Friday, August 31, 2012

Everything Must Go Thread

Labor Day discounts abound, except at the pump. 

Schooling

The first week of school is in the books.  Time to evaluate.
“We’ve got kids that are poor, and we’ve got kids that are Hispanic, but we’ve also got kids that are some of the best and brightest kids in the state,” Dr. Nelson said.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Revenue

Politicians like to boast that they don't raise taxes, yet revenue increases from one year to another.



A Man For Every PR Job

LISD appoints city councilman as Crime Stoppers head


Trustees make position full-time

By Andrew Kreighbaum
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 7:41 PM CDT
ShareThis

Laredo ISD trustees found a well known face to replace outgoing Crime Stoppers coordinator Estella Quintanilla this month.

The board agreed to earlier this month to hire Laredo City Councilman Esteban Rangel, a transportation coordinator at United Independent School District, as its next Crime Stoppers coordinator.

The move between districts will mean a pay increase of almost $13,000 for Rangel, who will be paid $58,000 by LISD. Quintanilla, a part-time employee, was paid $32,343, said district spokeswoman Veronica Castillon.

One observation my family has made recently is that Ryan Seacrest seems to be everywhere on television.  Of course, he's been a staple on American Idol for some time now.  But apart from that, he hosts his own radio show.  His crossover duties are not uncommon when you consider other media celebs doing the same.  Casey Kasem, Howard Stern, and Dick Clark did it too.  Seacrest, however, can be seen hosting red carpet events for E!, New Year's Eve bashes on ABC, and more recently, adding some name recognition to the Olympics.  The man's everywhere! 

We all wear different hats, but surely there's someone out there who could perform some of the activities that Seacrest has done.  Spread the love is all I'm saying.

Locally, a Ryan Seacrest-like celebrity is emerging, and his name is Esteban Rangel.  We here at LaSanbe world news headquarters closely follow Rangel's work on city council.  He keeps up with the best of them in the highly "trafficable" area of politics.  But he's also lending his dance floor talents for charity in Laredo's own version of Dancing With The Stars.  Being the go-getter that he is, he'll be the new Crime Stoppers Coordinator.  More money and more face time for the industrious young man.  Congratulations to him.  We'll have to keep our eyes peeled to see what Rangel does next.  But one thing's for sure:  he's on a roll. 


 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neighbors Keeping Up With Inflation

San Antonio's bus system, VIA, is thinking about raising its fares by a whopping ten cents to keep up with the cost of inflation.  In two years they might raise it again another ten cents.  Their current fee to ride is $1.10.

Three years ago, El Metro raised its rates by a quarter, topping out at $1.50.  I'm not sure how, and if, they have scaled back on service in the last couple of years.  The Corpus Christi, and Santa Rita routes seem to be running their usual routes; No major changes have occurred, as far as I can tell.  Nevertheless, it costs more to ride El Metro than a VIA bus.

The reason I'm bringing up the change in fares between bus lines is because our city leaders like to compare what we do with what San Antonio does.  We can take cues from them, but it seems that we push things too far in justifying rate increases, especially when you consider the rate of poverty in Laredo.

Don't tell anybody that VIA might raise fees.  Somebody here might get an itch to do the same.


   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Relative Perspective

The mayor is concerned that wait times at the international bridges can be improved to better facilitate commerce and tourism, but customs officials say that their wait times are the lowest in the state of Texas, if not the nation.  In fact, in order to be on the same level with other crossings, and to carry out thorough inspections, wait times will be increased by three minutes this coming year, and then 1.5 minutes each year after that for four years.

When the mayor implored federal officials about the drawbacks of longer wait times, the agents repeated, "we have some of the lowest wait times in the state of Texas."  Shortly after that, the mayor's head exploded. 

Big Woof Out To Dogs

I love dogs but I've never owned one in my adult life.  And I'm not going out to get one, especially if it's going to be bringing home human body parts.  But I have to give it up to the stray dog who helped local authorities find the remains of a John/Jane Doe.  Good recovery work if I do say so myself.

Dogs are amazing:  They can help seek people out; they can help veterans with PSTD; and they can even sniff out cancer in a human body.  They are truly remarkable animals.  Except for chihuahuas -- those I can't stand. 

If I ever decide to adopt a dog, I'm going to train it to sniff out politicians who are accepting gifts that go over the limit.  For kicks, I'll let it conduct political polls.  Perhaps it'll give me better results than the ones local pols have used.      

Monday, August 27, 2012

Officially Run Out Of Ideas

WHAT:          Announce Details of First Ever 5K Mud Race in Laredo

WHEN &       TOMORROW, Tuesday, August 28, 2012  10 AM
WHERE:       City Hall, Council Chambers, 1110 Houston St.

WHY:             Cm. San Miguel will be hosting the first-ever 5K mud race in Laredo on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at North Central Park, as a fundraiser for school supplies and the Bethany House.  Come find out more details about this exciting event:
No Mud! No Glory! One Tough Mud’r!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Have They Done All This Time?






It's nice of the City of Laredo to, in today's paper, include a "link" (in blue) to their website so the public can scan all the tax fee increases that are going into effect.  However, the fees are not front and center in their embarrassing homepage to make it easy for everyone to see.  I doubt they're even in there to begin with.

Nevertheless, the city put up a nifty bar graph comparing our garbage collection fees with those of other Texas cities.  Laredo has lagged behind in raising taxes fees.  It's a wonder how the Solid Waste Dept. has operated up to this point.  But in five years, the fees will go up 100 percent, all to provide better service to the locals, and to keep pace with the cost of doing business. 

Soon we'll be paying $12 for garbage pick-up.  My question is: how soon will it be for some of that money to go into the general fund? 

Our leaders are calling all the increases fees, because they would be fools to call them taxes.  To call them tax increases would surely bring on a backlash, and they wouldn't have the stomach to explain themselves.  No, they'll play the sad sack, raise fees, and then get creative with the budget.  I can only hope someone keeps an eye on them when they do it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Taxes: You're Welcome, Laredo


Courtesy of City of Laredo

Menso Not Mensa






I have to give Mr. Octavio Chapa (pictured above) points for effort in trying to come up with an explanation when police found boxes of Guess jeans at his place of residence.  But he's not much of an ad libber in saying that the merchandise was going to be used as part of some sting operation.  He told authorities that he was an informant for ICE agents.  Me thinks he saw one too many episodes of Bordertown: Laredo.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Carpool Buddies

When did the mayor and Councilman Jorge Vera become Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn?  Any time there's an event for the media to cover, both elected officials are ready to crash it in the name of public service.  Yolanda Salinas is our only hope.  If she wins Vera's seat, she can break this self-serving bromance up.


Photo above courtesy of Noticias Univision Laredo

Perhaps an intervention is in order.  If not for the absurdity of the constant pairing, then for the possiblity that we may be shelling out taxpayer-funded mileage for these two to drive all over town for publicity. 



Home invasion photo courtesy of City of Laredo

They're our version of a dynamic duo.  One plays bad cop while the other takes an extended bathroom break.  After a while, they'll be finishing each other's sentences. 

Let it be known -- if you open a business and your ribbon-cutting event needs some gravitas, not only will the bloviator-in-chief make it, but he'll bring a friend.



Patriotic Keys


Junky, rusty place to get a new set of keys, but the oversized flag really brightens up the place.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Voter ID Laws

Not having an ID will prove difficult when voting.
Almost half of suspended driver’s licenses were due to failure to pay outstanding fines, which may explain why poor people are less likely to have licenses.
It's common to see people in Laredo getting busted driving without a license, but people may not have one because they take the bus.  Or maybe they're homebound.  Or maybe they bike everywhere.

The deviant LISD principal with a suspended license could not vote if the election was held today.  However, Texas does allow you to present a gun license at the polls.  Maybe she has one of those. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Decrepit Yes, War Zone No

Uh-oh.  The inflammatory verbiage returns.
Dr. Mike Vickers, a veterinarian and longtime resident of Brooks County, compares the Texas border to a battleground and accuses the federal government of downplaying the severity of the situation.
“The border is not secure,” Vickers says. “It’s dangerous. We are in a war zone. There’s absolutely no truth to what they [federal officials] are saying.”
I don't know how somebody could call the border a war zone when Brooks County isn't even on the border.

Security!

Members of VIDA (Voices In Democratic Action) once again made their concerns known to city council at last night's meeting as they move forward with the ethics commission, but this time they raised the stakes by asking for Charlie San Miguel's resignation.  However, soon after Dr. Hector Farias started his comments, City Attorney Raul Casso interrupted him and reminded everybody in attendance that public comments cannot include any derogatory statements.  It didn't get better after that.

(video courtesy of the LMT)



While I don't agree with VIDA asking San Miguel to resign, I think they should continue to pressure council to install and maintain an ethics commission that will be unbiased, and transparent.  The code of ethics should also have some teeth to keep city leaders honest.  We cannot have political insiders (Mr. Adolfo Campero) editing the book on ethics when they've been tied to businessmen that have benefitted from council votes. 

I find it amazing that the city attorney, and Charlie San Miguel would take issue with anybody trying to bring up the issue of conflict of interest.  It's almost as if they don't understand what the ethics committee stands for.  Either that or they are just trying to stifle the actions of Dr. Farias and VIDA. 

Charlie San Miguel has to get it through his Pablo Montero hairdo that cronies won't fly in independent committees.  And Raul Casso needs to understand that VIDA is not going around making outrageous comments.  They are simply connecting the dots on relationships that aren't on the up and up where ethics are concerned.  If anybody needs to go it's Mr. Campero.  And Charlie San Miguel needs to expand his circle of friends and acquaintances.  Certainly there's somebody out there just as capable as the formidable Mr. Campero to assist VIDA in their duties. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Week Thread


We got a little rain in the Chacon yesterday afternoon.  This morning I emptied my rain barrel.  Beware mosquitoes. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One Break Coming Up






It's a glorious time for shoppers.  Get out there and brave the crowds.

Friday, August 17, 2012

No Need No Stinkin' HOA






Not to take anything away from Bordertown Blues' posts of dumped tires, but south Laredo obliges when BOLAS needs material to blog about.  Walk a short distance to the right of this small pile and you'll find what's below.





It's the new street art.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fees Fees Fees

City leaders are looking to raise fees on everything from rec. center membership to Civic Center rentals.  It's not clear whether Mami Chulas employees will have to pay more per pelvic gyration, or if Juan Narvaez will take a hit from maquinita price hikes.  What concerns me is the way the city is approaching this.  They are staring an $11 million deficit in the face, and they want to act swiftly by handing the public higher fees.  They rationalize this by saying that the new fees would fall in line with what other cities are charging.

But is it really fair to hike up all these different fees drastically so they can balance their budgets?  Is it wise to raise fees uniformly across the board?

Let's look at the garbage collection tax, I mean, fee.  Currently we pay $9 a month; Recycling items are also included in that fee.  The city wants to raise it to $11 this coming fiscal year, and then raise it an additional dollar each year after that for several years, all to be comparable to cities in the valley, and San Antonio.  Let's look at what staff prepared for council in comparing us to the likes of McAllen.




McAllen is a good city to compare ourselves to since their median household income is close to ours, yet they have half the population.  El Paso has an almost identical household income as we do, but we'll get to them later.  In the chart above, staff lists McAllen as charging their residents $15 for garbage pickup.  But that fee is not the whole picture.  McAllen charges its residents depending on the size of their lot.



(Thanks to Amy Smith from the McAllen Public Works Dept. for the information)

McAllen charges according to property size.  Amazing, and progressive, if you ask me.  For recycling, and brush collection, an extra $2 is added for each service.  Instead of charging everybody one fee, like Laredo, they actually take garbage production into account.  Super!  Now let's look at El Paso.



Over the last 18 years, El Paso has raised (and lowered) their collection fees by $3.  Laredo wants to raise our rates by more within the next four years.  El Paso collects residential trash one day out of the week.  Its residents pay way more than we do for garbage collection, but they haven't been hit with a price hike like the one we're facing.

I don't mind fees being created for airport parking, or my fees for garbage going up a bit, but what I do mind is the carefree attitude that the City of Laredo has in balancing budgets.  In their minds, we've been lucky to have had the fees remain low, and we'll just have to adjust to price hikes, no matter how severe they are.  We might be like McAllen, or El Paso, but we're different in that our leaders don't take any cues from them.

Local politicos are so quick to boast about taxes not being raised, but we'll see if they're that eager, and vocal about keeping higher fees at bay. 

Depressed But Not Forgotten

Downtown has seen better days, but perhaps it's just going through a phase.
In 2009, there was denial, when landlords continued asking for gilded-era rents, despite the lack of interested renters. In 2010, there was acceptance, when tumbleweeds could be glimpsed in empty storefronts and salespeople became uncommonly friendly. In 2011, there was bargaining, when designers, sensing an opportunity, pounced on leases with what, in retrospect, turned out to be rock-bottom rents.
Laredo's business district will never be trendy Madison Ave.  The best it could hope for is to have a national chain store be its anchor.  However, if rents get competitive, new, younger investors could be lured into the area to breathe some life into it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Projects For Molly Ringwald

Ringwald has always been OK in my book, and I love her even more because she uses the word "actress."  For that I'll buy her new CD, and novel.  Sorry, Laredo book festival.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Not A Tax Increase


I use the tennis courts on Market on occasion, but this part is a little confusing.
Among the other fees increases, municipal tennis court passes will increase from $10 to $15 per month and $108 to $120 per year.
 
What municipal tennis courts are they talking about?  I've never had to pay when I go play. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

"With A Tooth Comb"

KGNS extended yet another courtesy to our mayor by allowing him to appear on the midday newscast.  Raul Salinas has been on the program every week for quite some time now, and he doesn't seem to say anything new.  Today, Noraida Negron started the segment by having the mayor bring us up to speed on the search for a new police chief.  He went on for over two minutes, saying what he's been saying ever since Chief Maldonado announced his retirement.  I'm surprised Noraida didn't doze off during the interview.


What could've taken twenty seconds to say was stretched mightily, probably the best thing to do on a slow news day.  I, however, cannot get that time back and end up coming out on the losing side.

In rambling (as he does all the time) this afternoon, the mayor caused himself to botch the expression, "with a fine tooth comb."  He probably thinks that, after six years in office, he's a good ad libber.  Or he probably thinks that nobody's watching the news at noon so he doesn't give a shit and just goes on and on and on.......

Whatever the case, KGNS should have "Heatwave" Berler standing in the background keeping time.  When the mayor drifts off, a bell should be rung.  Seriously, our mayor needs some kind of timer, perhaps a lightning round of some sort.  He should be given fifteen seconds to chime in on a litany of subjects.  Then we could see how good he really is. 

I have not been impressed by the mayor, to say the least.  His FBI training has not done anything for him.  If I could add anything to the interview it's an image of Mckayla Mulroney next to the Pro8news logo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Politics And Gardening


At least one person had a good weekend.  In the runoff election recount, Mike Montemayor held on to his victory as he came out on top once again in the race for county commissioner Pct. 1, this time by ten votes.  Congratulations to him.  To Frank Sciaraffa, we wish him well.  His yearly Christmas party, however, may not be too festive this time around.






As the political landscape reached a fever pitch, so did the local climate.  La canicula seems to have picked up some steam this weekend, and the locals are just itching for a change.  Heat indices are expected to reach 109 degrees today.

Naturally, with drought conditions in full swing, barrio gardeners make much more efficient use of native plants, and they keep their water use to a minimum.  But apart from that, plant enthusiasts also employ different materials in their landscape, as you can see in the picture above.

And old palm tree is adorned with a succulent, flowering ground cover, all kept in place with cinder blocks.  In the background, small tubs are used as planters, and placed on milk crates for effect.  It's an understated container garden, but one that catches the eye.  

This has been Politics and Gardening.  Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

There Must Be A Reason For This


Photo courtesy of El Mañana

...Let's name John Sharp Mr. South Texas, and we can throw a party to make it official, even though nobody cares.  And we'll have everybody wear red ties and the mayor can wear his cowboy hat.  It's not like he's a rancher or anything, but that's not important. 

Judith Zaffirini can wow us with her signature black cloaks, you know, during la canicula.  Oh what fun it will be.  It's more fun than people are allowed on a Thursday afternoon.  But let's not invite Dr. Farias because that man's an agitator and a major downer.  No, we want things to be underwhelmingly lively, with a smile on everybody's face.  Good, right? 

The invitations should go out at once, and don't forget to include "be there or be square" towards the bottom.  Ohmygawd!  I'm so excited!  It'll be a blast.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hat In The Ring


Rick Flores may appear on Nov. ballot's sheriff race


Former Webb County sheriff vying for independent candidacy

By Miguel Timoshenkov
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 9:37 PM CDT
Rick Flores' name may still appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Webb County Sheriff.
Flores lost an average of 80 votes during the runoff elections on July 31.
As an independent candidate, Flores needed to raise at least 500 support signatures, but those supporters could not participate in the primary elections from May 29 or in the July runoff.
“Regardless that we lost those votes, we will continue on the electoral process,” Flores said via a phone call. “I talked to the Department of State to get advice on how I could show up on the ballot (and they)

Free publicity hound and sheriff candidate Rick Flores wore his favorite cuff links for one of many photo ops between now and November 6.  He is determined to let the voters decide whom they want as Webb County's top cop.

On a side note, Don Pablo's Restaurant has entered the mix to possibly host LaSanbe's next meet-up.

Meanwhile, in a city council contest......



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Developments

Kaleb Canales' time as the Portland Trailblazers head coach was short-lived.  Time to move on. 

And what's this I hear about Yolanda Salinas running for city council?  Never a dull moment in Laredo politics.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rapt Audience

City council was briefed on the most recent legislative activity at the state level, and what the future holds for bills that have an impact here at home.  The discussion was so interesting that everyone was on the edge of their seats.  Well, almost everybody.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Headlines


Other headlines in today's paper are:
  • Advocacy group wants thoughts on plastic bag use
  • Former principal sues school district
Feel free to discuss.

City Services


The mulch pile next to the public library, which was available to the public for free, is no longer there.  The sign is still up, but the material has not been replenished recently.  On several occasions, I went to the site to load up on mulch for my yard, as did others.  I placed a call to the solid waste department.  Apparently, at the landfill you can get all the mulch your heart desires, but the person I spoke to could not tell me why the city did away with its satellite station.   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunny Sunday Thread

Played a little tennis for lunch.  Good sweat.  Good times.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Laredo Is Not A War Zone

Nevermind the Apache Helicopter behind me.



(Video courtesy of the LMT)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Open Thread

I've been thinking lately of what I'm going to do for La Sanbe's five-year anniversary.  A meet-up would be nice, but I don't think we could recapture the magic of our past soirees.  Another local blogger thought up the idea of joining forces, so to speak, to host a casual event where we could view a movie and have some refreshments.  That's possible. 

We have about six weeks to go, so feel free to offer any suggestions.  Just remember, La Sanbe has no working budget to go with, so the simpler the better.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sour Grapes

Post-election comments from candidates can range from rehearsed to downright colorful, to put it mildly.  It's probably my favorite part of the electoral process.  You get to see people at their best or their worst.  Locally, it can get entertaining because you know the candidates are making it all up as they go along.
   
Tuesday night I didn't keep track of who exactly started off their speech by thanking gawd, but He was definitely on a lot of people's minds.  I don't know if this has always been a common practice.  Usually you see that sort of thing when somebody wins a Grammy.

For the most part, we didn't see anything outrageous like the one year when a JP, or constable winner appeared drunk during the t.v. interview.  This time around, things were pretty low key.  However, I was disturbed by Anna Cavazos Ramirez's take after she lost her county attorney post to Marco Montemayor.  Never once did she offer congratulations, or well wishes to her opponent.  All she could come up with was to raise the specter of impropriety that will exist once Mr. Montemayor takes office.
The reason I always funded my own campaigns were because I didn't want anyone to have my strings to pull.  And so, in this situation, it's going to be very hard, I believe, to say no to a lot of people who paid a lot of money to ensure this victory for him.
 
So already Mr. Montemayor is off to a bad start.  He won and now he owes favors to his financial supporters.  That could very well be the overall state of local politics, but to come out and say it right after the election speaks volumes about you.  Emotions are flying high at that moment, but composure is key.  Losing your dignity after a rout may explain why you lost.  It's fascinating to watch the contrasts between the winners and losers, but taking the low road can be a real turnoff.  I wish Ms. Cavazos Ramirez the best.  Somehow I feel we haven't seen the last of her.

 

Meet And Greet


City officials will meet tomorrow with military personnel who have been practicing aerial maneuvers over the last month or so.  See the El Mañana story here.

I've noticed the copters flying in south Laredo on a nightly basis.  They're usually flying in pairs.  Their presence probably has an effect on neighboring cartels, and smugglers thinking about running rampant on this side of the border.  Undoubtedly, city council is grateful for this military show of force.  We'll stay tuned to see if the mayor goes bearing biscuits to the pilots. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Something Other Than Politics


We hadn't talked about mascots in a while, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to show you a local commercial that makes use of grown people dressed up in furry costumes, and toys around with a little copyright infringement.  The spot is an invitation for a Bible camp that took place last month. 

The whole thing is a bit surreal.  The bear mascot appears to be propped up by something.  And his accent I can't place, but the Laredo Lemurs come to mind for some reason.