Saturday, August 18, 2018


By Juan Montoya

As we have said previously on these cyberpages, things change, and in changing, they seem to remain the same.

it's not that long ago that former Brownsville Fire Department Chief Carlos Elizondo was strutting in his starched chief uniform flaunting his power and literally flipping the finger at the firefighters' union and his critics.

And when he was chief he had two assistants. One was Ernie Estrada, who through a manipulated union contract was able to be appointed asst. chief because he had connections with city manager Charlie Cabler. The other was the guy shooting the finger above,  Jarrett V. Sheldon.

Interim City Manager Michael L. Lopez appointed Sheldon (who himself was interim fire chief) as the new department chief. Lopez did not disclose what process he used to select Sheldon chief. There was no advertising of the position, no one was allowed to apply, and there were no interviews. The interim manager simply chose the interim chief and that was that.

But the whole firehouse is ablaze with indignation at the arbitrary selection of Sheldon as the new boss. They say that Lopez violated the city's personnel general provisions when he failed "to provide fair and equal employment opportunity for qualified persons" and to satisfy the objective to "promote pride and high morale among City of Brownsville employees by fostering good working relationships."

Specifically, they charge Lopez violated city policy (Chapter 2, Section 201) on appointments to job positions when he he did not make the fire chief appointment "based on the qualifications of applicants as ascertained through "fair and practical selection methods, which may include testing of job knowledge, skills and abilities."

More seriously, they charge that his cozy relationship with a vendor of fire trucks – and his recommendation of specs for two new fire engines and one aerial ladder truck – seem to have been tailored to the specs recommended by the vendor of Metro Fire Apparatus. The representative of that company is a frequent visitor to the fire department administrative office and all the top honchos there have Metro Fire Yet thermal cups.

That representative is Jesse Breedlove, a one-time volunteer to the Los Fresnos Volunteer Fire Department who manages his family's Chachalaca Bend Inn there. Breedlove has close ties with Los Fresnos town judge Gene Daniels and – more importantly – Los Fresnos Fire Marshal Geronimo Sheldon, Jarrett's father. All three are constant visitors to the BFD's administrative offices and have a free hand in the operations here.

This type of fraternizing with vendor sis clearly prohibited in the city's policy manual prohibiting contact by vendors with city officials and employees and its statement of non-collusion in preparing bids.

During a recent city meeting, Sheldon told commissioners that the specs for the new engines and aerial ladder had been sent out bids, but failed to mention that the specs coincidentally are the same for the equipment handled by Breedlove and Metro Fire Apparatus. Using them, it almost assures that Metro Fire will almost guarantee them the winning bid

Normally, all fire apparatus bought by the city are to the specifications of the department making the purchase to fit their needs. In this case, if the purchases for Metro Fire go Apparatus go through, the city will end up with a fire truck that doe snot fit in the station it was meant for. As a result, the city will have to spend more taxpayer money to accommodate the longer and taller truck in the Old Alice Street, Ebony Heights and Station 4 engine stall doors.

The specs, apparently, were for the stock Metro Fire Apparatus sells, and not those for the needs of the city of Brownsville. 

Rewind this scene to 1993 when then-city manager demoted fire chief Desi Najera for doing the very same thing Sheldon is doing now. AT the time, Najera bid out for fire trucks with specs that included the mud flaps for vendor EONE. Of course, no other vendors would have the flaps specified by the BFD. Now Sheldon is specifying equipment for bids that fit the vendor, and not the fire stations of the city of Brownsville. 

The relationship between the FD honchos and this vendor is even cozier. Lt. Joel Rodriguez, a relative of assistant chief Cesar Pedraza, assigned to Station 4, is also employed as a part-time assistant to Metro Fire Apparatus vendor Breedlove. And Sheldon himself moonlights with his father (the Los Fresnos Fire Marshal) and performs fire inspections there for him because he is too old to do them himself.

And need we remind our readers that Sheldon and Pedraza are part of the Elizondo regime that has brought so much discredit to the department? 

Lopez should have had the common courtesy of allowing the new city manager to choose the fire chief, as well as the new police chief. After all, the city is spending $150,000 to find a city manager as we speak.

Is the city commission and residents willing to allow this brazen disregard for the welfare of the city – and to the the personal benefit of vendors and fire department administrators – and bear the insult with a smile?


By Jim Barton
The Brownsville Observer Blog

The Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation,frequently called locally by its acronym, the GBIC, should never be left alone without a babysitter.

Entrusted with skillfully using 4A funds, actually 1/4 cent of every taxable dollar spent in Brownsville, approximately $5,000,000 annually, to promote economic development, the GBIC has time and time again proven itself gullible, easily conned, a baby with candy there for the taking, inexperienced and irresponsible, ripe for the taking by every snake oil salesman from Big D or the Capitol.

Notice just a few of the cons financed in whole or in part by the GBIC in recent years.

2009: $900,000 for the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan
2013: $454,592 for the Greater Brownsville Infrastructure and Development Plan
2014: $750,000 to Jacobs Engineering to "implement" the above infrastructure plan(partially funded)

What did Brownsville taxpayers receive for funding these ludicrous plans? Absolutely nothing. "Nought, nil, nada, nothing, zero, zilch and zip."

So, imagine my surprise walking into Thursday's GBIC meeting to hear yet another plan "presentation by TIP Strategies and McDaniel Strategy Ecosystems pertaining to the GBIC strategic planning process."
The plan was unveiled, somewhat clumsily on the big screen, with power point platitudes. As we got to pages 3 and 4, it was obvious the plan was not even for Brownsville, but for Fort Worth.(The two firms had sold a similar bill of goods to Fort Worth and had never even tailored the plan to Brownsville.)

Finishing their presentation, the firm's threesome quickly exited through the city commission chamber doors, but I followed them out into the hall.

"Has GBIC already paid for this plan or is this just a presentation?" I asked.

"We've been paid," admitted one of the three.

"How much?" I asked.

"$120,000," was the response.

Mary Helen Flores of CAVA, who'd accompanied me to the meeting, then asked: "Do you guys know this plan wasn't even for Brownsville? It's for Fort Worth."

"Yeah. Sorry about that. We're going to change that."

Back in chambers, despite a quorum of 3, acting chairman Cesar De Leon called for a tabling of agenda items 7-15 until "all 5 of us are here." Missing from Thursday's meeting were board members Jessica Tetreau and John Cowen.

Mario Losoya, the GBIC's new administrator at an annual salary reportedly nearing $250,000, gave the "Administrator's Report," but his volume was so low we could only make out something about Brownsville not having enough skilled workers.

Friday, August 17, 2018


Image result for coach joe rodriguez, vendor

By Juan Montoya

Image result for coach joe rodriguez, vendorThe closest "Coach" Joe Rodriguez" got to win a state championship while he was on the side lines was the 47-14 drubbing administered to the Brownsville High School Golden Eagles by the Seguin Matadors in in 1969 in the regional round to finish 10-2.

That year, the Golden Eagles shared the District 26-4A championship with Harlingen and advanced to the state playoffs by virtue of a 27-0 win over the Cardinals in the regular season. In bi-district, they won 25-15 over Corpus Christi Miller.

Rodriguez, now a member of the BISD board of trustees, was the head coach of the team, and Tom Chavez, now Rivera's head coach, was an assistant. Other members of the coaching staff included Albert A. Ortiz, A. Hector "Buddy" Garcia, Lorenzo Sanchez (now BISD CFO), Raymond Rodriguez and Gonzalo Garcia.

Alas, he never won a state championship, yet was able to turn that loss into a cottage industry that propelled him (and his acolytes) into a career based on that "ya mero" claim to fame. From there, Rodriguez was able to be a board member, then Athletic Director, and now board member again.

And he has made up for the lack of achievements at state level by becoming a vendor to the district of sports equipment for BSN Sports, a  sister company to Herrf Jones ring maker under the umbrella of Varsity Brands, a national corporate sports-equipment giant.

And now, to make up for the lack of statewide athletic achievement, he has become the BISD's "Lord of the rings."

In 2015, River High School won the 6A District UIL Boys Soccer championship. That year, the staff at Rivera decided that the achievement merited a keepsake for team members and held fundraisers to purchase the players, coaches, and some administrators rings to commemorate the momentous event.

The school's booster raised the funds to pay for the rings, and the district chipped in for jackets. They bought them from Herrf Jones, Rodriguez's BSN Sports  sister company under Varsity Brands. Among the rings for non-players was included a complimentary one for Rodriguez.

Why Rodriguez? He, after all, is no longer a coach, but a board member. The rings cost $895 each for a total of $39,380.

If you perchance run into Rodriguez, you will see that he wears that complimentary Rivera soccer championship ring proudly.

Then, when the Porter Early College High School won the  UIL Class 5A boys soccer state championship in 2016, they decided to buy the team, coaches, and administrators championship rings, too. The total was Among the "complimentary" rings was one for "Coach" Joe, too. But while the Rivera rings for non-payers were $895, this one was $995. This time the total cost for the rings and jackets was $31,025.
Image result for BSN vendor joe rodriguez
And when Herrf Jones competitors inquired of the BISD administration within five days of Porter winning their championship if they could offer competitive bids for the rings, they were told in no uncertain terms that the principal and administration had already decided to buy from Herrf Jones.

After a controversy that stretched into the beginning of 2017 as to who was going to pay for the rings, the members of the board approved the district paying for the players rings (at $895 each) and for the other non-players to pay the $995 for theirs. But included in the invoice was a ring for Rodriguez (at $995) offered as a "complimentary" gift for the "Coach."

Did "Coach Joe" pay for the rings? That's not likely, after all, his sister vendor company Herrf Jones got the business and it's good politics to give one to your advocate on the board. The BISD has been a good customer for BSN Sports and Herrf Jones from 2011 to 2017.

Since 2011, when Rodriguez has been on the board this last time, BSN has sold a total of $2,440,219 in sports equipment to BISD. All the company sells is high-end brands such as Nike, etc., which Joe browbeats coaches in the district to order. At a conservative estimate of a 15 percent commission, "Coach" Joe pocketed a cool $366, 032. Some suggest it's more like 20 percent.

Being on the BISD board surely doesn't hurt Joe "Lord of the Rings" Rodriguez's business. No wonder he is running for reelection. If anything, he has shown that he has been a master at squeezing the 1969 Golden Eagle "turnip" defeat for all the blood it's worth.

Will voters continue to have him feeding at the pig trough, or will they opt to give candidates Dr. Prisci Roca Tipton or Randy Gonzalez the nod and put the old "Coach" to pasture?

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Various Sources

A Region One consultant has told principals of the Brownsville Independent School District that the administration had broken the law by feeding everyone meals for supper because the federal program for free nutrition did not authorize it if the non-extended day or tutorial students were not staying for an after-school program.

As such, the BISD should not have been submitting invoices for reimbursement to the federal government. And some sources say that the district is now liable to repay the funds because the meals were not eligible for reimbursement.

Region One consultant Yvonne Salinas made these statements at a meeting today of the district's principals. Additionally, other sources close to the administration said the district – specifically Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas – had been made aware of the potential violations in correspondence prior to the disbursement of the meals.

We will stay on top of this development to see how things unfold.


By Juan Montoya

With some Doubting Thomases expressing skepticism about the existence of text messages from former Brownsville Port of Brownsville Police Chief George Gavito to Brownsville Independent School District general counsel Baltazar Salazar, we are obliged to salvage our credibility.

We first reported that Gavito sent the text message to Salazar during this month's meeting of the board of BISD when Salazar backed away from an agenda item he had personally revised with the administration and approved for inclusion on the agenda scant hours before he backpedaled.

The agenda item allowed for the district to enter into a Letter of Intent for a Private Public Partnership to establish a Performing Arts Center that would also provide a hospitality and culinary industry curriculum.

The proposed LOI envisions the construction of a hotel to complement the instructional component and is first step toward potentially having the BISD, a local university, and private investors explore the idea of collaborating toward the establishment of that facility, estimated by some observers to come at at between $40  $50 million.

Everything was a go until the meeting when the administration was asked if Salazar had asked that the item be pulled. Salazar had pulled the item a month before saying that the discussion of economic development issues such as the P3 letter of intent could not be discussed in executive session.

When confronted with legal opinions by other attorneys that the board could indeed discuss such matters, Salazar let it be known that he would not permit it "por mis huevos."

Then, in this month's meeting, four trustees voted in favor of the district entering the discussions with a local university (UTRGV?) and the BISD and Jacoma Corporation, among others, to "explore" the idea.

That was despite the recommendation of Salazar to the board that the LOI lacked detail and that the district could be exposed to commitments stretching in the future for more than 20 years.

"My recommendation (was to pull it) because there wasn't any detail  and it doesn't fall within the guidelines...," he said, getting cutoff by Lopez who reminded him that his position a few hours earlier was to include it in the meeting.

"I'm a little surprised you say that," Lopez said. "When we reviewed it you were OK with it, then you do a complete 180 (degrees). This is strictly exploratory. We're not obligating the school district to anything."

When Salazar was trying to backpedal on his previous approval of the item, Gavito, who was in the audience, texted him the missive above. In turn, Salazar started forwarding the text far and wide insinuating he felt threatened by Gavito, a border lawman with connection to the criminal elements here. We understand that a copy of the Gavito text was sent to other board trustees, the superintendent, and that it even got forwarded to Cameron County D.A. Luis V.  Saenz, too.

Is Salazar fearful now and counting to four and contemplating his future and potential loss of his $280,000 gravy gig?


By Juan Montoya

For years, media people knew Drue Brown as the information source on stories they were writing about the Brownsville Independent School District.

If there was a way to find the information, Brown would have it.
Now, retired after many years at BISD, Brown has thrown her hat in the ring for the next round of board elections in November.

Brown's lists her intention to run for Position 1, the seat now being held by board president Cesar Lopez. That makes four challengers against Lopez that include Brown, Timmy Ramirez, and Joe Valdez.

But in Brownsville's byzantine politics, things aren't always the way they appear. Insiders close to her campaign say that Brown doesn't really want to run against Lopez, that her real target is Carlos Elizondo, the discredited (and indicted) former Brownsville Fire Department chief.

"She's weighting her options, but as far as we know, it's Carlos she want to run against," said a close supporter. "With the charges of theft and breaching of computer security, voters will stay away from him in droves. That's the low-hanging fruit everyone wants. I think Due is just biding her time."

Brown held the PIO position for 25 years before her retirement in June 2017. 

In 1992, when current BISD Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas came on board the first time, she appointed Brown to the position after snagging her from her post as Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) director, a position that encompasses all data requested and received by TEA about public education, including student demographic and academic performance, personnel, financial, and organizational information.

In her retirement letter, Brown said there have been “many proud moments” in her BISD career.

“The highlights include BISD’s selection as the 2008 Broad Prize recipient, two successful bond issues and the recent Tax Ratification Election, the district’s annual United Way campaign, the holiday canned food and toy drives, the Superintendent’s Scholarship Golf Tournament which has awarded more than $1 million in college funds to deserving BISD graduates over 14 years, the implementation of both the School Messenger notification system and the BISD Mobile App, and the expansion of our district marketing efforts to include television, radio, digital billboards, and social media.”

Brown is a graduate of North Texas State University in Denton with a double major in English and history. She received a master's degree in secondary education from Pan American University-Brownsville. Her career in education began as a classroom teacher at Faulk Middle School. She also taught at Hanna High School and Oliveira Middle School.

She has been married to Dave Brown, a former KRGV Channel 5 sports anchor who is now her treasurer.
She is also the proud mother of Jeff Brown, a graduate of Texas State University who now serves as an officer with the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


By Gerardo F. McHale-Scully
El Rrun-Rrun Mexico City Correspondent
And Abuelo of Brownsville Soccer

As publisher of The McHale Report, I sat down with OP 10.33 founder Mike Hernandez and discussed a wide range of issues that he has endeavored to promote during the few years since he has returned to his hometown with no other intention than to make Brownsville a better place. When I first heard about him and his intent, I shook my head and said to myself, "That can't really be true. Nobody cares enough to make that kind of commitment anymore. There has to be an ulterior motive."

We met on the bar side of Campero's. It's one of my favorite drinking holes in Browntown. I like the dark setting and there is seldom a crowd. You can have a quiet conversation. And we did. Over beers and botana, I questioned and he answered. Here is the Q&A:

Are you ready to rumble?
I think it is appropriate to honestly evaluate our progress over the past 24 or so months.

What is OP 10.33's focus?
Education, economic development, basic services for the most in need regardless of citizenship and politics.

How do you see this area's realities?We all know the realities of the power structure in Cameron County and it all unfortunately centers around local governmental entities since there is no real private sector to lead the way. That is why we had to address the local political situation first to “separate the sheep from the goats” as they say. It's an old line from a John Wayne western.

What do you mean by that exactly?Pressure and/or replace all of the corrupt and self-serving public servants one by one and then support and guide the rest. Guide means showing them how successful communities elsewhere have proven models that can be replicated here for the good of their constituency.

Where do we begin?
That starts with education. When we are talking about education, we realize that we are talking about workforce trainingat the same time. That has been one of the missing links in Brownsville with all of the TSC dysfunction. And with BISD to some degree.

In your opinion, in what areas should we focus our energy and resources?
There are three main industries in which we are focusing our workforce: Advanced manufacturing, hospitality/tourism and medical. That is why implementing this TX FAME program is so crucial. That is the final piece of the puzzle on the advanced manufacturing/engineering educational pathways that will gin out skilled workers at every level.

Can you give me something precise in terms of an actual operation?

Image result for jerry mchaleThe Advanced Manufacturing Training Center at the industrial parks will house student interns from all of the ISDs in Cameron County and TSTC. CCEI is extremely important as well. That brings in the resources and cache that it takes to pull off the next Silicon Valley. Not that we cannot pull it off without UTRGV, but it will be much more difficult. Hopefully, TSC will see the light soon and join once we get going.

Can you give me some other examples of on-the-ground reality?
We are establishing the same basic structure for stackable education/workforce training credits in the field of hospitality by partnering with UTRGV to build a hotel that serves as a teaching facility as well. This has been done at a number of universities: UH, Memphis U and Oklahoma St. are some examples. It can be easily replicated in Brownsville.

You haven't mentioned the medical part of your program. Where are we there?The last of the Educational Pathways that we saw as an immediate opportunity is in the medical field. All local educators seem to be focused on that already, so I’m not sure that they need any assistance from us per se.

What has been your biggest challenge thus far?
Economic development has been the most complicated to plan out and maneuver around, but here is where I think we have made tremendous progress. BEDC was completely corrupt. It was abusing the poor people's tax dollars and had to be blown up. Mission accomplished.

Blown-up is an understatement. What a blatant waste of money! It was criminal. It was much like the Port of Brownsville's Bridge to Nowhere. A combination of corruption and incompetency. Where are we now?

We have played an instrumental role in bringing in the new executive director at GBIC who will tie all of the educational efforts that are being set up directly to a master economic development plan, which dovetails directly into the overall BiNED plan that revolves around manufacturing on both sides of the border.

His critics says he's a puppet. What is your opinion of Mario Losoya, GBIC's new executive director?
Image result for mario lozoyaMario is not the kind of guy that will be pushed around, which is exactly what we need, so this was a crucial piece of the puzzle. Hopefully, he can reel the port in to pull it all together. We can make sure that Mario has our complete support. Beyond that, we need to let him implement his program without any interference from us. He knows exactly where to go and who to talk to about bringing tier 2 and tier 1 manufacturing to this area, which will be a game changer for the local economy.

What about the hospitality side?
As far as the hospitality industry goes, SPI already has a pressing need for professionally trained workers at all levels. Given the efforts to revitalize downtown, which I fully support, and the Riverwalk project finally getting past Mayor Tony Martinez’s games, there will be an even larger need ahead soon.

Who needs to cooperate in order to achieve your vision of the future?
I think we should coordinate with SPI and Brownsville hotel and restaurant operators to create internships and hire our graduates. Coordinate with TSTC as well since they currently have a program in place. Again, hopefully TSC will eventually come along.

Let me get the next round, Mike. Same? Two more, bartender. Where were we?
Lastly, with regard to economic development in the medical industry, McAllen's Alonzo Cantu has run into a few political roadblocks with Renaissance. I think we should find out what he needs to help expand his operations into Cameron County to create jobs and provide quality healthcare for us. CCEI, TSC, I believe, and UTRGV all are focused on this type of training, so we should be able to provide the skilled workforce he needs.

What about the truly needed since you addressed that issue at the beginning of our interview?
Services for the most in need pertains to the work we have been doing for the shelters in Brownsville. We must incorporate workforce training into the shelter programs, so that these people can provide for themselves going forward. We are already making sure that they have enough meat and vegetables to take care of everyone and will continue to do so.

But where we do we go from here?
We must address the facilities at both locations because something needs to be done to upgrade them. I am working with Texas A&M to provide free medical services through their Healthy South Texas program for these people. We still need to sit down with the Bishop Flores to discuss how we can coordinate with their efforts on the ground because I’m sure there are synergies there. George Gavito has put together a list of what we have done to date, but it is generally just responding to that community’s needs.

And politics?
Politics is a means to an end, nada mas. We’ll continue to do what we have to do in that regard.

Obviously, it is not a one-man operation. How would you evaluate your team?
I cannot thank each of them enough for all the good work that they are doing for the community. “A rising tide floats all boats,” so in the end they will benefit from these efforts. But at the end of the day, the members of our team are truly unsung heroes because the work that they are doing is going to positively affect thousands of people now and in the future. They may not realize it, but we do!

Thanks, Mike. I really enjoyed the chat.

Anytime. I have nothing to hide. I am an open book. You can ask me any question you want and I can handle criticism, but I expect to be treated fairly and professionally.

One more for the road?

Another time. I'm driving. You're walking.

One of his last comments stuck with me: "The work they are doing is going to positively affect thousands of people now and in the future. They may not realize it, but we do."

I remember when Trey Mendez was part of the Fantastic Four comprised of himself, Adela Garza, Rene Torres and Kiko Rendon in their combative crusade to save TSC against Queen Julieta Garcia and all of her Brownsville court.

He wistfully noted when the blood was flowing in the streets and he and his comrades were dealing with protests in front of his law office, "There are thousands of families and their children who don't recognize the war that we are waging right now against formidable forces in order to assure them the education that they deserve."

It can be a lonely and unappreciative struggle, but in the end it may be the one that gets you into heaven.


Various Sources

Pray for San Benito.

Just yesterday, during a special meeting and workshop of the San Benito City Commission, a majority voted to fire Ricardo Morado, an attorney with an attorney with the Brownsville firm of Roerig, Oliveira and Fisher, and opted to replace him with former City of Brownsville attorney Mark Sossi.

Image result for san benito, sossiNews reports indicate that by a 3-2 vote, commissioners fired Morado and hired Sossi at $175 an hour. Although attractive, it does not compare to what Sossi was getting from the Brownsville, about $180,000 a year.

Mayor Ben Gomez and Commissioners Tony Gonzales and Rick Guerra voted to fire Morado and hire Sossi, Commissioners Rene Villafranco and Carol Lynn Sanchez voted against the motions.

Sossi was fired August 14, 2017 from Brownsville after the "cup of forbearance" of the city commissioners had spilled over.

Before that, in January, he had requested for his employment status to be changed from a contract to full-time city employee so that he could include a child on the city's health insurance plan. A court had ordered that he provide health insurance to the child who had been born to a woman he met at a local strip club and who had filed for child support after he evicted her and her other children from his house.

And before that, he had been involved in various unseemly fracases.

At one time, Sossi used to drive around town in his sports car without a valid inspection or valid license plates and was wanted for unpaid tickets by a JP court in San Benito. Local watchdog groups had complained to city administration that Sossi was farming out city work to a firm which had filed a complaint in a local court that he had pocketed $167,000 which belonged to them when he was in their employ.

And he sued a local blogger for $10 million claiming he had been defamed in a post detailing his role in an altercation at the house of a female city employee after her daughter allegedly found them in a compromising situation.

That was thrown out and the city's insurance doled out a symbolic monetary settlement to bury the matter.

That was only the tip of the Sossi iceberg. Now that he's landed the San Bene gig, one can only hope the Resaca City is not subjected to these lapses of Sossi behavior.

Otherwise, all this exercise will imitate native son Freddie Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."


By Juan Montoya

In Robert Wightman's bizarro parallel universe, black is white and up is down.

He can literally do mental contortions to convince himself – and no one else – that he has somehow snatched triumph from the jaws of ignoble defeat.

So it is in his running court battles with Mike Hernandez's OP 10.33 who sued him in Tarrant County on defamation charges. True to form, instead of answering the charges directly, Wightman has tried to divert the courts' attention to ancillary matters such as challenging the constitutionality of the statutes (one of his favorite stratagems to buy time and tire out his targets), appealing every loss, losing, and then appealing to an even higher court.

In the latest wrinkle, he asked the Second Court of Appeals Stay of mandate sending the case back to the trial court because of his intention to seek relief before the Supreme Court on First Amendment violations to free speech based on of Rule 18.2 of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure. (Wightman is the one in the left in diapers.)

In his response, Hernandez asked the court to deny Wightman's motion because he failed to meet the standard that: "The appellate court authorized to issue the mandate may grant a stay if it finds that the grounds are substantial and that the petitioner or others would incur serious hardship from the mandate's issuance if the United States Supreme Court were later to reverse the judgment."

Apparently, Wightman only listed the first sentence of the rule without stating any grounds that would indicate that he would "incur serious hardship" if it did not issue the mandate to stay pending his writ to the Supremes.

"Cervantes has failed to articulate any circumstances that would require a stay in this matter. Cervantes has certainly not provided any ground(s) that are substantial or an even attempted an explanation of what serious hardship he would incur if the stay were not issued," Hernandez's motion states.

In his original motion for the stay, Wightman gets on his high hobby legal horse (as he is wont to do) and states: "(I am) is seeking relief before the Supreme Court based on First Amendment
violations to free speech. To this Mike Hernandez by and through his counsel state First Amendment violations of Free Speech do not merit such a stay under the Rule. Yes they actually said it.
If (I) need to say more it is then futile to expect justice from this court."

But that's not all. Not only does Wightman say he doesn't expect much from the court, but that he doesn't want to pony up for costs accrued as a result of his filings. "Wherefore based on the forgoing your appellant requests that the court stay the $111 bill for doing business with the court."

He wanted the court to issue the "mandate pending petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, and reform the mandate on costs to show Appellant does not owe the costs for $111 for records ordered by this court..."

On August 10, the Second Court of Appeals handed Wightman another glorious defeat with a curt order denying his motion to stop their mandate for his writ to the Supreme Court and made no mention of erasing his $111 bill.

In short, Wightman has been told to "Stop, do not go, fork over the $111, and go back to the trial court to argue the merits of Hernandez's defamation lawsuit."

Another landmark performance by the Dodici-munching, wine-swilling disbarred layer from Dallas to hang on his mantle of legal accomplishments.


By Juan Montoya
It used to be that when you drove downtown, no matter where you found parking, some car washer would approach you and ask if you wanted your car washed while you did your business.

Their prices were reasonable, ranging from $5 for a regular-sized car to as much as $8 yo $10 for a King Ranch truck.

For the most part they were young guys, some of them obviously from Matamoros, but most of them local men who washed cars in the hot sun while you did your shopping or were imbibing brews at local watering holes.

Some were pushy, as competing sales people usually are. And others were outright thieves. On rare occasions gullible motorists turned over their car keys to them so they could do detail work inside the cars. Invariably, someone would go check on their car and discovered that the washer had absconded with his vehicle across the bridge.

"Some of them were getting out of hand," said a former car washer who sat at the Sportsman Lounge recently. "They would steal stuff from the cars if they were left open. Those who gave the washers their keys should have known better."

Word of the depredations of some washers finally got to the ears of the city administration and the hammer came down. And it came down hard. From now on, a washer who is caught plying his trade in downtown streets or public parking lots faces a $250 fine. They may be asked for a permit to do business in the city. And they may even be asked for their state comptroller permits that show they pay taxes.

This applies to car washers doing business where the city has jurisdiction. Whether it will bother those who occasionally was cars at the county courthouse parking lots is up in the air. The county – while not giving them the green light – has turned a benign eye to them so far.

So what will these cadre of car washers, now deprived of their meager livelihood, do to earn a dollar?

"They're probably try some other way to earn money," said the washer sipping on his $1 mug beer. "Some of them will probably end up stealing, what else are they going to do?"


Various Sources

Image result for rene oliveiraFor months now the Cameron County District Attorney's Office has fought off the attempts of local media to learn the results of the blood test administered to District 37 State Representative Rene Oliveira after his DWI arrest last April 28 on the grounds that the evidence was part of an ongoing investigation.

Instead, enterprising reporters have deduced that his blood level was almost twice the legal limit from the filings of motions in court by the  the DA on the case.

Now we learn from another of these gleanings that the DA has filed yet another motion, this time to modify Oliveira’s bond to add multiple conditions, including that he refrain from drinking alcohol  or frequenting local bars and taverns.

Reporter Mark Reagan, of the local daily, reports that the The DA’s office filed the motion Aug. 7. that seeks to prohibit the lawmaker from committing a criminal offense, from visiting bars or clubs, and from fraternizing with anyone who consumes alcohol or controlled substances.

Although numerous commenters to this blog have accused Oliveira of continuing  his 36-year long bacchanal even after is arraignment on the DWI charges, this is the first time the DA broaches the subject of "controlled substances."

A spokeswoman, Reagan noted, declined to comment on what motivated the filing of the motion, citing the same "ongoing" criminal prosecution.  He reports that document also would require all vehicles operated by Oliveira to be equipped with ignition locks and states that Oliveira would not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances.

Does the blood sample reveal more than alcohol in his system?

A commenter on the case emailed us after his arraignment that:

"Correct me if I am wrong, but if a citizen refuses a breathalyzer test or a blood test, he automatically loses his drivers' license, right? So, what is Rene still doing driving around town."

Others alleged that he had been seen numerous times after his arrest at Cobbleheads, the bar he was frequenting at the night of his DWI arrest. They wondered whether he had been permitted to continue patronizing the bars when others weren't. And will the restrictions also apply when the rep is in Austin?

Oliveira was defeated in the Democratic primary by Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Alex Dominguez and will remain in office until Dominguez is sworn in in January 2019.


The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
By Ari Berman
372 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.

Book Review By Jeffrey Rosen
The New York Times

Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 1965, he felt, his daughter Luci said, “a great sense of victory on one side and a great sense of fear on the other.”

According to Ari Berman, a political correspondent for The Nation, he knew the law would transform American politics and democracy more than any other civil rights bill in the 20th century, but he also feared that it would deliver the South to the Republican Party for years to come.

Both predictions proved to be accurate. “The revolution of 1965 spawned an equally committed group of counterrevolutionaries,” Berman writes in “Give Us the Ballot.”

“Since the V.R.A.’s passage, they have waged a decades-long campaign to restrict voting rights.” Berman argues that these counterrevolutionaries have “in recent years, controlled a majority on the Supreme Court” and “have set their sights on undoing the accomplishments of the 1960s civil rights movement.”

Berman’s claim that those he calls the counterrevolutionaries - including Chief Justice John Roberts - have set out to undo the accomplishments of the 1960s is, of course, contested. Still, Berman usefully explores how the debate over voting rights for the past 50 years has been a debate between two competing visions: Should the Voting Rights Act “simply provide access to the ballot,” as conservatives claim, or should it “police a much broader scope of the election system, which included encouraging greater representation for African-Americans and other minority groups”?

Regardless of where you fall on this policy question, one historical trend is clear: Every time the Voting Rights Act came up for renewal, from 1969 to 2006, Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House repeatedly endorsed the broader interpretation. And the Supreme Court repeatedly responded by imposing the narrower interpretation by judicial fiat.

The initial success of the Voting Rights Act in increasing minority voter registration is striking and impressive: In the ­decades after Johnson signed the act, black voter registration in the South soared from 31 percent to 73 percent and the number of African-American elected officials nationwide expanded from fewer than 500 to 10,500.

And in 1969 the Warren court, by a 7-2 vote, held that the act prevented Mississippi from adopting an at-large election system for county supervisors, since countywide elections were harder for minority candidates to win. But after Richard Nixon won the election of 1968 with a Southern strategy, he appointed four Supreme Court justices who took a less expansive view of the scope of the Voting Rights Act.

(Jeffrey Rosen is president and chief executive of the National Constitution Center and a law professor at George Washington University. His biography of Louis D. Brandeis will be published next year.)


(Ed.'s Note: We just couldn't pass this delicious opportunity to poke the Brownsville Herald in the  eye. The article above published Tuesday with a headline that asserted that the former Brownsville city manager was seeking the position of  city attorney for San Bene.

Fernando del Valle's story actually said in the lead paragraph that it was the former Brownsville city attorney who was seeking the appointment, and not former city manager Charlie Cabler.

Now, we are guilty of making such mistakes, or oversights, as bad or much worse than the one made by the headline writer. But we're pretty much a one-person operation and have no second pair of eyes to correct our mistakes. AIM, the Herald's parent corporation has entire news desks and editors at its disposal to prevent them. 

This might just be a result of the neglect with which the corporation has treated Brownsville, the biggest city in the valley. In fact, there are no longer any presses here and the daily is actually printed in McAllen. Anyway, who but those pesky nitpicking bloggers would notice? Do the AIM editors know our city? Do they even live here? Judging by the headline, they're not up on the city officials to make a glaring mistake as the one above.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


By Steven Sealy
CBS4 Valley Central
A month after filing a restraining order, Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation Board Member and Secretary Nurith Galonsky, has decided to file a non-suit against GBIC.

Image result for nurith galonsky, rrunrrunThe restraining order kept new hire, Mario Lozoya, from assuming his role as GBIC Executive Director.

CBS 4 spoke with Rene Oliveira, who's representing GBIC in the suit, and said Galonsky didn't have a base to file the restraining order.

In the order, it stated that GBIC's bylaws can't provide for an executive director, but Oliveira said that the order doesn't correctly reference the nonprofit's bylaws.

He went on to point out that the suit was filled with errors and the arguments were without merit.

Oliveira told CBS 4 that, "it really revolved around who should be executive director of GBIC, not the violations."


Since 2016 over 1,500 minors have been assaulted in the national Capital (pictured - the film)

By Juan Montoya
Concerns are growing for the safety of unaccompanied minors held at Southwest Key facilities across the country following reports that a 6-year-old girl who was separated from her mother  was sexually abused by another child at a facility for migrant children run by the Brownsville-based company in Phoenix, Az.

And sources among the staff at Casa Padre Southwest Key facility in Brownsville say that even before that case went public, Southwest Key CEO Juan Sanchez has aggressively pushed for workers here to attend intensive sexual-abuse prevention/education courses.

"Apparently, Juan is preempting potential sexual-abuse cases arising from the care of these minors by subjecting the workers there to take these classes just in case the company is accused of neglect if future cases arise," said a local worker. "He was adamant about us taking these courses the last time he was here. He has even hired a high-priced Washington D.C. public relations firm to polish up Southwest Key's image."

Well, guess what? According to sources at the Brownsville Southwest facility here, his efforts may have come a bit late to prevent sexual shenanigans inside the facility.
They say that just this week there was a report of a female worker engaging inappropriate sexual conduct with a teenage boy under her care.

One version of the incident has a worker coming across the female worker engaged in some sort of sexual act fondling the genitals of the of the teenage boys under her care.

"Things are getting crazy in there," one staffer said.  

Under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance border policy, children whose parents were caught crossing the border illegally have been separated  from them. The federal court s have ordered the government to reunite thousands of such children with their parents, with some success. In some cases, the government has been unable to reunite them because the parents had been deported.

In the Phoenix case, as first reported in The Nation. the child was assaulted twice during her stay at Casa Glendale in the Phoenix area. 

The child, without any parental permission, also was forced to sign a document saying she would stay away from anyone associated with the abuse, according to a migrant advocate.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, told The Arizona Republic on Friday that officials in charge of caring for the child and handling the case made a mistake labeling the incident as "sexual abuse,” when it should have been characterized as “inappropriate behavior.”

Southwest Key houses more than 1,500 children in Arizona, California and Texas under a $458 million contract with the federal Unaccompanied Alien Children Program.

Employees at two Arizona Southwest Key facilities have been accused of inappropriate contact with minors on at least two occasions since 2015, including an incident that led to a conviction for sexual abuse, police records show.

So far, there has been no indication of what the response will be from the administrators at the Southwest Key Brownsville facility.


Image result for blue and red eraser

By Juan Montoya
Years ago, when we still had one kid - our youngest girl - at Hudson Elementary when Dr. Rita Hernandez was principal there, it fell on my lot to go shopping for school supplies a day before the school year began.

This was always an unpleasant task and I always left it for the last  minute because you would invariably find yourself pawing through piles of left over pencils, composition books, rulers, folders, dividers, etc. to try to get everything on the list the teachers ask parents to get for their students..

That was bad enough.

But when you consider that you are trying to do this against other desperate parents who procrastinated like you and find themselves trying to scratch off every last item from their list, it becomes a pitched battle on the school supply pile at stores like Walmart, Kmart when there was one, the Family Dollars, Target, etc. by parents with their back against the clock and a fast-approaching deadline.

The moms were the worse. They weren't above edging past you in the line and pushing you aside as they grabbed for that missing three-hole binder (had to be black), or the safety scissors they needed for their list.

To make the long story short, as 10 p.m. approached, things were getting desperate. Still unscratched on the list were two blue and red erasers. Everywhere I went, they had an eraser of one color, or some other types, some of them with a small brush at one end, and instead of the lead, it was an eraser point like a pencil.

I gave up after the stores started closing and the elusive erasers were nowhere to be found. I had failed.

This had never happened before and I arrived at the house with my different bags from the different stores bulging over with supplies. But no double-color gum erasers.

The little one was at the living room coffee table drawing something on a paper with  crayon when I arrived. She looked up and saw the supplies looking at me expectantly as she filled in her drawing with a crayon. There was no way out. I fessed up, a bit defensive, even as I tried to hide my exasperation.

"Nana, It took me half the night and I got everything on the list except for one thing, those erasers with the two colors, you know, the red and the blue. I went to the four Walmarts and everything is gone. Then I went to the Target, the Family Dollars, all of them. There are no two-sided erasers left in the city. I'm sorry."

God made little girls different.

She eyed at me somewhat distracted, looked up from her creation and said: "Erasers? Oh, don't worry about that Dad. I just won't make any mistakes."


(Ed.'s Note: The City of South Padre island hosted a Town Meeting Monday for local residents to host new District 37 Texas State Representative Alex Dominguez. The meeting was hosted by former SPI mayor Barry Patel and the current office holder Dennis Stahl. Local business people and the SPI Chamber of commerce members attended the event and heard what the new state rep brings to the table.

As Pct. 2 county commissioner, Dominguez has voted on many issues of importance to the Island and the South Texas coast. A spokesman siad Domniguez "brings a new energetic force to our District 37. The next Town Hall meeting will be held August 20 in Laguna Vista.) 

Monday, August 13, 2018


Image result for jarret sheldon and carlos elizondo

Fire Chief Jarrett V. Sheldon

By Juan Montoya
How things change, and yet they remain the same.

In the announcement for the new Brownsville Fire Department,  Interim City Manager Michael L. Lopez did not disclose how many candidates he had considered before he chose to keep Interim Fire Chief Jarrett V. Sheldon on as the permanent honcho at the fire house.

Was everyone (or anyone else) given a chance to apply?
Were there any other candidates - here and all over the country - who were considered for the position?

Apparently not, some firefighters say. It was just a matter of inertia. Kind of like the way that former city manager Charlie Cabler operated.

In fact, Sheldon was one of two assistant fire chiefs under fired fire chief Carlos Elizondo. Elizondo had garnered the spot by betraying his firefighters union and hand-picking a union board that voted to give away all the gains that previous firefighters had earned through tough negotiating such as the "me-too" clause that stated that firefighters would get any benefits (and salary increases) that their police brothers got.

People got fired, reprimanded and blackballed over such issues, but they took it all in stride so that future firefighters (and their families) would enjoy better benefits.

Elizondo was only too glad to give that all away in return for the chief's badge. And the new contract that was approved by the puppet board also included a clause that allowed the chief to have two assistant chiefs. One, Sheldon, actually had been an officer in the department. The other, and this is the unbelievable part, could be any Joe off the street, experience, of lack thereof, not withstanding.

Image result for jarret sheldon and carlos elizondoThat was Ernie Estrada, a Cabler favorite who was thick with construction contractors who somehow found their way to Cabler's home to lend a hand in the remodeling.

That, according to people who heard Cabler's daughter during a rant at a local watering hole. That and the fact that Ernie liked to cook paella with Charlie and Carlos got him the spot.

Before too long, Elizondo and Estrada were steering lucrative patient transfers to a private ambulance service to the detriment of the city and EMS finances. Morale was low. Estrada had been plucked from the bottom of the department barrel because of his pal Cabler. Seasoned firefighters, including other officers, had to put up with Estrada, a petty tyrant who expected firefighters to genuflect at his passing shadow.

Where does Sheldon fit in?
He was there when all this was happening and didn't say a word. It was only until the city's audit and oversight committee started poking around the department's shenanigans that the scheme began to unravel. Did Sheldon rat out on Elizondo and Estrada with city honchos to ingratiate himself to the administrators and bosses just as the first defendant to turn state's evidence will get the immunity?

Was it history repeated; was the quid-pro-quo in the making just as the first time with Elizondo it happened as a tragedy, the second with Sheldon a farce?

For a city commission and administration who has promised transparency and observance to process to name someone chief without giving anyone else a chance to compete for the spot says a lot of how things have changed and yet remain the same. 

"Jarrett V. Sheldon has fulfilled the role of Fire Chief with a strong commitment to the public safety of the residents of Brownsville,” said Lopez intoned announcing Sheldon's appointment.

Sheldon joined the department in Aug. 2001 as a probationary firefighter. During his career he has been promoted to fire lieutenant and deputy fire chief (under Elizondo). Oh, and his father also happens to be the Los Fresnos Fire Marshal.

Sheldon remained after Elizondo was suspended without pay and then fired from the department following his arrest on felony charges. Ernie Estrada, was demoted to basic firefighter after Elizondo left and mousy little Sheldon scurried from his hole and picked up the pieces.


By Juan Montoya

Well, you can never start soon enough.
It seems like we have just been through a race for the Cameron County District Attorney's Office than we are reminded that there is a race for that office in 2020.

That's two years from now.

We're used to have state representatives and U.S. reps hit the ground running and to keep on running the entire two-year terms until the next election.

In this case, DA Luis V. Saenz is already putting out his campaign cards on social media that he will be on the ballot for the Democratic Party nomination for DA two years from now.

Of course, you can't start soon enough in these races. The last two real races that Saenz has had were with nemesis Carlos Masso, a local attorney who once worked in his office and was a  commission with the Brownsville Navigation District. Those ended in runoffs and were properly bitter, hard-fought affairs that split the party with factional infighting.

Many political observers agree that in the last mano-a-mano with Masso, only the indictment of Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre and resultant media splash of the indictments carried Saenz over the top.

"That arrest really gave Saenz a boost," said a former county commissioner form Harlingen. "Luis was getting behind and when Yzaguirre was busted, he really gained ground."

This time Saenz appears to be taking no chances and is putting out the word that – despite his promises when he ran last time – he want another term as the county's top cop.

Loose tongues being what they are, there is already word filtering through the porous cracks of the county courthouse on Harrison Street that the recent approval by the county commissioners court of the DA's Office to hire a computer programmer named Kyle Johnson is but one of Saenz's ducks being lined up for the campaign.

Of course, the commissioners approved him to help Asst. DA Rene Garza sort through the Border Protection Unit data to prepare reports for the grant committee of that organization. Administered as trusteed grant program through Criminal Justice Division of Governor’s Office, the BPU covers 16 prosecution offices from El Paso to Brownsville, encompassing 39 counties.

Its grants allows each DAs office to hire assistant prosecutors and investigators whose primary responsibility is to better handle and coordinate prosecution of border crimes and ancillary activities like data analysis.

On questioning by county commissioners, Rene Garza said that he was seeking use of a one-time $20,000 grant outlay to assist him in managing and collating information from the county's Odyssey computer programs which he said were unwieldy. Further, he said that an outside employee was necessary because of the sensitive nature of the information being handled.

"Why are you guys paying an outside individual money when we already have folks within out own organizational structure that deal with this on a regular daily, basis, an hourly basis in some cases?," David Garza asked.

"If you have money and are flush with dollars that you want to put out why don;t you pay the IT Department or subsidize an individual to do what you're doing because it makes no sense to duplicate efforts from my point of view," commissioner Garza said. "Why is it that you have to bring in someone from outside to do their work."

When asked if Johnson had ever worked with anyone in Cameron County, Garza said he hadn't. And when Juan Saldaña, of the county's IT office was asked if he knew of Johnson, Saldaña replied that he had never met him. Saldaña also said they had done similar work for the county's health and engineering departments as well as for Pct. 4 commissioner Gus Ruiz.

"You mean that our county IT guys couldn't come up with a way to decipher and deliver the information in the format that you need when you're presenting it to the (grants) committee," Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño asked Rene Garza. "Have you checked with Odyssey?"

Garza said that – despite the operating agreement Odyssey had with the county – that when he talked to its representatives, they told him that it would cost "a lot of  money" to cull the information and that's why he had opted to look outside Odyssey for help.

The commissioners – after being assured that BPU grant money was being used and not county funds, approved the agreement with obvious reservations.

Still, some courthouse sources say that the reason Johnson was brought on board for the computer programming work from outside was because Saenz contemplates using him to help with the strategies in his upcoming campaign. While not included in the Odyssey programming, it's nice to have someone available to do campaign voter identification strategies.

"He's lining up his ducks for 2020," said one. "Nowadays, campaigns use message designers, voter-identification experts, and, of course, computer programmers to dissect the different categories of voters. Johnson fits the bill."

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Image result for save rgv from lng



We support the proposed Rio Grande LNG project because people in the Rio Grande Valley need the good-paying jobs that this proposed project will bring. An economic study by the Perryman Group shows that the project would bring thousands of jobs during construction and add a few hundred permanent jobs when the facility is operating.

A project like this will make a huge, positive difference in one of the poorest areas of Texas. These good-paying jobs will provide a better quality of life for families and create more business for many small businesses, such as for our restaurant, Mariscos De La Rosa.

We believe that the Rio Grande LNG project is safe for the community or we would not be supporting it.

We urge everyone to get behind this project as we have so that more Brownsville residents and businesses can benefit from the economic opportunities that Rio Grande LNG will provide for many years. Too much is at stake when it comes to our families, employees, customers, the community and our economy.

Rodolfo De La Rosa
Anahi De La Rosa
Mariscos De La Rosa Restaurant

Image result for save rgv from lng


Not so fast on LNG

I recently read a letter touting the economic benefits of Rio Grande LNG due to high-paying jobs that would lift our entire economy to the levels of yet another fossil-fuel-heavy, industrial refining export terminal along the Gulf coast — but this time on our own Brownsville Ship Channel.

Rio Grande LNG will be an export terminal, which means that the profit goes to the company and not to the benefit of the entire local community. The location of Rio Grande LNG export terminal with multiple trains will damage the local air, water, land and resident population. 

The local towns of Laguna Vista, Port Isabel and South Padre Island closest to the potential LNG terminals have all voiced dissent against the LNG plants because the pollutants’ emissions will blow directly over them. But as the wind mostly blows southeasterly, the rest of the RGV will be polluted also.

As of yet, no air permits have been approved for Rio Grande LNG from TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). So, don’t be fooled that the LNGs are a done deal. Our area’s ecology is under assault by heavy industrial petrochemical plants as well as the government. 

The U.S. government will take the local land through eminent domain for border walls, which will decimate the refuges and parks in the western part of the RGV while the LNG export industrialists pollute the neighborhoods, parks and refuges on the coast near SPI.

The environment of our coast, our frontier and our parks and refuges is under attack, and our local and Texas leaders must remember the long term need for clean air, water and a healthy population.

Diane Teter


"When I look at the December 2015 Perryman Group's 110 page The Potential Impact of the Proposed Rio Grande Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Rio Bravo Pipeline Facilities on Business Activity in Cameron County, Texas and the United States," what I see is a bought-and-paid-for promotional ad for the company.

It's all about the supposed upside of the project with not one word about any down side. It's about economics (jobs, tax revenue, etc), with no mention of problematic GHG, VOC, and particulate emissions etc. 

No mention of how much the project would devastate our lucrative tourist revenue (Texas-Mexico tourism, beach tourism, eco-tourism, our developing hike and bike trail "Active Tourism"), sustainable shrimping, and so forth."

John Young


By Jim Barton
Brownsville Observer Blog

During the Republican Primary, the Brownsville Observer endorsed Tad Hasse for the Republican nomination for State Board of Education, District 2. The district covers 16 counties and a significant portion of Hidalgo County. We viewed Hasse as an outside-the-box thinker with an educational background, a give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back good guy with nerd skills and dress.

Hasse claimed he could actually win in November and sort of proved it with his numbers in the primary, trouncing Eric Garza, 67.1% to 32.9. This is a strange district, he told us, because no Republican seems to win in a presidential year, but no Democrat in a midterm election.

Based on voter history, patterns, and demographics, any Republican in District 2 could anticipate 94,000 votes without including the Hidalgo County portion. The Democratic candidates got roughly 73,000 votes without Hidalgo in 2014. (All this assumes contested races, and no way represents uncontested races.)

So, if a Republican doesn’t lose Hidalgo County by more than 21,000 votes, they win. As it turns out, that is exactly what has happened, with Republican candidates winning up and down ballot.

Why does this matter? It means Tad Hasse, being the Republican on the ballot, should win. He has the benefit of strong Republican, albeit rural, counties around the coastal bend.

He has a familiar last name to many in northern counties. supplemented by his math and educational background, but his most important asset is simply being Republican.

In this scenario, Cameron County doesn’t actually matter. Hasse only needs 35% of the vote, which happens to be the Republican core in Cameron.

Tad's achilles heal may be fundraising. In a subsequent segment, we will compare his monies with those of Ruben Cortez.

We understand that Hasse offended some northern party officials by reminding them that Democrat Cortez educational resume' extends only as far as a G.E.D.

No matter. That's actually a legitimate issue. Hell, Cortez has been at the State Board of Education long enough to have gotten a degree insomething, but education is not his priority, so much as political wheeling and dealing.

It's all about aptitude. Barney Fife was an able deputy, but would be out of his element as an NFL linebacker. Ruben Cortez is the ultimate politico, but is a fish out of water dealing with education issues.

Hasse needs Democratic support in three of the district's most populated counties—Hidalgo, Cameron, and Nueces.

Recall in presidential election years, this district is been completely blue. But, fewer voters cast ballots in midterm than presidential election years.

Of course, if Democrats in Hidalgo County, for example, increase their turnout by 10,000 over what they did in 2014, Hasse could falter, with Hidago's Democratic surge echoing that of Nueces County.

While Hasse may not have anticipated a "blue wave" before filing, incumbent Ruben Cortez should be living in Hidalgo County till November.


By Juan Montoya
As the water carrier for Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz before the commissioners court, Asst. DA Rene Garza has exhibited more verbal and mental contortions than U.S. gymnast Olympian Olga Korbut.

Hehas, for example, explained away Saenz's mishandling of the DA's Imprest fund and his use of his credits card in the county while at the same time getting a vehicle allowance.

And he was the point man with local attorneys after the DA instituted a new contract with Avertest, a drug-test company that was requiring defendants to test as many times as five times a week, leading their lawyers to complain that their jobs were being endangered and that their clients' finances could not support the new regimen.

Some defendants – with convictions not related to alcohol or drugs – were also required to test frequently, and to pay a fee for the testing.

Garza, who was the Asst. DA who Saenz sent to Kansas City to contract with Avertest, took the brunt of abuse form outraged local attorneys who though the draconian requirements that company placed on their clients was unjust.

"He is surrounded by people like Rene Garza who are totally out of touch with reality," said one. "Rene has the political pulse of a cadaver. Luis Saenz does not see that this issue is hurting him tremendously! When the lawyer community is mobilizing against you because of unfair or illegal policies you implement on their clients, and the voters of this county...the end is near.

"Rene Garza does not care if Luis Saenz wins or loses, he will accept a new D.A. And proceed to kiss that ass when it gets in. He is a poor attorney that would struggle to make a living out in the real world, along with others on his staff, we all know who they are."

Through it all, Garza has remain rigid, inflexible, and maintained a hard line on behalf of his boss.

As such, he has been the lightning rod for the commissioners' difference of opinion with Saenz, who rarely addresses the court.

Just recently, during the July 31 special meeting of the court, he once again ventured into the den of skeptics when he brought forth Saenz's proposal for an Inter Local Agreement with the City of Combes to establish a new drug interdiction task force in northwest Cameron County.

The ILA involved only Combes, in north Cameron County, and the last place drug traffickers go before they reach Willacy County.

It is also the first place that carriers of illegally-obtained cash proceeds enter the county. Under questioning, Garza said that he didn't know how many officers Combes had on the force, but that he thought they had "two or three."

The agenda item read: "Consideration and authorization of FY 2018 and FY 2019 interlocal cooperation contract establishing the Northwest Cameron County Drug Interdiction Task Force."

Image result for CASH SEIZURES, LUIS SAENZThis brought forth immediate questions from county judge Eddie Treviño, Pct. 3 commissioner David Garza and Pct. 2 commissioner Alex Dominguez.

The gist of their skepticism at the necessity of yet another drug interdiction task force was that the county was already saturated with such forces made up of local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Cameron County is already part of several task forces with other city, state and federal agencies, including the umbrella Border Prosecution Unit.

The BPU is made up of 17 district and county attorney offices within the Texas border region that focus on investigating and prosecuting cases related to narcotics, weapons, human trafficking, organized crime, gangs, and other border-related offenses.

"Why do we need another one?" asked Garza. "I travel all along that road and I see the DPS, the sheriff, and the constables there all the time."

"It's because we want to stop the flow of drugs north, commissioner. "You do support the interdiction of drugs, don't you?," Garza asked pointedly.

"Well, why isn't Highway 281 here listed as one of your routes?," asked Treviño.

"I really don't know," Garza replied lamely. "We're concentrating on the routes that are traveled most heavily by the people who move drugs."

"Well, I think 281 goes all the way from Brownsville to San Antonio," Treviño replied. "That's the road that runs along the river. The last time I heard Falfurrias is kept pretty busy."

"I don't know why it's not there," Garza replied. "We can look at it."

Then, when pressed if the DA's office had contemplated asking the Cameron County Sheriff's Department on whether it could join the task force, Garza admitted that they had not been contacted. He also admitted that the DPS had also not been asked to join the force.

But pressed on the potential for the DA's office to reap cash proceeds from information gained from their investigation of confidential informants and other investigations on drug money coming into Cameron County headed for Mexico, Garza admitted it played a role in only Combes being in the proposal.

"The agency that seizes (the cash) gets to share in any kind of rewards, yes," he admitted, adding that since the maquinita crusade was not yielding as much hard currency for the department as before, they had seized upon the idea of cash coming in from drug couriers. "Yeah, there's always those incentives."

Garza did not mince words. "It seems to me that you want to be in the pie when something is confiscated... The only reason this is on the agenda is so that more people will share in confiscated dollars."

"It's a way to get some funds into our office, a way to supplement salaries in our office," Garza conceded.

When Sheriff Omar Lucio was called to the podium by Garza, he said that his department continually patrolled that road with 10 or more officers and that he had three canine units to assist the deputies. He also said that the constables, DPS, municipal police departments and federal agencies backed each other up without the need for a formal agreement.

In the end, Treviño said he would reluctantly give deference to Saenz as an elected official to another, and relented and gave Garza the nod. And when it appeared that the motion would die for the lack of a third vote, Dominguez said he would go along with it but that the court would be monitoring the progress of the ILA between Combes and the DA's office to see whether it was producing results.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


By Juan Montoya

Is it simply a case of legal pitching relief over at the Resaca City (San Bene), or a trade in of an old model for an even older one?

In this Tuesday's meeting and budget workshop of the San Benito City Commission, item 9 and 10 deal with the apparent replacement of the firm of Roerig, Oliveira and Fisher LLP and the hiring of Brownsville Mark Sossi as interim city attorney.

Are both connected?

To the uninitiated, it would seem so. The commission, after all, needs legal advice with contracts, meeting procedure, and wording in its agendas. Sossi would seem to be a logical choice since – until he was unceremoniously terminated by the city commission – he was the city attorney for the City of Brownsville from 2009 until he asked to be made a regular, full-time employee January 12, 2017.

He was terminated during a meeting held August 15 later that year. At the time of the change from contract attorney to full-time employee he was receiving $10,000 a month from the city and another $5,000 a month from the GBIC for a grand total of $180,000 a year. When he was made a full-time employee, he stayed at the same level of compensation.

Sossi asked that he be hired as a full-time city employee after a court ordered him to pay health insurance to a child during a custody hearing. The child was born to his live-in girl friend who Sossi had tried to evict from his home. He had struck up a relationship with her after meeting her at a local gentlemen's club where she was a strip dancer.

In January, when he was hired as city employee, he promised the commissioners he would work exclusively for the city and seek no outside work. However, during the meeting held in August, commissioners were shown a copy of a contract that Sossi had inked with the City of Mission at $2,500 a month just a little over a month later on February 14.

That did it for his supporters on the commission and he was let go after executive session.

If the San Bene City Commission opts to hire him as the interim city attorney Tuesday, they are terminating Roerig, Oliveira and Fisher LLP. One of the principals in the firm – Rene Oliveria – has had his ups and downs as well.

Image result for RENE OLIVEIRACurrently, Oliveira is the District 37 Texas State Representative and had held that position for 36 years. He was in a runoff in the Democratic party primary this May and lost to Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Alex Dominguez.

Just weeks before the runoff election, Oliveira was arrested for DWI after he rammed his black Caddy into the rear of a car driven by a woman who was waiting for the light to change on Boca Chica Blvd., one of the city's main drags. Oliveria left the scene after giving the woman one of his cards and promising to "take care of it" later.

When police went to his home the found the car's right had tires flat and damage to the front end. According to the police report, he refused to take a breath test and was taken to a local hospital where blood was drawn and then booked at the city jail and released.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz has refused to release the results of the blood tests citing an "ongoing investigation." Critics say that when former Mayor Pat Ahumada was arrested for DWI, not only were his alcohol-content results released, but also police cruiser cam recording and booking desk shots the following day.

Observers say the DWI and the subsequent bad publicity played a large part in the Oliveria loss of the election. Whether the resultant bad publicity also cause the City of San Bene to terminate the contract with his firm is anyone's guess.

But given the choices available to the San Ben city fathers, is it a case of the lesser evil in trading Oliveira for Sossi.