Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

956 Cloudy Skies


I captured an eerie scene yesterday.  I don't think the flock of birds means anything, but it made me pause for a while.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Person Of The Year 2012


It's time again to select our "Person of the Year."  Without further ado La Sanbe proudly presents Charlie San Miguel, an elected official whose days seemed numbered in a year that saw an end to the Mayan calendar, and supposedly an end to mankind.  On all counts, finality was merely a tease. 

Mr. San Miguel set out early to make his mark.  If he wasn't being tough on the police chief, or suggesting council pray before the start of each meeting, he was penning an OpEd piece on the importance of ethics in politics.  He wanted to make his presence known so he fastened his Jesus fish and hit the ground running.  Unfortunately, his eagerness was soon matched by his ignorance of policy, procedure, and etiquette. 



Throughout 2012 Charlie San Miguel's answer for everything was "I didn't know."  (See LareDOS -- Eduardo Garza vs. Hector Farias:  The Three-Tent Circus Gets a Fourth)  When questioned about conflicts of interest, San Miguel cited amnesia.  When he took home money from a fundraiser, he claimed ignorance.  It all came to a head when he called a press conference.  It seemed like he was going to resign after allegations of nepotism arose, because his sons were hired by the fire department.  If it was a choice between him or his sons quitting, it would be him.  But he stayed on after receiving multiple, supportive text messages from his constituents.  That and the fact that he felt he was being bullied by his council colleagues.  

Charlie San Miguel was toxic.  I thought he would surely resign, or that city council would sanction him for his lapses in judgement, but the worst he received was a tongue-lashing.  City council, including the mayor, was careful in its handling of San Miguel.  If they acted too sternly, they would be seen as thugs.  But I have to question their awareness of city charter specifics as well.  When I asked Mike Garza about the nepotism question on the fire department application, his reply was, "Standard applications for all city employees I would assume.  It's a standard question at UISD also and insure it applies at LISD, LCC and the County."

With weaseling friends like these, who needs to resign?

Yes, Charlie San Miguel came in as a moral champion of ethics.  Little did he know that the cause he supported would be used to keep him in line.  Charlie San Miguel made a splash in 2012 but for all the wrong reasons. 

He wears his religion proudly.  To call him out on anything means that dirty politics is at play.  For someone who's supposed to be a political newbie, he sure knows how to play the game.  The bungling mayor is on his last leg, but we'll still have Charlie San Miguel. 

Congratulations, Mr. San Miguel.  You are LaSanbe's 'Person of the Year.' 


Friday, December 28, 2012

Mayor Plans For Washington






In what might be his last KGNS in-studio interview of 2012, Mayor Raul Salinas went on t.v. to say nothing about a lot of things.  A more pressing matter on his mind is that the Cowboys get a win this weekend. 

He mentions going back to Washington to speak to our representatives.  Can't he just pick up the phone?  Sit and watch for three minutes, if you like.





Thursday, December 27, 2012

We Must Divert






People haven't caught on that you can make money from recyclable stuff.  If they did, then we wouldn't see over-stuffed trash cans on pickup day after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sunny And Cool


Several things going on in this picture.  What originally caught my eye was the old metal gate open to a chain link fence.  But there's also a crumbling sidewalk with a light pole in the way of pedestrians.  And finally, stairs leading to a window.

Nonsensical creations in the public, and private world collide.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012



Time to reflect on the things we got, the things we have, and the things that happened in 2012.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Warm Holiday Thread

Been preoccupied with Christmas preparations.  Heard any good news lately?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not Really Evolved






A school in Brownsville was locked down yesterday because two numbskulls showed up across the street with weapons in their hands.  Un-fuckin-believable.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beautiful Pooches


I don't own a dog, but that didn't stop me from attending the 'Puppy Posada' hosted by the Laredo Animal Protective Society this evening.  I appreciate the work that they do, so I wanted to show my support.





LAPS is in need of blankets, and dog food, but monetary donations are welcomed too to cover their operating expenses.  Contact information can be found on their Facebook page. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Passive Boasting






The mayor completed another overnight rooftop toy collection.  He's been apparently doing this for many years.  This year, however, was a little different.  He posed after the event with the usual bounty of toy donations, but he did so in a very I-went-to-Saudi-Arabia-and-all-I-got-was-this-stupid-t-shirt manner.

Photo courtesy of the LMT

UPDATE:  Crews are installing some palm trees under the bridge on Guadalupe/Chihuahua.  Heavy loads of mulch required. 


 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Someone's Upset

Via the LMT Opinion Page today:

Our local politicians and city manager, I imagine with the approval of the city council, invested over $2.5 million in a structure to house a branch of the Mexican Customs.

 This branch was intended to process cargo to Mexican cities where there are no Mexican Customs offices.

The project was supposed to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits from the sale of jet fuel, landing fees and freight handling to load and unload aircraft.

They are now bragging about the facility where the Mexican government allows only a few firms (not the general public) who ship parts or components that will become part of a product, which will then be subsequently exported, to get a permit from the Mexican government to have their goods inspected.

These goods come directly from the Laredo Airport and are bound to one of six Custom houses in Mexico.

Since the products allowed are not produced in Laredo, they would have to come from somewhere else.

It is my opinion that we are trying to sell a service that nobody will buy. It is very expensive and time consuming.

If the cargo comes by the air, the owner would have to pay for two takeoffs and landings, since most of the fuel is consumed in takeoff and landing, plus demurrage charges while the cargo is inspected, plus handling charges.

Wouldn’t it be more cost effective for the shipper to fly the cargo directly from origin to destination for half of the cost?

If the cargo comes via truck, it would be handled the way it is handled now.

It would go to a custom broker’s warehouse where he does not pay handling, clear customs at the bridge and flown out of the Laredo Airport or shipped via truck, since all the airports (except Chihuahua) are very close.

I believe our politicians have wasted millions of our tax dollars for their failure “to do the math.”

They tried to build a rail bridge to charge $50 per car when one of the railroads was paying nothing because they owned their own bridge and the other was paying $10 per car.

The traffic from Central America never came because it would have cost shippers two or three times more than what they were paying via their traditional routes.

Now they are spending $120K to sponsor a gathering of logisticians that will not bring anything good for the city except maybe occupy a few hotel rooms and a gathering that is being promoted by the same party that organized the Central American junkets.

Few in the business community know about it.

Sincerely,

Paul Cavazos




 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's Another Gas Leak Between Us?

CenterPoint Energy crews will be closing the 3600 block of Hendricks, between Plum and Locust Street to repair a gas leak.  Please follow all detour signs.  The closures will last approximately all day today, TUESDAY, December 18, 2012.

Info. courtesy of the City of Laredo.

The previous gas leak post I composed was earlier this month.  I thought Laredo's supposed slogan was, "There's always a reason to celebrate."  Nevermind that -- always prepare for a gas leak, I say.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mixed News Thread

A reader in the previous post voiced disappointment at my lack of acknowledgement about the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I've been out of the loop, so to speak, since I left home early Friday morning.  Blogging on the go is not one of my strong points.  At any rate, I don't know what to say about the shooting other than I can't wrap my head around the fact that some deranged individual shot down twenty kids.  Seeing images of people who were related to the victims cry out in horror leaves me dazed.  I'm having trouble processing this; I can't imagine what they're going through. 

I haven't gone through all the facts concerning this incident.  Perhaps I'll take some time to discuss what happened later this week, and comment on what should happen next.  But if somebody wants to ask me a specific question, I can always be reached through email by clicking on my 'Keyrose' link.

In scanning local news today, I noticed that Jorge Vera won his runoff race.  Good for him.

And In another LMT story, I read that the city spends quite a bit in hosting events.  Whatever.

Comment on anything you'd like.  I'll be back at home base very soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Open Thread

Cold, drizzly kind of morning with intervals of light snow.  Oh wait.  I'm in a different area code (513).

On the flight over here, I wondered how some of our elected officials fit in the cozy economy seats.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blogging from afar

Taking a break from the barrio blogging thing to see how people in the Pacific Northwest live.  I thought the weather was going to be more disagreeable but Laredo's morning drizzle gave me a preview of the weather over here.  So far I've had free-range chicken eggs, local coffee, and a tour of the world's beers.  Not bad for a Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sanbe Merch






Give that special someone a slice of Laredo this holiday season.  You can get this original piece of artwork now for only $49.99 (while supplies last).  Assorted colors available.  The first 50 orders will be signed by yours truly.  Order now!

Just Stay Home

Policy eyed in hiring of new director


By Mikaela Rodriguez
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 2:45 AM CST
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In an apparent violation of county policy, county commissioners appointed a community center director this week without soliciting applications.

However, County Commissioner Jaime Canales said community center director posts have historically been waived from compliance with the policy.
That is why this happens.
 

Low turnout in city runoff


By Mikaela Rodriguez
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 2:45 AM CST
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Only about 7 percent of registered voters in City Council District 7 cast ballots during early voting, which ended Tuesday.



Always Thinking


Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona were alerted to a number of metal containers found on farm land, El MaƱana reports.  The suspicious cans were filled with marijuana.  It's believed that drug traffickers shot the cans over the border using some type of canon.

This method of transporting drugs into the U.S. is not the most ideal.  You have to wonder if narcos are thinking outside the box, or just toying with law enforcement officials.  Where did they come up with this?



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Actually Thinking This Out

Who would've thought that Frank Sciaraffa would be brave enough to challenge his colleagues.
Commissioner Frank Sciaraffa stood firmly against a raise in rates, and pointed out residents in the communities slated for higher charges live below the poverty line and are thus not comparable to the average state resident.

Passage from today's LMT (Mikaela Rodriguez)

Water rates have not been raised since 2004, according to the story.  And fee hikes are necessary to keep up with infrastructure needs.  But that doesn't mean you just raise rates to keep pace with other communities. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Life Is Now Complete


UPDATE:

Background check


Grievance prompts look into director's work history

By Mikaela Rodriguez
LAREDO MORNING TIMES
Published: Monday, December 10, 2012 1:23 AM CST
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A grievance was filed last month against Webb County Facilities Director Gilberto Garza amidst prompting from the county attorney and Administrative Services director to inquire into Garza’s professional background.
It's good to know that Gilberto Garza's (Eduardo Garza's nephew) hiring hasn't been forgotten. 
 
And in news that sounds like J.C. Martin Jr. redux.
The FBI says county officials took kickbacks to hand out swollen bids for paving roads in Pueblo Nuevo. And the allegations don't stop there.
Other county employees are accused of submitting fake invoices for equipment and pocketing the cash. Others took bribes to dole out bids from a Homeland Security Department grant destined for the Sheriff's Office, court documents state.
Everything old is new again.

 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Many Pics Thread






Councilman Jorge Vera was the unfortunate victim in a hit-and-run accident.  What are the odds that he works this into his next agenda item?





Trees may come and go, especially in a drought.  But menudo is forever.





How's my driving?  Not good if you're missing four outside tires from you rear axle(s).





Just added some fresh homemade compost to my sage plant.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Welcome To Laredo, Paisanos

Let us know what we can do for you.

LaSanbe will set up its own paisano welcome station somewhere on Santa Maria Ave.  I just hope I'm not mistaken for a homeless person with sign in hand.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Open Thread

It's good to step back from my blogging duties every now and then, and not have to think about something to write about.  But I have to wonder what the deal was with that numbskull who was caught with two unconscious children in the back seat the other day.  He was apparently stopped because he was swerving on the road.  The cop finds the kids, and he's taken to the pokey to pose crying for his mugshot.  Amazing what happens when you're home re-organizing your CDs. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Day

Another gas leak.
CenterPoint Energy crews will be closing the 1000 block of San Enrique between Washington and Victoria to repair a gas leak.  Please follow all detour signs.  The closure will last approximately all day today, WEDNESDAY, December 5, 2012.
Information courtesy of the City of Laredo.
Yesterday's gas leak story here.


Who Is Hector Vargas?

He is supposedly head of Laredo Logistics International, a consultant for the local transportation market.  City officials have awarded him a lot of money to put together a Logistics Cities World Forum to take place next year.  This, of course, has upset other local groups who feel they've been shut out of the process.  But there's a reason the city is doing business with Mr. Vargas exclusively. 

Hector Vargas has been director of the free trade zone, Meridian 100.  Back in 2008 the city and Meridian signed a memorandum of understanding to work on enhancing trade here.  Mr. Vargas has travelled with city staff to El Salvador to create working relationships with other countries.  In the picture below, you can see that Eduardo Garza also attended.



In the Laredo Logistics Int. website, Uni-Trade, i.e. Eduardo Garza, is cited as a partner. 

It's no accident that these names keep popping up.  City leaders, Mr. Vargas, and Mr. Garza have been connected at the hip for some time now.  And both businessmen have benefitted from this cozy relationship.  But gawd forbid anybody should raise any concern over this.  You're bound to get a hairy eyeball from Councilman Juan Narvaez.  Via today's LMT (Mikaela Rodriguez):
The Laredo Development Foundation was awarded $290,000 in the city’s 2012-2013 budget, but Narvaez said the organization has not delivered in promoting the city as it should be, besides planning the yearly Laredo Logistics Manufacturing Symposium.

He also called on other local groups to bring fresh ideas to city officials for consideration.

“What is (LDF’s) goal with the money and how do they plan to invest it?” Narvaez said.

“If you don’t take risks, you don’t make money. Maybe some of these people criticizing (the conference) have never taken risks.”

Of note is the fact that Juan Narvaez appointed Hector Vargas to the Transportation and Traffic Safety Committee four years ago.  They're BFFs, hence Narvaez' backing of Vargas in the paper today.  Hector Vargas is getting his because he's worked the system like nobody's business.  He knows how to play ball, and the city has been too willing to go along.

Amigo blog LaredoTejas thinks the city is spending its money frivolously.  But what's 120K amongst friends?  At the very least, city leaders could score some free plane rides out of this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Select(ive) Discussion

Yesterday afternoon I reached out to several council members after reading about Select Energy Service's expansion (see post below) in Laredo.  SES stands to gain from tax breaks as they grow their water management business for the Eagle Ford Shale.  My concern was that we would hear very little discussion from city council on such an important subject, local water use.

As expected, I wasn't disappointed by city council, and the city manager.  What I thought should've been a detailed explanation about future water needs, expansion in infrastructure, water fees for commercial use, truck traffic, tax breaks, etc., instead only lasted about three minutes.  And Roque Vela Jr.'s comment pretty much says it all.
This is something that they've been doing business for a while.  They're growing.  I think it's imperative that we essentially get out of the way and let them continue to grow and create jobs in our area.
Jorge Vera, and Roque Vela downplayed highlighted the fact that Select Energy was expanding locally, that they're only adding more personnel.  If that's the case, then why the tax abatements?  Being business friendly is one thing, but turning a blind eye to things is shameful.

Check out the footage from last night's meeting to see the level of intellectualism, and concern coming out of City Hall.

 

A blog reader recently sent me some illustrations that detail expansion projects in the works for Mines Rd.  Jorge Vera gladly pointed to these in his campaign poster, but as far as I know, the projects are still in the planning stages.  You would think he would bring up infrastructure expansion in his discussion last night since Select Energy will be situated in his district, but.........



Monday, December 3, 2012

Business Love In The Time Of Drought

Vote could mean jobs


By Mikaela Rodriguez
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 1:51 AM CST
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Laredoans could see the creation of 105-plus jobs if City Council votes today to approve an agreement with Select Energy Services, a Houston-based oilfield service company.

City officials have entertained discussions for the company’s expansion in Laredo for about a year, courting the company with the promise of tax abatements and incentives.

Select would receive $95,000 toward property taxes for five years and a waiver of building permit fees, totaling $100,000 in savings.

Monica Tomutsa, administrative assistant, said city officials were most interested in job creation and the type of salaries a company wishing to expand locally could offer.

New positions with Select average $40,000 a year with benefits.
Select Energy Services will provide water management services for the drilling industry in the Eagle Ford Shale.  This bodes well for local government officials because they can show to the public that they are working to bring in good-paying jobs to the community.  But I can almost predict that nobody on council will bring up the issue of drought conditions in our area, or the demand that the drilling activity is having on our water reserves and on our city, not to mention the pittance that companies have to pay to procure large amounts of water for the drilling itself.
 
Of note also is that the NY Times questions what tax abatements really mean for municipalities.
The free flow of tax breaks and subsidies in Texas makes it particularly fertile ground to examine these economic development deals and the fundamental trade-off behind them: the more states give to businesses, the less they have available in the short term to spend on basic services, a calculation made more stark by the recession.
I understand that this is how business is done, especially in Texas, but it's not clear if Raul Salinas, Carlos Villarreal, and city council think this out in the long term.  They give tax breaks to companies, and then they raise our rates on trash pickup, and park use to make ends meet.  It's weird how that works.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

You Shall Not Pass!

Something interesting happened at the Christmas parade Friday night.  A float with a Christmas Story-inspired leg lamp had to stop in its tracks because the display was too tall. 

A power line of some sort was obviously too low to let the float pass.  The people on the flatbed had to put down their American flag to tend to the dilemma.  At first somebody thought about lifting the line with a plastic candy cane, but that wasn't going to work.  Eventually they had to tilt the illuminated leg lamp to make it through the route.  The driver honked for the group's success.

(Video shot in front of the Perlita Bakery on San Bernardo.)


 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Warm December Thread

The last month is finally here and I'm wearing shorts.