Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Mayor's Timing

Nearly five months ago, newly-crowned Mayor Pete Saenz vetoed a decision city council made that awarded a contract to an engineering firm.  His veto was quickly overturned.  Rebuke aside, Saenz put the matter front and center, that the bidding process was flawed.

Mr. Humberto Trevino Jr., as others, took notice of the actions of city council.  He had an idea of why our city leaders sided with Dannenbaum Engineering.  He wrote the following:

Recently in his attempt to right the wrongs regarding bidding procedure and protocol, Mayor Pete Saenz attempted to veto an award of contract to Dannenbaum Engineering from McAllen, Texas, citing that the award of contract was done without a fair and open bidding protocol as required.  The veto was overridden by every council member except Charlie San Miguel, thus voiding the veto by Mayor Saenz.

I submitted Open Records Requests to the City Attorneys' office recently asking for Campaign Finance Reports for every council member including the mayor.  This report includes every contribution and expenditure which must be submitted in January and July of every year.  After pouring over 881 pages of reports from our elected officials one thing is abundantly clear.  Every single councilman that voted to override the mayors' veto has received substantial contributions from a gentleman by the name of Louis Jones from Houston, Texas.  These contributions vary in amounts from $1,000 to as much as $2,500 and pretty much on a consistent basis dating back a few years.  He is considered the front man for Dannenbaum Engineering, but is not registered as a lobbyist with the city of Laredo.  In fact the only registered lobbyist with the city of Laredo is Walmart.

The only notable person who has not received any contributions from Mr. Jones is Mayor Pete Saenz.  In their obvious attempt to undermine Mayor Saenz, what they have actually done instead, is to further perpetuate the perception of corruption, an ill that has probably contributed more to voter apathy and very little participation from local companies in the biding process.

This letter is not meant to disparage Dannenbaum Engineering and the work that they have done!  Apparently some feel that we get the best value from Dannenbaum, but how do we know?  We have to let the process present the talents and the work of professionals who are waiting to be invited to showcase the fruits of their labor.  It's sad and shameful that our very own elected officials choose to slam the door on local businesses except a select few.  If the process proves out that Dannenbaum is the best bid then great, but at least there has been inclusion and discussion in the process.  

We finally have a glimmer of hope that politics as usual in Laredo will change course for the better.  Let's not abandon but instead embrace the reality that corruption has no place in a society that wants meaningful change.  One that includes accountability for the actions or inactions regarding decisions made for us.  We as a collective entity need to remind our elected officials that there are certain expectations for your vote and that includes the very platform most of your ran on, and a word that most politicians use frequently but soon abandon, TRANSPARENCY!

Mr. Trevino was discouraged that staff at the Laredo Times didn't publish his letter in the Op/Ed page.  His writing was stalled somehow.  It's unfortunate considering the weight of the information.  The public has a right to know, yet media outlets choose carefully what to print or report.

Oh sure, the Times ran the story about the mayor's veto, and of local engineers having concern with the bidding process, but no mention was ever made of the council's relationship with Louis Jones and Dannenbaum Engineering.  Councilman Mike Garza took issue with the mayor's timing.  It was Saenz's first meeting but Garza was disturbed that the challenge was brought up weeks after council had approved the contract.

Perhaps discussion would've been different, Mike Garza, during the awarding of the contract if each council member had stated the contributions they had received prior to siding with Dannenbaum.  Alas, that would be asking too much of our elected officials in the way of transparency.

(District 7 CM Jorge Vera was recalled from office November 4, 2014)  


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