Sunday, April 28, 2013

Will prospective teachers have to leave Laredo for degrees?

Laredo (LT) - For the last 40 years, Laredo's institutions of higher learning have been producing future teachers.  That era might be coming to an end soon if TAMIU teacher candidates do not fare better on their state certification tests. According to today's Laredo Morning Times, TAMIU failed to have at least 75 percent of its teaching candidates pass the state tests and was place on probationary status in February of this year. Now, the Texas State Board of Education is requiring 80 per cent of students to pass in order for an institution to retain its teacher accreditation.

Since around 1970, Laredoans wishing to become teachers have been able to do so without leaving town. Before that time, it was typical for high school graduates from Laredo and the surrounding area to have to go to Kingsville (Texas A&I) or elsewhere to pursue their teaching certificates.  That changed with the establishment of the education college of Texas A&I at Laredo which later became Laredo State University and eventually, the full-fledged 4 year Texas A&M International University here in Laredo.

Of course, this all looks very bad for Laredo's students. While exact figures are not given, it makes sense that perhaps those TAMIU graduates that DID pass the state exams might have not scored as high as graduates of other state teacher schools.  The recent resignation of an LISD Principal accused of manipulating STAAR test scores speaks to the very notion that our local university might NOT exactly be producing truly highly-qualified teachers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mayor, council give $$ raise before looooong break in council meetings

How do you like our new council chambers back there (Fed.bldg) ?

I have to give credit to Laredo mayor Raul Salinas and our city council. Their timing on giving city manager Carlos Villarreal an extremely controversial $37,000 raise was perfectly timed, especially considering our public's very short memory.

Usually, there is about a 14-day break between city council meetings. For the most part, there are two held every month. The exception(s), of course,  are when the mayor and council are up partying it up in either Austin or our nation's capitol.

After the much-maligned raise, however (on April 15th), the subsequent city council meeting is not to be held until at least about 22 days later, around May 6th. On top of this prolonged break working in favor of the unpopular council actions of late, there is always the chance that they will throw in a pseudo controversial agenda item such a beer run ordinance or something.

Our illustrious mayor and council might not learn much in the way of truly being helpful to their community, but they're learning something allright.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Private Lobbying groups dictating Texas' educational policy?

Former Tx senator $hapiro now part of Tx. Lobbying group

It appears that Texas is planning on adopting an A through F grading system for the state's public schools.  There are many teachers, superintendents and legislators opposed to this idea while most republicans and business interests support it. The idea probably resonates a lot clearer with most of us since that is the grading system we grew up with as students.

Follow the money-makers

The Texas Education agency has a 30-member advisory panel but perhaps surprisingly, the A-F idea did not come from them. As a matter of fact, Alief  ISD superintendent, H.D.Chambers sat in on some of that panel's sessions and, according to the Texas Tribune, had this to say :

"In our opinion that wasn't the best way to create a label to the accountability system to communicate to our community about how our schools were doing. He added that there was "pretty unanimous opposition" to the A-through-F plan among the committee's 30 members over significant concerns about whether it could promote inaccurate assumptions about school performance.

So, who appears to be calling the shots up at TEA if state education commissioner Michael Williams is not taking the advice of his own 30-member panel?  How about  a business-oriented lobbying group named Texans for Education Reform?  This influential group includes former Texas senator Florence Shapiro who played a crucial role in cutting $5.4 billion form Texas schools a couple of years ago as well as former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige.

At present, Senate bill 1408, sponsored by republican Dan Patrick calls for the A-F grading system to become the law of the land, awaits action on the senate floor.

Move over LISD & UISD,  Harmony Come on Down!

Patrick is also busy trying to expand the number of charter schools in Texas, an extremely popular GOP initiative. The New York Times reported the following on Patrick:

In January, Mr. Patrick announced the formation of Texans Deserve Great Schools, a nonprofit coalition that includes the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which has invested millions in Houston and Louisiana charter schools, and the San Antonio-based Brackenridge Foundation, which is part of a $50 million campaign to bring more charters to the city.

Editor's note: No wonder Harmony Science Academy started in good ol' Houston, Texas.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wade Watch: proceed with caution when crunching numbers

Recently, Wade called these water gourds "maracas', now his math is off.

It has been a while since LaredoTejas' last "Wade Watch" posting. For those who might not remember, WadeWatch deals with statements, claims and/or other assorted views presented by good ol' Tom Wade, formerly of the Wake up Laredo radio show and current regular guest on the Jay St.John radio show which airs daily from 7am to 10am on 99.3FM. Of course, Wade also runs the fast-growing WakeUpLaredo blog.

Today, Wade decided to blog about an article appearing in Saturday's Laredo Morning Times. Specifically, the article dealt with figures on texting ordinance violations  that new LPD chief Ray Garner presented before our city council this past Monday. After crunching the numbers, Wade concluded the following:

"Let's look at the takeaway from this information.

To our police officers, go ahead, write the tickets, spend time going to court, but never mind, the court will dismiss the case.
To our drivers, go ahead, get the ticket, but never mind, if you in the 95% your fine and ticket will be dismissed.
To our community, go ahead, watch an ordinance be passed with great fanfare, see the police pull over a few folks and write tickets. But never mind in the end, because there is no real teeth to the ordinance once it reaches municipal court."
 Essentially Wade concludes that citizens should "never mind" because the ordinance has "no real teeth.   In saying to the drivers "go ahead, get the ticket" is Wade in fact "saying go ahead text while you drive?" This would not good for our public safety. That conclusion, however, is misguided.

 The problem is that Wade mis-read the numbers to begin with and so his conclusion is based on mis-information. Wade claims that out of 570 citiations issued in the 4 years since the ordinance took effect (2009), only $6,000 have been collected. He continues on to say that this reflects only about 30 fines and amounts to only about 5 percent of all citations resulting in a fine.

What Garner really said, according to the LMT article, is that while its true that 570 citations have been issued since 2009, the $6,000 collected in fines are only from the period between September 2012 and early April, 2013.  By his own admission, Garner cites that "31 fines have been issued to drivers using hand-held devices in school zones during that period".  That's pretty close to Wade's claim that only 30 drives have been fined. However, Wade's post today wrongly states that only 30 fines ($6,000) have been levied since way back in 2009 when the ordinance took effect.

Nit-picking aside,  LaredoTejas sincerely applauds Wade's expanison of his blog and his regular appearances on St. John's show.  With, our traditional media outlets lack of in-depth reporting on local issues (with some exceptions), local blogs continue to serve a public service. Also, St.John's return to the airwaves provides a more traditional vehicle for providing vital information about many many issues facing our hard-working taxpaying citizens.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How did Laredo's traveling political entourage get as big as it is??

From 2006,  here is the public notice of the city of laredo's legislative trip to our nation's capitol in Washington, DC.   It number a total of 5 (five)  people.  How did it grow so ridiculously high and so expensive?  Yet, despite what the mayor claims, not much has come as a true direct result of their lavish trips.

From the 2006 City of Laredo Agenda :

2006 Annual Washington trip

Written notice is hereby given that the City of Laredo Mayor Elizabeth G. Flores and City Council Member John C. Galo, Council Member Hector Garcia, Council Member Gene Belmares, and Council Member Johnny Rendon will travel to Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2006, and return on March 16, 2006.

Dates of meetings: March 13, 2006March 15, 2006

Time of meetings: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., at such times that the schedules of the various officials allow.

Place: Washington, D.C.

This notice was posted on Friday, March 10, 2006, by 12:00 p.m. at the municipal government offices located at 1110 Houston Street, Laredo, Texas, at a place convenient and readily accessible to the public at all times.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

By Mayor's Logic, Laredo City Manager should be making around $52,000?

Ok, I guess my speechlessness didn't last that long.

Mayor Raul Salinas used comparison of other cities's population and their respective city manager salaries to justify a $40,000 increase for city manager Villarreal.  This brings our city manager's salary to $230,000 a year. Ok, so far I can understand the comparative approach. 

We should note however, that, using the mayor's own logic, the city manager would be looking at a rather low salary if the comparison involved Laredo and let's say- Dallas, Texas.  Big D has a population of 1.2 Million people, or roughly 5 times the population of Laredo.  The Dallas city manager makes $261,000 a year.

Therefore, following the mayor's reasoning, our own city manager should be paid about one fifth of what the Dallas city manager gets paid? This, again, is because Laredo only has about 1/5 of the population , so thus calling for a salary of 1/5th as much?  That's the essence of the mayor's arguement.

Ok, so lets see, it looks like that would bring the Laredo city manager's salary to about $52,000 a year.  Now, why would our mayor and city council not select Dallas for comparative purposes?


I am officially speechless.  They Mayor and the council raised our city manager's salary to $230,000 a year.  Here, in Laredo. One of the poorest and ill-educated and backward city in the country.  I have nothing to say.

From The Laredo Morning Times

Laredo City Manager Carlos Villarreal received an almost $40,000 pay raise late Monday, increasing his salary to $230,000 a year.

City Council said it gave the raise partially because his salary was not at parity with city managers who helm municipalities less than half Laredo’s size.

Mayor Raul Salinas noted the city manager of the City of Bryan, which has a population of 76,000, receives a salary of $230,000.

“You deserve the appropriate compensation,” Salinas told Villarreal.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

City breaks $100 Thousand dollar mark on trip to DC

It looks like the city has become increasingly brazen in their continued taxpayer-funded junkets to Austin and Washington DC.  The Laredo Morning Times reports that the city broke the $100K mark this time around.  Nice fringe benefits wouldn't you say?

The following is NOT an actual City of Laredo memo but for all intents and purposes, it might as well be one.

City of Laredo, Texas USA
Department of Free Trip Planning 

Dear fellow Department Head 

With the new year comes a renewed opportunity for us to travel at the taxpayer’s dime.  Also, we can solicit funds from private donors many of whom have contracts with us.  This has the added value of increasing the likelihood that all of us will stand to get some pretty impressive gifts throughout the year.  

As you know, we have been expanding the number of people who join us in these lavish vacations to our state and national capitols.  Please feel free to extend an invitation to the top members  of your department. Most taxpayers could care less and those who do cannot really do anything to stop us.  

Let’s see if we can break the record number of those in our entourage as well as the amount of money that we squander up there.  The more, the merrier! Remember, this is not costing any of us one red dime.

Viva Laredo !

Thank You and maybe next time you can all bring your significant others

Saturday, April 13, 2013

From CNN: Immigration bill includes cutoff date

Washington (CNN) - Any undocumented immigrant who entered the country after December 31, 2011, will not be eligible for citizenship under terms of the immigration deal set to be unveiled Tuesday by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators, a Senate aide told CNN on Saturday.
Specifics of the program included in the legislation were among the details the eight senators - four Republicans and four Democrats - needed to iron out. Sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN this week the sweeping measure was on track to be unveiled Tuesday.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold their first public hearing on the legislation on Wednesday, followed most likely by committee markups in May and consideration by the full Senate in June, according to the sources.

The measure includes a 13-year path to citizenship that could affect up to roughly 11 million undocumented residents, as well as the creation of a system to assess border security.
The path to citizenship would take 10 years for undocumented workers to get a green card, and then another three years to gain citizenship.

Along the way, undocumented workers would have to pay a fine and back taxes and pass a background check. The size of the fine remains unclear.
No undocumented worker would be eligible for citizenship until the border is considered secure - a key sticking point for conservatives.

To measure border security, a commission would be created with the task of establishing and assessing a set of quantifiable criteria. The commission would be made up of officials named by state and federal leaders.

Read the entire article at:

Airports gets over $30Million in grants: where has all the money gone?

Maybe the airport can buy some paint to touch up this sign which doesn't look as nice anymore.

During the 2011-2012 time period, the Laredo Airport raked in over 30 Million dollars in grants according to today's Laredo Morning Times.  The exact amount was $30,930,445. Hopefully, The  Times can get more specifics about exactly how these multi-millions were spent.

 Perhaps surprisingly, it was during these last two years that the city started looking at charging for parking at the airport. Obviously, it was not for a lack of funds.  On top of that the city recently sold off about 77 acres of airport property to the Laredo Town Center.  The nearly $10 million upfront money plus another promised $4Million are reportedly to be re-invested into the airport as well. 

Of the nearly $31Million dollars the airport received from assorted grants, approximately $5.2 million were designated for a "noise contour study" and for the federal noise abatement program. That still leaves about $26 Million for other improvements/expenditures.

Also, there was no mention of how much of this funding was obtained as a direct result of the city's lavish trips to Austin and Washington. That question continues to be asked by many Laredoans.  Good job LMT for this report and hopefully, you will soon be able to provide us with more details on how these grants were actually spent.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

MSNBC:So much for leaning forward, more like leaning White


Someone forgot to send a copy of the 2010 census to the decision makers at MSNBC.  That census shows that as of 2010, about 16 per cent of the US Population were Hispanic. Whites (non-Hispanic) accounted for 64 percent and Blacks 12 percent.

Yet, of the 21 daily hosts or co-hosts, zero percent are Hispanics. Even Fox News has a weekend show for Geraldo Rivera but no Hispanics at MSNBC.   White hosts/co-hosts make up roughly 80 percent of the daily (M-F) lineup, while Blacks account for about 15 percent and other minority hosts (Alex Wagner & Martin Bashir collectively account for the other 5 percent)

Once, again, the fasted growing and largest minority in the United States- Hispanics have absolutely no representation on MSNBC.

MSNBC Lineup

Time    Show                     Host

5am    Morning Joe         
           Joe Scarborough     White
           Mika Brehevich      White
           Willie                      White
           Mike Barnacle         White
8am    Daily Rundown
          Mike Todd                White
9am   Jansing                      White
10am Thomas Roberts        White
11am  Alex Wagner                                       German/Burmese
12 pm Andrea Mitchell       White
1pm   Tamron Hall                                                            Black
2pm    The Cycle-4hosts     White, White, White,             Black
3pm    Martin Bashir                                    English/Pakistani
4pm    Hardball                   White
5pm    Pol.Nation/Sharpton                                                Black
6pm    Chris Mathews         White
7pm    Chris Hayes              White
8pm    Rachel Maddow       White
9pm    Lawrence Odonnel   White

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another layer of government: Webb-Laredo Regional Mobility Authority?

The city of Laredo is about to authorize the city manager to get the ball rolling on putting together a Regional Mobile Authority that would include the city and Webb county.  RMA's, as they are usually referred to, have been allowed in the Lone Star State since 2001.  Here's some basic info:

Under Chapter 370 of the Texas Statutes, a Regional Mobility Authority can be formed by one or more counties. The Texas Legislature first authorized the creation of Regional Mobility Authorities in 2001 with passage of Senate Bill 342. A subsequent constitutional amendment was approved by Texas voters on November 6, 2001.

A Regional Mobility Authority is authorized to finance, design, construct, operate, maintain and expand a wide range of transportation facilities and services. Potential projects include highways (tolled or untolled), ferries, airports, bikeways, and intermodal hubs. Projects can be financed using a wide range of methods, including the sale of tax-exempt revenue bonds, private equity, public grants, government loans, and revenue generated from existing transportation facilities. A Regional Mobility Authority can acquire or condemn property for projects, enter into public private partnerships, and set rates for the use of transportation facilities.

The city's operations committee will take the first step towards our very own RMA.  From the operations committee agenda scheduled for Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 at 12:30 pm at City Hall.

Authorizing the City Manager to coordinate with Webb County to establish a Joint Webb County - City of Laredo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) to finance, acquire, design, construct, operate, maintain, expand or extend City-County transportation projects.

Friday, April 5, 2013

North to Alaska: Designated walker next?

Voy a tener que gatiar para la casa!

Should Laredo follow in the footsteps a small Alaska village?  Bethel, Alaska is seeking to pass an ordinance that could lead to drunk citizens getting cited for WWI, Walking While Intoxicated.  I don't know the exact distinctions between WWI and public intoxication but I'm sure that overall there's some similarities.

This begs the question, when friends get together, get drunk and decide to not drive, will they sill need a designated walker?

From The Washington Times

Bethel, Alaska, government leaders are fed up with drunks who behave poorly in public, and they have moved to pass an ordinance banning walking under the influence.

The ordinance is aimed at quelling the number of complaints related to public decency laws. Newser reported that residents who are found to be drunk in public — and are urinating in public, or committing a like offense — could be fined up to $200.

Not all the city council members are backing the ordinance, however. Some see it as too farfetched, and say they’ve never personally seen a drunk relieving himself or herself in public view.
“I understand people can be a menace,” a council man said in Newser, “but there’s other ways to handle it than outlawing drunk walking.”

The council is due to take it under further consideration on Tuesday, Newser reported.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why not say "wienie dogs" instead of "chihuahuas?: Oh, it's Fox.

The integritilly-challenged bunch over at Fox News  found a way to take the Rutger's coach firing incident and turn it into yet another racially-charged slur. Talk about creative writing  whining.