Monday, January 31, 2011

Perry walks back his stance on "sanctuary cities"

Rick Perry: Talking tough but carrying a little stick again  

According to the Texas Tribune, Rick Perry is talking out both sides of his mouth again. At the beginning of this year's state's legislative session, he made eliminating so-called sanctuary cities a priority by putting that issue on a "fast track". Now, his aides claim that his position on the issue is being distorted See for yourself:

By Julian Aguilar- Texas Tribune

Border lawmakers who oppose Gov. Rick Perry's call to abolish “sanctuary cities” in Texas are misinterpreting his stance on the issue, according to his aides. They say the governor wants peace officers in Texas to have the option to inquire about a person's immigration status, but would oppose laws that require them to ask — what his office referred to as Arizona-style legislation. It’s all about “discretion,” a spokeswoman says.
“If a peace officer feels it's necessary to question the legal status of an individual during a lawful stop, he [or] she should be able to do so and refer to the appropriate federal authorities,” says Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.  “The governor continues to oppose demanding peace officers inquire, just as he opposes measures that prevent them from asking.”
Last week El Paso lawmakers met in that border town to denounce Perry’s declaration that abolishing “sanctuary cities” be fast-tracked after he declared the issue an emergency item.
It's amazing how much waffling Rick Perry gets away with. It just goes to show you what a consummate politician the thrice-elected governor is.

LMT's Biz Journal's take on city makeover : So far, all sizzle, no steak

Kayaking down the Rio Grande has recently become very popular

Sean Bowlin, in LMT's Business Journal, referred to the city of Laredo's campaign for an image makeover as having a whole lot of sizzle but not much steak. This reminded me of the Rick Perry saying: "all hat and no cattle". Another such saying that comes to mind is when Mr. Cowboy Cumbia  himself, Javier Molina was speaking in front of  former Mayor Betty Flores and the city council. He was upset with the council about some particular issue and stated something to the effect of the city being like a longhorn: a point here,  a point there and all bull in the middle. You get the point. No pun intended. Even Laredotejas has written in the past, that one thing is to makeover the city's image but another thing to actually change the reality of what the city has to offer.

In today's article, Bowlin goes on to question just what the next step in the rebranding effort is. He is not alone. Many of us have also been wondering what follows in the wake of the Kell-Munoz study. After spending $300,000 on that firm for a downtown revitalization study, not much more has happened besides mostly talk.  Bowlin apparently agrees that even all the marketing firms in Texas can only do so much.

One example of how important good ideas are to truly changing our city is the continuing interest in kayaking down the Rio Grande. This did not take the construction of any multi-million dollar buildings. It did not rely on any laws having to be changed. It did not depend on the acquisition of valuable land.  Someone had an idea and moved on it and the results have been very positive. I apologize for not having all the facts on exactly who was responsible for making Rio Grande Kayaking events a reality although the name Big River outfitters comes to mind. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong. The gist of my message is that good ideas are invaluable and we should all have the opportunity to express them to our politicians before they go spending another $300,000 and not having much to show for it.

Looks like someone at Laredo's Convention and Visitors Bureau is not doing their job

View of Texas Travel Information Center at Laredo
Unfortunately,the Texas Travel Bureau on IH-35 is not too busy these days

This is what appeared on a search I did from a link to Texas Highways Magazine. Compare the events shown for Laredo versus those shown for San Antonio. Granted, San Antonio is a big city with lots to do.....but is Laredo that bad? Why not at least provide a breakdown of the major WBCA events. That way it will make for a longer list of activities and might  actually get noticed by visitors to their website. That one-line entry for Laredo does not look good at all. 

Events Calendar

You can refine your search here by optionally adding any one of the search restrictions.


The Eyes of Texas are upon you : Webbgate

Our elected officials swear they will uphold the law: Will Webbgate tell us otherwise?

Well, ok maybe the eyes of Texas aren't all upon Laredo, but the eyes of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs sure are. I remember last year when I first read that there was going to be some funding available for weatherizing homes for qualifying Laredoans. I even made it a point to mention it to people whom I thought might be helped by the program. After a few weeks, when I asked whether they had called CAA about applying, I was told something to the effect of "No, dicen que no calificamos/ No, they said we don't qualify". I recall being puzzled and wondering to myself, then who is qualified?  Well, as it turns out, those who  did qualify were apparently mostly those who happened to be in cahoots with one of our Webb elected officials or another.

It's sickening (is that too strong a word?) to think of how, when federal or state funding allocations are announced, the drooling begins among those at the county with the power to abuse the system. They don't go about seeing  how they can help their constituents. Instead, their focus is on how they can help themselves. They know who they are and maybe once the FBI is done with their investigation, the rest of us will know also. In the meantime, the reluctant Webb county commissioner's court will have to decide who gets to be the new CAA Chieftain. Laredo will be watching closely. Whom they select will say a lot about whether they are planning to come clean or if they're planning on continuing their crooked ways.

At least one more Arctic Blast for the Gateway City

Se va a poner bien Frio! (It's gonna get really cold)

With the rest of the country experiencing one of the worst winters on record, it appears that Laredo will get at least one more arctic blast this week. Since Heatwave if off during the weekend, it was up to Adriana Arce to give her meteorologist impersonation. Her forecast had the morning lows for Wednesday and Thursday dropping into the upper 20s. Laredoans should prepare for a hard freeze just to be on the safe side.

Remember to bring in the pet and plants, cover any exposed pipes, check your antifreeze, tire pressure and make sure to gas up. You don't want to be standing at the self-serve pump with those freezing winds whipping about. There's even been some talk about the wind-chill factor possibly reaching the teens. For those many of you who actually look forward to the cold, it's time to start gathering wood for a good, old-fashioned South Texas lumbrita.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

LISD to decide on layoffs in April, State's final budget due until May

Who knows, maybe they'll just layoff the students

We've all heard the saying, timing is everything. In the case of LISD, it means that the district will have to decide on job cuts about a month before the state's budget is even out. Superintendent Marcus Nelson made it official that LISD fully expects to have to "let go" some employees due the the ongoing budget cuts affecting most of the nation's schools. April is when the district issues its employees next school year's contracts. Sadly, that is also when those who will not be returning will find out their fate.

Without the state's final numbers, it will be difficult to know exactly just how many jobs to cut. Chances are that LISD and other districts will elect to play it safe and cut as many jobs as they can.  In other words, more jobs than necessary might result being eliminated. As big as the cuts on the horizon are looming, even essential, indispensable jobs will not be safe. Hopefully, Dr. Nelson and the recently overhauled board of trustees will look at creative ways of cutting spending with minimal impact to the classroom. Let's also hope that they use painstaking measures to ensure that no more cuts than is absolutely necessary are asked for.  

LMT letter to the editor speaks highly of Laredo Community College

Laredo Community College: serving Laredo since 1947

In Saturday's Laredo Morning Times, a very positive and refreshing letter to the editor praised LCC for doing their part in providing a excellent educational foundation for those aspiring to continue their collegiate studies. Ms. Elizabeth Rodriguez, who has subsequently graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in applied technology. She is currently working on her master's degree in educational technology. Congratulations to Ms. Rodriguez for her accomplishments and continued good luck. Here's an excerpt of her letter in which she speaks quite favorable of our community college.

I think it’s safe to say that I would not have made it this far had it not been for the initial educational foundation that I received at Laredo Community College.It’s very easy to sit around and blame others for our own failures.I think people need to take responsibility for their own actions.

Education is what we make of it, and not the other way around.I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I had some of the best instructors at LCC. They truly care about student success and are willing to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that. As a community, we should come together to support our local colleges and be a part of trying to help them succeed.

There are many students that cannot afford to travel out of town to get their education, and bashing our local community college is only going to deter people from getting any type of education. As a former student, I can safely say that Laredo Community College is a great educational institution, and I would recommend it highly.

Seen any weird-looking bees lately? Super wasps released in Laredo to combat Carrizo cane

Arundo wasps recruited to fight Carrizo cane along Rio Grande

Laredoans are well acquainted with the question of the non-native, invasive carrizo that has just about taken over the banks of the Rio Grande. A few years ago, there was an attempt to use pesticides to help eradicate the encroaching carrizo. The Border patrol was adamant about spraying the river banks in order to get rid of the cane and allow them a better view of the river. Although the exact sequence of events escape me, they spraying was ultimately called off. Now, scientist are employing another strategy; super wasps that might actually be effective in combating the almost invincible carrizo.  From the Texas Observer :

This unnatural density is one hallmark of an invasive species. The Arundo cane has spread so fast in Texas because nothing is feeding on it. In Europe, where it originates, specialized insects keep it under control. When the Spanish brought the cane to colonies in South Texas in the 1500s for basket-weaving, they didn’t bring anything that would eat it. Now, 500 years later, we are paying the price.
“Every native plant species in the Rio Grande Valley has spent millions of years in constant competition with every other plant and animal species in the region,” Adamczyk said. “They have bred to keep each other in check. But there’s nothing doing that for the Arundo. Nothing is eating it or slowing its spread, and it’s able to out-compete everything.”
There are three primary ways to control invasive plant species: Kill them with herbicides, clear them with bulldozers and machetes, or attempt to introduce a new predator. The least controversial approach, clearing the cane, is not going to work. There are thousands of square miles of the stuff, and Arundo cane is nearly impossible to cut out. Each stalk has a thick taproot that sends shoots in every direction. You can bulldoze or chop the cane down, and it will grow right back. Worse, any stress on the plant—say a machete blow—causes it to send out more root stalks. Every chopped-up joint of cane that floats downstream can sprout another stand.
Killing the cane is not going to be easy, and until recently, the USDA was considering spraying the Rio Grande and its tributaries—an area known for its intensive agriculture, which drains into the Gulf—with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The drawbacks are obvious. In 2009, scientist John Goolsby of the USDA’s Beneficial Insects Research Unit proposed using “biocontrol” on the cane. The approach involves fighting one invasive species with another invasive species. In this case, wasps. The Arundo wasps are what entomologists classify as “primitive wasps”—they don’t live in colonies, they don’t build nests, and they can’t sting. They can, USDA scientists hope, help control the cane.
The wasps are from the same part of the Mediterranean as the cane, and the female wasps have sharp, tapered abdomens that they use to inject their eggs deep into the green stalks. The eggs cause the cane to form galls and grow outward, seriously retarding growth. Later, the young wasps emerge from the galls, and the cycle continues. Since 2009, the USDA has begun releasing them in test sites in Laredo and McAllen.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Brownsville ISD's self-funded health plans yielding big savings

Brownsville ISD is Largest employer in Valley
According to the Brownsville Herald, the Brownsville Independent school district has been saving big bucks over the last 2 years thanks to it's self-funded health plan. Is this something that perhaps UISD and/or LISD could implement?  How about LCC and TAMIU pooling their resources together to get a better deal on health insurance- or do they already do that?  Here's an excerpt from the Brownsville Herald's story:
The Brownsville Independent School District’s self-funded employee health plan cost the district less during 2009-2010 than it did during each of the previous two school years, BISD’s school board insurance committee learned Friday.
A summary provided to committee members by administration showed that net costs for the plan in 2009-2010 totaled $37.05 million compared to $43.45 million in 2008-2009 and $37.67 million in 2007-2008. Per-employee, per-year costs also went down. In 2009-2010 the PEPY figure was $4,893 compared to $5,817 in 2008-2009 and $5,141 in 2007-2008.
“That is almost unheard of in the healthcare industry,” Eric Wright of Mutual Assurance Administrators Inc. said after the meeting. Wright was at the meeting to present information and answer questions about the first quarter of MAA’s second plan year, which started Oct. 1, 2010. MAA took over as third-party administrator for BISD’s health plan in October 2009. The previous TPA was HealthSmart Benefit Solutions Inc., which administered the plan the previous two years. Before that the TPA was Mutual of Omaha.

In self-funded health plans, the TPA administers the plan on the employer’s behalf, providing a network of medical providers, claims management and other services.

You say you'll be at the Jamboozie, but which one?

Jamming & Boozing in downtown Laredo

Jamboozie might be a pretty strange name for a celebration, but it actually does make sense. It' a place you can go to hear a wide range of bands jam and of course, there's a lot of boozing going on. In a way, it's almost like a compound word or a blend : Jam & Boozing. However, even with all it's weirdness, it's not a unique name. In looking up some jamboozie info on the net, I ran across a restaurant in Sterling Heights, Michigan with the exact same name. What are the odds that two diverse places such a town in Michigan and Laredo would invent the same weird name?  I wonder if the Jamboozie restaurant up in Michigan also has an original, secret-recipe, tall, purple drink. Now, that would have to be a conspiracy

Do you hafta change the Nafta (highway)? : Changes in the plans for I-35

The proposed IH-35 would be the road in red

It looks like the times they are indeed a changing. A recent study addressing the congested traffic on IH 35 north of San Antonio has some surprising suggestions. The following is part of an article which appeared on Austin's American Statement website Friday evening.

A state-commissioned study of Interstate 35 released late this week includes a number of eye-popping, expensive and politically problematic suggestions for relieving traffic on the clogged main vein of Texas transportation.

The most startling: Remove the interstate designation from I-35 between Georgetown and Buda and instead slap that label on the eastern loop formed by the tollway twins Texas 130 and Texas 45 Southeast . Those two roads, which run from north of Georgetown to south of Austin, would have their tolls removed.
Then, posits the 122-page draft report, one of the existing lanes on each side of the "old" I-35 through Central Texas would become a "managed" lane with tolls that would fluctuate in cost depending on the traffic load.

I-35 through that 44-mile section generally has three lanes per side now, although there are sections in Central Austin that have four going north and four going south. The toll revenue from what is now I-35 could be used to replace at least some of the revenue from the still lightly used Texas 130 and Texas 45 Southeast, providing a portion of the debt service on the more than $2 billion in bonds used to build the Texas 130, Texas 45 North and Loop 1 tollways. In addition, the study theorizes that much of the truck traffic clogging Central Austin on I-35 would move to the eastern loop.

That loop is about 12 miles longer than the straighter route that I-35 now cuts through Central Texas. And some of those trucks now on I-35 have loads to drop off or pick up in Austin and thus might be unlikely to take the loop.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

McAllen's stylized website eats our lunch again. This is getting old: chomp, chomp, chomp!

McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez gives his "State of the City" address. I'm pretty sure our own Mayor Salinas would love giving such a speech himself.
Maybe it's that I am not a technology wizard, but McAllen's website, sure seems to offer a lot more than that of the Gateway City. It even has links to the city's very own facebook & Twitter pages as well as a link to it's youtube channel. I may be mistaken but I don't belive the City of Laredo has made use of any of these networking sites so far. Also, the site has a list of McAllen's upcoming events and an additional link to their blog. I wonder whose job it is at the City of Laredo to be keeping up with our competition.

Admitedly, I do recall that there was an item on the agenda to grant a contract to a local Web designer. As far as I remember, it was tabled ( as is often the case) for lack of one thing or another. In any event, This is one place where the City of Laredo could start making some changes immediately. There's nothing that is preventing them from starting to use the aforementioned networks as soon as today to promote Laredo. It's like everytime we look up, here comes McAllen again, hungrier than ever.

Update on the Bus driver & the Peach story: She has been reinstated. Anyone surprised?

On the road again: Bus driver back on her UISD job

This in an update to a post about a week ago. Laredotejas had reported the story of a UISD bus driver who was suspended without pay for two days in August. Her infraction was simply that she accepted some peach seedlings from a grateful parent. In some good news, the driver, Maria de los Angeles Cazares has been reinstated and assigned to her previous route, from which she had been removed. Once again, we refer to Nick Georgiou of the Laredo Morning Times. This in an excerpt from his article:

 UISD trustees heard Cazares’ grievance in closed session last week. When they reconvened in open session, they unanimously voted to reimburse her for the two-day suspension and reinstate her on the same special education route or an equivalent one.

The incident happened in June, when Cazares accepted the three peach tree seedling from a parent. She received them after dropping off the parent’s son while on her special education route. Conners, her attorney, wrote in a grievance document that Cazares did not ask for them, but accepted them as a “token of appreciation.” She then put them in the empty seat behind the driver’s seat and dropped off the remaining students on the bus.

A week later, Claudia Perez, UISD transportation fleet supervisor, questioned the gift after apparently reviewing the video surveillance on the bus, Conners wrote. The matter appeared to have been cleared up, but when Cazares returned from summer break, she received the letter from Garcia saying she was to be suspended and placed on a different bus route.

In her grievance, Cazares wrote that she was being retaliated against for reporting misconduct and policy violations allegedly committed by other bus drivers and aides. Conners also wrote that she has no “at fault” accidents involving a school bus, has good overall evaluations and no record of significant problems with her job performance.

Congratulations to UISD board of trustees for ruling in Ms. Cazares' favor. The grievance process at both school districts needs to be completely overhauled so that it becomes a process that's actually objective and not merely an exercise in rubber stamping.

Wade Watch: Webb GOP chairman Blair, Wade defend republican initiatives

Radio host Tom Wade on 1090AM's Wake Up Laredo had GOP county republican chairman Randy Blair as his guest this morning. Together, they spent roughly about 40 minutes of the show defending a couple of republican initiatives that have stirred some controversy in Austin.

The first issue they took up was the Voter ID legislation that passed in the Texas Senate last night strictly along party lines. Republican state senators voted 19-11 to pass the new law which requires all Texans wanting to vote to present a picture ID before being able to do so. Wade and Blair both thought this an excellent idea. Obviously, they don't see the connection to past measures such as the poll tax and other barriers that used to prevent many from voting until they were all eventually ruled unconstitutional. It's yet to be seen whether this latest attempt at disenfranchisement will pass constitutional muster.

Next, Wade asked Blair to offer his take on the almost-sacred Texas rainy day fund. Blair made a sensible argument at first by saying that it's important that Perry proclaimed the fund as off-limits so as to force Texas lawmakers to work harder to find ways to cut waste and unnecessary spending from the state's budget. The problem with this argument is that the cuts have already transcended the cutting of  unnecessary spending and are now carving into essential, necessary spending such as funds for schools and health services.

I think that Wade and Blair's views clearly outline how many fiscal conservatives think. They start off by making sensible arguments for responsible spending but just don't know where to stop. How can it be more important to leave the 9.3 Billion dollar rainy day fund intact and cut the pre-kindergarten programs throughout the state to half a day. How many working parents are going to have to either stop working or loose hours of work because their kids won't be able to be at school all day long?

Incidentally, I want to thank Wade for providing a link to laredotejas on his website. Gracias!

With buget crisis, why is UISD paying consultants to speculate about shortfall?

Our classrooms are under seige and it ain't the Martians this time.
For the last couple of weeks, UISD has been talking about drastic budget cuts. They have implemented a flexible hiring freeze, devised plans to merge two schools, announced cut backs to the district's pre-kindergarten programs and other harsh measures. On top of all of this, UISD saw it fit to bring in some consultants to tell trustees what they already knew.  The only new thing heard from consulting expert Lynn Moak was that the shortfall might be a lot worse than anticipated. Whereas, UISD had projected a shortage of about 11 million dollars, Moak sees the district falling at least $31 million short.

Today's article by LMT reporter Nick Georgiou also reported that the consultants had some polling information to share with the trustees, although I don't see how being told that 70% of Texans believe education should not be cut is going to help. Following is part of Georgiou's story:

 Lynn Moak, a Texas public school finance expert, cited the polls and broke down the grim state financial outlook to United Independent School District trustees Wednesday night at a board budget workshop.

The title of his presentation was “The ‘What If … ’ Game Begins: School Finance in the 82nd Legislature.” This legislative session, lawmakers will have to fill a projected $27 billion budget shortfall for the 2012-13 biennium. In the initial draft budget filed by the House, public education would be cut by more than $11 billion. In the Senate version, it would be cut by about $10.5 billion. “Both bills represent starting points, not the end game,” Moak’s PowerPoint presentation states.

According to a report from his firm, Moak, Casey and Associates, UISD could face a $31 million to $51 million budget cut over the next two fiscal years.That’s about a 10 to 17 percent cut to UISD’s $300-million-plus budget.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

McAllen follows San Antonio's lead: Bans texting while driving

From the McAllen Monitor

McALLEN — City leaders have banned texting while driving, unanimously passing the ordinance after little discussion. The new law forbids the sending or reading of text messages while driving, and also outlaws browsing the web from behind the wheel. Talking on the phone is still legal.

“I’m concerned about the 8,000 accidents we have every year in our city,” said City Commissioner Jim Darling, who introduced the proposal in December, before it was tabled for further review and input.
All commissioners present voted for the ordinance at their meeting Monday evening. Mayor Richard Cortez said he would have preferred to wait for the state Legislature to take action — at least 10 bills on the topic have been filed during the current session, according to city research — but would follow the commission’s wishes.

Police Chief Victor Rodriguez backed the ordinance, which officers will enforce with a traffic citation when necessary. The maximum fine for most municipal court traffic violations is $200.
“It allows us to seize the message, instead of leaving it out there that, ‘It’s not illegal, so it must be OK,’” Rodriguez said. He met with MCN 12, the city’s cable network, on Tuesday to discuss public service announcements.

It’s not clear how officers would differentiate between people dialing a cell phone, which remains legal, and people sending a text message. Rodriguez said phone records could be subpoenaed to settle the matter in court.

Is Laredo city council within the Texas Open Meetings Act during Austin visit?

Application of the Open
Meetings Act

The Open Meetings Act (Act) usually applies
when a quorum of a governmental body is in
attendance and that body discusses public
business. It does not apply to social
gatherings that are unrelated to the body’s
public business. It also does not apply when
public officials attend regional, state, or
national workshops, as long as there are no
formal actions taken and any discussion of
public business is only incidental to the
event. In the City of Austin, all board and
commission meetings must comply with the
Open Meetings Act.

Whenever, a governmental body receives a
briefing from staff, a notice of an open
meeting must be posted. Only with prior
approval from the City Attorney for an
executive session is the posting requirement

I'm whitling down my vocabulary

I realize that I, as do others, have a tendency to maybe recycle certain words to a certain extent. See? what did I tell you? So, since I've expressed dislike for a few select words in past posts, I may whittling down my vocabulary as a result. I know I've taken jabs at  like, cool, awesome, rock (as a verb) and most recently brand/branding. I guess before I become a minimalist with words, I should take advantage of working these into my own writing. I'm sure I could find instances where I could use them. For example, I could say :

"I, like, really think it's cool and awesome that the City of Laredo wants to rock itself  a new brand. I mean, I'm like.... cool!"

On second thought, where's my thesaurus?

Even scholarly paper questions Laredo's Washington birthday celebration

Pocahontas 1600s, George Washington 1770s: No Wonder our kids are failing History

I came across this rather scholarly article in the website and figured I'd share it with you.  I know that to most of us the entire WBCA is a joke and a half so I'm just posting a portion of it. At least one of the authors is a Laredoan, maybe both. They are Dr. Norma Cantu and Cordelia Barrera. The name of the piece is entitled Recreating what never was: The George Washington Celebration in Laredo, Texas.

As Renato Rosaldo and other scholars have studied, communities will often exhibit nostalgia for past events, events that exist in the imagined pasts of subjects who now occupy different spaces and who yearn for a long-lost ideal past. We agree with Rosaldo that what he calls “imperialist nostalgia” can foment an oppressive ideology and that citizen subjects who labor under such conditions and recreate that imagined ideal past are indeed celebrating an oppressive condition. While this is seen in a number of celebrations such as Fiesta in San Antonio, that celebrates the defeat of the Mexican Army in the Battle of San Jacinto, it is the particular celebration in Laredo, Texas, a mostly Mexican-American town on the border, and its annual 3-week long celebration of George Washington's Birthday that is at the center of our study.
The celebration recreates events following an imagined script that includes an "indigenous" pageant and a colonial ball along with popular events such as a jalapeño eating contest and a grand parade. Given that Laredo did not become part of the United States until 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war between Mexico and the United States, and given that there is little connection of this geographical site to the actual events in the life of George Washington, it is odd that the celebration that dates back over a hundred years remains a mainstay in the cultural life of the community.

Texas Senate budget bill not quite as drastic in cuts as House budget bill

Less cuts that the house bill? You can't be serious!
It looks like the Texas Senate has a slightly less gloomy picture of the state's budget shortfall. The San Antonio Business Journal featured an article outlining the main difference between the House bill and the Senate bill. With local schools expecting substantial cuts at all levels, even a little bit of good news is welcomed.

The Texas Senate’s 2012-13 budget plan is not as severe as the one released last week by the House, but it still proposes a 15 percent reduction in state spending and — like the House plan — would not raise taxes or pull money from the state’s $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund.

The biggest difference in the House and Senate proposals is on state spending for education. SB 1’s projected cuts would leave public schools with approximately $500 million more than the House’s plan, but still $9.3 billion short of what they would have under current funding formulas for education.

The upper chamber’s (senate's) initial proposed budget includes a total $69.8 billion for public and higher education, about $2.1 billion more than HB 1, which was released last week and looks to pare $13.7 billion to help offset a shortfall estimated between $15 billion and $27 billion.

Read more: Texas Senate's proposed budget isn't as deep as House version | San Antonio Business Journal

Language: What's all the buzz about the word "branding" ?

Here's how to rebrand yourself as not being an idiot: don't buy this book!

From time to time, certain words get used so much in public discourse that they attain the unenviable status of true buzzwords. In my opinion, this is what has happened with the word(s) brand/branding. With the ongoing discussion about the City of Laredo's image and how to improve it, branding has become the favorite buzzword of many. I was thinking this just the other day when I found myself using the term and wondered if I should write rebranding or re-branding. Well, that goes to show just how buzzwords can sneak up on you.

Personally, I remember a couple of years ago after Obama's election that there was much talk about how the republican brand had been damaged. Even back then, I was already thinking "what's going on"? More recently, it has crept into the everyday vocabulary of advertising and marketing  to become one of the most over-used buzzwords around today. There's even talk involving people's personal brand. This probably means the same as someone's reputation. With that in mind, if a city's brand is actually it's reputation, then you can't just pay somebody to give you a new one, it has to be earned.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No need to blow off food stamps as Walmart employee does

It's always inspiring to hear or see about someone who reaches self-sufficiency through sheer hard work and perserverance. Such is the story of Wal-mart employee "Noemi", a fellow Texan Hispanic. You might have seen her on one of Wal-mart's commercials extolling the opportunities the company offers its employees (associates).

What irks me somewhat about the ad is the way Noemi just seems to blow off food stamps once she gets some financial stability. In the ad, Noemi says "Once I got the job at Wal-mart, things started changing immediately. Then I wrote a letter to the food stamp office-thank you very much I don't need your help anymore."  If you just read the text of her statement, it doesn't seem half as bad as when you hear it. After all, she does say "thank you" for the food stamp program which helped through what must have been tough times raising a family of four by herself.  It's when you hear her tone of voice and the dismissive way she says "I don't need your help anymore" that makes it sound an attack on the food stamp program itself.

I guess when you're a retailing giant who has built global success on the backs of the less fortunate, you don't have to worry about even sounding appreciative of anything.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Former commissioner Keko Martinez tells county leaders to "man up"

Don't let the beautiful looking buildings fool you: Shenanigans abound
Appearing at today's Webb County commissioner's meeting as a concerned citizen, attorney & former county commissioner Keko Martinez challenged the county leaders to "man up". Martinez was referring to the recent attempt by county judge Danny Valdez to hand-off the hiring responsibility for the new CAA director to the embattled agency's management team.  Martinez told the judge and commissioners to "man up" and make the hard decisions that need to be made. He scolded the court for wanting to do only half the work involved in finding a new CAA chief. Martinez insisted that the taxpayers are expecting the commissioners to live up to the responsibilities of their positions.

Martinez's other comment was about one of the 5 finalists. Although he never mentioned any names, Martinez claimed that one of the finalists had a history of trouble with both UISD and LISD. Among the things he mentioned were being accused of sexual harassment, falsifying records and shredding documents. After going through a list of infractions supposedly committed by the finalist, Martinez incredulously asked the board "How does such a person get to be one of the finalists?

As it turns out, The commissioner's court will "man up" after all and decide who the new CAA director will be. According to judge Valdez, they'll be doing this next Monday.

An outsider's view of Lake Casa Blanca golf course

Ok, maybe Lake Casa Blanca golf course ain't that bad, is it?
Unfortunately for the citizens of Laredo and those visiting this bustling border city, the only option for public golf is the very average 18-hole Casa Blanca Golf Course. Although a new clubhouse was added in 1996, the overall condition of the course is below average and locals complain the most about the greens.
Leon Howard built this course in the 1960s. While his front nine is a decent layout that can be challenging, the back nine doesn't seem to flow with the remainder of the design. Water comes into play on only three holes. The hardpan fairways allow your ball to roll well.

Your best birdie opportunity is the 130-yard No. 8. And if you score well on the front, you'll be delighted to see the first two holes on the back, which are both par 5s under 500 yards from the back tees. The number one handicap is 524-yard No. 4 hole.
Considering that the Max. A. Mandel municipal golf course which is currently under construction is only the second golf course in the city, It was surprising to read what asst. city manager Horacio De Leon had to say.  According to the LMT, De Leon recently commented : "Hopefully, this will the the start of several more golf courses".  This seem pretty improbable considering that the last golf course (Casa Blanca) was built way back in the 1960. That's roughly a 50 year span between golf courses. But, you gotta hand it to the asst. city manager- that's thinking positively.

Re-branding Laredo talk continues: Bowlin supports "Pro-Bono" campaign*

Rebrand Laredo's Image?? You don't like the Coke & Hot dog or what?
In today's Coffee Talk section of LMT's business journal, Sean Bowlin once again addressed the issue of improving (re-branding) the City of Laredo's image. Today's article touched upon how the city of Salinas, California is approaching its re-branding efforts. In his article, Bowlin focuss on two specific things that Laredo might want to learn from the California's city's experience.

First of all, Bowlin clearly states "Note that for better or worse, it took this Northern California agricultural industry-based city with about half of Laredo's population about nine months from the time it dealt out a request for proposals, to the time it hired the firm". Bowlin, no doubt, belives in the old adage "haste makes waste" and does not want the city to be in a rush when deciding who to hire for the image makeover. This is a sensible approach and I'm sure many readers would agree that would-be-consultants should be carefully screened.

The second point that I took from this week's Coffee Talk article was this: The city should not have to absorb any of the costs of the re-branding campaign. Bowlin himself, prefaces the article on the city of Salinas by stating in a one-sentence paragraph: "The firm will not charge the city".  This is reiterated later in the article which goes on to state :
"According to the proposal, the initiative will include: conducting research, hosting informational meetings, identifying markets to target, tradeshow development and creating a logo, and addressing negative perception, including crime and the perceived "lack of things to do" in Salinas. The city will not cover the cost of the project"
Ironically, the article suggests that the firm which got the Salinas, California rebranding campaign was, not the Salinas-based, TMD but the out-of-town firm, Avant. This confuses me somewhat because in previous articles, Bowlin and his co-collumnist AB Barrera, were strongly advocating for a local firm. Now, he appears to be saying that the most important things are : 1)the city should take time to make a selection, 2) the city should select a firm that will not charge the city for it's "project".

How would the rebranding firm make any profit then? Following the Salinas example, the chosen firm would get to participate in a "retail component that allows the company to sell merhcnadise. The consultant would then collect a share-80 percent in the first year- of revenues generated by sales. The share shrinks and is phased out in five years".  Does Laredo have such a firm: one that would "not charge" for it's project and be willing to be paid instead through a "retail component"?  If not, will Laredo have such a firm 9 months from now?  One thing is for sure, you have to give credit to Sean Bowlin for doing his part in keeping this conversation going; just as we have.

Laredo's Zaffirini one of only 4 democrats on 13-member Texas Senate Finance Committee

Outnumbered again: Zaffirini returns to senate finance committee
The Austin American Statesman is reporting this evening that Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's has made his appointments to the powerful Senate Finance committee. While republicans outnumber democrats in the state senate by a margin of 31 to 19, their margin in the finance committee are very more lopsided. Of the 13 members on the committee, a whopping 9 of them are republicans while only 4 of them are democrats. Many democrats hope they can help to buffer the drastic cuts announced last week by the Texas house.  The Texas Senate Finance Committee : 
The chair, as expected, is Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who has headed the upper chamber’s budget-writing panel for the past several sessions. He said budget hearings would likely begin next Monday. Vice chair: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Members: Sens. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Royce West, D-Dallas; John Whitmire, D-Houston; Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
That’s the same committee that served two years ago

Laredotejas applauds Richard Raymond's bill that would eliminate Lone Star junk food purchases

Let me have a 3-liter Coke. What? what you mean I can't....ok , a gallon of milk then.

A contingency of City of Laredo officials is now up in Austin lobbying on assorted issues that impact our community. Texas state representative Richard Raymond is also sponsoring a new bill that, if passed, could drastically improve the diet  of many of Laredo's poorest children. Specifically, Raymond's bill would prohibit the current practice of allowing many types of junk food purchases with the Lone Star card. This would help ensure that those families on food stamps spend more on real food instead of on sweets such as sodas and candies. We, at laredotejas sincerely applaud Mr. Raymond's efforts and wish him success. A couple of months ago, we had a post on exactly this subject. The following appeared on our blog on Nov.10,2010.

 Now, how about getting behind an initiative that will make an even greater difference to those most in need. I am referring to kids whose parents qualify for the Lone Star Card (Food Stamps). Now, I'm not too worried about the adults, they can fend for themselves. However, the kids rely on the adults in the picture to look out for their nutritional best interests. Unfortunately, they, and the government, are failing them big-time. As long as candies, sodas, potato chips and other assorted junk foods are allowed to be purchased with Lone Star, the children's nutritional needs are being sabotaged. This practice also encourages obesity. Kids will be kids, they don't know any better. But the parents should know better and Texas should definitely have enough compassion for these kids to prohibit  any junk food from being purchased with food stamps.

What a shame! What a mis-use of resources. What a lobbying power the Texas junk food industry must have! 

Once again, congratulations to representative Raymond for his support of practical solutions. Texans, today face many challenges today and childhood obesity if definitely one of them. Let's hope this bill passes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Laredo should follow San Antonio's lead: Mayor Castro to assume stronger role in schools

In a refreshing developement, the San Antonio Express News is reporting on Mayor Julian Castro's plans to take a more active, participatory role in the education of the Alamo City's youth. From today's San Antonio Express- News :

Castro, stepping directly into a domain previous mayors have avoided, said his plan begins with refusing to accept failure from the city's urban school districts.  “I envision, for instance, coming up with a system of measuring the progress of these urban school districts in a mayor's scorecard on their progress and holding them accountable for student success,” he said. “I believe that getting more involved in ensuring that there are knowledgeable and strong board members at these school districts needs to be a part of my job.“We have sat too long and allowed our school districts to not have as top-notch leadership as they could have, both in superintendents and in school boards.”
Castro said he would support candidates in school board elections that he believes would “enhance the level of excellence for students” in their districts. He said the same applies to superintendents, though “not in a political way.”“I'm looking for every opportunity to champion those superintendents and what they're doing,” he said.
Read more:

Webb County Commisioner's court sidestepping their duties on new CAA selection

The Webb County commissioner's court wants to wash it's hand of CAA mess.

The Webb County commissioner's court seems determined to keep the level of respect for their collective offices shamefully low. After interviewing 14 candidates for the vacant CAA Director's position, they narrowed it down to 5 finalists (1 finalist per court member). Now, in the midst of an ongoing FBI investigation,  they want to step aside and have the CAA's temporary management team takeover the selection process.

Obviously, this should not be construed in any other way other than an attempt by the court to keep their distance from the toxic situation. Webb Judge Danny Valdez tried to justify their passing the buck to the management team. In speaking to LMT reporter, Andrew Kreigbaum, Valdez stated “It’s another pair of eyes and ears,” he said. “They’ve been overseeing the CAA. They developed the corrective action plan.” Well, Judge, it's actually 3 more pairs of eyes and ears and if you were going to let the management make the final selection, you should have let them handle the process from the start.

The court is treading on a unfamiliar layer of thin ice. According to the Laredo Morning Times, Cynthia Mares, expressed concern about this unprecedented decision:
She said she has never seen the court ask a management team or professional staffers to become involved in selecting the head of a department. "Department head positions all come under the purview of the court, so it is always the court who does the interviews and the selection process,” she said.“It’s venturing into some new territories.”
Although it's apparent that Mares find the court's actions questionable, she is on board with the management team taking over the selection process. However, she did remark that they (the management team) would have to work fast to come up with questions for the remaining 5 candidates.

Meanwhile, Juan Vargas, the county's Director of economic development implied that whatever course is taken, there will have to be a unanimous consensus on behalf of the team. Still, he did mention it would be a positive thing to have another review of all the candidates. Having said that, it is rather unlikely that such consensus can be agreed upon. County Auditor Leo Flores, who is the third member of the management team, left no doubt as to where he stands on the issue. As the LMT reports:
 Flores said if the management team becomes involved in selecting the new director, he wants to review all 14 original applicants.“If the Commissioners Court doesn’t want to do, that they can do their own picking,” he said.
"I’m not going to pick from those five.”The management team could not make a truly independent recommendation if it were restricted to looking at the commissioners’ finalists, he said.

BP agents patrol atop their mustangs  (Andy Cross-Denver Post)

From the Kirk Mitchell -Denver Post

It is, to say the least, an unlikely alliance. The horses arrive without names or manners. They are taught to behave by Colorado inmates serving time for robbery, burglary and other crimes. The horses are then deployed along the nation's borders to stop crime — helping catch 500 illegal immigrants in one stretch of the Mexican border alone.

So far, this combination of the untamed and confined has worked well for law enforcement. The horses are well- trained by inmates who learn a trade in the process, and the horses' unique skills allow Border Patrol agents to visit rugged stretches with few provisions. The wild horses are prized for their toughness. Rocks? Not a problem. No pastures? Anything green or brown will do. Frozen lakes and rivers? They'll eat snow.
Ramon Gonzales, a city boy from Denver, sat comfortably high atop Silver Bullet, a blue roan with deep blue eyes. He leaned over and patted Silver Bullet on the neck. "Just getting close enough to touch them can take weeks," said Gonzales, a convicted burglar from Jefferson County. "They pretty much think we're going to eat them." After Gonzales and other inmates train the horses, they go to the border, where Border Patrol agents train them not to get spooked when they hear gunfire.

The mustang program worked so well along the Canadian border that it was replicated from Texas to California, where agents now use the prison-trained mustangs to catch illegal immigrants every day.
Rafael V. Garza, horse patrol commander for the Border Patrol in the Laredo, Texas, sector, said in the first year of service, his nine mounted agents caught 500 illegal immigrants.

Read more: Colorado inmates train wild mustangs to help guard the nation's rugged borders - The Denver Post

Looks like Richard Raymond had the right idea on "fees" (taxes)

Raymond: A tax by any other name is still a tax

From Texas

Pardon the distraction, what with all of the newspaper headlines of state budget oxes being gouged, slashed and otherwise gored in everyone's backyard other than mine, but Rep. Richard Peña Raymond was prescient.

Back in December, Raymond, D-Laredo, said he was going to ask the Legislature to call for an amendment to the state Constitution requiring that any form of revenue generation for the state be called a tax. A month later the green eyeshade crowd at the state Legislative Budget Board produced a preliminary budget that calls for $13.7 billion in cuts in all sorts of programs for the coming two years but also an increase of $131 million in fees, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Let's not kid ourselves. If the panic peddlers are correct and there is a $27 billion budget shortfall, these fee increases represent less than .5 percent of that. But as Raymond said, just because you call something a fee or a surcharge doesn't mean it isn't wrung out of the wallets of taxpayers.

And Raymond couldn't be more right just now with the inevitable backlash building in anticipation of the voting of a new conservative Republican super-majority in the Texas House that has made government spending its bright and shining issue. Raising anything (insert preferred euphemism here) right now might not be good for business.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Laredo traffic delay time increases dramatically since 2004

Hurry up and wait! Laredo traffic delay have been getting longer
According to the Texas Transportation institute, the latest Urban Mobility Report for the state shows Laredo's traffic increasingly getting worse. The annual delay time for local commuters skyrocketed from just 1 hour as recently as 2004, to a whopping 12 hours in 2009. In the meantime, other border cities such as McAllen and Brownsville are handling their traffic flow a lot more efficiently. During the same period (2004-2009), Brownsville's commuter delay time went from 9 to 14 hours annually. McAllen, which has been picking up the reputation of "eating our lunch" did an excellent job of keeping their traffic flowing.  Their annual delay time of 7 hours saw no increase whatsoever between the same period.

Some additional info coming out of this report lists the busiest roads in the State. As you might remember hearing in the news a couple of months ago, Laredo's Hwy 59 (Saunders) from IH-35 to Arkansas was ranked number 68 on the list and is estimated to be costing commuters an estimated $4,730,420 a year.

I guess we shouldn't be so surprised that the delay time for Laredo's commuters jumped 1,200 % in the last 7 years. Remember, our citizens had to wait about nearly 2 years before the traffic light at the intersection of Clark Boulevard and Newport Avenue was turned on.

When is tax freedom day for 2011

When will Tax Freedom Day be in 2011 ?
Having just received my W2s for 2010, I found my mind wandering to the subject of taxes. More specifically, I started to wonder just far into this new year the so-called "tax freedom day" will fall on. This is the date on which the average American's salary actually starts going into his/her own pocket instead of towards paying local,state or federal taxes. Last year, Tax Freedom day fell on April 9th, 2010. The predictions back then were that 2011's Tax Freedom day was to be substantially later because of the Bush tax cuts which were to expire at the end of 2010. However, as we all know now, those tax cuts have been extended for all Americans. Given this fact, I was unable to find a "new" estimate for when Tax Freedom day will be on 2011.

Freelance writer Angela Harris offers the following interesting information on taxes:

Some other interesting statistics from The Tax Foundation are that in 1900 the tax burden for American taxpayers was less than six percent. As of 2006, it is approximately thirty-two percent. This means that almost one-third of every dollar that you work for goes to the government.

Americans spend more on taxes than they spend on housing and food combined. We also spend almost as much on Social Security taxes and Medicare programs as we do on federal taxes- thirty days versus thirty-three days. What about sales taxes? More than two calendar weeks of our salaries are spent solely on sales tax. This translates into three actual work weeks.

If you don't like what you're reading, don't shoot the messenger. Perhaps do some research on political parties and candidates that want real changes to the tax laws. Or send a quick email to your representatives in Washington to let them know how you feel. It's time for American taxpayers to celebrate an earlier Tax Freedom Day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Many parents using technology to lull kids into submission

"Ok, here! Now watch your movie & let me talk on my cell phone

Last night, as I stopped at a red light, I happened to be right next to a brand spanking new club cab pickup truck. The parents were in front seat.  One was driving while the other (passenger) was on the cell phone. Behind them, seated in the club cab was a kid, probably about 5 years old more or less. As he sat in the back, his face was only inches away from  brightly-lit screen which was mounted on the back of the passenger seat. The kid, naturally, seemed entranced by some cartoon that was on. As they drove off ahead of me, his mom (I'm guessing it was his mom) was still on her cell phone.

I know there's a lot of people who have nothing but good things to say about our ever-evolving technology. Granted, there are indeed a lot of positive things to say about it, but it is increasingly leading to the isolation of ourselves from one another. I've seen many similar scenes like the one I just described. Lately, I have seen families or groups of friends together in a vehicle, yet each one occupying themselves with their own personal digital toy of choice. Whereas, long drives used to be full of conversations and discussions, nowadays, it's more and more likely, that less human interaction is going on because many people are more comfortable being digitally isolated. For this, we have the digital age to thank, or should I say curse?

Language: Menu embellishment always means you're going to pay more

Yes, I'll have your perfectly prepared minted snow peas
You can always tell how much you're going to pay at a restaurant by how much work they put into embellishing their menu. If your menu starts talking about minted snow peas, freshly chopped asian greens, or generous portions of tender, hand-pulled pork basted in our finest wine sauce, you better either get out of there or check your credit limit right away.

Or how about this following masterpiece or word-weaving ; Thin-sliced smoked turkey, Genoa salami, melted Havarti cheese, homemade italian spiced pepperoncini and caper sauce piled on toasty Italian bread. That's taken verbatim out of a local restaurant's menu and it comes with a fittingly exquisite price as well. Next time, you go out to eat, count the adjectives and if they exceed the nouns (food), pull out your calculator and figure out just how much per adjective you're going be scalped for. Happy dining.

McAllen seeks to expand Mall "Big Time"

McAllen's mall fixin' to get bigger

From the McAllen Monitor
Mayor Richard Cortez announced a 160,000-square foot expansion of La Plaza Mall during his State of the City address Thursday. No other details were given about the addition, which would house “new, unique and upscale shops.” Simon Property Group, which owns La Plaza, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Simon considers La Plaza one of its most successful regional malls, and the sprawling shopping center generates substantial sales tax revenue for McAllen. City leaders have sought to help Simon expand La Plaza for years, and Cortez has talked about the expansion during several State of the City speeches, including his 2008 address.

For more detail about Simon’s operations in the McAllen area, check this story. Simon Property Groups’ website also offers very detailed information about its local holdings.

Forget real crisis, Perry adds Voter ID legislation to emergency track

Texas GOP: I Want YOU....not to vote.
Last week, Rick Perry thumbed his nose at democrats by distracting from the current economic crisis that is challenging the state's budget. Instead, he gave priority to designating two pieces of legislation as emergencies. One of these emergency measures deal with limiting eminent domain, the other with eliminating sanctuary cities for illegal aliens. Today, Perry added another contentious issue to this list. He wants the republican controlled legislature to work on a law that would tighten voter ID requirements. Essentially, they want voters to be required to show some form of photo ID when voting. This has been an objective that republicans have been wanting to accomplish for quite some time.

On the other hand, democrats see this as unnecessary posturing. They worry that such a law will make only serve to discriminate against those who might have  limited forms of identification. Laredo's own senator Judith Zaffirini opposes the bill, and was quoted as saying : "The only positive aspect I can see is that this will be off the table, and we can focus on the important business of solving our economic problems and finding solutions." I think Senator Zaffirini probably figures that there's no way of stopping the republican agenda and is just eager to start addressing the real problems facing the state.

Personally, I always show my Texas driver's license when voting. So, I wouldn't have to come up with any new form of identification since I'm already presenting a photo. However, there might many others who might not drive or have this type of ID already. This new law would obviously present a problem for them. Since the 1960s, the trend had been towards more inclusive voting procedures. The republicans, true to form, are intent on reversing this positive development and seek to return to the past, when voting was much more exclusive and much less democratic.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Update: Nelson recently refused to take a raise, Laredotejas stands corrected.

Sometimes, I can't help but be influenced by the LMT's  asleep-at-the-wheelitis. Case in point: I recently suggested that UISD and LISD superintendents take a voluntary cut in pay as a show of leadership for their respective districts. Well, fellow blogger Que Fregados brought it to my attention that Nelson had just turned down a raise. I had missed that recent development and I applaud Dr. Nelson for taking this action of his own accord. Some may say it's mostly symbolic but how many of us would volunteer to do with less money? A letter to the editor appeared in today's LMT praising Dr. Nelson as well. Thanks again to Que Fregados for the heads up and congratulations to Dr. Nelson for his example.

Customer Service: a drive-thru anecdote

Obviously, this picture wasn't taken in Laredo: too friendly.

A few days ago, I had a post about how we should all let nationwide chains  should be aware when their local franchises are not providing up-to-par customer service. At that time, I had an example to provide but would have made for, in my opinion,  too long of a post.

This specific incident, for lack of a better word, happened a couple of months ago. I was near a McDonald's and decided I was thirsty. I pulled up to the speaker and after listening to one of their pre-recorded, garbled sales pitch (no, that's not my complain at this time), I ordered my Dr. Pepper and bottled water and proceeded to the pay window. As I pulled up and handed the girl a $5 bill, I offered a "good morning", being mindful that it was a few minutes before noon. She had no such polite words for me however, being that she was already busy taking another order on her "Madonna" headset. This was a little bit annoying, "These kids don't have any common courtesy" I thought to myself. Except, she wasn't really a kid anymore and she should've known better. As she gave me my change, I said "thank you". By this time, she must've had another order to take and again failed to acknowledge my polite thanks. At this point, I sort of surprised myself, but just had to tell her something. Acknowledging me for the first time, she finally said "yes sir?". "Esto no esta bien/This is not right" I started, "I decide to come here and spend my money (all $2) and you can't even take the time to say thank you?". Anyway to make a long story not so short, I drove off after getting my drinks.

Once I got home, I went to their corporate website, called their 800 number and made a complaint. They took the time to take all the information down and subsequently, I got about 4 tickets for their extra value meals (not a fan of the angus burger) and a couple of follow up letters. Later, I got another couple of tickets for their wraps, I think it was.

Did it change their service at the window? Nope. Did I feel a bit better about it, yes I probably did. Also, I express my concerns to them more often that I used to. So, for whatever it's worth, whenever you got a complaint, call their corporate offices. If not, it will be like talking to yourself at the drive-thru window, just like me.