Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Last Post: Person of the Year


The sun is almost down on the last day of 2016, but I have a chance to compose one more thing for the year.  I had not done a Person of the Year post in a while.  For the first time I'm doing a duet feature write-up.

My 2016 Person(s) of the Year are Esteban Rangel and Priscilla Villarreal Trevino, alias La Gordiloca.  These two deadbeats had a less-than-stellar 2016.  The year was a downer on several fronts, but for this dynamic duo, '16 stung a little extra.

Esteban Rangel tied political newbie Jesse Gonzalez in the March primary for county commissioner.  There was a runoff election and a recount to boot, but Rangel just couldn't eke out a win.  By Independence Day, Rangel should've been an afterthought.  Alas, he never finished paying the City of Laredo the money he owed, so his name remained relevant.  I have a theory: he doesn't have any intention of paying the $8,000.00 back.  If the city sues him for it, he's prepared to spill some beans.  It sounds crazy, I know.  But let's wait and see.  

He was spotted doing some Christmas shopping in town, without a care in the world, apparently.

La Gordiloca, like Rangel, owed money too in 2016, but for different reasons.  The 'online celebrity' made some defamatory statements against a local daycare.  A court ordered her to pay close to $300,000.00 in damages.  Pues, esta ruka doubled down and said, no se vayan a rallar. (paraphrasing)

In print press, she made it known that she wasn't going to fork over a penny to the owners of the daycare.

Rangel and Villarreal Trevino ended up being Laredo's most recognizable delinquents.  And for that they are La Sanbe's Person(s) of the Year.

We'll hear more about these two ego-driven natives, unfortunately.  For now, stay safe and have a Happy New Year!  


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

No End To Tacky


The Super S grocery store on Clark and Springfield started selling off its merchandise at the end of January.  They decided not to renew their lease and left las lomas without a supermarket.  Since then, the property's owner has been making some upgrades, or sorts.


New fencing and garish accents have sprung up all around the property.  Roof corners now have brick peaks.  There's an American flag with an eagle on top, to tie everything together, apparently.


And next to the former grocery store is an enclosure for an RV.  I'm guessing security guards will be on the premises around the clock, and they'll have their own digs.  (I'm sure that installation passes local building codes.)

The owner will make any and all modification he sees fit.  He's done the same at the house on Corpus Christi, and at the old J.C. Martin house.  I'm just bemused by the need to make changes where no changes are warranted.  It's apparent that money is no object, and taste is lacking.  But where does it all end?


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The End Has To Come


The Galo-Flores soap opera continues.  According to yesterday's story in the Times, County Auditor Leo! Flores hasn't been showing up to commissioners court meetings for more than a year.  John Galo is not happy; he's ready to throw down with a subpoena, if he has to.

It was June 22, 2015 when County Judge Tijerina ejected Flores from a meeting.  An investigation of Flores ensued.

Earlier this year (February) a grand jury cleared Leo Flores of any wrongdoing.

Unless somebody retires soon, stories and blog posts like this will continue.  It's amusing to a certain degree, but it's getting old quick.


Monday, December 19, 2016

It's All Very Complicated


Donald Trump vows to overhaul or possibly scrap NAFTA altogether.

Local banker Dennis Nixon co-hosts Trump fundraiser in San Antonio on June 17.

Trump wins presidential election.

Nixon pens pro-NAFTA screed.

(#AgainstHisBestInterests) (#pendejo)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

He's Back, Sort Of


It seemed like Tom Wade, local Teabagger, had dropped off the face of the world a couple of years ago.  His ultra-conservative views were on display in local protests, on AM radio, and on his Wake Up Laredo blog.  But one day, just like that - *poof* - he was gone.

On Sunday I come to learn why he's been absent: he was caught stealing money from the Laredo Rifle and Pistol Club (LRPC), an organization in which he had command of its finances.  Wade, according to reports, also had not filed any documentation with the IRS for three years.  That lack of disclosure led to the LRPC losing its non-profit status.    

Last week, Tom Wade pleaded not guilty to the charges.  A pre-trial hearing is set for February.


Let's Not Forget


Local media outlets reported yesterday on the passing of David Cortez.  He died Monday in San Antonio at the age of 82.

Cortez's son was quoted in the LMT (Taryn Walters) today: "He was a wonderful family man.  He loved his community and served it well."

Cortez is remembered for his many years of service to the community.  He served as council member, and county commissioner, until his sudden departure from politics in 2005.  Then-County Judge Louis Bruni made the announcement to the media that David Cortez resigned because of health issues.  Bruni appointed Cortez's daughter to fill the commissioner's seat.

Two months after leaving his post, David Cortez was convicted of funneling bribes to several commissioners in Willacy County.  Cortez cooperated with prosecutors and was sentenced to three months in prison, to be followed by house arrest.

David Cortez may have been a good friend to some, and a wonderful family man, but his lasting legacy will be that of convicted felon.  He'll go down in local history as one more politician who worked the system to his advantage.


Clipping above from October 2005

Monday, December 12, 2016

You Got My Money?

It was October 29, 2014 that Esteban Rangel signed an AGREEMENT TO REIMBURSE contract with the City of Laredo.  The promissory note listed the terms by which he was going to pay back the money he had been pocketing illegally.  To recap: Rangel was promoted to Director of Transportation by LISD while receiving a paycheck as a city council member.  In some instances, state law prohibits a person from being compensated simultaneously by two government agencies.  



Rangel lost his primary race for commissioner earlier this year.  He vacated his council seat, but still had thousands to repay to the city.  (Total repayment was $14,200.00.)  La Sanbe news headquarters got word last week that the city is still trying to figure out what course of action to take to get their money back.



Both parties are in this mess because of a simple oversight -- Rangel didn't know any better and the city learned of his new position and compensation a little too late.  Blunders aside, Rangel needs to do right by the city.  The City of Laredo wants its $8,000 and its patience is wearing thin.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Convince Your Friends To Vote


The runoff election race between Allen Tijerina and Albert Torres will be decided a week from tomorrow.  One of these two man-childs will replace Juan Narvaez and his heavy Laredo accent.  My money is on Torres, only because he's a Webb County staffer.  Being in that kind of network has its perks: i.e. connections.

This contest has had the appeal of a dying house plant.  Apart from the political swipes, and Tijerina campaign ads running twice in the same issue of the Laredo Times, this race has been uninteresting.


Photo courtesy of the City of Laredo

On November 29, Tijerina was the only candidate to attend the Public Access-sponsored forum.  According to the city's spokesperson, Torres didn't show up for the pre-forum meeting.  As such, he was disqualified from the event.  Skipping a debate for a runoff race is perhaps excusable, but it doesn't look good when you're the current Democratic Party Chair of Webb Co.  If Torres pulls stunts like these, then we shouldn't be surprised by the rampant local voter apathy.

KGNS reported last night that a little over 2,000 people had voted early for this, and the LCC trustee race.  And that's the only thing you need to worry about in a local runoff race: convince 1,000 of your family members, friends, or social media acquaintances to go vote for you, and you have a shot of winning.  Debates are for losers.

Albert Torres is hardly the only candidate to have skipped a debate.  He has company: Frank Sciaraffa, Pat Campos, Martin Cuellar, Hector Lee Patino, Alex Perez, etc., etc.

Again, apathy.  But the show goes on.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Memory About Gas Stations


Not the most clear photo I could get, but the frame offers a hint of a gas station that used to be located on San Bernardo, across from the fire station.  To the left you can see the Holiday Inn hotel.

The Fina gas station was the only thing located on that entire block, where the Marriot now sits.  I recall my mom going to that service station to fill up on gas.  That was when an attendant would actually come out and pump the gasoline for you.  It's one of those mundane places I remember from my youth.  It was a different time.

Screen grab captured from YouTube video entitled: Penta Fraternidad Desfile Laredo TX 1997.

I have to check when the Marriot built on that site, because I don't recall the gas station being there into the late 1990s.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pay No Mind To This

Just for future reference:

City - 555
County - 650
School - 721

UPDATE: October 2017

School tax - 789.46

Monday, December 5, 2016

War Of The Rosas


The headline in yesterday's LMT issue was: Declining Game Attendance.  

To say that the Lemurs organization is in complete disarray would be an understatement.  Team management has, ostensibly, made life a 'living hell' for majority owner Arianna Torres.  It's been a little over three years that the Lemurs played their first game in Laredo, but already we have stories of disgruntled employees, infighting between management, police responding to Uni-Trade Stadium to settle disputes, and a lawsuit.

Warring parties were due in court today to present a plan on how to work together.  That was the directive from the last court hearing.  (I think this was Judge Hale copping out in this matter:  adults, you work it out amongst yourselves and I'll sign off on it.)  But it's apparent that Holliman, Villarreal and Torres have a case of irreconcilable differences.

A lot of money has been poured into this baseball venture, and all we have to show for it is a bad drama that makes for juicy headlines.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Their Traffic Is Evident

Melva Lavín-Castillo of the Rio Grande Guardian:
NUEVO LAREDO, Tamaulipas — The white-tailed deer hunting season is always good for this border city. Local authorities expect to have an economic revenue of more than $15 million during the 2016-2017 season which began on Nov. 18 and will continue until January.
Good for Nuevo Laredo.  Tourism of all kinds help our local economies.  I wonder, however, if hunters really have that kind of monetary impact in our area.

The WBCA celebration is another generator of moolah.


  
The Laredo Times writer mentioned in 2005 that 500,000 visitors would descend upon Laredo for the festivities, pumping $14 million into the local economy.

What about the paisano traffic?

This time of year the paisanos are highly visible, especially along I-35.  With their presence, I have to make changes to my commuting habits.  Hunters and WBCA attendees have almost never gotten in my way, not the way paisanos have.  What is their effect on our economy?

One way to measure their impact is to compare December bridge revenue tallies to those of the other eleven months.  That could be something, no?

Inflated numbers from the WBCA and hunting advocates aside, paisanos need to be given credit for the money they pump into Laredo.  Much is said about the international trade industry that provides a lot of jobs around here.  It's time to give paisanos their due.  

On This Day In December: Laredo

December 1973 KVTV debuted.

December 1973 Air Force base closed.
December 1, 2014 Chacon Creek bat colony site unveiled by City of Laredo.
December 1, 2014 Mayor Pete Saenz vetoed a decision by council. Veto quickly overturned by city council members.
December 3, 2009 Parking/dropping off at San Agustin Plaza (La Posada) prohibited. Cones blocking side of plaza. (blog post video)
December 4, 2014 South side library opens. Councilman Mike Garza has computer lab named after him.
December 5, 2011 Standoff at state welfare office w woman denied benefits.
December 5, 1889 Street car service established in Laredo.
December 1983 Danny’s Restaurant opens on Juarez Ave. downtown.
December 7, 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt visited Laredo. (blog post: This Day in Laredo)
December 8, 2010 Luke Wilson visited Laredo looking for possible film location.
December 8, 2005 Moises Garcia killed at TortaMex parking lot.
December 8, 2014 Danny Valdez presides over his last commissioners meeting.
December 1996 Texas Monthly writes on new conservative city council. Story entitled “Familia Feud.”
December 9, 2015 Johnny Rockets Restaurant opens.
December 9, 2007 H-E-vito store in south Laredo (blog photo)
December 11, 2014 Dr. Juan Maldonado emails LCC trustees about retirement.
December 11, 2010 Runoff election winner: Rosie Cuellar Castillo (municipal court judge)
December 12, 1841 Florencio Villarreal elected president for town of San Agustin de Laredo.
December 12, 1985 Mayor Tatangelo declares Dec. 12 as Luciano Duarte Day. (blog picture)
December 12, 2014 Two women (one pregnant) killed in crash at Sierra Vista and Cuatro Vientos.
December 12, 2015 Woman killed on Cuatro Vientos and Cielito Lindo. Her car was struck by trailer.
December 12, 2016 David Cortez, former councilman and commissioner, passed away. 
December 13, 2007 KLAR sign on Zapata Hwy. (photo)
December 15, 2016 Paisano "Caravan" VII takes off from Laredo into Mexico. 
December 16, 2008 Cartonero loading truck downtown.  (photo)
December 16, 1996 City council discusses discrepancies at Fleet Management Division.
December 16, 2016 Hot air balloon event at Life Downs. (3-day weekend event)  
December 17, 2010 Alfonso Boyer Ornelas has farewell celebration at municipal court.
December 17, 2014 County has ground-breaking for rehab facility for teens.
December 17, 2015 KGNS: vandals damage Xmas decorations at Slaughter Park.
December 19, 1980 Jazz Singer movie released. (photo: Neil Diamond steps off bus bound for Laredo)
December 19, 2014 No settlement reached in mediation in Sciaraffa v. Sara Jo Davila.
December 20, 1993 Inmates at Webb Co. Detention Center riot, set fire to facility.
December 21, 2007 LMT headline: Montes claims verbal, physical assault by Montalvo, Chief Garza.
December 22, 1939 Laredo becomes headquarters for the 23rd Customs Collection District
December 22, 1965 Timothy Leary busted for marijuana possession at Laredo bridge crossing.  His case went to Supreme Court: Leary v. United States.
December 22, 2003 County backs out of Provaqua project. (cloud seeding)
December 22, 2016 Woman's car crashes into train near LCC/Washington St. bridge.
December 24, 2004 Snowed in Laredo
December 24, 1986 Laredo News staff dismissed by management.
December (15) 2008 Feliz Navidad cut out on Zacate Creek. (photo)
December 26, 2007 Glass Kitchen blight. (blog photo)
December 27, 1967 TX Court of Appeals hands down ruling in Geissler v. Coussoulis (Southland Café).  Sets limits on how many people can picket outside café.

December 27, 2013 Raul Salinas’ affidavit that Ed Garza never supplied him with gifts.
December 30, 2006 Vidal M. Trevino passed away.
December 31, 2010 LMT: Losing Millions - state ends county’s weatherization program

December 31, 2015 Man jumps off overpass on Washington St. and I-35. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Random Act Of Buying Tacos


I tweeted out this photo the other day.  I arrived at this spot Saturday morning after my original food-purchasing plan fell through.  What that means is that Taco Palenque had a long line at the drive-thru, so I went to Plan B: getting down for tacos at Raul's BBQ.

An old man was off to the side, selling tamales out of his rolling basket.

The photo above will go down, for now, as another meaningless moment in time.  In five years, however, its meaning, its significance will change.  Something will be different.    

Monday, November 28, 2016

As The Wind Goes


Earlier this month, Mayor Saenz and Mr. City Manager sent President-elect Trump a congratulatory letter.  Fawning was dished out in spades: Your visit to Laredo, Texas last year made a tremendous impact in our community.  End quote.  I don't know how Trump made Laredo great again, but our city leaders are desperately looking forward to working with Donald and his team.

When Mayor Saenz was asked in March who he would vote for, he hedged.  I can't read the mayor's mind; I can only look to his conservative hairdo to answers to the nagging voting question.

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Will Watch For Results

Races of interest for me: Election 2016

City council, District 4

Allen Tijerina
Armando Cisneros
Alberto Torres Jr.
Eduardo Villa Jr.
Jose Guevara

City council, District 5

Nelly Vielma
Roque Vela Jr.

City council, District 7

George Altgelt
Juan Chavez

City council, District 8

Roberto Balli
James Newland

(polls close at 7:00 p.m.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It Once Took Place On A Thursday


Photo courtesy of LISD

Laredo's storied rivalry is getting a lot of attention as Martin and Nixon prepare to do battle on the football field once again.  To promote good sportsmanship, I suppose, coaches, football players, and cheerleaders from both schools were treated to breakfast at a reception hall next to La Posada Hotel yesterday.

The morning event is apparently known as the "Friendship Breakfast."  And the game itself is now billed as "The Hammer Bowl."  That title not only bestows a certain gravitas on the final game of the season; but the winner has the honor of receiving a blunt force object as a token for their victory.

I appreciate the fact that district officials are promoting goodwill between foes, but the cues that are being put in front of us have a more hostile character.

  
Photo courtesy of KGNS (Ryan Bailey)

The whole spectacle is being presented like it's a boxing main event.  I think it's all a bit over the top.
We had fun when it was our turn to go up against our crosstown rivals, but I don't remember it reaching this kind of fever pitch.  The most I recall from the 80s is having a bonfire the week of the game.  And then on the eve of the match, we would load up on a flat bed (semi truck) and parade through the neighborhood, making a lot of noise in the nearest barrio.

Now the game is going to be shown live on the CW channel.  It's all fine and good, but what does that do for the psyche of the Cigarroa student body.  The 3rd LISD high school is not even an afterthought this time of year.

Perhaps this extravaganza is appropriate for this day and age.  The pomp that has evolved in the last ten, fifteen years, however, has certainly made this more than what it actually is: just another game.  What will it look like ten years from now, though?

Stylized game aside, let's look back at some of this game's history.

Shirley Field became the official site of the rivalry game in the mid 1970s.

In the fall of 1988, the Martin/Nixon game coincided with the release of "Rattle and Hum" at a local movie theater.  (That one is a useless bit of trivia)  

In 1993, then-Superintendent Vidal Trevino cancelled the game.  (See photo for details; via La Pitahaya)


After that season, for safety's sake, games would take place on Saturday afternoons.

In June of 2008, the football schedule revealed that the Martin/Nixon game would be played on August 30, due to Nixon's designation as Class 4A.

In 2009, the event took place on a Thursday.  On a Thursday!

In November 2010, the game was played at the UISD Student Activity Complex.  The new Shirley Field was still not ready.

May the best team win.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On This Day In November

November 1, 1823 Col. Santos Benavides born. Great great grandson of Tomas Sanchez. Colonel in Confederate Army. Member of Reform Club (Guaraches)
November 1, 2002 Laredo Bucks home debut.
November 1, 2017 Shortstop Carlos Correa proposes to Laredoan Daniella Rodriguez after Houston Astros win World Series. 
November 2, 2015 City council votes for feasibility study for convention center.
November 1984 Texas Monthly speaks of Laredo News in story “The Sheets of Laredo.”
November 4, 1986 Judith Zaffirini elected as TX state senator (online photo)
November 4, 2014 Councilman Jorge Vera recalled from office.
November 4, 2015 Councilman Esteban Rangel announces candidacy for commissioner.
November 5, 2003 Jerome Fletcher shoots LCC athlete Victor Cardona nine times at San Dario and Calton.
November 5, 1993 Martin vs Nixon football game cancelled by superintendent.
November 5, 2015 Cell phone ban ordinance goes into effect. (90 day grace period)
November 6, 2014 Exploding manhole covers downtown.
November 7, 2000 Dan Rather on election night: “Hotter than a Laredo parking lot.”
November 7, 2014 Luciano Duarte of Serenata Nocturna passed away.
November 8, 2016 United H.S. Band performs at UIL State Marching Competition in San Antonio.
November 9, 1918 David Barkley Cantu died (drowned in Meuse River, WWI).
November 11, 1928 La Reynera Bakery opens.
November 11, 1912 Thomas C. Mann born in Laredo. US Diplomat. (Mann Rd.)
November 11, 1982 Bonfire (yearbook picture)
November 11, 1965 Bridge 2 not yet a reality. Bridge constructed until 1976 (photos in blog post: March 2, 2015)
November 12, 2008 Laredo National Bank logo coming down. (blog photo)
November 12, 2014 Pete Saenz sworn in as mayor. Raul Salinas bids farewell.
November 13, 2002 Tool performs 1st concert at Laredo Entertainment Center.
November 13, 1933 Estanislao "Tanis" Valdez born. CAA Daycare Director; Deputy Director of Laredo Community Development Agency
November 14, 2016 Chacon Creek bridge closed for repairs. 
November 15, 1983 Nixon HS Band wins 5A state marching competition.
November 18, 2014 City Manager Carlos Villarreal retirement started today.
November 22, 1979 First Guajolote 10K Race.
November 23, 2011 Domino’s delivery driver Derek Trevino struck by drunk driver.  Taken to hospital, pronounced dead on the 24th

November 24, 2006 Joe Rubio Sr. released from jail due to poor health.
November 26, 1976 Bridge 2 opened. Also known as the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge.
November 26, 1905 HEB store opened in Kerrville, TX. (Laredo store photo)
November 28, 2011 Laredo Lemurs officially added to the American Association for 2012 season.
November 28, 2011 City council voted for Garros Services, LLC to get refrigerated facilities contract.

November 28, 2012 City council badgers Occupy Laredo.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooky Edition

I recall helping my co-workers with the crossword puzzles that appeared in the Laredo Times.  That was about fifteen years ago, when I was working at another organization.  We kept up with local news and daily puzzles, all while supporting our local paper.

I've noticed recently, however, that the price of subscribing to the Times has gone up.  And on top of that, I've seen that I've been charged twice in a month on three occasions this year.  I've listed below this year's charges to my account.

December 14 ($11.00)
January 6 ($11.00)          [23 days since last payment]
February 1 ($11.69)       [26 days since last payment]
February 25   ($12)                  [24 days since last payment]    
March 22  ($12)                     [26 days since last payment]
April 18   ($12)                       [27 days since last payment]
May 12  ($12)                         [24 days since last payment]
June 8 ($12)                  [27 days since last payment]
June 30 ($12)                  [22 days since last payment]
July 26    ($12)                       [26 days since last payment]
August 22   ($12)                     [27 days since last payment]
September 12 ($12)                 [21 days since last payment]
October 5 ($14)                [23 days since last payment]
October 27 ($15)              [22 days since last payment]

I called the Times' office to inquire about my monthly charges, and it was explained to me that I'm assessed a fee every four weeks; that's why I noticed a charge twice in a month.  But when I count the days between payments, the intervals don't make sense.  They're shaving days off frequently as they take my money.

Apparently there's also an extra fee for the DIVINO magazine that comes in the Sunday edition every now and then.

I'm not expecting to get a satisfactory answer for this odd payment plan; it's Laredo after all.

I fear I may do away with my subscription if this continues.    

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

But Then You Make Me Crawl


Just when I thought things couldn't get any more complicated for Marcus Holliman and Saul Villarreal, we get a report of them trying to oust the owner of the Laredo Lemurs baseball team.  The affair has all the trappings of a he-said/she-said spat.

Team owner, Arriana Torres, alleges that our dynamic duo tried to sell the Lemurs without her consent.  When she tried to get rid of Holliman and Villarreal, an investigation was conducted by GR Advisors (Franklin, TN).  The inquiry suggested that Torres' involvement with the Lemurs organization is all a scam.

Only they know what's really going on.  What I wanna know is who in the world are GR Advisors?  Who can tell me that?

I'll end this post here, hoping that more information surfaces soon.

(By the way, these 2 knuckleheads are the same ones who are mismanaging the recycling center for the City of Laredo.)      

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tell Me Why


(courtesy image)

A KGNS reporter made note yesterday of the disappointing turnout for the first day of early voting.  Most Webb County voters were apparently busy doing something else, while only a paltry dedicated 3,341 voters took the time to cast either an absentee ballot, or to show up to a polling place.

Stories flowed online yesterday about brisk voter turnout in cities throughout the nation.  The only thing that hinted at that trend locally was a photo that a friend posted on social media: a line of people waiting to vote at Providence Health Center.  It was a good sign, I thought, until the reporter's caption graced our TV screens.  Thanks a lot, tv reporter!

Bobby Blanchard of The Texas Tribune listed the TX counties that performed the best.

  

The list above cites Hidalgo County, which includes Mission, Edinburg and McAllen, TX.  In nearby Cameron County (Brownsville), The Herald reported 6,581 ballots being cast.

I could tell you that our ballots, replete with 24 city charter amendment propositions, are keeping voters away from the polls.  It could be that local constituents are taking their time to study each proposition before making a decision.  But voter apathy is not a new thing.

In the fall of 2008, I blogged about low numbers.  In 2012, then-Mayor Raul Salinas showed his discontent for the lackluster voter showing.  And in 2014, there was a low turnout again.  That was a mid-term election.  Nevertheless, we'll use it to make our point.

I don't even want to guess anymore at why voters in Webb Co. aren't showing up to the polls.  We lag behind in so many areas.  Voting, or the lack thereof, just adds to our list of deficiencies.

Laredo voting public.  You suck.

UPDATE on November 2, 2016: chart that appeared in the LMT.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fenced Off Crossing


(courtesy photo from a co-worker)

The inspection stations at Bridge I (Gateway to the Americas) were demolished last week.  Only pedestrian traffic is allowed to cross from Nuevo Laredo.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Things Cometh


In a conversation I had with Meg Guerra last year, the subject of the city squares near bridge 2 came up.  Local architects had taken up the job of planning the revitalization of those open areas.  It's been only recently that one block, at least, has been cleared of its worn out vegetation.  A couple of benches have been removed as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More Money Flows To Airport, Again


(Image via KGNS website)

Henry Cuellar made another announcement of the airport receiving federal funds.  The money is to go toward improvements.  I'm going to start keeping track of these FAA grants because it seems like it's an all too common occurrence.

From the scant blogging I've done on this subject, there was:

The video interview in 2008 where Cuellar talks about money for the airport.

The post about $11.5 million in 2009 for the airport.

There was the photo op of 2010, with a big $6.9 million check in tow.

A grant in 2011 for $3 million.

And in 2012 I wrote about the list of grants the city gets, FAA monies included.

So it appears that these monies are ours for the taking.  Every year, Henry Cuellar and our local officials gather at the airport and take another photo to commemorate another hefty grant.  You would think they would get tired of this ritual.  

UPDATE: September 18, 2016  More money for the airport.  (Image via El Mañana)



City officials and Rep. Henry Cuellar held a press conference this weekend to announce the awarding of more federal money to our humble airport.  The millions will be used for upgrades and gratuitous photo ops.  And our city leaders will have one more convenient justification for making trips to Washington.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Respected Man


Roberto C. Botello Jr. passed away September 15, 2016.  He was the charismatic band director at Martin High School during my pre-teen years.  He was the spark that led to the Tiger Band becoming known as La Banda del Animo.  The spirit he instilled in the group got the attention of people outside Laredo.  The band's lively halftime shows, full of animo, were eventually featured at Texas Stadium sporting events on several occasions.

I never met Mr. Botello, since I arrived at Martin in the fall of 1984; By then he was already teaching at another local school.  His reputation, that of legend, had been left firmly in place.



Mr. Botello made the move to Cigarroa H.S. in 1983.  That was the year that Laredo I.S.D. expanded to serve the south Laredo community.  A former Cigarroa band member recalls those early days, when the high school was made up of only junior and senior students.  The fledgling Toro Band would have to make the most of what they had.  In its infancy, the band would receive some good news.

The Cigarroa Band would be invited to play alongside the Martin Band at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.  Apparently, organizers of the north Texas facility were not only impressed with what the Banda del Animo had to offer, but they wanted the man who started the tradition to return as well, with his new students in tow.  People apparently respected the legacy he left behind at his former school.

On top of the task of building up the band program at Cigarroa, it's reported that Mr.Botello also wrote the school's fight song and alma mater.  He stayed on at the school until 1991.  Afterwards he accepted the position of principal at the Trevino Magnet School.

Those who knew Mr. Botello recall the man's unflinching leadership.  He was a mentor to many students, highly regarded for his work and dedication.

His memory will live on.  And Mr. Botello's story will be best told by those he met.  My understated homage to him will hopefully remind others of the effect he had on our community and on others.

   

Monday, October 3, 2016

On This Day: October Issue


October 1, 2012 Charlie San Miguel says, “I will not resign.”
October 1, 2003 Sisters of Mercy sell hospital to Community Health Systems
October 2, 2015 Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau unveils official hashtag.
October 2, 2016 LISD schools respond to threats made online. Anonymous character posing at creepy clown.
October 3, 2016 Ethics committee vice-president resigns. Disappointed w council's decorum. 
October 4, 1898 Smallpox outbreak noticed by local doctors (Smallpox riot occurs next year in March)
October 4, 2014 Autmus Fest featuring A.B. Quintanilla’s Kumbia King AllStarz.
October 2013 Trash pick-up done once a week (green & blue bins)
October 6, 2011 Martin Tigers play Eagle Pass at new Shirley Field.
October 6, 2014 City Council welcomes new Lemurs owners from Monterrey.
October 7, 2002 Laredo Bucks start training camp. (Home debut November 1)
October 8, 2002 Tony Sanchez has spent $58 million on race for governor.
October 8, 1979 The Clash play Laredo
October 8, 2014 Johnny Amaya booked for tampering w governmental records and engaging in organized activity.
October 9, 1822 Samuel Matthias Jarvis was born in New York. (Died on January 31, 1893)  Donated land: Martin High School, Jarvis Plaza.  
October 9, 2009 Shirley Field demolition starts. (blog post)
October 10, 2011 Boat ramp at Lake Casa Blanca closed due to low water levels.
October 11, 1979 Judas Priest plays Laredo Civic Center
October 11, 2007 Barrera’s office raided by TX attorney general’s office for gambling promotion.
October 13, 2011 Bordertown: Laredo debuted.
October 13, 2014 Alex Perez arrested for stealing Abey Lugo campaign signs.
October 13, 2016 Bridge 1 inspection stations demolished. 
October 14, 2011 Laredo Police Officer and his motorcycle dragged by SUV on I-35. Officer taken to S.A. hospital.
October 18, 2012 Max Mandel Golf Course opens.
October 18, 1869 City council adopts new map of Laredo streets named after Mexican and American heroes. Mayor was Samuel Jarvis.
October 19, 2001 Alfredo Santos store on Sanchez closed its doors.
October 20, 2014  Meg Guerra holds farewell benefit event at La Posada.
October 22, 2001 Commissioners Court files lawsuit against Sheriff Juan Garza.  Garza had requested a raise from commissioners.
October 23, 2017 El Metro fees went up: Adults- $1.75; Seniors- 75 cents; transfers- 50 cents.
October 24, 2016 Early voting count: 3,341 ballots. Record turnout throughout Texas, except Laredo.
October 26, 2007 Chief Dovalina pled guilty to taking bribes.
October 27, 2016 Palenque Grill has grand opening for 2nd location. (San Bernardo) 
October 29, 2003 City officials present TX DOT with plans/cost of bridge 5.
October 29, 2014 Esteban Rangel agreed, in writing, to pay back money to city.

October 30, 1951 Latin Jazz Conga Player Poncho Sanchez born (in Laredo).
October 31, 2016 Two people found dead on Arco Iris Road & Estrella Drive (Hwy 359). 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Everyone Loves It


(Fox 39 story from last week)

Alex Perez speaking on the restoration of the house on Chihuahua & Seymour.
We finally started the project.  You know, there's a lot of interest in this house, you know.  On Facebook, at city council meetings, there's a lot, a lot of interest.  We've been at this already for four years.  Finally you can see a big change in the gardens.   
It used to be an old abandoned house.  Now it's looking like, you know, people are paying attention to it.  The flowers everywhere are blooming, you know; the people pass by, they're honking.  It's gonna be a great project.  This house has been around (for) since 1920 so it's about 100 years old.
A destination spot for the public.

(courtesy photo below)


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

South Laredo Landscape


This is my view when I was exiting the Domino's Pizza on Zapata Hwy & Palo Blanco.  I took the photo in July.  The reason I focused on the R&S gas station over yonder is because it appeared to be closed for good.  A couple of blocks north of that establishment stands a former Wendy's.

Some things we gain, others we lose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Looked Away


Photo via the internets

My interest in professional sports doesn't go far beyond football.  It's the one sport I've kept up with since grade school.  One aspect of the game that I find unsettling, however, is showboating.  I can't stand tasteless celebratory acts, even when they're done by players of my favorite team.

Last night Antonio Brown burned a Redskin defender and scored a touchdown.  After the play, Brown did some sort of twerk/Kegel/pelvic thrust move.  That's how he celebrated.

It's real easy for an NFL game to turn into a circus.  For that reason, I propose that the league do away with the pre-game formality of playing the National Anthem.  Get rid of that solemn ritual; It has no place in a setting where grown men are going to act like brutes.    

Friday, September 9, 2016

Please No Spam

Former City of Laredo spokesperson Xochitl Mora did an interesting thing the other day: she shared with her old media contacts an article that highlights the glory of McAllen, TX.

 
Mora moved to McAllen last month to be the spokesperson for the valley metropolis that apparently sets the standard for all the others.  She packed up and moved on to greener pastures.  The new chapter in her life, however, did not include a purging of her old email blast list.

Oh sure, I enjoyed getting rain total updates, and bridge revenue reports when she worked for our humble hamlet; But she's got a new boss, and audience now.  Her focus should be directed towards keeping valley residents in the know.  When I signed up for email updates from Ms. Mora, I expected to be kept aware of local happenings, not McAllen's.  She's now assuming that we all want to know, and that we should know, what's going on outside our borders.

One of her followers didn't appreciate the media alert.


The reason I take issue with Mora's approach is centered on getting unsolicited information from a person with whom I didn't have a personal connection.  When she was in Laredo, I asked her a question or two about local business, and that was it.  Our acquaintance was simply professional and distant.  Her recent outreach isn't really a surprise, however.  The McAllen press release she sent out to her Laredo contacts is typical Xochitl Mora.

In 2010 I took issue with Ms. Mora making an announcement on behalf of St. Peters Memorial School.  She promoted the private school to the media contacts she acquired through her role as a city staffer.  It was done on several occasions.  She overstepped her boundaries and she's still doing it.

The writer (in the featured passage above) who criticized Mora in an email reply spoke to the expectation of trust in establishing a professional relationship.  I appreciate his point of view, especially if sensitive information is going to be shared.  At the very least, Ms. Mora's approach is lazy and unconcerned with details.  I can probably block her updates, or ask to be excluded from the mailing list.  But it would be more thoughtful of her to ask her contacts if they want to continue getting press releases from a different city.

There is an etiquette to email.  Unfortunately Xochitl Mora still hasn't figured that out.        

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Los Amores Art


A mural has gone up in Los Amores.  It's located at the corner of Santa Maria and Constantinople.  The work was thought up by artist Tony Briones.  He recruited aspiring artists to help out.

The mural pays tribute to four of Briones' friends who have passed on.

(I learned of this project from Valerie Gonzalez's reporting on KGNS last week.)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Soaking Up September

September 1, 1977 Laredo receives valley residents avoiding Hurricane Anita.
September 1, 1863 Maj. Santos Benavides leads his troops across the Rio Grande to pursue Octaviano Zapata, a recruit of Union forces.
September 2, 1977 Bridge toll collectors unhappy with wages, scale back services.

September 2, 2008 CUT FAT billboard. (blog photo)

September 2, 2016 Lamar Middle School demolition in progress. Old buildings on west side of campus torn down.  

September 3, 1932 Bridge 1 destroyed by flood.
September 3, 2013 Barrio residents start getting their blue recycling bins. (blog post)
September 4, 1983 Cigarroa H.S. Silver Roses perform halftime highlights in gym.
September 4, 2001 Tony Sanchez announces campaign for governor.
September 4 Larry Berry's birthday, son of Laredo activist. 
September 4, 2014 JP Ricardo Rangel pleaded guilty to extortion in federal court.
September 4, 2012 City council approves higher fees for trash pick-up.
September 5, 1957 "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac was published. It contains a passage about Laredo. 
September 5, 2007 Laredo Bucks sign Coach Terry Ruskowski to a lifetime contact.
September 6, 1883 Laredo Daily Times created
September 6, 2016 City council decides to appeal the overturning of bag ban to Supreme Court.
September 7, 1885 Jovita Idar born in Laredo. Political activist who formed La Liga Feminil Mexicanista. 
September 7, 2015 (Alamo Drafthouse set to open Monday the 7th) [had soft opening Thursday/Friday]
September 7, 2011 Tino Juarez dies.
September 7, 2009 YouTube video:  T E A Party 2009 Laredo Texas
September 8, 1977 Lawrence Berry talks to Noon Optimist Club about city’s money discrepancies in street department.
September 8, 2007 Radcliffe Killam passes.
September 9, 1947 First semester starts @ Laredo Junior College. W.J. Adkins is president.
September 9, 2010 Ribbon cutting event for Slaughter Park.
September 10, 1881 Texas-Mexican Railway lands within city limits.
September 11, 1991 Continental Express Flight 2574 left Laredo airport. It crashed near Eagle Lake Texas.
September 12, 2017 Regular unleaded: $2.49 per gallon. Price went up due to Hurricanes Harvey/Irma. 
September 13, 2012 YouTube video: Air Wolf 1.  Sheriff introduces new helicopter.
September 14, 2007 Bill Clinton visits and eats with locals at Palenque Grill.
September 14, 1999 Laredo Medical Center moves from Heights to Saunders location.
September 15, 2012 North Central Park site of first No Mud, No Glory race.
September 15, 1931 City of Laredo names Bruni plaza (A.M.Bruni)
September 15, 2016 Roberto C. Botello Jr. passed away. (Band director) 
September 16, 1913 Aldo Tatangelo born.
September 17, 2007 LaSanbe launches.
September 18, 2006 “Your CW” launched by KGNS
September 18, 2008 Lamar Bruni Vergara home demolished. (blog photo of rubble)
September 18, 2015 Man falls from overpass at I-35 and Loop 20.
September 19, 1980 “Heatwave” Berler does weathercast (KGNS-TV 8 Laredo, Texas, video)
September 19, 1856 Antonio M. Bruni born in Italy. Member of Independent Club (Partido Viejo)
September 21, 2001 Doctor’s Hospital grand opening ceremony. New facility located at Bob Bullock Lp. And McPherson Rd.
September 21, 2009 Regular gasoline in Laredo was $2.39 a gallon.
September 21, 2017 Border Sporting Goods starts going-out-of-business sale. 
September 22, 1972 Nixon visits Laredo (picture). 2 years later he resigns.
September 23, 2016 Pinguino snack place opens @ former Starbucks location on Zapata Hwy. 
September 24, 2013 Apartments being torn down (just west of city hall, photo).
September 24, 2010 Laredo Broncos host ‘wrap-up party’ at former Homerun Derby
September 25, 2013 Last ‘blue bag’ day in El Chacon. Blue bin use from here on.
September 25, 2001 Sheriff Juan Garza to Judge Mercurio Martinez: “kiss his federal prisoners goodbye if he didn’t get his raise.” Garza was requesting 20 percent raise. 
September 26, 2017 3 Points Interchange closed due to flooding. Heavy rain in our area. 
September 27, 2015 County annex building in downtown Laredo demolished.
September 28, 1946 Laredo Jr. College established by the voting public. Classes began the following year.
September 28, 2011 Laredo ISD trustees dedicate new transportation facility at the site of old Ochoa Elementary School.
September 29, 1960 Mac’s Toys grand opening.
September 30, 2014 LareDOS announces retirement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Deadlines And Bombshells


Image via August 25 issue of the LMT

A week after the City Secretary (City of Laredo) disqualified three candidates from the November election because of incomplete applications, hope remains for one.  District 7 incumbent George Altgelt (he who speaks very good Spanish) will learn soon enough if a judge rules in his favor.  At stake is his name appearing on the ballot.

Altgelt turned in his candidate application on July 26, 2016.  The deadline was August 22.  It was the duty of the City Secretary, or his staff, to review the application and notify the council member if changes needed to be made.  They had five days to do that, we've all learned.  Up until the filing deadline, the incumbent was supposedly reassured by staff that his application was in order.

Naranjas! -- It turns out that a section was not filled in, the one that states how long Altgelt has lived in District 7.

Then the bombshell came.

The day after the Monday deadline, City Attorney Raul Casso, and Andre Montgomery (Office of the Texas Secretary of State) gave city staff their legal opinion: the missing information on Altgelt's application was grounds for disqualification.  

    Email image via Our Laredo on FB

George Altgelt was disqualified from running for re-election because he forgot to fill in a space on his application, and not because of: incompetency at the City Manager's office; poor legal advice from the City Attorney; corruption; or anybody at city hall trying to make attempt to vouch for Altgelt's residency.

And then there's the issue of two candidates filing to run against Altgelt an hour before the deadline.  They were encouraged to do so, according to Altgelt.

The councilman was quick to allege corrupt machinations within the bowels of city hall.  The mayor urged his constituents, through a Facebook post, to report any malicious activity related to this case.

At this point, the only thing anyone will own up to is that inexperience at the City Secretary's office is to blame for this election fiasco.

Judge David Peeples ordered the city to withhold the printing of ballots until he had spoken with all parties involved.  Altgelt is due for another hearing in two days.  Perhaps we'll learn more about his fate as a candidate for the November election.  We'll keep our ears open.  In the meantime I can only wonder.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zaffirini Acres

 



Longtime politician and turtleneck wearer Judith Zaffirini made news recently.  She apparently became the beneficiary of an inheritance: a large tract of land in north Laredo.  Express-News writer John MacCormack (August 7):
The Zaffirinis will take control of most of 450 acres of undeveloped prime Laredo real estate off Del Mar Boulevard.
The land in question was acquired by the Alexander family over a century ago.  The eventual proprietors of the tierra were Delfina and Josefina Alexander.  In their will, they left the land to sole heir Rocio Guerra (daughter of Josefina).

The estate was managed by trustees, one of them being the illustrious senator from Laredo.  Judith Zaffirini, however, didn't appreciate the alleged misuse of funds by Rocio's husband.  He was cashing in, ostensibly.  And Rocio was none the wiser.  Zaffirini made it a point to call out her second cousin's supposed lack of mental acuity, but was careful about not calling her retarded (see HB 1481).
She does not have capacity.  Please understand that I've known her all her life.  She has always had an intellectual problem.
The senator knows best and her husband will attest to that.  And that's why, together, they changed the wording in the Alexanders' will, all for the benefit of Rocio Guerra, of course!


 Jon Cassidy of Watchdog.org wrote about the land grab more bluntly: her (Zaffirini's) conflicts had become so obvious.

The Zaffirini's, in all good faith*, will see to it that the land remains in their control and that Guerra benefits from a "comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle."  They'll have to fork over $38 million to settle the lawsuit against them.

The final settlement of the case was held up by Judith Zaffirini’s insistence on language absolving her of any taint of fraud, embezzlement, forgery, or misappropriation of funds, according to sources involved in the case. Guerra’s attorneys agreed to the language once it became clear their client wasn’t getting her money any other way.

It takes a little luck and know-how to carve out a niche for yourself in Laredo.  The Zaffirinis have done just that, blemish on their character notwithstanding.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Give If You Can


I picked up this flier at a meeting recently.  Election Day is November 8.  It looks like Roque Vela Jr. has a challenger; And that challenger is asking for support.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Histrionic Much


Imagen via El Mañana 

What do you do when the governmental entity you help manage is facing one of the worst financial strains in recent history?  You put out an emotional press release, of course.

County Judge Cayetano* Tijerina posted a lengthy statement on his Facebook feed last weekend, as a critical budget workshop meeting was fast approaching.  The tone was epic and weary, like that of a man heading into battle or something.  He supposedly spent many a sleepless night pouring over ways of coming up with a balanced county budget.  Everything was considered; Thoughts and preparations were exhausted.  There was no more due diligence to diligently do.  It was time to make the difficult decisions.  The ax, many feared, would fall.

    
Monday afternoon came and the meeting started with the usual practices: Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, and sanctimonious display a rambling prayer courtesy of the county judge.  Public comments from law enforcement officials revolved around the urgent need to have their departments fully funded.  Their budgets couldn't be restrained severely, they pleaded.

Then came the financial tag team of Leroy Medford and Gerardo Uribe.  Budget officers extraordinaire.  They, along with County Auditor Leo Flores, provided the meat and potatoes portion of the meeting.  They were all grilled by the unsettled triumvirate of Jaime Canales, John Galo, and Frank Sciaraffa.  These commissioners brought their A game.  The Tijerinas, on the other hand, acted like lumps on a stump.

The meeting lasted two hours and the best the county judge could do was to be a bookend participant, leading off the gathering and making a motion at the end.

    
Commissioners Court was supposedly thrown for a loop when the auditor presented different figures than the budget officers.  Mr. Flores expects a $5 million deficit next year.  The budget officers put the deficit at more than double that.  The wise court, led by Judge Tijerina, decided to put everything on hold, and have the money men meet on their own to reach a conclusion on what the deficit really amounts to.

With a little over a month to go, and a balanced budget being the goal, the court tabled everything for another week.

It's hard to take the county judge's comments at face value.  He posts an impassioned screed on Facebook, talking about due diligence, tough decisions, and of knowing about the deficit problem for months.  Yet, when it comes time to act, he doesn't chime in at all; He doesn't question anything.  And it's obvious that he doesn't know what is going on.

What he does instead is badmouth the county auditor in the newspaper the day after the meeting.  He doesn't say anything about how they got to this situation: about how, maybe, the court itself spent money it shouldn't have.  He doesn't mention the hapless budget officers.  He doesn't call out his colleagues for being at a loss at this point in time.  Tijerina has done his due diligence and now it's appropriate to throw the auditor, and only the auditor, under the bus.

I'll be on the lookout for another of Tijerina's Facebook posts where he sets his burdened soul for all to see.  And maybe after that, the county will be able to balance an ailing budget.

*I'm guessing Tano's real name is Cayetano.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Downward Spiral For Abby Catt


Image via KGNS.tv

A blog reader called my attention to a story from this weekend: the one about the couple who pulled a gun on a person at a convenience store on Santa Maria Ave.  No injuries were reported.  But the would-be thieves were apprehended by authorities and charged with aggravated robbery.

Another story to fill the police blotter archives.  The interesting thing here, however, is that Abigail Catt has a history of being an accomplice in other heists.


ABC News ran a story last year on Abby Catt as she was getting her life together after a stint in jail.  

She spent almost three years in an east Texas facility for being the getaway car driver in a couple of bank robberies.  Her partners in crime were none other than her father Scott and brother Hayden.  Dad had some experience in this field, having pulled bank jobs in Oregon.

Abigail Catt was given a chance at a normal life, thanks to the kindness of well-meaning individuals.  Somehow she ended up in Laredo, helping to rob people at gunpoint.

The Catt family had a storybook life in Oregon.  But things fell apart, it seems, after the passing of Abigail's mother.  Beth Catt died of breast cancer at the age of 32.

 
Abby had it all.  Her story is an example of how our lives can be turned upside down.  I wish her luck.