Thursday, August 28, 2014

My City Tis Of Thee

Pictured above is a large, vacant lot near Cigarroa High School.  Green spaces are admirable, even if they get a little shaggy.  In their most unkemptness, open spaces break up the monotony of our concrete jungle.  Many a Laredoan is used to a tidy environment.  I, for one, don't mind polishing up the edges of our landscape, but there's something to be said for public land kept in its natural state.

The tire (and not pictured: a five-gallon container) must go, along with large pieces of trash.

Speaking of open spaces, I got to thinking of the supposed dearth of parking in the downtown area.  People are constantly complaining about the lack of parking downtown.  I took to Google Maps to stake out the privately owned parking lots available for visitors.  The city block labeled with a diamond above is occupied by the parking garage owned by the city.  The stars denote private lots.  Add to that all the metered spaces.

There is parking downtown.  No se hagan mensos!  

George Washington Statue Unharmed

A woman crashed into a brick and mortar barrier at city hall yesterday.  This new crash adds to our burgeoning series, Laredo's Greatest Hits, where we document the mishaps of local drivers.  It was reported that the female driver was not seriously injured.  Good for her.  But now comes the bill for destruction of city property.

In other news, Allstate ranks Laredo 8th as the safest city to drive in.  That rating was tabulated using information of Allstate insured drivers.  The takeaway here is that Laredo drivers don't overwhelmingly chose Allstate as their insurance provider.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Laredo's Greatest Hits

Yet another report of a driver crashing into a home.  The incident occurred early Sunday morning, with the female driver abandoning the vehicle after it crashed into a home in the Los Presidentes subdivision.

This kind of story pops up every now and then, like prostitution stings, or 8 liner business busts.  We've dedicated blog time to hookers being rounded up on San Bernardo Ave. but I've never given a second thought to property being destroyed by reckless drivers.  It's a miracle more people haven't died from these types of crashes.

If my blog needed a theme or direction, this could be it.  I could just focus on property damage caused by accident and I would never run out of material.  Hell, just last week the Pizza Hut on Guadalupe caught fire after a delivery truck hit a power line.  And sometimes it's not really known who caused the damage.  I'll be driving through town and notice a fence bashed in, or a street sign taken down.

The yearly costs of this happening must be astronomical.  Not only does the property owner have to shell out money for repairs, but if caught, the person who caused the damage loses out as well by having to pay citations, towing fees, car repairs, etc.        

I used to think that Laredo was safe but I'm starting to doubt that.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Free Speech Champion

With just over two months left until the general election, at which time a new mayor will be chosen, Raul Salinas finds a new target to pound his fist against, the Laredo Times.  The reason Salinas got upset is because the Times included nothing but public comments from their Facebook feed to write a story about the soon-to-be-built Alamo Drafthouse.  Apparently it was all negative and the mayor took it personal.

I do question the thought process of kicking dirt in the face of a company that is investing $10 million in our community and creating up to 200 good-paying jobs, before it even opens its doors?

The mayor spoke of this at the city council meeting last week, but his thoughts graced the pages of the LMT yesterday.  See below.

I would like to know who the mayor's ghost writer is, but that's not important right now.  When I first read the LMT piece on the Alamo Drafthouse, I thought it was an uninspired way of bringing us a story.  Like KGNS (Channel 10 on cable) newscasts that fill up time with social media poll questions, I figured it was an attempt by the Times to use up space.  Perhaps the newspaper could use online comments in a blotter-like format.

The story seemed lazy on the part of the LMT writer, but perhaps it was a way of attracting new, younger readers.  The Times needs to work on its news delivery, but it has to sell papers too.  If Facebook comments are going to be a common thing, so be it.

Bill Green, LMT Publisher, submitted his response to the mayor's concerns.  This passage stuck out.

Do you recall when you attempted, as mayor, to ban another publication from the City of Laredo airport?

Oh snap!!!  Bill Green didn't!!!  He didn't!!!  Playa just slapped the sanctimony out of Mayor Chucklenuts' face.  The Notorious B(i)G can write too, homeboy!

To recap, Mayor Raul Salinas ordered a city employee to remove copies of LareDOS from a facility newstand in 2007.  The publication painted Laredo in an unflattering way, and again, Salinas took it personally.  So maybe Bill Green does have a point that our mayor should not be commenting on anything relating to freedom of the press.  They're free to write anything they want, no matter how trivial it may seem.
The LMT story was mediocre.  Now let's move on.  I love the drama but news stories are not worth losing friendships over.  I say, onward and upward.  But first, let's revisit a moment when the mayor was mediocre himself.  In a 2010 city council meeting, the mayor can't make up his mind about letting people speak at city hall when an investigation is underway.  It's priceless how he changes his mind when challenged by his colleagues.  It's a moment that I'll never forget.  Check out the video (the mayor chimes in at the 2:00 mark).

Raul Salinas, free speech champion.

Friday, August 22, 2014

From Lawrence Berry To Marion Barry

In the late 1970s, political activist Lawrence Berry investigated the workings of city government and found malfeasance within the street department.  Public officials were found guilty of wrongdoing, and the city's mayor, J.C. Martin Jr., left office in disgrace, found guilty on mail fraud charges.

Not much is known about what happened to Mr. Berry after that infamous event.  The person who took over as mayor is Aldo Tatangelo, a beloved figure in Laredo politics, known as being the face of reform in town.  Mr. Berry, however, faded into obscurity.  Even now as Councilman Jorge Vera is facing charges of drug possession, the attorney leading the charge to remove the alderman is calling up the memory of Aldo Tatangelo and the work he did to restore integrity to this town.

There were other people who helped bring down the patron system, people who did the leg work to weed out corruption in Laredo.  Their story might never be told.

Here we are, approximately 37 years later since the patron fell, and another city hall denizen is in trouble.  Mr Vera was formally indicted yesterday on drug charges and making a false police report.  It's alleged that Councilman Vera invited a bar patron to his own vehicle to do cocaine.  And that's where the Marion Barry reference comes in.  The former D.C. mayor was busted by FBI agents for smoking crack with his girlfriend.  The title of this post sounds like a bumper sticker caption, but I think it drives the point home that elected officials are less than perfect, and sometimes they'll be caught doing unseemly things.

UPDATE: June 27, 2019 (photo found online)

Lawrence Berry outside TOPS (Taxpayers Organized for Public Service) headquarters.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ER Reservations

Gawd bless health care providers for trying to meet the needs of the community, but this ER Reserve idea by Doctors Hospital sounds a little, how you say, dumb.  A person is supposed to make an online reservation to the emergency department through the hospital's website.  You wait at home and then head over to Doctors according to the time you selected.

This is supposed to be the latest development in treating people with acute conditions.  Hospitals around the country are utilizing this technique to reduce lobby wait times for patients, and meet requirements that are imposed for insurance reimbursement.

I can see how this process may make the ER registration more orderly; or give a person at home an idea of availability in the department.  But shit happens.  And it usually happens at the most inopportune time.  And it just takes one big event to throw a monkey wrench in the whole operation.  When that happens, things don't keep chugging along all according to schedule.

I gotta give it up to Doctors for trying something new.  I'll reserve judgement until the results come in.  I hope I don't have to wait too long.

Monday, August 11, 2014

While Everyone Was Out Taking A Drug Test

These two garbage cans were waiting for pickup on Corpus Christi St. Friday.  That's interesting since Solid Waste staff is supposed to make a trip to this area on Tuesdays.  Whatever the case, this scene is not only adding to Laredo's blight, but it takes a psychological toll on us.  This image alone is zapping me of all my hopes and dreams.  How am I supposed to carry on?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Remember how I said that local politics drive me crazy? (see post below)  Well, it's for good reason.  Last night city council had, arguably, one of the shortest meetings in recent history.  The business at hand was pretty straightforward, so not much was going to be made of anything, except that everybody had Jorge Vera on the mind.  The District 7 councilman was arrested a mere 4 days ago on drug possession charges.

A concerned citizen spoke before the council and requested that they get screened for drugs, all in the name of transparency.  They obliged.  Luckily they had a technician on hand to collect urine specimens to appease the masses.  This is probably the one time that city hall has carried out the wishes of its citizenry.  I digress.

While our leaders were stepping up to prove their moral superiority, they ignored the fact that one of their own had committed a serious offense, allegedly.  The whole affair turned into a figurative and literal pissing contest, with Charlie San Miguel asking to take part in "the most stringent" drug test available.  At no time were any of them under suspicion for drug use, so basically, this was a public shaming of Jorge Vera and his moral turpitude [city charter term].  

That was the best the council could come up with -- a passive-aggressive act to save face.  At no time did anyone suggest that Councilman Vera resign.  In today's issue of the LMT, Councilman Juan Narvaez was quoted as saying, "Vera's arrest should not come as a surprise to anyone."  That is a pretty loaded comment.  At least one person (Narvaez) is pointing to the elephant in the room, even if nobody is willing to do anything about it.  The council has powers, however.

Apparently city council can take a stand on the matter regarding Jorge Vera.  They can admonish Vera to the fullest extent of their ability.  Unfortunately, that's not how this council is wired.  Nobody is going to stick their neck out and ask Jorge Vera to relinquish his seat.  They will let somebody else deal with this while they wash their hands of this sordid affair.  (Also, it's advisable to wash your hands after a urine collection)

The night that drugs were found in Vera's truck, allegedly, the councilman was asked to wait in a squad car while police carried out their investigation.  He was not under arrest, but officers were suspicious of Vera's actions that night.

The police report detailed how, while in the backseat of the police car, Mr. Vera used his cell phone to call the Assistant Police Chief to, I don't know, speed things along or something.  It looks like he was trying to throw his weight around.  The jig was up and he was using all his resources to avoid going straight to jail.  But another section of the city charter clearly states that a council member cannot order any department head to do anything.

I don't know what Vera said to the assistant chief, but I'm guessing he was looking for a break.  This same issue came up when Charlie San Miguel took mud run funds home.  The city manager made clear that monies could not be taken home, and that council could not order directors around.

So now we're here with a member of council accused of drug possession and falsifying a police report.  And on top of that, he may have interfered with administration types.  This is exactly the sort of thing that frustrates me about local politics.  A problem is staring our leaders in the face and their response is to piss the night away.  It's one thing for a politician to make a mistake like this.  It's another thing for the others to do nothing about it.

Gawd save Laredo.

Click here to view Jorge Vera's police report.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Councilman Busted

I told myself that I would stay away from political blogging if I continued updating this site, but the events that have transpired locally are hard to ignore.  I still follow what's going on in town, but spending too much time on city or county government drives me nuts.  At any rate, conversation at all levels has hovered around the investigation surrounding Councilman Jorge Vera.  We first learned last week that Mr. Vera was out enjoying himself at a local bar when a second person, Jose Degollado (son of District Clerk Esther Degollado) was arrested for allegedly selling drugs out of Mr. Vera's truck.  The details of story were sketchy at first.

Mr. Vera was questioned by police that evening, and his truck was searched, but he was ultimately released.  The next day he was deferring all questions to his attorney.  Talk on social media hinted at the facts of the case.  By the end of the week, on August 1st, a warrant was issued for Jorge Vera's arrest; the charge: cocaine possession and submitting a false report.  He turned himself in that same day.

Images of Mr. Vera being handcuffed at the police station are still making the rounds on t.v.

One source tells me that Jorge Vera will attend tonight's council meeting.  He has an item on the agenda concerning the process that should be used in naming public facilities.  Not something necessarily Earth shattering, but he's showing up to represent.  Opinions will abound about his actions, and we'll keep guessing at what should happen next.  One thing's for sure: this whole mess is embarrassing for everybody involved, including us.

I need to turn to documenting life as it happens on a daily basis, like the images in our lives we process constantly.  We become immune to the peculiarities that pertain to Laredo.  Sometimes it takes people who visit to remind us of how this city is different.

My better half took the picture of the drainage ditch at the corner of Lyon and San Dario.  What caught her eye is that the site has been invaded with overgrown foliage.  Somebody must be responsible for this area.  I'm sure it has to be maintained better than this.  Could be that they'll get to it eventually.  For now it qualifies as a wetland.