bloggin' all things brownsville

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


I hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving! Be safe and enjoy your holiday with your family and friends! Life is good, and we have much to be grateful for.


God Bless!

~Melissa

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rep. Lucio Files Bills Supporting Veterans

State Representative Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) filed bills today in support of Texas veterans. These two bills will address issues related to educational and business opportunities for veterans.

"This session, the Legislature has the opportunity to pass legislation that will greatly impact the lives of veterans in our state" Lucio said. "These bills will go a long way in ensuring that our veterans have every opportunity to be successful in our troubled economy."

Rep. Lucio, who has long been a supporter of veteran's rights and assistance programs, will be beginning his second term as a State Representative for District 38. Last session, he authored HB 1106, which would have added service-disabled veterans to the list of groups eligible for the Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program. This state program gives preference in state contracting to businesses owned by women and minorities. This bill would have added businesses owned by service-disabled veterans to this list.

"Today, I once again filed HB 268 that would add service-disabled veterans to the HUB program," Lucio said. "In our tough economic times, it can be hard for all small businesses to compete in the marketplace. This bill would ensure that one of the most important group of Texans, our veterans, will have all of the opportunities and information necessary to do business with the State."

Rep. Lucio also filed a bill that would offer free-elective college credit to students who have served our country in the military. HB 269 will provide up to 12 hours of free-elective credit hours to veterans attending college. It also specifies that military service will meet any kinesiology requirements imposed by any university.

"Higher education is vital for success in our modern economy," he said. "This bill recognizes the educational value of the occupational specialty and training a veteran receives while in the military. Providing an incentive and support for veterans who pursue a college education after returning from service is a great way to help them succeed as they assimilate back into civilian life."

SOURCE: Rep. Eddie Lucio III staff; for more info, call Charlie Leal at (512) 463-0606.

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UTB-TSC Hires Athletic Director

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will announce a new member of its team at today's "Meet the Scorpions Media Day."

Vernon Mummert, the new Director of Athletics, will be introduced at 3 p.m. at the Garza Gym Annex.

The UTB-TSC men’s soccer team, which will play in the NAIA National Tournament, will also be on hand to discuss preparations for the tournament.

Mummert succeeds Dan Huntley, the Director of Athletics from 2005-08, who accepted a position at Concordia University (Texas) in August. Mummert's hiring is contingent upon approval from The University of Texas System.

Mummert comes to UTB-TSC with 17 years experience as a Director of Athletics at three universities.

"I am very humbled to have been selected as UTB-TSC's next Athletic Director and honored to become part of the UTB-TSC family," Mummert said. "I was very impressed with the warm hospitality that I have received. This university is blessed with an administration that truly cares about making a difference in student's lives. I was very impressed with the administration's passion and commitment to making the UTB-TSC four-year college experience one that its graduates treasure for a lifetime.

The UTB-TSC administration is equally to have someone of Mummert's caliber in the Scorpion family.

"We are happy to have someone with Vernon's experience to lead our athletics program," Dr. Vince Solis, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs said. "His expertise in all facets of an athletics program will be very beneficial to us as we continue to grow our athletics program."

Mummert served as the Director of Athletics and Physical Education from 1998 to 2008 at Wabash College (Ind.). Under Mummert's direction, the Wabash athletics program joined the North Coast Athletic Conference in 1999.

Mummert was instrumental in the planning and construction of numerous athletics facility updates at Wabash, including the $20 million Allen Center and the $750,000 outdoor track.

The Wabash athletics operating budget increased significantly in Mummert's term, addressing budgetary equity, transportation, recruitment and professional development for coaches and assistants. A leader in the NCAC, Mummert has served on numerous committees, including a recent two-year term as the Chairman of the Athletics Directors.

Mummert will be a responsible for a successful athletics program that has six sports with its eyes on future growth.

"I have inherited an incredibly young and talented coaching staff with a tremendous future," Mummert said. "With budgetary support, fundraising, and mentoring, we could be looking at a great deal of NAIA tournament exposure."

Mummert is also excited about the potential growth for new facilities and programs.

"That was certainly a major attraction for me along with warmth and attractiveness of this campus. I feel quite fortunate to have arrived here at an exciting time and look forward to working with the university administration in making UTB-TSC become one of the top universities in the southwest.

From 1994 to 1998, Mummert served as the Director of Athletics at Yavapai College (Ariz.), and was Director of Athletics from 1991 to 1994 at Drew University (N.J.)

He held other positions at Drew University (N.J.), from 1977 to 1991.

Mummert received the 2007-08 NCAA Division III-Central Zone AstroTurf Athletic Director of the Year Award (ADOY) Award at the 2008 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention.

Mummert received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Education Administration degrees from McDaniel College (Md.).
SOURCE: UTB-TSC Sports Information, Office of Intercollegiate Athletics

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BISD Board to Discuss Superintendent's Evaluation, Again

The BISD Board of Trustees, with its new board members, will discuss the superintendent’s evaluation at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regular meeting at the Administration Building.

Tuesday’s agenda reflects the following under Closed Meeting, Personnel Matters:

71. Superintendent’s Evaluation. (Board Member Request); and

71a. Discussion, consideration and possible action-Superintendent’s Evaluation. (Board
Member Request)


The BISD Board had already discussed Superintendent Hector Gonzales’s Annual Review and Summative Evaluation at its Sept. 23 meeting, and unanimously approved a $20,000 salary increase for meeting his "performance benchmarks."

Why another evaluation?

Heck. I don't know if he should stay or go, but it does seem unfair for newly elected board members to evaluate a BISD administrator after having been on board just a few weeks.

Something’s afoot, folks.

For the full agenda, click here.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

UTB-TSC, Wells Fargo Announce Business Plan Competition


People who have ideas for starting and owning a business are invited to enter the first Rio Grande Valley Business Plan Competition sponsored by The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and Wells Fargo.

Contestants must submit an intent-to-compete form by Friday, Dec. 12.

“Not only will the competition highlight the caliber of innovation that exists in the Valley, but it will help change the perception that we are more than a region of skilled labor,” said Alex Meade, competition coordinator at the International Innovation Center based at the International Technology, Education and Commerce Center.

The competition takes place Tuesday, March 3 and Wednesday, March 4. It intends to spark innovative ideas by Valley residents interested in owning a business. The competition will also provide forums to help participants develop skills to present their ventures to investors and receive advice.

“Although a key part of this competition is creating innovative ideas, it doesn’t mean they have to be technological,” said John Sossi, a manager of Workforce Training and Continuing Education at the International Innovation Center.

Participants may enter as a team. Although there is no size limit, only five people may present the team’s proposed plan. The competition will consist of two rounds where people will present written business plans and answer questions for five judges.

The winning team can win up to $7,000 to start up their proposed business anywhere in the Valley. Other finalists will receive an in-kind award, which includes trainings to assist in the development of their businesses. For more information, call 882-4119 or visit http://blue.utb.edu/wtce/rgvbusinessplan/index.html


Alex Meade
International Trade Center
International Innovation Center
University of Texas at Brownsville
and Texas Southmost College
301 Mexico Boulevard, Suite F-6
Brownsville, Texas 78520
Tel: 956/882-4233
Fax: 956/882-4227


Monday, November 10, 2008

SPI Dune Restoration Volunteer Day Saturday



Dune Restoration Volunteer Day


Please join the Town of South Padre Island, The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and the Artist Boat in their efforts to re-vegetate sand dunes affected by Hurricane Ike.

Saturday, Nov. 15

9 a.m.-Noon
Beach Access # 21 Good Hope Circle
(E. Cora Lee Drive and Gulf Blvd.)

For more information,

contact Nicole Ekstrom

at (956) 299-0907 or nekstrom@artistboat.org.

MALC to Hold Border Wall Hearing Thursday


The Mexican American Legislative Caucus-Texas House of Representatives (MALC) will hold a hearing at 8 a.m. Thursday regarding the construction of a wall along the Texas-Mexico border.

The hearing will be held in the House Appropriations room, E1.032, in the Capitol Extension in Austin, Texas.

Officials from various border communities, as well as private citizens and public organizations, will offer testimony to a panel of MALC members. This hearing will allow MALC members to gain further insight regarding the effects of a border wall on the economy, environment, and private rights of Texans living along the Texas-Mexico border.

“The Texas border with Mexico thrives due to its close relationship with its neighbor to the South; it is imperative that we understand how a border wall would affect Texas’ relationship with Mexico,” said Representative Eddie Lucio III, the Chair for the hearing.

The border wall directly impacts South Texas communities. Raising awareness of how federal legislation affects Texan constituents is essential to ensuring that local rights and concerns are not overlooked at the national level. It is imperative that this hearing open dialogue that leads the Federal Government to integrate local and state input when implementing policy affecting Texas border communities.

“Every community that lines the Rio Grande River poses distinct challenges. We must explore how a border wall would address each unique area of the Texas border,” emphasized Representative Pete Gallego, MALC Chairman.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus—Texas House of Representatives (MALC) is a leader in Latino issues in the State of Texas. Founded in 1973, MALC is a 501(c)(6) non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of 43 members of the Texas House of Representatives dedicated to addressing the issues that concern Latinos across the State of Texas.

SOURCE: MALC Press Release

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mayor Seeks Volunteers for PAWS

Below was submitted by Mayor Pat Ahumada:

PAWS Committee meets the first Friday of the month at Pet Smart, at 6:00 p.m. We need serious and consistent volunteers to help with adoptathons at the Flea Market and Pet Smart on weekends. We also need those who are willing and can foster pets that are scheduled to be euthanized.

The Brownsville Mayor's and PAWS Motorcycle Tour against the "inhumane treatment of animals" will be leaving Friday, November 7, 2008 betweeen 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. (stet) to Laredo, Texas and then will join Governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores in Nuevo Laredo on November 8, 2008 on a tour from Nuevo Laredo to Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

There will be free banquets, live entertainment with well known pop stars and comedians and there will have raffles giving away motorcyles to some seven lucky participants. Everyone who rides a motorcycle is welcome to join this motorcycle rally. I will be taking a motor home (RV) as a base and we will have a support team escorting us to and from the rally. There is group rates for hotel rooms at Laredo, Texas and there will be facilities to camp out and we will transport your sleeping bag.

There will be free shirts commemorating the rally, along with patches until we run out. You can pre register at http://motorally2008.tamaulipas.gob.mx.

For more information, please contact Judge Ben Neece at ben@benneece.com or at 956/459-9263, or myself at ahumadapat@aol.com or 956/543-3695. A $10.00 donation, per rider, to help offset costs is appreciated.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cameron County Bar Association Releases Judicial 2008 Poll Results

The Cameron County Bar Association completed its 2008 judicial evaluation poll to inquire into the performance of the judges sitting and regularly holding court in Cameron County. The poll reflects opinions on the administration of the judicial business of their respective Courts.

The Cameron County Bar Association conducts this poll every year that any County Court at Law or District Court Judicial position in Cameron County is up for re-election. The poll was taken from Oct. 6-21 and conducted among the 334 active members of the Cameron County Bar Association.

For information about membership and about the organization, visit www.cameroncountybar.org.

For the 2008 Poll, click here.

Contractor to Foot Bill for Defects in Sports Park's Softball Fields


The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation Board has one less high-dollar change order to worry about for the Sports Park.

The BCIC Board discussed last month holding someone accountable for the Park's defected softball fields that have already resulted in erosion and drainage problems.

The tab for fixing the problem: About $100,000.

However, the Board didn't approve a change order at its meeting today with the Park's contractor, SpawGlass, stepping up to the plate to foot the bill.

According to The Brownsville Herald, "City Parks Recreation Director Skip Keller said that the solution to erosion problems would be to place grass on the slopes and redo the sprinkler system to water the additional grass."

Herald archives also reflect that costs for the Sports Park, so far, are as follows: Phase I-$24.3 million; and Phase II-an estimated $20 million.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes. You. Can. President-elect Barack Obama.

Believing in the Political Process


“Down here, a graduation from college is a moment of celebration and pride. Lately, I have discovered that same pride from those who have voted for the first time.”
-Michael Siefert
Priest at San Felipe de Jesus,
a Roman Catholic church he helped found in Cameron Park


The elections provide an opportunity to voice our hopes and aspirations. On Election Day 2008, four essayists explore their beliefs in the democratic process — from finding the power of the vote to seeking common ground in a divisive political climate.

Listen to Michael Siefert's essay on NPR. Click here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Commissioner Atkinson Responds to Mayor's Comments


Commissioner Charlie Atkinson submitted this response to Mayor Pat Ahumada's comments about today's City Commission meeting. The Mayor's comments were previously posted on BATB.

-Melissa

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

Hey Pat,

I don't want P.U.B. to give back the 18 million. I just don't want the PUB rate payer to keep paying towards a project that had no light at the end of the tunnel. Why not mention that taxpayer money and ratepayer money has accounted for over 7 million dollars in consultant fees, lawyer fees, and studies. It is like the bridge fiasco. You know as well as I do that this project will not happen until maybe after 2040 if and when we run out of water.

And with the desalination plant, we may never run out of water. We need to put those 18 million dollars toward expanding our desalination plant. Thats a for sure thing. No politics, just the plain truth.

As far as the border wall, you are seriously mistaken. No one wants the wall but even El Paso, where the border coalition started, has agreed to construct the wall. They lost their lawsuit.

Stop spinning the issues. Stop being a rogue mayor who thinks he can do it all by himself.

Lastly, it wasn't until recently that it was brought up to our attention that the city charter superceded the Roberts rules of order. The city attorney or you claim has always been there for you, and knows the city charter, could of stood up for you but didn't. He never told me that it was wrong to envoke the Roberts rules of order and keep you from voting. You should vote so people know exactly how you stand. You discuss and speeak out on the issues anyway and yet you are able to tell people you dont have a position because you are unable to vote. You are able to waffle your stance and that is wrong.

"The baseball stadium is a good idea and the city would benefit" as said by Jim Goza. The problem now is that the contract was not read right and if it weren't for Mr. Sossi, who stepped in to interpret the contract for the commission, we wouldn't have caught the flaws that the contract has. Mr. Sossi stepped up and showed us the discrepancies the contract had. Jim didn't catch those discrepancies. It looks now that based on our new findings, it maybe isn't a good idea to put the ball stadium on alton gloor.

I read your comments and it is you that is blinded by your beliefs that we are against you. Its the way you present things with your rough tactics that make everyone run from you. Its kinda like all the republican candidates, to include McCain, running from Bush and telling him to stay away from endorsing their elections. If you want to work with me, be humble and sincere.

You once told me that you were the quarterback and I would have to be a blocker and that you will make us look good. Well, you never stopped to realize that I had my own goals for a better Brownsville and had great ideas myself which you were unwilling to hear. When you argued with Comm. Garza and I tried to get you all together you told me never to get you together with any one because you were not willing to change, you weren't willing to work with commissioners, and that you didn't need anyone. Those were your words and it has caused the mess you are in. I respect the position of Mayor.

You disrespect the position of a commissioner. This isn't Mexico where commissioners are not put in a higher regard. You are one vote just like me. Get over your power trip and start being humble. It is never too late. Fight the special interests and not me.

I still think you were the better choice than Ernie. Its not saying much but its something.

Commissioner Atkinson

City of Brownsville Revamps Web site


Check out the new design for the City of Brownsville Web site.

Click here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mayor Comments on Monday's City Commission Agenda

Below are two separate comments submitted by Mayor Pat Ahumada on Monday's City Commission agenda concerning his right to vote at meetings and the city attorney agenda items.

Melissa

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

Comment submitted on the mayor's voting power at meetings:

It has always been my opinion that the City Commission over stepped its bounds when they passed Robert's Rules of Order with the intent to silence the mayor and remove his ability to make motions and vote. This was a vindictive way to control the mayor's position, because they all want to be mayor's.

Sometime back, I had asked the City Attorney to draft letter requesting an Attorney General Opinion on the matter, because I felt then and do now that the commisison was violating my civil rights and denying the citizens of Brownsville their voice on the commission table, along with disenfranchising those citizens who voted for the mayor to represent their best interest.

Politics has and is the norm, which has lost its way as seen by the commissioner's past and present actions. They have no respect for the office of mayor and constantly are trying to remove me as the presiding officer and / or constantly going against everything and anything that is proposed by the mayor for the betterment of this community.

This commisison says one thing and does another, they claim to be against the wall, but do everything to undermine the mayor's efforts to stop the wall.
All the mayors and commissioners from El Paso and Brownsville are united, with the exception of the Brownsville City Commisison to fight the Wall and sue the federal government, but this city commisison has opted to go on their own and hire Willette as the attorney to represent the city on the Wall, when the TBC has an attorney that filed the law suit and is not charing the city any money, but they prefer to spend tax payers money then to do what all the other cities along the border are doing in a united way to fight the fence.

They threaten to kill the weir project by returning $18 million dollars to the federal government granted to the City of Brownsville. Who has ever returned money to the federal government? By 2040 Brownsville will run out of water. Why kill a project that is going to provide additiional water to meet our future growth and needs?

Another example of their refusal to listen is the Baseball Stadium they tentatively approved against the advice I gave them, which was not to do so due to the fact that the local and national economy is in a recession, Brownsville has dipped into its' reserves for the past two years to balance the budget, property evaluations will be most likely dropping next year, which will result in less revenue to the city, sales taxes are dropping causing the same affect and bridge crossings are also dropping, along with the peso devaluing. What does all this mean? Brownsville cannot afford to partner up with private entities on risky ventures such as a baseball stadium that we will most likely have to pay for due to economic forecasts.

There is more that I can say where the commission has cost the city enormous amounts of money because they will not listen, but hopefully this next election cycle the voters will elect people who will make the city the agenda and are willing to work with the mayor for the benefit of our community.

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


Concerning the city attorney agenda item on his future employment:

All this is smoke for good old boy deals. In this instance, the city commission had been sending legal work to Sossi for a long time and now they want to reward him with Goza's head and making him the replacement.

They wanted to do this a year ago, but I would not go along with it. At that time, they wanted to hire Moises Salas as pay back to another close friend to the commisisoners and now it is Sossi.

Firing and replacing Goza is up to the City Commisison, but for cutting deals to satisfy cronies is not the right reason.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mayor's Right to Vote at Meetings Revisited


As mentioned previously on BATB, the Charter Review Committee voted to amend Section 12 of Article V concerning the mayor's right to vote at meetings. The City Commission voted months ago to follow Robert's Rules of Order which subsequently removed the mayor's right to vote.

Now, the City Commission will revisit its decision at Monday's meeting and possibly return that right to the mayor.

Under Article V, the Charter Review Committee had recently discussed the following:

Section 11. Duties of mayor. The mayor of the City shall be the presiding officer of the commission, except that in his absence a mayor pro-tempore may be chosen. He shall be entitled to vote and make motions and seconds as a member of the commission; sign all bonds; be the official head of the city, and exercise all powers and perform all duties imposed upon him by this Charter and by the Ordinances of the city. [Ord. No. 93-1270, Prop. 6, dated 11-16-1993]

Section 12. Meeting of the commission.All meetings of the City Commission shall be noticed and conducted as provided by applicable Texas law. Roberts Rules of Order may be the procedural guideline for the conduct and protocol of all city commission meetings if adopted by the commission unless if (sic) conflicts with city ordinances or the laws of Texas. [Ord. no. 2005-1440, Prop. #7, dated 08-10-2005 & Res. No. 2005-044, Prop. #7, dated 11-16-2005]


The City Commission majority did vote months ago to adopt Robert's Rules of Order as a “procedural guideline” as denoted in Article V, Section 12.

However, the Charter Review Committee majority felt that ordinances do not supersede the City Charter. And, an obvious conflict exists between Sections 11 and 12.

Therefore, the Committee majority recommended that Section 12 be amended to reflect that Robert's Rules of Order may be adopted by the commission unless it conflicts with city ordinances, the law of Texas and the CITY CHARTER. This was also done not only to clarify the Mayor’s right to vote at meetings as denoted in Article V, Section 12, but to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and/or votes, including the Mayor.

Monday's City Commission agenda item states:

Consideration and ACTION to amend procedural rules to permit the Mayor to vote on all City agenda items. (Commissioners C. Atkinson/L. T. Garza)