Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Old Federal building to become new city council chambers?


Last week, LaredoTejas posted on the fact that the old federal building directly in front of Jarvis Plaza has been ceded to the City of Laredo. Some people commenting on that particular post suggested that perhaps this could be an ideal opportunity to establish a museum that actually looks like a museum.

Not so, while watching our beloved city council last week, I noticed that councilman Mike Garza commended city manager Carlos Villarreal on securing the facilities from the Feds and at the same time indicated that, perhaps by next month, "we'll be holding our meetings there".  So much for the museum idea. Instead, it appears that the city council will get a new place to conspire work from.

Health problems Flare up for EFS residents

Another Excerpt from SA Current

Depending on where you drill, wells in the Eagle Ford pump out a combination of oil, gas, or condensate. Companies can store and ship the gases for treatment. If the pipeline infrastructure isn’t there or if those “economically irrelevant” reserves aren’t worth the hassle, companies can get a permit from state regulators to burn, or “flare”, the gases.

It’s roughly a mile from Mike and Myra Cernys’ front door to Marathon’s Sugarhorn Central Facility, home to multiple crude oil, condensate, and wastewater tanks, as well as two flares.
TCEQ records show an inspector first investigated the Sugarhorn facility on August 15, 2012 to follow up on the Cernys’ complaints.

An inspector spotted emissions coming from the storage tanks using an infrared camera. TCEQ records note that during a 12-hour period, the facility emitted 42 pounds of benzene, over four times what they permitted for that specific site. Hydrogen sulfide, a natural gas that can cause serious injury when inhaled even at minimal concentrations, leaked from the facility at over 100 times the permitted amount. Nearly 3,000 pounds of methane went into the air, records show.

Prolonged exposure to benzene, William Subra, a Louisiana based environmental scientist says, is known to cause leukemia and blood cell damage. In addition, TCEQ reports from the facility showed elevated levels of toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene, compounds that may cause liver and kidney damage over long exposure periods, Subra says. In the short-term, “you’d expect to see nose, throat, eye and skin irritation,” Subra said.

All for the Money !

SA Current: The sour side of South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale

By Michael Barajas

Off-duty San Antonio cops directed a thick swarm of traffic outside the Panna Maria community center in sleepy Karnes County one evening last December. Blue-shirted Marathon Oil representatives beamed, greeting more than 1,000 local landowners who gathered to talk oil, gas, and riches.

But from the moment they walked through the doors, Myra and Mike Cerny began to curse and mutter under their breath. They rolled their eyes at the Marathon freebies, like a water bottle emblazoned with the company logo, and leafed through handouts cheering the oil and gas development that now encircles their rural South Texas home.
Later, while chatting with Marathon representatives, I heard Mike across the room raising his deep, gruff voice.

“I am right in the middle of this stuff,” he told a Marathon worker. “I get three or four migraines a day now. … I never had migraines before in my life.” The headaches grew so persistent in recent months, Mike told the worker, that he shelled out $2,000 for a CT scan. About a year ago, to their surprise, the Cernys became a family of asthmatics, regularly sucking down albuterol inhalers just to breathe. Myra and Mike began to spot mysterious rashes on their arms and legs. Their teenage son suffered unexplained, gushing nosebleeds.

When I found Kirk Spilman, Marathon’s asset manager for the region, he talked me through the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility: how Marathon recently paid to boost law enforcement patrols in the area (an attempt to make the roads safer) and how that evening the company announced a $25,000 donation to local education efforts.
Eventually he got around to the Cernys’ troubles.

“Well, you have to understand their house is very close to the road,” Spilman remarked, before saying Marathon reps would look into the complaints.

Read the entire article at :

Monday, March 25, 2013

Raking in the dough by mowing our aroyos, $192,000 worth

It looks like the city is getting ready to award 3 contracts for mowing services and cleanup of three local creeks. Apparently, the city council is getting ready to approve 3 contracts for a contractor by the name of Nick Benavides.  Let's hope Mr. Benavides does an excellent job and keeps our creek areas nice and clean. I remember not long ago seeing an abandoned sofa littering Zacate creek near the downtown area.

It is somewhat confusing that in each of the following agenda items, the term of the contract is "for a period of twelve (12) months period with three (3), one (1) year extensions".  It does not say with the possibility or option of an extension. So are these 1 year contracts or 4 year contracts?

From the upcoming City's Finance Committee meeting

8. Consideration to award contract FY13-014 to Nick Benavides, Laredo, Texas, in the estimated total amount of $63,450.00 to provide mowing and maintenance of the Zacate Creek area. This company has been deemed as providing the best value to the City. The term of the contract is for a twelve (12) month period with three (3), one (1) year extensions. Funding is available in the Environmental Services Department budget. (Also on the Operations Committee Agenda)

9. Consideration to award contract FY13-015 to Nick Benavides, Laredo, Texas, in the estimated total amount of $57,000.00 to provide mowing and maintenance of the Manadas North Creek area. This company has been deemed as providing the best value to the City. The term of the contract is for a twelve (12) month period with three (3), one (1) year extensions. Funding is available in the Environmental Services Department budget. (Also on the Operations Committee Agenda)

10. Consideration to award contract FY13-017 to Nick Benavides, Laredo, Texas, in the estimated total amount of $72,250.00 to provide mowing and maintenance of the Manadas Creek area. This company has been deemed as providing the best value to the City. The term of the contract is for a twelve (12) month period with three (3), one (1) year extensions. Funding is available in the Environmental Services Department budget.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Big D commission rules against frackers

From The Texas Observer
By Priscilla Mosqueda

It seems the waiting game might finally be over in Dallas. After years of city government lollygagging, residents appear to be closer to an answer on whether the city will be open to fracking. On Thursday the City Plan Commission rejected natural gas producer Trinity East’s drilling permits, which have been the center of contention in Dallas’ fight over fracking. The final decision ultimately rests in the hands of the City Council, but it would take a supermajority of 12 of its 15 members to override the commission’s vote.
The commission had previously voted against the permits (one of which includes plans for a gas processing plant), but its chair called for a rehearing, which was later rescheduled in February. The punt was the latest in a series of inconclusive moves on the part of the city that began in 2008 when it opened up bidding of public lands to natural gas producers. Though the city was able to bolster its budget with the lease contracts, the money was perhaps more trouble than it was worth.
Read the entire article at

Stereotype? N'ombre, it can't be !

This ad appears on Pro8news website page and offers the quintessential stereotype of a Mexican bandolero or revolutionary war era soldier with carabina in hand while a smiling, Mexican senorita smiles broadly in her colorful native Mexican dress and tresses.

Our ever progressive Gateway city on the march!

Exactly what is being built next to Wal Mart on loop 20 & Clark Blvd.?

2400 NE Bob Bullock Loop, Laredo, TX 78041

I've asked around and so far some of the guesses that I've heard is that perhaps another HEB plus is what is currently shaping up just north of the Wal-Mart on Loop 20 & Clark Boulevard.  I was wondering if anyone out there has some more definitive information on just exactly it is that is under construction.

 I have no idea why there is no sign announcing the future business that is to occupy this site. Unless, of course, it's some sort of shopping strip that will be leasing out spaces. In that case, then you would expect to see a sign telling prospective tenants what nuymber to call for leasing information.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fallout over city's $80K Austin junket continues

Mayor Salinas : painting the town pink red.

The following letter appeared in the Letters to the editor section of today's Laredo Morning Times. As pointed out since Monday's city council meeting rant by our mayor, Laredo was NOT the only border city to get COPS funding and the Cuatro Vientos funding story was totally misleading.

In his letter, the writer asks the city to provide details of all the grants the city supposedly secured directly as a result of their vacation trip to Austin.

Washington trip details are yet to follow. Will the mayor outdo his Austin trip rant?

From today's LMT

To the editor:

I rarely write letters to the editor, but the recent LMT article about some of our city officials spending about $80,000 on a four-day trip to Austin really got my attention.

There are no words to describe the trip except for outrageous and asinine.

Two hundred and forty dollars a night for a motel, daily expenses totaling $12,000 and a $6,000 booze tab is just beyond belief.

Certainly there are much cheaper motels in Austin, especially on the southeast side of the interstate.

What did the daily expenses include? Steaks at every meal and champagne?

According to the article, our mayor “said face-to-face contact with agency heads and other officials often yields results when it comes to gleaning grants for infrastructure.”

If this is true, shouldn’t a list of all the grants that the city has received be made available to the public?

Thank you,

Richard Hughes

Where's there smoke, there's distractions?

The Laredo Community College board of trustees called a special meeting to discuss a ban on smoking at their campuses.  Laredo Morning Times had this to report:

Smoking might soon become a thing of the past at Laredo Community College.

In a special-called meeting Thursday, LCC’s board of trustees directed administration to research banning smoking at the college with all but one board member vocalizing their support for a smoke-free campus.

The item was approved with seven votes. Allen Tijerina opposed, as he favored an option for designated smoking areas.

“I don’t have any problem with people smoking as long as (you’re) … not exposing other people to it,” trustee Carlos Carranco said. “And I think we stand here at the precipice of a wonderful opportunity.”

In the meantime, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools website shows that LCC continues on probation.

Institution Details

Institution Name: Laredo Community College
CEO: Dr. Juan L. Maldonado
Title: President
Address 1: West End Washington Street
Address 2:
City: Laredo State: TX Zip: 78040-4395
Institution Phone: (956) 722-0521
Level: I
Status: Accredited
Public Sanctions: Probation
Accredited: 1957
Reaffirmed: 2010
Next Reaffirmation: 2020
Control: Public

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Rush Limbaugh unknowingly admits own views

I'm sorry to admit that once in a while, I do find myself listening to Mr. Blimpy himself, El Rushbo.  Today was one of those times. I guess I felt like having a few laughs or something. Well, in talking about the US Public in general, the Maja-Rushee apparently admitted his own true feelings.

The conservative de-facto leader said something along the lines of "They are entirely happy having an uneducated, ignorant bunch of people out there listening to them".  How el Rushbo managed not to bite off his tongue is beyond me.  Limbaugh's statement perfectly fits the situation with his listeners, a reported 6 million who keep listening and believing most of what he spews on a daily basis.  Yes, I would entirely understand how "They" (Limbaugh and the radio magnates) would be entirely happy having a mostly uneduated and oft times ignorant audience (yours truly not included).

How else can you explain Limbaugh's multi-million dollar rake in year after year?

Mayors wants higher MPGs out of Cuatro Vientos funding

Not that it comes as any surprise but the mayor's rant on Monday evening at the beginning of the city council meeting appears to have practically no basis in fact.

First of all, as was posted today on media juggernaut La Sanbe, the mayors claim that the Gateway city was the only border town to get COPS funding was not true. As it turns out, it was not Laredo but the Sheriff's department that got the funding. The truth is that another Texas border town, Brownsville, received nearly $1.2 Million or about twice what Webb county got.

Now on the subject of the famed Cuatros Vientos road, the Mayor was banking that we forgot what really happened.  The truth of that matter was that the city was given Zero funding for that project AFTER they went lobbying all over the map. It was only after an additional trip to Austin by City Manager Carlos Villarreal- to meet with Richard Raymond, among others- that the city was finally provided the funding.  It was NOT because of the city's entourage going across the country.

Still, despite all this,  the mayor continues to cite the Cuatro Vientos as a success of the city's high dollar lobbying efforts.  Again, the truth is that the low-dollar trip by only a few city staffers was what turned the game around.

It has been my contention that only a few members of the city's elected officials and staff should go on these ventures- regardless of who pays for it. There is absolutely no need and no benefit to take a parade of 60 along.  To the contrary,  people up in Austin and Washington might be thinking "a city that can afford to send these many people out lobbying is probably not really hurting for funding".

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"On air, online and now on your mobile device" Y pa'que?

Hijo de su, como ponen gorro con "On air, online and now on your mobile device". OK, so tienen todas esas maneras para comunicar con la gente pero no dicen nada! Las mismas "noticias" de un dia al otro. Con razon le dicen la "3-minute news" porque depues de los primeros tres minutos, el mismo borlote!

OK, me tengo que ir, no quiero fallar al payaso del Tim Gutierrez.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Raymond's bill will again attempt to curtail junkfood purchases with SNAP benefits

Laredo state representative Richard Pena Raymond filed a total of 99 bills for the current state legislative session. One of his bills, HB 751 seeks to prohibit the purchase of certain "junk" food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

In particular, HB 751 seeks to prohibit the use of SNAP benefits for certain items.

(b)  Except as provided by Subsection (c),
a recipient may not use supplemental nutrition assistance
benefits to purchase:
(1)  a sweetened beverage;
(2)  candy ordinarily packaged and sold for consumption
without further preparation;

(3)  potato or corn chips
 ordinarily packaged and sold for consumption
 without further preparation; or

(4)  cookies ordinarily packaged and sold for consumption
without further preparation.
 HB 751 goes on to stipulate some exceptions, not all of which I have listed below. These two in particular would seem to allow for the purchase of diet drinks (Diet Coke) and some weight-loss beverages such as Slim Fast perhaps.

If these exemptions increase the likelihood of the bill's passage, it might be worthwhile. I understand that last time around, lobbyists such as grocers and soft drink companies came out in force against the previous bill.
(c)  The prohibition under Subsection (b) does not apply
 to the purchase of:
a beverage in which the only added sweetener does not add
calories to the beverage;
a beverage intended by the manufacturer for use for
weight reduction;

Livin' high on the hog

From Today's Laredo Morning Times

City leaders visited Austin and spent about $80,000 for a four-night bi-annual legislative trip to lobby lawmakers in the interest of the community.
The Jan. 27 delegation visit also included several members of the private sector, who paid their own ways on the trip.

Among expenses was a $22,000 reception at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin hotel.

Most attendees of the trip stayed at the InterContinental for about $240 dollars a night, barring a few exceptions.

General day-to-day expenses for city staffers and elected officials totaled about $12,000.

Most municipalities in the state send officials to the Capitol during the legislative session, said Teclo Garcia, governmental affairs liaison for the City of McAllen.

The City of McAllen paid for a delegation of six to attend meetings with lawmakers and state officials, but few stayed overnight for the trip.

Garcia said McAllen’s Chamber of Commerce typically organizes the event and many community and business leaders pay their own way.

“Our city manager is a tight- fisted guy,” Garcia said.

City Manager Carlos Villarreal said about 50 percent of expenses were paid for by private donors, including a $6,000 liquor tab.

Laredo Morning Times has not yet received a response to a request for a list of benefactors.

“I don’t drink, but it’s a reception, and … every day they have receptions in Washington, D.C. and in Austin,” Mayor Raul Salinas said. “This is nothing new.”

Salinas said though he recognizes other cities “do business differently,” he said face-to-face contact with agency heads and other officials often yields results when it comes to gleaning grants for infrastructure.

Purchases also included a mariachi band and about $6,000 in office supplies.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17th Silent Sunday movie: Prisoner of Zenda (1922)

If you have trouble sleeping, sometimes a good old-fashioned Silent Movie might help. Tonight's selectioin on TMC channel 420 (Time Warner Cable) is the Prisoner of Zenda from 1922.

 From TCM's Website

Metro entrusted the production to Rex Ingram, an Irish-born actor-turned-director who had scored a huge hit the year before with The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Ingram was as noted for his ability to keep large-scale productions moving as for his genius at creating stars. For Horsemen, he had discovered Rudolph Valentino. Prior to that, he had turned Alice Taaffe, a perky redhead usually cast in supporting roles, into Alice Terry, the icy blonde star of his greatest pictures (and his wife). Although Terry and Lewis Stone (as the identical cousins) were slated for the film's starring roles, Ingram realized that much of the picture's success would depend on the proper casting of Rupert of Hentzau, the henchman who does all of Black Michael's dirty work. He set out to find a tall, Germanic blond in his mid-thirties, and wound up with a short Mexican actor of only 23. But once he saw the devilish humor in Ramon Samaniego's eyes, he knew he'd found his man, though the actor would soon change his screen name to Ramon Novarro. It's fair to say that Novarro pretty much stole the film with his tongue-in-cheek playing, making him one of the first in a long line of charismatic movie villains who would make evil dangerously seductive. (Other successors who come to mind are Basil Rathbone, James Mason and Alan Rickman). Although originally billed fourth, Novarro would rise to top billing for later reissues of the movie.

TSA sweeps train after picking up nuclear activity

From CBS Chicago News

Saturday, March 16, 2013

TxDot figures show fatalities on Eagle Ford Shale roads up 40 percent

A report by Jennifer Miller from the San Antonio Express-News cites Texas Department of Transportaion numbers to show that fatalities on the Eagle Ford Shale roads have risen from 177 to 248, an increase of 40 per cent.

According to her article, Casey Goetz a major with Texas' DPS reports that the number of crashes involving commercial trucks in Karnes, La Salle and Dimmitt (Carrizo Springs)counties has increased an astounding 1,000 per cent. That is ten times more than the previous reporting period.

Luke Legate, a representative of the Texas Oil and Gas association stated that "more and more, we're concentrating on the issue of safety.  Another industry proponent, John Esparza, ad advisor to Governor Rick Perry and CEO of the truck industry's Texas Motor Vehicle Association claims that in 84 per cent of the fatalities in which both a passenger vehicle and a commercial truck were involved, "it was the passenger vehicles fault". Miller does not corroborate this claim in her article.

I know that the last time I visited the Carrizo Springs area, there was a tremendous explosion of truck traffic. Residents of the area told me that it is becoming common practice for them to avoid US 83 when travelling to Laredo. Instead, many are taking the longer, but apparently safer  route of taking US 83 North, then taking US 57 East to IH-35, then coming south to Laredo.  This is a total of approximately 188 miles, as opposed to the normal 80-90 mile drive from the Carrizon Springs area to the Gateway City.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's a Cyclobia anyway?

By MARK REAGAN The Brownsville HeraldBrownsville Herald

More than 4,000 people turned out for Brownsville’s first-ever CycloBia in November, and organizers say they expect more to participate in 2013’s first event this weekend.
Brownsville Police Chief Orlando C. Rodriguez said Sunday’s event has something for everyone, whether it’s walking, bike riding or even walking the dog.
CycloBia is a free event that turns the city’s streets into a safe place for people to exercise.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, part of downtown Brownsville’s streets will be car-free, allowing families a place to congregate and run, ride bikes, take exercise classes and just enjoy a nice day outdoors.

Brownsville City Commissioner Rose Gowen said the CycloBias are part of an effort to get people more involved and provide an alternative venue — something other than a gym — for people to exercise.

Sunday’s festivities start with a 1-mile fun run followed by a 5k run. The CycloBia event opens at 10 a.m. and will feature four “reclovias” — stopping points along the 3.5-mile roundtrip route that offers free classes and activities.

North Tex lawmaker wants to over-rule cities' plastic bag bans

From The Brownsville Herald

A bill introduced by a North Texas lawmaker that would nullify plastic bag bans across the state is getting bad reviews from local residents who worked to get bag restrictions in Brownsville and South Padre Island.

Area residents say they have already begun to hand out fliers with information on the proposed bill and are encouraging others to contact their legislators and let them know they are against the bill.“This should be left up to the municipalities and the cities to deal with their own litter issues,” said Rob Nixon, chairman of the South Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation in Laguna Vista. “There’s a longstanding Texas tradition to have locals deal with it.”

South Padre Island enacted its plastic bag ordinance more than two years ago and residents living there are seeing a cleaner area, Nixon said.

“Our goal in this area is to have all the towns and cities in the Lower Laguna Madre area reduce what I call the new Texas tumbleweeds from hitting our beaches and blowing into the bay,” Nixon said.
House Bill 2416, known as “The Shopping Bag Freedom Act,” states local governments could not enforce plastic bag bans already in existence and would allow businesses to provide customers with any type of container for their merchandise.

“This act (bag bans) is just the latest example of government elites trying to step between the business and consumer in an attempt to push forward a misguided nanny-state agenda,” said state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who authored the bill.

Springer states there are also health concerns regarding the use of reusable bags. He said a study by Home Food Safety Program found that only 15 percent of Americans wash their reusable bags, which is a problem that has lead to spikes in E. coli poisoning in cities such as San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Nixon said legislators don’t have a problem with cities and counties banning the sale of alcohol, but with plastic bag bans being enacted, big companies are having a problem with it and “are exercising their legal muscle. They are basically looking at anything to try and stop these plastic bag bans.”
The city of Brownsville enacted its plastic bag restrictions in 2011, prohibiting businesses from handing out plastic bags to their customers unless they pay a $1 environmental fee. The city allows plastic bags when customers pay a $1 environmental assessment fee. The only exemption for that fee pertains to food safety when retailers may provide plastic bags to prevent contamination from certain foods such as meats.

Rose Timmer, executive officer of Healthy Communities Brownsville, spearheaded the restrictions. She does not believe Springer’s bill is the right thing to do for communities.
“I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair, but he his entitled to whatever he wants to do,” Timmer said.
Timmer said she “gave up” more than a year of her life to get the program going and that Healthy Communities has had much success with it. She said other cities have followed Brownsville’s lead in restricting plastic bags, not only in Texas but in other states as well.

“I’m not happy about (the bill),” Timmer said. “I sure hope it doesn’t happen.”
In the first 11 months of the plastic bag restrictions in Brownsville, the city collected about $250,000 from stores where customers chose to purchase the bags rather than use reusable bags. The money collected is being used for other environmental projects such as Make A Difference projects.
A hearing on Springer’s bill is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before the House Urban Affairs Committee in Austin.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Goodbye Old Federal Building, Hello City Annex II

The beautiful, historic "old Federal building" directly across from Jarvis Plaza will soon belong to the City of Laredo if everything proceeds as planned. Under the Historic Surplus Property Program, the US Government cedes certain "surplus" federal properties to local and states governments at no cost. Before doing so, an application process must be followed and approved by National Park Service. Once approved, the NPS then makes a formal recommendation to (in this case) the General Services Administration (GSA).

Following the practice of namimg the former Paul Young Dealership on Loop 20 as "Laredo City Hall Annex", it follows that the old court house/post office will probably be named the Laredo Downtown City Hall Annex- or something like that. Let's hope it's put to good use.

Maquinitas creep Northward on McPherson Ave.

8601 Mcpherson Rd, Laredo, TX 78045

From the City of Laredo Agenda for March 18th, 2013
10. Public hearing and introductory ordinance
amending the Zoning Ordinance (Map) of the City of Laredo by authorizing a Conditional Use Permit for an Amusement Redemption Machine Establishment, on Lot 5, Block 1, Trautmann M & I Subdivision, located at 8601 McPherson Road; providing for publication and effective date.

Staff does not support the application and Planning and Zoning Commission recommends approval of the Conditional Use Permit. District VI

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Laredo ISD not making trustee meetings videos available anymore

Laredo ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson

July, 2012 was the last Laredo Independent School District Board of trustees meeting video that was made available to the public. Since then, the agendas and board packets have continued to be posted, as before, but the videos have been excluded.

This does not look good in the digital age of the internet that has made the dissemination of public information ever easier. Instead, Laredo ISD has apparently decided to take the anit-transparency fork in the road by failing to continue to make the videos of the meetings available to the public.

The editorial board of LaredoTejas hopes that our city's oldest school district sees it fit to renew the practice of making all videos of its Board of Trustees meetings available for all to see- as they were.

Webb County: Shenanigans on a roll

Commissioner Canales succeeds in adding two jobs.

Despite a supposedy hiring freeze during the economic recession of the last few years, Webb County has continued to add positions on a rather frequent basis.  Of course, the spectre of many of those jobs being purely for political expediency has always been suspected.  Yesterday, another couple of requests were approved- but this time with a split vote.

From The Laredo Morning Times

County commissioners were split Monday when it came to the subject of doling out paychecks for seemingly unnecessary positions on Webb’s payroll.

The court narrowly approved two items—one a filling and one a transfer—that will add a center coordinator at the Fernando A. Salinas Community Center and a Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Place 1 office manager.

Commissioners Rosaura Tijerina and John Galo questioned the need for the fillings, which are similar to employee slots that already exist at both offices. The community center, which the county has yet to complete, employs a community coordinator and a director out of one large room.

Justice of the Peace Ramiro Veliz’s office currently has an office manager.

Veliz did not return calls for comment.

Galo said he “really had a problem” with what was perhaps the addition of “political slots,” noting Veliz himself did not come before the court to request extra personnel for his office.

Commissioner Jaime Canales, who sponsored both items, said he was trying to “help out” Veliz because of a heavy work load.

Canales told the dissenting commissioners he “didn’t know what (political slots) would be.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

City receives $2.8M for February sales tax allocation

From the Number-Crunching Department

Texas comptroller Susan Combs recently released the sales tax allocations for the month of February, 2013. The city of Laredo received $2, 853, 192.37.  This brings the total allocations since the fiscal year began in October to $ roughly $10.3 Million bucks.

These figures represent an increase of 7% from the previous years sales tax allocations. OK, roll out the big-ticket projects.

"Y una Superr Beeg Golp por favor": Ban struck down

JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge struck down New York City's pioneering ban on big, sugary drinks Monday just hours before it was supposed to take effect, handing a defeat to health-minded Mayor Michael Bloomberg and creating confusion for restaurants that had already ordered smaller cups and changed their menus.
State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling said the 16-ounce limit on sodas and other sweet drinks is too arbitrary because it applies to only some sugary beverages and some places that sell them.
"The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule," Tingling wrote in a victory for the beverage industry, restaurants and other business groups that called the rule unfair and wrong-headed.
Further, the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health went beyond its authority in approving the size limit, the judge said, agreeing with the critics that the matter should have been up to the elected City Council.
The city vowed to appeal the ruling, issued by New York state's trial level court. But for now, it means the ax won't fall Tuesday on supersized sodas, sweetened teas and other high-sugar beverages in restaurants, movie theaters, corner delis and sports arenas.
"The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban," the American Beverage Association and other opponents said, adding that the organization is open to other "solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact."
The city expressed confidence that it would win on appeal.
"This measure is part of the city's multi-pronged effort to combat the growing obesity epidemic, which takes the lives of more than 5,000 New Yorkers every year, and we believe the Board of Health has the legal authority — and responsibility — to tackle its leading causes," said Michael A. Cardozo, the city's corporation counsel.

Bi-partisan Senate committee agree on pathway to citizenship

From The Los Angelos Times
By Brian Bennett

WASHINGTON — Eight senators who have spent weeks trying to write a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration laws have privately agreed on the most contentious part of the draft — how to offer legal status to the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.

According to aides familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. They also must have a clean law enforcement record.

Once granted probationary legal status, immigrants would be allowed to work but would be barred from receiving federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance.

Read the entire article at :,0,4603683.story

Texas Tribune: Fracking uses up to 25 % of Carrizo Springs water

"Water, water everywhere nor but a drop to drink."

A recent article from the Texas Trbibune points to the fact that some parts of Texas are using a very substantial percentage of their water towards fracking. These include some of the driest area in the drought-stricken Lone Star State.  While fracking proponents like to mention that fracking uses up only 1 percent of Texas water statewide, the truth is that areas such as Dimmit county (Carrizo Springs) are already using about 25 per cent of their water for fracking the Eagle Ford Shale.

Excerpted from the Texas Tribune

Increasingly, the spotlight is also on water supply problems. Some of the most oil-rich parts of Texas, including the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin, are also some of the state’s driest areas. Carrizo Springs, in the heart of the fast-developing Eagle Ford, averages 21 inches of rainfall a year.
In 2011, Texas used a greater number of barrels of water for oil and natural gas fracking (about 632 million) than the number of barrels of oil it produced (about 441 million), according to figures from the Texas Water Development Board and the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator.
The UT study, published in January, found that the amount of water used statewide for fracking more than doubled between 2008 and 2011. The amount is expected to increase before leveling off in the 2020s. The study’s lead author, Jean-Philippe Nicot of the University of Texas, has calculated that in 2011, nearly a quarter of the water used in Dimmit County went toward fracking. He projects that the figure will rise to about a third in a few years.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shenanigans: Webb County's at it again

From the Laredo Morning Times

Webb County is scrambling to find $400,000 after a grant they were expecting to be approved fell through.

The county was seeking a state-administered grant for its Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program. The funds, dispersed by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, or TDHCA, were intended to assist low-income families in the payment of utilities and to provide energy efficiency education to the community at-large.

The amount of money the county expected to receive from the 2010 grant was around $500,000. Based on those expectations, the county had spent $400,000 on energy assistance and efficiency education by the time the grant was refused by the state agency.

Webb County Auditor Leo Flores revealed the budget shortfall on Wednesday at the monthly board of district judges meeting.

In a letter dated Jan. 16, TDHCA formally denied the county’s request for reimbursement.

Since the Jan. 16 letter, all county programs associated with the grant have been suspended indefinitely.

To appeal the rejection, Webb County Judge Danny Valdez and county Economic Development Director Hector Vargas spoke Friday with Michael DeYoung, deputy director of customer service for TDHCA.

Valdez said it was a blow to learn the county would not be reimbursed.

“We didn’t do it right and we got in trouble; this time we did it right and we still got in trouble,” Valdez said, referring to Webb County grants that the state de-obligated in 2010 following the mismanagement of the Community Action Agency’s weatherization program.

Vargas said discrepancies in correspondence with the state point to TDHCA being at fault in the rejection.

For Fox, good jobs numbers are nothing to report

The fair and balanced crowd over at Fox News again showed how ridiculous their slogan really is. When the February, 2013 jobs report came out, FOX was almost nowhere to be found. They provided about only half as much reporting of the relatively positive jobs numbers (+236 K Net jobs) as back in August, 2011 when the job numbers were pretty much flat.

Fair and Balanced? You decide. Here's a helpful graph from Media Matters.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Big government at its worst": law calls for mandatory gun ownership

I could be wrong, but it looks like Wake Up Laredo's Tom Wade may just have found his ideal city up in Georgia. Ironically, a resident of Nelson, Georgia calls the proposed city ordinance being pushed by  gun advocates who usually cite "liberty" as a rallying cry,  "Big Government at its worst".

Monday, March 4, 2013

Update on Plastic Bags Survey due at meeting

The City of Laredo Environmental Advisory Committee will be meeting this Wednesday, March 6th at 630pm at the Environmental Services Department's conference room located at 619 Reynolds. On the agenda is an update of the ongoing Plastic Bag survey and related ordinance(s). This process started during last Summer and is nearing completion. What the city decides to do with the compiled data, if anything, remains to be seen.

In a related story, the city of Austin's own plastic bag ban went into effect laste Friday. A post on the Dallas Observer blog follows:

Last Friday was the official dooms day for plastic bags in Austin. The City Council passed a measure that banned retail-level, thin, single-use bags more than a year ago, giving shoppers and store owners time to find alternative ways to get their goods home.

An article the Austin American Statesman this morning has interviews will several Austinites, most of whom were being extremely Austin-ish, saying they were willing to take one for the team if it means less pollution, although some said it's an infringement on their basic rights.

The problem is that plastic bags don't decompose in landfills and muck up the environments for all kinds of animals, mammals, reptiles, feathered friends and so on. Financially, the cost to clean up plastic bags that litter everything everywhere is a huge budget drain. A article reported that it cost San Francisco $8.5 million a year to manage the burden of plastic bags.
While private businesses don't like to be told how to run their businesses, the counter argument is that these lightweight aerodynamic vessels have a broader impact on cities the world.

LT Reader provides update on Laredo's water sales

From LaredoTejas' comments section, we have an update from a regular reader who also happens to be a very well-informed, engaged and concerned citizen.  We appreciate your continued civic participation in regards to this crucially important local issue.

From LT's comments:

Max, I know it's been a while since I reported anything on the current water issues facing Laredo. If you'll recall, my specific issues involved the ridiculous amount of money the city was charging these companies (1/3 of 1 cent per gallon) and the fact that it's against Ordinance 31-127 of the city code to resell water for ANY REASON. Attempts on my part for the city to acknowledge these facts have for the most part been ignored, even after presentations to the council that included pictures of vacuum trucks from various companies at different locations hooked up to city fire hydrants for delivery to the oil patch for their fracking operations. Furthermore, it's disturbing that Councilman Perez broke 2 appointments with me to discuss these issues and finally refused to return my calls. Additionally Councilman Vela who has attended our VIDA meetings agreed and told our group that these items would be placed on the agenda for discussion and possible action. This has never happened and I doubt it ever will!
I am happy to report though that the city, either through our efforts or the attention brought to this subject by LMT on information we provided it, changed the current rate from 1/3 of 1 cent per gallon, to 1.2 cents per gallon which is the amount we had suggested long ago. This may not sound like much, but to put in perspective--10,000,000gallons of water at 0.0035 per gallon equals $3,500.00, now at 0.012 is $12,000 dollars. This went into effect in November of 2012 according to the Utilities Dept. spokesman. Quite a difference, and this has been going on since 2007 or 2008 when the Eagle Ford really took off. That's a lot of money the city left on the table. considering the millions of gallons of water it sold for next to nothing during this time frame.
 In a question and answer session with Tomas Rodriguez (Utilities Director) he was reminded of Ordinance 31-127 which prohibits the resale of city water for any reason. He stated he was unaware of any such practices even though his signature appears on several applications submitted for consideration by different vacuum companies stating very clearly that the water was to be used for "gas wells" as well as oilfields and were approved. This information I obtained through a Freedom of Information Request on several of these companies that listed their intended use of water for oil and gas operations.
The mayor, sitting council persons, city manager, utilities director and city attorney are all complicit and aware of this violation and hopefully will be held accountable for turning a blind eye to what is a violation of the City Charter.

RG Valley still favorite destination with Winter Texans

Long, long ago, I remember a large number of RVs parked at the Laredo Civic Center parking lot during the winter months. I don't know what arrangement the city had with them at that time but whatever it was, they've stopped coming down here long ago.  The Gateway City has long since ceded the lucrative Winter Texan market to the Rio Grande Valley which remains the top destination for that particular demographic.

According to Yahoo, the Rio Grande Valley is tops, followed by :
Canyon Lake and
East Texas

Laredo is nowhere to be found on this particular list.

From Yahoo, by Christy Claxton

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.

While other parts of Texas battle over water, Laredo sells to frackers

Leave it up to Laredo to go against any common sense when it comes to water conservation. "Jobs, jobs and more jobs" is the refrain commonly heard from our mayor, council and city staff and as such they bend over backwards and essentially become contortionists for the fracking industry. Once in a while, a story will pop up in the Laredo Morning Times about the city's ill-conceived plan of selling our water to Big Oil but there has not really been any "getting to the bottom" of the true water situation in Laredo. VIDA, for one,  has been consistently vocal about the the city's continuous sale of water to special interests depsite it apparently being forbidden by law. I say "apparent" only because it continues unimpeded.

In the meantime, other parts of the Lone Star State are taking the drought a lot more seriously that our local representatives.  This is especially true in regards to water disputes with other states as well as with Mexico.

From The Texas Tribune

As Texas' drought wears into its third year, water fights are accelerating within the state as farmers, cities and industry compete for limited supplies from dwindling reservoirs. But many of these seem like small-scale skirmishes compared with the complex and high-stakes battles along Texas' borders that stem from pacts signed decades ago.

Texas is currently locked in a legal conflict over water with New Mexico, and a North Texas county is suing to get access to a vast amount of water — more than 460,000 acre-feet, equivalent to a year's supply for several Austin-size cities — from Oklahoma. Mexico is also delivering water from the Rio Grande to Texas at a slower than usual rate.

Along the Texas-New Mexico border, the rhetoric is particularly heated. Last week, Texas filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court that accused New Mexico of failing to deliver water from a reservoir along the Rio Grande known as Elephant Butte. New Mexico's attorney general, Gary King, called the move "tantamount to extortion" and harmful to New Mexico's farming interests. Texas counters that in accordance with a 1938 Rio Grande Compact, the water should be going to Texas farmers rather than being held in New Mexico.