Tuesday, January 17, 2017


By Juan Montoya
It all started innocently enough.

Back in 2006, a Brownsville delegation including commissioner Ricardo Longoria went to Washington seeking federal funds for downtown revitalization. Eddie Trevino, the current Cameron County Judge, was mayor then.

Image result for eddie treviño
There, they were told by U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota and former U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz that there was money for Brownsville but that they needed to present a Master Plan to be considered for funding.

The contract – which quickly grew to more than $1 million – was awarded to Carlos Marin's Ambiotec. The plan was created, but unfortunately, the city's benefactors in Washington, Oberstar and Ortiz, did not get reelected. Many thought that was the end of that and placed the plan on a shelf since the purpose for its existence had disappeared.

Undeterred, some leading citizens of the community seized the opportunity and put their heads together to came up with something called the United Brownsville Coordinating Board.

The "mission statement " of the UBCB states that its purpose is to "lessen the burden" of government on elected officials and to "provide a forum" for community progress. The trio was self-appointed and their hand-picked nominees to the board served at their invitation. None of the three were elected officials.

Image result for fred rustebergThey appointed IBC President Fred Rusteberg, former TSC-UTB president Julieta Garcia and UTB-TSC VP Irv Downing as the troika in charge. They formed United Brownsville and invited some elected officials and others to sit on the United Brownsville as voting and non-voting members. Then-mayor Pat Ahumada, who followed Trevino and was suspicious of the plan, was not invited to join the United Brownsville board.

And how to fund their "operations?"

They got eight publicly-funded entities to fork over $25,000 each per year since 2009 to their unelected board.
These were the City of Brownsville, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), the Brownsville Independent School District, the Brownsville Navigation District, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corp (BCIC) and the University of Texas-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College.

Image result for juliet garciaThe triumvirate, in turn, filled the United Brownsville board with pliant members who eagerly rushed to please Rusteberg, Garcia, Downing and Marin to do as they pleased with an imprimatur of legitimacy that they did not have.

This trio installed Mike Gonzalez, the former Tea Party mayor of Kyle, Texas, as its executive director at a $78,000 annual salary to carry out their mandate and ride herd over the elected and appointed public entities who pay the United Brownsville gang their tribute in the form of the  $25,000 "membership fee" to sit at the table and receive enlightenment from the freeloaders.

The former Tea Party mayor of Kyle, Texas, left a dismal track record in Kyle, having doubled property taxes and left the city in hock to finance his pet projects and those of his friends, never registered to vote in Brownsville and kept his homestead in Kyle throughout his tenure that ended in 2016. 

Since 2009, and until just this past year, United Brownsville drew the $200,000 in "memberships" from the eight entities, until members of the elected board such as the Port of Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, and now the City of Brownsville felt they were not getting anything in return for their annual $25,000 "memberships" so they could "sit at the table."

Over the seven odd years that United Brownsville milked the community, it easily collected more than $1.4 million in "membership" fees from the entities.

They also pushed behind the scenes to fund even more "master plans."

One of those was something called the Brownsville Strategic Infrastructure and Land Management Plan for which the Port of Brownsville, the Brownsville Public Utility Board and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation paid a pretty penny, $$454,592.02 to be exact. 

That little plum was handed out to none other than Robin McCaffrey of Needham-McCaffrey and Associates, Inc. – the same firm that helped Gonzalez drive Kyle to financial debt and ruin.

The grandiose plan?

United Brownsville invented something high-sounding called the Bi-National Border Economic Development  Trojan horse. Under this "plan," the usual suspects – Rusteberg, Marin, Mayor Tony Martinez, FINSA's Sergio Arguelles, and Garcia – were in the process of hijacking the direction of this region's economic development to benefit a select cabal of their fellow travelers.  In fact, Treviño is a United Brownsville board member, too.

"Central to the BiNED concept is establishing advanced manufacturing locally to serve the electronics and automotive manufacturing industries that are booming in Mexico's interior."
If you have the stomach to read through this repetitive document, you will see that the same themes are repeated endlessly and the con goes something like this:

"Brownsville is poised to become the intermodal and trade hub linking the burgeoning markets in Mexico with its new oil discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, reap the benefits of the new highway linking Matamoros with the west coast of Mexico to lure the China trade, and stands to leap into the future with SpaceX, a new steel plant at the port, and become a produce import center to rival Laredo and McAllen."

Throughout this document, United Brownsville and the coordinating board are named as the crucial cogs in the gears to launch a "poised" Browntown (Imagine Brownsville in a Greek profile) to ignite the economic firestorm that's coming.

Oscar Gacia Jr., – Julieta Garcia's son – was the vice-chair at PUB when the utility approved the expenditure to put together the plan, jumped ship and joined San Antonio-Jacob's Engineering just in time to garner the first phase of a $750,000 implementation contract recommended in the Super Duper Plan.

He got the first $185,000 for his "plan" and came back to reap the remaining $565,000 before the GBIC and then the BEDC.

However, word had gotten out that the initial "plan" that Garcia Jr. had delivered as his work product was 99 pages, 49 of which were nothing more than Xerox copies of the index cards that were used in some of the meetings of the "stakeholders" when they talked about "the plan."

Garcia Jr. was turned down, first by the PUB and the Port, who declined to participate in the next "plan" and the4n by the GBIC and the BEDC, who were being asked to fund Garcia's plan by themselves.

Just this past November the city commission – at the request of commissioners Longoria and Cesar De Leon – voted to stop funding United Brownsville. In fact, only two entities of the original eight are pitching in their $25,000. City commissioner Deborah Portillo, who had been Gonzalez's secretary at United Brownsville, was appointed as chair of the United Brownsville Coordinating Board over one employee, Laura Matamoros. Portillo resigned shortly thereafter to address "other priorities."

Meanwhile, except for Gonzalez, Portillo and Matamoros,  Needham-McCaffrey, Marin and Oscar Garcia Jr., not one job was created for the people of Brownsville throughout the Imagine Brownsville-United Brownsville- United Brownsville Coordinating Board metamorphosis. And what about the more than $3 million or more that the public paid for the seven years that this scam has lasted? Can anyone be held accountable for that waste of public funds?

Apparently not.


Anonymous said...

And now Marin an Co. have been butt stroking Mike Hernandez and OP1033.

Anonymous said...

Just wait.....Eddie Trevino will have the county paying the ridiculous "fee" for "a seat at the table." Trevino is responsible for this plague on the taxpayers .

chief cool arrow said...

puros mamones that's it nothing more

Anonymous said...

Eddie Trevino is a big self serving ass

Anonymous said...

So that's how Juliet Garcia and Company works. Then She got to UT for $1 million for working out of her house these last three years. Another pay off for her influence moving UT to Edinburg? Is the Hospital District stage 3 for her son Oscar? $40 million a year in taxes. Garcia Incorporated. Trump could take lessons. Are these the puzzle pieces falling together?