bloggin' all things brownsville

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ode to the Chancla

Chanclas, or flip-flops, come in a variety of colors and styles and can be used to swat flies and obstinate children.

Yup. I'm re-posting (cut-and-pasting) this one from the San Antonio Express-News. It's a hilarious, must-read by Michael Quintanilla.


I love my chanclas.

I’ve got them by the bed. Under it, too. They’re outside my front and back doors. Chanclas are in my car and gym bag. I water my garden, walk my dogs, run errands, tromp through the mall and have been known to cha-cha in chanclas.

My what, you might wonder?

In English, they’re called flip-flops. In Latino San Antonio, we never called them that. They always were and always will be chanclas, ranking up there with other slang/lingo/street-isms I grew up with. For instance there’s “chones,” pronounced cho-nez, for underwear or “el cucuy,” pronounced coo-cooee, for the boogeyman. Sometimes, English doesn’t convey the affection we have for such things.

Yes, affection. After all, you’ve gotta love wearing chanclas, a summer style statement that never seems to go out of fashion, especially when it’s a third-degree scorcher outside. They are S.A.’s unofficial official shoe, and not just for beating the heat. They’re just about on everyone and everywhere: opening night at the Majestic Theatre, Spurs play-off games, casual Fridays at work. Fiesta wouldn’t be Fiesta without them. They’re even worn to church, the place where big hair is big because, as we say in Texas, the higher the hair, honey, the closer to God. But, in my book, chanclas will get you closer to Jesus, the man who practically invented them.

It is OK — isn’t it? — to profess such adoration for the simple footwear that announces you’re coming and going by sounding off with a cadenced whack-whack. That would be the spanking that chanclas produce on the underside of one’s feet.

And that brings back many memories, such as the occasional chancla thrashing, always executed with aplomb from Mom. C’mon now, all you chancla-wearing people out there know what I’m taking about.

Many a Latino comic has quipped about chastisement by chancla. New York’s Puerto Rican funnyman Bill Santiago suggests that the next edition of Funk and Wagnalls should include the word chancla that he defines as a “cheap sandal that doubles as a disciplinary device in Latino households.”

And then there are those “Don’t make me use my chancla” tees available from many a Web site. What Latino kid (or any other for that matter) in S.A. hasn’t been disciplined with one of momma’s chanclas?

Heaven help us if we got on her bad side — she’d send a chancla airborne like a mighty Olympian releasing a disc, a stealthy spanking waiting to happen because we knew if the left one didn’t get you, the right one always did.

Many a friend has regaled me with legendary chancla smack downs.

My favorite tall tale is the one about the indestructible chancla flung by a mom as if she had just hurled a bowling ball — at warp speed — with a mean left hook. So skilled was this mama with a chancla that the darn shoe knew how to turn corners, hide under chairs, linger in the hallway and hover — yes, like something out of Star Wars — longing to land its target.

With a snap of Mom’s fingers the thing had boomerang powers, too. A shoe that smart should be marketed as the “Turbo-Charged Achilles Chancla 10,000” — the ultimate disciplinarian that’s practically a toy.

For decades chanclas have been the perfect union of rubber and relief, reprimand and revolt. And totally utilitarian. Who hasn’t crushed a cockroach with one? Or swatted a fly? I’ve kicked a flat tire with one, which I wouldn’t recommend.

Chanclas are a part of my cultural upbringing as everlasting as the rubber soles of the style itself. The word itself has managed to morph into other meanings besides footwear. For instance, to say “¡Vamos a tirar chancla!” means” Let’s go dancing.” Or how about in Spanglish, “Man, you’re off the chancla!” which decodes into “Man, you’re crazy cool!”

San Antonio author Sandra Cisneros titled a chapter after them in her award-winning book “The House on Mango Street.” I’m sure her King William abode, the House Formerly Known as Purple, is also a Casa with Oodles of Chanclas, ready to instantly motor her around the hood.

These days, chanclas are also a chic fashion statement. Brides love ’em. So do designers from Alexander McQueen to Alexander Wang. Wang will introduce his first shoe collection for Spring 2009, aggressive styles that include a chancla influence: wicked platform sandals with a thong (the chancla strap that separates the big toe from the others) instead of doing an open-toe.

“The thong between your toes, it draws your attention to that area,” he told WWD, a daily fashion publication.

In designer speak, that means one sexy chancla.

The whole enchilada ... um, chancla ... is like wearing an almost invisible shoe that is the closest thing to being barefooted, which is why we love them, especially while going through airport security.

Last year I listed “100 reasons why we love Fiesta” (for an S.A. Life story) and No. 17 (wedged between “shouting ‘Show us your shoes!’” and “collecting beer cups at NIOSA,” was “stepping out in chanclas.”

In a similar list, “100 reasons why I love being Hispanic” (for another story about Hispanic Heritage Month), chanclas rated higher at No. 6, just after “images of the Virgin Mary on a tortilla.”

Sometime back I spoke with Eva Longoria Parker for yet another piece and asked: “What’s the last pair of shoes you picked up?” Her answer: “I only buy stilettos. Even my chanclas are stilettos.”

Spoken like a true Tejana.

Chanclas are not without controversy, either.

Remember the chancla debacle at the White House sometime back when several Northwestern University women wore the beach-like sandals to a presidential ceremony in their honor?

Were feet in barely-there footwear posing for photos at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. a fashion flub or absolutely fab?

With Prada offering its own summer version, I say “Viva la chancla!”

That’s one thing I’ll never flip-flop on.


Find this article at:

Public Invited to Coffee with Herald Editor

IBC Bank is hosting a community coffee with Marcia Caltabiano-Ponce, new editor of The Brownsville Herald.

Coffee with Marcia begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday at IBC Bank, 1600 Ruben Torres Blvd.

I will say that today's Herald is a great edition. I've already noticed an improvement with the new editor's arrival.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oliveira Elected Chair of TSC Board

The Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees elected new officers at the monthly meeting on Thursday in the Gorgas Board Room.

The three positions, elected unanimously, were David Oliveira as chair, Edward Campirano as vice chair and Dr. Roberto Robles as secretary.

Oliveira is filling the chair position previously held by Chester Gonzalez for six years. Oliveira has been a member of the board since June 1994. During that time, he has served as chair, 1996-97, and vice chair, 1997-98.

“I will do whatever would be needed to serve as chair and carry out all the duties of the position,” Oliveira said during the meeting.

Oliveira has close ties to Texas Southmost College. His father, Arnulfo L. Oliveira was college president from 1971-1977.

He attended TSC, transferring to The University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1978. He received his J.D. from Texas Tech Law School. Oliveira is a partner in the Brownsville law firm of Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher L.L.P.

Before turning over the gavel to Oliveira, current chair Gonzalez thanked the board for supporting him through his years of service.

“I want to thank the board members for allowing me to serve as your chairman for the past six years,” Gonzalez said. “It has been an honor and a privilege. I have done this with the help of my fellow board members and with the leadership of Dr. Garcia.”

He also thanked Vice President of Partnership Affairs David Pearson and Provost José Martín and the staff of the TSC office.

“We’re not changing the lineup, just the pitchers,” Gonzalez said, and in accordance with procedure, he handed the gavel to Oliveira, and the two men changed chairs for the remaining few minutes of the meeting.

Oliveira expressed this thanks to Gonzalez.

“Chester was the face of our board,” he said. “He has done a wonderful job of marshaling the bond projects forward.”

All board members expressed their thanks to Gonzalez for his service and to Oliveira for his acceptance of the chair.

“It has been my great honor to work with Chester,” President Dr. Juliet V. García said. “I deeply appreciate Chester’s strength, honesty and candor.”

Robles will fill the position of secretary formerly held by Edward Campirano.

Campirano will fill the position of vice chair, formerly held by Rosemary Breedlove.

For more information, contact the TSC District Office at (956) 882-3879.

SOURCE: UTB-TSC News and Information

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

KRGV: DNC Video Blogs

News Channel 5 KRGV reporters are at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

They are posting some pretty neat video blogs. Check 'em out! (Thanks for the heads-up, Lupita!)

And, if you missed any of the speeches last night, they are viewable at the Demcratic National Convention official Web site, click here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Run-up to the Republican National Convention

Discussion on how the needs of South Texas and the US-Mexico Border will be heard at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota Sept. 1-4.

Guests include RNC Delegate Hollis Rutledge and Alternate RNC Delegate Tom Haughey.


Run-up to the Democratic National Convention

Discussion on how the needs of South Texas and the US-Mexico Border will be heard at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado Aug. 25-28.

Guests include former Cameron County Judge and DNC-elect Gilberto Hinojosa and Delegate at-large Rep. Aaron Pena.


Barefoot Wine and The Surfrider Foundation's Dune Rescue Saturday!

Surfriders and Friends,


Barefoot Wine and The Surfrider Foundation's Dune Rescue

Come out and help the Surfrider Foundation and Barefoot Wine make South Padre Island barefoot friendly and raise awareness of Dr. Elizabeth Heise's continuous dune line project!!

This will get National and International coverage for South Padre Island and Dr. Heise!!

There should be plenty of space but it is limited so don't forget to RSVP at This will guarantee you a spot at the after party! Even if you can only help for 30 minutes tomorrow, it will be much appreciated and rewarded!!

Dune Rescue and Harvest!! Help clean Dolly debris out and harvest dune plants for future dune gap fills!!


* 10AM-12PM (Registration begins at 9:30AM)

* Dune Cleanup, Harvest and Potting

* Shovels, Gloves, Scissors, and Drinks will be provided

* First 50 get a free t-shirt and bumper sticker!

After Rescue Celebration!! A huge thank you to all the volunteers from Barefoot Wine!

Tequila Sunset

* 7PM-9PM
* Complimentary selections of Barefoot Wine and Bubbly
* Complimentary food
* Private performance by Tristan Prettyman
* Must have participated in the Dune Rescue
* 21 and over

A huge thank you goes out to all of you who voted and helped to bring this down to South Padre Island!! Hope to see each and every one of y'all out there tomorrow morning!!!

Rob Nixon
Volunteer Coordinator
Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter

Thursday, August 21, 2008

1st Saturday Coffee and Culture Series Sept. 6

The 1st Saturday Coffee and Culture Series begin Sept. 6 at the Old City Cemetery Center, located in the Mitte Cultural District.

The series will take place from 10 a.m.-noon on the first Saturday of every month at the Center. The series explores burial customs and cultures from around the world and allows participants to make comparisons to local culture and burial customs. The series is sponsored through a grant from Humanities Texas, the state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities and coffee, and tea is provided by Starbucks.

The series includes lectures, hands-on activities for children and a cup of coffee or tea for adults. September's series focuses on Peruvian Culture and will feature a presentation on "Pre-Columbian Burial Customs of Peru." The hands-on activity is "Create an Inca Burial Mask."

During the program, the Humanities Texas panel exhibit "Peru Mestizo: Life and Art in the Colonial Kingdom" will be on display. This panel exhibit features seminal works from the Peruvian Colonial painting collection at the New Orleans Museum of Art and depicts the unique blending of Spanish and native American cultures that took place from the 1540s to the early 1800s in the Viceroyalty of Peru. Panel topics include: Fall of the Incas, Conquest, Churches and Mines, Virgin and the Trinity, Cuzco and Art, Religious Paintings, Political Paintings, Peruvian Peoples, the Black virgin, localized images of faith, a Peruvian saint, and Andean archangels.

This program is free to the public. The Old City Cemetery Center offers free admission from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Brownsville Historical Association manages the Old City Cemetery Center. For more information on BHA programs and exhibits, call (956) 541-5560 or (956) 541-1167.

The Series is sponsored by Humanities Texas, Starbucks and the Brownsville Historical Association.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For meeting agenda, click here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Charter Review Committee Cont. ...

Here's what Harlingen did in 2005 when it came to their Charter Review Committee. Perhaps the grammatical changes are a bit much, but this article demonstrates how important this committee is. The committee even had a form for folks to submit their suggestions.

A simple Google search of "charter review committee texas" yields many a Web site with cities posting agendas, minutes and Web sites for the committee itself.



Committee Completes Charter Review
By Matt Lynch
Valley Morning Star

Dec. 27--HARLINGEN -- A 13-member committee charged with revising the city's most important document has concluded its work and passed its recommendations to city commissioners for their approval.

The charter review committee presented commissioners with 926 grammatical and nearly a dozen substantive changes during a recent meeting.

The changes must be approved by the commission before being placed on the May 2006 ballot for voter approval, said interim assistant city manager Michelle Leftwich.

Committee Chairman and former Harlingen Mayor William Card said the review committee met 13 times to pore over the city's original charter.

"We've carefully deliberated each article of the charter," he said. "This is the first total change to the charter since 1927. Most of the changes are grammatical."

Leftwich said much of the work done by the committee was updating the document's language.

"We wanted to look at consistency throughout the document. We tried to use updated language. For example, when we found the phrase 'herein' we proposed a change to 'in this charter,'" she said.

Committee member Craig Vittitoe told commissioners one of the biggest proposed changes concerns the city auditor position.

"We felt a city auditor is necessary not only for accountability to the commission, but also to the public," he said.

Committee member Donna Bonner said that while the charter is perhaps one of the city's oldest documents, updating the governing language of the city was an important task.

"We have a beautiful colorful past in Harlingen, but we are a city of the future and a city of professionalism," she said. "We're doing business in a modern world and we felt it was best to use a modern vocabulary."

Leftwich also tried to allay fears that revising the city's charter would close a window that previously provided a glimpse into the city's past.

"An original copy of our charter will be available in the city library," she said. "This is an important document in the history of the city and we will not let history go unremembered."

Commissioners did not vote on the changes during Wednesday's meeting, but agreed to revisit the issue in early January.

Proposed changes:

The 13-member Charter Review Committee has proposed to the city commission the following changes to the city charter. Should commissioners approve the changes, the revisions will be placed on the May election ballot for final voter approval:

Article I: 16 grammatical changes, one updated statute reference

Article II: Five grammatical changes, two updated statute references

Article III: 15 grammatical changes

Article IV: 154 grammatical changes, two updated statute references, three substantive changes: Internal city auditor becomes recognized position, city attorney and internal city auditor hired and fired by city commission and city manager must be hired and fired by three affirmative votes of city commission

Article V: 114 grammatical changes

Article VI: 99 grammatical changes

Article VII: 29 grammatical changes and one substantive change: Charter becomes self-executing rather than requiring action to protect property ownership

Article VIII: 270 grammatical changes

Article IX: 24 grammatical changes, two substantive changes: Any personnel policy differences at Valley International Airport must be approved by city commission, any property acquisition or conveyance by VIA must be approved by commission

Article X: 109 grammatical changes, substantive changes regarding appointments to Harlingen WaterWorks System board, retail rates and contracts and personnel policy changes

Article XI: 88 grammatical changes

Article XII: 3 grammatical changes, one updated statute


Copyright (c) 2005, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

Atkinson: Charter Review Committee Not a Strong Committee

I received this pleasant response from Commissioner Charlie Atkinson about my comments concerning the Charter Review Committee. Atkinson pretty much validated my concerns.

The charter view(SIC) committee isn't a strong committee.

At the end of the day, everything will have to be approved by the commission. I respect Melissa's beliefs that the committee should be independent of the city but that is plain stupid. I think if one wants mote(SIC) authority they should run for office.

Melissa, don't let your mouth overload your hardware. Sit tight and serve your community fairly. The real diarrea is the way you want that committee to be more than what it is.

Settle down and do your civic duty and maybe later you can serve on a board with real teeth and that makes real change for Brownsville.

You better believe I want this committee to be more than what it is or has been in the past. Brownsville deserves better.

City Attorney Jim Goza already gave us the OK to review all aspects of the charter if we wished. All I asked for was the ability to select a chairman, vice chairman, secretary (for minutes) and a timeline so to better make use of the committee's time and organization. Is that really so much to ask for?

And, an agenda and minutes allow for transparency. Otherwise, any recommendations this committee makes, even those suggested by the City Commission, will likely fail.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Community Silent Over City Commissioner's Derogatory Comments

While many focused on the nepotism debate brought to light recently due to a nasty diatribe submitted by Commissioner Charlie Atkinson to CafeBrownsville.Com, we failed to see another big issue.

That being said, this submitted comment to my Nepotism post addresses it:


As an interested observer, there is one point to make, well outside of the scope of this debate.

You have an elected representative of a major city in the United States, openly using derogatory slurs against a historically discriminated minority group. He hammers the point continuously by questioning the masculinity of his target.

The only one who has said anything has been BWC.

The nepotism is not the issue, the silence of the community is.


Good point, Kurgan -- one I failed to recognize, too.


City Commission to Discuss Parameters for Charter Review Committee

To my surprise as a member of the Charter Review Committee, the following item is on Tuesday's City Commission meeting:

Consideration and ACTION to set parameters for the Charter Review Committee. (Ben Medina, Jr. – Planning)

I had left a message for Ben Medina several days ago about my suggested agenda items, but Medina had not returned my phone call.

This time, I called his cell phone.

I expressed my discontent over the surprise of the agenda item and for his not returning my phone call.

Medina explained that it was the decision of the City Secretary, City Attorney and Commissioners to place the item on the agenda so to provide our committee with "some direction" and to let us know what "their expectations" are. In addition, he said he felt they wished to set a timetable and possibly ask us to focus on certain aspects of the charter.

Certainly, the City Commission, and any Brownsville resident for that matter, can provide us with suggestions, but I had been assured by City Attorney Jim Goza that the committee could review any aspect of the charter. And, the courteous thing to do would have been to notify the committee that this agenda item was upcoming and likely the reason for our delay in meeting.

I also requested the minutes of the first, although illegal meeting, of which I was told only notes were taken.

"Goza said there was no need to take minutes," Medina said further stating that we're only an advisory committee, and that agendas didn't need to be posted either.

I told him that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

I don't know how things work here, but all our committee meetings for the Town of South Padre Island HAVE to be posted, REQUIRE public comment and REQUIRE minutes as per law. I shared that with Medina. Are the laws different for Brownsville? Is there something I'm missing?

However, our conversation ended with that if the committee chose to, we could decide to have minutes taken.

I also inquired about my agenda items concerning the selection of a chairman and vice-chairman.

His response: "Estela (City Secretary) said we didn't have a chairman on the last committee."

My goodness. I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt, but I will be at Tuesday's meeting to express my concerns.

Still, if I've mounted a City of Brownsville rollercoaster, I'm ready for the ride. But they should know now, I'm a screamer.

UT Regents Commend UTB-TSC for Work on Border Proposal, Authorizes Use of $1M in Intermediate Term Funds

The University of Texas System Board of Regents commended the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College President Dr. Juliet Garcia and her negotiating team for their work with the federal government regarding enhanced border security at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, Aug. in Austin.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the many individuals who worked so diligently to find a compromise outcome that would satisfy the responsibilities of both UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security related to the construction of the proposed border fence,” said Board Chairman Scott Caven Jr. said.

Caven recognized the team made up of Dr. Garcia; Michael Putegnat, negotiating project team manager; Ben Reyna, special assistant to the provost for federal relations; Dr. Jude Benavides, assistant professor of chemical and environmental sciences; Dan Rentfro, TSC general counsel; Barry Burgdorf, UT System vice chancellor and general counsel and Dan Sharphorn, UT System deputy general counsel.

The Board of Regents has authorized up to $1 million to help construct the fence and money will come from the UT System’s Intermediate Term Fund.

The design calls for the University to increase the height of its current 8-foot-high fence to 10 feet and upgrade it with high technology security devices. The enhancements would complement security methods already in use on the campus.

“We currently have fencing along the campus property line. We plan to upgrade the existing fencing, add technology and incorporate landscaping that will complement the natural beauty of the University, “ said Garcia. “This plan will allow DHS/CBP to carry out their mission and the University to preserve the educational and historic nature of the campus.”

UTB/TSC has submitted a design to DHS/CBP and it is expected to receive final approval Thursday, Aug. 14.

Request for Proposals (RFP) for construction of the fence were advertised in today's newspapers. The RFP proposal is also online.

“Vendors may submit bids to the University as detailed in the RFP. Our plans call for the completion of the project before December 31. We expect to meet this completion date,” said Dr. Wayne Moore, who is coordinating construction.

The finalized agreement, which was filed in federal court on Tuesday, Aug. 5 and formally signed by the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees later that day, ended all court proceedings between UTB-TSC and DHS/CBP.

Condemnation actions filed by the government against UTB-TSC also ended effectively allowing the University to retain ownership over all property.

The agreement also allows UTB-TSC more room for future expansion and commits the federal agency to support the University’s long-term expansion plans.

UTB-TSC and DHS /CBP will also establish a center to study border issues including security. It would examine, among other elements, the use of technology in lieu of physical barriers for securing the border. The southern perimeter of the UTB-TSC campus will be part of a laboratory for testing new technology and infrastructure combinations.

For more information, go to and click on Border Fence.

SOURCE: UTB-TSC News and Information Press Release (Revised)

More Changes in UTB-TSC Athletics ...

Bryan Aughney, the UTB-TSC assistant baseball coach, has been named Interim Head Baseball Coach.

Joel Barta, the Scorpions' head baseball coach for two years, resigned Friday to accept the position of Head Baseball Coach at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minnesota.

Aughney began working at UTB-TSC in September 2007. In the 2008 season, the Scorpions went 24-32 and finished third in the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament.

"I am pleased to be given the opportunity to continue what Coach Barta has started, because he has laid a great foundation for Scorpion Baseball," Aughney said. "His values and traditions will continue to be a model for our program. We have a great group of young men coming back and I know they are all excited to get back on the field."

Aughney's announcement was made by Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Hilda Silva. A search for Barta's successor is under way.

A search for UTB-TSC Athletic Director is also under way. Dan Balaguero, UTB-TSC's men's soccer coach, was recently named interim athletic director upon Dan Huntley's departure.

Source: UTB-TSC Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, Sports Information

NOAA: Fifth Warmest July on Record for Globe

The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2008 tied with 2001 and 2003 as the fifth warmest July since worldwide records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Also, the seven months from January to July 2008 ranked as the ninth warmest seven-month period for combined average global land and ocean surface temperature.

I'm sure much of the heat could be attributable to the putrid hot air being expelled lately in these here parts. Must be the result of some Bad Chili.

Quien Sobby.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Plain as Day ... Nepotism

Commissioner Charlie Atkinson states in

“If you read the charter about nepotism, it means offering payment for services rendered. My brother isn't getting paid. He deserves to put in his community service just like you and everyone else.”

And again, Atkinson states in

“The city charter states that an elected official should refrain from conflicts of interests that result in appointing, hiring, or offering a service to a family member that offers compensation. Chris is just interpreting the sentence the way he wants to and it holds no merit because my brother is not benefitting from being placed on this advisory committee. It doesn't pay. There are no perks, and definitely no monetary compensation.”

The City Charter, Article V Administrative Provisions Section 30 states:


No person related within the second degree by affinity, or within the third degree by consanguinity, to the mayor or any of the commissioners, shall be appointed by the city commission, nor a person thus related to the city manager shall ever be appointed by him to any office, position, clerkship or service to the city.

Pretty cut-and-dry to me. Commissioner, where does it mention compensation? Why must you consider this a personal attack? The charter's provision on nepotisim couldn't be any clearer. Perhaps your brother would be an asset to the Charter Review Committee. I'm sure he's a smart man. Still, the City Charter, which you are governed by, must be respected and adhered to.

I'm sure if the Mayor appointed a relative, the entire Commission would be all over it. No doubt.

UT Board of Regents Meets to Discuss UTB-TSC Budget, State Auditor's Review

The UT Board of Regents is currently meeting to review submitted docket items recommended by their institution presidents, including those submitted by the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

The UT Board met Wednesday and is meeting today. Other items of discussion concerning UTB-TSC include a limited scope audit of endowment management administration and fee analysis proposal, the FY 2008 state auditor’s review of UTB-TSC’s FY 2007 financial statements and a follow-up audit of student health services.

To watch the meeting live and now taking place, click here.

For the full agenda book of both days, click here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Life Through the Lens

"What you see on these pages is not about a particular place, people, time or cause. It’s not about one type of picture or another. It’s not about sportsmen or fashion models or war or politics or the news of the day. It’s about being a photographer." - Joe McNally -


Gabe Hernandez

RGV Photographer

TSC Board to Set Public Hearings on Tax Rate, Hold Workshops on Issues Affecting Student Success

The Texas Southmost College District Board of Trustees will meet at 2 p.m. Friday to set public hearings dates on the district’s 2008 Ad Valorem Tax Rate.

The meeting will be held in the UTB-TSC Gorgas Board Room.

A workshop will also be held from 3-8 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday to discuss issues impacting student success including: the duties of a school trustee, board history, TSC trustee scholarship, public service, history of the Nuetra House, Satisfactory Academic Progress, legislative issues, athletics, arts center campaign and an update on construction progress.

The workshops will be held in the Nuetra House at 525 Paredes Line Road.
All meetings are open to the public.

For more information, call (956) 882-3879.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Update on Charter Review Committee

I am a member of the Charter Review Committee. Our first meeting was held July 29 after it had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Dolly.

Fortunately, the committee made no decisions at this meeting, because we later discovered that the meeting's agenda was not posted as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act. Only the initial canceled meeting's agenda had been posted.

Our next meeting date was to be Wednesday, but we received notification Monday that it was canceled. No future meeting date has been set.

Although we started off on the wrong foot, I remain honored to be a member of the Charter Review Committee. The city charter is the framework for our city government.

Certainly, we don’t want, at least I don’t, to revamp all the hard work our forefathers put into this very important document. But changes are necessary to reflect the times.

On July 29, we were not provided a copy of the charter -- fortunately, I took my own copy, which is available online. Instead, we were provided a copy of previously recommended changes to the charter. Perhaps our City Attorney wanted to provide us with a starting point. Still, I do not wish to serve the role of rubber stamp, and we were assured that the committee could address any part of the charter we wished to.

We did not elect officers at our first meeting, but I e-mailed the City Secretary suggested agenda items, including the election of officers and developing a timeline for reviewing the charter’s many articles as it correlates to our meeting schedule. I also find it necessary to solicit more interest from the community the duration of this process. We should encourage public input via public forums/hearings. I know public hearings are required, but those generally come after the amendments are already drafted.

My proposed agenda items for the next meeting are:

1. Discussion and action on selecting a Chairman of the Charter Review Committee.
2. Discussion and action on selecting a Vice-chairman of the Charter Review Commitee.
3. Discussion and action on selecting a Secretary. (if minutes are being taken by the City Secretary, then this item isn't necessary.)
4. Discussion and action on process and/or schedule for addressing articles of the Charter as correlates to the committee's meeting schedule.
5. Discussion and action on holding public forum(s) to solicit community input.

I will also be suggesting that a Charter Review Committee Web site is created so to keep the community abreast of our progress. If maintenance and/or creation of the site is an issue, I have no problem volunteering to do so.

We also need to do a better job of conveying what Brownsville residents will eventually be voting on. Otherwise, ambiguity will defeat this committee’s purpose and all our hard work, and that of those who were civically engaged in the process, would have been for naught.

With our first official meeting yet to take place, there's still plenty of time to put all our ideas on the table. I look forward to working with some great minds, and I know we'll put our best efforts forward. I encourage folks to e-mail me with questions or comments at, and I will gladly share them with the committee.

I know there is plenty of talk already about our committee's supposed intent to push the charter amendments that were previously rejected. For the record, our committee really hasn't had the opportunity to discuss them, or any part of the charter, for that matter.

Also, all meetings are being recorded by Blogger Chris Davis of The first meeting, albeit, illegal, is online, too. I encourage everyone to watch them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

19th Century Brownsville Newspapers Go Digital

"The Herald is the Official County and City Organ."
Printed on the front page of the
Oct. 10, 1893 edition of The Daily Herald, Brownsville, Tx.

Nineteenth Century issues of Brownsville’s The Daily Herald have been digitized as part of the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Web site.

The Chronicling America project aims to enhance access to America's historic newspapers. The site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1890-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.

The University of North Texas Libraries’ Digital Projects Unit is performing the work and plans to digitize other Texas newspapers.

Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

This is a really neat project. Check it out, folks.

Go to

Search Unnecessary for UTB-TSC Athletic Director Post

From coaches to athletic directors, the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College can't seem to keep them very long.

With Dan Balaguero, UTB-TSC's men's soccer coach, being named interim athletic director upon Dan Huntley's department, his time with the soccer team will likely suffer.

Balaguero has been the men's soccer coach for just one season, and already, he's having to wear an additional hat.

According to UTB-TSC, a search is currently under way for Huntley's replacement. However, is one really necessary?

UTB-TSC needs to appreciate the talent that's right before its eyes.

Ronnie Zamora, Director of Sports Information, Athletics Development and Marketing, is one of UTB-TSC's most dedicated employees. He's a Rio Grande Valley native. He lives and breathes Valley sports.

Forget the search. A jewel in the rough already exists.

City Commission to Consider Increases in Employee Medical Plan, Public Hearings for Tax Increase

The Brownsville City Commission will hold a special meeting Tuesday -- 5:30 p.m. executive session and 6 p.m. special meeting.

Agenda items of interest include the following:

-Attorney Consultation pursuant to Section 551.071, of the Texas Government Code, relating to litigation styled and numbered, BPOA v. City of Brownsville, Texas, Cause No. 2007-06-2918-A (107th District Court – Cameron County) ( Ric Navarro – Legal Counsel – 15 min.)

The Brownsville Police Officers Association sues the City? Could be interesting.

-Consideration and ACTION to approve the proposed changes to the medical
insurance benefits plan, which also includes increases to the employee and city
contributions. (Pete Gonzalez – Finance)

Whoa. If approved, city employees would see significant increases. Here are a few:

Current Plan
90% Network, 70% Non-network
$200 Network Deductible
$500 Individual Out-of-Pocket Max
$15 Physician Office Visit Co-Pay
RX Co-Pay: $5 Generic, $10 Brand
RX Co-Pay: Specialty/Biotech, $20

Proposed Plan
85% Network, 60% Non-network
$500 Network Deductible
$1,000 Individual Out-of-Pocket Max
$25 Physician Office Visit Co-Pay
RX Co-Pay: $10 Generic, $40 Brand
RX Co-Pay: Specialty/Biotech, $80

-Consideration and ACTION to authorize two public hearings to be held on August 26th and September 2, 2008, to consider an ad valorem tax increase for tax year 2008 or fiscal year 2009 of 6.715%, or an increase .032627 cents or 5.01% over the current tax rate of .650517 cents. (Pete Gonzalez – Finance)

Although Mayor Pat Ahumada’s platform included a promise to not raise taxes, increases have been proposed under his leadership before, including when he was Mayor in 1993 and again last year.

Perhaps the increase is needed. However, some say “accountability is needed before taxes are raised.”

Insufficient Funds: Cameron County Unable to Pay Indigent Care Providers

Cameron County has accumulated debt from indigent care services rendered during FY 2006-07, according to an Aug. 1 Attorney General Opinion.

County auditors sought an opinion in February after indigent care service providers invoiced the county for $2,220,929.96 more than the county had anticipated to be paid without the use of future tax revenues.

The AG ruled:

"If the indigent health services invoices in excess of the amount budgeted by the county for such purposes constitute "debt" prohibited by article XI, section 7, the Cameron County Commissioners Court cannot ratify them; the Cameron County Auditor is prohibited from approving the claims; and the Cameron County Commissioners Court is not authorized to direct their payment."

What does this mean, folks?

There are going to be some very unhappy medical providers out there after they realize their services will likely have become pro-bono, including Valley Baptist Medical Centers in Brownsville and Harlingen.

So what's next?

Cameron County Commissioners' Court will confer will legal counsel in executive session at Tuesday's regular meeting. They will discuss the AG Opinion, and perhaps its next plan of action.

*Note: The opinion request is dated February 1, 2007, but the Opinion Committee stamped it received Feb. 4, 2008.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hey! What's Up With That???!!!

This question was submitted July 31 to BATB email address Let's see if we can get some commentary going on this one.



If people from Mexico can go to the hospital, get treated and released and are gone forever, then why do I have to pay if i go to the hospital? How do hospitals collect from people from Mexico?


>>David Dierlam

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

‘Friendly Fence’ a Victory for UTB-TSC?

Yes, UTB-TSC and the Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement, finally, on the border fence debate.

Now, UTB-TSC is charged with building its own aesthetically pleasing fence, which UTB-TSC President Juliet V. Garcia envisions “with bougainvillea and vine growing all over it.” Que pretty.

The fence will be shorter, and UTB-TSC will supposedly not sacrifice university property.

Today’s Associated Press article also states that UTB-TSC will install electronic sensors that will be linked to Border Patrol monitors.

Many, including myself, applaud Garcia’s courageous efforts to do what’s best for UTB-TSC and this community. She definitely took DHS to task, and that takes moxie.

Folks are touting this as a win for UTB-TSC, but why don’t I feel a sense of victory?

Perhaps it’s the close to $1 million tab taxpayers are picking up to build a pretty fence. And, lots of questions that remain unanswered, folks. Who will pick up the tab to maintain it? Will border agents now patrol campus, or will campus police have to do this? Will tuition go up? Will there be a new “fence maintenance” fee?

What's that saying? Me estan picando los ojos.