Friday, January 20, 2017


By Juan Montoya
When supporters of Tony Martinez were campaigning for his reelection, they emphasized that – unlike his opponent and former Mayor Pat Ahumada – Martinez was already a millionaire and voters wouldn't have to worry about him coveting public money.
In fact, Martinez, is a spiritual man and pointed to a photograph of him taking the Sacred Host (communion) from his late son, a priest, in the private chapel he built in his home.

The reference was to Ahumada depositing a $26,000 check made out ot a vendor with the city for which he was tried and found acquitted.
"Tony is rich," they said. "He doesn't need the city's money."

What they didn't say was that Martinez was all too ready to spend it.
Upon his taking office, he went to a mayor's conference in Florida and was tickled to no end when a vendor told him Brownsville was fortunate to have been chosen from among hundreds of cities to participate in a banner promotion highlighting the city's attractions.

He committed the city to do business with a one-page agreement between it Community Showcase Banners, of Chicago, Illinois,and another office in Warsaw, N.Y.
The agreement indicated that it was signed by Martinez June 15, 2012, while at the mayors' conference and committed the city to a three-year period when the company can do business selling advertising banners to local businesses that will include the city logo on top and an ad from buyers on the lower third of the banner.

The agreement also called for the city to provide Community Showcase Banners "all necessary brackets, hardware, installation and maintenance of the banners.The city also agreed to give the right to use organization's name in connection with the representation, production, and marketing of the program..."

The agreement also called for the city to provide "identification of, and access to the preferred pole sites for proper banner placement, monitoring and maintenance of banners as needed throughout their display and installation of replacement banners as needed (and hand scribbled) "and no cost to the City of Brownsville."

Soon, after local business owners called on Cabler to ask if the company was on the up and up, the farce was discovered and the company went away. But that was just the beginning.

Next, Martinez found out that Cabler had carte blanche to spend up to $35,000 without going through the city commission. Like kid in a candy store, Martinez went to that well so often that purchasing questioned several of the bills and asked Cabler who had approved them. Cabler dutifully approved them as they landed on his desk "as per Mayor Martinez."

– In July 2012 he had City Manager Charlie Cabler authorize the payment of $1,500 to one R. Steven Lewis, a licensed architect and self-described "UTB Relocation Consultant." In a previous email, Lewis had said that he would just require payment of his air fare from California and his room at the Marriott Courtyard for "Mayor Martinez." Then, just five days later on July 31, Lewis apparently had a change of heart and Cabler received another email invoice from Lewis, this time for $4,500 for his "UT Brownsville Relocation Consultation." Martinez ordered the city staff to pay it.

– The Complete Streets Workshop" held May 16 featured Kevin St. Jaques, a member of the Complete Streets Speakers Bureau which was held at the mayor's initiative and which required the Brownsville Community Incentives Corporation (BCIC) to fork over $5,000, of which $2,300 was paid to Freese and Nichols, of Ft. Worth, to have Jaques tell us that our things as they were in Browntown left much to be desired.

–  Gil Peñalosa, the executive director of the 8-80 Cities, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, came on Tony's behalf and told us on August 28-30 at a conference at the Cueto Building that we should be ashamed of ourselves for having such bad streets, sidewalks and phantom bus shelters. Almost a month (August 1) before Peñalosa browbeat the citizens, city administrators and local bigwigs over the condition of our infrastructure and lack of sidewalks and shoddy streets, the city meekly approved payment to him for $7,974 that included $6,500 for professional services, $988 for air transportation, and $485 for accommodations and meals in good old "American dollars," as he requested, not in discounted Canadian currency.

– The  building communityWORKSHOP of Dallas which includes four principals of Design/Program and another four support assistants have been working for Tony on his UTB proposal to entice the Hidalgo County-bound UT System to "please stay in little old' Browntown and we'll give you all kinds of land to do it (to date, about 80 acres)."
buildingcommunityWORKSHOP has made Tony's pipe dream an industry. It's first invoice for the ongoing work for Tony's UTB proposal cost us a tidy sum.

Their first invoice landed on Cabler's desk with a thud. The hit for putting together a Request For Proposals which could have been done in-house by a planning intern was not cheap. Would you believe $27,803.12 which included round-trip flights from Dallas to Harlingen for its principal at a cost of $541. 20 (Sept. 21), $347.20 (Oct. 3), and $535.20 (Oct. 8)?
Among the items in the invoice for the $475 monthly rent on an apartment (Sept. 21) needed to house the group's principals.

In the mayor's RFP to the UT System, he not only offered to sell huge tracts of publicly-owned land to the UT System at "fair market value," he also offered them other "incentives." Some of these were as follows:

* Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation - $2,500 to $5,000 for every University job associated with UTB's location downtown
* Brownsville Economic Development Corporation - BEDC will contribute tax revenue from increased sales, mixed beverage, and parking meter taxes to UTB for public realm improvements downtown.

*Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation - BCIC will provide funding and/or subsidies for "quality of life" projects, including cultural and athletic amenities in greater Downtown Brownsville

* Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization and BCIC - MPO and BCIC will increase bicycle infrastructure, including the extension of city hike and bike trails to better connect the UTB facilities with surrounding downtown neighborhoods and amenities

* Public Utility Board - PUB will provide reduced utility rates for new UTB buildings that are built to LEED accreditation standards

* Brownsville Metro - Brownsville Metro will increase their bus coverage area to better serve UTB's campus and to increase service frequency to UTB campus facilities.

But wait Gargantua hasn't had enough. Not quite yet, anyway.

During his tenure he has been the guiding force behind the issuance of millions in Certificates of Obligation that don't have to go to the public for approval. Sucha CO issuance was used to buy the $2.3 milion Casa del Nylon from his buddy Abraham Galonsky with the justification that the University of Texas wold buy the building from the city. UT didn't bite and the building sits empty.

The straw that almost broke the camel's back was his almost exclusive spending of a more than $3 million settlement between the city and the the city and the American Electric Power Texas Central Co. The mayor and administration, flying under the radar with purchases under the $35,000 limit after which they have to bring them before the full commission, has already tapped into it and only $2.6 million is left.

Among some of those "public expenditures" were the $45,000 that were spent to move Charles Stillman's "love shack" from Corpus Christi to the Cueto Building and then to the Linear Park. Oh yeah, why would millionaire heirs of Don Carlos need public money to salvage that eyesore?

That prompted commissioners John Villarreal (co-chair of United Brownsville) Jessica Tetreau, Deborah Portillo and Ricardo Longoria to ask administration (City Manager Charlie Cabler) to bring all items spent by the mayor and city administration before them and before they are spent.

Not only did he go along with the Brownsville Public Utility Board to issue $325 million of debt on an that already overburdened budget ($200 million), but he voted to approve rate hikes over the next six years that saw the bond ratings for the once-healthy municipally-owned utility slide into "negative."
Instead, everyone on the city commission applauded and voted on the BPUB's request to issue the natural-gas bonds that would pay for construction of the 800 MW plant and a natural gas and a water pipeline from up the Valley.

But even before the announcement of the plant's construction and PUB's "investment" in it, the city commissioners had already approved the rate hikes that would make the investment possible. No one – not one – commissioner spoke up against the massive debt being undertaken on the backs of the PUB ratepayers. And no one questioned how far down the road  it would be before the bond-rating agencies would begin to worry about the ability of the 80 percent of ratepayers in the nation's poorest city could stand the constant surge of rate hikes.

Those "small" increases were approved by commissioners in December 2012 during a special meeting. They adopted upwards rate hikes that will see city residents pay a 36 percent increase in electric rates over the next three years, a 20 percent increase in water rates over the same period, and a 6 percent hike in waste water costs over two years.
Image result for tony martinez, brownsvilleUnder the plan approved by both bodies, electric rates went up by 14 percent by October 2013 and will go up another 22 percent by October 2016.

Now, with the pile of money from the increased rates soaring toward $90 million and construction of the plant nowhere in sight, rate payers are asking why they aren't getting their money back and the rates remain abnormally high.

Like we said at the beginning, Tony was the millionaire we could trust and believe in. He had no need to take public funds like the ones before.
I guess we were wrong, weren't we? Por algo son millonarios los sinverguenzas..

1 comment:


Where have I seen a con man brag or say "I am very rich"?