Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Things Go Boom

Something that recently got me back to blogging was every story of people crashing into things and causing major damage.  I've tagged these type of posts Laredo's Greatest Hits.  Even if property destruction is not reported by the media, you can tell when a vehicle and driver have done wrong.  Heretofore I have found inspiration for my blog.

Photo above courtesy of KGNS.

In the first photo you see a gate that was destroyed at our local airport.  A young woman, drunk, smashed her way onto a restricted area.  Not really sure what the motivation was for the errant driver.

Next we see a fence that's been hit one too many times by careless drivers.  It's located on south Meadow Ave.  When the owner of the property talked to the media, he lamented having spent so much on putting up another fence.

A crash that wasn't reported is the one that took down part of the Meadow bridge railing (below).  This I noticed a couple of weeks ago.  The city will get to the repairs some time soon, I guess.  2015 is upon us and I'll be on the lookout for other crashes.  I just hope I don't get caught in the crossfire.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Task Force

Here's an idea:  if you're working to weed out corruption anywhere, perhaps it's better to keep the whole operation on the down low.  But if people know in which direction to blow the whistle towards, maybe it's something to know about.  I don't know.

Anyway, I was kind of disappointed that the story didn't include any mention of Laredo corruption.  We all know the details of what our local numbskulls did this year, so I won't bore you with the details.  There has to be a task force assigned to the Laredo area to look into corruption.  The Texas Rangers and the FBI were involved with local investigations.  We're all hoping they stay at it, and bring us more stories of political wrongdoing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lemurs Debate

Mr. Armando Cisneros witnessed an event at the last council meeting: Leaders approved throwing more money at the Laredo Lemurs, even though attendance is poor.  He's dismayed at the lack of thoughtfulness regarding the operation of the baseball organization.  But at least one councilman was quick to give the Lemurs what they want.
Councilman Mike Garza took that brief silence as his cue.  Garza, ever the veteran politico, snuck in a sudden motion to approve with Esteban Rangel providing a quick second.  With almost lightning speed, Council member Perez, Narvaez, Vela and Liendo made it official.  The Lemurs had just succeeded in once again eating the taxpayers' lunch served up on a silver platter by our own city council.
Mr. Cisneros asks Mayor Pete Saenz to veto this decision.

The veto will likely not go anywhere, but questions have to be asked, especially when money is being poured into a venture that shows little sign of succeeding.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Media Outlets Acting The Same As Before

It's amazing how some people can change the world around us.  Via Texas Monthly, November 1984:
The News was barely a month old when, with the help of a maverick taxpayers’ group that the Times had ignored, it broke a story about serious discrepancies in the accounts of the city street department. Two weeks later it revealed that the street department, which possessed just 86 vehicles, had listed payments for 686 batteries. The effect was like seeing the emperor’s new clothes; as soon as the youngster talked, no one else could ignore the facts—not even the Times. Once aroused from complacency, the daily had no trouble scooping its semiweekly competitor on street department corruption stories. But while the Times stuck by Martin, the News attacked the mayor in front-page editorials. In late October Martin announced that he would not seek reelection. It had taken Tony Sanchez fewer than twenty issues to bring down the machine.
For all the props that Aldo Tatangelo gets in being a reformer in Laredo in the late 1970s, little is said about Lawrence Berry, The Laredo News, and Tony Sanchez. 

In 2009, when the story of Abraham Martinez (hospital CEO) broke, the Laredo Times and KGNS didn't speak about it.  Both media outlets relied on advertising money from Laredo Medical Center, so it makes sense that they wouldn't bring up their clients' dirty laundry.  It's disconcerting to see history repeating itself.    

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No To Laredo MMD

Via the LMT:
The Central Municipal Management District was approved by the Legislature in 2013 through the passing of Senate Bill 1601.  The Senate author of the bill was Sen. Judith Zaffirini and the House sponsor was Rep. Richard Raymond.
Board of Directors Raul Perales, Viviana Frank, Rafael Torres, Larry Friedman, Roque Haynes, Rick Norton, Javier Santos, Jorge Verduzco, Anselmo Robledo, and Bill Calderon (management district executive director) had big plans for San Bernardo Ave., Chihuahua and Guadalupe street development; But apparently small business owners don't like it when a select few take matters into their own hands and decide to raise taxes on them.

Back to the drawing board.

Nixon Mustang Band Wins All-State Competition

The contest was held November 14-15, 1983 in Austin, TX.

(full-page article/photo cut in half, pardon the editing)

UPDATE on 5/6/2016:  Mr. Arturo Valdez recently attended a party at the Embassy Suites in Laredo.  (Photo via LMT)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Another Black Man Killed

It was two weeks ago that a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri handed down their decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.  The prosecutor involved with the case made the announcement during prime time hours.  Michael Brown's mother was devastated by the news.  She, and the community, felt an injustice had been done.  The response thereafter to all the events relating to Michael Brown was mixed.  I took exception to comments that took on an insensitive and superficial tone.

Twitter comments about Ferguson were plenty the night of the non-judgement.  I was getting a sense of the mood mostly from celebrities I follow.  (There were a handful of people I follow that were voicing their concerns.)  On Facebook I can only remember one friend mentioning the Michael Brown decision.

A number of people on social media were characterizing Brown as a thug.  Others were astonished that Ferguson residents were destroying property, and looting.  This weekend I overheard a young man saying that the destructive aftermath was 'ironic' because the protesters were tearing down their own community.  As extreme and nonsensical as it seemed, I didn't think they had any other option.  People were angry at the system and they wanted to make it clear to the nation.  A candlelight vigil, or die-in was not going to be sufficient to convey the helplessness and frustration they felt.

Surely there were some individuals in Ferguson who took advantage of the situation simply for their own enjoyment.  And that muddled things more.  But when I saw buildings engulfed in flames, I wondered why fire units weren't there trying to put out the blazes.  There were plenty of cops in riot gear on standby, but where were the fire engines?  Where was the National Guard?

Critics were hasty in putting the onus on the black community.  Michael Brown would be alive if he hadn't challenged a police officer, they chimed.  Or the protesters were insane for acting in such a barbaric way.  And local leaders were not there to quell the tension.  If people are going to be quick to portray blacks as savages, as thoughtless, they should expect to see some anger directed their way.

It's interesting to hear Laredoans comment on issues of race when we live in a city that is made up almost entirely of Hispanics.  We practically live in a bubble, and life for us is pretty easy going.  The natives must think things are the same for people outside our area code.  As such, a lack of empathy will continue to thrive.  We will have no sympathy for those we cannot identify with.

I actually heard two people agree, in a podcast, that racism was non-existent because we now had a black president.  I don't know how to reach people with those sensibilities.  Forty years ago Richard Pryor was expounding on the things blacks had to contend with: the same things they're railing against now.  The Clinton administration tried to right the wrongs perpetrated upon African Americans.  But here we are in 2014 and blacks are being disproportionately killed by cops more than any other group.  How can we say that progress had been made when nothing has changed?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Water Matters In Our Neck Of The Woods

Mayor Pete Saenz vetoed city council's selection of an engineering company because, supposedly, the process of awarding the contract was not carried out appropriately.  City council quickly overturned his veto Monday night.  The mayor acted after hearing concerns from local engineering firms.  Mayor Saenz (via the LMT):

“The purpose … was to verify local engineers’ allegations that the bigger contracts are being awarded
to out of town firms,” Saenz said.  “If that is the case, it seems very unfair to the local engineering
and architectural community.  Our university has a growing engineering program, and what message
are we sending that these bigger projects are going to out-of-town firms.”

The mayor's veto was probably doomed from the start, but it's good to have any and all city business challenged.  Props to Mr. Saenz.

Eighteen years ago, city council had another water line project called into question.  Not the same as what we have today, but the concern revolved around water, interestingly enough.

Bruni and Casso, for instance, have been especially harsh in criticizing what they term the “sweetheart deal” that resulted in the extension of the city’s waterlines to the Unitec Industrial Park north of the city limits. “Those developers could get water to their industrial park, but not to the colonias they own,” Casso sneers.

I wish I would've paid more attention to council meetings when Bruni and Casso were in office.  The drama back then was at a fever pitch.

And the trifecta of water worries for this post is the news of colonia residents not having access to water for several days.


Things Don't Add Up At Fleet Maintenance Division

Minutes from city council meeting on December 16, 1996.  Apparently there were discrepancies in maintaining police cars.

 B.  Requests by Cm. Louis H. Bruni

       1.  Discussion and possible action concerning the results of the
           internal audit conducted at the Fleet Maintenance Division with
           possible Executive Session pursuant to Section 551.074 of the
           Texas Government Code to discuss personnel matters in relation
           to this internal audit.

           Cm. Bruni stated that in January, 1995 he sent a letter to Mr.
           Vargas requesting an audit of the Fleet Maintenance Division,
           the audit was completed in June of 1995.  Recently, a year and a
           half later they got the final
           draft of this internal audit and this report has serious
           accusations and serious problems that he sees.  For instance, in
           the cost and repairs to some of our police cars, when they were
           purchased they spent $11,999.00 and some of our Police
           Department cars have a total investment of over $34,000.00.  He
           said this does not make sense that if you paid $12,000.00 and
           you have $34,000.00 invested in repairs something is wrong.  He
           added there are other vehicles that have repairs in excess of
           50% of the purchase price.  One vehicle had repairs in excess of
           200% of its purchase price.

           The report lists about 15 different vehicles where the fuel tank
           size allows for only 20-gallon capacity, but yet somehow someone
           manage to put 29.8 gallons in it.  He added that vehicle #1291
           has capacity for 25 gallons yet they manage to put 42.2 gallons
           in it.  He said that apparently there is a serious problem on
           how they can get this much gasoline in a gas tank.  He said that
           vehicle #1298 has a 25 gallon gas tank, but they managed to put
           72 gallons in it.

           On November 4, 1994 a vehicle was auctioned, however the
           maintenance records indicate that they have been fixing flat
           tires on it. How do we fix or repair vehicles that we don't own

           On one of the police vehicles, within a year and a half we spent
           $4,485.00 on transmission repairs and we have three different
           transmissions put in.

           Also mechanics spent six hours fixing a siren, why not buy a new
           one and move on.

           He concluded by stating that this report is full of serious
           problems, that it was a waste of taxpayers money and asked staff
           how all these things happened, why it took so long to get this
           report, and what we are going to do to safeguard the taxpayers

           Florencio Pe¤a, Interim City Manager, stated that he can't
           answer as to why it wasn't provided, anytime prior to July of
           1996 when he came on board.  He added that in the last five
           months they have been looking at this audit and have implemented
           many recommendations, there are still very serious problems, and
           he wants council to consider expanding the audit, the problems
           will be addressed and some changes have already implemented.

           Mayor Ramirez stated that he wants to see the definitive steps
           that have been taken on the part of Mr. Joe Guerra to safeguard
           a lot of these things happening now, and expand the audit to get
           more detail into the audit.  That we proceed to prosecute to the
           full extent of the law because we will not tolerate people
           scheming of any of our operations because it is not conducive to
           good government.  On the third component we should hold our
           comments to generalities and let staff and the internal auditors
           work on the specifics and details and as soon as they are
           prepared to come with us on a thorough report that they do so,
           but whenever they feel they are ready to proceed with filing
           charges at the District Attorney's office, that by consensus at
           this time, they authorize them to proceed in filing those
           charges at the D.A.'s office.

           Cw. Montalvo requested that the Audit Department gives a
           report to council directly instead of the City Manager.

           Mayor Ramirez stated that we should get the reports or whatever
           comes out, when it comes out and that it come to them (Mayor and
           Councilmembers) at the same time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Se Aprovecha El Balli

Early voting started today for the handful of races that were left undecided last month.  December 20, runoff election day, can't get here fast enough.

In the meantime, at least one candidate is keeping tabs on what the other is doing.  Rachel Ibarra, running for City Council District 8, posted her opponent's flier on social media.  (see picture to left)  The announcement is for a social gathering at a downtown pool hall.  Free food, music and gifts are offered.

Pachangas, as political meet-and-greets are known in Laredo, are nothing new.  I've gone to several meet-ups in recent years in hopes of learning more about a particular candidate.  It's basically a cookout and the candidate goes around introducing him/herself to people.  You listen to their platform, their ideas, eat, and then go home.  What's different about what Mr. Roberto Balli is doing is that he's basically offering people gifts for votes.  And as you can see in the next picture, he's doing it with Laredo's most vulnerable, the elderly.

People from an adult daycare are being led into the El Punto Night Club, where Mr. Balli is hosting his event.  In 2008 I posted on one campaign leading elderly voters to the polls.  We don't see Mr. Balli personally taking these people to the polls, but it's worth mentioning that two polling sites are within blocks of his party.

It's really sickening to see something like this.  J.C.Martin Jr., in talking to Bill Moyers about the patron system, detailed how this kind of solicitation was employed decades ago.  It's crass opportunism and Balli should know better.  (I'll refrain from making any lawyer jokes so as not to offend upstanding lawyers out there.)

Roberto Balli is one unique creature.  He says he lives in the district which he hopes to represent, but he gets a homestead exemption for a house to the north side of Laredo.

A decade ago he was a member of the DA's anti-domestic violence team, yet he was slapped with an assault charge by his ex-wife.

Too many conflicts with this man.

According to him, he's the best candidate now because he's paid taxes on his home(s), and therefore he knows the struggle people go through on a daily basis.  Populist campaign takes on a different form in Laredo, obviously.  Laredo and Webb County has seen its share of cynical campaigns before, but this one seems to take the cake.  Just when we think we're getting rid of malandrines like Jorge Vera and Alex Perez, otro pendejete comes into the fold.  Gawd help us.