed an item on the agenda item demanding from Salazar the reports to law enforcement and the Texas Education Agency that would justify her "censor" by the board.
Salazar had also accused Longoria in divulging executive session proceedings and interfering with a criminal investigation. Salazar offered no proof for his charges and made several unsubstantiated statements such as that board members were not allowed to contact Texas Education officials without going through him or through the BISD administration.
"You're a liar," Longoria told Salazar.
At this point Presas-Garcia intervened and asked Longoria if Salazar had not conveyed invitations through her asking for a lunch date on several occasions and Longoria said he had.
But you will not see any of that in the Herald report. But it's in the video, isn't it?
There is a saying in Spanish that asks: ¿Desde cuándo los Patos le tiran a las escopetas?
The same can be asked about the agenda items at Tuesday's meeting. We have a board attorney having an elected board member "censored" and a majority doing his bidding. Since when?
As Deep Throat used to say: Follow the Money.
Even before Powers was elected, he promised that he would vote to reinstate the politically-inspired $14.5 million lawsuit against HealthSmart filed less than two months before the 2010 elections by eventual losers Rick Zayas and Ruben Cortez with the advice of former legal counsel Mike Saldaña. Ever since the voters voted Cortez and Zayas out, they have been working feverishly behind the scenes to reinstate the lawsuit. The motivation? We'll let a former ally explain.
"Otis Powers promised if elected back to the Board he would seek the refiling of the lawsuit."
"Rick (Zayas) told me he had three trustees ready to give the contract to (  a local law firm). He specifically said ...that they ALL COULD make attorneys fees on the Healthsmart lawsuit...Rick (Zayas) later verified for me that Chirinos, (Butch) Barbosa, (Minerva) Peña, and Powers were all on board with refiling the Healthsmart lawsuit."
When the current majority voted to reinstate the HealthSmart lawsuit as promised (with Powers, Chirinos, Peña, and Escobedo now on board), they did not instruct Salazar to solicit law firms or to deliver confidential litigation files to anyone prior to having board approval. (See the video when Longoria accuses Zalazar of doing just that and Salazar cannot respond.)
Salazar did it anyway and, in fact, it wasn't until this Tuesday's meeting  that the firm of GarciaKaram, of McAllen, the firm chosen by Salazar without board approval, was accepted by the majority to handle the litigation.
Salazar may think that setting up and besmirching the personal reputation of a mother, daughter, wife and elected official is a new tactic brought from the big city to cow the opposition into submission. Well, we've got news for him. It's been tried before. In fact, it's been tried by Zayas when he and his blogging allies accused Longoria – a married woman and mother – of "being in bed" with the leaders of an opposition PAC.
It didn't work then, and we doubt that it will work now.
(As an aside, it was revealing that edited versions of the video were posted on the Cheezmeh website that tended to discredit Presas-Garcia and that another blogger posted a vague version of the events at 12:20 a.m. Wedsnesday. The word set-up comes readily to mind.)
More proof? After the the meeting Superintendent Carl Montoya said he had talked about the agenda item "with two board members" before the meeting. It pays to be "in the know," don't it, Uncle Carl?
Incidentally, after the meeting, Escobedo, Powers, Salazar and the attorney for GarciaKaram were seen having celebratory drinks at Toscafinos after a hatchet job well done. 
  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

NOW WE'LL GET THE SKINNY; TSC, UT SYSTEM DEAL

By Juan Montoya
Forget about outgoing UT Brownsville President Juliet Garcia and her trusted sidekick Michael Putegnat negotiating on behalf of Texas Southmost College vis-a-vis the University of Texas System.
We all know what they tried to do.
On Friday, we will learn the real results from the countless "intense hours" of negotiations for properties and cold hard cash between the TSC trustees and the UT System for both institutions and for students and the taxpayers of the community college district.
Even though no one on the TSC side will divulge the specifics of the deals struck, we have been assured that not only will both institutions remain more or less on their present locations, but that the college district will maintain its physical integrity and get paid a just rent by the UT System, but that it will also pocket at least $26 million in real U.S. dollars.
Not only have the TSC trustees managed to save the college district from annihilation by the likes of Garcia and Putegnat, but they have also managed to get paid in real specie and slash tuition rates fort local students by at least $1,000 per semester.
As the man used to say in the old days before political correctness, not bad for a harelip.
The invitation asks those on the list to "a ceremony marking a unique collaborative effort in commemoration of the letter of intent for property exchanges and leases between both entities."
The ceremony is to be held Friday, 10 a.m., at the Texas Southmost College Arnulfo L. Oliveira Student Services Center, 80 Ft. Brown.
It took blood, sweat and tears and fighting the powers that be, but these trustees – four of who were on the board before – went to the mat for the community college and made sure its taxpayers and students got a better deal than the one that Garcia and her minions wanted to foist upon us.
Now not only do local students have affordable, accessible education at the community college level, but will also have the four-year university that the UT System should have provided on its own some 22 years ago.
Thank you, guys.

RIVERA GETS BURNED PLAYING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS

By Juan Montoya
for a long time it has been known that Cameron County Democratic Chairperson Sylvia Perez-Garza  has been contemplating making a run for the County District Clerk's office Aurora De la Garza will vacate in 2014.
In fact, recently retired Civil Cases Administrator Rosie Sotelo has already announced she will run for her boss's position on the 1024 Democratic primary.
It has also been known for a while that County Clerk Joe Rivera was behind the candidacy of Eric Garza, the current Criminal Cases Administrator.
Well, apparently Joe didn't know that the word about him supporting Eric Garza had reached Sylvia's ear when he sidled up[ to her and said she didn't  have a chance against Cascos and that she should run for Aurora's spot against Eric Garza and Sotelo.
"The strategy was to split the women's vote and have Eric – his candidate – coast in for an easy victory," said a a court insider. "But he hadn't counted on the word of his support for Eric to get around that fast."
Now sources tell us that Perez-Garza is livid about the behind-the-scenes strategy that Rivera wanted to use to defeat her in the District Clerk race. The result?
It now appears that Rivera – who didn't have a Democratic opponent – will have the chairperson of the Democratic Party as an opponent.
"This is a turn of events Joe didn't expect," said our source. "Joe is in for the fight of his life as a result of what Sylvia found out."
 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AN ALLIGATOR, AN ALBINO NUTRIA, AND A 3-FOOT IGUANA

By Juan Montoya
Guests at the arts show of Toni Hudson were recently treated to the sight of a rare albino nutria swimming across the resaca next to her and Bills' guest quarters behind the main house.
Likewise, the local cops and Brownsville Animal Control officers were called on April 2011 to investigate the discovery of a 10 foot alligator floating upside down in the water. The resaca is off of Alton Gloor near Tandy. Officials with the Health Department first responded to the report and found alligator. The Texas Parks and Wildlife officials said at the time that it looked as though the alligator was purposely killed and had the evidence to prove it.
We don't know whether the culprits were ever found, but in this semitropical area, as local chamber of commerce types like to call it, you find some critters you wouldn't find roaming in the waters and montes you wouldn't find almost anywhere else.
Add the Gladys Porter Zoo to the mix and you you're bound to run into something different than the scurrying of a shy possum once in a while.
For some reason or other, Robert (Capt. Bob) and Lorrie Sanchez always seem to attract some of these wayward fauna. Maybe its because their home is along a resaca bank and there's food for the beasts.
We remember when they reported that they were leaving their Calle Jacaranda home and were driving toward Palm Boulevard when they spotted zoo personnel trying to net a huge brown Mexican eagle down from some trees behind the old King Mart store (now the Dollar Store and the old Ho's Restaurant). The child-sized raptor had made good its escape from the zoo aviary and was never heard from again. For days after, parents were wary of letting their kids walk through the neighborhood alleys fearful lest the bird of prey with its razor-sharp talons would make a quick snack of a kid.
Today, as Bob was checking out his plants along the resaca, his eye caught a flash of bright green with a spiky head and neck and sunning itself on the bank.
"It was a three-foot iguana," he said. "It looked huge and green with yellow spikes on its head. I called the zoo to see whether they could send someone to get it, but they didn't sound too interested. They said it was probably somebody's pet which had gotten loose."
Bob and Lorrie took a picture on their cell phone (at a respectable distance, of course) and forwarded it to us.
Iguanas, we have learned, are harmless to humans and in fact are regarded as a delicacy in some countries. This one probably will wander about until there's nothing left for it to eat and seek greener pastures. But it had to be a surprise to see the big green lizard hanging out around your house.

TENASKA, BROWNSVILLE POWER PLANT: DO WE KNOW WHAT PUB AND TONY MARTINEZ ARE GETTING US INTO?

(The City of Brownsville and the Brownsville Public Utility Board has been tight-lipped about the details surrounding the agreement between them and Tenaska in the construction of the 800 MegaWatt gas-fired electric plant they plan to build in the city. The information in this post was taken directly from their application to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of particular interest is the section dealing with the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) of greenhouse gases.)  

By Juan Montoya
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Customer Reference Number (CN) 604252627
TCEQ Regulated Entity Number (RN) 106579600.

Taken as face value, the 800 MW electric plant planned by Tenaska and the City of Brownsville will not only provide city with 200 Megawatts (MW) of electric power and allow Tenaska to sell the remaining 600 MW to the grid. And, despite repeated attempts to get a fix on the total cost of the PUB ratepayers' financial commitment to build this $500 million plant, PUB and Tenaska have been successful in convincing the Texas Attorney General to keep those details from the public claiming the "competitive" nature of the project. This much we do know:
Tenaska lists two possible alternatives in its EPA application. It is proposing to permit a 1‐on‐1 or a 2‐on‐1 combined cycle combustion turbine (CCCT) configuration. The Brownsville Generating Station will be designed to have an estimated nominal power generation summer condition output capacity of approximately 400 megawatts (MW) for the 1‐on‐1 configuration or 800 MW for the 2‐on‐1 configuration.
Public announcements by the BPUB have focused on the latter design with the utility's ownership interest entitling it to the 200 MWs, enough its spokesmen say, to supply power to approximately 100,000 residences.
Under the agreement, BPUB is responsible for building a water pipeline from the Robindale Road wastewater plant to the power plant, a distance of roughly five miles, as well as a gas pipeline from Edinburg — about 50 miles — to supply the power plant with fuel. Tenaska expects that the EPA will approve its plans and permit construction of the power plant to begin in 2014.
Tanaska states in the EPA application that the plant will emit the following contaminants:
1. nitrogen oxides (NOX)
2. carbon monoxide (CO) and
3. and volatile organic compounds (VOC)
4. Other air contaminants not listed above: NH3, H2, SO4 Mist and (NH4)2, and SO4 will also be released. The proposed Brownsville Generating Station is within a major facility category and subject to a 100 tpy (Tons Per Year) threshold for classification as a PSD major source.
(What Does PSD Require?
The EPA requires any new power plant such as that proposed for Brownsville to file a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) that applies to new major sources or major modifications at existing sources for pollutants where the area the source is located is in attainment or unclassifiable with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. It requires the following:
1. installation of the Best Available Cost Technology (BACT)
2. An air-quality analysis
3. an  additional impact analysis and
4. public involvement.
The Brownsville Generating Station is estimated to have potential emissions in excess of 100 tpy for NOx, CO, and VOC emissions.
In addition, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions exceed the tailored major source PSD threshold of 100,000 tpy.
Therefore, the Brownsville Generating Station will be considered a new major source with respect to the PSD program. According to EPA guidance, the "major for one, major for all" PSD policy, if a site is major for one or more criteria pollutants, then the other criteria pollutant emissions need to be
compared to the Significant Emission Rates (SERs) when determining PSD applicability for particulate matter (PM), particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10), particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4) mist.
Based on emissions estimates for the Brownsville Generating Station, the proposed project will be PSD major for
CO2: 3,169,143.4 Tons Per Year
CH4: 3,421.49 Tons Per Year
N2O: 80.254 Tons Per Year
SF6: 0.005 Tons Per Year
Total CO2e: 3,265,993 Tons Per Year

PROBLEMS REMOVING CARBON CONTAMINANTS FROM BROWNSVILLE PLANT (Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS):
In order to capture and transport the captured CO2 to a sequestration site, Tenaska suggests the following:
"Prior to sending the CO2 stream to the appropriate sequestration site, it is necessary to compress the CO2
from near atmospheric pressure to pipeline pressure (around 2,000 psia). The compression of the CO2 would require a large auxiliary power load, resulting in additional fuel (and CO2 emissions) to generate the same amount of power."
However, "While carbon capture technology may be technologically available on a small‐scale, it has not been demonstrated in practice for full‐scale natural gas combined cycle power plants, such as the proposed Brownsville Generating Station."
Tenaska would need to either transport the captured CO2 to an existing CO2 pipeline located at the Hastings Oil Field, operated by Denbury Resources (258 miles from the proposed Brownsville Generating Station), or transport the CO2 to a site with recognized potential for storage (e.g., enhanced oil recovery [EOR] sites). The closest potential EOR site is an existing oil well, located in Jim Hogg County, operated by Wynn ‐ Crosby Operating, Ltd. (Jim Hogg Well, API No. 24732057). This well is located approximately 106 miles from the proposed Brownsville Generating Station." 
"...Even though transporting and sequestering CO2 is feasible, CCS is not a viable, technically feasible
option for this project due to the fact that CO2 capture has not been achieved in practice for a large scale, 800 MW natural gas combined cycle plant, which was determined by Tenaska not to be feasible in Section 10.5.2.1.1. Nevertheless, Tenaska has chosen to carry it forward in the Best Available Cost Technology (BACT) analysis to evaluate and present the associated environmental, energy and economic impacts."
"The capital cost for the proposed Brownsville Generating Station is approximately $500 million. Using the same cost factors as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) cost, the amortized capital cost for the proposed project is approximately $52 million/yr (including annual operation and maintenance costs). Based on these cost estimations, implementation of CCS will cost Tenaska almost 10 times the project capital cost on an annual basis, which is economically infeasible."

"Economic Feasibility: The low purity and concentration of CO2 in the combustion turbines’ exhaust means that the per ton cost of removal and storage will be much higher than the public data estimates for much larger carbon rich fossil fuel power facilities due to the loss of economies of scale. Even using low‐side published estimates for CO2 capture and storage of $256 per ton for a new natural gas combined cycle facility, assuming a conservative $6/MMBtu gas price means added cost to the project over $200,000,000 per year."
So instead of transporting the carbon monoxide contaminants that will be created by the Brownsville Generating Plant, Tenaska is proposing that it be allowed to periodically check its emissions and monitor its operations but that it be allowed to release the 90 percent of the 3,265,993 Tons Per Year its BACT cannot capture into the Brownsville environment anyway.
It is noteworthy to point out that on Page 8 of its EPA statement, Tenaska states:
"The Brownsville Generating Station will be located in Cameron County, Texas. An area map is included in this section to graphically depict the location of the facility and the power block with respect to the surrounding topography.
In an area area map tendered to the EPA by Tenaska that is centered on the Brownsville Generating Station and  extends out at least 3,000 feet from the property line in all directions, it depicts the depicts the property line with respect to predominant geographic features (such as highways, roads, streams, and railroads). The image shows there is one elementary school (Rancho Verde Elementary School) within 3,000 feet of the facility boundary.
Given the fact that state state officials estimate that the Rio Grande Valley will need 2,800 MW of power in the next 10 years, and that the plants online – including the Brownsville-Tenaska generating plant – will provide 2,861 MWs, it is obvious that it within 10 years we will be forced to seek power elsewhere despite the multimillion expenditures required from PUB ratepayers for this plant now.
Wouldn't it be more sensible to buy our power off the grid than to encumber our future generations with this costly – and environmentally risky – undertaking?

MR. AMIGO SEEKS TO REINVENT ITSELF AFTER 2013 FIASCO

By Juan Montoya
Reacting to the growing wave of criticism over the alleged policies of mismanagement and favoritism carried out by former Mr. Amigo President Yesenia Patiño and her mentor former Brownsville Independent School District administrator Sylvia Perez, a group of  loyalists will reportedly take steps to change the direction of their 49-year-old organization.
The longtime supporters of Mr. Amigo – including at least four past presidents – are said to be considering banning the former president from further participation in the organization which hosts a Mexican personality annually in conjunction with the Charro Days and SombreoFest celebrations.
Many members of those two organizations say that the performance of the Mr. Amigo executive in 2012 left much to be desired.
Although ostensibly a private association which fills its ranks through nominations by its membership, the Mr. Amigo Association has long relied on public resources and private donations raised through solicitation and several major events such as the President's Ball and Banquet and the Taste de Frontera.
These two raised the group $38,460 of its $105,529 2013 Mr. Amigo budget ($21,120 in ticket sales for the banquet, $17,240 for Taste de la Frontera). The group's income statement for this year said it spent $99,700 for its events.
Among the other income for the 2013 bash featuring Mexican Televisa soap opera star Eduardo Yanez was $39,600 in donations from sponsors.
However, if you look closely at the income statement, you will see that the city kicked in thousands in "in-kind" contributions, including free access to the Brownsville Events Center ($2,684 for banquet, $1,740 for Taste) and the Ft. Brown Civic Center by the University. 
But what is not included is the "in-kind" security detail assigned by the Brownsville Police Department to provide round-the-clock protection to Mr. Amigo. An information request from El Rrun-Rrun to the Brownsville Police Department revealed that this year, the PD's security detail cost taxpayers $19,285 in overtime pay for the 18 officers and supervisors.
In some cases, the bill came to about $50 to $54 per hour for those lucky officers who were favored by Chief Orlando Rodriguez to serve on the detail.
This, however, is only the overtime pay for the 18 officers, which came in addition to the regular pay from department coffers.
Some of the questions that Patiño and Perez have yet to answer is the money spent on the lavish, invitation-only President's Ball blast. How about $4,900 for music, $3,100 for centerpiece and decorations, $14,102 for food, $600 for a sound system, $1,100 for linens and covers, and $609 for videos and photos?
And lurking in the wings are questions about the non-itemized spending by Patiño of $3,016  as "president's expenses" while on the trip to Mexico City to give Yanez the invite to come during the Charro Days events. We don't have an itemized invoice for Patiño, but we are told that the expense was racked up to purchase outfits for her and her hubby and kids. And the short bus ride that took the Mr. Amigo entourage from their hotel in Mexico City to the U.S.  embassy – 15 or 20 minutes away – cost $1,146.
In fact, the reception for Yanez cost $1,429, just $300 more than the short bus ride.
Perhaps most galling to the group's staunch supporters is the fact that the appearances by Mr. Amigo Yanez were badly coordinated with other groups and that Patiño and Perez excluded many donors to private events while favoring others.
In one telling instance, Patiño asked some individuals who had posted photos of the private bashes on their Facebook pages to remove them because some smaller donors would complain that they had not received a persona invitation to attend the parties.
Will Patiño be declared a persona non grata today and the organization take steps to contribute something back to the community that has paid for its weeklong parranda throughout the nearly half century of its existence. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

BANDERA, PLEASANTON FIGHT OVER BIRTHPLACE AND CAPITAL OF COWBOY

By Juan Montoya
Well, now that the Texas Historical Commission has officially named Bandera the Cowboy Capital of the World, what are the poor cowpokes over in Pleasanton supposed to do?
Pleasanton, also known as the "Birthplace of the Cowboy," says that it had a growing population of cowboys around the late 19th century primarily to ward off attacks from the Indians.
Bandera says its claim to being the capital is because cattle drives were prevalent there in the 1874 and 1894, about the same time the cowpokes in Pleasanton were at their apogee.
Phil Livingston, in the website "The American Cowboy" tends to paint a very different picture of the "birthplace" and "capitals" of the cowboy.
He goes on to trace the origin of the cowboy back to the 1500s, centuries before the new settlers from the Northeast and southern states crossed the Sabine and discovered horses and cattle.
We'll let him tell the story.
"1519–1700s After the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, ranches were established and stocked with cattle and horses imported from Spain. Landowners mounted native Indians on well-trained horses and taught them to handle cattle. By the early 1700s, cattle ranching had spread north into what is now Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and south to Argentina. The native cowboys were called vaqueros(from the Spanish word for cow) and developed roping skills, using braided rawhide reatas (the root word for lariat). Starting in 1769, a chain of 21 Franciscan missions eventually stretched from San Diego to San Francisco, marking the beginning of California’s livestock industry.
Mid–1700s to 1820s Livestock production flourished in California and the Southwest, but few markets existed for end products such as meat, hides, and tallow (for making candles). By the mid-1700s, long trains of pack mules would transport these products to Mexico City and return with supplies. American ships began servicing California ports in the early 1800s and traded for the same materials. For the first time, ranchers had local markets for their animals. Huge roundups were held to collect cattle, and the hard-riding vaqueros controlled the chaos. Known for expert horsemanship and roping skills, vaqueros were said to only dismount for a chance to dance with pretty girls.
Early and mid-1800s Ranching ceased to be a strictly Hispanic profession as more Americans poured into once Mexican-held lands (especially after the Mexican/American War, 1846–48). The Anglo newcomers adapted to the vaquero style, and many settlers intermarried with the old Spanish ranching families. The 1849 gold rush brought even more people to California, which increased the demand for beef. Californios rode ponies that had been trained in a hackamore, swung a big loop with their hand-braided rawhide reatas, and took a wrap called a dally (from the Spanish dar la vuelta, to take a turn) around high saddle horns for leverage when roping cattle.
Late 1800s As the livestock industry expanded, these horsemen found work in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii, taking their equipment and livestock-handling techniques with them. Cowboys in Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada remained strongly Hispanic (“buckaroo” comes from vaquero), including the use of a center-fire rigged saddle, in which rigging is situated below the centerpoint of the saddle; a long reata; and silver-mounted spade bits. Trail-driving Texans adopted many of their techniques from Mexican vaqueros, carrying their methods with them north through the Plains states and leading to a subculture of single, itinerant men who worked at ranches.
Today As long as cattle are raised in big American pastures, the legacy of the vaquero will endure. The early Mexican techniques for handling cattle can be seen throughout the modern livestock industry, like whenever a cowboy cinches a saddle on his horse, straps on chaps (from chaparreras, Spanish for leather leggings), competes in a rodeo (from rodear, Spanish for to surround), or ropes a horse from his remuda (from remudar, Spanish for exchange). Even branding migrated north from Mexico. On the Pacific Coast and on Nevada ranches, buckaroos still carry long ropes (nylon these days), ride slick-fork saddles, and use silver-mounted spade bits and spurs."
So while the folks from Pleasanton adn Badera bandy about their claims to the birthplace and capital of the cowboy, we shouldn;t forget the origin of the culture which originated with the Mexican vaquero.

A KING (AND QUEEN) MAKER, NOW A MAKER OF TAMALES

By Juan Montoya
As recently as the election of Justice of the Peace Erin Garcia Hernandez last year, the vote-Hernandez Family vote-harvesting machine could count on Margarita Ozuna and her fellow politqueras to deliver the votes Ernie and Norma Hernandez needed to put their candidates in office.
Yet, when the tendrils of the law in the form of an indictment from a grand jury sought by the Texas Attorney General for her involvement in catapulting Ernie to Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner snagged Ozuna, the Hernandezes gingerly sidestepped any involvement on her behalf. It fell on the lot of defeated (and former Asst. Cameron County District Attorney) Carlos Masso to step in and defend his campaign helper who had also brought in the votes for him in the form of mail-in ballots from the southeast corner of the county.
Only the fact that it was a countywide race and the heavy vote from the northern precincts neutralized her votes made Luis Saenz the eventual winner.
Now, as Ozuna struggles to pay her fines (totalling more than $1,000 with court costs and fines combined), she is being forced to sell tamales in the same barrios where she collected mail-in ballots for Erin Hernandez and before that, her father Ernie against Ruben Peña.
It is the only ource of income she has to pay her fines, they say.
Her friends and associates say that the response from the Hernandezes – Ernie, Erin and Norma – to Ozuna's financial plight after she agreed with Masso and pleaded no contest to the charges brought by the state has been repulsive.
"The reason Erin and Ernie are in those positions now is because Mage walked the barrios picking up the mail-in ballots and taking her votes to the polling places," said an associate who has worked the votes with her before.
They say that when Ozuna and her friends approached Hernandez, he said he could not help her pay the fines (or even with a measly $100) because business at his sign-shop was "down."
"Can you imagine that?," asked one. "Here Mage helps Ernie and Erin get their $60,000 salaries and they can't help her pay her fines? Hell, if it was me, I'd pay all her fines just to keep her quiet."
It's not bravado behind this statement.
Given the notoriety that Ernie, his daughter Justice of the Peace Erin Garcia and Norma, his wife and her mother, have earned for themselves, it is highly doubtful that the electorate will return them to their positions come the Democratic primaries next Spring of 2014.
Here's another bit of bad news for Ernie and Erin.
Those harvested votes that politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra delivered to get them over the hump – the write-ins from, elderly, impaired and the illiterate – will probably not be there this time around. Ozuna was indicted and pleaded no contest to illegally assisting a voter in the Hernandez contest against Ruben Peña in 2010, the same year that the politiquera votes helped him beat Peña by 149 mail-in votes votes after losing in the early and walk-in voting.
The same goes for Erin who overcame a 500 vote deficit against Yolanda Begum in 2012. She also runs in 2014 because she was serving the unexpired term of Tony Torres, who died in office.
Now word has reached us that none other than Ozuna and her associates have said that just as she and her cadre of political operatives helped put him and his daughter in office, they will use those same energies to give them both "vacations."
That's not all the IEDs awaiting the Hernandezes in 2014.
Given the fact that they cannot count on these women's votes to fix their respective elections, how can they promise Ernies's Admin Asst. Raul Salazar that they will be able to help him beat the rap for his indictment for allegedly trying to fraudulently have Robert o Cadriel – Ernie's brother-in-law and Norma's brother – bypass the county's Civil Service exam by having another county employee take the test for him and pass it?
At least a few of Salazar's relatives have said that they are advising him to to take the fall for the Hernadezes and tell prosecutors of their role in the affair.
"It's the perfect storm that's brewing for the Hernandez vote-harvesting machine," said a source close to the family. "Miran la tormenta y no se hincan." 

SUMMER CAMP AND THE LIVING IS EASY

By Juan Montoya
It's summer time and the living might be easy, but for several scores of First Baptist Church of Brownsville teens, it was a time to have a blast, get rid of the cell phones, Internet and iPads, and enjoy the coll water of the river in the Hill Country.
If you can remember back to the days when you were trundled and set off for a couple of weeks to summer camp, you can surely relate to this. Kids get a break, and parents have two weeks not having to worry about them fighting over the computer, the televisions station, or the raging hormones that kicked in in all of us just at about this stage.
Since this was a summer camp, the experience was meant to get the kids away from their electronic gadgets and give them a chance to renew their minds.
This is a Christian camp, so there are some Christian concerts, age-appropriate sermons as well as a chance to do things like rock-climbing, hiking, swimming and just having fun.
Hopefully, they will come back refreshed and unburdened because they are able to share their concerns without fear of judgement during their group sessions.
Last one to jump in the eater is an unrepentant sinner!

HUICHOL SHAMAN BLESSES TWO NATIONS, IMMIGRANTS

By Juan Montoya
On the eve of U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitanos' visit to the twin cities of Brownsville and Matamoros, a Huichol shaman performed a ceremony to bless her visit, for peace between the two counties and succor for the desperate immigrants who often pay for their efforts at a better life with their own.
Shaman Jacinto, who has been to the Matamoros-Brownsville area for the past 10 years, said that the fact that the Huichol ceremony for peace was held at the appropriately-named Hope Park only adds to the power of the prayer. Framed by the Border Wall and the bridge to Mexico in the background, Jacinto sat in front of a basket with the tools of the shaman: eagle feathers, a deer's hoofed foot end leg bone, and native herbs.
"The prayer will be carried by the water of the river that is shared between the two counties and join the sea," said a supporter.
Some of the media entourage asked the shaman how long a traditional blessing ceremony usually takes in his native land.
"If we start at 7 a.m. in the morning we continue until the next morning at 7 a.m.," he responded.
"Human being have been killing and maiming each other for thousands of years," said a participant at the ceremony. What's one day dedicated to peace?"
Even though the shaman has renovated his visa to enter the United States fro the second time, the Mexican consul in Brownsville was nowhere to be seen. Rodolfo Quilantan has been conspicuous for his absence from these ceremonies and has even been visibly hostile to promoting native Mexican issues or issues relating to the illegal deportations and the treatment of his fellow Mexican nationals in the Brownsville area.
His trips to the area have been sponsored by a binational cast that included local advocates of native rights like UTB professor Tony Zavaleta, Municipal Judge Ben Neece and Gerardo Acevedo Danache, vice president of the Tamaulipas Chamber of Commerce.
"We think that because of the fact that since Ms. Napolitano, the head of the Department of Homeland Security is scheduled to visit tomorrow, having shaman Jacinto hold his ceremony for peace between the two countries is very appropriate," Acevedo Danache told reporters.
Napolitano, testifying before Congress, said that the flow of undocumented immigrants has been slowed to a trickle elsewhere along the border, except for the McAllen sector, where it has actually increased.
The number of people dying on the road north has also increased, with Brooks County – three counties north of the river – accounting for most of those dying in South Texas.

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