Thursday, November 3, 2016


By Jim Barton
Brownsville Observer Blog
Moving tentatively from Fred Rusteberg's leadership into Irv Downing's more theoretical focus, the United Brownsville Coordinating Board seems somehow more entrenched, but less relevant,

This month's meeting, held at the IBC Bank's second floor conference room Wednesday, was attended by representatives of all the contributing entities except TSC. (I suspect TSC will not continue their $20,000 annual "dues," as the current board of trustees is less naive than the previous one.) The unelected group is financed entirely by Brownsville tax dollars or money from P.U.B. ratepayers and tuition monies from TSC and UT-RGV.

A financial downturn, newly installed board president Irv Downing explains, led to elimination of the $80,000 executive director position, formerly occupied by Mike Gonzalez. Mike had recently started using the first name, Miguel, but now, on his return to Kyle, Texas, will likely go back to being "Mike."

Downing explained that, with the elimination of the executive director position, much of the work was now being done by Laura Matamoros, the lone staffer still on the payroll. The "United Brownsville Blog" has not had a posting since May.

Previously, eight local entities each contributed $25,000, for an annual budget of $200,000, but now seven entities contribute $20,000 each, supplemented by five anonymous "Private Sector Sponsors" at $5,000 each, for a total of only $165,000. That shortfall, Downing explained, was the reason Gonzalez had to be let go. He hinted that more private sector sponsorships would be pursued.

In terms of representation, none of the city commissioners or the mayor attended. Tri-Chair Debbie Portillo's seat was empty.

The weirdness of this group is that it discusses local projects as if it has some supervisory responsibility for them. Issues like resaca restoration, curbside recycling, SpaceX, and even attracting new industry are covered as if under the group's purview.

Wednesday's agenda, obviously prepared by Chairman Downing, included a "Progress Report on Collaborative Initiatives." Among the initiatives was a "Space Industry Work Group," but the chairman tabled that item because, as he stated, "the group had not convened yet."

In a previous meeting, Downing admonished the group to "not work in silos," that is independently, without collaboration. As our our area moves into a more regional approach with a more expansive MPO, for example, United Brownsville seems stuck in its own isolated silo.

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