Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's Taking Shape: House On Chihuahua

(courtesy photo)

District 3 Councilman, and man who is desperately trying to keep a secret, Alex Perez spoke to the media recently about the anticipated completion of his pet project on Chihuahua St.  He mentioned the work that has gone into the dilapidated house behind him: plumbing, roof work, hype, etc.

The windows and doors are on order, apparently, and the property should be ready for public viewing early next year.

I don't think the house is going to be what people think it's going to be.  Every time I pass by it, I can't help but focus on the cracks between the house and steps.  I'm probably wrong, but I think the house will be touched up on the outside, dressed up with some light fixtures, and be more of a backdrop for giddy passersby to take selfies with.  Oh yeah, and then there are the gardens.  People will flock.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Some Voters Spoke Loud And Clear

Last week the voters of Webb County said NO! to a bond proposal that would fund a new jail and training center.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Mad Dash To Finish

The Laredo Times featured a story on the Canseco house on October 8, 2017.  I'm just now getting around to jotting down some excerpts from the writeup for future reference.  Story is entitled FINISHING WHAT WAS STARTED: City takes on restoration of 1925 French chateau.

Here are some passages from the article:

Over 2015 and 2016, Perez allocated a total of $782,595 of his district priority funds to pay for the home's renovation.  More than $100,000 has already been spent to address its most urgent needs: the leaky roof, the asbestos and the lead-based paint, Eads said.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  This is a three-story building, totaling about 3,500-4,000 square feet, Eads said.  There is no heating, ventilation or air conditioning, basic electricity or plumbing.  There's no plumbing for sewer systems, as an example.  They had outhouses, Eads said.

In order to keep costs down, the city will have to act as the general contractor for the building, and bid out by individual trade: HVAC, electrical, plumbing, painting, etc.

We're going to have to beg, borrow, steal - do what we can, and come together as a community, as a whole, and kind of pitch in, Eads said.

The plan is not to restore the home to its original state, but to renovate and preserve it.  The city cannot afford to replicate windows to be historically accurate, for instance.  Plus that would turn the Canseco house into more of a museum.  They want people to actually use the facility without fear of approaching it, Eads said.

Perez's primary objective in purchasing the home was saving the structure.  Its eventual purpose was secondary to him, according to Eads.

The main focus of the project has been the restoration of this near 100 year old diamond in the rough.  Its use or intended use has always taken a back seat, Perez said in a text message to LMT.

Berman Rivera, who is leading the city's new horticulture division under Parks and Leisure Services Department, is tackling the Canseco house's community garden.

This will not be structured like a community garden where people tend to their own personal plots, Rivera said.  They are working on establishing it like a community-supported agriculture farm, where people pay for seasonal memberships, he said.  It's yet to be fully ironed out.

Eads noted that Perez has a mad dash to finish - 18 months before his final term in City Council comes to an end.  The project will not stay incomplete by the time he leaves, Eads said.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Quitting Business Sale

I got this letter in the mail.  Not sure why since I'm not a customer, but it's noteworthy since Border Sporting Goods has been around for a while.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Too Much Of It

(Image via KGNS Facebook feed.)

The Rio Grande filled up nicely with the rain we've had over the last several days.  The Chacon Creek has also risen, but not enough to overwhelm the overpasses in south Laredo.  Traffic has not been interrupted on S. Meadow.

Reports to the La Sanbe news headquarters stated that the 3 Points Interchange was closed Tuesday night because of flooding in the area.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two Buildings Torn Down

Apartment complex on the corner of Loring Ave. and Guadalupe, fenced off for demolition on July 16 of this year.

On the Guadalupe side of the complex were the sites of businesses.  The corner location was a salon right before it was shut down.  Photo from July 23.

Demolition is almost complete: August 2, 2017.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Agriculture Garden At Canseco Property

I took these photos on August 27, 2017.

The city is moving forward with the installation of community gardens at the decrepit dilapidated historic Canseco home site on the corner of Chihuahua and Seymour/Loring Ave.  The City of Laredo bought the property in July of last year.  District 3 Councilman Alex Perez mentioned turning the house into a museum or coffee house, as well as putting in a garden for the public to enjoy.

It's my understanding that, with any construction project, the landscaping is the last thing to go in.  My councilman is apparently working backwards here.

Laredo knows a thing or two about growing local.  There are definitely some natives that have their own plots of edibles.  And the downtown farmers market is undoubtedly encouraging that type of endeavor.  But my skepticism with the Canseco COMMUNITY AGRICULTURAL GARDEN plan is that it will be a passing thing.  I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see private citizens tending their plots, on city property, on a regular basis.

This project is going to take a lot of TLC.  It's going to need the right conditions, a lot of attention, and dedicated gardeners with a little know-how in regards to growing food.  I sincerely hope I'm wrong in that this will be a phase that Laredoans will eventually give up.

Alex Perez has one more year to go before he terms out.  This Canseco debacle project may be his swan song, of sorts; his final accomplishment from which to hang his hat from.

This writer will surely keep tabs on this District 3 saga.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Heavy Equipment In Laredo

Was out cruising the streets of Laredo and I came across this scene: a crane standing idle near the corner of Convent and Matamoros on September 6.

Not sure exactly what it was doing there, but I did see a man lowering something by hand from the Hamilton Hotel.  Could it be that the antenna is coming down?

UPDATE: July 7, 2019

El Metro bus on Convent and Matamoros.  (courtesy photo)  Part of the Western Auto sign is on the right side.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Laredo Loves Its Confederate Icons

While the rest of the country is taking action to remove Confederate statues from public squares, Laredo carries on with its complacency of its own troubled history during the Civil War.

Julia Wallace (LMT) noted in Sunday's paper the reaction from local leaders to Santos Benavides, a colonel in the Confederate Army.

TAMIU Professor Jerry Thompson:

The Benavides family, like most families in Texas, had no inclination toward abolition.  Yet there was no evidence they ever aspired to own slaves.

Thompson wrote "Tejano Tiger," a book about Benavides, warts and all, apparently.  More on the colonel:

And Benavides had been a slave-catcher in instances before the war.  He once gathered 10 armed men to cross into Nuevo Laredo with him to capture a runaway slave and bring him back across the river, where he was put in jail. 

Others in town, however, aren't so quick to throw shade on the infamous Santos Benavides.  UISD Superintendent Roberto Santos, speaking on the school in his district, 'said he would not consider changing the name of Col. Santos Benavides Elementary School.  If the UISD school was named after an outsider, that would be a different situation.'

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini was quoted as saying, he is not known as a Confederate figure.  He is seen as a local leader and a local hero.

Rep. Henry Cuellar weighed in with a sallow statement, coinciding with his own pallid countenance.  I'll leave it at that.

But the cake-taker has to be our own Mayor Pete Saenz, a man who has exhibited having no backbone since taking office.  The mayor:

Given our composite, we're primarily Hispanics.  Some people may not necessarily care.  Why create an issue when we're OK with it?

The mayor didn't seem to mind the displaying of Civil War relics when discussing the Confederate flag two years ago.  His cowardly attitude endures to this day.  He's the perfect man for our sleepy hamlet.  Not a good thing.

Look around when you have a chance and you'll see the Confederate flag on display throughout Laredo.  Our leaders should care about the image we're putting forward for visitors.  It matters.

 The Confederate flag comes in many forms.

If you happen to watch a city council meeting, look for the flag.  It's not hard to miss.

UPDATE on January 2, 2019.  Found this old photo online.  I noticed how this town used to fly the Confederate flag that's more familiar to people.  Over the years, apparently, businesses have softened its take on local history.  It's less jarring and controversial not having the Stars and Bars flying high out in public, especially at a spot that is one of Laredo's marketed destinations.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Old Building On Bartlett

Former pawn shop on the corner of Bartlett Ave. and Lyon looks vacant.  It's seen better days.

A si-dal view from Lyon St.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sucker For Nostalgia

For old times sake, I took a turn into Lake Casa Blanca on Sunday.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was a little exhausted from tending to menial things at my place and at my mother's vacant house.  Some heavy lifting was involved but nothing that broke my back.

I stopped for something to drink because my mouth was so dry.  My body was telling me I was behind on fluids.  All I had strength for was sitting behind the wheel of my pickup.

As I drove east on Saunders, I played in my mind the many times we got on the old lake road, the one just west of the county golf course.  That was the only way we knew of how to get to the lake.  The curving road had a low wooden fence between us and the greens.  That fence ended at some point, giving way to a nondescript park sign.

There was no entry fee in the days of my youth.

The grounds surrounding the lake look the same, with the exception of some add-ons and replacements.  I can't help but think that on a day like this the lake would've been packed with outdoor types and cruisers out to pass the time.  Times change, however, and the tired park has lost its allure.  The area near the shuttered swimming pool was deserted.  If it wasn't for the noise coming from Loop 20, you could sit alone in silence.


And old bench sits broken near the pool house.

1981 is a long time ago.  Only the vestiges and vague memories remain.  What was once a favorite spot for many Laredoans to partake in leisure activities is now a shell of its former self.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

One Big Mess: Old Hospital

A blaze was put out by the fire department at the old Mercy Hospital on June 26, 2017.  No major damage was reported.  I don't know how you can tell; the whole facility is in a state of major disrepair.

KGNS reporter Yocelin Gallardo quoted the owner of the building, Andrew Carranco, as saying, "the building has tight security and (he) does not know how this happened."

The report goes on to say that the building has no electricity.

The abandoned hospital does have chain link fencing around the entire perimeter.  But from the photo above, you can see that a big gap is there for anyone to trespass onto the property.  Not exactly what you would call a deterrent for ne'er-do-wells.  Tight security this is not.  (view is from Hendricks Ave. looking west.)

If the building doesn't have any electricity, how can it have any type of monitoring system?

Everything about this location stinks.  I can only imagine what the people who live nearby have to put up with.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Disappearing Laredo

The image above I pulled off of Google Maps.  You can tell it's from there by how some of the pieces don't align with each other, and by the blurred-out spots that show at different places.  I tweeted this photo 2 years ago: June 15, 2015.  

The reason I saved a shot of this location is because the auto parts store, at least, had some yellow tape blocking off its parking area at one point, and the store looked vacant.  I thought it was due for demolition.  Both buildings were located on the corner of Convent Ave. and Matamoros.  They're gone now.  They were demolished a week ago today.    

This image, which features the old Southern Hotel and the Hamilton Hotel in the background, is one of my own photos.

Meg Guerra wrote about the location last week in her online reboot of LareDOS.

In 2011, around the time of downtown revitalization talks, and Kell-Munoz/City of Laredo relationships, the centro corner site was going to take on a 'Marketplace' design.  But it looks like that destination hub for a renewed downtown will turn out to be a mere parking lot owned by the city.

Courtesy photo of Que Fregados blogger entitled: Rubble after the rain.

The white and red-colored building in the background will be used for low-income housing for the elderly.  At least that's the plan right now.  I remember the place being a pool hall in the 1990s.  Way before that it used to be home to the KGNS studios.

The demolished sites in downtown Laredo keep racking up:

Blanquitas restaurant
Sanchez Auto World of Laredo
Tex-Mex building (vacant lot)
County Courthouse Annex (filled-up hole in the ground)
Riverdrive Mall (outlet mall)
Jitney Jungle (Siete Banderas)
El Centro Motel (parking lot)
Lamar Bruni Vergara Home (duty free shop)
Betos Music store (parking)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Laredo Institutions Now Gone

Holloway's Bakery closed for good one week ago.  The closing came without warning, aside from a statement posted on the front door.  The photo of the door/flier was shared on Facebook.

In 2010, the owners made a declaration for all to see: here to stay!  That was when the Guadalupe overpass was being erected directly behind the bakery.  They weren't budging; the overpass would have to bypass them.  Unfortunately, all things come to an end.  The owners of Holloway's realized it was now time to move on.  

For the residents of the Heights, 3 Points and El Chacon, the nearest bakery now is Quickie Bakery on Corpus and Malinche.  The natives will make the necessary adjustments, but what will become of the iconic Holloway's location?  My fear is that it will become a gambling joint like other Laredo institutions that have gone the way of the buffalo, if you will.

I don't know when it was that Roli's dance hall closed and became a casino.  On McPherson, Cotulla Style Pit BBQ was razed in 2012.  A new building came and part of it was leased for use of gambling machines (photo below). 

Another joint that was turned into a casino was Pelican's Wharf.  Remember that one?  Kelly's Western Wear (formerly Shakey's Pizza) is on the verge of closing.  Could gambling machines be in its future?  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Is She A Fraud?

Two weeks ago, Patricia Barrera made heads turn when she announced that she paid her employees out of her own pocket, because Webb County did not issue them their paychecks.  KGNS reported that 40 of Barrera's employees were not using the county-mandated biometric system for punching in.  As a result, pay checks were not issued and then there was the matter of them not accumulating sick leave and annual leave.

(statement released by Webb Co. today)

Barrera pressed on with the only recourse she found appropriate: filing a restraining order against the commissioners court.  Instead of getting her house in order, she went at the county dads (term used by Odie Arambula) with a legal fight.

According to a county spokesperson, the Time Clock Plus (biometric system) machines were introduced by the county 3 years ago.  Commissioners opted to make the system THE apparatus of choice for Webb Co. late last year.  Barrera decided not to climb on board with the punch-in system, and that brings us to now, with another Patricia Barrera scandal.

The word fraud has come up with this case.  It's unknown whether any intentional malfeasance has taken place at the tax assessors office.  The only thing we know is that Barrera doesn't intend to let this go.  She may fight some more.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Street In Laredo

How many landmarks can you spot in this photo?

Changes A Major

Full disclosure:  I worked in the Health Services Department.  And then I was fired; Or better yet, my contract was selected for non-renewal, and my department was eliminated.

Major changes were instituted at LCC, thanks to the new president and an accommodating board of trustees.  The president of the college thought the organization had too many chiefs, so the natural response, of course, is to let several of them go.  But why would you do that when you want to start up four new programs, including a cyber security program, and a program for drones, whatever that is.

The new president, in making bold moves for the college, is also up for an award.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Labor Force Need

There are jobs that need to be filled.  Guest workers fill that need.  The demand is real.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Same Old Drivel

South Texas jerk off Jay St. John is back in town.  The loutish sexagenarian appeared alongside Sergio Mora in a Facebook live broadcast Friday evening.  Mora and John used to be regulars on morning drive radio.  Laredo's lack of public radio outlets and political talk drove me to tune in to the show, which will have a nightly presence online on weekdays.

My thoughts on Friday's preview: how can I get that hour and a half back?

Sergio and Jay laid out their plans for the show, noting that they'll shoot for having their voices on social media and terrestrial radio, simultaneously.  They're embracing what technology has to offer.  The downside is that Jay St. John brings back the tired tropes he was known for: insulting everyone and offering little proof of anything.  He brings no new information to the fold and I feel like I lose IQ points every time I listen to him.

Listen at your own peril.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lemurs Done In Laredo

Photo of KGNS story from May 3, 2017.  The big scoop:

The city of Laredo has confirmed that Lemurs owner, Arianna Torres has withdrawn Laredo's team from membership in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

And That's

A nice canopy, benches, and bike rack were the featured items during a press conference held by Councilman Rodriguez on Thursday.  It's called a Bike & Ride Plaza, and it's supposed to encourage citizens to ride their bike and use the El Metro bus when going on about their business.

The nifty bus stop is located on Zacatecas, near the fire station and recreation center.  (Cigarroa HS is within walking distance.)

The building that used to house the former Santo Nino branch library is across the street from the Bike & Ride Plaza.  It was renovated last year.  The district's councilman said, during Thursday's presser, that the facility would be used as a WIC clinic.  For now it sits empty.

And that's south Laredo for you.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

It'll Be A While

Jerry Garza and Ann Hutyra spoke to local attorney David Almaraz on 'Beyond the Headlines' (KGNS) yesterday.  Mr. Almaraz is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.  He added some context to the FBI raids that occurred last week:  

Initially, the federal agencies, in this case the FBI, get information that something, possibly illegal, is going on.  So they send some agents to start working on it.  In this case, probably, if you go back six months and maybe even a year, it's very possible that the agents talked to somebody, maybe a whistle blower.  And many times, in cases like this, they will actually bring in somebody and interview them.  They'll take them to the Shiloh building, and say, 'look, we have information that we think shows that you've been doing something illegal.  You want to tell us about it?'  And at that point they become what they call cooperating individuals.  They'll start telling the FBI what they know, what they suspect.  

This doesn't happen just overnight.

By the time they got to this search warrant, they had to have an affidavit signed by, probably, an FBI agent.  I've seen these affidavits; they could be five, ten, fifteen pages long.  In that affidavit, the federal agent tries to tell the federal judge, the magistrate who's going to sign the search warrant, a little bit about him, or her, what their experience is with this type of alleged public corruption case.  And at some point, they have to prove to a judge - a judge is not going to sign a search warrant on city hall or the county judge or the county courthouse based on hearsay.  They have to be pretty sure what they're looking for.  And so, that is how I believe this search warrant was issued.

They have to have probable cause in front of you.  And the judge will say, I need to have very good probable cause before I sign this.  Why?  Because it's very unusual for agents to actually raid a city hall anywhere, or a county courthouse anywhere, and actually shut down business for that day.

I have not seen or heard of anything like this before, at least here in Texas.  It's possible it has happened, but for them to hit two entities, a city and a county place of business, the heart of the county and the heart of the city, it's not common at all.

Mr. Almaraz found it odd that the names of local elected officials were released to the media.  Right now they are just "target subjects."  It's not until an actual indictment is handed down, or an arrest is made, that names are revealed to the public.  It may be that the charges filed by the FBI, and list of public officials, was leaked.

The next step, according to Almaraz, is for the FBI to present their findings to the Department of Justice.  But first they have to sift through the evidence they've collected.  This process may take months.  The FBI has to build their case, and then decide which officials to focus their attention on.  It may be that only several of those on the FBI's case will actually face an indictment.

It could be years before we see any arrests.

(Photo courtesy of El Manana)

Beyond the Headlines contributor Sergio Mora pointed to the powerful image of the FBI truck parked outside city hall on Wednesday.  Mayor Pete Saenz called the situation embarrassing.  The downtown facility, among other places, was locked down that day.  Agents were seen going back and forth, taking what they needed.

The same scene was playing out at Dannenbaum Engineering offices in Laredo and throughout Texas.

Local leaders addressed the matter on Wednesday afternoon.  List of names or not, Laredoans would've suspected the worst.  What we do now is just sit and wait until the investigation is carried out.  We have a better sense of what transpired last week, but it'll be a long while before the truth comes out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Too Much Uncertainty And Anxiety

City council had a meeting on April 17, 2017, where they discussed the future of the vacant/abandoned Mercy Hospital in the Heights area.  Councilman Alex Perez does not want the old building to be used as a detention center by the federal government.  I can understand the neighborhood's residents not wanting a detention facility in their backyard.  The Heights is a mix of residential and business establishments.  But a public eyesore with trespassers who do god-knows-what is okay?

The Carranco family, who owns the old building, has said that they've had offers in the past, but nothing has panned out.

(photo courtesy of KGNS: Beyond the Headlines)

Alex Perez has floated the idea about the city buying the former hospital.  I believe he wants to do that so the City of Laredo has more control over what is developed at the site.  The Carrancos, for their part, can just sell the property and its new owners can turn the place into a bingo hall or a flea market.  But if the city buys it, they can possibly lease it out, and perhaps rake in some revenue; or they can just flatten the structure and install a park.  That would be ideal for Alex Perez, y quedaba bien con sus Heights constituents.

But before the city can entertain the notion of buying Mercy, they have to crunch the numbers, with the help of the federal government.  Councilman Alex Perez:

What the EPA is going to do is, uh, provide us exact numbers as to what's wrong with it, uuhhh, how much is it gonna cost to clean, and uuhh, they're going to provide us a roadmap as to...(pause).. uh I guess you can say, the best roadmap, uh, the best way to go.  (end quote)

Councilman Perez has his own anxiety roadmap, if you will, for the abandoned building.  But he's been through this before.  In the spring of 2011 he even reassured the public that the city would not take ownership of the building.

Perez has about a couple of years left in his second term.  The clock is ticking and it's still hard to tell what will happen with the public nuisance that has sat empty in Las Lomas since 1999.

(another courtesy photo, albeit unflattering for one person) 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nixon's Changed

I got this photo from Google Maps to show the church that used to be on the corner of Lyon and Malinche.  I never got around to photographing it, and then it was demolished to make room for the LISD music magnet school.

Another photo I grabbed from the internets here.  Plum, the street between the band hall and Nixon's main buildings, once was once accessible.  It's not anymore.  It now belongs to the high school.

Last photo.  A lot of parking off of Malinche.  The open space in the background is now occupied by the magnet school.  Things change.