Monday, June 23, 2014

Selective Reporting

Over the years this blogger has taken issue with the way the LMT presents itself.  In 2009 I directed a hairy eyeball towards the LMT for their new online subscription fees.  That same year I selected Bill Green as our Person of the Year (not the distinguished honor you might expect).  Since then they've endorsed the likes of George W. Bush for president, and made headline announcements --mug shots included -- of anybody who has been charged even with the smallest of offenses, all to fill space and sell papers.  Their stories make for interesting water cooler chisme, but its coverage that satiates our basest of appetites.

I realize the LMT has a place to fill in our community, and it has to do business in a way to meet its goals.  But every now and then I feel like it does more to dumb us down than serve our interests.  Case in point: today's front page story citing a study by the Institute for Law and Economics that links a spike in foodborne illnesses, and deaths, to the plastic bag ban in San Francisco of 2007.  To push the issue further, the study was again featured in an Op/Ed entry, courtesy of Jess Fields of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.  Mr. Fields includes recent developments regarding our own plastic bag ban.

To read more by this writer, go to his blog.

I think it's a little overkill to, practically, have the same story appear twice in the same issue.  It could be coincidence, a lack of oversight, or a clear expression of where the LMT heads stand on this matter.

Laredo's bag ban notwithstanding, people are already using canvas tote bags to haul their groceries or assorted items.  For the sake of public health, I support information that can shed light on the downside(s) of using these bags, but the information has to be presented in a fair manner.

The ILE study made note of research that found E.coli existing in 8 percent of reusable bags tested, and that people mentioned not being in the habit of washing their bags.  What it left out was that the same study said that washing the bags reduced the bacteria by 99.9 percent; and it encouraged the public being educated about the finding.  The ILE took from that same 2011 study that bags collected in the Los Angeles area had a higher finding of coliform bacteria.  That's interesting since Los Angeles didn't have a bag ban until this year.

Another flaw in the ILE's writing is that it makes a misguided conclusion in that the tote bags are solely responsible for the outbreak without connecting the bacteria to its main source, food products.  The Food Industry Center presented information about the 2006 spinach recall due to E.coli that was traced to central California, and noted the CDC's stat of 5,000 people dying each year from foodborne illnesses.  E.coli comes in many forms and not all of them are harmful enough to cause sickness.  The bacteria can be found in most food products, such as milk, fruits and vegetables, meats, and chickens served at a church function.  E.coli also exists in our intestine.

Webb County has been embroiled in its own E.coli saga.  Last year the bacteria was found in the water.  And currently United I.S.D. is looking to be reimbursed for having to supply its students with bottled water.

If you use tote bags for groceries, by all means, wash them regularly.  And if you come down with a serious case of food poisoning, see a doctor.  But don't get freaked out by some study that makes an undisciplined connection between reusable bags and food-related infections and deaths.  That doesn't help, and neither does the LMT for printing that sort of stuff.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Embrace The Natural Landscape

It's by chance that I came across the dramatic change the Pinehurst grounds took on for this year's U.S. Open.  Irrigation was scaled back in vast parts of the course, and native grass was installed to give the landscape a more natural look.  The parched environment is having an effect on play, as well as on fans who are having to dust off all the flying dirt.

I applaud the green efforts employed in this case.  It's a good example of being mindful of our finite resources.

Closer to home, KGNS spoke of the low water levels currently had at the Amistad Reservoir, the site that drains into the Rio Grande and supplies us with water.

The water level at the dam is at 28 percent, but the director of our municipal utilities department is not worried.  He's optimistic that hurricane season will replenish the reservoir.  Until then we don't have to take further action in regards to water conservation.  (Stage 3 water restrictions were instituted on May 6 and end on September 30, 2014)

If we're at 28 percent, I would think we'd need to do more to conserve water.  But what do I know?  The KGNS reporter said we (each household?) use 137 gallons of water per day.  For an area as dry as ours, I'm amazed that water conservation education consists only of intermittent watering restrictions.  A trivial mention of drip irrigation systems is made in the last press release used by the City of Laredo.  What do the natives know about drip irrigation, water barrels, or grey water systems?

Councilman Perez brought up an item yesterday that speaks to water conservation:
Discussion with possible action to enter into an Interlocal Agreement withTexas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to install post and cableand zeroscaping at a triangular property bordered by U.S. Hwy 83,Guadalupe Street and Milmo Street that is owned by TxDOT.
I'm not sure if they actually meant to write zeroscaping, instead of xeriscaping.  Either way, I think the city could do more to promote conservation.   

I know I risk sounding paternalistic with my views on water conservation, but I really think this is just one aspect which is part of a more sustainable way of living that can enhance our quality of life.   

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This Is Partly Why Laredo Sucks

I thought I was the only person Charlie San Miguel took to ignoring, but judging from several comments recently, it seems to be a trend.  Not all local politicos act this way; some have taken the time to respond to my questions via texts or phone calls.  Even if they don't answer my questions, or I don't like their answers, I appreciate the time they took to speak to me personally.

I'm looking to contact my councilman via snail mail.  He didn't respond to my last text, so plan B is to write to him.  I want to see if he utilizes his home office allowance.  Three years ago city council upped the amount that they could recover for office supplies and what not.

The Op/Ed submission (pictured above) is exactly the kind of thing that turns people off to politics.  When people wonder why voters don't vote, it's because of things like this.    

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Random Shots

In looking at some of the archived blog posts, I appreciate the random shots, like the one pictured here, that break up the monotony of my usual commentary.  The pictures have no special meaning or purpose, other than to capture a little piece of Laredo.  Enjoy.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Charlie San Miguel Got Paid

Councilman Charlie San Miguel and Laredo Accurate Inspections can now rest knowing that pending payment for services rendered has been submitted.  He's got his money and the case is now considered closed.  But what we know is that the $80,000 Mr. San Miguel was awarded is for the work that passed inspection.  In a previous post I included a passage from a state report that mentioned improper installation of materials (shoddy work) and discrepancies between measures installed and measures invoiced.

Webb County and Charlie San Miguel settled for $80,000.  It may be a while before we know what he initially charged the county.  Naturally, Charlie San Miguel is not going to answer my calls to clarify what his company charged for, and if all the charges were for work that was actually done.  And why would he?  He's got his 80K and it's time to move on.  Or is it?

Webb County agenda item from May 2010.

Commissioner John Galo told me recently that other weatherization work lawsuits are coming down the pike, and that the amounts are for much more.  Disgusting.

In a 2011 LMT editorial, Hector Farias Jr. wrote that Aaron Ramos, of Marion Services, did work on his father's home.  The father here is former County Judge Andy Ramos.  I'm not sure if Mr. Ramos has fallen on hard times, but somehow he was approved by somebody at the county for home improvements.

Two things are wrong here: Andy Ramos taking advantage of public assistance to make home repairs, and his son, a contractor, doing the work with the promise of public funds for compensation.

Which company will be next to collect a check from Webb County?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pete Saenz Courting Us

The general election is five months away but one candidate has hit the ground running.  Attorney Pete Saenz has been out meeting people, holding 'Cafecito con Pete Saenz' meetings, to gauge how the city should move forward.

I like this because of its informal round table approach.  You get personal face-to-face time with the candidate without the usual distractions that are characteristic of pachangas.  Not that there's anything wrong with events that include music, food and dancing, but perhaps you can pick up on a person's sincerity in a more intimate setting.

And this probably gives Mr. Saenz a chance to ease into the race and get into mayoral candidate mode.  I think it's something that other veteran politicos couldn't do.  Maybe.  If Cindy Liendo or Jerry Garza did something like this, they would be given an earful.  They'd hear about wasted tax dollars, empty promises and public corruption with a little more pointed disdain.  It would be an all-out circus, maybe, but at least there would be coffee.