Tuesday, September 18, 2018


By David Yates
SE Texas Record

HIDALGO COUNTY – A state senator is representing a county in his district in more ways than one – a litigious venture that could prove incredibly profitable for the legislator.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat representing District 20, has teamed up with controversial attorney Mikal Watts to represent Hidalgo County, which makes up a sizable portion of the legislator’s constituency, in a multi-million dollar opioid lawsuit.

While the news of Hidalgo County’s opioid suit broke in September, what wasn’t reported was how much the four law firms handling the litigation stand to profit.

Watts' contract with the county, a copy of which was obtained by the Record, shows his firm, Watts Guerra, will receive 29 percent of the attorney's fees.

The Gallagher Law Firm and Fibich Leebron (two firms Watts has teamed up with to represent several other Texas counties in opioid litigation), will both receive 28 percent respectively.

The remainder of the fees, 15 percent, will go to Hinojosa.

Under the contract, the firms' fee will be the lesser amount of 35 percent of the recovery, or a formula based on hours worked, which is the hourly rate of the person performing the work multiplied by four.

The multiplier of four is the maximum allowed by state law.

The hourly fees set forth in the contract are $950 an hour for partners, $600 for non-partners, and $200 for paralegals and law clerks.

Meaning, hourly work performed by Hinojosa, founder of the Law Office of Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa in McAllen, would presumably be billed at $950 times four, or simply put – $3,800 an hour.

Hinojosa also attempted to sign up Nueces County, which is also in his district, for an opioid suit but failed to persuade the county’s commissioners court.

The state senator did not respond to a request for comment.

Possible underlying political connections may be paying off for Watts in other counties as well.

Watts, Gallagher and Fibich Leebron are also representing Cameron County in an opioid lawsuit.

And while the three firms are charging Cameron the same hourly rates as Hidalgo, records obtained by the Record show former judge and current Watts Guerra attorney Rose Vela was the point person in securing the contract with Cameron County.

Vela, who was also a justice on the 13th Court of Appeals, is the wife of Cameron county area Congressman Filemon Vela, a Democrat overseeing Texas’ 34th Congressional District.

On Sept. 11, Vela, via email, sent Juan Gonzalez, attorney for the Cameron County Commissioners Court Legal Division, the proposed contract for the opioid litigation, records show.

That same day, Gonzalez emailed Vela back with the following response: “Got it. I will present it for consideration. The only other thing is that I don’t see your name included and I want to make sure that any interest or involvement you may have is protected.”

Watts’ history with Texas lawmakers extends beyond opioid litigation.

In July, Watts was disqualified as state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s attorney in a criminal fraud case. Watts had previously represented one of Uresti’s victims, a wrongful death plaintiff referred to him by the convicted senator.

Uresti received a $200,000 loan from Watts against fees Uresti expected to receive from Cantu’s settlement, according to My San Antonio.

Watts has not returned a request for comment.


Various Sources

The Cameron County Courthouse is abuzz with the report that former Brownsville Police Department officer Jerry Xagoraris was arrested and booked Monday on one cont of  Official Oppression, a Class A Misdemeanor  and one count of  Theft, also a Class A Misdemeanor.

Since his retirement from the BPD, Xagoraris had been appointed deputy constable on April 2014  under Pct. 4 Constable under Merced Burnias.

Xagoraris  a 30-plus-year police department veteran, was a member of the original BPD motorcycle patrol. In 1999 he was reported to have suffered his third traffic accident during his tenure with the motorcycle unit. The most serious of the three, he required 15 stitches to his head, four on a knee and three to an ankle. Xagoraris motorcycle had a car turn in front of it while he was in pursuit of a stolen car.

No other details on Monday's arrest are available.

Monday, September 17, 2018


(Ed.'s Note: Add one more mandate for core subject teachers in the Brownsville Independent School District. Now, by state edict to be enforced by the BISD administration, all core area subjects (English, reading, math, science and social studies) will be required to have ESL certification.

In emails sent to all teachers, they are told that the newly-passed requirements for the 2018-2019 school year mandate the certification. Although the last sentence in the email is not clear, it appears that teachers who pass the certification will be reimbursed for the exam fee. There have been some negative responses to the edict in some high schools, and the dust hasn't settled yet.)


(Ed.'s Note: Brownsville residents who pass by Valley Baptist Hospital on Central Boulevard sometimes miss the sights as they speed along the street. If they would take a time to look in the Resaca next to the clinic complex there heading north, they might sport this gaggle of ducks enjoying their own little island in the waterway.

The resacas are teeming with animals, from the invading nutria, to the occasional alligator gar and catfish who inhabit these isolated oxbow lakes left by a meandering Rio Grande of years gone by. The trees in the foreground are Montezuma Cypress, a type of tree that used to line the banks of the river as far north as Rio Grande City. Municipal planners are now encouraging new businesses like banks to plant the native species as part of the landscaping required for new development. These trees on this Resaca grew on their own. 

It may seem like forever, but Fall is actually on its way here and then our traditional short winters. In the meantime, scenes like this are part of Brownsville mornings on the way to work.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018


By Juan Montoya
With a front-page banner story and two full-color half-page ads that set the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville back a few $1,000s, it is unleashing its campaign to pressure the city commission to pass a rezoning ordinance that would allow it to build a 675 single-family homes and another 300 to 4000 "multi-family casitas" for rent right next door to the 300 acres Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation's planned industrial corridor.

They also dusted off the image of Catholic priest Armand Mathew who is mentioned in both ads at the CDCB founder back in 1974. Mathew was a special counselor to former UTB President Julieta Garcia and is memorable for leading a march on his office and threatening Texas Southmost College trustee Trey Mendez with "professional and personal" destruction when the college was separating itself from the "partnership" with the UT System.

The planned project is located immediately down wind from the Union Pacific Railroad switching yards which has caused the railroad's representatives to express concern of the proximity of such a dense residential development and the potential liability of an industrial accident or a chemical or hazardous material spill.

This comes on the heels of the city's approval of a plat for the first phase of the residential project that includes 129 single-family units and 150 multi-family units.

CDCB Executive Director Nick Mitchell Bennett said that the project was "shovel ready" and that the organization had bought the property two years ago since "nothing seemed to be happening with the industrial park," an obvious dig at the new GBIC CEO Mario Lozoya who was just hired last month.

The GBIC purchased the land in 2010 and released its Brownsville Industrial Area Development Plan in 2011 calling for the development of an industrial park that would include the 200 acres purchased in 2017 by the CDCB.

Before Lozoya was at the helm, GBIC Interim Director Gilbert Salinas had known of the CDCB housing project,as well as some city planners and Mayor Tony Martinez. However, no one told the chair of the GBIC then (commissioner Jessica Tetreau) or new chair commissioner Cesar de Leon.

When Lozoya came on board, he did an asset evaluation and warned the GBIC board members that the project would "devalue" their plans fro the industrial corridor. Both Tereau and De Leon voted to table the rezoning request by the CDCB at an August 21 meeting.

Now Mitchell Bennett is urging the commission to grat the CDCB the rezoning request and said that if they don't the planned IDEA charter school that had planned to serve the area might not materialize. He made it seem like the school would not be built if the housing density it seeks is not granted by the city in the rezoning from Residentail "Z" to Residential "G."

Obviously, the plans of both groups will have to be somewhat modified, but judging by the media onslaught and media blitz being perpetrated by the CDCB, they want to have the last word on the issue. Incidentally, not even Mathew's browbeating and threats worked on Mendez and the separation of the UTB-TSC came about despite his efforts to derail that.

Will the dusting off the Mathew ghost work now?


16. Consideration and ACTION on Resolution Number 2018-043, accepting a donation for public purposes of 43.97 acres of real property from University Park Development, LTD, located approximately on South Palm Boulevard in the Amigo Land Section II Subdivision; an dealing with related matters. (Parks and Recreation Department)

By Juan Montoya
Next Tuesday, the members of the City of Brownsville Commission will consider whether they will accept the 44 acres mentioned in the agenda item above from University park Development.

As far as anyone can tell, the land is to be at no cost to the city except for one detail. But as they say, the devil is in the details. The caveat is that the developer will require the city to use it as a park.

The city commission packet does not specifically mention this, but administration sources indicate that it a requirement of the "gift" and Parks and Recreation Director  Damaris McGlone placed it on the agenda.

The resolution accepting the land states that it recognizes that the "valuable open space suitable for general public purposes of the city... and shares the donor’s commitment to provide a high-quality civic environment for the citizens of Brownsville."

The land is located on South Palm Boulevard in the Amigo Land Section II Subdivision;

On its face, the gift of 44 acres by a local developer (University Park Development, LTD.) is a generous action by University Park Development LTD. The packet also doesn't name the developers behind University Park, but we have learned that it includes Abraham Glonsky. That's right, the same Galonsky, who is now on the City's Planning and Zoning Commission and whose daughter Nurith is a member of the Brownsville Public Utility Board and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.

Yes, and it's the same Galonsky who sold the city the Casa de Nylon property for $2.3 million on the assumption that they could in turn resell it to the University of Texas at Brownsville. Alas, that didn't occur and now the shell of a building sits unoccupied and off the city tax rolls. It has also become a magnet for some of the numerous homeless people in the city's downtown.

Will the city have to extend city services out to the isolated spot within a AK 47 shot from the Rio Grande? Park goers could get a great view of the Border Wall lining the banks of the Rio Grande as they walk their pit bulls and along the trail.

And if the developer wants the park there, they must also have plans to bring in residential development in the heels of the city accepting the "donation."  Will the city commissioners take the bait?

There is another item on the Tuesday agenda, this one having to do with the choice of a city attorney. Since the commissioners terminated the employment of former city attorney Mark Sossi, the slot has been shared by various lawyers, including Timothy Sampeck and Allison Bastian. The position was posted on the Texas Municipal League website, and has since been removed.

14. Consideration and possible ACTION to approve the employment contract of City Attorney. The item was placed on the agenda by commissioners Cesar de Leon and Ricardo Longoria over the objections of Mayor Martinez, who for some reason did not want the commission to hire one yet. But the city charter specifically states that the city must have one on board. As it is, whenever the need arises for legal counsel, different lawyers are tabbed by the mayor and the city commissioners.

It is now, a lot of the extra work is falling to Denton Navarro Denton Bernal and Zech, who hired Bastian away from the city and she now handles a variety of chores, including turning down information requests and asking exemptions from the Texas Attorney General.

The last thing anybody wants is to have the city limp along with part-time contract employees until the next May elections.

A 10-member search committee was tasked with making recommendation in May and was comprised of:

>> Felix Recio, retired federal magistrate judge

>> Ben R. Neece, Precinct 4 commissioner and retired municipal court judge

>> Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, Precinct 2 commissioner and Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation member

>> Katy Youker, attorney at Texas Rural Legal Aid Brownsville

>> Jaime Diez, attorney at Jones and Crane PLLC

>> Aaron Rendon, assistant prosecutor at the Cameron County District Attorneys Office

>> Phil Bellamy, municipal court judge and attorney

>> Erin Gamez, attorney at Gamez and Gamez PC

>> Guy Huddleston, corporate ambassador at Edwards Abstract

Many of the committee members dropped out along the way and now it seems like the two commissioners want the full city commission to make up their mind who they want to have as their attorney. The ball, as they say, is in the majority's court.

Among the four top candidates vetted by the committee are:
Lysia H. Bowling, a city attorney from Temple
Rene E. De Coss, a current Brownsville municipal court judge
Gerry Linan, a Brownsville attorney
Aaron Leal, a city attorney from Denton

Friday, September 14, 2018


By Juan Montoya
Well, it's raining again and that means that residents of the oxymoron-named Laguna Seca will be up to their doorstep in flood waters.

To begin with, there is nothing dry about a laguna. But it's a fancy name for a swindle.

That colonia, in the middle of a flood zone, floods every time a large dog pees in the vicinity and should have never been built. But since it was past the three-mile marker in the City of Brownsville Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, the Cameron County Subdivision rules at the time allowed for the subdivision if it provided retaining ponds. The rules allowed for colonias like Laguna Seca with no sidewalks, no curb and gutter, and no lighting in that area of the ETJ.

When that exception to the Texas Model Rules in Cameron County was passed it was known as the Cardenas Development Welfare Act.

Like the name Laguna Seca, retention ponds is a misnomer. Lakes would be more like it (That's one of the two in the colonia)

We remember when Rene Cardenas, addressing the city commission on ethics, was questioning the commitment of city public officials to act with integrity and righteousness.

La zorra, it is said, no se mira la cola.

It left a few of us wondering why he didn't demand that from members of his own family. So we dug into our files and came up with the Cardenas-engineered Laguna Seca colonia development that has resulted in the county using public resources to address the mess created by his brother Ricky. The colonia is built on a flood zone and that's exactly what residents endure after a moderate rainfall.

Cameron County Precinct 2 crews have been pumping water all week after the recent storms when the development turns it into a very wet lake. Officially, the subdivision is recorded with the county as the Hacienda Del Norte Subdivision. In fact, the subdivision floods just about every time there's a heavy downpour.

And the developer, who installed a permanent tractor with a pump for that very purpose back in the 1990s, has now washed his hands of the whole messy affair leaving the residents to fend off on their own. To their surprise, the residents – all low-income Hispanics –found out that they had signed on to become part of a Homeowners' Association responsible for manning the pumps to draw away the runoff.

Cameron County Pct. 2 Commissioner Alex Dominguez, who never imagined he'd be involved doing the work of a drainage district, for the past four years has had his hands full answering the complaints of the irate property owners who bought their lots from Quinta-Anita Inc.

The president of Quinta-Anita is Rick Cardenas. According to the records on file, the original owners of Quinta-Anita were Cardenas and the late Raul Tijerina.
"Some of them didn't even know they had deeds," Dominguez said. "The county is really not responsible for pumping water from their lots. But we are trying to help them out as much as we can."

The problems began soon after the subdivision was filed with the county.

The subdivision is in the City of Brownsville's Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction and there is no public sanitary sewer service available. Accordingly, on-site sanitary systems (septic tanks) are used by the residents.

Half of the subdivision is located in Flood Zone AO.  According to FEMA guidelines, "Some Zone AO have been designated in areas with high flood velocities such as alluvial fans and washes. Communities are encouraged to adopt more restrictive requirements for these areas."

When the subdivision plat was submitted to the county in the early 1990s, it included a large lot to be used as a retention pond. The deeds sold to residents state that they were to form a home owners' association with lien-assessing authority to maintain the pond.

Some residents have told Dominguez and his assistants that they didn't even know the covenant existed. With lots selling between $17,000 to $24,000, it is doubtful that many would even understand what the covenant was.

"Some didn't even know that that meant," he said. "They didn't know they were supposed to maintain the pond."

When the flooding began way back when, the county asked Cardenas about maintenance of the pump he had provided for the pond and on April 1996, he wrote the county engineer "Please be advised that a homeowners association (is responsible) for the maintenance of s service pump to be used in the detention pond located in Section II of the (subdivision)."

Since the site is more than two miles into the city's ETJ, residents soon faced the daunting task of getting rid of flood waters that often rose to house level.

That pump, however, proved to be too little to remove the standing water that literally created a lake. The problem was compounded with the health hazard created when on-site sewer systems (septic tanks) overflowed.

This week Dominguez and the county crews have spent the better part of three days with the Gator (pump) working 24 hours. They used two 2,000 gallon tanker trucks from Pct. 2 Public Works.

Former Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner John Wood remembers the subdivision well. He said that the flooding has been chronic and that the pump at the subdivision often broke down and couldn't handle the volume of water that flooded it periodically.

"The developer basically washed his hands of the problem and didn't want anything to do with it," he said.

To add to the problem, the landowners adjacent to the subdivision at first allowed the residents to pump the water into their fields, but with the potential contamination from the septic and other detritus, they were no longer willing to continue the practice.

Additionally, the residents didn't help themselves, often discarding trash, tires, and tree trimmings into the bar ditches impeding the water flow.

"They're their own worst enemies sometimes," said a county supervisor.

Since the subdivision is located outside of any drainage district, the water has to be carried in
pipes and through bar ditches to the nearest irrigation ditch.

With hurricanes threatening the Texas coast, the problems associated with flooding and health hazards from overflowing septic tanks is not going to go away. The way the city is growing, it may not be long before annexation and may require a huge outlay to bring it up to city specifications.

And with Cardenas basically saying it is the residents' baby, and with no easy solution in sight, it is unlikely that Dominguez, the current tenant at the Pct. 2 helm, has heard the last of it. Neither will incoming Pct. 2 commissioner Joey Lopez.

As far as Pct. 2 Supervisor Zeke Silva is concerned, pointing fingers will not solve anything.

"We've pumped with Gators from Monday up to Wednesday," he said. "Yesterday (Thursday) and today we have been passing out sand bags. We did it as a courtesy. I’m monitoring this daily. I want to make sure people are taken care of, regardless of who dropped the ball."


(Ed.'s Note: The potholes and pieces of asphalt littering the roadway on 13th Street before it intersects with Roosevelt Street in downtown Brownsville indicates that the patch-up job performed by City of Brownsville Public Works crews is money thrown down the drain.

While our city leaders and visionaries dream up schemes such as bike and hike trials to make the city be like Austin or San Antonio, the basic infrastructure like drainage, bus shelters and other necessities of urban life have been ignored in favor of the "sexy" projects.

We become inured to the facts that when we get even a moderate thunderstorm we can expect certain areas of the city – such as Four Corners, 13th Street, Villa Verde (McDavitt), parts of West Brownsville, and even downtown –  to become lakes until the waters subside and drain off into the drainage.

You can close off downtown for three hours, ride bicycles in your fluorescent Spandex outfits, spend a fortune in municipal funds to do it, but at the end of the feel-good orgy, if it rains, you have to drive home through a flooded city.

The city crews will come around again and patch the asphalt, clean the ditches, and then wait for the next rain to do it all over again.

To the credit of commissioner Rose Gowen and her acolytes, the hike and bike trails are constructed of first-rate materials and won't flood while the rest of us do. For Public Works crews, a good rain means job security. For the city taxpayers, the potholes an broken pieces of asphalt mean more money going down the drain.)


By Juan Montoya

Pick up any history book of the area and it’s a sure bet that you won’t find any mention of Catarino Garza.

In fact, about the only recognition given in his native Matamoros is a small meeting room in the municipal palace bearing his name.
Yet, it the years between the mid-1880s and 1892, the so-called “Garcista Wars” were the talk of South Texas and northern Mexico, not to mention Mexico City and Washington D.C.

According to Texas Online, Catarino Erasmo Garza was born outside of Matamoros Nov. 25, 1859 to J. Encarnación and María de Jesús Rodríguez de la Garza. 

He was educated at Gualahuises, Nuevo León, and San Juan College, Matamoros, and served in the National Guard at Port Plaza.

Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French at Puebla May 5, 1862, when Catarino was three. However, the French returned and invaded Mexico, and after a prolonged war, their invasion ended with the defeat of Maximilian in 1867 when the emperor was executed.

On the U.S. side, the Civil War erupted in 1861 and continued until 1865, allowing the French a free hand in Mexico; Lincoln telling his generals that he preferred to “fight one war at a time.”

During the period from 1859 to 1870, while Garza was still in his teens, the U.S. and South Texas authorities were besieged by Juan Nepomuceno Cortina in retaliation for abuses against Mexican-Americans by Texas Anglos in the Brownsville area.

In 1876, Porfirio Diaz had overthrown Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, the constitutional president of Mexico. Lerdo De Tejada had succeeded Juarez after his death and later won the election. Lerdo de Tejada went into exile and never returned to Mexico.

On June 19, 1880, Garza has married a Brownsville woman whom he later divorced in 1889. In 1890 Garza married Concepción González, the daughter of a Duval County rancher, with whom he had a daughter. Between 1877 and 1886 he lived in Brownsville, Laredo, and San Antonio and visited Mexico City.

Elliot Young, in his book "Catarino Garza's Revolution on the Texas-Mexico Border," said Garza also lived in St. Louis, where around 1885 he was appointed Mexican consul, a post he held for a short time. In St. Louis he worked on La Revista Mexicana. While in St. Louis, he was angered by a Anglo lawyer who said that “One white life is worth 10 Mexicans.”

He promoted Sociedades Mutualistas and helped found two of them in Brownsville (Hidalgo and Juarez), Laredo, and others in Corpus Christi in 1880, 1884, and 1888, respectively. Up until the late 1960s, these buildings still stood in Brownsville.

Over the next 30 years after Diaz took office in 1867, he ruled Mexico as president or as the power behind the presidential seat. It was after the generally recognized fraudulent re-elections of Diaz that Garza started calling for revolution against the Diaz regime. However, while in the United States, he also witnessed racism against Mexican-Americans and condemned racist Anglo Texans and Mexican police alike.

He was the target of two assassination plots because of his articles on “El Libre Pensador” against Coahuila Gov. Garza Galan. He “antagonized all sides by criticizing everyone,” wrote Young. For his part, Garza wrote that Diaz and his collaborators “are not the country, nor the laws, nor the people; but are truly only servants.”

In 1877, he said that when Mexico came under Diaz was: “The moment when the sun disappeared and oppression reigned.”

He also said in his autobiography La Logica de los Hechos: “Mi pluma no sabe pintar, pero si reproducir, fotografiar y estampar verdades (My pen does not know how to paint, but knows how to reproduce, photograph, and imprint truths).”

Also in 1877, he served 31 days in Maverick County Jail on a charge of libel. That year, he was in Corpus Christi to found the club Politico Mutualista and newspaper El Comercio Mexicano.

In 1890, Francisco Diaz Sandoval, a Chilean citizen fomenting revolution in Mexico and an exile in Laredo, invited Catarino Garza, Ignacio Martinez, and border journalist Paulino Martinez, to launch an invasion of northern Mexico.

The force entered Mexico at Guerrero, Tamps., on June 24. Mexican forces confronted them and sent them back across the Rio Grande, where the U.S. government, under pressure from the Diaz regime, charged them with violating neutrality laws.

During a trial in San Antonio, evidence indicated that Diaz had paid Laredo police chief Gen. Bernardo Reyes $2,000 to kidnap witnesses, plant evidence, ant to provide false testimony and payoffs to witnesses. During the trial, no proof was introduced that they had taken guns to Mexico, and that the group had been infiltrated by spies.

Descendants of some of these men still remember vividly that as a result of their participation in the invasion, many of them lost their families, ranches and suffered imprisonment on the U.S. side.
In July, 1890, Dr. Ignacio Martinez met Catarino Garza at Palito Blanco, Tx., near San Diego.
Martinez was a medical doctor who lived in Brownsville and operated an anti-Diaz newspaper. A few months later, on February, 1891, Martinez was gunned down on the streets of Laredo.

Garza continued his collaborations in northern Mexico and South Texas, and by 1891 he and his associates planned an invasion to overthrow of the Díaz regime. They crossed the border in an attack and issued a manifesto in September 1891 near Río Bravo in Tamaulipas.

While his revolution was directed against Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, much of his work forming mutualistas and writing for Spanish-language newspapers was aimed at defending the interests of Mexicans in Texas.

Conflict with Mexican, United States, and Texas authorities ensued in the Garza War, which Garcistas continued after Garza left Texas. What made it difficult for the authorities on both sides was the fact that the Garcistas enjoyed popular support from residents and some authorities on both sides of the border.

In documents seized by U.S. and Mexican authorities, it was revealed that not only did Garza have the support of officers high in the Mexican military, but enjoyed material and moral support from influential ranchers in U.S. and northern Mexico, and elected officials and state law enforcement authorities on the Mexico and Texas side.

Afraid for his safety, Garza and his brother Encarnacion left the state and headed for Florida.

After leaving Texas in 1892, Garza traveled to various places, including Nassau, Jamaica, and Cuba. He met with Jose Marti, but Marti was attempting to get Diaz's support for his liberation movement in Cuba, and they did not collaborate.

By March 28, 1893, he moved to Matina, near Limón, Costa Rica, and a San José press published his pamphlet indicting the Díaz regime, La Era de Tuxtepec en México o Sea Rusia en América.

Garza participated in a revolutionary uprising in Colombia. Official sources report that he was killed in storming the jail at Bocas del Toro, Colombia (now in Panama), on March 8, 1895.

He was never able to return to South Texas, and it wasn't until three years later – in 1898 – that Cuba threw off the Spanish yoke only to be colonized by the United States.
Diaz was overthrown in by the Revolution of 1910, 15 years after Garza's death.He was, by any measure, a man ahead of his time.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


By Juan Montoya

Here we go.

The campaign for the Cameron County Judge's race between Democrat incumbent Eddie Treviño and Republican Carlos Cascos is gearing up.

Aside from the cyber Tempest in a Teapot revolving around a Cascos fundraiser where all the bloggers' dander was raised over seemingly inconsequential issues, other disputes have arisen.

On the one hand, Cascos supporters claim that incumbent Eddie Treviño is using county-paid engineering photographs of Los Tomates (Veteran's Bridge) to aid him in his reelection. (See picture at lower right).

And on the other, Treviño's supporters say that Cascos is blatantly disregarding the City of Brownsville's political campaign sign restrictions by displaying the banner over the I-69 expressway directly across from the US 77 Flea Market. (That's not a billboard. It's a sign).

(At first we thought they couldn't see the mono for the trees, but it was the size they were complaining about.)

In both instances, they both seem to be right. In the case of the Treviño campaign ad, the photo was taken by the SBI Engineering firm paid by the county for its work. Is is appropriate for a candidate to use taxpayer-funded work product to seek reelection? Our gut reaction would be no.

On the other hand, as Treviño's supporters say, Brownsville city inspectors have came down hard on signs much smaller than the one Cascos is displaying. In fact, the city's sign ordinance is quite specific.

The ordinance chapter states that the signs must not be illuminated. They must be “no larger than 36 square feet” and “shorter than eight feet in length.”

Signs must also “be placed at the consent of the owner on private property. Private property also means that if you have an easement up front for utilities, etc., you can’t place signs in that easement.

Signs also cannot be displayed in the public’s-right-of-way. Placement of signs in these areas along with signs containing moving elements will result in the sign being removed.The Cascos banner-sign is obviously a little larger than the 36-square foot limit.

That said, Cascos' supporters say that while sign size is a minor issue, Treviño's photograph shows details at the bridge that the Dept. of Homeland Security and ICE authorities frown upon, that is, revealing security weaknesses to potential enemies.

In time, the issues between the two candidates will become sharper as the campaign goes down to the final lap in November. For now, however, it would behoove both candidates to direct their supporters to observe the niceties of the law.


By Juan Montoya

What started out as a simple request for a letter by State Rep. Eddie Lucio III's chief of staff Ruben O'Bell from Brownsville Independent School District trustee Dr. Sylvia Atkinson to solicit campaign contributions for her candidates in the current school district race, has bloomed into a full-blown controversy.

Atkinson said O'Bell had previously asked her for the campaign contribution request letter so he could show to potential contributors. She said she sent him one about a month ago under her letter head. Then, about a week later, he asked for another and she sent him another.

That's when it hit the fan.

 Instead of keeping the letter confidential, as he had the last one, O'Bell somehow managed to have copies made and distributed into cyberspace. Now, just about every blogger and Facebook subscriber can get a copy.

In the letter (at right), Atkinson (with the disclaimer of being an ad paid by the candidate) thanks her supporters for "choosing to believe in my campaign" under her letterhead. Atkinson, as is stated a little further down, is in her second year of a four-year term.

She states: "While we have made significant progress towards several of our initial goals, unfortunately we have struggled to form a board majority that would commit to prioritizing the academic needs of our students and the professional support of our staff above unplanned initiatives and 'pet projects.'"

Are $7 million in district funds to pay for artificial turn and a $1.4 million scoreboard for Sams Stadium some of those (Joe Rodriguez's) "unplanned initiatives and pet projects?" Will the voters, as Rodriguez wants, vote for him to "keep up the momentum?" Atkinson, obviously, doesn't think so.

That reference to "form a board majority" with different priorities set off charges from various candidates in the BISD election who say Atkinson is attempting to lead a majority to control the district. It is no secret that she posted in her Facebook page that she is supporting Drue Brown in the crowded Position 1 race and Priscie Roca-Tipton in the Place 4 contest.

She said she made no endorsement in the Place 2 race between incumbent Carlos Elizondo, Erasmo Castro and Otis Powers, her brother-in-law.

Other candidates in Place 1 include Caty Presas-Garcia, Jose Valdez,  Mark Anthony Cortez, and Timmy Ramirez.

Position 4, now held by Rodriguez, include candidates Randy Gonzalez, Roca Tipton, and Jorge Valdez.

The letter, apparently, has made its way to the supporters of Atkinson's candidates and some have questioned if funds gathered through her solicitation for her campaign can be funneled to other candidates. Apparently, it is perfectly legal as past readings of campaign expenditure reports shows that among the expenditures from contributions are included donations to other political campaigns.

Will the brouhaha created by the release of the letter by O'Bell become a campaign issue that will determine the election outcome in the election? Somehow, we seriously doubt it. After all, voters will ultimately decide whether they want to stick the course or to elect someone who wants the district to go in another direction.


By Juan Montoya

To the uninitiated, this Wednesday's Brownsville Herald half-page, full-color ad crowing up the accomplishments of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville may have seemed like a perfunctory self-praise most non profits pay for the public to see they're doing Good Things.

The ad, which in the Herald could cost upwards of $2,000 to print, took a curious tack.  Was it a mere coincidence that they bought the ad when one of their projects is in danger of being sidelined?

Crowing up their accomplishments as "the largest non-profit housing developers in Texas," – a claim that might raise some eyebrows in Houston and Dallas – the thrust of the ad was geared toward the role of the CDCB not in providing low-income housing, but rather as an engine of "economic development."

If you weren't aware of the fact that the CDCB is in a death struggle with the corporation that was assigned the role of fostering economic development – the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation – you'd think the CDCB was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Does it matter that the CDCB tells the Internal Revenue Service that "CDCB'S  mission is to assist low-income families in education and affordable housing through rental and home ownership," and not primarily economic development?

Last year, the CDCB reported to the IRS that it operates through $3,779,353 in government grants, down from the previoos year's $4,801,204. It lists its executive director (Nick Mitchell-Bennett) raking in a $100,906 salary for his troubles with the pesky city leaders.

In fact, the CDCB has met a wall of resistance from a majority on the City of Brownsville Commission over its plans to rezone 143 acres off north Alice Road abutting 300 acres of GBIC-owned property dedicated to establishing an industrial corridor which would be negatively affected by the development of residential projects such as that proposed by the CDCB.

And the Union Pacific Railroad, whose major switch yard are adjacent to the CDCB's residential development property, have come out against the plans for the project saying it exposes its liability
to potential chemical spills or other hazardous materials since the 120-unit project are directly upwind from the rails.

A letter from the GBIC CEO Mario Lozoya referred to the effect on the organization's industrial-corridior plans as a "devaluation" due to CDCB's  proposed residential development. That led to the commission tabling the CDCB's request for a rezoning of the property from dwelling "Z" to Dwelling "G" on the second and final reading.

And it just happens to be that two city commissioners – Jessica Tetreau and Cesar de Leon – are also on the GBIC board.

In fact, Tetreau was the past chair and De Leon is currently the chairman. They both said in open meeting that they had been kept in the dark about CDCB's plans for a residential development there. About the only ones who were aware and gave the go-ahead were former Interim CEO Gilbert Salinas, Interim City Manager Michael Lopez, city planner, and Mayor Tony Martinez.

No one, apparently, felt the chair or the members of the board of the GBIC needed to know about the rezoning planned for the property adjacent to the GBIC's planned industrial corridor.

Back to the CDCB's ad on Wednesday's paper.

In it, the author(s) (Mitchell-Bennett and PIO and Marketing Coordinator Melissa Landin?), expound on the role of CDCB as a crucial part of the "economic development" of the Brownsville community. The last time we remember Landin getting involved in economic development was her role in bringing AeroMexico to the Brownsville airport.

As soon as the city subsidies were gone, so was AeroMexico.

Landin, by the way, is a former city commissioner and has been pressuring her pal Tetreau to approve the rezoning, calling the tabling of CDCB's rezoning request "politics."

The claims to CDCB's role in the economic development is based – if we are to believe the ad – in the past five years of the non-profit has performed its role as a provider of low-income housing and rental assistance through a number of claims, none that can be substantiated without a thorough review of its books. For now, they are asking the newspaper-reading upblic to take them at their word.

But let's take a look at just one of the claims in the ad, that "since 2013, CDCB originated 16,000 small-dollar loans saving borrowers $11.2 million in fees and interest as compared to payday lenders in Texas."

Payday lenders?

When we were in the military, drill instructors used to say that if your spit-shined boots for inspection weren't as shiny as someone else's the thing to do was to look for another recruit whose boots were worse than yours and go stand next to him. That would make you look better. Now we see why the CDCB compares itself to payday lenders instead of the local banks and financieras.

Do they know, for example that "Payday loans, which are already effectively banned in 15 states, involve customers taking small-quantity loans with very high fees? Clients are expected to pay back the fees and principal amount often by their next payday. Prohibitively high fees, however, often cause debts to roll over to the next month, which critics say causes a cycle of debt."

These are the lenders that the CDCB wants to compare itself to?

The GBIC, on the other hand, separated itself from the ineffective and extravagant Brownsville Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) after it found that its board was turning a blind eye to the excesses of its administrators who were wining and dining public and elected officials at its expense.

Landin (previously Zamora) didn't utter a peep when she was a city commissioner. Now it seems like she's leading the public relations effort to discredit the GBIC's economic development efforts and raise the economic development profile of the CDCB at the GBIC.

What will the CDCB honchos and Landin plan next, to not only usurp the role of the GBIC as the economic development entity of Brownsville, but also to take over its annual $5 million share of the city's sales taxes? Or perhaps they want to dictate to the rest of the city what to do so it will fit their plans?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


By Juan Montoya
When delinquent tax collectors for Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson, LLP, filed suit against Romulo Castillo, who owned Ro-Ca Bail Bonds and a finance company holding a lien on a property for a loan they had extended to Seferino Noriega, they also filed against Noriega's heirs.

In question was the $3,880.62 in delinquent taxes on a property listed as collateral for the loan which Linebarger wanted the heirs to pay.

Toward that end, the 197th District Court appointed two attorneys to represent the defendants, Castillo and Noriega. At stake was the Noriega property posted as collateral by Ro-Ca Bail Bonds on the loan they made Noriega.

There was only one hitch. Both the lender (Castillo) and the borrower (Noriega) were dead. And, as the court proceedings went forward, it was learned that Noriega had paid off the loan and that it had been Castillo who had failed to remove the lien from the property.

But, the court having appointed two attorneys ad litem to represent the two dead parties, the descendants learned that they had to pay the court-appointed lawyers $500 each even though they never requested their assistance or saw any of their work product.

To add insult to injury, they learned that both of the lawyers appointed by the court – Joe Arreola and Matthew Kendall – were full-time employees with the Cameron County District Attorney's Office moonlighting as ad litem appointees with the local courts.

"(Cameron County District Attorney) Luis (V.) Saenz allows his assistants to represent parties in ad litem cases as long as they are not criminal cases," said a local attorney acquainted with the system. "It's a way for them to make a little extra dough on the side without having any conflict."

To Maria B. Noriega, the sister of one of borrower Noriega's daughters who lives on the property, the fact that she and her family had to pay Arreola and Kendall $500 each was a little much. She said the letter from the court stating that the court had appointed Arreola as the family's ad litem representative did not mention any other attorney. She questioned why they had to pay Kendall and additional $500.

"Mr. Kendall is nowhere on our paperwork or was notified by the court," she wrote. "He is not working for us or defending our case. We should not have to pay for someone else's charges. We have been told that he was later added to the case, but the fact is that he is representing the bail bonds...We did the work, not him."

In the end, the Noriegas had to fork over $500 each to Arreola and Kendall, this despite the fact that both are full-time DA's Office employees earning a set salary for working as prosecutors.

In the 2018 budget for the DA's Office, Arreloa is listed as drawing $64,178 and Kendall $69,482. In fact, a list of the Asst. DA's who have received payments from the county's general funds shows that the public has also contributed to the moonlighting gravy.

"Because we don't want any charges, we will send a check for Mr. Kendall and proceed to find an attorney to fight these charges," she wrote the court.

(As you can see, the Noriega family payments to Arreola and Kendall do not show up on the payments made them by the courts from public funds, for appointments in all types of cases. These payments are in addition to their full-time salaries. We are in the process of requesting payments made by Linebarger to the Asst. DA's the courts appoint in their cases.)

But these payments from Linebarger to the Asst. DA's are only the tip of the iceberg. The total of the  payments Linebarger pays the Asst. DA's are not shown on public records. That is between the delinquent tax collector and the lawyers and are tacked on to the defendants in the cases filed in the local courts.

In their letter to the defendants, Linebarger states that they are also liable for "delinquent taxes on the property and in addition to the taxes, all interest, penalties, attorneys's fees, abstractor's fees and court costs allowed by law up to and including the day of judgment, post judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law and the establishment of foreclosure of liens securing the payment of same..."

They also warn them that they can be liable for "any claims that "may be filed in this cause by all other parties and by all those taxing units..., who may intervene and set up their tax claims against the property."

If we add the $1,000 to the Asst. DAs, plus say, $300 in court costs and the interest on the initial 3,800 demanded from the Noriegas by Linebarger, the family my well have ended up paying an additional $2,000 or more (not including travel costs from Houston where they reside  and lodging while here to attend the court hearings), almost double the tax bill.

"My sister in law paid the court costs," Noriega said. "We all chipped in and paid off the taxes. But I don't see why we had to pay another lawyer who didn't do anything for us."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


By Juan Montoya
I was in southwestern Minnesota getting ready for work the morning of 911 when I saw the burning South Tower on the television news and turned to my better half and said: "Either we choose to be in continual war from now on, or we reassess our foreign policy toward the Middle East. Otherwise, this isn't going to stop."

A little later, the second tower was hit and later, both tumbled to the ground burying thousands in the rubble.

Seventeen years later as we remember the anniversary of the attacks, it is apparent that we have chosen war as our future.

Our Middle East policy toward the Muslim world continues and our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us blood and treasure and thousands of lives of innocent people in those countries.

We have hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden and decapitated the Al Quaida leadership. And we are engaged in our country's longest war in Afghanistan with no end in sight. Syria looms as another quagmire.

And what has it gotten us? Do you feel any safer? It seems that for every muslim we kill, another two or three rise to take their place. We are spending billions to lay waste to entire countries.

We still prop up monarchies that suppress their people for oil, regimes that deprive women of simple human rights, and "our friends" still continue to finance the movements of radicals against us.

That's what we chose and now we have to live with it until we regain our national collective sense. Our policies continue to nurture hatred against us among their young generations. Every wayward bomb we drop, or innocent person we kill as "collateral damage" waters this hatred.

However, it can't be said that this nation has not shown the resolve necessary to confront a determined enemy.

The USS New York was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.
It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It carries a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Construction started in 2004, a year after the World Trade Center attack.

Steel from the Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, La., to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept 9, 2003, "those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence," recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there, to a newspaper reporter.

The New York Times reported that "The foundry workers reportedly treated it with "reverence usually accorded to religious relics," gently touching it as they walked by. One worker delayed his retirement after 40 years of working to be part of the project."

The story stated that "It was a spiritual moment for everybody there."

A local newspaper reported that Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the "hair on my neck stood up.

"It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down. They can't keep us down. We're going to be back."

The ship's motto? "Never Forget."


(Ed.'s Note: Mexico beat Germany and made a run into the knockout stage of the World Cup, while the United Stated Men's National Team lost to Trinidad and Tobago and failed to make it to Russia, but the expectations will be similar when Mexico visits USA at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. They will face off in Nashville, Tenn.

Who are you for?

On the borderland, where loyalties are torn between the Mother Country and the USA, one family has opted for both. The father-and-son team in the photo asked that we not publish their faces when we posted the photos of them wearing combination Mexico/USA jerseys.

You can't buy these at the store or send away for them, but a local tailor took a Mexico and a USA jersey and combined them for the pair. They're eye-catching and make a statement on the duality we all live on this border. Win or lose, we wish them both well. You either, win, lose, or tie whichever way it goes.)


(Ed.'s Note: So, now we know that SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk has been smoking that wacky tabbacky and has never quite gotten off the avion.

But we should have seen this coming when he promised to launch the first satellite from Boca Chica in 2013 and then to use the pristine South Texas shoreline as the launching pad for the colonization of Mars sometime in the near, ahem, future. Five years later, no cuete, no launch.

Yeah, that translates into "al ratito," in the local vernacular.

Was he high when he said that? 

Were we high when we believed it? 

Right now we have a pile of dirt, a liquid tank and a tracking radar dish, and no jobs. Maybe if we all chipped in and sent him some of the local weed he might be more receptive to completing the "first commercial vertical-launch pad" in the United States right here in little ol' Browntown."

If weed was all that would get Musk to bite, they should have told someone at Southmost, Cameron Park, La Muralla, or Las Prietas and the connection would have been made. Will all those local luminaries who pushed each other aside to have their mugs taken with Elon rush to have their pictures taken toking on a doobie with the Rocket Man now?

"What do you see, Elon?," asked Da Mayor Tony Martinez (who clings to the image of himself with long hair wearing bell bottoms) as both stood looking over the horizon off Boca chica Beach.

"About $35 million in subsidies for me," Elon responded. "It's groovy, man!"

"And I'm gonna be high, as a kite by then..."


(Ed's Note: Everyonone who was anyone was there for the sumptuous birthday bash of Brownsville Independent School District Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas. The indicted and the unindicted, the eternal coach and the soon-to-be-gone board president were all present.

In short, all the usual suspects.

No one is saying who footed the bill, but there were at least two vendor trustees present, so the possibilities are endless. At the head of the table was none other than "Coach" Joe, who used to ride a dinosaur the last time he paced the sidelines. Now he wants to ride the taxpayer-subsidized $1.4 million scoreboard at Sams Stadium to another four-year term.

Were you invited?

Rodriguez is mounting still another reelection campaign to stay on the board, telling BISD voters they should keep up the the momentum and let him sell his goods to the district for another four years as avendor for sports-equipment giant BSN Sports.

"He will not relinquish his stranglehold on the district's checkbook until they pry it from his dead, cold fingers," a party-goer quipped. "He is still milking the loss of the Brownsville Golden Eagles to the Seguin Matadors back in 1969, almost 49 years ago. He's grabbed a lucrative victory from a humiliating defeat. Gotta hand it to Ol' Joe."

We wish Esperanza a happy birthday, although we're not gauche enough to ask how many she's celebrating. At nearly $300,000-plus salary a year, we're not sure what kind a present we can get her. A $500,000 buyout, perhaps?)


(Ed.'s Note: We had forgotten some of the work we did when we worked for the Brownsville Herald back in 1978. One of the issues back then was the lack of a historical district in Brownsville. Historical building after historical building was demolished without questions raised about the city's heritage. Today, we hear complaints by some local residents who think that the historical district requirements are a nuisance. To see what we lost prior to the establishment of the city's historical district, check out the article below. Our thanks to Bronsbil Estación's Javier Garcia for reminding us of this issue.)

Monday, September 10, 2018


(Raza Unida founder Jose Angel Gutierrez spent the better part of two years organizing his V-3 Movement here in conjunction with Mike Hernandez's OP 10.33. Gutierrez, an attorney, eventually returned to the Redlands, Ca. to continue his law practice. The press release below indicates that Gutierrez has been busy. He has been awarded the first place for Best Biography (Non-Fiction) in the South 20th International Latino Book Awards ceremony for his book on Albert Peña, a Bexar County commissioner and a force in the progressive movement for equal rights for Mexican Americans in South Texas.) 
Special to El Rrun-Rrun

The first-place winner in the category of author of the Best Biography in the Non-Fiction
Awards section of the 20 th International Latino Book Awards Ceremony held on the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson City, California on September 8, 2018 was Crystal City, Texas native, Jose Angel Gutierrez.

He is best known as the last standing member of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano Movement. Dr. Gutierrez has written over a dozen books and is Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas Arlington as well as a practicing attorney in Dallas, Texas. He now resides in Redlands, CA.

This first-place wining biography is about the life of San Antonio native Albert A. Peña, Jr., former Bexar County Commissioner.

 He is the famous icon of the Chicano Movement era for his political acumen, vision in founding so many of our current institutions such as Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, National Council of la Raza, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Presenting the award to Dr. Gutierrez was none other than Dr. Julian Nava, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico during the President Jimmy Carter years and author in his own right.

The packed-house event featured some of the most creative and brilliant Chicano and other Latino authors of our time. Some winners were repeat honorees, but many were first-timers in the fifteen categories for entries. This awards ceremony is the largest of its kind featuring authors, illustrators, translators, and publishers of books in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

It is organized annually by the non-profit organization Latino Literacy Now led by Kirk Whisler and Hollywood actor Edward James Olmos. 

The winning book is titled Albert A. Peña, Jr. Dean of Chicano Politics and published by Michigan State University Press in 2017 as part of the Latinos in the United States Series, editor Dr. Ruben Martinez of the Julian Samora Research Institute.

Press Release Contact: Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now, 760-579-1696

Sunday, September 9, 2018


By Juan Montoya
As early as 2008 – 10 years ago – F.W. Bert Wheeler, listed as owner and trustee of the 262-acre tract of land off Old Alice Road adjacent to the 300-acre property owned by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation,  tried to unload it to the  Brownsville Community Improvements Corp.

Now, his new customer is the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville.

In 2008, the going price was $3.2 million. At the time, news reports indicated that  City officials had hoped to use it for the future expansion of the 170-acre Sports Park. Also considered were a community center, police substation or commercial development.

But just as the BCIC was getting ready to close the deal, they said that the seller backed out. City officials at the time said that once other interested buyers heard of the impending sale, the seller had been "inundated" with higher bids, some as high as $5 million.

The intended purchase, publicized by then-city commission Charlie Atkinson, apparently caught the attention of other prospective buyers.  Atkinson had envisioned BCIC selling it for up to $8 million.

"It could have been a great opportunity," Atkinson said, adding, "there will be others."

That was back in 2008.

Two years later, in 2010, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC), the BCIC's sister development entity who each get a 1/4 cent share annually from the city's sales taxes for close to $5 million, bought a 350-acre tract adjacent to the Wheeler property and designated it as property to develop an industrial corridor.

Bordering both properties to the south is the main switching yard of the Union Pacific Railroad.  On the north, PUB owns 82 acres and the Rucker-Carrizales Detention Center and the Border Patrol Station are nearby. (Click on  bottom graphic to enlarge.)

Wheeler, who did not sell the property to anyone in the nine years after after turning the BCIC down, apparently found a willing buyer in the CDCB in November 2017. The selling price has not been disclosed, but it would be fair to say that it could be as much as twice or three times the $3.2 million the BCIC was going to borrow from the city to buy the same land.

On August 7, the CDCB  proposed a development for affordable rental housing of 120 units that would be located near the Southeast portion of Sports Park Boulevard and Old Alice Road. Although a portion of the housing was to be affordable, a larger percentage would require tenants to pay rentals higher than a someone with a "disadvantaged" classification could pay.

Accordingly, the CDCB submitted an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for 2018 Housing Tax Credits for the development, called Casitas Palo Alto. Then-GBIC Interim Director Gilbert Salinas, Interim City Manager Michael Lopez and city planners knew about it an did not object. Even Mayor Tony Martinez was OK with it.

There was only one hitch. Nobody – not Salinas, not Lopez, not the planners, and not the mayor – let the chairs (first commissioner Jessica Tetreau and then commissioner Cesar de Leon) of the GBIC know what was planned for the site in the planned industrial corridor.

The residential development that the CDCB wanted did not fit the plans that the GBIC had for an industrial corridor there for heavy and light manufacturing. And a prospective tenant of the corridor – a steel plant – told the GBIC it would reconsider its plans to move there if a residential development was approved. They simply did not need the potential liability.

Additionally, representatives of the Union Pacific railroad, sounded the alarm that the proposed residential development  would be directly upwind from its switching yards, a huge liability to the company in case of an accidental chemical spill or other mishap involving hazardous materials.

Back in 2008, Salinas was the spokesman for the Brownsville Economic Development Council, and said he was not surprised that the seller backed out.

"The Sports Park is an extremely attractive property," Salinas said, noting that the expansion of Merryman Road on its northern fringe that runs into Old Alice Road where the Wheeler property is located would only add to that. "It makes it very attractive for other investors."

There was also another sticking point. In order for the CDBC's plans to build the residential development, it had to rezone the properties from Dwelling "Z" to Dwelling "G." The zoning change passed on first reading during the August 7 city commission meeting.

But new GBIC CEO Mario Lozoya – whose contract was also approved at the same meeting – discovered that the rezoning would cast a cold towel on the industrial corridor plans GBIC had for their property next door. Approval of the rezoning would to residential development would result in a "devaluation" of the industrial corridor since major industry would likely not use the industrial corridor due to impending residential development, he warned.

In the next meeting where the second and final reading of the rezoning was to be considered, De Leon asked that the item be tabled. A unanimous city commission approved his motion. And that's where matters stand now.

Although Wheeler is listed as the trustee in the tax-office records, they do not state who he is trustee for or who owns the properties. When CDCB officials have been asked who they are, they refuse to say, raising suspicions that something questionable might be afoot with the real-estate transaction.

These and other questions – GBIC board members and administrators insist – must be answered before any action to approve the rezoning can even be considered.


By Eli Saslow
The Washington Post

MADERO, Tex. — The most recent government letter arrived in an envelope marked “Urgent: Action Required,” so Fred Cavazos asked his family to meet at their usual gathering spot on the Rio Grande. 

He and three of his relatives crowded around an outdoor table as Fred, 69, opened the envelope and unfolded a large map in front of them. It showed a satellite image of the family’s land, 77 rural acres on the U.S. border where Fred had lived and worked all his life, but he had never seen the property rendered like this.

“Border Infrastructure Project,” the map read, and across its center was a red line that cut through the Cavazos family barn, through their rental house, and through a field where they grazed a small herd of longhorn cattle.

“This is where they want to put the wall,” Fred said, tracing his finger along the line. “They want to divide the property in half and cut us off from the river.”

They stared at the map for a few seconds, trying to make sense of it. 

It seemed to Fred that the government was interested only in a thin strip of land running across the width of his property, just wide enough to build a wall, leaving the Cavazos family with land on both sides. But even if they lost only a few acres of land to the 30-foot wall, the barrier would sever the property in half and make it difficult for anyone to access the riverfront. 

The map didn’t show a gate or a door, and Fred wondered how they would travel from one side of the property to the other.

“We’d lose the renters,” his sister said. “We’d lose the cattle without access to the river.”

“All of it,” Fred said. “Who wants to live on the other side of that wall? If this goes through, our property’s useless.”

In the three years since Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign with a promise to build a “great, great wall,” Fred had tried to dismiss the idea as an easy applause line, a fantasy both too expensive and too complex to become reality. 

Texas alone has more than 1,200 miles of border, much of it similar in nature to the Cavazos’s land: rugged, remote, unfenced and privately owned. 

But, in March, Congress approved $641 million toward building 33 miles of Trump’s wall in the Rio Grande Valley, and now every few weeks, Fred was turning away another government official who had come to ask for the right to access his land. They wanted him to sign a “Right of Entry” form so they could take soil samples, survey the flood plain and plot the final path for a hulking concrete-and-steel barrier.

Fred and his family had consulted with a pro-bono lawyer, who helped explain their options. They could sign the forms, grant access to their land and expect to eventually sell some of their property to the government at market price for construction of a wall. Or they could refuse to sign, risking a lawsuit and the possible seizure of their land by eminent domain.

“What kind of choice are they giving us?” Fred said now, staring at the map. “We let them have them access, or they take it. Either way, we lose.”

“We can’t give an inch,” said his cousin, Rey Anzaldua, 73. “It’s the principle. I don’t care if they offer us a million dollars. We’d be selling off our history.”

Fred’s ancestors came from Spain to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1760s on a Spanish land grant of more than 500,000 acres, giving them ownership of almost a third of the Valley. Over the generations, some of that land was lost to taxes and land grabs as governance of the Valley changed from Spain to Mexico to the independent Republic of Texas, which became part of the United States in 1840s. 

The Cavazoses had continued to lose land, much of it transferred to settlers through sales, tax penalties, fraud and thievery. The family had hired lawyers to investigate and had filed legal claims, but by the time Fred was born, what his parents had left was 77 acres, a rectangular plot tucked against the river. They built a small house, a farm store, and then cut down patches of unruly mesquite to farm cattle and cotton.

(Click on link below to read the rest of the story.)

Saturday, September 8, 2018



(Sing to the tune of The Beatles Savoy Truffle)

Steamed cattle head
Boiled cow's tripe
A little tripita
With salsita on the side

Carnitas fried in grease
Glistening with lard
Menudo con patita
And birria a la carte

But you'll have to have you ticker scrubbed
With a blown balloon

You might not feel it now
But when the pain cuts through
You're going to know and how

(Ay mamacita, me duele el corazon!
Le hubiera puesto menos sazon!)

The sweat is going to fill your head
When it becomes too much
You're going to shout aloud

Steamed cattle heads
Boiled cow's tripe
A little tripita
With salsita on the side

Sabes que te gusta refinar
Y que lo hoy esta a todo dar
Mañana te va a amargar