Friday, May 31, 2013

More And More

With all the supposed new trade traffic ahead, is Laredo really serious about providing safe infrastructure for the public?  (more later)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Laredo Commercials

They're funny.  And embarrassing at the same time.

Joe Rubio: Office Raid Edition

Fifteen years ago today, D.A. Joe Rubio's office was raided.  Thousands of files were seized by the FBI after charges of corruption within the office arose.
Rubio proclaimed his innocence, saying that he had no knowledge of illegal activity occurring within the D.A.'s office.  The people of Laredo believed him and he was re-elected to another term. 

Specific instances of case fixing eventually came to light.  The "Pyramid of Power," a graphic used by prosecutors to highlight those involved in the extortion scheme, cited Joe Rubio's father, Joe Rubio Sr.

The second witness was Ramon who testified that about a week after his arrest, Rubio Sr. came to his home at the 1800 block of Mercer and asked him for $1,000 to "fix his case."

People with different charges against them - from DUIs to drug charges - had their cases dismissed in return for money.

Other names that stand out from all those accused are Ramon Villafranca and Jesse Castaneda.  The Rubio name, however, is the one people will remember the most.  Behind the success and popularity the D.A. experienced, there will always be the cloud of doubt cast by those around him. 

This was a pretty big fucking deal, to quote Joe Biden.  I would go as far to say that this was bigger than the whole J.C. Martin Jr. scandal. 

Justice was eventually served.  The Rubio saga left a dark mark on Laredo politics.  It might not be widely discussed nowadays, even though people have vivid recollections of the key players.  But it should be a reminder to us that the nagging little issue of ethics is nothing to take lightly in Laredo.  Local corruption has done much to alter our psyche.  It must be remembered and dealt with heartily as we move ahead.   

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sit And Wait Thread

The San Antonio Spurs sit and wait to start the NBA Finals.

I'll sit and wait a total of 112 days to celebrate this blog's sixth year of existence.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Power Of The Garden

In a previous post I talked about thriving lawns and gardens acting as status symbols that were easily viewed by the public at large.  The lush, carefully-maintained, curbside landscapes of Laredo give hints to the outside world of someone's standing in society.  Nowadays neighborhood associations might influence the requirements of a private, outdoor setting.  But regardless of inspiration, a nice carpet of grass reflects well on the homeowners. 

A colleague responded to my observation by saying that her grandmother wasn't attempting to impress anyone in caring for her beautiful lawn.  Granted, an ultra-green, St. Augustine sod layout in a humble neighborhood might not invoke the thought of financial security, but perhaps it points to other qualities the caretaker possesses, such as patience, permanence, experience or knowledge.  For people who put a personal touch on their landscapes - making it distinctive from others - their work may be more of a hobby.  Whatever the case, it's not unusual to see nice lawns in Laredo's middle class neighborhoods and working class barrios.

A story in the NY Times this weekend featured some background on Asian refugees who work community gardens to, among other things, ease the stresses of daily life.

Many immigrant and refugee cultures do not have a tradition of formal mental health treatment, said Rocco Cheng, a psychologist and a director of the California Reducing Disparities Project, a statewide policy study. “Therapy is a Western concept,” he said. “The Hmong do not have a word for mental illness.” But, he said, they are well able to grasp the idea of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellness.

A whole host of factors will decide whether or not a person seeks mental health treatment:  access, culture, stigma, or consent.  I for one can't say that I know anyone in my family who has ever sought the care of a mental health specialist.  In our society I think people look for other outlets to deal with their demons.  However, I can't stress enough the benefits that physical activity has on the body and mind. 

I get some type of therapy every time I work on my yard.  Whether I'm toiling hard enough to develop new blisters on my fingers, or just watering each plant carefully, the outdoor activity clears my mind and recharges me entirely.  This is where local gardens and lawns come in.  For some, a garden might just be a hobby -- something to help pass the time, or a creation that stems from a real passion for gardening.
But I have to wonder if somebody actually takes the time to go through the motions of landscaping to cure something like loneliness.  People have been known to talk to their plants.  You can probably think of different reasons why people garden. 

If nothing else, seeing a garden from the planning phase to the time it actually matures gives a person a sense of accomplishment.  That definitely has the potential of giving somebody a feeling of wellness.  

In my case, my landscape is constantly evolving.  Some plants work, some don't.  My preferences change with time.  I move things around to make the most of them.  I try out different trees, plants, accents.  The things that work in the garden, the ones that last, will stay with me forever.  My yard, I can surely say, has helped keep me sane.  It's also helped me keep fit.  And it's an example of my character, I suppose.  There's a sense of pride and longevity that's on full display.  Looking at it from this perspective, my garden is a reflection of me: one with deep roots in the community, many features, and an overall health.  

Thanks for reading.      

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bully Thread

The matter of Los Olvidados and Wilkinson Metal is getting serious. 

Residents living across the street from the metal recycling business have had enough of the noise, rumbling, and debris.  They've contacted city leaders, and have made their concerns known to the business owner.  Now they've filed a lawsuit because nothing is getting done.

Wilkinson, however, is standing his ground.  After he was interviewed by KGNS, he taunted the attorney representing the residents.

We were here first.  This is our land and they're not pushing us off.  (directs himself at attorney)  YOU GOT THAT BUDDY?!  WE AIN'T GOING NOWHERE!

This is definitely a contentious issue.  The homeowners are tired of this matter being dragged out.  And Mr. Wilkinson has to worry about his livelihood.  However, acting like a bully in front of the cameras is counterproductive.  We'll keep watching.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

City Staff Not Being Cooperative

Odie Arambula, in this week's "Monday Wash" column, wrote about the city's ethics commission getting together to discuss matters.
At least I think he was the only one who mentioned the event.  I can't really be sure since I haven't been keeping up with every tidbit of information around here.  Nevertheless....

The present states of affairs in the land, from any city-county to the White House, have the neighbors on edge.
Unfortunately, neighbors across town have their radars at different levels of local governance awareness for the public body to feel the pinch.
Yet, we just might start hearing awakening sounds on the west side of Flores Avenue when the City Ethics Commission starts working.
The online city page should show a posting of the first Ethics Commission meeting for Tuesday, May 21.

In my in box today I find out why I haven't heard much of any gathering of the ethics commission:  BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!  Apparently there are forces working against the commission.  Check it out.

Ethics: the principles of morality, including both the science of the good and the nature of the right.

The reason for ethics in a civilized society, is to insure that there are certain rules of conduct that must apply to everyone equally in order that civility, honesty, trust, and  prosperity  can be shared by all regardless of affiliation or beliefs. This applies more importantly to the people that have sworn an oath to represent their constituents and the city of Laredo in an honest and forthright manner and to support and uphold all laws, rules and regulations as outlined by our city charter.

The citizens of Laredo VOTED and approved the creation of an ethics committee in order to make sure that the governance of the people we elected could be held accountable for any malfeasance or decisions made that are in direct disregard for the wishes of the populous and more specifically our City Charter!

Regretfully however, the stonewalling still continues. There have been 3 attempts to convene the committee to hear issues related to ethical behavior but have all been rebuked by the City Attorney and/or The City Manager, citing that these meetings were not posted and had not been vetted by either one of them first. In addition they are also allowed to edit the complaint before presenting it to the committee. The committee’s last attempt to convene was on May 21st which was called by Mike Garza to clarify an ethics issue related to conflict of interest. The committee was informed by the City Attorney that the meeting was disallowed and that instead the committee should consider attending an ethics workshop in Austin in order to better educate themselves on issues dealing with ethics and that the city would gladly pay for their meals and lodging while there.
First and foremost what the City Attorney and City Manager don’t seem to understand is that they are perceived as part of the problem and not the solution. They have repeatedly offered nothing but impediments to the notion of an ethics committee and for them to sit in judgment of what can or cannot proceed beyond their domain is in and of itself a terrible violation of ethical behavior and a slap in the face to the people that worked tirelessly to formulate this Code of Ethics and to the people that voted for it.

In its present form you can expect that many valid issues regarding ethics and ethical behavior will never see the light of day, thanks to the demonstrated immoral and seemingly uncaring attitude of the City Attorney and City Manager and all the puppets whose strings they control.
Humberto Trevino Jr.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hazy Haze Haze

I thought about submitting a FOIA request to the city to find out what the mayor and city council had for dinner last night, but I was informed that I might get docked for being a nuissance that way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Victoria Day Thread

Yesterday I went in to a local Wendy's on San Bernardo Ave. to get a couple of burgers.  There was a line at the drive-thru, as well as inside.  Even though my order was small compared to the other customers, my wait was just as extended.  The clerk, being mindful of the time between my order being placed and getting the bag in my hand, offered me a top-up on my lemonade.  I declined but appreciated her attentiveness to customer service.
Saturday night, in between SNL sketches, Richard Noriega popped up on the small screen plugging the Sunday edition of the Laredo Times.  (It's odd how he's never too far away.)  It's interesting to have one media outlet using the services of another.  It points, I guess, to the changing nature of print media.

It's my neighborhood's turn to have a city-sponsored clean up.  In my mailbox I found a flier urging me to have any unwanted items on the curb Wednesday morning.  In the eleven years that the Keyroses have lived in the Chacon, we've never gotten a personal notice for an upcoming trash round up.  You know I'm too cynical when I think it's being done because of the elections next year.  On the bright side, I'm thankful that my neighbors don't have a lot of junk set out for Wednesday's event. 

Last thing.  I attended the graduation ceremony at TAMIU Saturday morning.  Congrats to my friend for obtaining his graduate degree.  What wasn't so pleasant was having to sit through the mayor's unprepared comments.  You would think that after seven years in office he would become a better speaker, but no.  He probably thinks he's a good ad libber.  Either that or he knows that nobody is paying attention.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fake Goods In Laredo?

Say it ain't so!

I don't think I ever went into the J Design store in downtown Laredo.

Federal agents working undercover bought counterfeit designer products including handbags, wallets, hats, sunglasses, shirts and luggage. Brands included Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Coach, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Rolex.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Thing About Insurance

I think I know why the Laredo Times doesn't have their top story up on their website.
It's a paywall kinda thing.  Nevertheless, I would've loved to see the comical public comments on the "Insurance hike OK'd" (Health premiums to increase by 20 percent) story.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

1755 Thread

Happy Don Tomas Sanchez day!!!!  On this day, the little settlement that could became official.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't Let Them Win

If I had halfway decent singing chops like Astronaut Hadfield, I'd sing Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over."  My low-budget video would include shots of me gasping over newspaper headlines, and getting into one-sided arguments with a computer screen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

National Police Week Thread

Actually this post has nothing to do with cops.  Instead I want to go over a topic that I meant to write about last week.  City council discussed the safety of bicycle riders on local roadways, as well as that of skaters and roller bladers.  A plan to meet their needs came before city hall.
(The reason I didn't cover any city issues after last week's council meeting is because of the lack of interest in the video clips I include in the posts.  Usually I like to capture some footage of the meeting to complement the post; but the videos don't get a lot of hits.  Instead I opted to let those kinds of posts lie.)

Anyway, it was interesting to hear council discuss road safety for bicycle riders.  I have to give Jorge Vera props for acknowledging the issue, even though his concern quickly shifted to the inane subject of reflectors and lighting on bicycles.  One of his arguments centered on the need for bikers to equip their rides with proper reflective gear to make themselves visible to motorists.  I totally agree that bicyclists should employ every safety feature at their disposal every time they hit the road, but given Laredo's sketchy infrastructure, I think bike riders know better than to ride at night. 

Let's take into account the people who have to ride a bike because it's their only form of transportation.  These people might travel longer distances than those who ride for recreation.  Recreational riders stay within a certain area that's comfortable for them, and might ride occassionaly, as opposed to those who do it daily.  We don't have to install bike lanes all throughout the city.  But we do have to identify the need where one exists. 

If I had to ride my bike along Mines Rd., I would not ride on the shoulder.  That area is too busy with truck traffic, as well as regular motorists who come off and feed into I-35.  If I had to commute on Mines I would use the sidewalks.  The dirt surface next to the sidewalks also provides riders with a trail to ride on.  If triathletes or racers absolutely had to use Mines Rd. to train, they would have to pick the time and place to do so, when risks would be reduced.

The same goes with Shiloh Rd. -- If I had to ride it, I would use the sidewalks. 

Because Laredo has to deal with tractor trailers (especially now in the Eagle Ford Shale era), motorists, and visitors from Mexico, safety for bicyclists is a hard issue to tackle.  Bike lanes are not the answer; And relying on the judgement of drivers is not always the safe bet.  But options exist.  I think we need to build on the "sidewalk" infrastructure that's already in place to offer bicyclists safer routes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Christmas Bill

Christmas is more than seven months away, but it's definitely on the minds of our state legislature.  The house passed a bill to allow TX schools to recognize the holiday without fear of litigation.
Richard Raymond is all too happy to play along.

Rep. Raymond’s Bill Allowing Schools to Recognize Merry Christmas Passes House

AUSTIN --Yesterday Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, Chairman of the House Committee on Human Services, passed a bill unanimously 147-0 out of the Texas House of Representatives that authorizes public school districts to recognize traditional winter celebrations like Christmas and Hanukkah. It also allows district personnel to offer traditional greetings like "Merry Christmas" and to display holiday scenes as long as they include symbols of more than one religion or of one religion and a secular symbol.
"This bill allows schools to recognize Merry Christmas without fear of a lawsuit,” Rep. Raymond said. “It is important to recognize the religious and other winter traditions that are so valuable to American culture.”
The bill does not allow school districts to endorse a particular religion but ensures that students and staff alike are free to express their beliefs and share their traditions.

(Presser and pic courtesy of the Raymond camp)

Chalk one up against the war on Christmas, I guess. 

I find it interesting how press releases are presented to us.  The announcement's header describes the Christmas bill as Richard Raymond's, yet media outlets make no mention of him.  Apparently this gem belongs to one Dwayne Bohac.  And it was because of Raymond that the "Merry Christmas" bill passed 147-0.

It's amazing the things our state legislature focuses on.  It would actually be meaningful if students and staff actually were on campus to celebrate the holiday.

Going Out To Vote

People like the mayor and a coworker of mine seem to think that the Hispanic vote is what drives election results, but the numbers don't reveal that.
Last year, Mayor Salinas took time at the start of a council meeting to voice his disappointment with local voter turnout.  He laid out the reasons why we should get to the polls:  the sacrifice made by military personnel, women not being allowed to vote in other countries, and of course, the future of our children.  Little does he know - or perhaps refuses to admit - that voter rolls won't improve because of ineffective people like him.  

But let's get to some actual numbers.

Census data breaks down what groups of people actually showed up to vote during the last two presidential elections.  Black people saw an improvement in their share of eligible voters with 66.2 percent turnout.  Brown people not so much.
Latino turnout dipped slightly, from 49.9 percent in 2008 to 48 percent, while Asian-American turnout was basically unchanged at 47 percent.
The future growth of the Hispanic population looks formidable, but what difference does it make if we don't have an incentive to go out to vote?  Guilt trips are not the way to get us inspired.  Surely we need somebody to show us the way.  Perhaps it's Mayor Joaquin Castro, or some other influential Latino figure.  Or perhaps it's nobody that can help drives local voting numbers up because of the example being provided to us right here in our backyard.

We may have a born leader that emerges from the Hispanic ranks, somebody who will change the way we think about politics and the role of government.  But that might not matter if we're dissuaded from action by the likes of Raul Salinas, Charlie San Miguel, and the rest of the local funky bunch.  Our own leaders are going to have to realize that Laredoans' apathy is a direct reflection of the job they're doing.  They can pat themselves on the back all they want.  But if Webb County turns out at a rate of 30 percent or so, then that's the rating we give our local politicos, and that doesn't make for one hell of a photo op.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

El Patron Thread

On this day in 1978, J.C. Martin Jr. was indicted on mail fraud.  That brought about the move towards a weak mayor system in Laredo.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Sticker From Here On Out

From now on, apart from renewing our car plates, Patricia Barrera will be doing vehicle inspections herself.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tribute: CSM Style

Someone didn't get the Edna Mode 'no capes' memo.

But I think we've found this town's ambassador.

KGNS' Elizabeth Keatinge:

"City Councilman Charlie San Miguel wore a costume including a red cape that paid tribute to the Gateway City."

And of course it wouldn't be a Laredo event without a little copyright infringement. 

(shots courtesy of Pro8news)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I Can Think Clearly Now

The last post I put up was on Tuesday night.  Finally got around to this one after a brief viral illness.  It felt like I had the flu but it was probably just the effects of some serious sinus congestion.  I won't bore you with the phlegmy details.

Today Juan Narvaez was going to sell off all his 8-liner machines from his South Zapata Hwy location.  I think he's going to try something else.

Also today was the big mud run at the North Central Park.  My better half commented that Charlie San Miguel must have a PR person because this time around a trophy is being handed out in honor of Marcos Aranda, the firefighter who recently died of Cancer.  Good way to shift focus away from San Miguel and his bungled job last year, and instead give the run a good name.

And Henry Cuellar hosted a town hall meeting in Zapata.  That's cool.  Now if he could only do that here, that would be great.