Saturday, June 19, 2021

CHENO CORTINA CAPTURED, SAW MAXIMILIAN'S EXECUTION

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

It will be 154 years ago today that the ill-fated empire of Maximilian came to an end with his shooting against a wall near el Cerro de las Campanas in Santiago de Queretaro.

Maximilian was captured in May 1867, sentenced to death at a court martial, and executed, together with Generals Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia, on June 19, 1867.

And taking a part in Maximilian's capture and witnessing his execution was Juan N. Cortina, who had played a role in the French defeat at Puebla in 1862, a battle still celebrated during Cinco de Mayo.

France, together with Spain and the United Kingdom, had invaded Mexico in the winter of 1861  pressured the Mexican government into settling its debts with the three powers after Mexico had announced a suspension on debt repayment; the Spanish and British both withdrew the following year after negotiating agreements with the Mexican government and realizing the true intention of the French, who sought to conquer the country. 

Seeking to legitimize French rule, Emperor Napoleon III invited Maximilian to establish a new pro-French Mexican monarchy. With the support of the French army and a group of Conservative Party monarchists hostile to the Liberal Party administration of President Benito Juarez. Maximilian accepted the crown of Mexico on 10 April 1864.

Mejia had at one time occupied Matamoros and had fought against the local forces of brigadier general Cortina. Cortina, demonized by Texans and their historians, had at one time in September 1859 occupied Brownsville for two days seeking "vampires in the guise of men.". 

Along with Cortina, other Mexican notables were present there under Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, among them was Porfirio Diaz, who would one day become a Mexican dictator ruling over the country for some 30 years.

Diaz would also acquiesce to the wishes of the U.S. government and remove Cortina from the U.S.-Mexico border and imprison him until he died in 1894.

But in 1867, Maximilan was a marked man. 

Maximilian, at the urging of his Mexican generals, had issued his "Black Decree"' on October 3, 1865. 

Its first article stated that: "All individuals forming a part of armed bands or bodies existing without legal authority, whether or not proclaiming a political pretext, whatever the number of those forming such band, or its organization, character, and denomination, shall be judged militarily by the courts martial. If found guilty, even though only of the fact of belonging to an armed band, they shall be condemned to capital punishment, and the sentence shall be executed within twenty-four hours". 

It is calculated that more than 11,000 Mexicans loyal to Juarez were executed as a result of the decree, but in the end it only inflamed the Mexican resistance.

Cortina, in possession of Matamoros and – more importantly the customs house at Puerto Bagdad – was the sole support of Juarez's government in internal exile while the president was being pursued on the northern frontier by assassins in the pay of Maximilian. 

Cortina wote this narrative while in prison in Tlatelolco.

"I was appointed general governor and commanding-general of said state (Tamaulipas), and presented by the city of Matamoros, through its illustrious common council, with a sword of honor. When (Nuevo Leon and Coahuila Gov. (Santiago) Vidaurri, in concert with other generals, abandoned the government of the citizen President (Benito) Juarez, I was his principal support, without which his ruin was inevitable, accompanied by grave, if not irreparable, prejudice to the national cause.


"When the general government retired as far as El Paso del Norte, I found myself compelled to serve the empire for a time, to save some forces and to preserve to the Republic the troops of our command, which I succeeded in doing, for shortly after, with that force, I combated the empire in the center of Tamaulipas, and at the siege and taking of Matamoros, of Mexico, and Queretaro, when we consolidated the independence of Mexico by the taking and shooting of Maximilian, whom I and General (Ramon) Corona captured on the 15th of May 1867."

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, FREEDOM COMES TO TEXAS

 By Juan Montoya

Freedom took a little longer to arrive in Texas.

Even though President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1863, slavery wasn't outlawed in Texas until June 18, 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy  the state on behalf of the federal government.

By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas.
Image result for General Gordon Granger AND JUNETEENTH
On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of of slaves:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

There has been a debate about how many slaves lived in South Texas. Because of the proximity to the Rio Grande (and freedom in Mexico where the peculiar institution was prohibited), few slaves were kept along the border.

In fact, the 1860 Census indicates that seven slaves were registered in Cameron County and one in Hidalgo. The proximity to the Rio Grande - and freedom - prevented slavery from flourishing here as in other parts of the confederacy. However, it's instructive to see that Brownsville "founder" Charles Stillman listed a slave as his property. ( Click on graphic at right to enlarge.)

What there was, however, was an active Underground Railroad helping slaves to escape to Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande.

And of course, where there is human bondage there will always be buzzards trying to make a dollar. William Neale was one. He was one of the most recognized runaway slave hunters in Brownsville. Now the city is honoring his memory by allotting $190,000 to restore his house, which, by the way, is par for the course. The slave owner's Laurel Ranch House is in the city's Linear Park where Neale's house is scheduled to be placed in memory of this pioneer slaver.

Researchers have found that along the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County lay the Jackson Ranch once owned by Nathaniel Jackson, a loyal Unionist during the Civil War. 

They write that in the 1850’s, Jackson left Alabama with his African-American wife Matilda Hicks, his son Eli, and other adult children. They hoped to escape the intolerance of inter-racial marriage they had known in the South. Accompanying the Jacksons were eleven African-American freedmen. 

In 1857, Jackson founded his ranch on a former Spanish grant. His property is said to have become a refuge for runaway slaves from Texas and the Deep South. Today, many people know about the Underground Railroad that shepherded enslaved people to freedom in the northern states and Canada, but few know about the route to freedom in Mexico. 

The Jackson Ranch lay near the Military Highway between Fort Ringgold and Fort Brown, and would have been visited by Confederate and Union troops as they fought for control of the Lower Valley in 1863 and 1864. Jackson died in 1865, the same year that his son Eli established the family cemetery where members of the clan now rest. Nathaniel Jackson’s grave is unmarked.

Several African-American and bi-racially mixed families settled in South Texas including the Webber family.

John F. Webber was an Anglo who lived south of Austin, Texas. Originally from Vermont,  Webber was born around 1786. In the War of 1812 he served as a private in Capt. S. Dickinson's company, Thirty-first United States Infantry, from May 23, 1813, to May 31, 1814, during which time he fought in the battle of Shadage Woods.

He was in Austin's colony as early as 1826 and received a headright on June 22, 1832. Webber purchased a slave, Silvia Hector, and her son.

They fell in love and married, causing an uproar in their community. After their son was barred from school, and the tutor Webber had hired to teach the boy had been threatened, the Webber family moved near Donna, Texas. 

In 1853 Webber purchased nearly 9,000 acres of land near Donna and established the Webber Ranch with his wife and 11 children.

Weber's story has been documented by his numerous progeny and speak of a man who remained loyal to his black wife and children who in turn intermarried with local Mexican-Americans. The Webber clan is numerous and a recent family reunion included descendants from throughout the country. Below, one of her descendants sent us this bill of sale where Sally Hector was sold before she married Webber.

In her excellent paper on the underground railroad, Georgia Redonet, a teacher at Long Middle School, in Houston, states that "When Stephen F. Austin brought American settlers to Mexico in 1822, Mexican law stated that there could be – neither sale nor purchase of slaves who are brought to the empire; their children born in the empire shall be free at the age of 14."

Mexico had outlawed slavery but made this concession for Texas in its desire to populate the northern province. It put the new immigrants on notice that slavery was to be a temporary institution. In regards to the American slaveholders immigrating to Mexican Texas, Article 21 of the Law of October 14th, 1823 stated – 'foreigners who bring slaves with them, shall obey the laws established upon the matter, or which shall hereafter be established.'"

As clear as the prohibition was in Mexican law, the government was persuaded to give the newly-arrived settlers exemptions in order to keep them as a buffer between raiding Comanches and Apache Indians and the French encroaching from the east.

"From 1830 to 1860 there was a continual movement of runaway slaves into Mexico and although not as publicized, it was just as common as the movement of runaways into free northern territory and Canada. While there are no reliable estimates as to the number of fugitive slaves escaping to Mexico during this time period, it is safe to say – that the movement was considerable enough to have caused great irritation and financial hardships on Texas slave-owners...

"During the Texas Revolution, Jose Maria Tornel, Mexican Secretary of War, – denounced slavery and called attention to the astonishment of the civilized world at the support given to the maintenance of the institution by the United States. By contrast, he said, – Mexico considered all men brothers, created by our common father.

"Mexico refused to return any fugitive slaves after the revolt and based part of its refusal to recognize Texas independence on the slavery question. Knowledge of the Mexican attitude towards slavery probably encouraged Negroes to escape.

"In early 1846 Texas was formally admitted to the Union as a slave state. According to the first official Texas state census in 1847, the state‘s population counted 38,753 slaves and 102,961 whites. The plantations along the lower Colorado and Brazos rivers and those scattered throughout East Texas held the largest concentrations of enslaved persons. Runaway slaves had been a continual problem throughout the duration of the Republic and the new state sought to write laws aimed at curbing the exodus.

"In 1848 laws were passed by the state legislature aimed at punishing those who might help escaping slaves. Anyone helping slaves plan a rebellion would be punished with death. Ship captains assisting runaways would receive from two to ten years in the penitentiary. Anyone who would steal or entice away a slave from his or her owner would receive three to fifteen years of hard labor. Free persons of color who aided a slave in escaping would receive from three to five years in the penitentiary."
Qq
To read the rest of the Redonet paper on the South Texas Underground Railroad, click on link:
http://www.uh.edu/honors/Programs-Minors/honors-and-the-schools/houston-teachers-institute/curriculum-units/pdfs/2003/african-american-slavery/redonet-03-slavery.pdf

Friday, June 18, 2021

LAST-MINUTE MOTION BY DR. SYLVIA ATKINSON'S DEFENSE


"The Southern District of Texas split their closures by division. The Houston, Laredo, Victoria, and McAllen courthouses will be open, while the Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Galveston courthouses will be closed."

PHONY CASA DEL NYLON "GROUNDBREAKING" POLITICAL SHOW; FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF TONY MARTINEZ

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

First purchased by the City of Brownsville from owner Abraham Galonsky for $2.3 million based on an "obsolete" appraisal, La Casa del Nylon building – a shell of brick and mortar – has been a white elephant for eight years in the city's downtown, a natural magnet for vagrants and the homeless.

Now the city – through the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation – is throwing another $2.5 million in grants and local matches to try to resurrect its use and implement something called the “e-Bridge Center for Business & Commercialization."

It'll be months before the building is ready and years before the implementation of the program and no one can guarantee that it will succeed. But for now commissioner Ben Neece – who is in a runoff for reelection to District 4 – was joined by commissioner Nurith Galonsky and Mayor Juan Mendez III at a faux "groundbreaking" yesterday behind a chain link fence to tout the building's resurrection. In other words, using a public asset for political purposes. 

(Come to think of it, Neece and Galosnky are following on the footsteps of former mayor Tony Martinez who tried to use the new music and dance academy with pal Ramiro Gonzalez to boost his mayoral election chances. He lost, but Ramirez managed to land on his feet and is now buddy-buddy with new mayor Mendez, the eventual winner. 

To Martinez's credit, he removed it from his Facebook page as soon as questions arose about the propriety of using city assets for personal political benefit.)

Neece is in a runoff election with local restaurateur Pedro Cardenas. Early voting ended Tuesday and election day is Saturday.

In the top photo, construction workers in the back are probably wondering how commissioners  Galonsky – Abraham's daughter – and Neece will break through the concrete foundations with their shovels to break through the ground. Same for the city bureaucrats below them. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

FROM OUR FILES: MCHALE AND BARTON'S TAKE ON GALONSKYS

(Ed.'s Note: Someone shared this yesterday. It was said to have been written by Jerry McHale quoting a post by Jim Barton.) 

 "Nurith Galonsky, a member of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), was granted a Temporary Restraining Order by Judge Louis Sorola after arguing that her organization's hiring of Mario Lozoya as its executive director was illegal for several reasons. With the controversy raging, Jim Barton, the publisher of The Brownsville Observer, is asking aloud if Galonsky is "corrupt or simply reading comprehension deficient? Here is the extended text of his inquiry:")

By Jim Barton
Mean Mister Brownsville

Rightly or wrongly, thanks to Tony Martinez, the name Galonsky will always be associated with corrupt politics in Brownsville, inside dealing and defrauding the hardworking taxpayers in the poorest region in the U.S. 
Abraham Galonsky came to Brownsville c.1972 and became a downtown merchant selling never used but dated merchandise, much of it still in original packaging at La Casa del Nylon at 1304 E. Adams Street. 

We don't know how profitable that enterprise was. In recent years, no customers were in the store when we stopped in, but Galonsky, much like Bill Hudson, was active in the local real estate market, acquiring downtown buildings and tracts of land outside the city's center. 

La Casa del Nylon had a "For Sale" sign on it for many years. In 2012, Galonsky's property got a bite. 

Newly-elected Mayor Martinez, desperate to keep then UTB President Juliet Garcia placated with promises of a downtown location for the university, sent his doofus law partner, Horacio Barrera, to "negotiate" with Galonsky for a purchase price. The two men agreed on a purchase price of $2,300,000, three times the building's appraised value, all to be paid for by Brownsville's uninformed taxpayers. 

We don't know what Barrera's commission was on the sale or whether or not he divided it with Martinez, but the city's taxpayers lost on this deal. For the last six years the building has sat decaying – off the tax rolls – while Brownsville's hardworking taxpayers pay for it. 

That is a brief synopsis of the elder Galonsky's political defecation on Brownsville. 

Now enters daughter Nurith Galonsky, a non-practicing lawyer, her legal degree coming from SMU in 2001. We first knew there was a Galonsky daughter in 2013 when she became a member of the P.U.B. board, shortly after Tony, Horacio and Abraham fleeced the taxpayers. 

We wrongly reported her name as "Lourdes Galonsky," writing this response in 2013: "I received a call today from a 'friend of the family' of Brownsville resident, Lourdes Galonsky, stating that she was NOT a recent appointee to the P.U.B. Board as I had reported in an August 29, 2013 Mean Mister Brownsville article. The 'friend,' a male, indicated not only had Lourdes not been appointed to a board, she was not politically-oriented, a stay-at-home mom and did not know Deborah Portillo, the city commissioner making the swing vote in the appointment. 

"In a friendly way, the caller asked if I was familiar with a lawsuit filed by the wife of BISD School Board Trustee Otis Powers, where he claimed she recovered $75,000 for being wrongly identified in a published article. I apologize to Lourdes and family for any stress created by my error." 

No, it was not Lourdes Galonsky, but Nurith Galonsky who joined the P.U.B. board in 2013. Along with Mayor Martinez, she has had a hand in orchestrating the $100,000,000 increase in utility rates for Brownsville to build the Tenaska Power Plant. That power plant has not been built, but the taxpayer money has not been recovered. 

Nurith may have never tried a case as a practicing attorney, but she, along with our corrupt mayor, has severely tried the citizens of Brownsville with this boondoggle.

THE NOT-SO-YOUNG BOYS OF SUMMER TAKE THE FIELD...

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

The last time most of the players in our pick-up softball team took the field, many were waiting for the retirement that was still years away.

"It's not all about winning, but of playing the game," we lied to ourselves as we jogged out under the lights onto the Orange Field at the Brownsville Sports Center before an audience composed of long-suffering mates with kids in tow and grandchildren running wild in the bleachers.

Most of us were overweight and should have known better. And it's a good thing that modified rules kept the game from stretching beyond the hour allowed each game. It's doubtful most of us could have gone the distance of a regular game without some sort of medical intervention.

Since the gang (you couldn't rightly call us with mismatched jerseys and gimme caps a team by any stretch of the imagination), had already forfeited the game because we couldn't raise the nine players on short call Wednesday, it was supposed to be for fun. 

But with the opposite team – La Banda de Jabalis – (and they were a team with real nice jerseys and baseball pants) smacking the slow-pitched yellow softballs all around – it turned out to be a hard-fought 14 to 0 squeaker loss for us, rallying under the banner of sponsor Rodrigo Moreno and calling ourselves the Pink Apes. It's a good thing no one recorded our performance. We made sure to check the opposing Jabalis for wires.

It was a muggy night on Wednesday, and if you were wearing glasses – like the umpire who wore Coke-bottle bottom gafas and a  knee brace that covered his entire right leg and walked with the aid of a nice metal-handled cane– the lenses fogged up quickly and you just heard the ball smacked and pass by somewhere...near. Too near.

About halfway through the game it all started coming back. Our dinner. We made a mental note to make sure not to eat a heavy meal before the next game.

It turned into a rout quickly and after a few innings many of us would turn toward the clock to see how much longer the hour-long martyrdom could possibly last. All the time the noises from our dugout could be heard urging the "team" to rally and score at least a run...la carrera del honor

"We can still win this game," said one of our "ringers" who agreed to play with us so that the Apes could put a team on the field. At that time we were only 11 runs behind with two outs.

But no dice, although we did have a few "highlights."

Shortstop Montoya hit a line drive...right into the hands of his Jabalis' counterpart. Our second baseman Regino took a mighty swing...and the yellow ball floated softly to their third baseman. Things looked up a bit after Martin Salazar somehow connected and got on base. We left him stranded.

Rodrigo – playing catcher (he really can't sprint anywhere) – drew a walk and later caught a foul ball not having to move from his spot. Regino was making our infield look good catching a fly at second and stepping on the bag when their runner thought he would drop the ball. 

And after drawing a walk near the end of the hour-long Inquisition, Montoya hobbled around second (he couldn't rrunrrun) on a long hit into right field – foolishly listening to the Apes in the bullpen egg him on around to third – and dove into the hard dirt before the disbelieving third baseman who was too stunned could tag him. 

Masso actually hit a line drive toward the end of the ordeal, and the last out was Regino forcing a Jabali at second running from first. On that high note, we left the field of nightmares. Charlie Atkinson was right, if you build it expensive enough, they will come.

"Nowhere but up!," said one of our "ringers."

"Room for improvement, guys!," shouted another. "We'll get them next time."

The wives in the bleachers shook their heads and covered their kids' ears. "No le hagas caso a tu daddy," said one.

The Apes will make fools of ourselves against an outfit who call themselves the Bangbros next month. If the Jabalis ran their little hooves all over us, imagine a bunch called the Bangbros. By then we should have a full team (Valadez threatened to play with us), nice jerseys, and may actually practice once before we go into our closets and wipe the spiderwebs from our gloves and cleats to take the field.

Apes rule!  

ATKINSON FILES APPEAL, REPORTS FOR PRISON FRIDAY

By Laura Martinez
Brownsville Herald
Various Media

Former BISD Board of Trustees Vice President Dr. Sylvia P. Atkinson is appealing her conviction on bribery charges.

Attorney’s representing Atkinson filed the notice of appeal on Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr.’s court.

(Court observers say that if Atkinson and her attorneys were hoping this would allow her to remain free pending a decision by the court, with less than a two days she reports to federal prison there is simply no time for a court to decide on a stay of sentencing.)

Rodriguez on May 26 sentenced Atkinson to 80 months in federal prison. In November, a federal jury found her guilty on eight counts of bribery.

Atkinson is scheduled surrender herself to U.S. Marshals on Friday.

The eight counts of bribery Atkinson was found guilty of are in connection with a movie project that was in the exploratory stages in February 2019 when she was vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees. 

The case began that December when a federal grand jury indicted her on bribery charges surrounding the purported movie project and a Feb. 12, 2019 board meeting.

She remains free on a $50,000 bond.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A CONSUMER RESPONDS TO ERCOT'S ENERGY LIMITATIONS


AUSTIN, TX. – The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is asking Texans to reduce electric use as much as possible today through Friday, June 18. A significant number of forced generation outages combined with potential record electric use for the month of June has resulted in tight grid conditions.

Please take these simple actions to help reduce electric use:

* Set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher – every degree of cooling increases your energy use by six to eight percent.
* One ice cube per Texas household 
* Turn off lights and pool pumps and avoid using large appliances like ovens, washing machines and dryers.
* If you don’t need something – we are asking you to turn it off and unplug it if possible.

WILL FAA ENVIRO ASSESSMENT SCRUB SPACEX JULY LAUNCH?


By Kate Duffy
Business Insider

SpaceX may have to delay its first Starship rocket orbit mission because of ongoing assessments of wildlife and ecosystems around the launch area at Boca Chica, a source told CNN on Tuesday.

The launch was scheduled for July, according to a tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. NASA Spaceflight reported in March that SpaceX's internal goal for launch was July 1.

But the date could be pushed back due to ongoing environmental reviews that need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before SpaceX can get a launch license, the source, who is familiar with the licensing process, told CNN.

SpaceX needs to conduct an environmental assessment to ensure that the Starship-Super Heavy system won't harm nearby wildlife or ecosystems around its launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas.

The assessments and a launch license won't be processed in time for an early July launch, the source told CNN.

The company may ultimately need a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years to complete, Insider Morgan McFall-Johnsen and Aylin Woodward reported in March.

Musk's space company has launched five prototypes of the 16-story Starship rocket. The first four exploded, but the fifth landed, meaning Starship can now be tested with the 23-story Super Heavy booster, designed to blast the rocket into orbit.

Th first orbital test of Starship, which is due to take around 90 minutes, is set to launch from South Texas and splash down off the coast of Hawaii, according to the company's FCC filing in May.

SpaceX eventually wants the Starship system to carry humans to the moon and to Mars, returning back to Earth for repeat trips.

Musk has said he is "highly confident" that SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026. Space industry experts told Insider that SpaceX could well reach Mars, but not as soon as Musk hopes.

NEECE AGREES: THE PURCHASE OF THE GALONSKY CASA DEL NYLON WAS A $2.3 MILLION LEMON, NOW FOR LEMONADE...

(Ed.'s Note: It's been eight years since the city plunked down an exorbitant $2.3 million to buy the Casa del Nylon from local land baron Abraham Galonky pushed by former Mayor Tony Martinez who told the city commission that the UT System wanted to use it to move the university into downtown Brownsville.

That turned out to be untrue, and the building has become an eyesore and a magnet for vagrants and the homeless. Now the city – through the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation – is throwing another $2.5 million in grants and local matches to try to resurrect its use and implement something called the “e-Bridge Center for Business & Commercialization."

It'll be months before the building is ready and years before the implementation of the program and no one can guarantee that it will succeed.. But for now Neece – who is in a runoff for reelection to District 4 – held a "groundbreaking" today behind a chain link fence to tout the building's resurrection. In other words, using a public asset for political purposes.

In the photo at right, construction workers in the back are probably wondering how commissioners Nurith Galonsky – Abraham's daughter – and Neece will break through the concrete foundations with their shovels to break through the ground.

Neece, who rents an apartment from the Galonskys, is just about the only person in town willing to defend the Casa del Nylon purchase.)

LOZOYA'S GBIC WORKFORCE PROGRAM GETS TEDC'S AWARD

(Ed.'s Note: The "We Grow Our Own" Workforce Development Program created by former Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation CEO Mario Lozoya shared the best practices for an Award Winning 
Workforce Development program during the Texas Economic Development Council held at its mid-year 
conference June 9 in Frisco Texas.

Unfortunately, Lozoya won't be around to receive the recognition for his creation. It was Ramiro Aleman, GBIC's Director of Recruitment, Retention and Expansion who received the award from the Workforce Excellence Award Peer Panel. If ever anyone was unworthy to receive the award, Aleman is the guy. But hey, nadie sabe para quien trabaja. 

Lozoya was ousted as GBIC CEO after a three-year campaign led by city commissioners Ben Neece and Nurith Galonsky. Galonsky was miffed when her choice for GBIC CEO, Gilberto Salinas, former VP of Brownsville Economic Development Council notoriety, was not chosen by the GBIC board majority.

Lozoya, the top Hispanic Toyota USA executive, was given a $350,000 golden parachute to settle and Assistant City Manager Helen Ramirez was placed in the  position at $195,000. 

Galonsky sued the GBIC over Lozoya's selection even before he arrived in the city. After an adverse court ruling, she and Neece non-suited and continued efforts to remove him until he left earlier this year.

And former GBIC board president Steve Guerra and the rest of the board who oversaw the implementation of the award-winning program won't be there either. They were all removed by the city commission. The commissioners then took over the running of the GBIC.  

Under Lozoya, workforce development was a critical component of preparing local workers to upgrade their skills to be competitive Brownsville’s economic success depends on attracting industry by providing a relevant workforce that is ready to meet the current and future industry demands.

For the ‘We Grow Our Own!’ plan to succeed, partners committed themselves to agree on, and commit to,and implement a plan that included measurable outcomes.

Implementation of the plan was to result in the creation of a prepared workforce equipped to help move Brownsville’s economic needle forward.

One of the most important aspects of the “We Grow Our Own” initiative was addressing the digital divide. Now with Lozoya gone and Ramirez on On the Job Training, that divide will probably get wider.

The Texas Economic Development Council recognized the excellence of the concept and its implementation. To Brownsville's loss, Neece and Galonsky did not.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

D.A. WARNS SPACEX OF ILLEGAL CLOSURES, UNLICENSED COPS: WARNS LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST VIOLATING MOU

By Juan Montoya

Citing concerns raised in a June 3 complaint by the environmental group Save RGV against SpaceX, Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz has warned Shyamal Patel the company's Senior Director of Operations that it's employees, and the company itself, may be subject to criminal prosecution on a number of suspected violations.

Among the potential crimes that SpaceX may be violating the Texas Penal Code are included Obstruction of a Highway or Other Passageway,a Class B Misdemeanor, and Impersonating a Public Servant, a third-degree felony.

And Saenz warned local law enforcement "partners" including police officers, sheriff, constables or their deputies that until SpaceX clarifies their actions on these issues, it would be "prudent" not to permit to work for or assist with SpaceX operations that may run afoul of Texas law.

Save RGV complained that SpaceX and its private security personnel have been closing and/or denying public access to county roads Remedios Avenue and Joanna Street off Highway 4. When his staff went to investigate June 9, Saenz wrote Patel that they were immediately approached, stopped and detained by SpaceX Security employee Oscar Lopez, who was wearing body armor. 

He ordered them off the road and when they informed him they were with the DA's Office investigating a citizen complaint, Lopez replied that "they were the type that was going to make a big deal about things." His staff then told him that neither the Cameron County Commissioners Court nor the Sheriff's Department had authorized the closure of the road.

In a side note, Saenz said his staff had reported that Joanna Street had been renamed Rocket Street and that part of it may have been built over and/or closed off. If the road is subject to a county easement, Saenz warned that its personnel's actions may constitute a taking of property. "Please clarify on the authorization to take these actions."

On the potential Impersonating a Public Servant complaint, Saenz wrote Patel that he and SpaceX had already been told by the county on April 2021 that this type of action was inappropriate and that SpaceX had an overzealous security guard. The June 9 actions by Lopez were of the same nature and Saenz wrote Patel that if the conduct were to happen again, not only the individual would be subject to arrest and prosecution, but that the company itself could be prosecuted as well as a Texas Business Entity under the Penal Code.

Saenz also reminded Patel that SpaceX is  registered and licensed with the Texas Department of Public Safety as a private business with a internal security and that records indicate that they have security employees that hold commissioned and personal protection licenses potentially allowing them to carry arms. Saenz said that DPS has no record that either Lopez or SpaceX Brownsville Head of Security Gunnar Milburn held any type of security license. 

He warned him that failure to employ properly licensed security personnel may expose SpaceX and its employes to civil and criminal penalties and asks Patel to confirm if they are armed and all the company's personnel are properly licensed or becoming licensed.

Saenz reiterated the group's concerns concerning SpaceX's closure of Highway 4 more than the 180 hours agreed upon the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Texas General Land Office, and Cameron County under the Texas Natural Resources Code. He further stated that the complaint asserted that then FAA had issued a reevaluation that resulted in it granting an reevaluation that functions as an addendum to the MOU increasing the number to 300 hours.

Logs provided to the DA's Office included logs kept by the United Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coastal Bay and Estuary Program that reflect SpaceX has exceeded the increased hours and has already utilized 385 closure hours this calendar year. If it is proved  that SpaceX has exceeded the terms of the MOU, Saenz warned, then it no longer has legal authorization to obstruct Highway 4.

"Closure of Highway 4 and Boca Chica...constitutes..Obstructing a Highway...and "any acts by a SpaceX employee, agent, or contractor to inform the public that they cannot use the road may constitute...(the)...offense of Impersonating a Public Servant."

"Please provide clarification on the matter," the Saenz letter continues. "In addition, please provide the document/authority that supports the position that the "authorized hours" is capped at 300 as opposed to 180 hours.'

"I must advice my law enforcement partners that absent a well-reasoned response by SpaceX (to these complaints) it would be prudent for them not to permit any police officer or sheriff/constable deputy to work for or assist with SpaceX operations that run afoul of Texas law...any such action by a law enforcement official could potentially expose their agencies and respective political subdivisions to liability under the United States Civil Rights Act of 1871..and could expose the individual officer/deputy to criminal liability under the Official Oppression Statute." 

"While SpaceX is a valued member of our community, this does not authorize SpaceX, its employees, staff, agents and/or contractors to disregard Texas law," Saenz wrote.

Saenz requested Patel submit an answer to the group's and his concerns by 1:30 Monday, June 14. It is unknown whether Patel replied by that deadline.

BEN DOUBLES DOWN: $2.3 MILLION CASA DEL NYLON BUY OK

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Stung by his runoff opponent Pedro Cardenas' charges that he has stayed mum about the controversy surrounding the city's purchase of Abraham Galonsky's Casa del Nylon for $2.3 million in 2012 because of his personal ties to the downtown businessman and his city commissioner daughter Nurith, District 4 incumbent Ben Neece has doubled down on his support for the deal.  

He has defended the deal posting that "misinformation" by "nay-sayers" went against the data provided to him by the City of Brownsville, mainly the Certificate of Value and Salient Facts and Conclusions of the original appraisal by San Benito appraiser Lauro Leal of Rapid Appraisals to justify the highly-questionable deal. 

El Rrun-Rrun questioned the deal January 15, 2013. 

And other bloggers voiced similar concerns about the use of the document to justify the giveaway to his landlord Galonsky, who rented one of his downtown properties to Neece so he could run for District 4 four years ago. 

Brownsville Observer publisher Jim Barton said in March 2014 that the Casa was "purchased by the city for $2.3 million in 2012, based on an obsolete appraisal done in December 2010."

And Neece's propagandist and fellow wine imbiber Jerry McHale of the McHale Report said as late as March 2019 that:

 "Nothing has undermined Mayor Tony Martinez more than the $2.3 million purchase of La Casa del Nylon, which the City of Brownsville bought at his behest. Like many (Neece included?), Martinez was a sucker for disgraced and humiliated educator Julieta Garcia's pitch who fooled him into thinking that UT/Brownsville was interested in the building as part of the university's expansion."

The Casa has remained vacant and a magnet for the homeless since its purchase eight years ago. It turns out that the UT System had no interest in the empty shell located in dying downtown after all. 

Only the use of another  "$2.4 to $2.5 million" in public funds by Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and the matching grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will allow the city to use it as a so-called “e-Bridge Center for Business & Commercialization.” 

So the taxpayers, instead of having to pay "only $2.3 million" for the shell of a building, will now foot the more than $5 million and keep on paying for the COs for decades to make it usable.

Josh Mejia, the BCIC executive director and city commission water carrier, called it an “expansive project” and said the project was being  undertaken in collaboration with the city, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley-Brownsville and the Economic Development Administration through the U.S. Department of Commerce.

At the time, Martinez and the city commission faced stiff criticism for the binge of downtown real-estate purchases that included the Casa to be paid by taxpayers through the issuance of  $13.06 million Certificates of Obligation.
Back then we requested a copy of the Lauro Leal appraisal, who works out of his home in San Benito, thought his report was overly biased toward the $2.3 million, and agreed with numerous other appraisers that questioned the dubious assumptions in his document. That Neece finally came out on the subject defending the payment of $2.3 million only because of political pressure from Cardenas, his opponent in the runoff, speaks volumes.

Appraisers use at least three methods to arrive at a number. There is the cost approach, the income approach and comparable sales approach. They then combine and average, make adjustments, and come up with an appraised value.

This is where the problems begin for some who saw the Casa Del Nylon appraisal.

The Cost Approach
In the cost approach category of the Casa Del Nylon property, the three comparisons for site valuations involve no properties in the downtown area. They were:
1) On Alton Gloor Road: 37,024 square feet valued at $5.40 a square foot.
2) Off Alton Gloor Road: 25,500 square feet valued at 11.22 per square foot
3) Frontage Road south of Boca Chica: 8,640 square feet valued at $13.89 per square foot
Based on these comparisons, the appraiser set the value of the land at $15.00 a square foot, or $540,000

The Income Approach
The income approach (from rent) also contains improbable assumptions. The appraisers compared Galonsky's site to:
1) 700 E. Levee, circa 1984, 23,302 s.f. leased at $1.35 per foot.
2) 647 E. St. Charles, circa 1876, 2,180 s.f. leased at $165 per foot.
3) 1033 E. Adams, circa 1925, 5,900 s.f. leased at $0.55 per foot.
4) 444 E. 8th, circa 1950, 3,950 s.f. leased at $0.55 per foot

In the Levee St. site, the owner said the appraisers had gotten the square footage and the rental cost per foot wrong. The E. St. Charles site is a historically restored residence. The Adams St. site is the one-story Elizondo Second-hand  Store, and the E. 8th St. site is the tiny two-story building in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank.

La Casa del Nylon site would need major (and costly) improvements in both the ground floor and the second story empty storage space of 18,000 before it could ever rent office space. Nonetheless, the appraiser said that renting the 52,586 total square footage would get the owners at least $0.50 per s.f. and gave it a potential of $126,400 in rental income a year. Since the 18,000 square feet on the second story has been demolished, the price would have been even lower.

The Sales Comparison Approach

In the sales comparison approach, Galonsky's property was compared to three previous real estate sales, only one of which was downtown. They were:
1) 1220 E. Adams, 17,000 s.f. (two stories) sitting on 9,000 s.f. sold in June 2010 for $750,000 averaging $44.12 a s.f.
2) 942 Wild Rose Lane, 4,028 s.f. building on 26,800 s.f. of land sold on Nov. 2010 for $250,000 averaging $62.10 per s.f.
3) 1225 N. Expressway, a 4,900 s.f., one-story building sitting on a 10,739 s.f. lot averaging $67.35 per s.f.

Based on these highly-dubious "comparable" sales, the Leal set a value of (52,586 s.f. @ $45.00) = $2,370,000 on La Casa del Nylon property.

Based on these highly-dubious "comparable" sales, the Leal set a value of (52,586 s.f. @ $45.00) = $2,370,000 on La Casa del Nylon property.

After performing a "reconciliation," the value of La Casa del Nylon properties were set at the $2.3 million price tag the city paid Galonsky. 

"We feel that this city has been good to us and we feel we should do something in return," Galonsky said. As far as Martinez's law Horacio partner – and Galonsky's neighbor – having negotiated with him on the sale on behalf of the city, Galonsky said that both served as members of the board of the First National Bank in the past. 

On the political side, when Nurith Galonsky ran against Rick Longoria for District 1, Ben embraced her message of "change." Today,as his opponent Cardenas asks for the same, Neece is urging District 3 voters to abandon change and to keep things as they are.

He hasn't forgotten the Galonskys' political and financial support. One of the first things Neece did was to appoint property-rich Abraham Galonsky on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Galonsky hasn't forgotten Ben either. In the latest campaign reports, he joined Jim Tipton and chipped in a cool $2,000 each to his reelection. Galonsky added another $1,000 a few days later.

"Horacio has been my friend for years," he said. "He never negotiated on my behalf. The city made an offer based on their independent appraisal and we took it even when they had offered us more than $1 million more less than four years ago."

Today is the last day of early voting. Election day is Saturday, June 19.

Monday, June 14, 2021

CBP: PLASMA SELLERS W-VISA CAN'T CROSS BRIDGES ANYMORE


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

If you go to downtown Brownsvill this morning (Tuesday), you will probably not see the long lines of Matamoros residents lined along the walls of the local plasma donation centers.

That follows a directive by the Customs and Border Patrol confirmed by spokesman Phillip Barrera late Monday night that they will no longer be allowed to use their B1 and B2 visas to sell blood. 

Under the rules of the U.S, Dept. of State, B1 visas can be used only to consult with business associates, attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.

A B2 visa can only be used for tourism, vacation (holiday), to visit with friends or relatives, receive medical treatment, to participate in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations, participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating, and enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation).

Barrera confirmed that as of Monday, the CBP will enforce the rule that the State Dept. will not allow the B1 or B2 visas to be used by Mexican citizens to cross to sell their blood to the plasma companies along the border.

Visitors to downtown could often see donors lined up for more than a block waiting to enter the buildings, one of them within sight of the Gateway International Bridge in downtown Brownsville. And donors wearing the tell-tale bandages around their arm indicated that they had just emerged from one of the centers.

Some donors said that CBP officers had allowed the Mexican crossers to go to the plasma firms to sell their blood. Many said that they were restricted to donate, cash their debit cards at an ATM, and then return to Mexico with the money. In fact, there was scant traffic generated by stores downtown except for that generated by the centers. 

The money the donors made – varying from between $50 to $75 a week depending on how many times a week they are allowed to donate – was more than they could make working in the maquilas in Matamoros. 

Others reported that the CBP required them to install a cell phone application which allowed officers to monitor their locations.

The CPB had stopped the crossers in the past, but resumed a few months later. News reports indicate that Paul del Rincon, the director of the CBP at Eagle Pass, made the announcement today. Barrera confirmed late Monday that the directive had come from CPB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ERCOT WARNS OF OUTAGES, NOT FOR COLD, BUT FOR HEAT

Texas Tribune

Texas’ main power grid struggled to keep up with the demand for electricity today, prompting the operator to ask Texans to conserve power until Friday.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a statement Monday that a significant number of unexpected power plant outages combined with expected record use of electricity due to hot weather has resulted in tight grid conditions. Approximately 12,000 megawatts of generation were offline Monday, or enough to power 2.4 million homes on a hot summer day.

ERCOT officials said the power plant outages were unexpected — and could not provide details as to what could be causing them.

“I don’t have any potential reasons [for the plant outages] that I can share at this time,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT senior director of systems planning, during a Monday call with media. “It is not consistent with fleet performance that we have seen over the last few summers.”

The number of plants that were forced offline today is “very concerning” Lasher said.

“We operate the grid with the resources that we have available,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the generators to make sure their plants are available when demand is high.”

The conservation request comes at a time of heightened anxiety around electricity following the state’s catastrophic February power outages that left millions without power for days. Those outages that were prompted by a severe winter storm may have killed as many as 700 people, according to an analysis of mortality data by Buzzfeed News. 

Of the plants offline, about 9,600 megawatts of power, or nearly 80 percent of the outages, are from thermal power sources, which in Texas are largely natural gas-fired power plants. That's several times what ERCOT usually sees offline for thermal generation maintenance during a summer day. Typically, only about 3,600 megawatts of thermal generation is offline this time of year.

“This is unusual for this early in the summer season,” said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a statement. He said the grid operator would conduct an analysis to determine why so many units are offline.

At this time, it “appears unlikely” that the ERCOT grid would need to implement outages, like it did in February, to reduce strain on the grid, said Warren Lasher, ERCOT senior director of systems planning, during a Monday call with media.

The high number of outages this week combined with expected record demand: The grid operator estimates demand for electricity could exceed 73,000 megawatts on Monday. The previous record for June was 69,100 megawatts in 2018.

"[Electricity demand] is really driven by temperatures, and right now it is 99 degrees in Dallas, 97 degrees in Austin, and 97 degrees in Houston," said Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin. He said at those high temperatures, people tend to crank up their air conditioning, which strains the grid. At the same time, he said, power plants have already had a rough year given the February outages that caused damage, which may be causing new complications.

Texans can reduce electricity use by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher; turning off lights and pool pumps; avoiding use of large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and dryers; and turning off or unplugging unused electric appliances.

During the recent Legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bills 2 and 3 included a few key changes to the state’s power grid that experts said will begin to address some issues, such as requiring power companies to upgrade plants to withstand more extreme weather and creating a statewide emergency alert system. However, it will likely take years before those changes are fully implemented.

The legislation also changes ERCOT's governing board to replace what lawmakers called "industry insiders" with appointees selected by a committee comprised of selections by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

The state likely won’t require companies to make weatherization upgrades until 2022 at the earliest.

THE COYOTE CARTEL NEXT DOOR: ROLLING STONE, AZTECA VALLE-KRGV-5 SCOOP THE NATIONAL AND RGV PRESS

( The photo above was taken around the Reynosa area on the Rio Grande. Rolling Stone reporter Seth Harp – guided across the river into the heart of coyote cartel stronghold by Enrique Lerma, an investigative reporter for Azteca Valle-KRGV5 News – explored the human smuggling industry that has crossed thousands of migrants and asylum seekers across the Rio Grande. Lerma and Harp investigated the human trafficking industry that has sprung as poverty and crime drive the migrants from their homelands. Kudos to Lerma, Azteca Valle-KRGV5 News, and, of course, Rolling Stone for this story of enormous importance to the Rio Grande Valley and the United States which has remained in the shadows until now.)

"In the Rio Grande Valley, human smuggling is overseen by a powerful crime syndicate, forcing the migrants arriving in record numbers to put their lives in violent hands..".

By Seth Harp
Rolling Stone

The pistol the boy is holding is a plastic toy. He and two other kids from Honduras are playing on the pedestal of a statue of an Aztec eagle in Reynosa, a Mexican city just south of the tail end of Texas. The three of them are wearing face masks, as are most of the Central American migrants packed together, sleeping rough, in this city square, Plaza de la Rep├║blica. 

It is May 14th, 2021, and cases of Covid-19 are common among the multitudes of deportees being turned back from the United States in record numbers.

(I’ve come to Reynosa with Enrique Lerma, a reporter for Azteca Valle- KRGV-News 5, a Spanish-language news channel that broadcasts throughout the Valley.)

Never have so many undocumented migrants arrived at the same time to the Rio Grande Valley. Many of the plazas in Reynosa have turned into open-air camps like this one. 

I count 50 to 100 tents, sheltering four or five people apiece. Most are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many come from within Mexico, too. The bandstand in the center of the square has been draped in so many tarpaulins that it looks like a big patchwork yurt. People line up to charge their cellphones from an extension cord run in from a light post. Lines of laundry hang from the trees.

In five days’ time, a thunderstorm will flood this encampment and turn the beaten-down grass into mud. Today, it’s warm and muggy, and the air is motionless, typical weather for humid Reynosa, 50 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. For the most part, these deportees did not choose to come to this city, which is perennially ranked among the world’s most homicidal. 
They have been dropped off here by U.S. immigration authorities after failed attempts to cross the border, mostly at more rural points upstream. This plaza, one block from the international bridge to McAllen, Texas, is essentially a collection point, where migrants await their next attempt to cross into the United States. 

The deals they have struck with smugglers, known as coyotes or polleros, allow them to try several times. That’s only fair, when most of them have paid between $7,000 and $15,000, depending on their country of origin. It’s a huge sum — $7,000 is more than the average annual income in Honduras — and it typically has to be raised by relatives already in the U.S., or by the sale of land, with many forms of repayment amounting to indentured servitude. But the price promises passage not just over the Texas border, but all the way to Houston, in most cases including housing, food, and transportation.

Nos agarraron,” says a man coming down from the McAllen bridge with muddy shoes and jeans: “They grabbed us.” He’s with five others, all muddy to the knees, who have been turned back by Border Patrol. But he grins and gives a thumbs-up. “We’re going to try again later. We’re fighting for a good life.”

The legacy of Spanish colonialism, U.S. coups in the Cold War, the pan-Latin American war on drugs, and the expropriation of natural resources by multinational companies are among the factors that have driven Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to the brink of failed-state status. 

Deforestation, overfishing, unregulated pollution, and especially soil erosion have made environmental conditions dire. Most of all, the people suffer from poverty and lack of opportunity. Those who can afford the smuggler’s fee are considered fortunate. It’s a big investment to make, and the price keeps going up as the U.S. border grows harder to penetrate. 

The dangers of the journey have also intensified, as the main route increasingly converges with one of the most fractious battlegrounds of the long-running cartel wars in Mexico.

CAYENNE PEPPERS MAKE COMEBACK AFTER HARD FREEZE

(Ed.'s Note: One of our seven readers sent us this photo of a cayenne pepper plant that managed to survive the hard freeze that decimated gardens in mid-February and is now producing a full crop of the long green peppers which turn red when ripe. In a note, he said that the uprooted stem on the bottom of the photo was all that was left of another cayenne pepper plant that was growing alongside the other which managed to sprout as warm weather set in. Now the recovering plant is flowering and producing fruit. "I just pruned it a bit and watered it, and it came back," he wrote. He said that before the freeze he used the peppers to make a fierce salsa.)

WATCH OUT ELON: TESLA AIN'T GOT A THING ON MERCEDES AA

 

LOCAL RESTAURANTS CAN'T FIND WORKERS, BLAME FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS; WON'T RAISE WAGES, THOUGH


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Citing Republican lawmakers and business complaints that federal unemployment benefits linked to the COVID-19 pandemic were discouraging workers from returning to work, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he was turning down federal $300-per-week supplemental benefit under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

As a result, starting June 26, jobless Texans will lose access to the $300-per-week supplemental benefit.

As of April 30, the Texas Tribune approximately 344,000 Texans were receiving these PUA benefits, citing data compiled by economist Julia Coronado, economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January clarifying that the PUA program extends to those who refuse a job because of COVID safety concerns.

In addition, Abbott cut off a lifeline called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which extends unemployment aid to gig workers, self-employed people and others who don’t traditionally receive unemployment benefits.

This last action was the benefit that has resulted in complaints from restaurant owners, and even those who have remained working working that few of these workers – some working at usual $2.15 per hour plus tips – have returned, opting to claim the benefits by getting restaurant and business managers to sing that they had sought employment which kept them eligible for the money.

"I don't know how many people have come in and asked me fill the job-search form and when I told them there was work, they refused and went to get the signature somewhere else," said a Brownsville chicken wing restaurant owner. "In Brownsville, a lot of customers aren't really used to tip the waiters, so in a sense I don't blame them. But we have had to close on some occasions because no one wants to work."

He said that he is closing the two slowest days, Monday and Tuesday, because he can't find workers at the $2.15 per hour wage that also figures in tips. Under a labor formula, the tips are summed up at the end of a 40-hour pay period and then added to the hourly wage and – depending on whether they reach the $7.25 hourly wage – the difference is then made up by the employer. 

The small business owners cannot compete for wages with large national corporations, and some – like the Target stores – have attracted workers starting at $15 per hour. Target still requires facial coverings and social distancing in its stores.

 President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January clarifying that the PUA program extends to those who refuse a job because of COVID safety concerns. The pandemic guidelines that allow jobless people to refuse work for COVID-19 safety reasons and still qualify for any state or federal unemployment benefits are associated with the “COVID-related unemployment” that the state withdraws from on June 26. That, too, will end through Abbott's order.

"What does he care," said a former waiter. "I'm sure he gets a nice wage as governor and probably disability as well. If employers raised their wages to $15 per hour, I would jump at it. Forget the tips. We have some stingy people in Brownsville. I just can't make it with that and provide for my rent and other living costs."

Congress had extended these programs through September, but Abbott withdrew Texas from them months early, following pressure from business groups who said the programs disincentivized work. According to a press release, Abbott’s office said the decision was made to focus on connecting unemployed Texans with jobs instead of paying them unemployment benefits.

TWC did not immediately release the number of people who have been turning down jobs for COVID-19 safety reasons and would be impacted by this change. Unemployment claims have been declining and vaccination rates increasing in recent months.

Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, said the changes are “cruel” and exhibit the state’s characteristic “lack of understanding” towards working people and their needs.

“This pandemic is not over,” he said. “To say, ‘Well, we’re heading in the right direction, so we’re going to eliminate doing all the things that have us heading in the right direction,’ is just really short sighted.”

Sunday, June 13, 2021

ON LOYALTY: TO FLAG AND COUNTRY, AND OTHER MEN

By Henry S. Commager
Harper's Magazine, 1947

What is the new loyalty?

It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is – the political institutions, the social relationships, the economic practices. It rejects inquiry into the race question or socialized medicine, or public housing, or into the wisdom or validity of our foreign policy.

It regards as particular heinous any challenge to what is called "the system of American enterprise," identifying that system with Americanism. It abandons evolution, repudiates the once-popular concept of progress, and regards America as a finished product, perfect and complete.

It must be added, it is easily satisfied. For it wants not intellectual conviction nor spiritual conquest, but mere outward conformity. In matters of loyalty it takes the word, not the deed, the gesture for the principle...It assumes that every member of a liberal organization is a Communist, concludes that every member of a conservative one is a true American. It is designed neither to discover real disloyalty nor to foster true loyalty...

What do men know of loyalty who make a mockery of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, whose energies are dedicated to stirring up race and class hatreds, who would straight-jacket the American spirit?

What indeed do they know of America – the America of Sam Adams and Tom Paine...of Lincoln's celebration of labor, of Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience and Emerson's championship of John Brown...Who among them could meet their (loyalty) tests?...Not Washington, who was a rebel. Not Jefferson who wrote that all men are created equal and whose motto was "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God...
Not Garrison, who publicly burned the Constitution; or Wendell Phillips, who spoke for the underprivileged everywhere and considered himself a philosophical anarchist; not Seward of the Higher Law or Sumner of racial equality. 

Not Lincoln, who admonished us to have malice toward none, or Wilson who warned that our flag was a "flag of liberty of opinion as well as political liberty...

Who are those who are really disloyal?

Those who inflame racial hatreds, who sow religious and class dissensions. Those who subvert the Constitution by violating the freedom of the ballot box. Those who make a mockery of majority rule...Those who impair democracy by denying equal educational facilities...Those who frustrate justice by lynch law or by making a farce of jury trials. Those who deny freedom of speech and of the press and of assembly. 

Those who press for special favors against the interest of the commonwealth. Those who regard public office as a source of private gain. Those who for selfish and private purposes stir up national antagonisms and expose the world to the ruin of war...

But if our democracy is to flourish it must have criticism, if our government is to function it must have dissent. Only totalitarian governments insist upon conformity and they –as well as we know – do so at their peril. Without criticism abuses will go unrebuked; without dissent our dynamic system will become static.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

BRADSHAW TURNS DISTRICT 3 RACE INTO HOMOPHOBIC FEST

Ed.'s Note: Even Texas State Rep. Eddie Lucio III chimed in to denounce the mailer sent to voters in the District 3 City of Brownsville Commissioner runoff between Roy de los Santos and Jessica Puente Bradshaw. Although Bradshaw protested that neither she nor her campaign manager John Barham were the source of the hate-filled homophobic screed. In it, there was a warning to voters that De los Santos wanted to expose their kids to transvestites and lamented the lack of his "family values." 

The message of the Concerned Conservatives of Brownsville – a fake PAC not registered with the Texas Secretary of State – closely mirrors her campaign slogans and there is no denying that it targeted De los Santos for his advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community and his serving on a city board to address their inclusion into the Brownsville community.

"Very disappointed to see this kind of material distributed ahead of our local runoff elections." Lucio wrote. "Our community has made great strides in promoting equality yet we clearly still have work to do...It is one thing to disagree with someone on policy issues, but it is entirely out of bounds to attack any candidate in this manner. I urge all to remain focused on the issues as opposed to resorting to personal attacks.")

EARLY VOTING SITES FOR THIS SATURDAY CITY ELECTIONS

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