Friday, March 6, 2015

RAY RAMON MOVED AND SHOOK CAMERON COUNTY POLITICS

By Juan Montoya
In 1978, I returned to South Texas armed with a journalism degree and hooked up with the Brownsville Herald.
Cameron County was in an uproar then.
The Old Guard was on the way out. A young Ray Ramon had just beaten D. J. Lerma for county judge after longtime judge Oscar Dancy died.
Joe Rivera was in the second term after having been elected county clerk in 1974 and  Eddie Lucio was treasurer. Rivera, now known around the courthouse as "El Cebollon," just ran for county judge in 2014 and lost to Carlos Cascos, himself a former commissioner for Pct. 2. (El Cebollon refers, apparently, to Joe's increasingly rotund figure and his white mane of hair, like a round white onion.)
And the Brownsville Herald, with Bill and Becky Salter at the helm, were in a give-no-quarter, take-no- prisoners war with the county judge.
Salter's pit bull – or rather bull terrier – was none other than Dave Crowder, a piss-and-vinegar reporter who eventually ended up at the El Paso Times.
Ramon – a Georgetown graduate – had come in with the War on Poverty programs and at thirtysomething, had become the youngest, and the first Hispanic, county judge in Cameron County. Salter, after a stint at Kerrville editing Becky dad's paper, had taken over the Herald and latched on to Ramon in alliance with Dolph Thomae, the lone remaining Anglo on the county commissioners court.
Hardly a day passed that Crowder did not have an article on the alleged wrongdoings of Ramon and his associates, including Lucio and the other administrators on the poverty programs, "el queso."
County meeting day usually meant a full-banner, front-page story featuring the latest dispute between Thomae and Ramon over just about everything. Thomae, of course, was the vanguard of the Anglo community that was still smarting over losing its political control over the county to the young upstarts from the "outside."
Ramon and Thomae had been at odds after Ramon leveraged his directorship of the Cameron County Anti-poverty Agency at Brownsville in 1966 into a political powerhouse. Thomae, long a controversial figure in Cameron County politics, was a member of the board of directors governing the agency.
The antagonism peaked when a county grand jury indicted Ramon on a charge that he had solicited a drug dealer to seek a hit man to off Thomae.

At the time, the Herald was an afternoon newspaper and relied on newsboys to hawk it through the streets of Brownsville. Among those was was one Felipe "Pipe" Solis, an adult man who suffered from a cleft lip (un gangoso). Pipe had the courthouse market sewn up. He hand delivered the newspaper hot off the press to the county offices and was on a first-name basis with the secretaries and, employees, and elected officials. He was the unofficial Herald mascot.
I was covering for the courthouse beat one day when someone told me that judge Ramon would like to talk to me. I sauntered over to the second floor of the Dancy Building and was surprised to see Ramon, Lucio and Rivera sitting around the judge's desk. Ramon said that they had decided that they would like to do something special for "Pipe's" birthday. They envisioned a pachanga over at the Dean Porter Park Pavilion with botana and beer. And they would like to know if the people at the Herald would like to buy the $5 tickets they were selling for the event.
I hadn't come aboard the last wagon load of green wood to see that instead of feting Pipe, what the trio wanted was to use the goodwill people had for Pipe to shame the Herald.
"How many tickets do you want to sell at the Herald?" Ramos asked.
I demurred and told him that I'd write an article on it and that I personally would buy one for myself.
Word got around the courthouse and the buzz was what a good guy Ramon was for putting together the pachanga for Pipe. What many couldn't see was that Ramon, Lucio and Rivera were taking advantage of the gullible newspaper deliver boy (man?) to get back at the Herald and its editors and reporters.
The afternoon of the event – a Friday afternoon – the place was filled with elected officials from the city and county, and included federal judge Reynaldo Garza, who surreptitiously drank beer from a plastic cup careful to hide it when a photographer was in his vicinity.
Pipe arrived in the backseat of a new convertible sitting alongside the reigning Miss RGV, the poor girl looking somewhat out of place alongside Solis who was wearing a mismatched coat and tie and crooked smile, immensely pleased wth himself.
There was a small ceremony held and mariachis sang Pipe Las Ma├▒anitas. Then he was presented with a new bike for his newspaper deliveries. The afternoon then degenerated into a beer drinking pachanga. The next Sunday,a full-page Lifestyle page featured the event. I heard that Pipe kept a copy as a souvenir. No one else from the Herald had attended the event.
I recall this because these were more innocent times. The event was held not to honor Pipe, but to get back at the Herald's editor and reporters, their tormentors.
I was reminded of those days of innocence when I read an interview and Sen. Lucio harked back in candid admissions he made to an interviewer that he made side money being a lobbyist for prison construction firms and also for "an engineering firm from Houston."
That "engineering company from Houston" that left a few bucks in the senator's pocket was none other than Dannenbaum Engineering, which was accused of billing the Port of Brownsville more than $15 million in unjustified expenses for work on the famous "Bridge to Nowhere" that cost taxpayers more than $21 million in bonds and for which they are still paying. Lucio talked the port commissioners into firing Brown and Root and hiring Dannenbaum as part of his "consultant" side job. The deal resulted in loads of cash in Eddie's golf knickerbockers.
On their face, these pursuits may seem perfectly normal until you realize that his so-called "consulting" garnered him $100,000s and that his involvement in Willacy County resulted in the steering of jail-building contracts to this company. Several county commissioners were indicted and convicted of receiving bribes for their votes.
According to Texas Ethics Commission filings, Lucio worked as a “consultant” for Corplan in 2003 and 2004 at a time when the company was part of a consortium of private prison interests seeking to build a 2,000-bed immigrant detention center in Raymondville, the seat of Willacy County.
In 2008, Lucio was indicted in Willacy County and accused of profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from the private prison industry. The charges were dropped after a judge ruled the indictment failed to address whether Lucio, who had been accused of trying to steer construction of private detention facilities to the GEO Group, knew he was being hired as a consultant because he was a state senator. Lucio vowed he was innocent and had done nothing wrong.
In April, 2010, his son, State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Brownsville Democrat, followed in his father’s footsteps by joining forces with Corplan Corrections, the same scandal-plagued prison development company once represented by the elder Lucio. This time the corporation wanted to build a prison in Weslaco but the deal fell through.
The apple, the saying goes, does not fall far from the tree.
Ramon was the first person in the Valley to break the 60 to 80-year-old Anglo "stronghold" in the Valley's politics when he was elected to be the Cameron County Judge while he was in his thirties.
As he was involved in politics, he became the focal point of many successful new adjustments and changes in Cameron County, and also of many controversies, leading him to consider himself a "lightning-rod" of political life in the Valley.
Ramon is now living in San Antonio. Once a virile, athletic man, he is now in the care of a provider after suffering a debilitating stroke. He left public life after three Democrats on the commissioners court opted to support Republican Tony Garza over him for county judge, among them Lucino Rosenbaum Jr., who had just defeated him for Pct. 1 commissioner by six votes in a bitter runoff election, Thomae and Cortinas.
Garza became the first Republican county judge since Reconstruction.
Rivera is now in retirement after the commissioners court opted to appoint Cameron County Administrator Pete Sepulveda to a two-year term as county judge until the next general election.
Compared to the prank using an innocent half-wit like Pipe to get back at the Herald, the later acts by Lucio under the guise of a God-fearing, family-loving public servant reveal that under the Cheshire-cat grin and bow tie, Lucio has turned out to be a self-serving lout who now wants to clean up his legacy as he nears the end of his 40-year political rampage that started out in the halls of the Dancy Building in Cameron County.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Montoya
Some one very revolutionary in that time and don't forget abut him was El Leon de la southmost Lucino Rosenbaum and Viola who was the thinking head behind him.

I'm not a robot! said...

For the Lucios, Private Prison Consulting is a Family Affair

Anonymous said...

how does eddie lucio afford his home in Los Fresnos on his salary? Google Earth that place you know where the road is blocked. Nice place politics does pay!

Anonymous said...

Leaches !!!!

Anonymous said...

Bola de rats !!!! Java the hut

Anonymous said...

Lucio's, a corrupt family, especially Eddie (St. Senator). I wonder what he thinks when he looks in the mirror (Poor Man). God will judge him accordingly, he needs to humble himself. Power, pride and money will destroy you.Poor Eddie....

Anonymous said...

Kickbacks !!!

Anonymous said...

People like the Lucios and Rivera do not have a conscience they are delusional above the law but every dog has their day and believe in this it's coming !

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane recalling Caliche Rey and the trained seal Eddie Jr.

Spend two minutes listening to this DINO (Democrat In Name Only) and it is obvious Eddie Jr. has nothing of value to offer any company except his vote.

Anonymous said...

EDDIE aprovecha ahorita que esta el circo vazquez a ver si con el trajecito que traes te contratan de jodido para las funciones de matine.QUE RIDICULO TE VEZ

Anonymous said...

The political and judicial corruption of the early days remain and prevent progress. According to statistics Brownsville is the poorest and 4th most eneducated in Texas. Surely a testament to our elected officials. Senator Eddie Lucio has gotten rich by selling his vote to lobby groups outside the Valley and promoting his clients that do work here.he has taught those schemes to his son "The Turd".

Anonymous said...

State legislators are fed by lobbyists to their contant. This is a proven fact. This also goes for many Congress officials.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget ex-Gov. Perry . He left office a very wealthy person. Just one lobbyist forked over $250'000 to his delight. He went crying to the bank.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully one day he gets busted and gets held accountable for all his greedy deals.....a more despicable family would be hard to find.

Anonymous said...

Con Ray Ramon de Corazon!!!

Anonymous said...

Bastardos, Lucio Jr. now clings to religion, hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

The only thing Ray Ramon ever moved was his hands all over women that male pig just like his buddy Joe G. lucky they were never indicted for their sexual harassment ... piece of garbage ... both

Anonymous said...

Didn't realize we had red drones in the court house .

rita