Saturday, May 7, 2016

City embarks on "New" Master Planning without ever revealing "Old", $400,000 Master Plan

Laredo (LT) - The Laredo Morning Times, also known to some as El Empty, is reporting this morning that the City of Laredo is embarking on a brand new "Master Plan", uninspiringly entitled "Viva Laredo".  I wonder how much thought went into that branding process.

Disturbingly, there seems to be a full-court press on the taxpayers to dredge up all sorts of initiatives from the same old names in the private architectural and engineering sector in town.  Just a couple of months ago, we found out of the 4 plazas plan. Now, If you look at the names of those involved, it might seem like a "who's who" of recent contract awardees. Yes, some even donated to the city's recent trip to Washington DC as our friends at Our Laredo have been diligently reporting.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the citizens who paid for the last fiasco entitled the Downtown Revitilization Master Plan never got to see the end product of what their tax dollars were seemingly wasted on.

Are we about to go down the same path?  It's very possible. Remember that, last time around, the big bucks went to a San Antonio firm by the name of Kell-Munoz. This time around, although some non-Laredo firms have been "invited", the major forces behind this effort are clearly local architects and engineers. Maybe they figured it's their turn for a bite at the proverbial apple.

What I would suggest is this: Let's take a look at the last "Master Plan" before any further talk of this brand spanking new "Viva Laredo" initiative. Is there  any overlap? Can anything be salvaged from our previous squandering of tax payer dollars?

For the record, Mayor Pete Saenz did ask for a full report to the public on the Kell-Munoz plan from the city manager. Nonetheless, the Mayor's instructions were somehow completely ignored and here we stand again, on the brink of perhaps another round of corporate welfare without ever getting to see the results of the last one.

Monday, February 22, 2016

After buying "Haunted House", Mercy Hospital is next?

LMT reporter Kendra Ablaza had a story in today's Laredo Morning Times.  Although, judging by today's reporting, Ablaza's story would be more at home if LMT stood for Limited Morning Times since in this particular piece, the Public was given only half of the story behind the purchase of the Canseco home.  Left out, whether by design or by negligence, was the fact that, at one time, Mr. George Beckelhymer had gone before the laredo city council and stated that he would be donating the house to the city.  Also left out, was how a "donation" turned into a $540,000 purchase funded with taxpayer money.

There was also something lacking as far as clarity. The LMT story quotes Council Alex Perez, who was the main force behind this purchase, as having said " It's the poster child of Laredo's Most Haunted. It could just as easily be something great for that area".

It's hard to say just exactly what Perez meant by this statement. Did he mean : "Although at the moment, it's the poster child for a haunted house, it could easily be something great for this area"? This would signal an improvement in the status of the home. Or did he mean " Because it is the poster child for a haunted house, it could be something great for this area".   That would not make much sense to me.

Another unclear quote attributed to Cm. Perez went like this : "After this what's next is that old hospital".  I hope this does not mean that the city is seriously considering  buying the old Mercy Hospital with taxpayer money.  Councilman Perez, himself, has stated previously that the old hospital is an eyesore and that its dilapidated condition has had a detrimental effect on the surrounding area.

So, given the degree to which the owners of the old hospital have failed to adequately maintain their property,  are those same owners about to be handsomely rewarded for neglecting their property as much as they have been?

In the meantime, the city has been refusing to turn on the lights at our local baseball parks so that little league kids can practice.  Talk about misplaced priorities.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update: What ever happened the $Millions from the sale of the Laredo Civic Center ?

Update on the post below: The Civic center was actually sold by the city of Laredo for $16 million. This as reported by the Laredo Morning Times on September 11, 2013.

Update : Also, I just wanted to point out the Texas law that states that any proceeds from the sale of public property must be used for similar purpose. As a matter of fact, City of Laredo assistant attorney Ms. Hale read the following law aloud to the city council, verbatim during their September 11, 2013 special-called meeting. Texas local government code Chapter 253.D states as follows: The proceeds of the sale may be used only to acquire and improve property for the purposes for which the sold property was used.

A couple of years ago, the City of Laredo sold the Laredo Civic center to the Laredo Independent School District. The sale was for a figure of approximately $15 million. By state law, those funds had to be used for for a specific purpose. The proceeds had to go for essentially replacing the sold facilities. Anything the city did with the money had to be for the purpose of "community". That could be for building a place where the community could congregate and hold a wide range of activities.

The immediate promise coming from the city council was that the money was going to be used to build a convention center near the new outlet mall. Another idea was to build a sports complex which the entire community could use.

Fast forward a couple of years: The proposed TAMIU sports complex is being funded by a bond which the taxpayers voted to approve (this includes the natatorium). The idea of building a convention center near downtown was apparently completely dropped.

So, I ask once again: What ever happened to the millions of dollars that the City of Laredo received from the sale of the Civic Center?

City of Laredo officials get rich on back of poor

Recently appointed city manager Jesus Olivares heads the pack of City of Laredo "officials" who are making exorbitant salaries on the backs of Laredo taxpayers. Keep in mind that nearly 35 per cent of Laredo's population is impoverished.  Another way of looking at that is that 1/3 of the salaries for these Fat Cats come from people who live in poverty. Not bad. I was going to pose the rhetorical queston: Do they have no shame? But we all know the answer to that- NO.

Many Laredoans had a big problem with then-city manager Carlos Villarreal making $242,000 a year. After eight years on the job, he was able to get the city council to award him that kind of a very generous salary. That was nothing compared to the current city manager Jesus Olivares who came into office and immediately got what Carlos Villarreal took eight long years to reach- $242,000 a year.

Now, if that doesn't make you Laredo Proud, I don''t know what will.  Incidentally, the city manager has already started dropping hints that our property taxes might need to raised again next year in order to continue paying for this type of reckless spending.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

City Council Shenanigans

The only thing that was done right in regards to Wednesday's specially-called City of Laredo council meeting was that Mayor Pete Saenz said that the council should have waited to vote on the selection of the "new" city manager.  Everything else was "pretty much" business as usual. At the present time, "business as usual" in Laredo politics means it was done the wrong way.

A couple of months ago, councilman Rangel lead the move to oust then city manager Carlos Villarreal.  They could not get him out of there fast enough. Ultimately, Rangel's move cost the city over $600,000.  Co-incidentally, it was Rangel who led the move to install Chuy Olivares as the new city manager, even though for all practical purposes, Olivares serves as Carlos Villarreals right hand man for the last 8 years?

The council got the pay wrong as well. It took Carlos Villarreal 8 years to get to the obviously extravagant salary of $242,000 a year. Olivares starts at that same salary on the very first day on the job. It does not appear that our city council knows the meaning of fiduciary responsibility.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Take off your cap!

Mayor Raul Salinas stammered and yelled at some young  Laredoans who were awaiting their chance to speak during the public comments segment of Monday's city council meeting. After one individual failed to heed the Mayor's command, the mayor ordered that he be escorted out.  "Officers, take the appropriate action" the mayor screamed. "we will not have this hall disrespected" he continued. With that, that cap-wearing citizen was promptly escorted out by 3 Laredo Police Department Officers......all of them wearing their caps.   I'm sure the mayor didn't mean all caps had to be removed at city hall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fox News Latino reports on CEO fired for Laredo comments

The following excerpt is from Fox News Latino.  By the way, did any of the local media report on this?  If they did, I must have been pullling a Rip Van Winkle or something because I completely missed it. 

One correction, the Fox article below mentions that Schmitd was asked why he wanted "to move his company" from Laredo to Fort Smith Arkansas. The original Fort Smith local story states that Schmitd was asked why "HE wanted to move" (not the company). 

From Fox News Latino 

One of nation’s largest hospital healthcare service companies fired the interim CEO of one of its Texas-based hospital systems after he made racially charged remarks about Latinos during an employee meeting.
Community Health Systems, the parent company of Sparks Health System, quickly dismissed interim CEO Tim Schmidt this week after he uttered startling comments in front of about 125 hospital employees.
During a question-and-answer session, Schmidt was asked why he wanted to move the company from Laredo, Texas, to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“Have you ever been to Laredo, Texas?” said Schmidt, according toThe City Wire, a local website that covers northern Arkansas. “It’s 97 percent Hispanic.”
Word quickly spread throughout the hospital system’s Latino employees – including one doctor who immediately expressed outrage.
Officials at Community Health Systems took no chances and announced on Thursday that they had let Schmidt go from his post at Sparks Health System. It is unclear if he will still remain an employee.
Read the entire article at Fox News Latino
P.S.  I don't know why links to article(s) don't "work".