bloggin' all things brownsville

Monday, June 30, 2008

Federal Judge Orders Formal Substantive Discussions Between UTB-TSC, DHS

BATB Note: Below is the UTB-TSC release on today's Border Wall hearing. I hope The Brownsville Herald prints an original story instead of the posted Associated Press story on its Web site.

BROWNSVILLE, TX – JUNE 30, 2008- Brownsville Federal Judge Andrew Hanen ordered representatives from The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas System and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to continue jointly assess alternatives to a border fence as mandated by the previous agreement in March.

Hanen gave the University and U.S. government officials until Thursday, July 31 to continue the joint assessment and report back to the court.

“I do think a joint assessment means sitting down with people in the same room with authority and expertise to exchange ideas,” Hanen said. “I urge both sides to try to work with each other, ultimately benefiting both sides. It seems it cries out for a solution.”

Garcia said she was satisfied with the judges ruling that was prompted by a motion filed by attorneys for UTB/TSC and UT System asking the federal court to compel the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to comply with the provisions of a previous federal court order on March 19.

“We are very pleased with the judge’s decision,” Garcia said after the hearing. “He’s taking the time to try to ensure the law is respected and a true interpretation of the settlement is met. We will go back and sit down and continue to respectfully discuss the matter.”

The motion filed by the University stated that federal government officials failed to comply with the joint assessment of alternatives outlined in the agreement adopted and ordered by Hanen in March.

It also stated that the federal government planned to obtain property through eminent domain for the construction of the fence. The location of the fence would slice off up to 180 acres of substantial University land, severely curtailing critical and valuable expansion land for the University’s future growth.

In March 2008, Hanen dismissed a lawsuit against the university after an agreed settlement was reached with DHS regarding access to University property.

Both sides entered into an agreed order which allowed access to the property for surveying, but required joint assessments to determine alternatives to a fence, as well as investigations to minimize the impact of any tactical infrastructure on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life.

The federal government had filed a lawsuit in January 2008 against UTB/TSC for not signing a right of entry for federal agencies to survey land for the proposed U.S. -Mexico border fence.

For more information go to http://www.utb.edu/ and click on Updated Border Fence Information.

Watch UTB-TSC Press Conference After Border Wall Court Appearance Today


UPDATE: WATCH THE POST PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE, CLICK HERE (about 4:35 p.m.)


Attorneys representing The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas System Board of Regents will be in U.S. District Court in Brownsville TODAY for a 3 p.m. hearing before U.S. Judge Andrew Hanen.

Last week attorneys for UTB/TSC and UT System filed a motion to compel the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to comply with the provisions of a previous federal court order.
In March 2008, Hanen dismissed a lawsuit against the university after an agreement was reached with DHS regarding access to University property.

That order required DHS to conduct a joint assessment with UTB/TSC and UT System to study alternatives to a physical barrier in the campus area, to take account of UTB/TSC’s “unique status as an institution of higher education” and to “conduct such investigations as will permit it to consult with Defendants in order to minimize the impact of any tactical infrastructure on the environment, culture, commerce and quality of life” on or near UTB/TSC’s property.

“Instead of working under these dictates of the order, they chose to move forward with their original plan to construct the fence in the exact same location and manner as previously announced, and to move to seize our land for a token payment,” President Dr. Juliet V. García said. “We have been disappointed with DHS’s and Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) lack of cooperation as laid out in the order.”

In the motion, the University states the federal government plans to obtain property through eminent domain for the construction of an 18-foot fence. The location of the fence would slice off up to 180 acres of substantial University land, severely curtailing critical and valuable expansion land for the University’s future growth.

“Our intent remains to be concerned preeminently with the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff,” García said. “So, in good faith, we agreed to allow DHS access to our campus and we have been attempting to collaborate fully with representatives from DHS, Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Justice, the International Boundary and Water Commission and the offices of both local and Washington based elected officials.”

The University has made several attempts to work with DHS to conduct joint assessments without success.

“We have invested the equivalent of hundreds of hours of hard work by faculty, staff, administrators and volunteers.” García said. “We have conducted research and gathered information, assisted by some of the best security experts in the country, to seek alternative mechanisms for providing a secure border and safety for our students and university community.”

The federal government filed a lawsuit in January 2008 against UTB/TSC for not signing a right of entry for federal agencies to survey land for the proposed U.S. -Mexico border fence.

Prior to the hearing, the University and the Department of Justice entered into an agreed order which allowed access to the property for surveying, but required joint assessments to determine alternatives to a fence, as well as investigations to minimize the impact of any tactical infrastructure on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life.

For more information go to http://www.utb.edu/ and click on Updated Border Fence Information.


SOURCE: UTB-TSC

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Valley Native May Become First Latina on Texas Supreme Court

I was excited to see a byline in The Texas Observer from former Valley Freedom Newspapers reporter Elizabeth Pearson Hernandez. Elizabeth of one of the best reporters I had a chance to work with while at The Brownsville Herald. She was the last Austin Bureau reporter before Freedom Communications made the crappy corporate decision to cut the position.

Here is the teaser for her June 27 Texas Observer story on Linda Reyna Yañez.

From the farm fields of northern Illinois to the halls of Harvard University, Linda Reyna Yañez has overcome prejudice with tenacity, becoming the first Hispanic female appellate judge in Texas history. Now Yañez is campaigning to set a new precedent as the first Latina on the Texas Supreme Court, challenging incumbent Republican Justice Phil Johnson for the Place 8 seat.

For the full story, click here.

House Appropriations Committee Approves $8.675 Million for BND


The House Appropriations Committee recently approved a bill that includes $8.675 million in funding for the Brownsville Navigation District.

Congressman Solomon Ortiz (TX-27) announced Friday that the Fiscal Year 2009 Energy and Water Appropriations bill was approved the committee.

“During the last six years shoaling at the entrance to the channel has been a neverending problem causing the Port of Brownsville to turn ships away,” Ortiz said in a prepared statement. “This funding will allow the Port to dredge their channel to their authorized depth and continue to move forward on deepening and widening of the Brownsville Ship Channel.”

Monies allotted include $8.07 million for operations and maintenance of the Brazos Island Harbor, and $600,000 for a feasibility study to enlarge the existing Brownsville Ship Channel.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill will next be considered by the House of Representatives.

More than 230 companies do business at the Port of Brownsville representing more than 8,000 jobs.

Congressman Ortiz on the Border Wall, Offshore Drilling and Windfarms



The Island Breeze interviews Congressman Solomon Ortiz at an appreciation/fund-raiser dinner last week on South Padre Island. The sound is somewhat poor, but you can still make out the interview.

Keeping Tabs on UTB-TSC Audits ...

UPDATE: The Texas Internal Auditing Act requires that UTB file an annual report on UTB’s internal audit activities for FY 2008 by November 1, 2008. The report will be online by November 7, 2008. UTB’s external auditor is the State Auditors Office http://www.sao.state.tx.us/reports/. TSC’s external auditor is Long & Chilton, LLP.

Governmental audits aren’t a sexy topic. They don’t draw much interest, and local media generally don’t report on them. Although, lack of coverage could be that they’re so darn hard to find online unless you have time to invest in digging.

According to state law, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is required to make certain reports available online, and the Internal Audit is one of them.

Posted on the UTB-TSC Web site are annual audit reports from 2005-2007. I’ve highlighted a few brow-raisers in the latest report to allow folks to keep on eye on issues that need to be addressed by the time the 2008 report is released. The issues range from lack of required privacy of Social Security numbers to Student Health Services employees performing duties outside the scope of their licenses.

Interestingly, there were no observations, findings or recommendations for the UTB-TSC President or her office -- none I could find in the report, anyways -- when in 2006, several were noted. In 2006, it was recommended that the office should review all applicable travel policies and increase internal controls to ensure nonreimburable expenses aren't submitted for payment. It was also recommended that UTB (although this was listed under the Office of the President) review and reevaluate the Business Expense Policy to provide more thorough information and guidance relating to business expenses and entertainment/business functions. Internal auditors also found issues with the "housekeeping agreement" that concerned the appropriate division of business and personal services. The 2007 internal audit did not show that these issues were addressed, but they could have been addressed is a separate follow-up report.

2007 UTB-TSC Audit Highlights

FY 2007 Audit of UTS165, Section 10- Reduction of Use and Collection of Social Security Numbers
-Based on our interview with the Associate Vice President for Business Affairs, we determined a list of third-party vendors has not been generated. Therefore a written agreement between the institution and the vendors as it relates to the protection of social security numbers is non-existent. As a result there is no monitoring of vendors' efforts as it relates to the protection of SSN confidentiality.

FY 2007 Audit of Travel and Entertainment for Vice Presidents and Provost
-When testing for compliance with UTB’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOOP), we noted that the HOOP travel and business expense polices have not been updated in years and are causing confusion and inconsistencies in the amounts being reimbursed to employees.

FY 2007 Audit of Student Health Services
-Texas Medical Board: Lack of core physician supervision and documentation requirements.
-Texas Board of Pharmacy: Minimal to no oversight of the Class D Pharmacy and inaccurate inventory and control of prescription medicine. Management should develop a plan to ensure the Pharmacy is in compliance with Texas State Board of Pharmacy rules and regulations as soon as possible, i.e., review and update policies and procedures; clearly communicate roles and responsibilities; establish an inventory process; ensure oversight of pharmacy operations, etc.
-Texas Board of Nursing Examiners and Nursing Practice Act: Instances where an employee perform duties outside the scope of his license.
-services not provided as per medical services fee definition, inconsistent billing practices of office visits and services, inadequate security of patient medical records, patient designation not verified (student, faculty, staff, other non-student), policies and procedures manuals not updated, inadequate oversight of the over the counter dispensing machines’ revenue deposits, use of procurement card for non business expenses.

FY2007 Audit of UTS163 Guidance on Effort Reporting Policies
-UTB does not have a formal policy that states the frequency of training for existing employees, new employees, significant changes in rules and regulations and additional training required when noncompliance is found through the monitoring activities.

For the full audits, click here.

I'd rather read me a good audit than the latest Cosmopolitan mag. But that's just me. I've emailed Norma Ramos, director of Internal Audits at UTB-TSC, to inquire about the 2008 audit. I've also asked Ramos if external audits are conducted, and if so, what firm is used and where a copy may be accessed/obtained.

Mayor Ahumada Sends Out 'Urgent Message'

Hello all,

I received the belowed forwarded e-mail from the No Border Wall group. It was marked "Urgent Message from Mayor Ahumada." The "over take" comment kinda freaks me out, but I do believe that this upcoming City Commission meeting is a critical one.

Melissa

----------------------------------------------------------


From: AHUMADAPAT@...
Subject: Re: Border Fence Event

Tuesday, July 1, City Commission meeting at 6 pm, is going to be very critical for the entire southwest border region. Please try to get as many to attend to quash the agreement with DHS to allow them to build the fence. If they are allowed to do this, then every other city between El Paso and Brownsville will be vulnerable and easy to over take. Brownsville is ground zero to build the fence, join me to stop the city commissioners from approving a contract negotiated in secret that allows building the fence.

Thanks,

Pat

Photo source: http://www.enlineadirecta.info/

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hot Night of the Blues July 1 at Galeria 409


The Blue Kats and Los Bluzanos invite you to A Hot Night of the Blues at Galeria 409 at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 1. Special guest Gene Novagrodsky will read from original works.

A minimal $5.00 cover charge includes food, drinks and entertainment.

Galerîa 409 is located at 409 E. 13th St. in downtown historic Brownsville, one block from the Gateway Bridge. For information, call (956) 455-3599.

Transportation Commission Picks Developer for Texas Portion of I-69


AUSTIN - The Texas Transportation Commission today approved the staff recommendation for a proposal by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure (ZAI/ACS) to develop the Texas portion of Interstate 69.

The proposed ZAI/ACS master plan would develop the southern section of U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards without tolling that portion of the road. The proposal advances planning for I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), but additional commission action would be necessary before any construction could begin.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) selected the ZAI/ACS proposal over a proposal from Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors. Both teams submitted proposals to TxDOT on March 26. The selection of ZAI/ACS for a development contract has no impact on TxDOT*s environmental study that will determine the route for I-69/TTC. TxDOT will also continue its plans for upgrading U.S. Highway 281 which, along with U.S. 77, has been designated by the federal government as a possible future route for I-69 in Texas.

"All of the planning work completed by ZAI/ACS will be done within the constraints spelled out by the Texas Transportation Commission and state law," said TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz. "We will develop I-69/TTC using existing highway facilities wherever possible, and we will operate within the guiding principles the Commission adopted in May. Today's action by the Transportation Commission made it clear that our focus will be on planning for the statewide corridor and on bringing Interstate 69 to Texas."

The contract will provide for ZAI/ACS to perform activities including the creation of a master development plan and master financial plan for the I-69/TTC project. The contract will also include the right of first negotiation for ZAI/ACS to perform work on certain projects. If TxDOT moves forward with the actual design, construction, financing, maintenance and operation of any specific projects identified in the master development plan, those projects will be governed by separate facility agreements that would require additional action by the Transportation Commission.

"This proposal gives us the best path to developing the long-awaited upgrades to U.S. 77 in South Texas and ultimately the I-69/TTC project," Saenz said. "The ZAI/ACS team's proposal would use existing road alignments and engage local leaders to help direct this project with minimal cost to the state."

Today's commission action allows TxDOT staff to negotiate a contract with ZAI/ACS. Once the contract between TxDOT and ZAI/ACS is signed, the two partners will begin work on a master development plan and master financing plan for I-69/TTC. In addition and concurrently, TxDOT and ZAI/ACS will develop a specific plan for upgrading U.S. Highway 77 from Brownsville to Corpus Christi as an eventual part of I-69/TTC. That planning work would cost no more than $5 million. The contract would not allow any construction or property acquisition except as subsequently approved by TxDOT and the Commission, and under the conditions set out in the contract.

"The ZAI/ACS proposal includes innovative plans that would finally extend the Interstate system into South Texas," said Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi. She noted that ZAI/ACS proposes coordinating with local authorities in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area to develop toll roads in South Texas that would help finance the initial segments of I-69/TTC without requiring tolls to be collected along long stretches of highway extending north from Cameron County.

"ZAI/ACS and TxDOT cannot develop their plans for the Texas portion of I-69 without input from the Corridor Advisory Committee and the Segment Advisory Committees," said Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton. "ZAI/ACS has already reached out to local leaders to help craft their proposal, and this is a promising start. Solving our state's transportation challenges will require public awareness and public involvement."

ZAI/ACS proposes working with local authorities to construct and operate $1.5 billion worth of toll projects in South Texas that would generate revenue to develop U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards.

The ZAI/ACS team is proposing to develop the West Loop and State Highway (SH) 550 / Five Mile Spur highway projects in Cameron County and the SH 358 Managed Lanes, SH 286 Managed Lanes, and Southside Mobility Corridor projects in Corpus Christi. In addition, ZAI/ACS proposes tolled reliever routes on U.S. 77 in the communities of Riviera and Driscoll.

ZAI/ACS proposes to develop these seven projects and use the toll revenues to help finance the sections of U.S. 77 that would be upgraded to interstate standards without the need for additional tolls on that highway.

Under the framework provided by SB 792 (80th Texas Legislature), the local toll roads proposed by ZAI/ACS could only be operated with the approval of local government entities. In its proposal, ZAI/ACS indicated that its team has already approached local leaders in South Texas about their interest in the plan. Although no agreements have been reached, discussions among community leaders, ZAI/ACS and TxDOT are expected to continue.

Transportation Commissioner Ned Holmes noted that while today's commission action was significant, important work remains for the I-69/TTC project. "TxDOT can now move forward with this consortium of private sector experts that will develop a comprehensive plan to determine what projects need to be built in the near term. We still have critical decisions to make with our local partners about how we will connect our cities and ports to this vital new corridor."

"This proposal moves us closer to building I-69/TTC. ZAI/ACS has shown that we can build this project while minimizing the need to purchase additional land and only limited, innovative tolling," said Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi. "We have heard from the public we should limit the amount of private property we need to acquire. We can accomplish this goal and virtually eliminate the need for tolls on the first leg of I-69/TTC in South Texas."

The ZAI/ACS proposal, including maps, is available on the internet at http://www.keeptexasmoving.com

What’s next:
-Negotiate final terms of master CDA
-Federal Highway Administration concurrence with award
-Attorney General concurrence with legal sufficiency
-Legislative Budget Board concurrence
-Submit CDA to State Audit Office
-12-18 month master planning process capped at $5 million

An executed agreement would not:
-Impact TxDOT’s environmental study that will determine the alignment of I-69/TTC
-Authorize construction
-Set toll rates or determine who does
-Eliminate competition for future services


SOURCE: Texas Department of Transportation

An Apology ...

Serenity Prayer


Dear Readers,

The blogosphere has been in an uproar the past few days over what was posted on a fellow blog about my not revealing the identity of then-anonymous blogger Roman Perez of RGV USA. Although I did berate him and encourage him to do the right thing by revealing his identity to his readers when I discovered it, I should have posted that information on my blog. Instead, I focused on my blog, and chose to look the other way. For that, I apologize, and I take full responsibility for my actions and poor judgment.

I am repeatedly hit hard by commenters to various blogs, but I do my best to remain focused on my goals for this blog -- to inform, to engage, to encourage.

After Roman attached his name to his blog, I worked to help him improve. I pushed him to be fair. I pushed him to do more, to be great. I allowed myself to trust him.

Several months ago, I was repeatedly attacked, along with my family and friends, by an ANON blogger/commenter known as DJ George. I had been told before that it may be Roman, but because I had no proof, only gossip, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Yesterday, I discovered that DJ George was none other than my friend, Roman Perez. Initially, he said, "Who told you that lie," when I e-mailed him. When I did not respond, he replied in a subsequent e-mail with a lengthy apology and admitted that he was in fact DJ George.

DJ George goes back years. He not only hurt me, but he has a long list of folks in his writing history -- folks, like me, who allowed him to get close.

The below e-mail is what I sent to him. I will add this to my list of hard lessons learned, and move on -- and so will this blog.

Again, I apologize to my readers who put their faith in me. And my message to Roman, well, it's in the e-mail. I forgive you, but I will not forget. Dios te bendiga.

Melissa

----------------------------------------------------------

Roman,

Earlier this evening, I discovered that you are/were in fact DJ George who wrote all those horrible things about me, my family and my friends. I am grief stricken. I opened up to you. I trusted you. I began to care for you as a dear friend.

I don't know how much more pain I can take because of my blog when all I truly want to do is make my community better for my children. They mean the world to me. From my short friendship with you, I've allowed you to get to know me. Now you know, that I am in fact, a hard worker dedicated to my employment and my family. You saw firsthand how I spent my little free time on my blog. I was looking forward to working with you on future projects, too.

Folks have said some horrible things about me, but I kept on, and I encouraged you to do the same. I did my best to be a good friend to you, and I was criticized for keeping my word by not revealing your identity when I found out. Their criticism was appropriately aimed. But today's news hurt me more than ever. I don't know if I'd ever be able to allow myself to trust folks again. That was always my strength, but apparently a weakness, too. It seems my true friends are far and few between lately.

I am very sad, but I no longer want to cry over this whole ordeal. I wish you well, Roman. I pray that you learn to trust. I pray that you learn that not everyone out there is a bad person. The key to believing in others is to first believe in yourself. People make mistakes. We all do. It's how we rectify them that makes the difference. No one else can fix this, but you.

God bless,

Melissa

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Travel Coalition Reports that Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport At Risk of Losing Service Due to Fuel Costs

UPDATED: I've sent an e-mail to Michael Jones of the Brownsville airport. Upon visiting the site, it doesn't appear to be entirely legitimate as commenters to this blog have noted. Quien sobby.

Dear readers,

I received the below today. I'm attempting to independently verify. Still, sad news indeed.

-melissa

-------------------

I'm writing to you as the Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, and this morning we released a report detailing the top 100 regional and top 50 large airports that will lose service because of increasing fuel costs. Many of these airports may lose service all together. 
 
Brownsville International is on the list. 
 
You can view the rankings and have your community take action at savemyairport.com.
 
Skyrocketing fuel prices have created a serious threat to the viability of the U.S. airline industry - and that threat has serious implications for cities of all sizes that rely on air travel for their own economic well-being, as well as local companies that need air service to do business. Studies indicate that at current fuel prices, one or more major airlines could be liquidated later this year, wiping out all their service to hundreds of cities overnight. 
 
Congress and the Administration must take action to address the fuel crisis in the near term, including, eliminating manipulation of commodities markets; strengthening the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies; and incentivizing producers to increase energy supplies, refining capacity and develop new environmentally responsible aviation fuels. Stabilizing the airline industry by tackling the country's fuel crisis must become a national policy priority. 
 
Please link to http://www.savemyairport.com -- and let's make sure that Brownsville doesn't lose air service. 
 
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. 
 
Thanks, 
Kevin Mitchell 
Business Travel Coalition 

Judge Leal Takes Ahumada, Capt. Bob to the Dog Pound


Judge Janet Leal denied a motion for a retrial on the PUB term fiasco filed by Mayor Pat Ahumada and former PUB board member Robert Sanchez.

Leal reiterated that the Open Meetings Act was violated and upheld PUB board member Emmanuel Vasquez's appointment.

Details pending.

Yolando de Leon Files Temporary Restraining Order Against Cameron County DA Armando Villalobos

hammertime
Former DA Yolando de Leon has filed a temporary restraining order against Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos.

The TRO was filed yesterday in Judge Migdalia Lopez's 197th state District Court, according to Jason Moody, public information officer for the DA's office.

It appears that De Leon is attempting to prevent Villalobos from presenting evidence against her before a grand jury in the Monica's House case.

Watch TSC Swearing-in Today LIVE!



Garza and Torres to be sworn in

Click here for live broadcast.

Adela Garza and René Torres will be officially sworn in at the TSC Board of Trustees meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at the UTB-TSC Free Speech area. The remaining portion of the meeting takes place in the Gorgas Board Room.

Garza won the Place 1 seat on the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees June 14 in a run-off election against Dr. Jaime Silva.

They competed for the seat held by former incumbent Jose Herrera.

Garza won the seat by garnering 1,143 votes (54 percent) compared to Silva's 973 (46 percent).

René Torres was elected to the place 2 seat during the general election Saturday, May 10. A retired assistant professor at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College where he was a faculty member for 25 years in the School of Education.

Garza received 2,989 with Silva coming in second with 2,082. Herrera came in third with 1,579 votes.

Torres ran for the Place 2 seat, vacated by Dolly Zimmerman, against Tita Esparza Tamez, also a retired educator.

Early voting for the run-off election ended June 10. Cardenas North Hall on campus served as one of the polling places to vote. A total of 110 voters cast ballots on campus. The total number of votes cast at the locations during early voting was 1107.

For more information please call the TSC District Office at (956) 882-3879.


SOURCE: UTB-TSC

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Diabetes Increases in U.S., Cameron County


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that diabetes now affects nearly 24 million in the United States, an increase of more than 3 million in about two years.

In Cameron County, 8.1 percent of the population, or 19,200 residents, are estimated to have diabetes. This is an increase of about 2,000 from the previously reported year.

The rate of diagnosed diabetes was highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives (16.5 percent). This was followed by blacks (11.8 percent) and Hispanics (10.4 percent), which includes rates for Puerto Ricans (12.6 percent), Mexican Americans (11.9 percent), and Cubans (8.2 percent).

The CDC also reported that another 57 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes.
According to the CDC Web site, diabetes is a disease associated with high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production that causes sugar to build up in the body. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the country and can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

For more information, visit the CDC Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/

Monday, June 23, 2008

TSC Board Members to Be Sworn In Wednesday

Although I’m sure appropriately advertised as required by law, elections for the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees were once a hush-hush event. Appointments lined up faster than opponents or candidates, and rubber stamps came by the dozen.

A contagious chatter exists that when newly elected board members take their oath of office at Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. TSC meeting, UTB-TSC President Juliet Garcia will for the first time wear a face of uncertainty. The board that once echoed her message is no longer there, so the chatter goes.

And, the swearing-in ceremony and canvassing of runoff results will not be held at the usual Gorgas Hall meeting location. Quite fitting for this momentous (let’s hope) occasion, the Free Speech designated area on campus will serve as the venue.

Yes, I said let’s hope. Let’s hope for change, and that platforms are kept close to the heart to reflect each student’s heartfelt desire to acquire a college education to be proud of.

New to the TSC Board are Adela Garza and Rene Torres. Garcia may have to work for that board majority now with new voices joining the board. New voices sometimes spark some much-needed noise from stifled voices, too.

Let's hope.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

County to Hand Over Land to Feds for Border Wall


When a goverment entity decides to hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. when they're generally held at 5:30 p.m., something smells fishy. Maybe there's a legitimate reason behind the time, despite Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos' push to hold meetings when folks can most likely attend. I don't know about you, but I'm at work at 8 a.m.

Cameron County Commissioners' Court meets at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow for a brow-raising list of agenda items.

Commissioners will decide in executive session to deliberate the possible sale of county-owned property to the U.S. Department of the Army. And, they will confer with legal counsel for waiver of service for a long list of cases where the United States of America is the plaintiff, and the county is an unnamed defendant.

The No Border Wall group writes in a previous post today, "I understand that the reason the County is an unnamed defendant is because when the Feds do a condemnation they also serve the local county government. We are being asked to waive the service of the lawsuits in order to expedite the process and save the Feds the cost of serving the County."

Looks like Cameron County Commissioner John Wood, who previously pushed for the County to fight the border wall and join the Texas Border Coalition, and Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada, are in the same boat. Unfortunately, there aren't any oars to be found, and the USS Border Wall is headed straight for 'em.

What's going on here, folks?

For the meeting's agenda, click here.

Ron Whitlock Reports on Imagine Brownsville

The text that accompanies Ron Whitlock's report this week reads:

Imagination. That's what the community of Brownsville is asking all of its citizens to engage themselves in. Imagine what they think and want their community to be within a 10 year period, because the comprehensive plan for the community not coming out of City Hall and the City Planning Department, but being developed, literally, by the citizenry themselves.

OK, so is my portion of the $900,000 paycheck in the mail?

Interviewed by Whitlock are Imagine Brownsville Co-chairman Irv Downing, Regional President of Chase Bank, and City Commissioner Anthony Troiani.

Hike and Bike Trail Road to Eyesore

In January, the City Commission unanimously approved a memorandum of agreement between the City of Brownsville and the Brownsville River Rockets to help patrol the bike trails and to seek assistance from private businesses in an "Adopt A Portion of the Trail" Campaign. The Campaign was to solicit private funding from business owners for landscaping and improvements to a portion of the hike and bike trail along the Linear Park.

I don't know what became of this, but the trail is in dire need of attention. I walk it almost daily, and yesterday's six-mile trek, to and from Alton Gloor and H-E-B on Paredes and 802, yielded the following observations and photos.

There are several areas where the the trail's paving is cracked, and rest areas need attention. We need to definitely close off access to the trail from side streets, because it's evident that folks still drive on the trail for some reason.

The hike and bike trail is a great asset for Brownsville residents. I use it almost daily, many do. I'm still trying to nail down the costs/funding for the trail, but I hope funding for maintenance was budgeted, too.





Brownsville 'Weak Link' in Border Wall Fight

"Macho does not prove mucho." ~Zsa Zsa Gabor


I had to drink a big glass of cold water and silently stew over swallowing my pride before I could fess up. After backspacing, then typing, then backspacing, again, I came up with what follows: Mayor Ahumada, your editorial in today's Brownsville Herald was, well, quite frankly (*cough* *cough*), right on.

Although, might I suggest a nice, warm slice of humble pie with a cafecito before choosing to run with the usual "I did this" and "I did that" rants.

Still, the hypothetical you put forth begs a response: "How can all of the border cities be united against the border wall but not Brownsville?"

I'm sure we all know the answer.

Testosterone-filled, chest-pounding, yo-soy-el-hombre arrogance that saturates Deep South Texas politics, especially in this bordertown home of ours.

Look at the support UTB-TSC President Juliet Garcia is receiving in her fight against the border wall. I'm sure they've spent thousands in attorney fees, yet where's the criticism there?

In contrast, I'm annoyed at how our City Commission has volleyed the border wall issue at several meetings with no one taking the helm in this fight other than Mayor Ahumada. But, therein lies the problem. Because it is, the mayor, and it is a fight he vehemently supports, the Commissioners refuse or are hesitant to join the cause. Complacency is not a solution to the border wall dilemma.

Perhaps the manner in which the Mayor initially adopted this fight as his own fight left a bad taste. This is our fight, and it takes a collective approach by our City Commission to at least put on a decent fight.

Now, the Commissioners have adopted that same my fight approach they once criticized by building their own wall between themselves and any ideas/issues the Mayor supports. The fight that exists between our Commissioners and the Mayor has in fact deemed us the "weak link."

We should be joining UTB-TSC in its efforts and those of the TBC, Valley Interfaith, nature preserves, etc.

Water under the bridge, I say, at least for this fight, anyways. What's it going to take, a good 'ole fashioned spit handshake for you machos?

Like my dear friend, Emma Perez-Trevino, likes say, hijole!

He Said/She Said: El Rocinante


This is the first installment of a weekly project between blogger Roman Perez and I entitled, "He Said/She Said." The rules are simple. A mutual topic will be chosen. We will each provide our perspective on a topic, which neither of us will see until it is posted on our respective blogs. We hope you enjoy our differring, or possibly, similar takes on the chosen topics.

First topic up: El Rocinante. This is my She-said take.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I remember first meeting Jerry McHale when I was editor of The Collegian at UTB-TSC back in 1998, or so. Sporting a guayabera and holding a stack of yellow sheets, he hands me one, “Here you go, kid.”

El Rocinante, it read, along with breaking news or the news behind the news one wouldn’t find some “Pencil” digging his nose around or some “Hairspray” enunciating off some television prompter. For you non-journalistic nuts, one who writes for a newspaper is a “Pencil,” and one who pounds on the make-up and Aquanet for TV news is a “Hairspray.”

No one uses those terms anymore. They’ve gone by the wayside, and they seem to have become as passé as those hard-hitting, muckraking times now replaced with what sells: Blood and guts, sex and gossip and agenda-filled propaganda. Investigative news once driven by a writer demanding justice and good government is a rarity in these here parts.

Back to 1998 … My discovering that yellow sheet – perhaps a color appropriately chosen to reflect today’s El Rocinante for its scandal mongering, sensationalism and sex-sales approach, not so much back in the day – sparked a new direction for me as a journalist.

Although just a rookie reporter at a university that didn’t even have a journalism or communications program, I fervently pushed aside the stenographic reporting of the usual story -- “SGA President Selected” or “Financial Aid Available,” or “New Building Opens.” I began to dig.

Yes, those stories inform, but I wanted to help. I soon wrote stories on UTB-TSC President Juliet Garcia’s salary and perks including a taxpayer-funded housekeeper. I wrote stories on how the necessity for pretty buildings replaced that of the necessity for sufficient programs and additional financial aid for our students. My supervisor and mentor, Azenett Cornejo, repeatedly had to defend my right – even as a runt journalist – to write such pieces. When administration decried, “How dare she,” she dared me to be greater.

I officially became a watchdog-in-training. El Rocinante even picked up on a couple of my Collegian articles, and I was honored.

And, I continued my watchdog stance as The Brownsville Herald's city editor and as a blogger, today.

But times have since changed. Coffee shops and lounges once bustling with the loud chatter of El Rocinante’s investigative, hard-hitting pieces are simply careful whispers. Folks are now reading and talking about it in the privacy of their homes, mostly because of its tranformation into its so-called art-filled smut talk.

I have been criticized before for responding to content on El Rocinante. How can you read that stuff, I’m told. But how do folks know I respond if they aren't avid readers?

Get real, folks. You read it, just as I do.

Still, I miss the old El Rocinante that once inspired me to expose corruption, denounce apathy and encourage civic engagement. Every once in a while I find a nugget of news posted by one of the many writers of El Rocinante. However, even that’s difficult to appreciate when I’m hit with a vagina taking up my entire computer screen complemented with libel, defamation and trash-talk submitted by anonymous cowards directed at friends, including myself.

Yeah, yeah free speech, art and all that hoopla, but must that come at the expense of good, solid journalism?

I used to rush to meet El Rocinante's editor during my Collegian days. I admired his intestinal fortitude. Now, I want to join the masses so to kick him where he keeps his intestinal fortitude.

To read Roman Perez's "He Said" on the topic, visit his blog at rgvusa.blogspot.com.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Port of Brownsville Director Passes Board Evaluation, Contract Extended to 2010

The Brownsville Navigation District Board extended Port Director Eduardo A. Campirano's contract to 2010 at Wednesday's board meeting.

According to a prepared statement, Campirano passed his board evaluation with "flying colors," and completed his one-year probationary period as determined by the BND Board of Commissioners.

“Obviously, the role the Port Director and CEO is crucial to the leadership of our Port. It is my pleasure and honor to extend Mr. Campirano’s contract as he has genuinely represented us tremendously well during this past year," said BND Chairman Carlos R. Masso. "It also represents stability and consistency for all our customers and employees. On behalf of our Board, I welcome Mr. Campirano to our Port as our leader and we all pledge to work together to make the Port of Brownsville a great port."

Campirano said he was very fortunate and grateful to the Board and Port employees for making his first year a rewarding one.

"I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities facing the Port, and I will work diligently with all of our community partners to bring jobs to our area," Campirano said.

Campirano is former Assistant General Manager and Chief Administrative Officer of the Brownsville Public Utilities Board and former City Manager for the Town of South Padre Island.

The BND (Port of Brownsville) owns, operates and maintains the public docks, wharves, warehouses, and terminal facilities at the Brownsville Ship Channel. It also is the landlord for more than 230 private businesses that provide about 8,000 jobs in this area.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rep. Juan Escobar Receives Legislator of the Year Award


The Vietnam Veterans of America has awarded their "Legislator of the Year Award" to State Rep. Juan M. Escobar, D-Kingsville. The award was bestowed at the Vietnam Veterans of America Texas State Council summer meeting.

"Rep. Juan Escobar consistently proved to be a staunch ally, advocate and supporter of active duty military, veterans, and their families," said John A. Miterko, Government Affairs Chair and State Legislative Coordinator for the Vietnam Veterans of America Texas State Council.

During the 80th legislative session, Rep. Escobar introduced, authored, joint-authored, or sponsored 25 bills all for the benefit of veterans and active duty military. Specifically, Rep Escobar has introduced legislation urging Congress to construct a VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, to significantly reduce property taxes for disabled veterans and for surviving spouses (Proposition 9 authorizing 100% property tax exemption for 100% disabled veterans), reintegration counseling services for military and veterans (PTSD education and outreach), and tuition and fee exemptions for military, veterans, and their dependents.

"I am honored and humbled by this award," Rep. Escobar said. "No greater honor is there than to serve your country but the greatest honor is to reward our veterans with the services they deserve."

For more than 25 years the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has provided advocacy on behalf of Vietnam veterans, and all veterans, and their families. The VVA Texas State Council represents 35 Chapters that blanket the state of Texas and encompass 4,000 members. VVA at the local, state, and national level has worked with legislators to ensure that veterans’ rights and benefits are protected, and that the next generation of veterans also has access to these same earned rights.

"As a decorated Marine Vietnam veteran, Rep Escobar takes great pride in his military background and service to his country, and is committed to improving the lives of veterans and their families in Texas by his consistent legislative advocacy and support," said John Miterko.

SOURCE: Press release, Rep. Escobar staff

Monday, June 16, 2008

Remains Found at UTB-TSC Construction Site Not Human

According to a UTB-TSC prepared statement released today, remains found at a construction site at the campus are not human.

The remains were found Saturday at a construction site at the Center for Early Childhood Studies. Local media reported the remains to be human.

The release states that Bruce Darnell, of Raba-Kistner Consultants of San Antonio, recovered the remains and will take them to San Antonio for further testing.

“I am not going to speculate until results are confirmed, but I can tell you they are not human,” said Darnell in the prepared statement.

According to officials, the site was previously a national cemetery in the late 1800s. The graves were moved in 1911 to Louisiana.

Construction at the site has resumed.

Associated Press Throws Stones, Lives in Glass House


I stole this tidbit from Eduardo Paz-Martinez’s blog:

“The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright. The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. Fair use has become an essential concept to many bloggers, who often quote portions of articles before discussing them. The A.P., a cooperative owned by 1,500 daily newspapers, provides articles and broadcast material to thousands of news organizations and Web sites that pay to use them." - TheHuffingtonPost.com

What a joke.

AP has been swiping articles from newspapers for years, slapping its name on them and denying proper credit to the original publication/reporter.

For those who don't understand the process, newspaper editors submit articles to the AP for consideration to be distributed statewide, nationwide or even worldwide to other media outlets. However, they drop the publication's tagline and rarely give the publication credit.

Here is an example of proper credit:

The Associated Press
The Brownsville Herald reported that Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada opposes the border wall.


Here is an example of what AP does:

The Associated Press
Brownsville's Mayor Pat Ahumada opposes the border wall.


Perhaps reporters should ban together for a class-action lawsuit against The Associated Press for plagiarism.

The AP is notorious for not giving credit where credit is due.

AP, forget the blogosphere. You are the mero-mero free-wheeler.

Adela Garza’s Win Confirmed, Not 'Too Close to Call'


Finals as reported previously on BATB are correct:

TSC Board, Place 1 Runoffs Final Numbers (9 p.m. Saturday):

Adela Garza: 1,143 (54 percent)
Jaime Silva: 973 (46 percent)


And, The Brownsville Herald failed to run a correction or final numbers in today’s paper. The Herald reported Sunday “After the results from 19 of 38 precincts were added to early voting and mail-in results, Adela Garza led Dr. Jaime Silva 1378 to 1241.”

Wrong.

From what I could gather, and the only explanation that could be put together, the early voting and 8 p.m. votes were added together to come up with The Herald’s numbers.

Still, if that’s what they did, they added the wrong candidate’s numbers together.

Silva’s early vote of 594 + Garza’s 8 p.m. votes of 784 equal 1378.

Garza’s early vote of 507 + Silva’s 734 equal 1241.

Talk about a major OOPSIE.

And, no follow-up story/correction. AND, the incorrect story remains posted on The Herald Web site.

YOWSERS.


------------------------------------------------------------------

As of 8 p.m. Saturday with 19 of 38 precincts reporting and partial mail-in ballots:

Adela Garza: 784
Jaime Silva: 734

----------------------------------------------------

Early-voting numbers in only as of 7:15 p.m. Saturday for TSC Board Place 1:

Adela Garza: 507
Jaime Silva: 594

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Brownsville Attorney Carlos Cisneros Named KUHF/Arte Publico Press Author of the Month


Brownsville attorney and author Carlos Cisneros has been selected as this month's KUHF/Arte Publico Press Author of the Month.

Eric Ladau, with the Houston station, interviewed Cisneros about his book, The Case Runner (Arte Público Press, 2008). According to the Web site, Arte Público Press is the nation's largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.

To listen to the Cisneros interview, click here.

Below is the information provided on Cisneros at the KUHF Web site.

Born in 1963 in Brownsville, Texas, Cisneros was raised on the Mexican side of the border by a father who tended the family farm and a mother who ran the once-famous Rancho Grande restaurant. Growing up in Matamoros, young Carlos dreamed of one day running his father’s farm and owning a chain of restaurants. But after Mexico’s peso devaluation wiped out the fortunes of thousands of Mexican citizens, including his family’s, Cisneros left home and started waiting tables to help pay for college, eventually earning a degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin. After finishing law school in Houston, he returned to South Texas where he continues to practice law.

Cisneros, having married into a family involved in South Texas politics, has also had an opportunity to become well-acquainted with the inner-workings of the legislative process. Every other year when the Texas legislature convenes, Cisneros works alongside his father-in-law, State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., and his brother-in-law, State Representative Eddie Lucio III, on border issues affecting South Texas.

Carlos Cisneros lives with his wife and their three children in Brownsville. When he’s not working on cases, Cisneros spends time writing his weekly column, Clinica Legal, for a local Spanish newspaper. He writes articles of general interest explaining the latest legal developments in order to educate the Hispanic community.

Cisneros's first book, The Case Runner (Arte Público Press, 2008), features Alejandro “Alex” del Fuerte, fresh out of law school, who is returning home to South Texas to open his solo practice. He has dreams of making his mark in the world and in the courtroom. But when he meets Porfirio “Pilo” Medina, who just crossed the border in search of his wife and son, Alex is suddenly dragged into a world of wrongdoings and political pay-offs rarely covered in law school.



-------------------------------------------
Upcoming Schedule

6/25/08 Book Signing, UTB-TSC, 10:00 a.m. (student session) 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. (community event).

6/30/08 TV Interview; Dialogos Sin Fronteras, KMBH Channel 60, 10:00 p.m. with Vicente Morales

7/20/08 Book Signing, Museum of South Texas History, Edinburg, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

La Labor: The Paintings of Roel Flores


La Labor: The Paintings of Roel Flores, a traveling exhibition from Texas Folklife that features the work of artist, musician, and former migrant worker and Weslaco native, will be on exhibit at the Brownsville Heritage Complex, located in historic downtown Brownsville.

The public is invited to view the exhibit, which is the only currently scheduled stop for the exhibition in the Rio Grande Valley.

The free, opening reception for the exhibition is at 6 p.m. June 26, 2008. The opening reception will also feature a presentation by the artist Roel Flores and his wife Epifania, as well as Conjunto musical entertainment provided by Grammy awarding winning musician and Brownsville artist Cande Aguilar.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Humanities Texas, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Texas Commission on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts.

The exhibit features the work of Flores, a self-taught artist, who paints images of fields, sunsets, instruments and other aspects of his life as a Tejano in South Texas. His imagery reveals his love for music and a bittersweet nostalgia for fieldwork.

"To me, you cannot separate the field work from the music. That was what kept us going. That was our only hope," he says. His portraits of Valerio Longoria and other esteemed Tejano musicians memorialize seminal icons and influences of Tejano culture.

Flores' work is included in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute, and two of his paintings traveled with their exhibit "El Rio."

The exhibit includes 25 paintings, artifacts from Mr. Flores' life in the fields, wall panels, and a five-minute introductory video by documentary filmmaker Marcel Rodriguez, as well as a 16-page catalog of his life and work.

The exhibit will be on view through Aug. 1 and is included with the cost of $2 general admission to the Brownsville Heritage Museum. Admission is free for BHA members.

For more information on programs and exhibits, call (956) 541-5560 or go to www.brownsvillehistory.org.

Fathers in Public Service



Journalist Ron Whitlock interviews Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) and Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) about family life and serving the community.

SOURCE: Ron Whitlock Reports

Commissioners' Court to Hear Presentation on County's Hurricane Preparedness Plan Tuesday


Cameron County Commissioners’ Court will hold a 3:30 p.m. Special Workshop Tuesday on the following item of county-wide interest:

-The Cameron County Judge’s Division of Emergency Management will deliver a presentation on Hurricane Preparedness. (Johnny Cavazos)

Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. National weather experts anticipate 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic during that time. Eight of the storms are predicted to become hurricanes, and of those eight, four are expected to develop into major hurricanes.

More stats:

-A 69 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2008 (the long-term average probability is 52 percent);
-A 45 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent); and
-A 44 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30 percent).

For the Cameron County Emergency Management Web site, click here.

Happy Father's Day

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Adela Garza Wins TSC Runoff

UPDATE: These were the final numbers as provided to me Saturday. They will remain until I can verify again.

-Melissa



TSC Board, Place 1 Runoffs Final Numbers (9 p.m.):

Adela Garza: 1,143 (54 percent)
Jaime Silva: 973 (46 percent)

Texas Southmost College Run-off Election Results

As of 8 p.m. today with 19 of 38 precincts reporting and partial mail-in ballots:

Adela Garza: 784
Jaime Silva: 734

----------------------------------------------------

Early-voting numbers in only as of 7:15 p.m. today for TSC Board Place 1:

Adela Garza: 507
Jaime Silva: 594

Friday, June 13, 2008

Commissioner Cisneros Cleared of Tampering with County Time Sheets

UPDATED TO REFLECT DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S PRESS RELEASE


Action 4 News is reporting that City Commissioner Carlos Cisneros, who was recently accused of falsifying his time sheets as an employee of County Commissioner John Wood, has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

According to KGBT, "a Cameron County grand jury found no proof to indicate (SIC) Cisneros in court Thursday afternoon."

Cisneros was elated about the news.

"I think my reputation is good," he told a KGBT reporter. "It didn't bring me down at all...because I'm real secure with that and I'm just excited to have been cleared through the grand jury."

For the news report, click here.

-------------------------------------------------------
Cameron County District Attorney's Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT:

Jason E. Moody

Public Information Officer

Phone: (956) 550-1447

jason.moody@co.cameron.tx.us



Grand Jury No Bills Cameron County Administrative Assistant Carlos A. Cisneros
Brownsville, Texas – June 13, 2008 – The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office announces today that a grand jury no billed Cameron County Administrative Assistant Carlos A. Cisneros of Brownsville, Texas of tampering with government records.

No billed indicates that the grand jury found there was insufficient probable cause with no evidence to harm or defraud the county to formally charge and indict Cisneros. He was allegedly submitting fraudulent hourly time sheets as a county employee.

This case was turned over to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office by Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos, CPA. After receiving this case, it was then presented to the grand jury of the 107th Judicial District Court on the charge of tampering with governmental records. After meeting on Wednesday, June11, the grand jury no billed this case.

As a salaried employee, Cisneros is considered exempt under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) and therefore is not required to submit hourly time sheets.

For more information, contact the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office at (956) 544-0849.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Noche de Peña Event to be Held June 17


You are invited to the next Noche de Peña lll at 7 p.m. at Galerîa 409.

The program, organized by Adrian Foncerrado will include:
Adam Neece - Classical Guitar
Juan de los Angees - Trovador
Skaracoles - Ska
Ensamble La Misiøn - World Music, Art Song

The event is free and contributions are welcome. Galerîa 409 is located at 409 E. 13th St. in historic, downtown Brownsville, between Elizabeth and Levee Streets, one block from the Gateway Bridge.

For information, call 956-455-3599.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Adela Garza: Why I'm Running for TSC Trustee


Let’s put the Students First!

I’m Adela Garza, candidate for the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees.

I am running for Place 1 Trustee to bring my years of experience as the President of the Board of Trustees of the LFCISD, my dedication and fresh perpective to our College leadership.

Let’s shift the focus back to the students! Current dropout rates are unacceptable. Our highest priority must be to ensure each and every student who enrolls will graduate, and to make this a reality our money must be directed towards the students’ needs.

As Trustee, I will work to invest in high-caliber professors, qualified assistants, local scholarship development, expanding the course schedule and improving availability, giving student real value for the tuition … the foundation of a valuable education.

Re: dual enrollment, it is a great benefit to the students of our community. It costs students 5 dollars to enroll at TSC, yet they receive full university credit at a great savings. High school students can take courses at TSC, begin collecting college credits and become practically a college sophomore before they transfer to UTB or elsewhere.

One issue I plan to address if elected is the issue of local taxation. We are being taxed twice. Paying high taxes every year, and then tuition at one of the highest tuition rates in the state, is simply not fair, particularly in one of the poorest counties in the nation. Changes will require renegotiating the partnership to modify the taxing situation.

To Patricia A: stats on dual enrollment are not easy to find as enrollment and graduation numbers for UTB/TSC are combined in the University's report to the State, due to the partnership. You can see the figures here:
http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=University+of+Texas+at+Brownsville&s=all&l=3+5+13&id=229072

I believe that together we can bring positive change.

Let’s give our students the education, support, and university experience they deserve!

I am asking for your vote one more time. Please don’t forget to vote in the run-off.

Last chance to vote early! TODAY and tomorrow (Tuesday) 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

Early voting locations
Brownsville : Brownsville Public Library, Courthouse Elections Office, Christ the King Church , UTB/TSC, and the Brownsville Navigation District Office
Port Isabel/ South Padre: Benny Ochoa III Annex Bldg (Port Isabel)
Los Fresnos: The early voting location for Los Fresnos has changed. Early voters please go to Resaca Middle School.

For more information please see my website www.AdelaGarza.com and I'd love to hear your questions on my blog!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

UT System Releases 2007-08 Accountability Report for UT Brownsville


Although the University of Texas at Brownsville continues to increase its enrollment and graduation rates, long-standing issues continue to exist, according to the UT System’s 2007-08 Accountability Report released last month.

Below are some highlights from the report. For the full report, click here.

Achievements, But …
According to Diverse Issues in Higher Education, UTB ranked 8th in number of baccalaureate degrees awarded to Hispanic students in mathematics and statistics.

UTB also ranks 6th nationally in master’s degrees in mathematics and 16th in master’s degrees in English Language and Literature awarded to Hispanic students.

In fall 2007, UT Brownsville enrolled 17,214 students, an all-time record enrollment. Over the past five years, the campus has experienced rapid growth, with an enrollment increase of 63 percent. The three colleges and three schools of UT Brownsville educate more than 16,000 undergraduates and nearly 900 graduate students.

However, more than 65 percent of all undergraduate students are enrolled part-time – the highest percentage compared to its peers. And, a substantial proportion of this headcount enrollment growth was the result of a dual-enrollment program allowing high school students to complete college credit courses. Beginning in fall 2005, the dual-enrollment program expanded significantly and dual-enrolled high school students accounted for 14.8 percent of the total headcount enrollment. By fall 2007, the dual enrolled students accounted for 33.9 percent of the total headcount.

More than 90 percent of UT Brownsville students come from Cameron County, among the nation’s 100 poorest counties with a per capita income is $10,960. Ninety-one percent of students are Hispanic, mirroring the ethnic composition of the community. Seventy percent of full-time undergraduates and 65 percent of part-time undergraduate students receive need-based financial aid.

From 2003 to 2007, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded increased by 50 percent to 922 degrees and the number of master’s degrees increased by 16 percent to 179.

In fall 2007, 106 first-time undergraduates were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, more than 8 percent of the total top 10 percent cohort in Texas.

Graduation and Persistence Rates
UT Brownsville’s first-year retention rate of 69 percent is third highest among its peer institutions, and is approaching the campus’s goal for 2010 of 70 percent.

However its six-year graduation rate, 18 percent, is the second lowest among this group of institutions.

The number of baccaulaureate degrees awarded increased by 50.4 percent from 2003 to 2007 to 922. UT Brownsville contributes significantly to the production of baccalaureate degrees in mathematics, ranking eighth nationally in numbers of baccalaureate degrees awarded to Hispanic students in mathematics and statistics.

Student Experience
Comparing UT Brownsville with peers on three indicators from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) provides an overview of how seniors at UT Brownsville viewed their educational experience. Based on the responses of seniors in 2007, 82 percent of UT Brownsville students evaluated their educational experience as good or excellent, and 82 percent of seniors said they would attend the institution again, equal to national peers.

However, academic advising was viewed less positively at UT Brownsville. Sixty-three percent of UT Brownsville seniors responded that academic advising was good or excellent, compared with 71 percent of students at peer institutions.

Faculty
Overall, UT Brownsville added a total of 205 faculty, an increase of 39 percent. The full-time equivalent faculty increased from 378 to 504, a 33.3 percent increase over the same time period. Between 2003 and 2007, tenure-track faculty increased by 61 percent to 142.

However, compared with peers, nationally and in the 10 most populous states for the 2007-08 academic year, faculty salaries at UT Brownsville were generally lower than the average at all ranks.

Philanthropy
From 2003 to 2007, the value of UT Brownsville’s endowments has increased by 88 percent from $3.9 million $7.3 million. The 2007 value of its endowments translates into $831 per FTE student and $14,772 per FTE faculty. Donor support declined from $1.3 million to $1 million; not unusual for a young institution in UT Brownsville’s economic setting.

SOURCE: UT System

Officials Speak on Hurricane Preparedness



Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., Lucio’s Chief of Staff Paul Cowen, Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, and Cameron County Emergency Management Coordinator Johnny Cavazos speak with long-time journalist Ron Whitlock on hurricane preparedness.

Additional info:

Valley Freedom Newspapers Hurricane Preparation Guide
Cameron County Emergency Management

SOURCE: Ron Whitlock Reports

PUB to Hold Workshop Monday on Brownsville-Matamoros Weir and Reservoir Project

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board will hear a status report on the Brownsville-Matamoros Weir and Reservoir Project at a 5 p.m. workshop.

The workshop will be held at the PUB Administration building, and the board’s regular meeting will follow at 5:30 p.m.

In October, the City Commission unanimously passed a resolution supporting the weir project as an option to the proposed border fence. The Commission suggested that it would meet the requirements of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

Other agenda items of interest include:

Discussion and approval to update a portion of the Brownsville Public Utilities Board Electric, Water, and Wastewater Service Policy, General Rules and Regulations. –J. Bruciak

For the full agenda, click here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Good Luck, Jose


I'd like to wish (former) Brownsville Herald cops reporter Jose Borjon the best of luck in his new endeavor. Today was Jose's last day at The Herald. He will begin a new job Monday at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College while working on his master's degree.

Leaving the newsroom is a tough choice when ink runs through your veins. All the best, Jose.

Pictured with me are Jose Borjon (left) and another former Herald cops reporter, Sergio Chapa, at Jose's good-bye bash this evening.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BTA Podcast: On the Fence - TBC Chair, Mayor Foster On Lawsuit Against DHS Border Fence


In the first episode of the podcast series, "On the Fence: Varied Perspectives on the US/Mexico Border Fence" Border Trade Alliance (BTA) Policy and Projects Coordinator, Diana Lauritson, interviews the Honorable Mayor Chad Foster of Eagle Pass, Chair of the Texas Border Coalition (TBC), about the TBC lawsuit against DHS. Mayor Foster proposes a host of community specific, technological, staffing, and other alternatives that TBC asserts would be a more effective and efficient use of resources than DHS's current approach to building a one-size fits all physical barrier on the US-Mexico Border of Texas.

Listen to the BTA Podcast...

SOURCE: Border Trade Alliance Monthly Newsletter

BTA Podcast: Sen. Cornyn and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez on Border Delay Efforts


U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Dept. of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez speak about efforts being made to combat delays at land ports of entry in part two of the addresses from the recent Border Trade Alliance (BTA) International Conference in Washington, D.C. on Border Wait-Times. Senator Cornyn discusses steps that must be taken to ensure the efficient flow of legitimate trade and travel, while balancing physical security with economic security, as well as his recent legislation Emergency Port of Entry Personnel and Infrastructure Funding Act of 2007 that addresses several critical areas contributing to border delays. Secretary Gutierrez discusses the importance of efforts that the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SSP) and his office are making to ensure North American Competitiveness and what must be done to mitigate congestion at our borders.

Listen to the BTA Podcast...

SOURCE: Border Trade Alliance Monthly Newsletter

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?


This is a photo of my son, Sammy, who didn't want to eat his food at a local eatery, but surely wanted to eat the "green jiggly" (jello). He threw a tantrum when I told him he had to first eat his dinner. I took him to the restroom, gave his a stern scolding, and the end result was this photo of him giving his noodles the stare down.

A family filed suit today against Cameron County Justice of the Peace Gustavo Garza for ordering them to paddle their teenage daughter in court or be issued a hefty fine for her truancy.

To spank, or not to spank? A touchy subject, indeed.

I remember my principal giving me a paddling in the first grade. The offense: throwing wet paper balls at the ceiling of the girls bathroom (I found it cool that they got stuck up there). The paddle even had holes for swifter strikes, but at least I got to sign it. Was the punishment effective? Not really.

In third grade, I got in trouble for kicking a boy in the you-know-where after he stole all the pencils from my desk. My teacher drew a circle on the chalkboard and made me stick my nose within the circle. The problem was that the circle was placed too low on the chalkboard, so I suddenly became comic relief for the class with my hiney sticking in the air.

In fourth grade, I was repeatedly hit on the hand with a ruler by Mrs. George for talking way too much in class.

And, my parents didn't quite spare the belt, either.

I've also swatted my kiddos on the behind a few times, but when they started laughing at my weak attempts at discipline, and when my son started chasing me around laughing while trying to swat me back, I knew my spanking them didn't work. I've since found another very effective form of discipline.

Ultimately, I believe it's up to the parents to decide whether to give spankings to their child. A judge has no place ordering parents to do such and in public no less.

I will admit, though, that child probably needed a good spanking if she's in court for truancy. The parents also share the blame for allowing the problem to escalate to the point of a court visit.

The Gulf of Shrimp and Oil



Is there any hope for saving the jobs in the Gulf Coast shrimping industry, which is home to the world's largest shrimping fleet? With the severe decline in shrimping, Port Isabel, Texas, seems to have found new hope in being the closest deep-water port to a new Gulf of Mexico oil field nicknamed the Great White. This new find has the potential to offset future oil prices and lost jobs in the shrimping industry.

Source: Ron Whitlock Reports

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Team Obama


Time to take back the White House ...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Olde School Bloggin'


Found this treasure in a Boulder City antique store ...



I'm away on a week-long business trip ... here's a cool sign I came across while waiting to board a boat on Lake Mead.


~Melly