Monday, October 6, 2014

Take off your cap!

Mayor Raul Salinas stammered and yelled at some young  Laredoans who were awaiting their chance to speak during the public comments segment of Monday's city council meeting. After one individual failed to heed the Mayor's command, the mayor ordered that he be escorted out.  "Officers, take the appropriate action" the mayor screamed. "we will not have this hall disrespected" he continued. With that, that cap-wearing citizen was promptly escorted out by 3 Laredo Police Department Officers......all of them wearing their caps.   I'm sure the mayor didn't mean all caps had to be removed at city hall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fox News Latino reports on CEO fired for Laredo comments

The following excerpt is from Fox News Latino.  By the way, did any of the local media report on this?  If they did, I must have been pullling a Rip Van Winkle or something because I completely missed it. 

One correction, the Fox article below mentions that Schmitd was asked why he wanted "to move his company" from Laredo to Fort Smith Arkansas. The original Fort Smith local story states that Schmitd was asked why "HE wanted to move" (not the company). 

From Fox News Latino 

One of nation’s largest hospital healthcare service companies fired the interim CEO of one of its Texas-based hospital systems after he made racially charged remarks about Latinos during an employee meeting.
Community Health Systems, the parent company of Sparks Health System, quickly dismissed interim CEO Tim Schmidt this week after he uttered startling comments in front of about 125 hospital employees.
During a question-and-answer session, Schmidt was asked why he wanted to move the company from Laredo, Texas, to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“Have you ever been to Laredo, Texas?” said Schmidt, according toThe City Wire, a local website that covers northern Arkansas. “It’s 97 percent Hispanic.”
Word quickly spread throughout the hospital system’s Latino employees – including one doctor who immediately expressed outrage.
Officials at Community Health Systems took no chances and announced on Thursday that they had let Schmidt go from his post at Sparks Health System. It is unclear if he will still remain an employee.
Read the entire article at Fox News Latino
P.S.  I don't know why links to article(s) don't "work". 

Temp dips into 50s in May ; should be a local holiday

Local HEBs experienced higher than usual sales of charcoal briquets, charcoal lighter, fajitas, chicken quarters and assorted carne asada must-haves as Laredo temperatures dropped substantially.  Local weather legend Richard Heatwave Berhler predicted that Tuesday and Wednesday morning lows will be in the mid 50s. 

Other businesses gearing up for heavier than normal demand include local panaderia, coffee shops and other business providing well-known comfort foods and run of the mill junk food as well.  

For those who were hoping that local schools would be closed. No dice. 

School districts decide not to let parents know about recent incidents

Ol' Pro8news tonight had a story about how both local school districts failed to notify parents about recent gun-related incidents. Both districts claim that they knew that there was no actual threat so that's why they decided not to notify them.  

Hopefully, the districts are being upfront and transparent about these incidents.  Of course everyone will agree that it is a good thing that in neither case was there any "real" threat.  The question is whether the district should trust parents to not over-react with any information they might have provided. Most parents would probably want more details than are now being given. Also, parents would appreciate it if the districts clarified just exactly what their policy is regarding whether or not parents will be notified: what are the situations that will warrant such notifications? 

It's a Laredo tradition to not let the public know much about what's going on even if it's their own taxes that are paying the salaries of all of these public servants.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Feds: students may not be refused enrollments regardless of immigration status

I know the question of immigration status and residency are not the same but they often get confused when local school boards take on the question from time to time.  The latest word from the Feds may put the issue to rest for a while, or it may bring it up to forefront once again. It's hard to predict. One thing is almost for sure, Pro8News will include it on it's facebook survey.

From Politico, here are the "painstaking details" of the latest actions.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Councilman's idea could result in new reality show: Trash Divers

Amid all the talk of an increase in Laredo's fly population, Councilman Roque Vela has come up with an idea that he hopes will result in Laredoans being more careful in how they process their garbage: Trash Diving.

This is the stuff of which Reality shows are made!  Vela and other council members as well as Laredo Health Department Director Gonzalez seem to think that Laredoans are to blame for the fly problem because they simply fail to separate their recyclables from other trash. This, in turn results in an over-abundance of non-recyclable trash which prevents many Laredoans from properly closing the lids on their Willie Botes.

Vela's solution as we mentioned before, is to go around and do some trash-diving. Literally, going through people's trash to prove that it's not the once-a-week trash pickup that is the problem. Instead, the councilman is very certain that he will encounter countless incidents the real culprit : poor trash handling.  No word on what part of town, the councilman, with local media in tow, plan to start their diving operations.

Also, no word on what kind of super-hero outfits Vela and fellow councilman Vera, who has volunteered to go along on the dives will be donning.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Is Laredo the largest city without a city-owned Civic Center?

A couple of years ago, Laredo made some rather negative news around the nation for being the largest USA city without a bookstore.  That dubious distinction ended when Books-a-Million came to town.  Now, is Laredo the largest USA city without a municipal Civic Center?

After selling off our civic center to the Laredo Independent School District last year, there has been very little talk about how the city plans to fix this embarassing problem.  There has been more talk/action on spending most of the proceeds from that sale to built yet another "sports complex". The only mention I have heard of addressing the no civic center problem was immediately after the sale. There was some talk at city council of allocated about 2 Million dollars (of the nearly $15M total) to built a new "center where people can congregate" near the proposed outlet mall downtown.  But beyond that, very little has been mentioned.

Yes, I know:  what about the downtown outlet mall?   What about the Laredo Town Center Mall near Lake Casa Blanca?   That's precisely my point.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mayor milks office as May election moves nearer

Well, that just about takes up my  monthly allotment of letter M usage.

Tonight on Pro8news, Mayor Raul Salinas again appeared honoring several small business in town. It's funny how he never did that in the first 7 years of his two terms.  However, during this past year, the Mayor has made the most use of his office in gaining weekly (sometimes daily) visibility. Of course all of this while on the taxpayer's dime.  Is it any coincidence that the timing on these almost weekly "honoring ceremonies" happen to coincide with his current campaign for Webb County Treasurer?

In the meantime, if you own any business whatsoever, you might want to contact the Mayor's office and get in the action. In the process, you might get a little bit of free advertisement for your business,  just not as much free advertising as the Mayor will probably get.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

City of Laredo should follow other cities in regulating payday lenders

Laredo's city politicians have a record of being very business-friendly while at the same time virtually ignoring the plight of the less fortunate.  With their approval of the $1 per transaction fee, they once again bowed to the wishes of HEB.  Many probably agree with this because no one wants to be waiting in line trying to figure out how many bags are going to be needed (fee per bag).

The Mayor pretended to be concerned about the "poor" having to pay for their plastic bags. If this was a genuine concern, he should have also opposed the $1 dollar fee as well.  Also, the mayor was silent when later on in the council meeting, the discussion turned to making our recreation centers more affordable for veterans or the disabled.  Surprisingly, even councilman Garza mentioned the difficulty of a family with four children having to pay $200 in fees anually ($ 50 per year).  Not so surprisingly, no one on the council seconded Garza's concerns.

But I digress; going back to the payday lenders.  The following is from the Dallas Morning News. Notice that the article does not mention Laredo at all when it calls for other cities to follow Dallas's lead in regulating payday lenders. Why is this? Is it indicative of how the rest of the state doesn't really consider Laredo a part of Texas ?   Given our "only in Laredo" style of politics, I wouldn't be surprised.

From The Dallas Morning News

Proponents of payday loans point out that the operations provide a way for cash-strapped consumers to obtain quick cash to tide them over until the next payday. While many of the loans initially are for small amounts to be repaid in full in a short time, consumers who can’t do so often get caught up in a never-ending cycle of debt and fees. In turn, that can engulf neighborhoods and entire communities in cycles of debt, as this newspaper has made clear in editorials throughout the six-years-plus of its “Bridging Dallas’ North-South Gap” project.
The state’s high poverty rates and the number of consumers who don’t have bank accounts make Texas ripe for payday lenders. Dallas ordinances don’t outlaw payday loans but wisely restrict the loan amount that can be extended and the terms under which the loan must be repaid, and require lenders to register and meet tougher zoning rules.

El Paso, Houston, Austin and San Antonio have smartly followed; action from Fort Worth, Irving and Arlington would strengthen the call to action. Cash America and Ace Cash Express, two of the nation’s major payday lenders, are based in Fort Worth and Irving, respectively.

Adding more cities to the coalition is important because, so far, state lawmakers have largely refused to take action against an industry with an enormously active lobby in Austin. Meanwhile, payday lenders have found cracks in municipal enforcement, such as increasing operations in inner-ring suburbs or going online
Reasonable regulations
This newspaper would like to see policymakers:
• Limit payday payments to an affordable percentage of a borrower’s income. Research indicates that monthly payments above 5 percent of gross monthly income are unaffordable.
• Spread costs evenly over the life of the loan.
• Guard against harmful repayment or collection practices.
• Require concise disclosures that reveal both periodic and total costs.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Laredo's plastic bag ordinance: The devil's in the details

Once again, from the Monday, April 21, 2014 Laredo city council meeting agenda:

C. Request by Council Member Cynthia Liendo 
1. Status report on the plastic bag ordinance, with possible action.

Hmmm, not much information on this one.  We know that the city council did pass a plastic bag reduction ordinance last year but left many of the details blank. For one thing, the ordinance seeks to reduce plastic bag usage in the Gateway City, not ban it.  In the process, the question has become whether to bring about a reduction by charging a per-bag fee or a flat fee regardless of how many plastic bags will be issued.

Understandbly, the biggest grocery stores such as HEB have long made it known that they would prefer a flat fee, (say $1.00) per customer per visit.  This is preferred because that way the merchant does not have to keep track of how many bags they will need for each particular customer/visit.  However, this may not necessarily do much for the purpose of reducing the number of plastic bags used in our city. If this route is taken, Laredoans can expect to see about the same number of plastic bags strewn all over town resulting in an offending eyesore to all.

The LaredoTejas editorial board has determined that the more effective method of reducing the number of those annoying fly-away plastic bags is to instead charge a per-bag fee.  This way, people who have a great deal of groceries in their cart might want to avoid paying a few extra dollars for so many plastic bags and start thinking twice about taking along their reusable bags.

Bruni Plaza water fountain to be finally fixed?

It seems that anything with the word Plaza takes a looong time in the City of Laredo.  For decades,the old Plaza Theater has sat vacant. Every few years, someone will bring it up at a city council meeting and the talk will usually go something like this:  The city will finally start moving on renovating the Plaza Theater and soon it will form the anchor of a revitalized downtown.

Well, in case you haven't noticed, the Ol' Plaza is still barricaded and closed.

Now, the subject is the Bruni Plaza water fountain.  There is an item on Monday's 4/20/2014 city council meeting that appears to finally address the dilapiated and dried out old water fountain. Here is what it looks like:

2014-O-051 Authorizing the City Manager to accept the Lamar Bruni
Vergara Trust Grant in the amount of $50,000.00 for the purpose of
repairing the fountain at Bruni Plaza and to amend the FY 2013-2014 Capital
Improvement Fund budget by appropriating said funds.

As far as accepting the  money, that's a given.  Now, as far as using the money as intended, that's anybody's guess.  It won't be the first time the city accepts a grant only to give it back later on because it could not comply with its requirements.

It would be nice to see that old water fountain at Bruni Plaza be fully operational again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

City to increase water conservations fees, fines

The city council continued its war on the taxpayer by introducing several increases to fees and fines as a way of conserving water. Perhaps money is the only thing the taxpayer will listen to when it comes to saving water.

The question is:  Is the city still selling water to the fracking companies?? If no, then that's a good thing.  If yes, how much water is being sold monthly and why punish the taxpayers for following the example of the city in regards to water usage?

From the April 7th, 2014 agenda

Public hearing and introductory ordinance amending the City of Laredo
Code of Ordinances, Chapter 31, Article III, Division 4, Water Conservation
and Drought Contingency Plans in multiple sections to include a reduction in
the gallons per capita per day consumption (GPCD) from 150 GPCD to 130
GPCD by year 2019 and 110 GPCD by year 2024, a change from 6 stages
to 4 stages in the drought contingency plan, one change to the water
treatment plant capacity, four changes to the water demand triggering
conditions, one change to include a $20.00 water surcharge to customers
using more than 15,000 gallons of water per month during a Stage 4, one
change to adopt the same water waste fees from the Water Conservation
Plan for Stage 1 of the Drought Contingency Plan, one change to increase
the penalty on the Drought Contingency Plan to $500.00 per violation per
day, and one change to establish higher water waste fees for Stages 2, 3,
and 4 of the Drought Contingency Plan; providing for publication, severability
and an effective date. (Approved by Operations & Finance Committees)