Friday, January 30, 2015

Cartoon


The cartoon pictured above appeared in Sunday's paper (January 25).  Neseman is the resident cartoonist for the Laredo Times.  I've noticed over time that these weekly editorials don't really push any boundaries in speaking to local issues.  They're as bland as what appears in the funny pages.

The reason I'm taking issue with this particular entry is because of the FBI brief that was released to the public last week.  The document pertained to former Commissioner Mike Montemayor's bribery case.  The FBI legal team spilled the details of what Montemayor did to get in trouble with the law.

The eye-catching tidbits in the report, apart from some weird facts, were passages that referenced other elected officials being in on the bribery scheme.

Mike Montemayor was sentenced to 6 years in prison on Monday.  Yet we're left wondering if the other politicians will be brought to justice, including one female commissioner, as the brief mentioned.  (The only female commissioner in office during Montemayor's tenure is Rosaura Tijerina.)  With the earth-shattering seriousness of this story, I expected more from those that fill the opinion pages of our newspaper.  Apart from the lackluster cartoon by Neseman, there was nothing by the publisher of the Times, or from Odie Arambula, who does his weekly commentary on Mondays.

With the FBI brief we learned that there's more to the M.M. story.  Unfortunately, our leaders are acting like it's no big deal, like there's nothing here to see.  The Mike Montemayor saga is a big fuckin' deal.  The response has been lame.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Proud As Punch


Photo courtesy of the City of Laredo

City officials are up in Austin to speak to Texas heads in hopes of directing monies to Laredo.  While the fruits of their labor is not quite clear, at least to me, city officials are consistent in their travels.  I'm dumbfounded, however, when I see WBCA icons mixing it up in our state's capital, or in Washington.  What is to be gained by having these displays on tour?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Montemayor Timeline


(courtesy photo)

Mike Montemayor came and went too quickly, with his actual term as county commissioner only lasting about 15 months.  As such, I wanted to compile a timeline to give you an idea of how his short political career evolved.

March 2012  LareDOS issue features candidate Mike Montemayor.

May 29, 2012  Mike Montemayor goes up against Louis Bruni and Frank Sciaraffa for the Pct. 1 Commissioners seat.  He garners 27% of the early vote.

July 23, 2012  Campaign commercial uploaded to YouTube.

July 31, 2012  Mike Montemayor and Frank Sciaraffa battle in runoff election.  Montemayor wins by 4 votes (2,904 to 2,908).

August 11, 2012  Montemayor prevails in recount by 10 votes.

September 12, 2012  M.M. accepted a white, 2012 Ford F-150 truck, according to FBI brief.  Truck was purchased by "Person A."

January 1, 2013  Sworn in to office as county commissioner.

July 2013 to December 2013  M.M. accepted $11,000 in cash and more than $2,700 in electronics.

July 11, 2013  Accepted $1,000 from undercover agent.

August 8, 2013  Accepted $5,000 from undercover agent.

October 23, 2013  Accepted $5,000 from undercover agent.

December 7, 2013  M.M. traveled to San Antonio to stay at the Marriot Rivercenter and attend a Spurs basketball game.  He was met by FBI agents and questioned.  Admitted to working with 3 other elected officials.

December 2013  Montemayor informed other people that he was approached by FBI.

December 2013  M.M. made a total of 4 recordings for the FBI, none of which proved useful to agents.

December 17, 2013  He refused to cooperate further with FBI unless given full immunity.

December 2013  Plea offer by government expire.

February 27, 2014  M.M., along with his attorney, met with FBI agents.  Refused to cooperate and return electronic devices.

March 18, 2014  M.M. indicted by grand jury for 2 counts of bribery.

March 19, 2014  M.M. arrested and released on bond.

March 2014  Montemayor posted comment on Facebook.

June 19, 2014  He pleaded guilty to one count of federal programs bribery.

August 14, 2014  M.M. met with federal agents.

January 20, 2015 Sentencing brief filed by government.

January 26, 2015 Mike Montemayor sentenced to 6 years 4 months.

In Due Time


A remorseful Mike Montemayor nicely summed up his actions at his sentencing yesterday.  In referring to Laredo and Webb County, he said, "I have put them both on the map for all the wrong reasons."  (via LMT)

We learned of Montemayor accepting bribes when he was arrested early last year.  What makes his case special is that his political career was so short-lived; He was county commissioner for approximately 15 months.  His tenure was so brief, party because he started accepting gratuities before he was sworn in to office.  Add to that a little bad luck and his downfall was certain.  The FBI was probably on to him when he took the oath of office.

It's been reported that Montemayor accepted a truck as a gift one month after he beat Frank Sciaraffa in the runoff election of 2012.  He promised people jobs, and help for companies in getting government contracts.  One weird bit of information that was revealed in the case against M.M. was his promising to pave a road for a county resident who owned a giraffe.  Montemayor had to push for the infrastructure project (after the promise of a $50,000 bribe) so the person could operate a zoo of some kind.

Then there's the matter of the FBI supplying Montemayor with a recording device.  He was going to assist agents in nabbing other crooked politicians.  But when his demand for full immunity wasn't taken seriously, he stopped all communication with federal agents.  He kept the equipment, and his insubordination went into the official report.

After Mike Montemayor vacated his seat as county commissioner in 2014, a temporary replacement was installed.  Then precinct chairs were tasked with selecting somebody else.  They chose Frank Sciaraffa, the person who Mike Montemayor beat in 2012, and who is currently embroiled in a sexual harassment suit.  Ay guey!


In the FBI report, mention is made that three other politicians took part in the bribery scheme, two commissioners (one female) and one councilman.  It's not known at this point who those people are, and whether they'll face charges.  Laredoans are hoping, however, that others are implicated in this matter.  

Locals suspect, or are aware of, widespread corruption occurring in Webb County.  It'll take a determined anti-corruption force to weed out all the bad guys from public office.  In due time.  



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two For January


Midway through January 2015 and we already have two significant car crashes.  The first is where somebody took down part of a homeowner's garage at a house on Springfield.  I can only imagine the loud boom the impact made.

The other crash occurred on Guadalupe Street, on the section of road after the overpass.  This area has seen several crashes ever since the Guadalupe overpass opened in March of 2012.  Residents are not happy with all the wrecks.

We have to keep telling ourselves that Laredo is safe.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Who Was That Guy?

In of all places, I see the name Lupe la Changa in an old Laredo Times editorial written by Fernando Pinon.  Lupe's name I sometimes heard growing up, but never knew exactly who he was, or if he actually existed.  He was more a myth than anything, I thought.  But when I asked my mother who LLC was, she was quick to fill me in about the local legend.

Apparently Lupe did lawn work for former Sheriff J.C. Martin Sr., who lived in the house right across Bruni Plaza.  The house is still there, as a shrine of sorts.



The home was restored in 2005


The house as it is now has a small yard at its entrance.  To the left, there is a parking area.

Lupe la Changa, as my mom recalls, was a regular at local dive bars.  A pleasant man with an infamous reputation.  Though unconfirmed, it's said that he had 'sticky fingers.'  Perhaps Lupe did pilfer a thing or two, and perhaps he was the town's drunkard at the time, but life was good when you kept close company with the local sheriff.



My mother recalls Lupe being "bien prieto" and having a weird gait.  She demonstrated Lupe's unusual walk, hunched over with arms swinging side to side.  That posture is what probably led to Lupe's unfortunate nickname, my mother thinks.

He might've lived in a house near the intersection of Park and San Dario; And Lupe's name I might discover some day.  For now I have an inkling of the man that's probably long gone.



UPDATE:  I received some details on LLC from a blog reader.  Apparently, Lupe la Changa was known to "stagger drunkenly down Convent Ave." back in the 1950 and mid 1960s.  One year he crashed the WBCA parade, walking in between floats.  The crowds cheered and Lupe waved, embracing the adoration, if only for a moment.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Candidate For District 7

A major shift has taken place at city hall and George Altgelt wants to be a part of it.  He's vying for the District 7 council seat that was vacated after Jorge Vera's recall on November 4, 2014.  Mr. Altgelt is a good candidate for office.  He's well-educated, grounded, and more importantly, passionate about effecting positive change for the city.  

Altgelt wants to promote honest government and thinks the "time is now."  With all the stories of corruption we've had in the last year, the attorney feels it is time for people to get engaged in the political process.  Turnout at the polls has been dismal, and cynicism is at an all-time high, but Mr. Altgelt questions how bad things have to get before people get involved.

  
Courtesy photo

The candidate realizes the sacrifices that have to be made in seeking public office.  However, public service is in his blood and he's ready for the challenge.

The items Mr. Altgelt wants to tackle include quality of life projects, economic development and transportation issues.  He believes good-paying jobs can be brought to Laredo, as long as employers have a sense that local government is business-friendly and trustworthy.  The transportation industry, which provides a lot of jobs for the community, can be complemented with more services and infrastructure to keep the exchange of goods going, Algelt said.

As we spoke about traffic congestion, I could see 18-wheelers go down Mines Rd., one after the other.  Altgelt envisions improving matters for motorists by providing non-commercial lanes for residents and first responders.  I asked him about diverting truck traffic from the downtown area, an idea he seemed receptive to, but he thinks the rail lines could also be moved away from the heart of the city to accommodate thoroughfares for pedestrian or bicycle traffic.

It's a tough gig George Altgelt wants to get in to, and I wish him the best of luck.  He seems steadfast in his plans, and hopes for a better future for Laredo.  I think that's something we all want as well.