Saturday, December 31, 2005

Stadium For Sale?

The Edinburg Roadrunners forget to pay their rent, and the city kicks them out of the stadium. Meanwhile, what will Edinburg do with that facility? According to Action 4 Sports Director Clay Williams, they want to secretly sell it:
According to depositions given by Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia and City Manager Wendy Sturgis-Smith and obtained by Action 4 Sports, the lease the city signed with the new United Baseball League gives the UBL an option to buy the stadium for $5.31 million. ...

The court documents obtained by Action 4 Sports indicate the push to sell the stadium was never made public by the city, and Edinburg made no attempt to garner other bids.

The documents also indicate the city also never had the stadium appraised for market value, and never received any financial disclosures from the new United Baseball League to see whether they have the werewithal to actually buy it.
That paperwork comes from the Roadrunners' lawsuit, which claims Edinburg violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by not posting its April 19 action to terminate the 'Runners lease.

Whatever the outcome of this legal dispute, fans and taxpayers are sure to suffer.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Here I Am ...

I thought the hurricane season for 2005 ended a month ago.

But Tropical Storm Zeta becomes the latest named storm, popping up in the eastern Atlantic.

And in case you were wondering, the headline is a reference to an '80s metal song.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Common Sense: No Border Fence

Texas Sen. John Cornyn tells local media that building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border is a "19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem."

Damn right. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this actrocity earlier this month, provoking outrage in this nation and south of the border. Hopefully the Senate will put the brakes on this hare-brained scheme.

We need immigration reform, but rebuilding the Berlin Wall only plays to the fears of xenophobes.

Vamos McAliendo

It's no secret to Valley residents, but the rest of Texas learns that La Plaza Mall in McAllen is a prime destination for Mexican shoppers -- it's even turned into a phrase. From the Houston Chronicle:

There are no celebrities or upscale shopping districts. Yet, La Plaza Mall, which is half the size of Houston's Galleria, is experiencing a fashion retail boom mostly by drawing Mexican shoppers across the U.S. border. ...

In fact, people along the border have created a Spanish phrase, vamos McAliendo ("let's go shopping in McAllen"), to refer to the border shopping experience.

Still, as a man, I don't like going to the mall. It's just a guy thing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

"Green Limes"

Five years ago, retired Houston lawyer Joe Ray Blalack read an article in the San Antonio Express-News about Spanish-language radio station KROM's segment in which readers phone in Border Patrol sightings from around the city.

They refer to the Border Patrol agents as limones verdes (green limes) because "They are green and they will sour your whole day," one station employee told the Express-News back in 2000.

Now, thanks to Blalack's whining, the station gets static from the FCC:
... Though he doesn't expect the FCC to pull the station's license, he's confident that it will issue a hefty fine, which should put other Spanish-language broadcasters on notice: There's nothing funny about meddling with the work of federal officers.

Wrong, mister. It's our God-given right as Americans to make fun of federal officers. Besides, the paper reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn't find any criminal wrongdoing by the station. And furthermore:
Mike Barón, who's in charge of the [Border Patrol} agency's San Antonio operation, said he has heard the reports plenty of times, concluding that they present more of a logistical nuisance than a strategic threat.

"It's just one of those things we just have to deal with," he said. "It hasn't impacted our work much. We've found ways to circumvent it — we'll just go up the road."

So lighten up, folks. We're getting too paranoid about "security matters." If we can't make light of the Border Patrol or any other federal agency, we're that much closer to a dictatorship.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, y'all


Stop worrying about the presents you bought or didn't buy and just enjoy your time with friends and/or family.

For those who have to work today, you have my sympathy. Remember, some people remain a lot worse off than you and I.

So to quote Robert Earl Keen:
Hallelujah, everybody say “cheese”
Merry Christmas from the family

Feliz Navidad.


The Houston Chronicle looks into the politiquera system in Hidalgo County, examining the system that led to last week's voter fraud indictments.

My favorite part of the Chronicle story: Texas Ranger Israel Pacheco says that because Hidalgo County DA Rene Guerra didn't ask for help from the Texas Attorney General's office quickly enough, some vote thieves might escape justice. The district attorney, on the other hand, blames the lawman:
Guerra, who said he did not ask the grand jury to indict Brand Jr., faults the Texas Ranger investigation. He said the tape recording did not make it clear who was soliciting the fraudulent votes.

"I wish the FBI had kept the case, they would have controlled the recording and made it a better quality recording," Guerra said.

Of course, this isn't the first time the DA blamed cops for bungling a case.

In a related note, citizen watchdog group Futuro McAllen tells KURV 710 Talk Radio that the grand jury's findings are consistent with Futuro's findings about questionable mail-in ballots in the mayoral election.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Killing the Messenger

The most shocking thing about the indictment of 10 people in last summer's McAllen vote buying scandal (other than the fact that any indictments came down at all) has to be the fact that the man who hand-delivered the case to authorities gets hit with a charge himself.

The Texas Rangers asked Othal Brand Jr. to videotape the men offering to sell votes to his father's campaign. The younger Brand did so, handing the Rangers a slam-dunk case. Now he gets hit with a charge of unlawful buying and selling of balloting materials. He tells Action 4 news:
"I find it hard to believe that I've been indicted since I brought this issue to the court's attention. However, I feel the court system will prove my innocence."

No doubt, Brand Jr. is anxious to have his day in court, but it shouldn't have gone this far. There's the old saw that a district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he wants to, and you have to wonder whether the DA's office is "thanking" Brand for stirring up trouble with a high-profile videotape that even Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra couldn't ignore.

Texas Ranger Israel Pacheco told The Monitor his investigation never showed that Brand Jr. did anything wrong.
"It’s kind of setting a bad precedent when you indict the person that brought you the information and started this whole investigation in the first place."

Maybe that's the idea.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Big River

Last week the Dallas Morning News delivered a series on the Rio Grande, including this story about the river as it nears the Gulf of Mexico:
... The Rio Grande, which springs forth so gloriously from the mountains of Colorado, carried a stigma in South Texas that made it off-limits. Among the warnings ... "It's not clean. There's smugglers. There's illegal aliens. There's Border Patrol."

... people still relate to the river in ways sculpted largely from their personal experiences. For some it represents our country's protection from illegal immigrants, while for others, it is a vast source of wildlife and natural habitat too often ignored. For others still, the river means survival.

The DMN also offers a feature about the Los Ebanos ferry, the only hand-pulled ferry at any U.S. border crossing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Wrong Man to Know

The federal indictment of E-E school board president Aaron Luis Gonzalez on conspiracy and extortion charges also mentions the man accused of paying him in return for influcence: Daniel Rodriguez, whom The Monitor mentions is head of Conceptual Realities Inc. in McAllen.

What else has Daniel Rodriguez been up to? It seems he took who he thought was a salesman under his wing, "showing him the ropes in how to bribe public officials, according to court testimony..."

Rodriguez turns up in another case: the 2004 convictions of Santa Rosa ISD's superintendent and school board president for conspiracy, extortion and mail fraud. In that case, court testimony revealed:
The Vasquez brothers were also accused of accepting a free trip to Las Vegas from Daniel Rodriguez, the head of Conceptual Realities Inc., and meeting with Rodriguez and [undercover FBI special agent Osbaldo] Alaniz in New Orleans, where the group ate meals and attended strip clubs. ...

How many Valley school districts did business with Daniel Rodriguez and Conceptual realities? There must be lots of school board members sweating right now, because they know it's just a matter of time.

Fun and Games in Edcouch and Elsa

Elected officials in the Delta area set a shining example -- on how not to behave.

Edcouch-Elsa school board president Aaron Luis Gonzalez appears in federal court facing accusations that he accepted bribes in exchange for favorable treatment and official votes. It just so happens that Gonzalez's insurance business serves as the city of Elsa's insurance agent.

Speaking of Elsa, newly appointed city councilman Eduardo Casas gets arrested for DWI.

If these individuals have any sense of honor, they will step down from their positions. Don't expect that to happen, though. We can, however, expect the school official to name names. There will be a lot more school board members across the Valley who end up in federal court.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

See you in 2030

A federal judge slams former lawman Conrado Cantu with more than 24 years of prison time for his role in protecting criminals during his tenure as Cameron County sheriff.

Cantu's codefendants also receive sentences from U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle, who tells one of them "It’s incomprehensible … the moral choice you made ..."

Justice, my friends, is served.

ADDENDUM: Here's what the United States Attorney's office says about this case in a press release issued today:
“Mr. Cantu sold his badge and his office, and we will not tolerate that,” said United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg. “His long sentence of imprisonment fits the crime, for it is simply inexcusable for a law enforcement official to violate the very laws he is sworn to uphold.”

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Not the brightest person"

San Antonio Express-News reporter Lisa Marie Gomez examines disgraced former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu, who faces sentencing this week for protecting illegal drug shipments.

The money quote from Alberto Pullen, Cantu's Brownsville attorney:
Pullen said his client is "not the brightest person you'll ever meet," but he's not a bad person, either.

Yeah, right. Why do we keep electing morons like this to public office? Back in June, a federal grand jury indicted this weasel on ten counts including racketeering, extortion and conspiracy. A month later, he pleaded guilty to racketeering. He now faces up to life in prison.

Express-News editor Robert Rivard speculates:
Cantu's sentencing hearing will come six months after he agreed to plead guilty. That's quite a span of time. I'm not the only newspaperman who wonders what kind of song Cantu is singing now from his cell up Highway 77. It's a safe bet that it isn't one his favorite old standbys by Mexican idol Vicente Fernandez.

So did Cantu give up the names of some bigger fish to get off the hook? Maybe his prison sentence will give us a clue.

Friday, December 02, 2005

We got screwed

I should be studying, but I want to share this Washinton Post story which shows how top Justice Department officials had a hand in screwing over Texas voters during redistricting.
Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

The 73-page memo mentions Congressional districts 15 and 25, which of course ended up stretching from the border to Central Texas. And the report notes that it "received 335 comments against the proposed [redistricting] plan, none in favor of it."

So to sum it all up: The plan was unfair, the GOP knew it was unfair and rammed it down our throats anyway.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dazed and Confused

McAllen cops bust Hidalgo County District Clerk Omar Guerrero for DWI and marijuana possession.

Guerrero refuses a blood test -- just like anyone has the right to do -- citing a religion with ties to West Africa. "It's a religion where it doesn't permit me to give my blood alcohol," the politician tells NewsChannel 5.

Guerrero's interpretation of this religion sounds like something Homer Simpson would come up with.

No word yet on when District Attorney Rene Guerra will drop the charges.