Tuesday, June 6, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Back in December 2012, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, the city and Tenaska entered into a Memorandum Of Understanding that resulted in a steep hike in utility rates (35 percent in electric alone) and an encumbrance of utility ratepayers of $325 million toward the construction of a $500 million power plant.

Efforts to find out the contents of the MOU were fought tooth and nail by the utility and private energy supplier Tenaska with petitions to the Texas Attorney General's Office that releasing its contents would harm them in the competitive energy business. Now, with the envisioned 2016 construction date long past, the PUB and the company still refuse to let the public see what the MOU entails, and what obligations the city and Tenaska signed on to.

To this day, PUB through its legal counsel (Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño), the city and the company are resisting showing the public what their obligations – and the company's – are. New commissioners have been told they will be allowed to read it, but cannot make any copies that may be accessible to the public. This is governmental opaqueness at its best (or worst).

Fast forward to tonight's meeting of the city commission. There is an item on the agenda that reads: "Discussion and Possible ACTION regarding entering into a proposed Memorandum of Understanding with Cameron County for the creation of a West Rail Trail."
In the past, one could got to the city's website and click on the agendas section of the city secretary's office, clock on the agenda's binder, and the documentation would be there.

Not so in this case. No one, apparently, has access to the MOU mentioned in the agenda except for the city commissioners, the city attorney, and the City Manager Charlie Cabler.
Why the great mystery?

We all know that if the MOU before the city commissioners is anything like the "active" plan presented for "adoption" to the county commissioners by Ramiro Gonzalez, it will be DOA. In the end, after the county commission turned down "adopting" the plan that envisions linking 10 Valley cities with hike and bike trails, a sheepish Gonzalez returned with the same plan and asked for the commissioners "support," a term bereft of cash commitments and ambivalent on the West Rail Trail.

The bike and hike trail advocates in the city's west side – the "Our Way of the Highway" crowd – are adamant that there be no road built there. And the county commissioners – with the exception of County Judge Treviño seeking reelection – to a man (and one woman) favor a middle-of-the-road compromise that would see a road and bike-hike-trail combination to ease congestion and provide a loop to the expressway out of town. The plans for the road and the second causeway to South Padre Island have been on the books since 2004, when the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority was created.

County observers are scratching their heads over the obstinacy of the city administrators and some of its elected officials (especially Rose Gowen and Tony Martinez) to keep on trying to shove this plan down their throats.
The MOU that might get passed at tonight's meeting by a majority of the city commissioners will not be worth the paper it's printed on unless they can convince a skeptical majority at the county commissioners court to sign on the dotted line.

But until then, the public will not get a chance to see what its municipal representatives acting on their behalf will be considering because this opaque city government will not deign that they know. The Tenaska and the West Rail Trail MOUs smell one and the same.


Anonymous said...

In before, Mr. So what?

Anonymous said...

Tony Martinez campaigned on a platform of transparency in government. He has failed grandly to keep his promise and there is a greater lack of transparency during his tenure than before he was elected. Tony depends on secrecy to protect his poor decisions and the poor investment of tax dollars. There is no Tenasko Plant and probably never will be. Brownsville under the management of Tony Martinez and his hand picked commissioners is swirling down the toilet, while other cities in Cameron County and the Valley grow and prosper.

Anonymous said...

Does Bike and Hike Queen, Rosita Zavaleta Gowen have any commitments from other cities in the valley or other counties to support her valley-wide bike and hike program. Probably not. The city wants this agreement, but refuses to support other tranportation and mobility programs proposed in the RGV. While the failing infrastructure throughout the city goes without a plan, here we have an extensive plan for a bike and hike trail without telling anyone the costs. Come on Tony Martinez and our City Commission....can't you get together on anything except bike and hike and secrecy.

Anonymous said...

Mum's the word my ass citizens own PUB either give us our money back or start giving us answers.