Friday, August 31, 2012

VIDA meeting Today, Saturday 9/1 11:00

The next VIDA meeting is scheduled for:

When? Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Where? Blanquita’s Restaurant (3719 Santa Maria Avenue Laredo, TX). The restaurant is located right in front of A&S Electric Service.

Who can attend? The meeting is open to the public – anyone can attend. Everyone is welcomed.

What should I bring? Bring your enthusiasm for an ethical and transparent government, and  a pen and notebook if you’re the note-taking type. Although it is not required, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a few bucks to buy a coffee or breakfast since meetings are generally held at a local restaurant.

Thank you. We hope to see you there.

Garros Inspections: 100 down, 4,900 to go

By their own admission, Garros is expecting to process about 5,000 truckloads at the World Trade Bridge in their first year of managing the operations. Also by their own estimate, they fully expect to be processing about 10,000 truckloads a year by the third year of their 10-year contract.

So far, according to today's LMT, they have processed about 100 truckloads since July. They still have 4,900 more to go to fullfill their predictions. The city was warned that local brokers might, in essance, boycot the facilities if another broker was handed to contract. It would be interesting to find out how many truckloads of perishables passing through Laredo have NOT used the facilites.

Excerpted from today's LMT

The warehouses — one at Colombia Solidarity Bridge and one at World Trade Bridge — began operating in early July and are expected to draw more traffic from shippers importing perishable goods such as fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Only a fraction of the trucks that passed through those bridges in July and August also used the inspection facilities — about 100 so far — while upwards of 6,000 trucks cross northbound each day.

But Raquel San Miguel, a partner with Garros Services, said the group expects traffic to start slow and pick up over time.

“We always projected that it would be slow the first year,” she said in an interview.

“But the mere fact that we had this available to the trade community and the City of Laredo — we always kept that as the priority.”

The facilities were completed last year at a cost of $1.9 million, using funding from 2005 city bonds.

Laredo City Council chose a proposal from Garros to manage the warehouses in November, but the 10 year-contract was not approved until April of this year.

In addition to San Miguel, the group’s partners include fellow customs brokers Eduardo Garza Robles and Salvador Rosas Quintanilla.

Mayor Raul Salinas told attendees of Thursday’s ceremony that opening the warehouses was a step toward solidifying the city’s leadership in international trade.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

San Antonio Mayor seeks to supplement Pre-K funding

While Laredo's politicians reason to raise our sales tax by a quarter cent was to built the oft-empty Arena and Lemur stadium, San Antonio has a better idea of what to do with the quarter penny sales tax increase. Of course, not everyone agrees with Mayor Julian Castro's idea to help fund Pre-K on a full day basis. 

Locally, some bloggers such as Tom Wade have gone on the record as opposing full-day Pre-Ks. If I remember correctly, Wade has referred to them as all-day day care centers - or something to that effect. What say you Tom Wade?

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the Texas Tribune on the San Antonio story

An initiative from San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro that would direct a portion of sales tax revenue to fund full-day pre-kindergarten unanimously passed the City Council, leaving it for voters to approve in November.
The pre-K funding initiative, which has the support of the education community and prominent business leaders in the city like Charles Butt of H-E-B and Joe Robles of USAA, is a major policy proposal for the San Antonio mayor, who was thrust into the national spotlight last week when he was chosen to keynote this year’s Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4.
The state currently covers half-day pre-K for children from low-income, English-language-learning, military and foster families. Many districts opt to offer a full-day program, which they did with the help of additional state grants before the Legislature in 2011 slashed more than $200 million allocated for that purpose.
Districts have tried various methods, including charging tuition, to keep full-day pre-K programs alive since the state funding was eliminated. But San Antonio's is the first such effort initiated at the city level.

Richard Raymond is right: City is raising "TAXES"

Last Year, Laredo state representative Richard Pena Raymond introduced HB 3435 during the 2011 Legislative session. The bill deals with "Honesty in State Taxation". Naturally, it should also apply to the city seedy. It would correctly label raises of fees, surcharges and assessments as TAXES.

With this in mind, it appears that both the city of Laredo and the county of Webb are planning to raise Taxes in the very near future.

The county's first public hearing regarding a proposed tax rate increase "remember, we're not raising taxes, just the tax rate" will be Monday, August 27th at 9am.

Richard Raymond's HB3435:


SECTION 1.  Subtitle A, Title 2, Tax Code, is amended by adding Chapter 102 to read as follows:


Sec. 102.001.  LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.  The legislature finds that this (City) state has hidden from taxpayers the enactment and increase of state taxes by describing the taxes by other names such as "fees," "surcharges," "assessments," and "penalties."  It is the intent of the legislature to establish honesty in state taxation and to appropriately identify state taxes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Seedy council : Let's see how I can make this better....for me!

The Laredo Morning Times continued to report on Monday's fun-filled seedy council meeting.  Specifically, on the ethics ordinance which was passed (first reading) and which is scheduled to be become effective upon publication after the third reading September 4th.

The LMT's article coinfirms how councilman Mike Garza took a scalpel to the proposed document and made it better-for himself and his fellow council members.

In the following excerpt is detailed how Garza succeeds in: 1) increasing the $$ value of gifts he can receive and 2) expands the possibility of free admission to local events.

From The Laredo Morning Times

The proposed code, which passed on first reading, covers conduct for current elected officials and employees; contractors; and former city officials and employees.

Officials and employees are prohibited from asking for or receiving gifts from persons with city business with certain exceptions.

Those exceptions included gifts with a nominal value up to $125 in the proposed ordinance.

Among the amendments council members agreed to Monday, the limit on nominal value of gifts was raised to $250, a number that appeared in earlier drafts of the ordinance.

Councilman Mike Garza said during discussions of the ordinance that he suggested the change to align the language with state law.

Officials and employees would be restricted to receiving no more than $500 in gifts in a calendar year from one source.

Council modified another exception to gift restrictions, which allowed for admission to community events at Laredo Energy Arena, expanding the exception to all city-owned facilities if the offer is unsolicited.

No tienen verguenza!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hurricane might spoil the party for GOP

According to the Weather Channel, there's a pretty good possibility that tropical-storm Isaac might become a hurricane and come close enough to Florida to affect the upcoming GOP convention in Tampa.  Our local Fox News affiliate reporting tonight that Isaac is moving North-Northwest. The Good News, neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan have to worry about their hair being messed up.

TC Activity

Most mayor appearances absent from Pro8News website

I know that our illustrious mayor usually visits the Pro8News set at least a couple of times a month. Yet, whenever I've gone to Pro8News to look for these clips, they're absent. For a while, I thought maybe he wasn't going on any more but today I caught a glimpse of him on the noon show. Nonetheless, I can't find this clip on their website.

Now, I know I'm notorious for not being digitally-savvy but I wonder if the mayor has instructed KGNS not to have these clips on their website. I know most fellow bloggers are tech-wizards so if any of you know if I'm overlooking these clips- or know where to find them, I'd appreciate it. The mayor is always entertaining and sometimes, even informative.

I know today they asked him about the ethics showdown and I'd like to see the entire clip if its out there.

Years in the making, City Ethics Code practically dismantled by Garza

Showing little respect for the hard work of Chairman Michael Zuniga and the other members of the city's ad hoc ethics committee, city council member Mike Garza and other city officials took out their self-serving scalpels and proceeded to decimate a good portion of the ethics code.

From the very beginning, Garza had the $150 individual gift maximum lifted to $250. Garza asserted that this would bring it in line with state law. Perhaps the previous maximum ($150) would not be enough to secure some Spurs tickets.

The local news sources have had little coverage on the ethics document itself. The text of the proposed document was available on the city's website under "full agenda packet"-but that was before Garza took a knife to it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seedy council to vote on watered-down code of ethics

One of the items on the agenda for Monday's seedy council meeting is a vote on the proposed code of ethics.  From about 2006 to 2009, an ad-hoc ethics committee worked many hours to put together this code. In 2009, they turned in their work to the city council only to have them sit on it until recently. During the last couple of months VIDA convinced the current council to put the matter back on the agenda and reactivate the ad hoc committee into action.

A few weeks later, the committee has finished its work. On orders from the mayor, seedy council, and the city manager's office, they made some modifications that, for the most part, are more liberal in what city officials can legally do.

One of the things that was so important to council and staff was their annual all-expenses paid trips to Washington DC and Austin, Texas. Therefore, they made sure the new code allows for such donations.  Last year, the city leaders managed to get over $100,000 from private interests to finance their whirlwind tours.  This was their way of getting away from the scrutiny of the taxpayers. They figured if they could get their buddies to put up the dough, they could have increasingly lavish trips for increasingly larger groups. Incredibly, last year's trip to DC was enjoyed by a whoppping 42 travelers. Now that's an entourage.

Ethics-Smethics is the apparent response of the mayor, seedy council and staff. First class travel all the way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GOP Spin: The $716 Billion Lie


As the Washington Post helpfully points out, the origin of the $716 billion number the Republicans are throwing around is from a letter the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sent to John Boehner explaining how expensive it would be to repeal Obama's health care law. Among the costs of repeal would be an additional $716 billion in Medicare spending over the next ten years.

The Post also supplies a helpful chart that demonstrates that the Medicare savings in ObamaCare come in three roughly-equal parts. About 35% of the savings comes from paying lower reimbursements to hospitals, which accepted this deal because they know they will have a lot more insured customers who will make up for any loss in profits. About 30% of the savings came from tightening up the private insurance known as Medicare Advantage.
The whole idea of Medicare Advantage was to drive down the cost of health insurance for the elderly as private insurance companies competing for seniors’ business.That’s not what happened. By 2010, the average Medicare Advantage per-patient cost was 117 percent of regular fee-for-service. The Affordable Care Act gives those private plans a haircut and tethers reimbursement levels to the quality of care administered, and patient satisfaction.
And the remaining 35% of savings comes from an assortment of changes, including less compensatory money for hospitals who treat a high level of the uninsured (because there will be a lot fewer uninsured people soon).  In other words, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act made Medicare a lot more efficient, but it didn't do anything to reduce anyone's Medicare benefits.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wanted: Ambassador/Greeter

A couple of interesting agenda items from the upcoming seedy council meeting scheduled for Monday, August 20th, 2012.

Request by Mayor Raul G. Salinas
1. Discussion with possible action to create an ambassador/greeter program to welcome guest at special City events. (Co-sponsored by Mayor Pro-Tempore Cynthia Liendo Espinoza and Council Member Juan Narvaez)

This should be good news for area photographers. Apparently, our illustrious mayor wants a welcoming committee of sorts to ham it up for the cameras even more than they already do. I wonder how the mayor will figure in this proposal. Will he be the ambassador or the greeter?  If he is the ambassador, will he get to pick the greeters for each event?  Wow, hard work indeed. As you can see, they're earning their keep at city hall.

2. Discussion with possible action to establish a partnership with the private sector and the business community to embark on a training program to enhance customer service in our City. (Co-sponsored by Mayor Pro-Tempore Cynthia Liendo Espinoza and Council Member Juan Narvaez)

For starters, it would be nice for the clerk behind the counter to at least say"thank you" once in while- even if they don't really mean it. Perhaps if they weren't constantly facing those long lines of customers and lottery ticket buyers, and if they were making more than minimum wage, they'd smile a bit more. One has to wonder, who's going to determine what good customer service looks like?  

As Popeye would say: "What a coincidinks!"

No, it's not a bordertown version of Ripley's Believe it or Not, it's an actual news story from the Laredo Morning Times.

Excertped from The Laredo Morning Times

The next Webb County facilities director named to the job by commissioners Monday is a nephew of Uni-Trade Forwarding owner Eduardo Garza, a generous contributor to local political campaigns.

County commissioners selected Gilberto Garza to fill the vacant director position at the facilities department after conducting interviews with him and two other candidates.

Gilberto Garza said his relationship to his uncle had nothing to do with his selection.

“Everything I did, I went through a process,” he said.

“I submitted an application, I met the minimum qualifications, I responded based on my knowledge and my experience.”

Garza said he is grateful to have the opportunity to lead the department and that his uncle was not involved in his hiring.

“He is one thing and I am another thing,” he said.

Since June 2010, Garza has worked as an administrative assistant at the City of Laredo finance department.
( City of Laredo officials are recipients of Garza's political contributions)
Before that, he worked for six years as a site supervisor at Laredo Accurate Inspections Inc. (
Is this the same company that is owned by Mr. Unitrade Garza?)
Advertisements for the position included a requirement of five years as a facilities and maintenance director, of which two must have been in a supervisory capacity.

Commissioners passed on two other candidates, Javier Mendoza and Lourdes Paras-Jasso.

As operations manager and president of Mendoza Maintenance Group, Mendoza has handled maintenance contracts with entities including Dallas and Williamson counties.

Paras-Jasso has worked as a facilities officer at Laredo Independent School District since 2004.
Eduardo Garza donated at least $5,000 to County Judge Danny Valdez during his last run for office.

He donated $500 to Tijerina during the campaign for her court seat in 2006. 
(La estan regando, ya ni le tratan de despistar los sinverguenzas!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apples to Oranges : Laredo to become more expensive for everyone

This has got to be one of the biggest jokes the City of laredo has pulled off in quite a while. Today's Laredo Morning Times includes an article about all city's proposed fee hikes. Of course this is now reportedly necessary because of all the mis-management going down at city hall.

The funniest part of all is that, in an effort to try to justify all these fee hikes, the city has put out a detailed report comparing Laredo to San Antonio and some Rio Grande Valley cities.  How can anyone in their right mind try to compare Laredo to San Antonio? Like the old adage says "You can't compare Apples to Oranges". I guess anything goes when you're trying to impose such a vast array of fee increases.

Virtually every city department has put a long list of what fees they are willing raise, double, triple or even worse.  Citizens using the newly-opened Haynes (Hines) recreation center, for example, would see their costs go from $10 per year to $15 quarterly. That's an increase of 600 percent from the current $10 annual fee to the proposed 60 bucks (15x4=60).

The library fees are scheduled to skyrocket as well. First of all, the amnesty program which was usually held during April of each year was recently gotten rid off. Users returning their books during the month of April were allowed to do so without any fees whatsoever. Perhaps that was a bit too generous but now the city is about to make up for it.  Instead of the current 20 cents a day per book late fee, the city is proposing a 35 cents per book, per day penalty. Take that readers!  Maybe the city's Public Information Officer was predicting the future when she commented recently on facebook that "no one uses the libray anyway"- or something to that effect.

Read much more at:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ethics ad-hoc committee meets again on Wednesday evening

The Laredo ethics committee is meeting for the second time in the last 8 days.  The gathering is slated for Wednesday at 6pm at the city manager's conference room on the third floor of city hall.  Voices In Democratic Action has gone on record as officially rejecting councilman San Miguel's appointee, Alfonso Campero.

The initial objection by VIDA was voiced at last week's meeting and continued Monday night at the regularly-scheduled meeting. Dr. Hector Farias and at least two other VIDA members made it clear to the city council that Mr. Campero is "unacceptable" for the committee. Farias explained that Campero has worked with San Miguel and for San Miguel's "boss", businessman Eduardo Garza of Unitrade Stadium fame. 

Laredoans wake up to no new dumped tires post

File photo from BTB's voluminous dumped tires archives

With Laredo's blogging colosal, BTB, still on hiatus, many Gateway City residents woke up without their usual Tuesday morning "dumped tires" thread.  Reportedly, a group of readers have even started to wager on the part of town from which the latest photo will originate. Of course, it's mostly the West side, but those familiar with the area get into specific barrios or even streets.  Usually, Los Amores, El Trece, Las Canta Ranas are among some the barrios repeatedly mentioned.

In the meantime, BOLAS has been looking into citing BTB and LaredoTejas for dereliction of duty. As mentioned before, BTB has taken a vacation of sorts while LT's posts have recently been minimal at best. La Sanbe, in the meantime, continues in its juggernaut role as Laredo's Most Impressive Blog.

Mayor's soon-to-be Ex-wife files for Dist. 7 race

It looks like the Laredo city council district VII race just got a little bit more interesting. Yolanda Salinas, whose divorce from mayor Raul Salinas should be finalized by October, has announced that she is seeking the seat currently being held by Jorge Vera.

Ms. Salinas is the third candidate to announce for the city elections in November. Previously, UISD board president Pat Campos announced she will seek the district V seat being vacated by Johnny Rendon. Shortly thereafter, Roque Vela Jr. also announced for the same seat.

No word yet if the mayor plans to resign.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mayor Salinas, councilman Vera steal the show again

A sort of media-days for the military training exercises currently taking place in the Gateway city turned into a rather familiar scene. Not surprisingly, mayor Salinas again took the opportunity to remind everyone that Laredo "is not a war zone" while, as La Sanbe correctly pointed out, standing in front of an "Apache Helicopter" and several US military personel in full garb. Naturally, the mayor took what could have been said in about 15 seconds and stretched far beyond that.

In the meantime, councilman Vera continued a pattern: In this case, he chastised Laredoans for daring to complain about the noise which the various helicopters have been creating as they go about their business. I, for one, have heard the helicopters daily and nightly and have wondered aloud what they are "really" doing in town. I have heard others mention the same thing; not once have I heard anyone complain about the noise. It seems that for the most part, Laredoans are bothered by the lack of information surrounding these events.

And, if people want to complain- it's their right to do so without having an elected official berating them about making any commotion. On La Sanbe's vaunted blog, Keyrose features a video clip in which the councilman tells the commanding military officer something like " You don't worry about anyone complaining about the noise. You go ahead and train and do what you have to do. Your missions comes first and the people..... (unitelligable)".

The military is going to do what they have to do no matter who complains- or doesn't complain. Of course, they would much rather have the support of the community- and they have. There is no need to put on a show for the media.
Overall, it looks like Mr. Vera is learning fast from the mayor about how to make almost any photo op about himself. During a recent, park-cleaning, volunteer weekend, the councilman held up some sort of drug paraphenelia he found strewn about and chided Laredoans as he muttered something to the effect of "If you want your kids to be around this sort of thing (drugs), then fine, don't volunteer but if you want to make a difference, you need to get out here and help cleanup this place". During his tantrum, Vera yells to a nearby kid in an apparently angry tone "get over here" as he tries to get the kid in the camera shot for effect.

 It's clear that it's an election year and the councilman is up for re-election.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LCC Administration: It wasn't ineptitude, just inabilty

The famed Laredo Morning Times ran a story this morning detailing the goings on at a "recent" specially-called LCC board meeting. It was interesting how the college's administration kept side-stepping taking full responsibilty for the mis-management that led to Laredo Community College being put on 12 months of probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

At one point, a Mr. Solis, speaking on behalf of LCC's administration, tries to argue that the college was simply unable to comply as opposed to be inept.

From Friday's Laredo Morning Times

Tensions ran high at a recent LCC special board meeting as the college’s administrators discussed the school’s plan to close its ongoing accreditation reaffirmation process.

Laredo Community College was placed on a 12-month probation in July by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges because it failed to correct deficiencies in its institutional effectiveness reports.

Institutional effectiveness is the process schools use to improve educational programs and services and ensure they’re meeting objectives.

The college has until June 2013 to correct the deficiency or risk losing its accreditation, which would render degrees and credits from the institution meaningless.

The statement from the commission released in June stated that LCC failed to demonstrate compliance with “institutional effectiveness for administrative support services, academic and student support services and community/public service.”

Trustee Ed Sherwood asked for a simplified breakdown of the language used by the accrediting agency and what it meant for the college.

Solis said the statement didn’t reflect the college’s ineptitudes but rather the college’s inability to place what they’re doing into a narrative, something the agency requires via submitted reports.

“It’s coming clear that you had the data and information.

It was just the proper substance in the report that didn’t get communicated or written properly,” said trustee Pete Saenz Jr.

“What else could we have done in retrospect to have avoided this?” Saenz asked.

In response, Maldonado said administration had been ambitious, dealing with the college’s facilities master plan and student success master plan in addition to the agency’s expectations.

“I can understand the concern of the board and I accept responsibility for the fact that we were engaged in a lot of different things.

I am pledging to you that our No. 1 priority is closing the reaffirmation cycle,” Maldonado said.