Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Days Seem So Long


On the first day of early voting, October 13, 2020, there were a total of 4,056 votes cast.  People posted on social media photos of voters lined up at the Laredo Fire Department building on Del Mar and at the City Hall Annex.  While it's a decent number, it doesn't compare to the record-breaking counts that were seen in other Texas cities, such as Houston.  

Joe Biden has a double-digit lead in polls, over Donald the con artist.  Texas may be in play.  If the current White House occupant lost Texas, there would be no path to victory, whatsoever.  

19 days to go until the General Election.  There is a pandemic going on.  Flu season is upon us.  (Already got my flu shot.)  And a mediocre female judge is on the verge of being installed to the Supreme Court, to fill the position left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Crazy times. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

They Come And Go


Jaime Canales was sentenced to prison on August 20, 2020.  The details of the case paint a bleak picture of politics in Laredo. 

(Edits to follow)

And just as that happened, we learn of the new spate of candidates seeking office in November.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Twelve Weeks To Election


This clipping is from August 9.  Alyssa Cigarroa is running against Robert Bali in November.

A person by the name of Dorantes is also running.  This is the corner of Sanchez and San Dario.

I don't know if Alberto Torres has a challenger, but his signs have been plenty in central Laredo.  Apparently he has money to spend on air-brushed images of himself.  These things started popping up in late July.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Justifying Death With Language

I am pissed that the local media says covid deaths with underlying health conditions. This makes people think they're immune from it. Guess what people, underlying health conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, over weight..... Everyone has underlying health conditions. (Comment via Twitter)

I fully understand where that sentiment is coming from. Laredo officials pop up on our social media feeds to give us the new tallies of those affected by Covid-19. As of early this afternoon, 2,163 Laredoans have tested positive for Coronavirus; and the new death toll is at 36. The practice of having our leaders go through a presentation by roll call has become rote. Worse yet, they remind us that those who have perished had some sort of underlying condition.  

It's useless information for the layman, really. Death should be death. It shouldn't be qualified with vague language. And underlying conditions can be any host of medical ailments. You turn 40 and you automatically join the underlying condition peer group. If I jump onto a scale right now and refer to a BMI chart, I'll be reminded that I fall into the obese category. I don't consider myself obese. However, researchers have come up with a system to help me gauge my well being. They're saying, watch your weight and eat better for improved results over the long term. Still, I gorge on chips and down them with a sugary soda, because I still haven't crossed the event horizon. I'm doing okay and I have plenty of time to make corrections. That's my thought process.

The messaging that's echoed by our leaders and media outlets is doing the same: it's reassuring us that this new virus has an ugly fate for the weakest among us. Those with unmanaged comorbidities, those who are frail are the ones with one foot in the grave. The others will die, not us! Our doctors have never uttered the words underlying condition to our face, and thus, we should be fine.

We rationalize death to assuage our own fears and neglect to think that anyone with a medical condition can live a productive life.

In looking at inspirational thoughts for people with cancer, I came across this one: Cancer is a word, not a death sentence. In our current public health crisis, Covid-19 plus underlying condition equals death sentence. At least, that's what the wording tells us. Uttering underlying condition time and again is repetitive and vacuous. Meaning is stripped away from a person's death.  

36 Laredoans have died -- they probably didn't have to. But because of our lack of leadership, they did. Our response has been inefficient and marred by bickering. Medical treatment is reactive and there's no telling when we'll have a useful vaccine to combat our virulent enemy. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. All of this should be flagged as the contributing cause of death, not underlying condition(s).

There's too much confusion, however. The only consistent messaging thrown at us is underlying conditions. We'll use it as a salve for the psychological wound inflicted upon us. It's all we've got at this point.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Bland Comments From City Leaders

The tweet from Congressman Henry Cuellar makes no mention of police brutality.  His thoughts on the current crisis around the country go as far as the Twitter character count rule. 

I unequivocally support our country's law enforcement, who work every day to protect our communities.  However, supporting law enforcement doesn't mean we can't have transparency & accountability.  We must do better to provide liberty & justice for all, including #George Floyd.

LPD Union President Rogelio Nevarez sticks to the noble causes of police officers.  It's tone deaf, among other things. 

We've been out in the community for six decades now, and we've given thousands of dollars in scholarships and have provided thousands of backpacks, we've done Christmas presents for all of the kids, so we've been doing things in the community, and part of the union is community service.  I don't know what perception they have of it, but our whole purpose is to make sure that we are here for our officers and their rights as employees and that they are equipped and trained properly.  (Another role the union plays is negotiating salaries for officers, making sure compensation is commensurate with the dangers that come with the job.)

And finally the city.  Mayor Pete Saenz and City Manager Robert Eads give the killing of George Floyd a little more thought.  There are hints of reassurance towards the public, that acts of violence from police can be reported.  See if you can spot them.

The City of Laredo firmly believes in the right to peacefully assemble and have your voice heard. The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the death of countless people of color throughout history, has spurred nationwide protests and reignited the dialogue about institutionalized racism and justice in this country. We send our condolences to the family of Mr. Floyd during these most difficult times.

We are not silent on this issue. Our city leaders have taken progressive approaches to protect the rights and safety of our citizens and have a zero tolerance approach to racism.

Our police force is composed of a highly trained, experienced, and diverse group of men and women who reflect the faces of our citizenry. 

The Laredo Police Department has consistently engaged the community residents in a meaningful way that show not only are police officers here to protect them, but that they are also available and within reach so that they can communicate any concerns, make suggestions and network with their police department to make their community safer and more progressive.

Public activities such as Coffee with a Cop, bike rodeos, collaborations with our local university and community college are just a few of the many ways that we invite and open lines of communications with our citizenry to allow them to get to know us and understand the specific issues in our city.

Citizen engagement through our social media channels, which gives alerts and news updates 24-7, and the Laredo PD app which allows citizens the opportunity to participate in the reporting 

of crimes with complete anonymity, have become meaningful venues of communication.

New technology and continued citizen engagement opportunities are the progressive, proactive paths to better communication and citizen engagement.

All of this is done with the well-being of every citizen in mind and inclusive of new innovative ideas and adopted best practices which make the Laredo Police Departments one of the best police departments in the country.

We welcome this opportunity to have a city-wide discussion about injustices in our community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Hall and all public buildings have been closed to the public since April 14, 2020. Online, phone and drive-thru services remain uninterrupted.

Given the current COVID-19 safety precautions that are in place, anyone can request a virtual meeting with the Mayor, the City Manager, or any elected official by contacting their office and going through the proper channels.

Our city and our employees continue to work for the safety and justice of all Laredoans.

(I emphasized some words)

No mention is made of past lapses by local police.  And there is no emphatic denouncement towards police brutality.  There is no mention of the process by which a person can submit a complaint of police abuse and the recourse that one has. 

A rally was held at city hall, on May 30, relating to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.  No city officials were present at the event.  And when rally organizers attempted to speak to city officials this week, nobody from a position of power made themselves available.  They can meet with the media, face to face, but they can't make time for their own citizenry. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Rally At City Hall

A local activist group, Red Wing United, held a rally outside city hall yesterday afternoon.  The focus of the event was to call attention to the death of George Floyd, the black man who died on May 25 as a result of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes.  Laredoans converged peacefully to ask for justice and policing reform.  

Critics wondered why locals would speak out on the death of a man we didn't know, and who wasn't part of our community.  One of my social media followers even said that cases of police brutality didn't exist in Laredo.  To him I pointed to the case of Frank Carter, the former Laredo police officer who assaulted a person that was handcuffed.  Carter was sentenced to prison in 2013 for violating the person's civil rights. 

In 2014, Laredo police unloaded dozens of rounds on Jose Walter Garza at a truck stop on Santa Maria Ave.  As he laid dead, officers approached Garza's body, fist-bumped and then handcuffed him.  His demise was determined to be suicide by cop.  The incident was recalled at the event yesterday.

Priscilla Villarreal, aka La Gordiloca, turned herself in to authorities in 2017.  She was charged with misuse of official information.  A court ruled that the statute used against her was vague.  Villarreal claimed that police and the district attorney pursued charges against her as a form of intimidation.

An immigrant woman from Guatemala, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, was gunned down by Border Patrol in 2018 in nearby Rio Bravo, TX.  An BP officer fired at Gomez Gonzalez because officers were being attacked with "blunt objects."

Our community does not have a significant African-American population, but we should relate to instances where officials overstep their authority.  Brown people have also died at the hands of police officers.  Because it doesn't happen here doesn't mean we shouldn't comment on police brutality or call for justice.  People of color are disproportionately mistreated by police, when compared with whites offenders.  Laredo seems to be far flung from the rest of the nation, a town that most people can't find on a map.  But we shouldn't go about our lives thinking that we are immune to the ills of society.  Shit happens here too and we shouldn't be silent or willfully ignorant of it.  


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Laredo Covid Timeline: April

Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Officials announce third death from Covid-19. (The person passed away March 31.)

April 2: Laredo Times prints numbers of Covid-19 cases, including deaths, below their masthead.

April 3: The number of positive Covid-19 cases: 83. Five total deaths reported.

April 4: First death from Covid-19 occurs in Nuevo Laredo.

April 6: The number of positive Covid-19 cases: 122.  

April 7: City of Laredo ordered people to wear a mask any time they were out in public, including for activities like walking or bicycling. 

April 11: No live update given by city officials, only new numbers of Covid cases.

April 12: Easter.  Two more deaths are reported by officials, bringing the total to 8.  

April 15: 10 deaths reported, 239 positive cases of Covid-19.  
[Laredo firefighter dies of gunshot wound in an apartment; CBP officer is arrested.]

April 16: Drive-thru testing begins.  11 deaths reported, 267 positive cases.
[The bodies of 4 family members are discovered in south Laredo; a 20 year-old male was arrested.]

April 18: 267 positive cases of Covid-19. 

April 20: City council meets, decides to open trails and let people walk outside without a mask, unless there is someone else nearby. 
Positive Covid-19 cases: 281. 

April 21: 295 positive Covid cases. 

April 22: 302 positive cases and 12 total deaths. 

April 23: 321 positive cases.

April 24: 13th death reported, person was a nurse aide; 338 positive Covid-19 cases.  Retail-to-go started, with businesses allowed to sell their products curbside: customers not allowed to go inside stores.

April 25: 14 deaths total. 340 positive cases. 

April 26: 15th person died, a man in his 20s. 

Monday, April 27: HEB now open 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  Governor Abbott will allow retailers, movie theaters, malls, restaurants, museums, libraries to open May 1st, with occupancy recommendation capped at 25 percent.  Stay-at-home order will expire April 30. 

April 30: 363 positive Covid-19 cases -- 16 deaths.