Sunday, September 30, 2012

WBCA continues down it's alcohol-fueled road to riches

Laredo's Washington Birthday's Celebration Association is again showing a certain lack of creativity. They are announcing yet another alcohol-fueled addition to its calendar, which already includes several beer-guzzling, wine and tequila-"tasting" event.  WBCA is, after all, the organization that put the "booze" in Jamboozie. The Border BeerFest is now, officially, part of the Washington Birthday's festivities. So the festivities are now startign In Oktober?

No report yet on stories that bail bonds and wrecker service companies are setting up temporary shop in the areas immediately surrounding the many alcohol-sponsored events at the WBCA.

Excerpted from Today's LMT

Things just got a little more festive down on the border.

The Border Beer Fest and first-ever Oktoberfest are now officially the newest festivals added to the 116th Annual Washington’s Birthday Celebration in Laredo, a two-month-long celebration beginning in January with dozens of events including food festivals, pageants, parades, air shows, fireworks, carnivals, comedy shows, concerts and dances, and now a beer festival.

Oktoberfest will add a bit of Texas German heritage to the 116-year-old celebration, with more than 200 different beers to sample from, as well as great food and live music.

As residents' water rates skyrocket, city sells cheap water to frackers

Citizens have been complaining about the absurd practice of the City of Laredo selling water dirt-cheap to fracking companies while continuing to raise the rates of its citizens.  Today, thanks to the Laredo Morning Times' reporter Mikaela Rodriguez, the issue is getting some much-needed exposure.

From Sunday's Laredo Morning Times

Local ethics group Voices in Democratic Action voiced concerns over the illegal sale of potable city water to third party companies for fracking use during a regular meeting Saturday.

Hector Farias, VIDA president, said the issue is of concern because the City Code forbids the resale of water bought from the city.

VIDA members said current drought restrictions unfairly constrain citizens’ water usage, while vacuum companies who have permits to buy city water are allowed up to 122,800 gallons at a monthly rate of about $400.

VIDA claims city officials gave the go-ahead to several companies with large tanks to resell potable water to third parties outside the city for oil and gas uses.

City Manager Carlos VIllarReal said while he is aware of certain companies illegally redistributing water, he never authorized them to resell it.

VillarReal said instances of companies making a profit from city water are being investigated, and said the Utilities Department is in the process of determining whether violations occurred and is issuing citations.

“Definitely, it’s a problem and we’re looking into it,” Councilman Alex Perez said.

“People are trying to make money any way they can.”

Perez said the Utilities Department has collected photos and license plate numbers of vehicles stealing water at hydrants or taking it for resale as part of the city’s investigation into the matter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reminder of VIDA meeting this Saturday, September 29th

Posted by Anonymous and serving as a reminder:

       To all citizens interested in knowing more on these and other issues involving malfeasance on the part of our elected officials, please attend this Saturday's (Sept.29th) VIDA meeting at Blanquita's Restaurant located at 3370 Santa Maria starting at 11:00 am. 
      Join us and help us hold these elected officials accountable for their actions or inactions as the case may be.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's afoot at City Hall??

Are the winds breezes of change blowing wafting over at Laredo's city hall? Well, somethings seems to be going on after the Mud Run debacle last weekend. There's three (3) separate agenda items that, in one way or another, related to the city councilman at the center of the "take the money and run" controversy, Charlie San Miguel.

Below are three items from the Monday, October 1st, 2012 Agenda. Draw your own conclusions:

Item 29. A. Request by Mayor Raul G. Salinas
1. Discussion with possible action regarding the ongoing police investigation on the mishandling of cash generated by the "No Mud No Glory—One Tough Mud’r" event held at North Central Park on Saturday, September 15, 2012. (Co-Sponsored by Mayor Pro Tempore Cynthia Liendo Espinoza, Council Member Mike Garza, & Council Member Johnny Rendon).

Item 29.B.

Request by Council Member Mike Garza

1. Discussion with possible action to instruct the City Manager to formally request the Police/Fire Civil Service Commission to adopt a nepotism prohibition as part of their Civil Service Commission Rules. (Co-Sponsored by Mayor Raul Salinas and Council Member Jorge Vera)

F. Request by Council Member Jorge A. Vera

1. Discussion with possible action to request a legal opinion regarding Laredo City Charter, §2.03 (C)’s prohibition against Interference with Administration as it applies to the "No Mud No Glory" event held at North Central Park on September 15, 2012, and the resulting violations of the City of Laredo’s Cash Handling Policy. (Co-Sponsored by Council Member Juan Narvaez & Council Member Esteban Rangel).


Just say the magic words: "We followed a process"

In regards to the continuing sage of the newly-hired Webb County facilities director, Gilberto Garza, there seems to be some talking points being passed around.

A couple of weeks ago, when Garza had just gotten his new job, The Laredo Morning Times reported that his response to whether or not his uncle (Eduardo Garza of Unitrade) had influenced the decision to hire him was simply that he "had followed a process" and had gotten the job all on his own merits.

Last night on Fox 16 news, it was Danny Valdez's turn to tell the Fox reporter that he (Valdez) had also "followed a process". He indicated that a hiring committee had made the recommendation to hire Garza and the commissioner's court had simply acted on their suggestion. In other words, he resorted to a tried and true Valdez technique: "Se trato de limpiar las manos".

Well, tonight it was Pro8News' turn to report on the fiasco. The clip showed  VIDA's Dr. Hector Farias explaining the discrepancies in Garza's application(s) that indicate that he might have lied on his application. If that is true, then it presents grounds for possible termination.  KGNS's Orlando Garza (he of the bow tie) called Gilberto Garza several times and even went to look for him at his workplace, cameraman in tow, but was unable to find the elusive new facilities director.

Something tells me that if and when they do find him, he'll simply resort to the now-well-rehearsed line that he simply "followed a process".  Whatever that means.

Monday, September 24, 2012

SLippery as Mud

Pro8news had this as their "Top Story" on Monday Night.  Reporter Noraida Negron had quite a challenge on her hands as she tried to keep San Miguel on topic but, as always, he managed to make the conversation about how "overwhelming" of a success the event was.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One-man convoys being tested in Europe

Something tells me that Laredo will NOT be part of a pilot program to test this "driverless" system for auto-piloted cars travelling in a sort of convoy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Taxpayers subsidizing giant soft drink companies

Yep, it's actually not news, but it's sure a lot of money. Maybe Richard Raymond will re-introduce his bill to not subsidize junk food with SNAP program.

From Fox News

The federal government’s major food-assistance program pays out as much as $2.1 billion annually for the purchases of sugar-sweetened drinks, according to a new study.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, overall pays out roughly $80 billion annually to roughly 46 million poor and low-income Americans, according to the federal government.

The study conducted by Yale University researchers and published Monday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine also points out that the findings were made at the same time the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans is recommending Americans cut back on sugary drinks.

The eight-page study also stated the upcoming reauthorization for the Agriculture Department-administered program might be a good time to “reconsider the program priorities” -- specifically trying to better ensure the taxpayer money goes to more nutritional diets.

Read more:

Water usage Compare & Contrast: crack down on individuals, let Fracking companies do as they please

Interesting to see how the city handles different cases of unauthorized water usage

From The Laredo Morning Times

A man allegedly tried to steal about 8,000 gallons of water from a fire hydrant, Laredo police said.

Alejandro Goytortura, 50, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday afternoon at police headquarters to face a criminal mischief charge. He is out on bail.

On Aug. 16, a City of Laredo utilities inspector discovered an illegal hook up to a city-owned fire hydrant in the 400 block of Logan Avenue.

The inspector removed a metal coupling with a 100-feet blue hose and placed it in his pickup.

On Aug. 20, the inspector met Goytortura, who claimed responsibility and ownership of the hose installed on the hydrant, a complaint states.

Court documents allege Goytortura was doing a construction job at Logan.

Goytortura allegedly loaded water four times to water caliche he had thrown to repair a road.

The complaint alleges the water was being used to compact the caliche.

Goytortura further stated he rented a 2,000 gallon truck to transport the water, court documents state.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - From reader's post to LaredoTejas

I have been studying water usage and the abuses being allowed by the city of Laredo for over a year. Municipal code 31-127 and municode 31-128 absolutely prohibits the resale of our water (potable) FOR ANY REASON.
 I presented these facts to the Laredo City Council with pictures and facts and figures and never received a reply from any council member. I contacted Councilman Perez and set up appointments to discuss and share these facts with him. HE HAS BEEN A NO SHOW AFTER AGREEING TO MEET ON 2 OCCASSIONS AND REFUSES TO RETURN MY CALLS.
While we the citizens continue to pay outrages and ever escalating rates the city wants us to continue subsidizing the oil and gas industry. This has been presented to VIDA and I am currently working with other organizations to put a stop to this illegal practice. The rates currently paid by these companies is .0035 cents per gallon based on the contract they have signed with city. Their total cost for unlimited water usage is $430.00 per month, any time, any day, as much as they want.
The city of Laredo is in deep doo-doo if they think they can continue to give away our water. Guess what fees did not increase? Commercial water usage. You will soon realize how deep and how far this corrupt action by our own city leaders goes. By the way according to Councilman Perez this was approved by City Manager Carlos Villarreal.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Uh, one more thing! Let's give the Toros $36,000 while raising fees

At monday's seedy council meeting, the city manager advised council that there would be a couple of changes to the city's already overblown budget including $36,000 to the basketball Toros for their inaugural season at the Laredo Energy Arena.

This, while raising a galaxy of fees for just about every service under the sun (and moon).  Now, perhaps you can feel better that your ever-increasing bills for water/sewer, trash pickup etc., are going for a good cause- another round of subsidizing transient sports teams.  Cha-Ching!

VIDA launches website

From Vida's (Voices in Democratic Action) website: The public is invited.

We hope to see you at our next V.I.D.A. meeting.

The next VIDA meeting is scheduled for:

When? Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.

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 welcome.

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.

Check out VIDA's website at:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Winter Texans prefer Rio Grande Valley : Laredo not included

Every fall, a long line of RVs parade through the state of Texas as folks from the north make their way to warmer weather for the winter. The transient group is called Winter Texans or more causally, Snowbirds. Not only do they come in search of more temperate winter weather, but they require good healthcare, high quality RV parks, and plenty of senior activities. Texas embraces this positive population because they are often the balance in an economy that would otherwise be reliant on summer vacations.

If you're thinking of joining this Southward bound group of RVers, here are 5 of the best destinations in Texas.

1. The Rio Grande Valley

This is probably the gold standard in Winter Texan destinations for a variety of reasons. The weather is temperate in the winter, so balmy breezes and ocean air make this a real winter vacation. Healthcare is abundant in the Valley. There are major medical centers in McAllen, Brownsville, and Harlingen. One of the most attractive medical features is Mexico. Many retired Winter Texans need to conserve their money, and they find that pharmaceuticals are less expensive across the border. A word of warning on that. The drug violence in Mexico may be something to consider for safety reasons. The Valley is rife with RV parks. Take your choice. Whether you want that Gulf Breeze, a heated pool, a walking trail or a variety of other senior activities, just about all the resorts are vying for that Winter Texas dollar. Bird watchers will be in paradise in this warm climate. The Brownsville International Birding Festival is definitely a highlight for the nature lover.

2. Rockport
3. Kerrville
4. Canyon Lake
5. East Texas

What? no Laredo? (again)

It looks like the gateway city was left high and dry again. This time by being left out (or did they opt out?) of a Texas-Mexico real estate partnership. Yes, McAllen is listed, as is San Antonio but not good ol' laredo, Texas. 

Excerpted from SA BizJournal

Realtor associations from Texas and Mexico have formed a cross-border partnership aimed at creating new business opportunities between the two regions.

The Texas Association of Realtors signed the agreement with La AsociaciĆ³n Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios (AMPI), Mexico’s real estate association, at the recent Texas Realtors Conference in San Antonio. The agreement encompasses real estate groups in Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and San Marcos.

Laredo Beer runs make UPI :referred to as "liquor store"

Laredo once again has made dubious news. This time, the United Press International is reporting a story that first appeared locally when an attempted robbery at Papi Chulo's beer run was thwarted by an "employee' and her 7 inch heels.  Notice how they changed "beer run" to "Liquor store'. I'm guessing most of the rest of the country (or world) have no idea what a Laredo beer run is.

From UPI's Odd News

LAREDO, Texas, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Police in Texas said employees at a liquor store used a 7-inch stiletto heel and other handy objects to fight back against an armed robbery,
Laredo police said the suspect, identified as Fernando Gallegos, 20, pistol-whipped a worker at the Papi Chulos liquor store about 1 a.m. Sunday and demanded money, the San Antonio Express-News reported Tuesday.
Police spokesman Joe Baeza said the employee fought back when Gallegos attempted to force the register open and the gun went off during the struggle, striking the suspect in his inner right thigh. Other employees then joined the fight.
"One of the female employees was successful in [taking] the handgun from the grip of the suspect," Baeza said. "[Employees] used personal weapons, including a 7-inch stiletto heel, to pummel the suspect until they were able to subdue him and take away the weapon."

Read more:

Does this mean class sizes will go down?

From The San Antonio Buisness Journal

Oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford Shale is driving better than expected revenue collections for the state of Texas that could lead to the biggest budget surplus in the state’s history.

If the surplus does pan out, it would come just two years after the state faced a historic deficit.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is reporting that Texas tax collections for the 2012 budget year that ended Aug. 31 were $3.7 billion higher than previously estimated. The production taxes for oil and natural gas came in about $1 billion higher than expected.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dispelling the myth: water rates higher in Laredo. McAllen is drinking our Lunch!

Someone over at La Sanbe suggested that some fact checking was in order amid the city's all-encompassing fee increases. Not that Laredo bloggers don't already do that but let's be a bit specific.

Water rates

The following are the residential costs of water/sewer rates for the towns of Laredo, Texas and McAllen, Texas- they of our lunch eating fame.

Laredo, Texas  water/sewer cost for 10,000 gallons
Water - usage charge per 1,000 gallons*

up to 2,000 gallons                                 = 8.20
2,000-4,000 gallons *  (2 x 1.60 )          = 3.20
4,001-10,000 galloons*(6x 1.71) =         10.26     
              total water                                                    21.66

up to 2,000 gallons                                =8.50
2,001-4,000 gallons (2x 2.77)               =5.54
4,001-10,000gallons (6x2.82)              =16.96
            total sewer                                                     31.00 

Laredo total water & sewer 10,000 gallons                    =    52.66

McAllen, Texas water/sewer cost for 10,000 gallons
Water  base fee                                    =4.00
0-10,000 gallons  (10 x 1.30)             =13.00
                total water                                            =17.00

Sewer base fee                                   =9.00
0-10,000 gallons (10 x1.30)             =13.00
             total sewer                                              =22.00

McAllen total water & sewer 10,000 gallons                       = 39.00

Laredo water/sewer rates a whopping 30 % higher than McAllen's  & still rising

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Algo es algo

From today's LMT

As Laredoans no doubt continue to feel the pain at the gas pump, a Texas grocery chain is offering its customers some relief.

Beginning today, customers who purchase an H-E-B Gift Card and use the card when filling up will save 12 cents a gallon at any one of H-E-B’s participating fuel stations in San Antonio, Central Texas, Gulf Coast, Border and Rio Grande Valley.

H-E-B Gift Cards can be purchased at any H-E-B store.

Cards are reloadable and have no activation fees.

The promotion runs through December 31.

“H-E-B understands that delivering greater savings for Texans is top priority and gas prices have a large impact on family budgets,” said Linda Tovar, Public Affairs Director.

“At H-E-B, we always look for opportunities to help our customers save on the necessities they use most.”

During each gas transaction, the fuel savings will be immediately reflected at the pump, with no other restrictions or requirements.

Customers simply have to purchase an H-E-B gift card at any H-E-B store and swipe it before pumping gas.

H-E-B Gift Cards must be used to obtain savings at the pump.

A list of H-E-B stores with participating fuel stations can be found at