Sunday, August 30, 2020

They Come And Go


Jaime Canales was sentenced to prison on August 20, 2020.  The details of the case paint a bleak picture of politics in Laredo. 

(Edits to follow)

And just as that happened, we learn of the new spate of candidates seeking office in November.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Twelve Weeks To Election


This clipping is from August 9.  Alyssa Cigarroa is running against Robert Bali in November.

A person by the name of Dorantes is also running.  This is the corner of Sanchez and San Dario.

I don't know if Alberto Torres has a challenger, but his signs have been plenty in central Laredo.  Apparently he has money to spend on air-brushed images of himself.  These things started popping up in late July.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Justifying Death With Language

I am pissed that the local media says covid deaths with underlying health conditions. This makes people think they're immune from it. Guess what people, underlying health conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, over weight..... Everyone has underlying health conditions. (Comment via Twitter)

I fully understand where that sentiment is coming from. Laredo officials pop up on our social media feeds to give us the new tallies of those affected by Covid-19. As of early this afternoon, 2,163 Laredoans have tested positive for Coronavirus; and the new death toll is at 36. The practice of having our leaders go through a presentation by roll call has become rote. Worse yet, they remind us that those who have perished had some sort of underlying condition.  

It's useless information for the layman, really. Death should be death. It shouldn't be qualified with vague language. And underlying conditions can be any host of medical ailments. You turn 40 and you automatically join the underlying condition peer group. If I jump onto a scale right now and refer to a BMI chart, I'll be reminded that I fall into the obese category. I don't consider myself obese. However, researchers have come up with a system to help me gauge my well being. They're saying, watch your weight and eat better for improved results over the long term. Still, I gorge on chips and down them with a sugary soda, because I still haven't crossed the event horizon. I'm doing okay and I have plenty of time to make corrections. That's my thought process.

The messaging that's echoed by our leaders and media outlets is doing the same: it's reassuring us that this new virus has an ugly fate for the weakest among us. Those with unmanaged comorbidities, those who are frail are the ones with one foot in the grave. The others will die, not us! Our doctors have never uttered the words underlying condition to our face, and thus, we should be fine.

We rationalize death to assuage our own fears and neglect to think that anyone with a medical condition can live a productive life.

In looking at inspirational thoughts for people with cancer, I came across this one: Cancer is a word, not a death sentence. In our current public health crisis, Covid-19 plus underlying condition equals death sentence. At least, that's what the wording tells us. Uttering underlying condition time and again is repetitive and vacuous. Meaning is stripped away from a person's death.  

36 Laredoans have died -- they probably didn't have to. But because of our lack of leadership, they did. Our response has been inefficient and marred by bickering. Medical treatment is reactive and there's no telling when we'll have a useful vaccine to combat our virulent enemy. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. All of this should be flagged as the contributing cause of death, not underlying condition(s).

There's too much confusion, however. The only consistent messaging thrown at us is underlying conditions. We'll use it as a salve for the psychological wound inflicted upon us. It's all we've got at this point.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Bland Comments From City Leaders

The tweet from Congressman Henry Cuellar makes no mention of police brutality.  His thoughts on the current crisis around the country go as far as the Twitter character count rule. 

I unequivocally support our country's law enforcement, who work every day to protect our communities.  However, supporting law enforcement doesn't mean we can't have transparency & accountability.  We must do better to provide liberty & justice for all, including #George Floyd.

LPD Union President Rogelio Nevarez sticks to the noble causes of police officers.  It's tone deaf, among other things. 

We've been out in the community for six decades now, and we've given thousands of dollars in scholarships and have provided thousands of backpacks, we've done Christmas presents for all of the kids, so we've been doing things in the community, and part of the union is community service.  I don't know what perception they have of it, but our whole purpose is to make sure that we are here for our officers and their rights as employees and that they are equipped and trained properly.  (Another role the union plays is negotiating salaries for officers, making sure compensation is commensurate with the dangers that come with the job.)

And finally the city.  Mayor Pete Saenz and City Manager Robert Eads give the killing of George Floyd a little more thought.  There are hints of reassurance towards the public, that acts of violence from police can be reported.  See if you can spot them.

The City of Laredo firmly believes in the right to peacefully assemble and have your voice heard. The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the death of countless people of color throughout history, has spurred nationwide protests and reignited the dialogue about institutionalized racism and justice in this country. We send our condolences to the family of Mr. Floyd during these most difficult times.

We are not silent on this issue. Our city leaders have taken progressive approaches to protect the rights and safety of our citizens and have a zero tolerance approach to racism.

Our police force is composed of a highly trained, experienced, and diverse group of men and women who reflect the faces of our citizenry. 

The Laredo Police Department has consistently engaged the community residents in a meaningful way that show not only are police officers here to protect them, but that they are also available and within reach so that they can communicate any concerns, make suggestions and network with their police department to make their community safer and more progressive.

Public activities such as Coffee with a Cop, bike rodeos, collaborations with our local university and community college are just a few of the many ways that we invite and open lines of communications with our citizenry to allow them to get to know us and understand the specific issues in our city.

Citizen engagement through our social media channels, which gives alerts and news updates 24-7, and the Laredo PD app which allows citizens the opportunity to participate in the reporting 

of crimes with complete anonymity, have become meaningful venues of communication.

New technology and continued citizen engagement opportunities are the progressive, proactive paths to better communication and citizen engagement.

All of this is done with the well-being of every citizen in mind and inclusive of new innovative ideas and adopted best practices which make the Laredo Police Departments one of the best police departments in the country.

We welcome this opportunity to have a city-wide discussion about injustices in our community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Hall and all public buildings have been closed to the public since April 14, 2020. Online, phone and drive-thru services remain uninterrupted.

Given the current COVID-19 safety precautions that are in place, anyone can request a virtual meeting with the Mayor, the City Manager, or any elected official by contacting their office and going through the proper channels.

Our city and our employees continue to work for the safety and justice of all Laredoans.

(I emphasized some words)

No mention is made of past lapses by local police.  And there is no emphatic denouncement towards police brutality.  There is no mention of the process by which a person can submit a complaint of police abuse and the recourse that one has. 

A rally was held at city hall, on May 30, relating to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.  No city officials were present at the event.  And when rally organizers attempted to speak to city officials this week, nobody from a position of power made themselves available.  They can meet with the media, face to face, but they can't make time for their own citizenry. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Rally At City Hall

A local activist group, Red Wing United, held a rally outside city hall yesterday afternoon.  The focus of the event was to call attention to the death of George Floyd, the black man who died on May 25 as a result of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes.  Laredoans converged peacefully to ask for justice and policing reform.  

Critics wondered why locals would speak out on the death of a man we didn't know, and who wasn't part of our community.  One of my social media followers even said that cases of police brutality didn't exist in Laredo.  To him I pointed to the case of Frank Carter, the former Laredo police officer who assaulted a person that was handcuffed.  Carter was sentenced to prison in 2013 for violating the person's civil rights. 

In 2014, Laredo police unloaded dozens of rounds on Jose Walter Garza at a truck stop on Santa Maria Ave.  As he laid dead, officers approached Garza's body, fist-bumped and then handcuffed him.  His demise was determined to be suicide by cop.  The incident was recalled at the event yesterday.

Priscilla Villarreal, aka La Gordiloca, turned herself in to authorities in 2017.  She was charged with misuse of official information.  A court ruled that the statute used against her was vague.  Villarreal claimed that police and the district attorney pursued charges against her as a form of intimidation.

An immigrant woman from Guatemala, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, was gunned down by Border Patrol in 2018 in nearby Rio Bravo, TX.  An BP officer fired at Gomez Gonzalez because officers were being attacked with "blunt objects."

Our community does not have a significant African-American population, but we should relate to instances where officials overstep their authority.  Brown people have also died at the hands of police officers.  Because it doesn't happen here doesn't mean we shouldn't comment on police brutality or call for justice.  People of color are disproportionately mistreated by police, when compared with whites offenders.  Laredo seems to be far flung from the rest of the nation, a town that most people can't find on a map.  But we shouldn't go about our lives thinking that we are immune to the ills of society.  Shit happens here too and we shouldn't be silent or willfully ignorant of it.  


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Laredo Covid Timeline: April

Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Officials announce third death from Covid-19. (The person passed away March 31.)

April 2: Laredo Times prints numbers of Covid-19 cases, including deaths, below their masthead.

April 3: The number of positive Covid-19 cases: 83. Five total deaths reported.

April 4: First death from Covid-19 occurs in Nuevo Laredo.

April 6: The number of positive Covid-19 cases: 122.  

April 7: City of Laredo ordered people to wear a mask any time they were out in public, including for activities like walking or bicycling. 

April 11: No live update given by city officials, only new numbers of Covid cases.

April 12: Easter.  Two more deaths are reported by officials, bringing the total to 8.  

April 15: 10 deaths reported, 239 positive cases of Covid-19.  
[Laredo firefighter dies of gunshot wound in an apartment; CBP officer is arrested.]

April 16: Drive-thru testing begins.  11 deaths reported, 267 positive cases.
[The bodies of 4 family members are discovered in south Laredo; a 20 year-old male was arrested.]

April 18: 267 positive cases of Covid-19. 

April 20: City council meets, decides to open trails and let people walk outside without a mask, unless there is someone else nearby. 
Positive Covid-19 cases: 281. 

April 21: 295 positive Covid cases. 

April 22: 302 positive cases and 12 total deaths. 

April 23: 321 positive cases.

April 24: 13th death reported, person was a nurse aide; 338 positive Covid-19 cases.  Retail-to-go started, with businesses allowed to sell their products curbside: customers not allowed to go inside stores.

April 25: 14 deaths total. 340 positive cases. 

April 26: 15th person died, a man in his 20s. 

Monday, April 27: HEB now open 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  Governor Abbott will allow retailers, movie theaters, malls, restaurants, museums, libraries to open May 1st, with occupancy recommendation capped at 25 percent.  Stay-at-home order will expire April 30. 

April 30: 363 positive Covid-19 cases -- 16 deaths. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pandemic In Photos: Laredo

An online flier posted online by the health department. (photo via City of Laredo FB alerts)

El Metro accepting ten riders per bus.  Some seats are cordoned off to allow for space between passengers. (photo via Univision live stream on FB)

Grocery stores were encouraged to set aside hours for the elderly to shop. (photo via FB)

Schools started providing meals for students.  Parents were advised to Grab & Go.  (photo via Cigarroa H.S. Twitter)

Front page of the Times from March 17, 2020: first case announced.

Photo taken Sunday, March 15, 2020.  Customers lined up at HEB before the store opened at 8:00 a.m.  I walked to the store, just to take a picture.

TX-DOT reminding drivers to stay safe and healthy.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus In Laredo: Timeline

The United States and South Korea each reported their first confirmed case of the coronavirus to the World Health Organization on Jan. 20. (The News Tribune)

Read more here:

February 26, 2020: Dr. Hector Gonzalez states that no confirmed cases of Covid-19 exist in our community.

Sunday, March 1:  LMT headline: Webb County officials say they are prepared for coronavirus. 

Tuesday, March 3: No plans for closures.  Dr. Hector Gonzalez: But at this time it is acting like a seasonal cold-like virus. 
Texas primary election: Super Tuesday

Wednesday, March 4, 2020: Health department staff members meet with LISD nurses.
Covid-19 hotline is set up by health department.
Robert Eads is selected as Laredo City Manager.  

Friday, March 6: No testing kits available locally. 

Sunday, March 8: city leaders travel to Washington, D.C. as part of their yearly jaunt.
LMT story: Jorge Vela quoted Dr. Hector Gonzalez: He pointed out that this is due to the fact that COVID-19 is no worse than the regular virus that causes the common cold and that 80% of people don't have symptoms and quickly recover. Therefore, large amounts of medical supplies are not needed. 

Monday, March 9: Texas Department of State Health Services present information to county commissioners regarding Covid 19. Attention is given to jail facility.

Wednesday, March 11: Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson quarantined in Australia after testing positive for Covid 19.  NBA season is suspended.
The World Health Organization declares Covid-19 a pandemic
City officials hosted "Laredo Day" in Washington, D.C.
City of Laredo officials: No state of emergency and therefore, there is no need for community-wide social distancing.
Grocery stores are seeing a run on: water, toilet paper, Clorox and anti-bacterial soap. 

Thursday, March 12: UISD statement: Family self-reported that they recently travelled to a European country.
2 patients at Doctors Hospital in isolation tested for Covid-19.

Friday, March 13: LISD teachers send extra work home with students, in case that Spring Break is extended.
Laredo spelling bee postponed.
Laredo College extends Spring Break one more week, until March 27, 2020.
City of Laredo: no confirmed cases of Covid-19; city events canceled for 30 days.
UISD cancels practices, the use of open courts, fields, weight rooms.

Saturday, March 14: The Tecolotes Dos Laredo's suspend preseason games, postpone regular season.
HEB stores close at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 15: Announcement is made by city officials that 2 patients at Doctors Hospital tested negative for Covid 19.

Monday, March 16: First case of Covid 19 is confirmed by health department.  Person had not travelled to any hotspot areas.  Infection was classified as community-acquired.
TX-DOT announces that employees will start working remotely, starting on Monday.
Emergency declaration is announced by city and county officials.  The emergency management plan is set in motion.

Tuesday, March 17: City council convenes an emergency meeting. They vote on a 2-week lockdown. Residents are encouraged to stay home; grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors offices are allowed to stay open.
Facilities that are ordered to close are: bars, bingos, 8-liner joints and entertainment facilities.

Wednesday, March 18: Outlet stores remain open but foot traffic is minimal.
El Cenizo orders a lockdown.
Diocese of Laredo cancels services.
Laredo Police Department headquarters is closed for visitors.
Sheriff's downtown office limits visitors who want to pick up information, reports.
Rio Bravo issues lockdown order.

Thursday, March 19: County judge signs emergency order, restricts gatherings of more than 10 people.
City of Laredo launched text alert app for Laredoans to get Covid 19 updates.

Friday, March 20: Three people tested positive for Covid 19, bringing the total to 4, according to city officials.
The bridges didn't close, but non-essential travel was prohibited.

Saturday, March 21: parks were closed at noon to discourage groups of people from congregating.
Regular unleaded: $1.77 per gallon in south Laredo.
Laredo Federal Credit Union to be open only Monday thru Friday.

Monday, March 23: Schools started Grab & Go meals, providing food for students.
Two more people test positive for CoronaVirus, bringing total to 6.

Tuesday, March 24: City officials report 3 new confirmed cases, bringing total up to 9.
[persons #1 & #2 were co-workers at Hillside Rec. Center; person #2 is teacher at Dovalina Elem.; person #3 CBP agent; person #4 is co-worker of person #1 at Zaffirini Elem.]  
Mexican Consulate in Laredo suspends community activities.

Wednesday, March 25: Total confirmed Covid 19 cases is up to 13.

Friday, March 27: city reported a total of 22 positive cases. 

Saturday, March 28: at 12:01 a.m. shelter in place order to start, with partial curfew.
Laredo Times: Laredo officials deny report of death of a coronavirus patient at LMC. 

Sunday, March 29: 1st death from Covid-19 is reported in Laredo.

Monday, March 30: School districts extend break until April 24, 2020.  
LMT business section: Local restaurants battle to stay open under emergency order that allows only takeout.
City reports 37 positive cases of Covid-19.

Tuesday, March 31: Second death from Covid-19 is reported.
Governor orders schools to remain closed until May 4, 2020.  Only essential services to remain open.
City of Laredo holds meeting, installs curfew for all citizens from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and people should wear a face covering when going to public places. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Outdoor Stage I Like

Webb County will embark on a major upgrade to LIFE Downs.

It's a unique place for the public to enjoy.  Not my kind of scene but I wish them luck.

Comment via press release:

Laredo, Texas – (February 28, 2020) – Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina along with members of the County Commissioners Court held a Groundbreaking Ceremony and officially unveiled plans for the new Webb County Fair and Expo.

Hundreds of attendees gathered amid the ongoing Laredo International Fair and Exposition. The sounds and aromas of the annual fair permeated the area while the Lamar Middle School Band welcomed attendees with their lively and familiar tunes. 

County Officials emphasized the importance of bringing everyone together as one of the many attributes of this new multi-purpose facility. The new Webb County Fair and Expo will support a wide variety of community events year-round. It will feature flexible and adaptable spaces for numerous civic and community events. It will be place well known for celebrations – where memories are made; a place that allows children to showcase their talents, abilities, and accomplishments.

“The Webb County Fair and Expo has been a top priority for me since taking office. For many of us, some of our earliest and fondest memories were made at the fairgrounds. It has served as a hub for community activities and involvement for years in Webb County. It’s time to reinvigorate this institution to its full glory so that our community and future generations in Webb County will enjoy the fairgrounds for many more years to come”, said Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina.

The venue is designed to host numerous events such as conventions, conferences, concerts, sporting events, graduations and more.

The new 140-acre project will be designed as a park-like campus with an efficient, visitor friendly layout with beautifully landscaped areas, professional on building and way finding signage. 

The new Webb County Fair and Expo will include new:

·         Main Event Arena
·         Banquet Hall
·         Two Exhibition Halls
·         Show Rings
·         Horse Barns
·         Stall Barns
·         Festival Grounds and Outdoor Concert Stage
·         RV Park for Participants
·         Baseball Fields
·         Soccer Fields

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Inevitable Wall In Laredo

The newspaper screen shot above is from December 15, 2019.

Federal officials have released their proposal for the location of a fence -- it'll be alongside the river.  If that's true, if the border fence is constructed along the path of the Rio Grande, then the landscape that we've known all our lives will be dramatically altered.

No longer will we have access to one of the great wonders of the world.  The natural beauty of the world which is our tie to another nation will be obstructed by a heap of metal.  We will have given in to fear.  

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Money Is Not Quite There Yet

Federal funds, which have not yet been secured, are being tagged for major work along Chacon Creek.  Henry Cuellar and city officials held a press conference, on February 3, to announce the millions of dollars that are expected to fund the creek's restoration.  Press conferences like these bolster everyone's image.  We're supposed to think that elected officials are constantly hard at work for the community.  Let's just hope everything falls into place.

$14 million will go towards flood risk management, which includes buying out about 73 property owners that have their homes too close to the creek, where flooding is prevalent.

The people whose homes are bought out will be allowed to relocate wherever they want and receive relocation assistance to help pay for their new home by taking into account how much their property is worth along the creek.  The process is expect to be all voluntary, but imminent domain can be used by the federal government for anybody that is reluctant to sell. 

(Jorge Vela, LMT)

Translation: nobody is going to get Canseco House, or downtown office building, kind of money for their property, not like political insiders are used to getting.  Residents along the Chacon Creek will be lucky if they're offered $150,000 for their homes.

I hope city officials, and the councilman representing this area, especially, are transparent in their dealing with the people that will be relocated.

Monday, February 3, 2020

A New Agreement

Mayor Pete Saenz went to Washington last week for the signing of the USMCA trade pact.  It's a revamp of NAFTA, apparently.  (photo appeared in the Laredo Times yesterday)

This clipping I found at the public library when I was scanning the microfilm inventory.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

County Dreams Big

Millions of dollars have already been spent on the design plans for the LIFE grounds upgrades.  Commissioners now want to put it up to the public in November to vote on moving forward with the development.  At stake in the bond election: a project that may cost between $40 and $80 million.

That will add to the county's debt and we don't know if they have the revenue to cover the daily upkeep of the proposed facilities.

Other projects that have been in the works for a while: rehab center, veterans museum, golf course hotel.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Grassroots He Ain't

Photo via Twitter

The primary is on March 3, 2020 and Henry Cuellar is in a mad rush with TV ads, mailers to constituents, social media posts, etc.  It's like nothing he's done before.  We have his challenger, Jessica Cisneros, to thank for that.

In the photo above, the Cuellar team throws around the word grassroots.  Rich, considering the corporate insiders that donate to his re-election.  There is nothing grassroots about Cuellar.

There have never been any town hall meetings to speak of.  He's never visited with voters in Laredo's older neighborhoods.  He's never made time for anything, except photo ops and a lot of personal boasting.  It's time for a change.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Chicken Buildings Gone

The building where Kentucky Fried Chicken used to operate out of is gone.  It was located on the corner of Bartlet and Laredo.

The KFC restaurant that was on Santa Ursula and Washington had a different design.

(image via Google Maps)

I remember the Santa Ursula location more fondly, because it was closer to my stomping grounds.  The building was demolished several years ago.  Now it's just flat surface area.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Different Worlds For Henry

Last week, a high-ranking Irani official was killed by an airstrike ordered by Donald Trump.  The death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani was followed by concern of the retaliation that would be directed at U.S. forces abroad.  Criticism of Trump arose from acting hastily and from not consulting Congress about the attack.  Henry Cuellar, currently in the middle of being primary'd, said this about the killing of Soleimani:

There is no doubt the record of Major General Gassim Suleimani proves he was an egregious and dangerous military leader.  Suleimani is responsible for the death of thousands of innocent civilians and threatened our national security.  The death of Suleimani could diffuse the power of the Quds Force and is a necessary step in combating the threat of Iran.  The administration should work with Congress to ensure we continue to protect our national security and international interests.

Cuellar went straight to the boogeyman description and rationale, instead of raising any concern about the inevitable pushback by Iran.  Republicans were doing the same in the days following the killing of Soleimani.

Today Cuellar was in San Antonio to speak of the millions of dollars that were dedicated for projects around military bases.  (Photo/story via the San Antonio Current.)

Cuellar was joined by Major General (Ret) Juan Ayala.

In San Antonio, Cuellar took on a different tone regarding the strike against Qassem Soleimani:

If there was an immediate danger, I can understand, but I hope the president will disclose that.  You can't just say that's the case and change the subject.  I'm hoping the president can be more cooperative.  My thing is the United States cannot be a lone cowboy and patrol the world.  

A different tone and a different posture from the congressman.  It's interesting how Cuellar appears deflated at his press conference in San Antonio.  In Laredo, when he has a press conference, there is a lectern -- sometimes emblazoned with a congressional seal -- and there are numerous local officials by his side, all fawning at the congressman's grand exploits.  In San Antonio today, he had to do with a retired military official and no props.

Cuellar is incredible at showboating when he's in town.  And local officials are all too eager to oblige him with his theatrics.  It seems that no one ever questions Cuellar's beliefs or his tactics.  Because of that, he can get away with a middling statement in regards to an act of war in our name.

UPDATE: I posted a tweet about Cuellar's press conference yesterday and Colin Strother took exception.

UPDATE on March 1, 2020: another tweet from Strother. This to show what an asshole he is.  Enjoy.