Thursday, September 24, 2015

First Recycling's Tag Team: Villarreal And Holliman

A group of citizens recently spoke before city council to voice their concerns about the recycling facility contract that city hall awarded to First Recycling (FR).  The group argued that FR was not the best option for Laredo.  Mr.Luis Cisneros commented, "three years later, the city has not received a single cent from First Recycling."

The statement from Mr. Cisneros (excerpts above) was also shared in the Laredo Times OpEd page.  It goes on to urge the city to reconsider the 15-year contract with First Recycling.  The company claims that it had nearly $1 million in expenses a year ago.  However, the watchdog group questions that assertion, noting that the City of Laredo (Laredo taxpayers) has heavily subsidized the operations for First Recycling.      

Apart from the money that seems to be largely flowing in First Recycling's direction is that FR Managing Partner Saul Villarreal and Public Relations Manager Marcus Holliman are connected to the Laredo Lemurs.  Both belong to the Laredo Baseball Investors and Holliman is listed as the president of the Laredo Lemurs organization.

Saul Villarreal is associated with the Laredo Development Foundation, an organization that gets third party funding from the City of Laredo.

Marcus Holliman is a little more ambitious.  He belongs to the local appraisal board and was appointed by Councilman Juan Narvaez to the Economic Development Advisory Committee.

These two have their hands full with the public's money.  And city council would have their work cut out for them if they had the will to look into things like, why do the same individuals have a hand in so many city operations?  Why did First Recycling get a 15-year contract?  The present council won't be here in 15 years.  But FR will probably still be making a shitload of money.

VIDA, another Laredo watchdog group, questioned the city about its dealings with the cold storage facilities at two area international bridges.  The city spent $9 million to build the facilities, but it was the company that was allowed to manage the sites that was pulling in the big bucks.  When city management was asked about this, Jesus Olivares said, "It wasn't so much that we wanted to recoup all our money.  It was more of a service that we wanted to provide."  

In 2014 the City of Laredo made $59,000 from the cold storage facilities.  At that rate, I don't know how the city expects to make ends meet.

It's funny how the city conducts its business.  Whether its moving deadlines to accommodate investors (Khaledis), awarding contracts to campaign contributors (Eduardo Garza), or not minding that conflicts of interest exist (Marcus Holliman), it seems like city council is all too generous towards certain individuals, or perhaps they don't give these types of transactions a second thought.  All 8 council members are part-time reps for us, so I don't expect too much from them.  But it would be nice to have one of them, or a group of them, be more rigorous in questioning the legitimacy of every deal that's doled out of city hall.  As a taxpayer, I would appreciate that.

I really hope that Mr. Cisneros and his colleagues keep applying pressure on city hall.  We deserve to know if our money is being spent wisely and that everything is on the up-and-up.

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