Saturday, June 30, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mexico Readies For Election


Via El Mañana

Those wanting to get their buzz on in Mexico this weekend will either have to do so today, or stock up on their favorite spirits and drink them in private Saturday and Sunday.  Our southern neighbors are having a major election Sunday and that means that, for 48 hours, no alcohol can be sold or consumed in public.  Authorities will be out making sure everybody is in compliance; Citations will be issued to those who are not.

The rationale behind the 'Ley Seca' is that people should go to the polls sober to make an informed decision.   

Back in the early 90s, I knew when the ordinance was in effect because my friends would have limited entertainment choices and they would be stuck at home or something.  This weekend, however, I'll keep a watch to see who becomes Mexico's new prez.  Don't know if my friends will do the same.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fast And Furious

After reading this, I think I get the gist of the story.  "Fast and Furious" is certainly going to be talked to death during this election cycle, but it's also something that's going to become part of Obama's legacy, unfortunately.

What Could It Be?

Something coming down the pike.
Dear media representative:

You are invited to attend a press conference regarding a special announcement pertaining to the Laredo Energy Arena.
On pins and needles.

UPDATE:

Toros will play at the LEA.  (courtesy photo)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Compact Messages


The runoff election is just over a month away.  Some campaign signs for those still in the hunt seem to have shrunk.  Or perhaps they've always been that size.  At this point, I don't think candidates are flush with money to go out and print new, smaller signs. 

Plastic Bags Come At A Price

Mrs. Keyrose visited family in Brownsville over the weekend, and she got first-hand experience of the city's plastic bag ban.  Not having her own tote bag handy, she had to stack and haul her craft store purchases with both hands to the car, making sure to maintain proper balance throughout.  At the grocery store, she noticed that some customers made their way out with all their items exposed in the cart.  Apparently, people visiting Brownsville were unfamiliar with the ordinance and didn't want to pay $1 per plastic bag, or reusable tote.  So they just had their groceries scanned and placed back into their carts.  Lesson learned. 

UPDATE
Reader-recommended article:  L.A. bag ban will cost jobs.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Limitations

My house has a certificate of occupancy for three, so that means that no relatives can visit.  My neighbors can't come in for coffee.  My son can't have his friends over.  Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon bike riders have to keep passing by.  Sorry, those are the rules. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday News

Four traffic officers were gunned down in Nvo. Laredo.  Laredo is facing one hell of a budget deficit.  And I've got a backyard that needs a serious makeover.  But those problems don't amount to a hill of beans, not when you've got more pressing issues to contend with. 


Let's talk a little about Uni-Trade Stadium playground equipment.  Apparently Councilman Johnny Rendon wants to use district discretionary funds to buy some.


But don't worry because the cost of the equipment won't exceed $200,000, and it will be handicap-accessible. 
The difference between the play area that the stadium is supposed to have, and what Mr. Rendon wants is that this new purchase will be available for the public to use when the Lemurs are off doing something else and the facility is closed.  That's OK because nothing can go wrong when you have expensive playground equipment accessible for everyone in a secluded area off of Loop 20.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Worship The Rectangle


One area that Bordertown Blues has not focused on -- besides stray dogs, grocery carts, and dumped tires -- is the ever-present defaced metal boxes you find on street corners.  They've always been there but now they're more noticeable because they don't have all the signs taped on by people advertising garage sales, carpet cleaning services, or what not.

They have a monolithic quality these things, don't you think?  Just like this blog.  I'm not sure what the spray-painted writings mean.  I could wail at them all day long, try to figure them out, but I would just be interrupting their grace and beauty.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Work Stalled

The south Laredo library project is still on hold.  Construction hit a road bump recently when problems arose with the construction contractor, Modern Construction.  Now the city is trying to determine if the bonding company will choose a new contractor, or if bids will be put out by the city to select another one. 

It's been over a year since construction plans were put into motion.  The project is an eyesore now.  It's a shame since most kids in the area don't have much to do during the summer months.  I have no doubt that the facility will be finished some day, and then I can have a base to offer blogging workshops.  Better yet, I'll have a place to screen "Eddie Macon's Run."  The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OhMyGawd


Earlier today, Nuevo Laredo artist and art teacher Sergio Del Monte, and his wife, Susy, made their way to City Hall to present City of Laredo Mayor Raul G. Salinas with a bust of the mayor Del Monte had been inspired to make after watching him speak to eloquently and sensitively about the unfortunate murder-suicide of two young children and their mother two months ago.  Said the artist, “This is for men of honor who matter.”  The original bust is made of mixed medium, said the artist, of local recyclable materials he finds.  With 41 years of experience in art, Del Monte and his wife were so excited to meet Mayor Salinas.  For his part, Mayor Salinas was stunned and overwhelmed with gratitude to Del Monte for creating such a unique and lovely piece of art.  “I am so touched and honored by this gesture.  This is amazing,” he said.

Photo and press release courtesy of the City of Laredo

Follow Arte del Monte on Facebook.

Cultural Disconnect

Forget about social media shorthand (lol, bbl, idk), let's talk about how today's youth are clueless about the movie "Meatballs," or that The Titanic actually sank.
"People just coming of age now have a different group to work with," Lamb said. "There's something unsettling about realizing that your references are dated."
I wouldn't expect many people on Twitter to know who Casey Kasem is, or Bill Murray for that matter.  Bill is still appearing in movies but his work is not exactly capturing young people's imaginations.  Nevertheless, if somebody is proud to Tweet that he/she doesn't know who Rodney King is, they probably don't know who the current vice president is.

Happy first day of summer.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Downtown Is Taxed

El Mañana reports today that city leaders are looking to hire a consultant to offer up ideas in regards to spurring economic activity in two of the city's oldest districts, one of them being the downtown area.  Business owners, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, will work with city officials to come up with a plan to revive Districts 3 and 8.  Everything from security, infrastructure, and tax incentives will be taken into account. 

Yesterday I read that many downtown businesses have closed their doors.  The Laredo Sun posted the story (in English) today.

It's truly sad the decline that downtown has experienced.  But as one local businessman commented to me, it's been something that has gradually occurred over decades.  Plans have been put forward for years but little has materialized.  Recently the city awarded Kell-Munoz nearly half a million dollars to come up with a downtown revitalization plan.  We're still waiting to see the fruits of that partnership.  And now we're looking for consultants. 

If downtown were to be completely wiped out -- gawd forbid -- it would be a serious blow to the workforce.  But what would it mean to local taxing entities?  Sales tax collections would dip somewhat and the overflowing Sports Venue purse would take a hit. Then where would we get the money to convert Uni-Trade Stadium into a beach volleyball complex?  What would it mean to LISD when they are looking to buy new trees for Nixon High School?  Let's take a look.

Below is a chart of what LISD is projecting to collect for the 2011 - 2012 year.


Owwwwwwwwwww!!!!!  Over $26 million.  Makes me wonder why LISD doesn't have its own private jet.

In talking to a tax office representative, I learned that they don't track how much of that 26 mil comes from residential taxes, and commercial taxes.  Apparently they don't work on pie charts or graphs that can give us percentages on the money taken in from different sources.  A method of determining how much the business community contributes to LISD would be tedious.  I would have to provide the tax office with each business's account number to obtain the amount of taxes paid yearly.  Or I could look into the appraised value of a business to calculate their tax obligation.  To get that, I would multiply the appraised value with the current LISD tax rate.  It's a challenge, but it's something that I don't currently have time for.

Two interesting bits of information that were conveyed to me concerning LISD's tax take were that:
  • all businesses within the district's boundaries pay taxes
  • and even if a store closes, the district still collects property taxes
If a store is open, LISD can collect revenue on a store's inventory, and on its property.  Of course, with downtown suffering, LISD is taking a hit, but they're still collecting taxes from shuttered spaces.  But they're also collecting taxes from Pep Boys on San Dario Ave., and the Stripes on San Bernardo.  All businesses within the boundaries of LISD are helping to construct new buildings and pay for hefty administrative salaries.  

I don't know where downtown will end up.  And I don't know what impact they will have on local taxing entities.  But I wish them, and city staff, luck as they try to make things work.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dispose Of Waste Properly

Rio Bravo is hosting a hazardous waste collection drive this weekend.  Kudos to them for doing so, and for the awesome acting in the PSA.

 

It Doesn't Even Have Character


I can't believe it.  Somebody finally cut one of the unsightly trees on one of the blocks just north of Bridge II.  All the "green spaces" near the bridge are as neglected as the one pictured above.  And sadly, this bit of upkeep is as good as it will get for a long time.

Let's go through the list of local eyesores, shall we?
  • Zapata Highway median - grass overgrown
  • Chihuahua/Guadalupe overpasses a five-year work in progress
  • Bruni/St. Peter's/St. Agustin Plazas outdated and neglected
  • Tires everywhere
  • Uni-trade Stadium unfinished
  • Many downtown stores shuttered
  • Old Riverdrive Mall abandoned
  • Old Mercy Hospital abandoned
  • Soccer fields on East Calton nothing but rocks
But we're made to believe that our city is beautiful.  And if the mayor says it, then it must be so.
Seriously, how can we boost tourism when our own house is in disarray?



Sunday, June 17, 2012

He Travels And Travels


Do you want to guess who paid for the mayor to go to this year's Conference of Mayors?  Hint:  it wasn't his sweaty upper lip.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Metrics And Stuff

To run a successful political campaign, one needs a good strategy and not so much a big bank account.
Instead of going negative, he advised, a candidate should do the exact opposite. "Talk about your opponent in the nicest terms that you CAN, in order to take certain weapons away from him," James wrote. "If you're speaking well of your opponent and your opponent is savaging you, there is a chance he comes off looking like an ass and you can win the election."
The runoff is slowly approaching.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Still Not Ready






It's been weeks since opening day for the Lemurs, but the parking lot situation is still a disaster.


Thankfully city crews are out there to help direct traffic.


And PD is helping control the crowds.  Maybe next time I'll actually go in to watch the game and not be deterred by the unfinished product before me.

Greens Want Your Vote


I admire anyone who throws their hat into the political arena.  Running for office is no easy task, especially when you go up against an incumbent like Patricia Barrera.  People have tried to oust her before with no success.  Far be it from me to discourage anyone from running; We have Raul Salinas as our mayor, after all.  But the local Greens have their work cut out for them.  I wish them luck.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Rush Album Out Now

You know that Rush is a different kind of rock band when their interviews include questions about literature and politics.
Libertarianism as I understood it was very good and pure and we're all going to be successful and generous to the less fortunate and it was, to me, not dark or cynical. But then I soon saw, of course, the way that it gets twisted by the flaws of humanity. And that's when I evolve now into . . . a bleeding heart Libertarian. That'll do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Vote


Name placement on the ballot doesn't seem to have much significance for local candidates. 

It's been said that whomever appears first on the list has a better chance of getting more votes, and presumably winning that particular race.  But it only resulted as such for the candidates that ran for statewide office.  In Webb County, Rebecca Martinez got the majority of the vote in her bid for Justice 4th Court of Appeals, and Addie Allen garnered the most votes in the US Senator field of four.  Mr. Allen, however, did not make it to a runoff.  According to statewide numbers, Paul Sadler, and Grady Yarbrough will go up against each other next month.

What this tells me is that the locals are unfamiliar with statewide candidates and therefore blacken the first oval that's in line.  That approach doesn't make much sense.  Why urge people to go vote when they're not going to be aware of who exactly is running for what office?  To be fair, I didn't know anything about most of the candidates and issues placed on the ballot this year.  But if Laredoans continue to vote blindly as they did, then we should not be so embarrassed about the low turnout.  What we should be embarrassed about is the lack of awareness on everybody's part.

I don't want to get into the 78 percent that Prop 3 got.  That's where Webb County-ans support a vote to legalize gambling in Texas to help support education.  Again, what does that say about our knowledge of state issues?  

The people who went out to vote should be given some credit for taking part in the process, but let's not get all congratulatory when they put little thought into it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Voters Not Showing UP

Latinos' influence is not being felt at the voting booth.
In the 2008 presidential election, when a record 10 million Latinos showed up at the polls nationwide, that amounted to just half of the eligible voters. By contrast, 66 percent of eligible whites and 65 percent of eligible blacks voted, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center.
Last week Raul Salinas expressed his discontent with the low turnout in Webb County.  But his plea to get more people to vote fell as flat as his staged outrage.  He urged us to vote for the men and women in uniform who fight for our right to vote; To vote because women in other countries aren't allowed to vote; And of course to vote because our children's future depends on it.  It's always about the children, isn't it?

Elections Administrator Oscar Villarreal commented that several factors lead to our poor showing for this year's primary election.  Apparently, redistricting was a major influence.  According to him, the legal battles that ensued from mapping out new boundaries for Texas left a lot of people wondering when the actual vote was to be held.  And when a date was finally announced, it came on the day after Memorial Day, and on the last week of school.  I offered up my own reason for not voting:  the lack of interest on my part, and some candidates' lack of participation in the process.

Being thrust into voting limbo because of redistricting matters makes sense.  But I don't want to make excuses for others.  The truth is we are not getting out to vote.  Part of the reason is just plain apathy; An apathy that stems from being uninformed about the true worth of our vote.  We're constantly reminded that we should vote because it's our civic duty, but our participation is never granted a personal connection.  We are asked to vote because it for somebody else's sake, but never for ours.  If we can't stake some kind of claim to our vote, then what's the point of heading out to the polls?  Tell me how my vote matters and then I'll go vote.  Don't guilt me into voting.  Instead, get all wonky on me and remind me how government works for us.  Only then, I think, can we have better numbers at the polls.

Friday, June 8, 2012

UniTrade Stadium


I can always count on somebody blocking my driveway when I get home, and I can always count on local construction projects going over budget, the latest being the Uni-Trade Baseball Stadium. 

My wife and I have noticed over the years that any taxing entity that hands out contracts tend to go with the lowest construction bidder.  Like clockwork, budgets run over, and to top it off, deadlines are missed.  City Manager Carlos Villarreal, however, doesn't think the original $18 million price tag was set in stone.
"The $18 million was a figure that was pulled out of a (City) Council meeting without knowing what amenities would be lacking," Villarreal said.  "We have to make sure we won't have a stadium that's going to be constructed to 50 percent of capabilities.

"Those expenditures were necessary.  In the long run, it will pay off for itself."
In other words, the figure was pulled out of somebody's ass two years ago.  Nobody could've predicted that the stadium would need a parking lot, or a press box, and that those expenses would need to be factored in. 

City council should give Mr. Villarreal another raise for his nonchalant response.  While we shake our heads at the enormous amount of money spent on the stadium, he keeps his cool about the whole thing.

Back in 2010, city council used 50 percent of its capabilities in coming up with the $18 million figure.  To be fair, the architectural plan didn't say anything about furniture.  We were fools to ever think that the facility would cost that much.  And I was a fool to ever think that the stadium would be built for a mere $7 million and belong to the Broncos.

Thankfully the Sports Venue Tax is coming from some far away place, some place where others are paying for it and not us. 


Can we get a tennis complex, mommy?!  Can we, can we?!!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Never Enough






Members of the US Tennis Association went before city council Monday to present their case that Laredo needs more tennis courts to keep up with the increase in membership.  The slide they provided above shows where the majority of new players are coming from, north Laredo.  And the only two facilities that have courts that are up to par are the new Haynes Rec. Center, and the decades-old Market Courts.

The Market Courts are full most of the time, that is, when the weather is pleasant.  If you want to be guaranteed a court to play on, you have to go out there on Friday evenings when the place is practically deserted.  If you must play, and the facility is crowded, you can always go use the two dilapidated courts near Nixon H.S., as my son and I have done.  There the nets are barely hanging on, and the playing surface has major cracks in it.  It's pretty depressing but it's all we've got sometimes.

The USTA is requesting that the city build more facilities in north Laredo.  As a resident of south central Laredo, I couldn't agree more.  But the city manager will tell you that no new expenses can be taken on since the city is facing a major shortfall.

Whenever the city gets its act together, perhaps they can build more tennis courts to adequately serve the long-forsaken public in the north part of town.  They have to, if anything, for the children.





    

We're Like Venus

I wasn't able to watch the path of Venus yesterday because my telescope is at the cleaners, but I'm just amazed at how small the planet is in relation to the Sun.  I'm blown away by what's out there, and by how much our planet must weigh, and still, it floats in space. 

Free Pies


Courtesy photo

The locals lined up at Pizza Patron yesterday for a chance to get a free pizza, and in the rain no less.  The restaurant's only condition was that you had to order in Spanish.  Undoubtedly, this created some animosity.  Some people lashed out at customers and employees during the promotional giveaway.
The comments have included, “Go back to Mexico where you belong,” he added. “It's been surprising that three little words can create so much discussion across the country.”
A friend of mine got there early and said that he didn't have to utter a word.  He was simply given a pizza as soon as he walked in the door.  Our citizenry is mostly bilingual so the employees were probably dispensing with the formalities to get people in and out as soon as possible.

I commend Pizza Patron for their marketing ways.  They certainly gained attention with this.  They probably saw the backlash coming but I bet they're fully hip to the fact that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.'  And when people need a break financially, when mom needs a break from cooking, especially when the kids are home during the summer break, it's good that Pizza Patron lends a hand.  For that, I applaud them and will support them by buying a pie tonight.

What's really funny is that the chain was founded by an Ohio man of Lebanese descent.



Gotta love America.







Monday, June 4, 2012

"For The Future Of Our Kids"

Mayor Raul Salinas started off tonight's council proceedings by voicing his disappointment with this year's primary turnout.  This from the man who has depended on cañoneros to provide him with votes during his last campaign.  During his spiel, he noted how brave men and women fight for our right to vote, and that our votes send a message to those in Washington and Austin.  Of course, he had to include the well worn cliche, 'if you don't vote, you can't complain.'



Here are a couple of hints, mayor:  Your trite remarks are not going to inspire anybody, and if the people are not turning out to vote, chances are they aren't watching your entreaty on public access television.

Seriously, you can't call us out on our poor showing, and then lower the standard on selecting a new police chief.  Members of the council, and the mayor, were in favor of accepting applicants for the top police spot who don't have an undergraduate degree.  Duplicitous, no?

Other members of the council commented on the low voter turnout.  Other mentions included the recent passing of a police officer, high-achieving students, the Rattlesnakes indoor football team, etc., etc.

Nobody, however, admonished the actions of the students at both LISD and UISD who recently committed acts of vandalism on school grounds.  You know, the ones who we're supposed to be voting for.

Mayor, drop the act and give us a reason to go vote.  South Laredo has an unfinished library on its hands.  Chihuahua St. looks like shit and big trucks are making it worse.  You're looking at an $11 million deficit this coming year.  Our 23 percent showing is a direct reflection of just how things are working down here.  Look at that 23 and ask yourself how responsible you are for it.

Road Rules


Driving around downtown Friday I noticed a woman pushing another woman on a wheelchair.  The peculiar thing here was that the lady didn't seem to care that she was in the middle of the street, going against traffic!  There's obvious access to the sidewalk, but perhaps she was in the mood to play chicken with vans.

More In Elections


Yesterday the LMT featured the money totals that candidates spent on their recent primary campaigns.  John Galo, who appears to have outspent all the locals, won his bid for county commissioner.  But other factors helped him to victory.  Mercurio Martinez:
Galo spent a good deal of money on the race - including upwards of $60,000 on television advertising in the last month - but he also ran in an area receptive to his candidacy, said former Webb County Judge Mercurio Martinez.

"(North Laredo) is an area that is mostly an educated area, with more middle- to higher-income families," he said.  "He has strong name identity.  His brother is a medical doctor.  His wife is from a very prominent family."
Mr. Galo used to live on Cortez St. (not in the Chacon as he's suggested) when he was a councilman.  That was when the people of the Chacon, Montrose, and Heights neighborhood were more receptive to his candidacy some twelve years ago.  I really don't know how Mr. Galo won his two terms back then.  He probably had to hold people's hands and personally show them to the polls.

Now, speaking of helping people to the polls, Maximilliano posted a story of what happens in the valley - AND ONLY IN THE VALLEY!!! - during elections.  Apparently, there are these individuals who are referred to as "politiqueras" who, for a small fee, promise votes to the highest bidder.  They prey on the most vulnerable to gather votes for a candidate, and they even create nice little ditties for the ones they work for.


 

John Galo never had this much adulation thrown his way.  But then again, he never had much use for politiqueras or canoneros -- not like a certain person named Salinas.  No, John Galo's votes came from a more discriminating populace; A populace that can be trusted to use self check-out stations at grocery stores, and has better seats to watch the Lemurs.  Ay, que embidia!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bicycling Saturday Thread

Also, putting up more compost bins, picking up chicken plates, and doing laundry Saturday thread.

UPDATE:  (Sunday morning)

The Chacon Creek Hike/Bike Trail has been paved over.  I took a ride on it yesterday to see how it differed from the gravelly material it had before.  While the trail is a little faster now, crews were really liberal with their bulldozing of trees and bushes.  


Friday, June 1, 2012

Furniture Windrows


Seems like a lot of people have been on a spring cleaning bender these last few weeks.  I've seen a lot of old furniture on city curbs.  It's unfortunate because pedestrians, or young bicyclists have an obstacle to overcome; And the items discarded are really not recyclable.  Then again, if you're Frank Sciaraffa, a barrier like the one pictured could come in handy against the threat of projectiles.  Still, it's an eyesore.

Laredo has had a problem with neatness lately.  And people have taken notice.
The Caller Sports crew bids you goodbye from Uni-Trade Stadium, aka the unfinished portion of Nakitomi Plaza.
It's a dig against Laredo, but I give it props for including a "Die Hard" reference.



After the natives attended the first Laredo Lemurs game, I thought people were going to be more vocal about the unfinished stadium, but nobody made a peep.  I was waiting for the Times' Op/Ed page to be flooded with disappointed comments on the condition of the facility.  But perhaps it's what the public has come to expect: big promises with little follow-up.  Poor planning.  Apathy. 

We've come to expect the grass along Zapata Hwy not being cut on a regular basis.  We've come to expect the city opening up a new animal shelter today while construction is still ongoing.  Poor customer service almost everywhere.  Lack of code enforcement.  Yadda yadda yadda.

We're not doing our image any good when people are comparing our landscape to the Dust Bowl era.