Sunday, May 7, 2017


By Juan Montoya
The end of the City of Brownsville commission elections with the election of Joel Munguia for District 3, Ben Neece for District 4, and the reelection of Rose Gowen for the At-Large "B" seat signal not the end, but the the start of the political season for races in 2018.

There will be no city races next, year, thank God, but there are plenty of judicial and school district vacancies for candidates to vie for. At the Brownsville Independent School District, three members will be up for reelection, as well as two for Cameron County Justice of the Peace in the Brownsville area. There are also some Cameron County Court-at-Law and some district courts judgeships that will be up for grabs.

If your voting card has taken a beating in these past two years, better get a replacement, because more are coming.

But for now until the party primaries in March 6 , 2018, votes can take a respite from the constant drumbeats of political messages and propaganda and enjoy the summer months until the political campaigns rev up and start anew. Still the 5,259 votes cast in this election are only 6.2 percent of the estimated 84,849 registered voters in the city.

The fall out from the Brownsville city elections last night will make themselves felt after the vote is canvassed and the winners administered the oath of office. After that, the seemingly tranquil control of the commission by autocratic Mayor Tony Martinez may come to an end. We will see that the city commission will demand of the administration and of the Public Utility Board a full accounting on the  cost and progress of the Tenaska-COB Memorandum of Understanding, an accounting of the money collected from the higher utility rates passes since 2013, and a full accounting of where the estimated $90 million accrued from the hike in utility rates have gone.

The Rose Gowen-Erasmo Castro race for the At-Large "B" election shows that some degree of the manipulation of the mail-in vote (said to have been carried out with the support of Brownsville Independent School District trustee Phil Cowen)  still exists. Of the 200 mail-in ballots cast in the city races, Gowen got 134, far outstripping Castro's 66.

The mail-in vote in the two other district races was more or less evenly split between the candidates, a statistical tie.

But it was the Neece-Villarreal race for District 4 (won by Neece 863 to 806) that showed the chink in the armor of the political machine. Villarreal was a sure vote for Martinez on the city commission and had deep political connections with Cameron County's Pct. 1 commissioner Sofia Benavides who has not lost an election since she was appointed to finish out the term of her late husband Pete in 2006 and then went on to win another four year term in 2009 and then another in 2013. She started a new term in 2017.

The Villarreal camp was hoping those connections with the formidable Benavides machine would carry him over the top in this race. Yet, despite the financial support of the establishment, Linbarger Goggan Blair and Sampson, the nationwide tax delinquency collection firm, and affordable housing mogul Bill Fisher from Dallas, it was not to be.

Villarreal's connections with the Benavides clan is one of blood relations. He married Sofia's niece Lynette and the families ties to the numerous Benavides family assured him of support throughout the city, including his district in southwest Brownsville. Even the Cowen clan's (Ralph, Phil, etc.) rumor campaign against Neece fizzled with the outpouring of support for his opponent.

Neece' appeals to voters through social media and through newspaper ads and door-to-door campaigning focused on the mismanagement of the taxpayers' money by the Martinez administration during his opponent's watch. It was a message that resonated with the voters. In the other two races, money decided the outcome with Gowen and Joel Mungia (against William Garza) pouring in thousands against their cash-strapped opponents.

During election day at the Russel Elementary voting site, Villareal was miffed that Neece's supporters showed up en masse with two live broadcasts over local radio stations and called out the Brownsville Police Dept. at least three times attempting to have them removed from the site. He was not successful.

The next few months will show just how tenuous a grip Martinez has on the city commission. Even before District 3 incumbent Deborah Portillo left office, she was already joining forces with commissioners Cesar de Leon and Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa to ask for a review of the Martinez-championed Tenaska-COB deal for the $500 million power plant that was supposed to have been finished by June 2016.

From now on, every fiscal sleight-of-hand that Martinez, with the assistance of city manager Charlie Cabler and city attorney Mark Sossi make will come under intense scrutiny by the new gelling majority.


Anonymous said...

We do hope that Ben Neece stand by his words to stop mismanagement of tax payers monies. Do away with the Tenaska deal, no more purchases of worthless real estate, no more Cyclovias and eliminate many useless bike lanes in the downtown area that require constant re-painting. Way to go Mr. Neece, we wish success as one of our next commissioner, congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Villarreal to run for mayor. He's not done, juanito. Neece is too old, guey!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and YOU were the biggest propagandist!

Anonymous said...

On the watch of Mayor Tony Martinez this city has suffered one fiasco after another that have cost the tax payers millions of dollars and they have received little or no benefit. Tenasko, SpaceX, Real estate to benefit Julieta Garcia....all the way down to the "Las Palmas" shopping area hailed last year by Mayor Martinez. "Las Palmas" is a great symbol of what Tony Martinez has brought this city....NADA. He is not a leader, has not been transparent, makes promises that he never comes through on, and through all this has maintained a casual arrogance about his failures. We need a leader....not just a "greeter".

Anonymous said...

We are still waiting for the code of ethics to be implemented as he promised when he took over as Mayor six years ago. No wonder it has not been implemented since the Legal department is the one who supposed to create it. Good luck, it will never happen under his watch.

Anonymous said...

Please don't make me laugh

Anonymous said...

Longoria is next

Anonymous said...

This is a big victory for the people of Brownsville

Anonymous said...

Hey Erasmo, the reason you and William Garza lost is because you tried to make a fake issue out of the bike trails. The truth is everyone loves the bike trails. If you wanted to bring up a city issue worth aggravating people about, you should have focused 100% on the Tenaska 90 MILLION fiasco, or the empty City Golf Course... but you wasted your time on bike trails that are used by thousands of brownsville residents EVERY DAY... WTF vato?? Yeah, you don't live here, so you apparently didn't realize hundreds of people use these trails every hour. What a fucking stupid issue. You should have stuck to Tenaska, 90 million, and 30% PUB hike was enough to rile up every PUB payer aka every voter. Could have won on that. You have to be a special kind of idiot to ignore a 90 million dollar PUB fiasco, and instead turn your attention to a few hundred dollars spent on bike trail paint. What a fucking RETARDED MORON.... and no wonder you all lost. RETARDS. Tell us more about how thin people on bike trails are bad, you fatass whale. Luckily Neece had enough earned cred with Earth Day no one truly believed he was part of the Castro bike hate brigade... but we are wary now. You've poisoned him. May be a 1 termer if he doesn't get a clue

Anonymous said...

Ignorantes - SpaceX is a work in progress - your used to opening up taco joints from one day to the next.

Ben Neece and Martinez are both attorneys
Ben Neece and Martinez are both in their 60's
Ben Neece and Martinez know Brownsville is full of fast food and stupid cowboys fans.

Ben Neence will work with Matinez I guarantee you that! He know Brownsville needs big money projects, Ben Neece rode in on a Trojan Hoarse and you guys se la tragaron today.


Anonymous said...

Villarreal is a loser

Anonymous said...

When the pink unicorn was selling at Starbuck, Neece was there lighting it up trying to catch a unicorn ride. No sabia el wey que era un drink.