Sunday, June 18, 2017


By Juan Montoya
There was, at one time, a photograph of a full-page Brownsville Herald Lifestyle article dealing with the petition before the Brownsville Planning and Zoning Commission for a permit to use septic tanks on a trailer park subdivision called California Estates gracing the door of a local home.

The photo of the article was displayed prominently by Adolph Crixell on the door of this bathroom and when he and his mate had a party or get together, visitors could read it.
The developer was none other than Renato Cardenas, whose family still develops subdivisions and now run successful car dealerships here and up the valley.

At the time Cadenas was just starting his push to become one of the most important subdivision developers in town and had paved his way by having a son-in-law as a city commissioner (Harry McNair) and his many political connections. His Cardenas Motors was fast becoming one of the biggest dealerships in town. Mrs. Cardenas (Mary Rose) would one day become a trustee at Texas Southmost College.

Crixell, a pharmacist whose family presence in Brownsville dates back to the late 1800s, was a member of the P and Z board when Cardenas presented his proposal.

In those days (the mid-1970s), there was a push in Brownsville to do away with outside privies and septic tank use within the City of Brownsville. A citywide program was implemented to get rid of the potential contamination of the ground water with outhouses and overflowing septic tanks that threatened the health of city residents.

So when Cardenas presented the proposal to build his California Estates trailer park subdivision and asked the he be allowed to install septic tanks, red flags went up at the P and Z.
Would the city's plan to do away with septic tank use within the city limits and the ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction) be adhered to? Or would Cardenas' political influence override the ban?

Leading the charge against the granting of the septic tank permits was Crixell, who as a P and Z member came out against the proposal. Cardenas argued that the use of septic tanks would allow poor people to have a home since the Public Utility Board did not have sewer lines to service the development. California Estates is just south of the Brownsville airport across California Road. Running alongside the trailer park is a city resaca used by the irrigation district to supply water to area farms.

At the time Bill Salter was the city editor and he thought it might be an important public-issue story to have both sides give their arguments for and against the granting of the septic tank permits. He sent me to interview both Crixell and Cardenas.
At first, Cardenas did not want to speak with a newspaper reporter since the paper had been running articles about city landlords renting substandard homes and he was among those named in a few of them.
He was understandably reluctant to sit with me, but it just so happened that his wife Mary Rose was in the office at the car dealership when I arrived. She urged him to grant the interview and reminded him that Reba, their daughter, was also attending college to get a journalism degree. Renato relented and he got to make his argument for the granting of the septic tank permits.

Crixell was more forthcoming. He had done the research on potential contaminants in human waste that could potentially spill over into the resaca and expose the people there, specially children, to all sorts of nasty contagious disease.

Crixell's arguments carried the day and the city denied Cardenas the permits to install septics at the trailer park. Planners at the city cheered the decision. In those days Irv Downing ruled the roost and the principal planner was Larry Brown, and among the staff was Frank Bejarano, who would later go on to become the director of Planning and Management for Cameron County, among others. (We stand corrected.)

It must have been around 2:30 p.m. or so a few days following the publishing of the point-counterpoint article when Renato came storming into editorial at the Herald. He was livid because they had turned down his proposal and blamed me personally for losing money on the deal.

City planners, on the other hand, saw the denial of the permits as a victory and a turning point for the city's efforts to clean up its image and bring it into the 20th Century.

From that day forward, local developers knew that any new subdivision within the city or in its ETJ would not pass muster if it included septic tanks for its sewer services. And it took one voice on the P and Z to lead the city on that road to progress.


Anonymous said...

Adolph Crixell the voice of reason to clean up the city.Thanks for your leadership!

Anonymous said...

Great story! Good job, Adolph Crixell.

Anonymous said...

A little late on this one, bro.

Anonymous said...

No where else but Cardenas. Captain Bob salutes the family from High Seas

Anonymous said...

Renato and the Cardenas clan are carpetbaggers who conspired with Juliet Garcia, Terry Ray, Michael Putegnat, Fred Rusteberg, Carlos Marin, Tony Martinez and others to bleed this town. We need more funerals to get rid of these individuals who plague our city.

Anonymous said...

The Kardenas Klan gained wealth and prominence on the backs of the people they cheated...whether cars, property or homes. The Kardenas Klan used stolen assets to weasel its way or buy its way on to boards and into the public eye. The Kardenas Klan proves that shit does float....rising to the top despite the smell.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget what one of the sons tried to do with Raul Tejerina and his widows estate dam shameful.The fruit didn't fall far from the tree.