Thursday, April 28, 2016

Clean Up

I took this photo around March 21, 2016.  City crews were out cleaning the grounds of the Canseco house, the property that the city decided to buy from George Beckelhymer.

Can You Name The Location?

I call this photo: alliance of jerks.

Same Old Song And Dance

City officials gladly explained (again[cue eye roll]) to media outlets why they spent so much money at their pre-Spring Break trip to Washington.  Nothing was said that we didn't already expect from city hall.  They defended the trip and its expenses as necessary in order to draw more federal funds to our dusty, little hamlet.  Their hobnobbing with D.C. officials helps to strengthen ties between local and federal agencies, and thus, benefits Laredo in the long run.  So don't pay attention to the thousands that were spent for catering or for booze ($20,000).  It's all good.

When KGNS reporter Valerie Gonzalez asked the city manager whether a conflict of interest existed between the people who 'donated' money for the trip, and the City of Laredo, Mr. Olivares allayed our concerns.

"I don't think so. This is all something that has gone through the legal department. And, we feel that if we can defray some of the costs, that means that we don't have to use that money that we can use for other services here in the city", said Olivarez.

If the legal department says it's okay, then I'm convinced.  I don't know why I'm preoccupied with such things.  All other cities in Texas must also take 50 people to Washington every March.  All other cities probably pass the plate around to get donations from local businesses.  All other cities must throw receptions in D.C. for 500 people.  And all other TX cities spend $20,000 on alcohol.  For me to think that this is some sort of pay-to-play scheme is preposterous.  Don't be a fool, Keyrose!

Of course, the city is never going to release photos of everybody that went on the trip.  And they're definitely not going to post photos on their Facebook page of them boozing it up with federal public servants.  There are things that are better left unseen.  (As far as I know, the list of donors has not been released by the City of Laredo.)

I'll continue this post next year when we'll, again, be talking about this subject.  We'll ask the same questions and the city will give us the same answers.  Adios.

(old photo below)

Monday, April 25, 2016

What If

Moving Laredo Forward has successfully completed phase 1 of their mission: they turned in more than 10,000 signatures to city hall on Friday.  Barring any unforeseen circumstances, their agenda items will appear on the November ballot, thus letting the people of Laredo decide on changing the city charter.  At stake is the mayor having a little more power, and the composition of city council changing into a hybrid system, which will contain four at-large seats.

Moving Laredo Forward wants more accountability from city hall.  That's good, right?  The group says that, with a hybrid system (4 district reps and 4 at-large reps), voters will have more council members at their disposal.  Let's say someone has an issue that needs attention; they will have four at-large council members they can lobby, as well as the mayor and the district representative.  That makes sense to MLF.

Laredoans barely vote, and MLF thinks that constituents will suddenly become more active in local government that they'll reach out to several council members.  And on top of that, Moving Laredo Forward believes that having at-large candidates at work will end corruption as we know it.

But enough of the wants of Laredo's elite, their chummy relationship with Patricia Barrera, and the resources to place many an ad in the Laredo Times.  Let's look instead at a possible outcome of their plan.

Critics of MLF's hybrid system have argued that at-large seats will favor candidates with more money.  Naturally, they think that the at-large positions will be filled by people from north Laredo.  But money doesn't necessarily mean a victory for a campaign: see Gene Belmares, Louis Bruni, CY Benavides.  I propose we look instead at who is actually turning out the vote.

The "spreadsheet" I posted above has the voting totals for each precinct in the sheriff's primary race.  As we all know, Martin Cuellar won that one.  He had more money than Rick Flores, but more importantly, his name was Cuellar.  I'll leave it at that.  Using the numbers listed above, I want to advance the notion that at-large candidates may all come from south Laredo.

I grant that my experiment is in no way ideal, but I'm putting it forward for consideration.  Please indulge me for a while.

I broke up Laredo into north and south, using Saunders as the dividing line.  The two columns on the left represent all the voting precincts south of Saunders.  And the two columns on the right are for those north of Saunders.  (It's not perfect, I know.)  The total votes from the south side are: 13,770.  The north total is: 11,150.  These are the numbers provided by our local elections office.  The south side, I suggest, may be more formidable in elections than most people may think.

In 2011, Yolanda Salinas (Raul Salinas) thanked the canioneros for all their help in getting out the vote.  What is their influence in future races?  What significance is there in Esteban Rangel wanting more pay for council members?  To benefit the incoming person?  And there may be more to council's vote against Moving Laredo Forward's referendum: they may be privy to the unintended results that nobody has considered.

Critics and supporters of the charter changes have stated their case, one way or another.  But what if they're all wrong?  It could be that future councils will be composed of south Laredo cliques that are efficient at getting people to the polls.  They may be good politicians or they may be as corrupt as they come.  We don't know what will happen.  Moving Laredo Forward tells us what may happen.  But sometimes, things sound too good to be true.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Building Getting Some Work Done

The Santo Nino Branch Library has been closed for years.  Last month, crews started preparing the facility for remodeling.  The parking lot along Zacatecas was still accessible for people who campaigned for the District 2 special election.  Now, however, the whole property is fenced off.  The building will eventually house a clinic to provide medical services for the south side community.  

One more photo.

Monday, April 11, 2016

It Made Sense Once

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Lazy Mex Lounge being demolished.  It was a casualty of Operation: Crackdown, a project that demolishes abandoned structures known to be magnets for illicit activity.  The city and federal authorities have to get permission from the property owners before the razing can happen.

In 2008 I visited the bar to do research for my little website.  It was apparent then that the building didn't serve much of a purpose.

Both photos on this post I obtained through Google Maps.  I had to because I never got around to taking snapshots of the lounge's exterior before it was torn down.

For tax purposes, it probably made more sense for the owner to demolish the old Lazy Mex.  The place had its day, but the 2000s weren't it.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Clothing Donation Sites

This clothes bin is located near the HEB on Zapata Highway.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that receptacles like this one, throughout south Laredo, had clothes dumped alongside them.  Why was it the case that this scene was repeated at different locales?  Could be that a lot of people decided to do their spring cleaning at the same time.  Se pusieron de acuerdo.


Friday, April 8, 2016

This Lady In Red Sees Red

Last Friday, Univision Laredo went down to the Webb County Tax Assessor's office to record some interesting activities.  The report didn't disappoint as one Patricia Barrera (tax assessor) spoke in her usual animated style.  Check it out.

She said:
Por favor, firme esta petición para darnos la oportunidad de tener un discurso de lo bueno y lo malo.  Lo que orita existe, en un tiempo se necesito, pero hora ya estamos pa'tras con el patron system.  Nomas que hora son ocho cabezas; Y un monstruo con mas de una cabeza es muy peligroso.

The ocho cabezas this lunatic lady is referring to are the Laredo City Council.  Apparently she doesn't think highly of her downtown neighbors.  The whole lot at city hall is apparently corrupt, the way the famous J.C. Martin entourage was.

Anyway, Ms. Barrera invited Moving Laredo Forward to her office to use county resources to collect signatures for their petition.  With enough signatures, MLF gets the chance to put their agenda items on the November ballot, one of which is forming a hybrid city council: four assigned district representatives and four at-large representatives.  Currently, eight council members represent a separate section of the city.  MLF's hope is to get their plan in place for voters to change the city charter come November.  And they have Patricia Barrera in their corner.

Several things are bothersome here, the tax lady's flippant behavior being part of it.  Ms. Barrera seems to think that all is fair on her turf; She can invite anyone to set up shop at her doorstep.  So she does -- And she invites Moving Laredo Forward.  And MLF thinks, yeah, that sounds like a plan.

It's an interesting time in Laredo.  We've gone through a turbulent stretch in recent years, and now we're witnessing a good boat rocking of sorts.  Change is sometimes a good thing.  But you have to have a reasonable approach, and not shrill tactics that make the senses fail.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ambassador Mann

I think they named a road after this man.  (image from 1962 WBCA Yearbook)

Thomas C. Mann was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  He was born November 12, 1912.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Menso Not Mensa: Inmate Bus Edition

It's Menso not Mensa time again.  Definitely overdue since my last post may have been two years ago.  The details of this entry may not be spectacular but I'll let you be the judge.

For your consideration we have a 23 year-old man who rear-ended a bus transporting prison inmates.
(That in itself could've been the end of our case if the inmates ran for dear life, out of the bus after the crash, but no such thing happened.)  The driver's minivan sustained considerable front-end damage, of course.  The vehicle, however, was still in working condition.  That helped our frantic subject make his getaway possible with two kids in tow.

Authorities somehow learned that the escapee almost caused another crash in his attempt to evade the law.  That's the panic at work in this guy's head, I guess.  Police tracked down the minivan which had: major front-end damage, smoke coming from the engine, and a heavy marijuana smell coming from inside the vehicle.  

Fender benders happen every day.  But what this moron almost accomplished was involving his kids in two crashes in the same afternoon.  The kiddos may end up being psychologically scarred for life without fully knowing why.  They'll probably recall dad driving really fast that one time, and them getting rides from friends and relatives growing up.  And they'll ask one day, did we have a minivan once?

This will hopefully be a learning experience for our reckless driver.  Life is short sometimes.  You have to stop being a menso at some point.  Drive safe.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Downtown Going Through More Changes

Driving through downtown on Sunday I noticed that the Tex-Mex building was blocked off.  On the west side of the structure, an excavator was sitting idle next to a large collecting bin and a gutted edifice.  Webb County owns the property; They plan to construct a 3-story building on the site that may or may not house the tax assessors office.

I took a shot of the facade in September, when county officials were deciding the fate of the crumbling courthouse annex building.  Now it's this building's turn to come down.  It will be yet another phase in the changing landscape of downtown Laredo.  

One more.

UPDATE: courtesy photo submitted on 4/11/2016.  An iconic downtown building gone.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Guayaveras For A Good Look

I actually have a blog post titled 'More with Les,' where we talked about the state of downtown Laredo.  That was from four years ago.  The possibilities are endless when your name is Les.

Fashion makeover, anyone?

(photo/ad via LMT's Que Pasa section)