Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dana Carvey's Grumpy old man: precursor to cane wavers of today

In the clip below, although supposedly portraying a child, Dana Carvey reprises his Grumpy Old Man Character of his SNL days.  Today's cane wavers such as LaredoTejas and LaSanbe seem to have been directly influenced by Carvey's archetypal Grumpy Old Man.

I'd rather have a waterpark than use water in fracking

In Laredo, this is currently called a mirage.

I'll keep it simple. With so many unlikely projects taking off in Laredo, I still say a waterpark makes a lot more sense than many of them.  Laredo is one of the hottest places in the country, one of the dryest. OK, so you say- exactly : we can't afford to use water for leisure. I would tend to agree with such a statement if South Texas was not currently using millions upon millions of gallons of water in fracking for oil and gas.

On top of using vast amounts of water, there is so much pollution going on. Of course, the oil and gas people paint a pretty picture and run commercials with pristine lakes and unspoiled land: the very aspects of nature that their quest for riches is ruining.

So, a water park should be brought up in the discussion for projects our city should seriously consider. If the "too much water" argument comes up, then fine- how do you justify the waste of precious water in fracking?  Of course, the mayor and virtually everyone else willl cry out "JOBS!".  Yes, jobs are being created but at what price?

If we had a waterpark for Laredoans to enjoy and cool off in, at least I could tell the mayor and seedy council to go jump in the lake...make that in the pool.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How long might the Eagle Ford Shale boom last? Depends whom you ask

The Eagle Ford Shale activity was one of the many subjects discussed by our city council at the now-infamous "Needmore Retreat".

Jose Ceballos, American Natural Gas Association (ANGA) spokesman/lobbyist spoke on the topic for a few minutes. He buttered up the mayor and the council abit and then everyone started taking turns at predicting just how long the EFS boom might last. Others, such as congressman Henry (Heh Heh) Cuellar have previously made similar predictions.

Ceballos butters them up. (Again, I paraphrase from the retreat's audio.)

The ANGA spokesman took to the podium and immediately commended council for holding the retreat. Ceballos then mentioned that he has been working on the EFS for over 2 years.  Also, he cited an ANGA study by UTSA that reveals positive county-level impacts. He said that this info will assist city/county in economic development planning.   

According to Ceballos, the city is in position to provide housing for “Southern rim” of EFS. He said that he expects to see many jobs, including Management/middle management positions, coming to Laredo.  Laredo is the "workforce hub for the EFS", he added.  

Ceballos also talked about “Texas clean air triangle” Houston- Dallas-San Antonio being developed for fleet and big truck purposes. This, he said, will benefit the city of Laredo.  He mentioned housing, workforce, airport, university (he didn’t’ mention I-35). He said that Laredo has one of the few CNG  (Compressed Natural Gas) filling stations in the state.

He then spoke about the continued expectations of the boom , starting off by saying that we’re at 13,000 wells now. He added that the potential in the EFS for oil & gas wells is about 20,000. He said this started in 2008, with very few permits. Now, there's  a better picture to be able to forecast the possible future of the EFS.

Guessing game?

As far as number of years, he hesitated but said that 20 years potential might be the length of the play. He added, maybe more.  He encouraged for city to stay and strengthen its role as a regional player. (He seemed hesitant to cite the 20 year estimate).

San Miguel estimates about 5-10 years of the EFS being really active, then forsees a longer but much slower period afterwards.

The mayor has also mentioned a 20-year stint for the EFS.

Carlos Villarreal mentioned that according to Rod Lewis, of Lewis Petroleum, it should be 35 years for sure.

Henry (heh heh) Cuellar has said before that the EFS play should be booming for about 50 years.

50 years? Why not? It sure makes for good press (heh heh).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Its Baa-aaaack! : Town Center Mall

Lights, camera.....what? No Video??

One of the things discussed at last weekend's City of Laredo council retreat at the remote and mysterious Needmore ranch, was the Town Center Mall.  Some of you might recall that a few years ago the developers of the mall wanted to eradicate the "wetlands" adjacent to the proposed mall across from the Laredo Intl Airport. Long story short: negotiations stalled and the developers failed to continue their venture after leasing the land from the city.

Incidentally, there was a big public outcry about the wetlands issue and thousands of signatures were secured on a petition. Wetland supporters addressed our city council and insisted that the wetlands be spared. Some say this action was enough to stop the developers, others say that it entirely a legal roadblock that helped spare the wetland area.

Now, after one of the worst droughts in Texas history, some (like Tom Wade) are saying the wetlands have since dried up and are no more. I admit I haven't confirmed this myself.

Anyway, following is my paraphrasing of the audio (no video was taken) at the retreat in regards to the Town Center Mall discussion.

In regards to town center- they owe us money, it’s true says Villarreal (CV). They no longer want to pay a rental fee – they want to buy the property.  We’re in process of negotiating with Laredo Town Center and I’ll (CV) send you a draft letter of a proposed letter in trying to negotiate a letter and it’ll include any past rent they owe . Draft letter should be sent out Monday (March 25th).  

Some of the reasons they didn’t’ want to build was: 1) environmental concerns, 2)Also, they didn’t’ want to lease, they wanted to own.   Mayor says that the “people” who came to talk about buying that property were “very, very interested”.  Mayor says it would be a multi-million dollar project that would create at least 100 jobs.  Mayor says we need to revisit as soon as possible.  

San Miguel chimes in- asks about some warehouses (city property) that were demolished once the land was leased to the developers.  These were worth about 3Million dollars.  He says city should take that cost into consideration (Airport director says that these buildings were fairly new) so CV says then, yes- it should be taken into consideration.

Charlie then asks if town center property is within metes and bounds of LEA sports venue tax district. CV says “no” this is not part of the sports venue tax district. CV says that Texas Attorney General decides if a certain project is within the sports venue tax guidelines.   

CV then provides some info on the proposed draft letter concerning possible sale of town center property. They are NOT paying rent BECAUSE city is in negotiation for the sale of the property according to CV.

Narvaez- (inaudible) – something about Riverdrive mall.

Rendon-(inaudible)-something about the township proposal again.

Rangel then asks when might deal be finalized with township sale. CV says that well it might be soon- letter is ready to send but was not sent because CV wanted to discuss it at retreat. Rangel asks if the buyers have any time limit to build something on that property. CV keeps saying that if they buy it, it’s theirs. Rangel says  that we don’t want to sell it to someone who’s just going to sit on it.  CV says this is America and they have a right to do with the property whatever they wish. We cannot force to do something specific with them- Legal (Casso) agrees with CV.  Rangel keeps asking if there’s any way to “force” them to build something in a certain amount of time.

That's all for now

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PA fracking related law is insane in the membrane!

By Susie Madrock

Under a new law, doctors in Pennsylvania can access information about chemicals used in natural gas extraction—but they won't be able to share it with their patients. A provision buried in a law passed last month is drawing scrutiny from the public health and environmental community, who argue that it will "gag" doctors who want to raise concerns related to oil and gas extraction with the people they treat and the general public.

[...] There is good reason to be curious about exactly what's in those fluids. A 2010 congressional investigation revealed that Halliburton and other fracking companies had used 32 million gallons of diesel products, which include toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, in the fluids they inject into the ground. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger acute effects like headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, while higher levels of exposure can cause cancer.

Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else—not even the person they're trying to treat.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Meanwhile down at the ranch

It's was peculiar that the city of Laredo decided to hold it's brainstorming, workshop session at the Needmore ranch somewhere out on Mines road. The mayor said that it was being held there in order to provide a change of pace and perhaps take advantage of the different surrounding in the hopes that the rustic atmosphere might trigger some good ideas for a change.

An interesting question is this: is it legal for the city to hold public meetings on private property? They did post the agenda and it did say that the public was invited but still it seemed rather strange for the event to take place at a non-public location. In this case, the Needmore Ranch, which according to the press is owned by the LaMantia family.

Just to be on the safe side, the mayor and council should really just stick to holding their meetings at City Hall or some other public facility. I wonder what the Texas Open Meetings Act has to say about this situation if anything.  All in all, it seems rather odd that they decided on the ol' ranch, I reckon.

Revisiting the llantas-cross fit connection

Last year (or some time ago), LaredoTejas posted on Laredo's affinity for dumping used tires practically all over our city. This is especially true in our city's West and South Sides, as has been painstakingly documented by Laredo's colossal blogger, Bordertown Blues.

In our previous post, we suggested that Laredoans who want to get rid of old tires, simply call one of the increasing number of cross-fit centers in town and generously donate your worn-out "llantas".

The cross-fitters could then send paying customers out to your place jogging to either roll back the donated tire or even bring it in by hurling it a few yards at a time.  Once the tire is on the cross-fit premises, it will be a valuable addition to its equipment inventory.

After all, tires are used to toss around, jump over, take out your aggressiveness on- by beating it up with a sledgehammer and they are especially perfect for the tried and true agility course.

Ih-35 sign offers little relief: Railroads can help (if they really want to)

If you need to go downtown, you need to go downtown.  A new sign displayed on IH-35 advising motorists if the roads leading to downtown are being blocked by the train simply prepares you to be ready to wait. There is no other way to get to downtown if the IH-35 acces road, San Bernardo, Convent and Santa Maria are all being blocked by the Kansas City Southern.

Years ago, the state of Arkansas had a law requiring railroads to have "full crews" on trains moving through the state. At one time, that meant having a total of 6 members on each train. Now, there is only a conductor and an engineer. In some places, there is only a conductor with a remote control and he stands on the ground and controls the man-less engine.

The US Supreme Court, long ago, uphelp each state's rights to determine how to man train crews working within their borders. It was the unions which were eventually forced to give up most of the crew members on each train due mostly to the advances of technology: no caboose, walkie-talkies, remote control engines.

There is nothing, however, to keep the Kansas City Southern from having a brakeman on certain crews with the assigned duty of  "opening up" heavily-used crossings such as IH-35 access road and the tracks near downtown -or San Bernardo.  Once it is known that there will be an unusually lengthy delay, the brakeman can be driven to the crossing by the KCS's shuttle service, which is on duty 24 hours a day, and the brakeman, in communication with the engineer, can proceed to unblock the crossing.

This is possible on any train that is coming from Mexico. The hangup is that if a train going TO Mexico is blocking the crossings, it is not as easy to co-ordinate movement between the KCS and the Mexican crews.

I strongly sugget the Mayor looks at this option.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waving canes at the digital revolution

"beep, beep, beep, beep.......beep!"

I've noticed that smart phones are frequently involved whenever I find myself waving my cane at someone. Here are some examples of just what I'm talking about:

A little girl is enjoying herself at a local indoor playground. Every time she climbs up a little higher or manages to maneuver her way through the playground, she proudly calls out for her mom to take notice: "Mommy, mommy, look!, mommy look!........mommy?". Of course the young mom is too busy being entranced by her latest smart phone and without even turning to look at her child, offers a lame "wow..that's great". The child, puzzled keeps staring at her mother wondering why she doesn't even turn to acknowledge her gymnastic accomplishments, "mommy?".

At a local restaurant, a young female maybe around 30, sits across from an older gentleman. I'm guessing the man is her father. As he slowly eats his meal, carefully chewing every bite, his daughter spends her time messing around with all the marvelous applications her smart phone has to offer. Every time the older gentleman looks up towards her direction, he sees only the back of her smart phone.

At Johnny Carino's, as I sit and enjoy my unlimited soup and salad for $6.95, a party of 5 is seated at a nearby table. There is the usual chatter going on all around. As a few customers leave, it suddenly seems a little bit too quite. I'm also sure the party of 5 has left. As I glance towards the general direction of their table, all 5 (five) of them simultaneously hypnotized by, you've guessed it, their indispensable smart phone.  I feel like waving my mini-loaf of bread at them, but I manage to restrain it's pretty good tasting bread and I wouldn't want to drop it.

Despues de atole: City finally finds out about Laredo Holt-Cat expansion

"Where do I look? Where are the cameras?.....Oh OK, there you are!" (Pic.from LMT)
Well, they were bound to find out about it over at city hall.  After LaredoTejas reported on it (twice) as did El Manana, someone reading the blogs over on Houston street must have come across the fact that Hold-Cat was expanding its presence in Laredo.

Lo and Behold, a photo-op that could not be turned down. The mayor quickly found a way to get over there just in the time for the cameras.

I watched the city council meeting on Monday and I do not recall Holt-Cat being on LDF's list of companies that either have already committed to the Gateway City or are thinking about it. Yet, as can be seen in the photo above, there's Nati, the LDF guy, between the chamber president and the mayor!

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Raul) ?

"Um yes, the reason we're here are we this time?"

As Laredo's Most Imposing Blog, La Sanbe, recently posted, the city seems to be at odds with funding for the Laredo Development Foundation. Keyrose correctly pointed out how incensed councilman Juan Narvaez was when LDF board member Javier Garza alluded to the fact that McAllen had enough funds for their LDF counterpart to send their representatives to Korea in an effort to attract business. Narvaez, quickly questioned Mr. Garza if he knew what the results of McAllen's trip to the Far East had been. When Javier Garza answered that the had no further information, Narvaez stated out loud that the results must have been "negative".

With the LDF's budget having been reduced from around $400,000 a couple of years ago to the current approximate $250,000 one has to wonder if the difference ($150,000) is what the mayor and his entourage plan to use to fund their own trips to an assortment of places as they usurp the responsibilities (and $$ funding) of the Laredo Development Foundation.

If I'm not mistaken, I think someone at Monday's meeting mentioned an upcoming trip to Austin. I wonder how many are going to be in the mayor's posse this time around- all at taxpayer's expense of course.

Laredo see rise in "House Churches"

About a dozen house churches and one traditional church—the first in decades—have started in Laredo in the past year, according to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, adding to only 12 existing Baptist congregations in the community of about a quarter-million.

“People who already know the culture of Laredo are starting congregations that non-Christians are comfortable visiting,” wrote Texas Baptists spokesman John Hall. “The home-based churches have baptized more than 60 people in the last 11 months, enough that (ministry coordinator Mario) Garcia recently retrofitted a trailer with a frame, platform and horse trough to make it a mobile baptismal that the churches can share.”

The new churches are lay-led, but often remain connected to existing congregations and Texas Baptists’ ongoing leadership training programs, the organization said. Norma Sanchez, in the video above, is a convert attending one of the new house churches.

Is San Benito next in line to eat our lunch?

"Hey baby, que paso?" with your lunch?

By now, you might have heard the term "McAllen is eating our lunch". It's an all-too-familiar refrain heard in the context of Laredo's competition with towns in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Well, it now appears that other towns in the "Valley" might take the same approach and simply start "piling on" the Gateway City. Case in point: San Benito, Texas.

From The McAllen Monitor

SAN BENITO — Chinese businessmen and film producers will travel to San Benito as a result of city officials’ trip to China last month, City Manager Manuel Lara said Tuesday.

In a meeting, Lara made a presentation to city commissioners on his trip with Mayor Joe Hernandez to an international conference in Shenzhen, a major port city just north of Hong Kong.

Lara said a group of Chinese businessmen with U.S. investments will travel to San Benito as part of its visit to Texas in about two weeks. The group will consider bringing business to San Benito, Houston or Dallas, Lara said.

Chinese film producers will visit San Benito from April 23 to 25 after visiting a Houston film festival, Lara said. “We made some excellent contacts,” he said.

Lara said he helped introduce Chinese vacation resort officials to the Rio Grande Valley.
“They were very interested,” he said. “They had never ever considered moving to South Padre Island.”
Lara said he tried to sell the Chinese on the region’s agriculture. “We opened up their eyes to the products our farmers would be able to market,” Lara said.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nuclear Dump in Western Panhandle to make Perry Donor even richer

In this 2009 file photo provided by Waste Control Specialists, canisters filled with uranium byproduct waste are placed into a burial pit at at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews. Trucks carrying low-level radioactive waste from 38 states will likely be rolling along Texas highways as early as April, bound for permanent burial at a dump near the New Mexico border. The arrival of the low-level radioactive waste will end a years-long effort by a Dallas-based company, whose majority owner is big-time political contributor Harold Simmons, to win permission from Texas officials to accept the waste at a 1,340-acre tract of scrub brush terrain about 360 miles west of Dallas.   Anonymous
Uranium by-products in canisters buried near Andrew's Texas- Thanks to Rick Perry
 From Lubbock

Trucks carrying low-level radioactive waste from 38 states will likely be rolling along Texas highways as early as April, bound for permanent burial at a dump near the New Mexico border.

The arrival of the low-level radioactive waste will end a years-long effort by a Dallas-based company, whose majority owner is big-time political contributor Harold Simmons, to win permission from Texas officials to accept the waste at a 1,340-acre tract of scrub brush terrain about 360 miles west of Dallas. Opponents say Waste Control Specialists has benefited from Simmons’ connections to top Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry.

The state’s commission overseeing disposal of low-level waste in Texas is expected to approve the final rule changes needed on Friday. State lawmakers cleared the way with a new law passed in the last legislative session. State regulators still need to sign off on the burial site’s construction.

Environmental groups have for years voiced concerns about the geology of the site and about the potential for contamination of underground water sources they say are too close. A “nightmare scenario” exists, though, in transporting the waste to the site, said Karen Hadden, director of the Texas SEED Coalition.

Holt-Cat to build new, larger showroom in Laredo

From The San Antonio Business Journal 

Holt Cat will break ground this week on a new 24,000-square-foot store in Laredo, Texas.

The new facility will be built in the Los Lomas Industrial Park on State Highway 359. HOLT CAT will work to ensure that the facility is certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council  for efficiency

San Antonio-based HOLT CAT built its first store in Laredo in 1978 and currently has 30 sales, service and parts employees in the city. The new store location should open in January 2013.

“HOLT is investing in new and expanded facilities to demonstrate our commitment to service and our customers in Webb and surrounding counties,” says HOLT CAT Allyn L. Archer, president and chief operating officer.

HOLT CAT is the official Caterpillar Equipment and Engine dealer for South, Central, North and North East Texas. The company sells, rents and services equipment in a 118-county Texas territory.

Romney's plan to deal with Santorum

Don't worry Rick, I'll hose you down in a bit!

Now that was quick! Speedy seedy council

Laredo now has it's own official "March"

Laredo was founded in 1755 so that makes our Gateway City about 257 years old.  In light of this fact, it was sort of amusing how,  after all those years, all of a sudden - in a span of about 30 minutes, voila!, we suddenly had our very own official March.

At tonight's meeting, councilman Charlie San Miguel introduced a Mr. R.E. Lopez (hope I got the name right). Mr Lopez then proceeded to give about a 15 minute presentation on how and why he composed  "March of the Republic of the Rio Grande".  After his speech, he played the march for all the hear. Honestly, It was a rather good composition. Shortly afterwards,  a motion was made, followed by a second and Voila! we had our very first official "March of the City of Laredo".

Another fast-ball was thrown when the city was discussing the recent activity of the Laredo Development Foundation. Almost as an afterthought, councilman Mike Garza suggested that maybe, just maybe, fellow councilman Vera should be added to the Laredo Development Foundation's board of directors. Garza even admitted that he wasnt' sure of the protocol for doing such a thing. Nonetheless, he made a motion and presto!, councilman Vera is now on the LDF's board of directors.

I had to change channels so I didn't get to see the whole meeting but I'm sure there were more fun and games to be enjoyed.

Voting with GOP doesn't get "Heh Heh Heh" Henry much surplus equipment

Webb County gets "casi nada" surplus equipment

It was the top story in Sunday's Laredo Morning Times: Laredo and other border towns/counties got very little in the way of much-needed military surplus equipment thanks to GOP governor Rick Perry. Surprisingly, even Henry Cuellar's (D-Tex) many GOP-leaning votes didn't seem to count for much when it came time to dole out the goods.

Here's how the Houston Chronicle reported it:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon  distributed a record $468 million in surplus military equipment to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies last year — including $17.6 million to Texas.

Yet few of the 111 trucks, 267 guns or 14,000 other items allocated in Texas went to counties bordering Mexico, according to a breakout by the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services.

For example, police in Round Rock, 253 miles north of Laredo, received 4,526 pieces of surplus gear.
The Wichita County Sheriff's Department came in second, with 2,212 pieces. The police department in Rising Star, 371 miles north of Laredo, received 815.

Se les durmio el gallo- Perry's spokeswoman says equipment issued first come, first served.

Gov. Perry has routinely called border security a top priority. He has made “repeated requests” to meet with President Obama to discuss the need for greater federal resources along the border, spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

But the distribution of the equipment is on a “first come, first served” basis, “so every law enforcement agency in the program has equal access to the equipment,” Castle said. “Any law enforcement agency can sign up.”

All those GOP-leaning votes for what?

Even the well-connected Webb County Sheriff's Office, led by Martin Cuellar, the congressman's brother, has had little luck.

Since 2010, it has obtained just three major pieces of surplus military equipment: an all-terrain Humvee, an 8-ton armored personnel carrier and an observation helicopter to help track drug traffickers and spot victims in natural disasters.

The observation helicopter is one of 82 surplus military aircraft turned over to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies over the past 30 months.

“These were big items that would be hard to get with our budget constraints,” said Pete Arredondo, the assistant chief in the Webb County Sheriff's Office.

Read more:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Natural Gas Bubble? Last month price plunges to lowest in decade !

Eagle Ford Shale Boom: Just a Texas-sized tall tale?


A line of oil and gas industry insiders speaking at the sold-out Eagle Ford Consortium's inaugural conference this month in San Antonio praised the potential of the South Texas shale with near-prophetic ecstasy. Prospects in the oil- and gas-bearing shale formation crossing beneath 24 South Texas counties known as the Eagle Ford are "unprecedented," "extraordinary," and "game-changing," said David Blackmon, Texas state lead for the industry lobby America's Natural Gas Alliance. Laredo Energy CEO Glenn Hart named the Eagle Ford the "king of the hill" of shale plays, a region key to ushering in "the shale gas revolution" and "a stronger America."

But while it borders on the heretical to say it aloud, judging from very recent shale plays elsewhere in the country — like the Marcellus, the Barnett, the Fayetteville — ours may not go down as the century of natural gas, after all. Critics contend the promise of decades-long growth doesn't match what's been seen elsewhere, that the eventual Eagle Ford bust could come sooner than industry promises suggest — though some lucky landowners, local governments, and oil and gas companies flipping mineral leases will still be all the richer for it.

The study hit just as industry insiders spilled hundreds of internal emails and documents to The New York Times that appeared to show energy execs, geologists, and market analysts worrying whether shale-heavy companies were intentionally — maybe even illegally — overstating well productivity and the size of their reserves. Actual reserves, Berman contends, appear to be about half what industry claims. So where did that promise of 100-year natural gas reserves originate? Nelder's Slate piece tracked it back to a spring 2011 report by the Potential Gas Committee, an organization of petroleum engineers and geoscientists out of the industry-friendly Colorado School of Mines. The group's president works with Third Day Energy, LLC, an Austin-based outfit buying and exploiting oil and gas properties along the Texas Gulf Coast, while its chairman also serves as vice president for a Denver natural gas production, processing, and marketing company.

The disconnect raises serious questions about energy investments on the horizon, says Houston-based energy consultant Arthur Berman, particularly as industry and public officials start to advocate for the conversion of public transit and 18-wheelers into natural-gas powered fleets, or dumping dirty coal-fired power plants for those that run on natural gas (which produce half the greenhouse gas emissions). "Is it 11 years or 100 years? Which is it?" Berman asked. "Policy makers believe what they're told and make policy based on that, so if it turns out to be otherwise, well then shoot, we'll have a problem."

In fact, companies have been losing money producing natural gas. On an averaged annual basis, shale gas has been unprofitable for four years, When the price of natural gas started its nosedive, from about $13 per thousand cubic feet down to this month's decade-low price around $2.30. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Berman said, indicate that for most companies the break-even price would have to be somewhere around $7 per thousand cubic feet. "So if you make some investment, a personal or corporate investment or even a municipal investment in natural gas powered vehicles, and you think the price is going to stay what it is today, you're going to be pissed," Berman said.

How soon before Laredo's homeless are exploited ala SxSW ?

Fresh off a rather disturbing post on Laredo Most Impressive Blog (La Sanbe) about Austin's homeless population being used as human wireless transmitters, LT can't help but wonder how soon will the Gateway city's homeless be similarly exploited.

In Austin, homeless people were paid $20 a day to essentially serve as human transmitters and were told to mingle around the area with the biggest crowds.  No, this is not an episode of SNL or the Onion. This is the American Capitalist system at full throttle. Surely, with Laredo being full of enterprising individuals, we cannot be far behind.

"Heh heh heh Henry" bails out Hidalgo Arena with $11.5M loan

"I don't care if the voters rejected this bailout, I did it! Heh heh heh"

From The McAllen Monitor

HIDALGO — Five years ago, with interest on State Farm Arena’s debt mounting, Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz went to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, for help.

Just like many American homeowners, the city’s Texas Municipal Facilities Corp. had borrowed money at a variable rate and now found the payments uncomfortably high. To build the arena, the corporation — a nonprofit local government corporation overseen by city leaders — borrowed $9 million from Texas State Bank.

While the arena transformed Hidalgo into a destination, the loan became a headache. The interest rate, which started at 6.25 percent in June 2002, had slowly climbed to 9.75 percent by September 2006.

As a result, Hidalgo still owed nearly $8.4 million to Texas State Bank in September 2006, despite four years of payments, according to city financial records. In 2007, during one of their first conversations, Franz asked Cuellar for help.

“Quite honestly, sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect them,” Cuellar said, recalling the conversation. “And he said, ‘We need some help with the interest rate, is there something that’s available?’ And we kept pushing through USDA. Pushing and pushing. And they kept saying no.”

Eventually, under President Barack Obama’s administration and with help from Cuellar, the U.S. Department of Agriculture came around. On Tuesday, Cuellar and the department’s Rural Development state director, Paco Valentin, presented Franz with a nearly $11.5 million, low-interest federal loan designed to solve the problem.

Voters narrowly rejected a previous attempt to refinance the debt, defeating the proposition 787-664. ("Heh, heh heh! who cares")

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mayor almost bites tongue off on live TV

I was ready to see Pro8News' first aid kit brought out onto the set of today's noon time show but it appears that Mayor Raul Salinas has figured out how NOT to bite his tongue while spewing hipocrisies. Fresh from a 42-member tour of our nations capitol at the expense of Laredo taxpayers, the mayor actually dared to cite the city's "budgetary restraints"! Y no se mordio la lengua!

What restraints might the mayor be talking about? Obviously (as he loves to say), those restraints were not enough to keep him and his entourage from making their gala trip to DC last week. What might be true, is that AFTER squandering all  sorts of the people's hard-earned money, the mayor and his minions might have brought on those financial "restraints" that he now alludes to.

"You know but with the budgetary restraints that we have" at :056

Video clip courtesy of LaSanbe

The rich get richer "Heh, heh, heh"

 Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo: GAIN - Net worth increased from $379,005 to $589,004, including a pension worth up to $100,000 from serving in the Texas House of Representatives and as the Texas secretary of state. Photo: Harry Cabluck, Associated Press / AP
From My Photo: Harry Cabluck, Associated Press / AP

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo: GAIN - Net worth increased from $379,005 to $589,004, including a pension worth up to $100,000 from serving in the Texas House of Representatives and as the Texas secretary of state.

Read more:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Those Dang Feds messin with us agin!

The U.S. has scuttled a Texas law that would have required voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, arguing that it would have unfairly targeted the state’s Hispanic voters. What’s more, the Justice Department also argued that there was no problem to fix in the first place—Texas had not demonstrated any significant fraud that the new law would have corrected.

It’s the second time the U.S. has struck down a voter ID mandate, the first time being a South Carolina law in December. Both states are appealing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Henry happy with his new 28th District: others claim he sold out to GOP

GW: "You, republican in Democrat's clothing you"!
 From The Houston

Despite the Democratic sniping, Rep. Henry Cuellar said that he feels vindicated that a compromise congressional redistricting map includes new Latino districts in San Antonio and Dallas.

“For the first time in the history of Texas politics we created two Hispanic seats,” Cuellar, D-Laredo, said during an office interview following weeks of acrimony and grumbling from some Democrats who accused Cuellar of being working too closely with Republicans.

Cuellar’s role in the redistricting process was criticized by head of a Democratic advocacy group, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus complained that their lawyers were left out of some negotiations that took place with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

But Cuellar notes that he along with Latino groups worked on the map, and with Abbott and Republican lawmakers, notably Rep. Francisco Canseco, R-San Antonio.

Matt Angle with the Lone Star Project, a Democratic advocacy group, said in a statement that Cuellar “has a long history of betraying Latino voters and his constituents to appease high-level Republicans.”

Read the entire article at:

No Surprise: Lowering the expectations from City's DC trip

"Obviously, we could've met with you in Laredo, but we love traveling."

It's funny how before the trip, the mayor played up the importance of taking a 42-member delgation on the taxpayer's dime up to our nation's capitol. His constant refrain of  "we have to knock on some doors" is old and as LaredoTejas mentioned recently, previous trips have not been very fruitful. Case in point: the city's 2009 trip to DC which came back empty-handed and instead had to rely on a short trip to Austin to secure funding for the Cuatro Vientos Road.

An article appearing in today's Laredo Morning Times seems to signal a lowering of expectations and results. Perhaps this is the mayor's way of breaking the news to his hometown that, once again, their gala trip was mostly for naught.

Laredo Morning Times
(LT's Editors notes appear in red)

At a time when federal agencies are bracing for funding cuts to their already shrunken budgets, all courtesy of the nation’s deficit, Laredo’s officials said they had a difficult time gaining support from federal authorities for some of the city’s proposed capital projects.   DUH !

Still, Laredo officials said, they hope the state’s members of Congress will rally on behalf of the city to see some of the projects completed.  As is always the case, no trip needed!

“We are working in a bipartisan spirit in partnership with other entities at the county, state and federal level,” Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said. The City failed, now it's up to Richard Raymond and Henry Cuellar to simply do their job- anyone surprised?

Sports is the word

UISD's flagship school

Once again, the news on the local school district front is the millions of dollars that UISD is about to spend. To make things worse, the district has decided to invest these millions, not in their academic programs but their sports facilities instead.

In true Laredo style, parents of some of the UISD schools (namely LBC and United South) have been clamoring for more parity in the schools' sports facilities according to today's Laredo Morning Times. There is absolutely no reason why United (North) or Alexander should have higher quality facilities than the schools to the South. The problem is: why did the district insist on spending so much on the Northside's atheletic budget. I mean really, did the "new" multi-million dollar United High School need two UIL regulation sized basketball courts?

From The Laredo Morning Times

By the start of next school year, UISD’s four high schools will have equal athletic facilities.

To make them equal, United Independent School District will spend about $4 million in field houses expansions for Alexander, LBJ and United South.

Alexander will also get an estimated $1 million track and field.

In addition, UISD will spend about $1.2 million to build additional tennis courts at LBJ and United South.

Leyendecker Construction, which UISD contracted to design and build the projects, has proposed to complete them for a guaranteed maximum price of about $7.25 million.

The bulk of the funding would come from the county’s permanent school land fund.

On March 21, UISD trustees are slated to vote to approve the $7.25 million price tag.
When you take into cosideration the relatively small number of student-athletes that benefit the most from these huge spending amounts, it is clear that, from an educational point of view, these are really not good investments at all.  If Laredo schools were la creme de la creme in academics, then perhaps investing millions in such sports facilities would not seem such a bad idea. As it is, one has to wonder "what are they thinking?" 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Trip to Austin, not Washington is what got Cuatro Vientos road funded

As long as we're on memory lane. Let's us not forget that the city of Laredo's 2009 trip to Washington DC  turned out to be quite a debacle. Councilman Mike Garza had mentioned that they were going to go up there and get around $100 Million dollars funding for the Cuatro Vientos road but came back with ZERO. This, according to the following Monday Wash editorial from 2009.

As you will read, a subsequent trip to Austin by City Manager Carlos Villarreal and state representative Richard Raymond is what actually yielded some results.  Did the city learn to go to Austin and not waste their time up in D.C.? Of course not, a very sizable contingent of city councilmen, the mayor and staff find themselves up in our nation's capitol again, apparently not having learned their history lesson.

Monday Wash

City fans on stimulus for Cuatro Vientos

Odie Arambula
Published: Monday, March 2, 2009 10:59 AM CST

"We're going to turn it around," Carlos Villarreal said.

That was the city manager's parting comment in a returned telephone call Friday afternoon from Austin.

Every word was Carlos Villarreal. True to character, people are going to listen to what he has to say.

The point is that if the Cuatro Vientos road project in south Laredo gets funded, the city manager's message, supported by our elected representatives, got to someone at the top other than the Texas Highway Commission.

THE GIVE AND TAKE late Friday had the numbers from flat zero funding for the project to something like $30-plus million, but nowhere near the figure cited by Councilman Mike Garza last week ($100 million-plus).

City management got encouraging support of our representatives in Austin, State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, State Rep. Richard Raymond and State Rep. Ryan Guillen.

Congressman Henry Cuellar was there for Laredo at The Hill.

Deja Vu: LMT article from March, 2010 on city's trip to Washington

"Si, si, tenemos que ir a tocar las puertas de Washington DC"

Yawn........besides spending a lot more taxpayer money on their Washington DC vacation, what else is new? The following article appeared in the Laredo Morning Times in March, 2010-two years ago. The city was going up to our nation's capitol to "knock on doors" and ask for federal funds for a bus terminal among other things. Wait, isn't it exactly what they're doing this year again?

From The Laredo Morning Times archives

Published: Monday, March 8, 2010 1:25 AM CST
A new bus inspection facility and security issues along the border are pressing issues that the City of Laredo hopes to address during its annual legislative trip to Washington, D.C.

Three council members, Mayor Raul Salinas and a handful of city staff and department heads travel to Washington for four days to “hunt for federal dollars,” as Salinas put it.

The city will spend the four days in meetings with federal officials, as well as celebrating “Laredo Day,” an event paid for by sponsors to raise awareness of the city’s issues and commercial advantages.

Currently the General Services Administration divides federal funding for two of Laredo’s international bridges.

City Manager Carlos Villarreal said that, if they can convince the GSA to use that funding in one source, they can create a bus inspection facility which will improve conditions for riders crossing into the United States.

Villarreal long has been concerned about the fact that people crossing by bus are subjected to “the rough elements we have here in Laredo,” and forced to use portable bathrooms.

He envisions an indoor facility with air conditioning, a children’s play area and “plenty of bathrooms.”

Once bus riders are cleared to come into the United States, they could continue along, catch connections with other bus companies, or even shop or purchase fast food.

“We’re still the leading mover of people by buses here on the Texas-Mexico border,” Villarreal said.

But a new facility could ensure that Laredo keeps that title.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Early Morning Cane Waving

"In My Day......*$#@^*!+#*%^!*^#!"

It's only slightly past 9 AM and already, I've been out waving a few canes this morning.

Shortly before 8am at the McDonald's over at Mines Roads, I mentally waved a few canes at the manager on duty when she decided to carry on an argument with a customer in full view of all others in the lobby. Obviously, she's never heard that the customer is always right- and even if he's wrong (which this guy might have been), there's probably a better way of handling his complaint.  Still, I waited for my oatmeal and walked out shaking my head.

Heading back into "town" on IH-35 South, a 40ish looking female proceeded to enter the ramp right in front of me with her cell phone glued to her left ear all the while. It was only my alertness that prevented a mishap from occurring as a result of her digital addiction. Incidentally, I managed to slow down, keep my vehicle in the proper lane and wave my verbal cane at her at the same time.

About 10 minutes later, I walked into City Hall (not the non-annex) to pay my water bill. For one thing, the receptionist did not greet me with "good morning" as I did her. I guess she didn't get the memo from Subway where you'll always hear "welcome to Subway". I'm probably sure even the fake-gun guy was given a hardy welcome by the Subway clerk before he proceeded to stupidly scare her.  Anyway, if the receptionist's aloofness was not enough to incite more cane-waving, I think I saw a tattoo on her left arm.  Ok I know that probably about 99 percent of Laredo has tattoos but this one looked rather evil.

By the time I left City Hall, I felt like I should've have brought my other cane along. That way I could wave one out of each window as I drove around our beloved Gateway City.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oye Time Warner, que se traen??

Cnet.Com is reporting:

In Southern Texas, Time Warner Cable is offering customers $5 off their bill if they'll agree to a 5GB cap on data usage. Where have we seen this before?

Time Warner Cable is at it again.

The company this week announced the launch of a usage-based pricing plan in Southern Texas. The service is available to customers in San Antonio, Laredo, Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Value, and the Border Corridor, the company said in a blog post.

Dubbed the Essentials Plan, the offering limits subscribers to 5GB of data usage a month in exchange for a $5 discount to their monthly bill. Time Warner Cable says customers can opt-in or opt-out of the deal at any time, and subscribers will get a "meter" to let them see where they stand over the period. Upon going over their limit, customers will be charged $1 per GB of usage, not to exceed $25 a month, the company says.

Read more:

Watch out Rudy's, Dickey's Barbecue is coming to town


LAREDO, Texas, March 1, 2012 /PRNewswire

Dickey's Barbecue is looking to open a location in Laredo. Keith Selman has signed a franchise agree with Dickey's and is excited to begin.

"The whole idea of owning and operating a Dickey's, serving people, a new experience, plowing new ground and being a business owner is all so exciting," said Selman.  

Selman was born in North Carolina and grew up in the south east. At age 29, Selman moved to Laredo and has stayed there ever since. Prior to owning a Dickey's Selman was the planning director of the City of Laredo.

"The Laredo community is in desperate need of hickory smoked barbecue," said Selman. "Hickory wood is a superior wood for smoking and ultimately makes the best barbecue flavor so I know Dickey's is going to be a huge success here."

Dickey's Barbecue offers a quality selection of signature meats, home style sides and tangy barbecue sauce. For more information, including a full menu, other restaurant locations and franchising opportunities, please visit                                                                                 

A tale of two cities: Laredo parks

$2.5Million spent on North Central, Zero on San Francisco Xavier

San Francisco Xavier neighborhood could not get a park because the $215,000 which had been allocated for it had to be used for more basic things: in this case, sidewalks.  The below agenda item appeared in last week's seedy council meeting and not surprisingly, no one was there to speak out.

6. Public hearing allowing interested persons to comment on the proposed amendment to the 2011 Consolidated One-Year Action Plan by canceling the San Francisco Javier Neighborhood Park Project totaling $215,000.00 in 36th Action Year (AY) 2010 funds, and reprogramming the $215,000.00 for the design and construction of sidewalks in District VIII.
 Meanwhile, in upscale North Central park, today's Laredo Morning Times features a picture of a smiling Charlie San Miguel (cm.dist6) at the ground-breaking of a $2.5 million park pool. Reportedly, this is part of the city's $68 Million dollar investment in its parks. All that money and they could not spend $215,000 for the San Francisco Xavier neighborhood park.