Wednesday, June 21, 2017


By Juan Montoya
A unanimous Brownsville City Commission – including commissioner At-Large "B" Rose Gowen who pedaled her bike furiously back from "China" to attend Tuesday's meeting – removed the Brownsville Wellness Coalition's application for a $80,000 grant to renovate a dilapidated Quonset hut off the Palo Alto bike-and-hike trail.

Only commissioner Ben Neece – said to be somewhere on the cordillera between Mexico and Guatemala in Chiapas – did not attend the meeting.

Nevertheless, the commission, citing a lack of communication between them and the BWC board, voted to approve the awarding of grants to four other applicants for quality-of-life projects in the city. Commissioner Cesar de Leon and City Manager Charlie Cabler disputed the assertions by the BWC in making its initial application for $360,000 that the project was a "collaboration" between the BWC, the Mitte Cultural District, and the Museum of Fine Arts of Brownsville.

"The city was not consulted," Cabler responded to De Leon's query during the meeting.

The groups whose applications to the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) were reviewed by that entity during its public hearings were:

The presenter for the BCIC said her board had initially received the $360,000 request from the BWC, but that it had pared it down to $79,363 for presentation to the city. In its application to the BCIC, the BWC said the cost of the entire plan would be $1.4 million to transform the dilapidated 1939 corrugated metal Quonset Hut into a "gem" of the cultural district. The application narrative said it would seek the other $1.1 million of the total price tag from other "donors and partners."

As envisioned, once the money was acquired the BWC would move to redo the building which has been at one time a cannery and then a warehouse, into a storage area for the Farmers Market, a refrigerator "hub" for its tenants, a food court, provide artisans' spaces for the MOFA, and a classroom for healthy eating that would include a kitchen and office space for the groups.

That drew some questions from De Leon, who said that various people had complained that some artisans had been kept out of the Farmers Market because their work did not meet that board's criteria as to what constituted art as well as what produce vendors would be allowed to sell their wares in the Linear Park spaces provided by the group.

Gowen countered that the artisans were selected by the Museum of Fine Art and that the food vendors were selected by the Farmers Market board.

"They're not going to allow them to sell just any popcorn," she said, adding that some popcorn sold did not meet the health criteria for the farmers market.

De Leon said that the commission wanted the diverse groups involved to adopt an "inclusive" approach to who could participate in the Saturday farmers market. The city pays for the personnel who erect and remove the tents and tables for the group every Saturday. It also gives the Museum of Fine Arts a yearly $50,000 grant and more than $43.000 in free utilities.

Also approved was a prototype of a Memorandum Of Understanding between the Rails to Trails Conservancy of Washington D.C. and ten municipal entities – including the City of Brownsville – who are members of the so-called LRGV Active Plan Advisory Committee to "achieve the successful buildout of (Cameron County's) Active Transportation Network."

Assuring the commissioners that there wasn't "any money" involved with the approval of the MOU, a unanimous city commission – with Gowen freshly arrived from "China" and Neece absent and wandering somewhere through the Guatemala-Mexico border – approved the item.

After the approval of the MPU to be presented to the other member cities. Gowen was recognized for her efforts to bring the other none entities on board to form the network even though she was a doctor and not a politician.

But how the hiring an executive director and staff, office space and supplies, and travel and other expenses will be paid for was never discussed, although the MOU lays the responsibility for "fundraising" for the plan's implementation on the 10-member county advisory group.


Anonymous said...

At least the Commission made a good decision; finally. Someone was hoping to slip this "boondagle" past the community. Thank you Juan for making this a public issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes - if it wasn't for you Juan the would've passed it - you carry so much weight around, they're so afraid of you.

Your the puppeteer behind the City commission and your doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

Again, peddling the falsehood that Gowen went to China. If anyone's interested they, too, can "go to China"... by taking a stroll down to the China exhibit at the Children's Museum. How real that exhibition must be if it fooled a blogger into thinking someone actually went to China.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Blogger uses quotations as an appropriate way to tell readers it's not really China. You must have gone to BISD and missed this basic English language concept. No wonder BISD is in the "excellent" state it's in.

Anonymous said...

It was high time that someone in the city commission would stand against uncontrolled spending of tax dollars to benefit a special group. Many thanks to commissioner Cesar De Leon for taking the initiative and leadership to ensure tax dollars are spend wisely. We hope that commissioner De Leon would consider running for Mayor on the next elections, he would be a great leader even at his young age. Way to go Sir, my sincere appreciation for your service to our community. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

@Anon Jun 21 at 2:17: Cut Juan some slack, I'm sure if you were as drunk as Juan you'd think it was China too.