Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Expensive wannabees: Laredo's $120,000 World Cities Forum

Not to be confused with the lowly Laredo World Cities Forum

Hoping to be confused with the World Cities Summit, the city of Laredo is holding an ill-planned, divisive World Cities Forum later on this year. The planned forum has been scoffed at by most of Laredo's business community, especially when the city council first awarded a local logistics company $120,000 to stage this so-called self-financed event, which turned out to be not-so-self-financed after all.

Recently, there has been a little bit more co-operation between the city's elected officials and staff as they have reached out to area business associations in an effort to make amends.

Last year, Hector Vargas, director of Laredo Logistics International asked for $20,000 to start to set-up the forum. At that point, before city council, he insisted that the even would pay for itself. Fast forward to November, 2012 and the city awarded the same Vargas, a hefty $120,000 courtesy of the always-unsuspecting Laredo taxpayers.

That's when the several local business leaders went on record (El LMT) as saying that this World Cities Forum was not exactly what the city needed to be spending money on. The consensus was and is that the city should focus on the Mexico business and not necessarily try to go out and globalize.

We should note that shortly afterwards, the Mayor was on his way to Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

McDonald's computers detract kids from play area

As if the food wasn't already junky enough: The McDonald's on Saunders was recently remodeled and one of the changes was to equip the kid's area with several computer screens. As could be expected, now, the playarea is practically abandoned as the kids can all be found sitting around playing video games or whatever it is they do there.

Last night, as I drove past, I noticed one heroic kid still climbing and moving around while about 8 other kids languidly sat at the video screens. Bad Move, McDonald. Today's kids already get enough video games and not enough exercise.

 I say remove the screens and let the kids get some exercise for a change.

Parent: Yes, that'll be a 32oz Coke, mega-fries and a double cheesburger deluxe with extra cheese and when it's ready, just take it over to where the new computer games are -we'll be waiting.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bad Move: LISD requests larger class size

Well, according to LMT, your friendly board of trustees over at LISD, along with the Superintendent are looking to increase the number of kids in their K-4th grade classrooms.  I believe one or two of them might have, at one time, been a teacher but obviously, they've forgotten what over-crowded classes are like.

The district is balking at having to hire 7 more teachers to accomodate students at the current 22 students to 1 teacher ratio and are instead asking for permission from the state to increase the number of kids.  As if the district scores were good to begin with.

Just earlier this year, LISD gave out $2,500 bonuses to teacher district wide plus lesser bonuses for other staff. The totatl was over a couple of million dollars. Now, they can't afford 7 teachers?  I bet you none of the trustees have kids in LISD's k-4th grades.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Against City's own procedure's manual: Only 1 meeting in December?

"2 city council meetings are required? Bah-Humbug!"
December 3rd was the first Monday in December.  The 10th of December marked the second Sunday of the month. Tomorrow is December 17th, the third Monday of the month.

The City of Laredo's procedures policy regarding city council meetings states the following:

I. Regular and called Council meetings
A. The Mayor and Council shall hold regular meetings on the first and third Monday
of every month at the Council Chambers in the Laredo City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
1. When a regular meeting day is a City holiday, the meeting shall be held on the following day, Tuesday, at the same time and place.

OK, so the second meeting of December, 2012 SHOULD be held tomorrow at 5:30 PM. However, there is none scheduled since there is no agenda item posted announcing this required meeting.

An agenda for any city council meeting must be posted at least 72 hours before the start of said meeting. So there CAN'T be a meeting tomorrow.  The earliest that the city could keep it's required 2nd monthly meeting would be this coming Thursday.  Unless, an agenda was to somehow appear on the city's website today (Sunday).

The Mayor and the council must understand that these are procedures that they have sworn to abide by- since the procedure's policy is part of City laws (and policy).  They should do the right thing and hold a meeting as soon as they can get one together.

I know many, many Laredoas would rather see less city council meetings and less hamming it up for the cameras, but in the meantime, the Mayor and council should abide by the existing City of Laredo procedures manual.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

World Forum update: It all started back in May......

Cindy Liendo Espinoza introduced this item on May 21, 2012. Mr. Hector Vargas spoke at the meeting.    

Liendo indicated that she put the item on the agenda because it was brought (pitched) to her by Logistics Intl who contacted her (item co-sponsored by Salinas and Narvaez) The plan, she said, was to hold the first World Forum, with “CEOS, PHDS and people of great importance in the world of logistics”.  She added that “they expect about 500 participants staying four or 5 nights”.  
Following is a highlight of the ensuing conversation, Vargas spoke in Spanish and the following is a combination of paraphrasing and translation.
Hector Vargas of Laredo Intl Logistics was then asked to speak.
Liendo : Mr. Vargas,  how much is this going to cost  the city?
HV:  Really, the event will be self-financed. There is no expected cost to the city.   
Mayor: clarify that please 
HV:  the event will be self-financed. But, we will need some “advance” which as far as we are concerned is not a ‘cost”.  He called an event of international exposure for Laredo to keep Laredo’s position in international trade.  He said he thought it was a very important event.  
Liendo:  you say you need a percentage for start up but what is that fixed amount? 
HV:  Well, it’s a years worth of work not just 2 months. We will work hard to put this event on, so it’s a lot of work. 
CV:   We had spoken and you had mentioned 20,000 dollars, or for example 25,000 dollars. But with those 25,000 dollars we will find out if this going to happen correct?  
HV: Correct, well we need to look at the document but yes that sounds about right. 
CV  Also, May would not be a good month because of the hot weather 
HV:   Really, for us there is no problem to hold it later on. It doesn’t have to be May, it will give us more time. This is just a question of when it’s convenient to the city.  
CV (to council) I recommend that you give me $25,000 and maybe later on another $5,000 and then have them come back in lets say 3 months and report back. 
Gullible Council: “So moved, all those in favor….AYE” motion passes!


What the seedy council voted to approve: Hector Vargas' $120,000

The lowdown on the down low: from the city's agenda packet

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

City continues to squander $$ under pretext of Global Marketing

I see our geniuses (or is it geni?) over at the city council are STILL up to their old tricks. Last evening, they awarded $120,000 dollars to some trade consultants called Laredo Logistics International so they can put on a "Logistic Cities World Forum" some time next May.  Where do they keep pulling out the names for these events from anyway?  If it's going to be a  World Forum, then should this group not be required to at least call themselves  "Laredo Global Logistics"? Or is that name already taken by another opportunist team that keeps putting up these forums/conferences and for what?

I'm sure taxpayers don't mind that $120,000 are being practically thrown out the window especially when it happens at the same meeting that saw the same seedy council struggle to allocate any money for Laredo's Ruth B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center. "You know times are hard" lamented both council and staff as they praised the work of the therapy center with the other side of their mouths. But when it comes to squandering big bucks, they're pros!

Wait it gets better. If, and that's a big if, the "World Forum" is a success and proceeds roll in, then a Mr. Hector Vargas of the notorious Laredo logistics International stands to pull in an additional 20 per cent of the contract price. Let's see $120,000 x 20 per cent =  an additional $24,000. Again, compliments of the Laredo taxpayers.

See? Aren't we all being well served by our illustrious council?