Friday, July 29, 2011

Editorial: Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adama Assisting Private Club's Agenda of Self-Service?

COLUMN: Economics and Politics and CONFLICT OF INTEREST


Corpus Christi, TX – There is a general concern expressed to this publication that the City of Corpus Christi is being used by what has been described as a well-oiled, well-fueled power group that basically wants to take over the “money-making” functions of the city council. Related to this concern is the economic situation – which Mayor Joe Adame – promised to address responsibly is the topic of discussion among many a business and politico and generally involved resident activist.

“There are a few things coming down the pipe that are stamped ‘economic development’ and the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation might be trying to get credit, but the CCREDC (or “EDC” for short) has a record of procuring tax payer dollars for their own private agenda and getting inside info to ensure the success of the interests of their private membership. It is basically a private corporation run for the most part by public dollars. They have not brought in any major development in most of their years of experience yet how do they justify getting public dollars? Recently a new plastic company from Italy was referred to this area by the state – in an attempt for it to settle here, but it is not yet a done deal. It is still involved in sensitive negotiations,” a local insider shared.

The source continued: “The CCREDC (or EDC) has too much control over economic development and is not sharing the wealth… They get too much inside information and share it with their buddies in my estimation and business partners. Now with Mayor Joe Adame (who was a past president of the CCREDC) is starting to show his colors by pushing to have city staff under the CCREDC which is a private organization. Recently they put the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation (which was controlled by the city) under a private organization – that is, the CCREDC. The mayor and some of the council also allowed a city staff person that was working for the city to go work for the CCREDC. The mayor and political chums allowed for the “city funding” portion to pay her position to be transferred.”

The CCREDC is a private group. The City’s economic development corporation is now under the control of this private group -- and as cited above even a city staff person is now working the CCREDC (who was reporting to the 4A board). The problem is the CCREDC does not have the same requirements for open meetings as other public entities. This issue raises many an ethical concerns.

To repeat, keep in mind that prior to this arrangement, there were two parts to economic development: the CCREDC (a private group) and the Economic Development of the City – now the city’s has been shifted by the mayor to be absorbed by the private group – that is, the CCREDC.

Is it a new trend by the current administration allowing private investors exerting a major influence over public entities? The theme expands in these discussions to the scenario of more and more public money being put under them. “The mayor should be pushing an agenda that works the other way around,” a former city administrator shared.

“It has become more clear, day by day in every way that these guys are a private investment, and thus are using public money to further private personal agenda. How can the face and voice of the city be so befuddled by this issue. The CCREDC is private, not public. They use excuses such as, ‘We have to assure some high degree of confidentiality for proprietary reasons in reference to our investors.’ But it is all an excuse to manipulate priorities. When the dust settles after each lobby attempt, it all comes down to the fact that the CCREDC is using public money and do not even abide by the rigors of open meetings that other entities have in the region. If there is an issue of privacy or legality involve the CCREDC can always keep the meetings as public as possible and the go into private sessions like the other entities do. They should be accountable and be audit by the public. Did you know the city cannot audit them?”

One businessman, who is a critic of the CCREDC and has been researching their activities, shared: “It is my opinion that the mayor is part of that agenda. He is either being pressured or driven by his orbit of associates in that direction. Lack of performance: this historically describes the CCREDC. It cannot justify getting thousands and thousands of public dollars from the city and port and county. It can never justify so much power. The CCREDC despite funding over the years since Loyd Neal help establish their operation as mayor have never demonstrated a good performance record. “Mayor Joe Adame is one of them. The cat is out of the bag,” a current city councilman told El Defenzor off the record. “The 4A board..who represent the city part of the CCREDC, had a staff person who is now under the CCREDC – the city’s budget slice to pay for her salary was also transferred to the CCREDC. The mayor pushed for that move. He was behind it. The terrible thing is that the 4A board did not find out until the deal was done -- at least most. The mayor did not even express the courtesies to ask the 4A board for their opinion. Moving city staff and departments and resources to a private entity with voracious appetites of self-interest can never be justified. It is Fascism.”

But some claim the influence of the CCREDC transcends just the four walls of its office and official “written” terrain. Come claim it has infiltrated many a public entities with public dollars: from CCISD to Del Mar Board of Regents to the RTA and Port Authority.

On a related note: currently, there are some concerns about the bid process at the Corpus Christi Independent School District. There are some bids related to construction to architects to other companies that are directly or indirectly associated with School Board Trustee Carol Scott (who runs KAILO COMMUNICATIONS). In fact, many of these bidders are her clients (that is, being represented by KAILO COMMUNICATIONS) yet she insists on being a primary mover and shaker of many of these contracts. A lot of politics is being played out.

At the school district level, a TEA representative told this publication that any school board trustee with a conflict of interest should not be involved in the bidding process – especially if the interest of one or more of their clients in on the table. To this day, no one has asked Ms. Scott to recluse herself. “She is playing a prominent role and making rules how the company should bid. What a coincidence,” a former school board trustee informed.

Ms. Scott used to brag on her KAILO internet website that she could “connect you with the movers and shakers.” It is clear now who they are – “the cat is out of the bag” as some have put it. Her own husband sits in the city council. “It is not ‘public service’ but ‘self-service.’”

To return to the CCREDC. “The CCREDC is getting stronger funding, yet is not delivering. It has received over a million from entities and has delivered less than one percent of job growth in the area. Something that should occur naturally but are taking credit for it. But look at The Valley and San Antonio and other cities – they are all doing well; but the CCREDC continues to drag here locally. And this mayor, has to be held accountable, he is pushing that this voracious entity with private investors be given additional funding. STOP THE CCREDC at their tracks.”

El Defenzor revisits TAFT, TEXAS: Evaluating TENURE OF MAYOR


Taft, TX – “Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega (who was first elected mayor in 2009) in power?” – this is one question that resounds in the community of Taft and the region. It was not too long ago that Bobby Vega ran for mayor under the campaign slogan of “unity, stability and growth.” In two years he has managed to do exactly the opposite. Political and social factions seem more apart today due to his own poor judgment and ruthless decisions. His leadership – many more sum it up in one word: questionable.

Vega promised stability. He hired a lawyer for the city – than (after using him to execute the path for his agenda) fired him. Mayor Vega hired a city manager – then (after using him to restructure the city for a path of selective hirings and power mongering positioning) was forced to resign. Vega declared an “annexed” area to be “de-annexed” – only to face condemnation by the U.S. Department of Justice. He went on to hire a police chief – Paul Rivera, loyal to Vega’s administration to the last cell of his tolerance. Paul Rivera, not long after his tenure, was given an option, implicitly and explicitly: resign or as Police Chief or be fired. Since then the city has had two others chiefs.

Instability, irrational caprice – these two words many observers describe his prevailing administration. But do not take this editorial on face value, if one is open minded to the issue, try to do your own research and make your own determination which we believe will be in accord with the one we have stated.

Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega in power? Many of the residents in the disputed “annexed” or “de-annexed” area do not know whether they are part of the city or not; if they should vote or not in city elections; if they should pay or not for either county or city services; if they are under the protection of municipal law enforcement or not. Some residential pockets of the region of Taft, Texas seem more like a third world zone that seems to have been hit by an unsettling political and economic tsunami.

Residents in the disputed “annexed” vs “de-annexed” area last year were taken off tax rolls, and thus and so their garbage collection rates were raised. This past week or so (under the advice of the new attorney) the mayor and his side-kicks decided to rescind the de-annexation push and put the disputed area back on tax rolls. De-annexation is still in the mayor’s agenda – but the mentioned move was done to placate and please the concerns of the Department of Justice that has placed them under close scrutiny. .

When Vega won for mayor in 2009, Mayor Filberto Rivera’s career ended as the top representative of the city. Rivera had unseated the infamous Mayor – Jerry King, a local pharmacist.

In 2009 Vega took over as mayor and began firing many closely associated with former Mayor Rivera. Via a clever and edacious impulse Vega hired new staff everywhere he could. He settled a major law suit with a political ally: Molly Topper. She never came back as city manager. It was 3-2 council vote to reimburse her $158,000.

“No wonder the city is broke,” a local resident remarked.

Who keeps Mayor Bobby Vega in power? Vega’s major political base many insiders claim comes from the strings pulled by former Mayor King. The notorious King who was mayor for a hand full of years and was a city council before that (close to 20 years). In fact one resident said some refer to Vega as “King Jr” – but the truth is that some sources claim he has regular interaction on issues with King and is more of a “mayor by proxy”.

Mayor Vega on occasion is compared to King, being described as “snappy” and “arrogant” and “argumentative”: qualities that have much to be desired.. Vega targeted El Defenzor newspaper when it ran an editorial that was not to his liking about a year ago. He pushed for an ordinance to be drafted basically banning the paper from being distributed in the region. This was something that former Mayor King had attempted but failed due to legal admonishments from the then-city attorney.

Mayor Bobby Vega is struggling to keep a majority – even the new city councilman, David Trevino is straddling the fence (Trevino is the one that won against Lucy S. Lopez who lost by 13 votes in what has been described as an “illegal” election). Keep in mind that residents in the “disputed” area were not allowed to vote in this race for office.

El Defenzor spoke to a few community activists to obtain a pulse in regards to Vega’s tenure in office and most voiced one theme: “The community is divided and is thus looking for leadership in the city.” They added that Vega and his clan capitalized on the insecurities and lack of resources of ordinary citizens to obtain justice or to recruit viable candidates to seek office. “The King machine still seems to be eating away at growth in this region via Bobby Vega,” one activist opined.

There are 526 households in the disputed “annexed/de-annexed” area cited above – mostly Hispanics. This disputed area has been subjected to mind-boggling oppression and tyranny by the Vega administration. Former Mayor Filberto Vega who ran under an agenda of growth pushed for the annexation of these households. But the course was a detailed one and accordingly meticulous attention was given to meeting all the tinges and stages of the process. When the process was in place, utility rates were reduced to coincide with the city residents; law enforcement of the area was initiated. But when Vega won for Mayor in 2009 (with assistance from the King machine), he declared the annexation null and void. Then again Vega was neither an attorney nor an authority in this complex area of law and thus received a backlash from the Department of Justice (after residents complained that they were not allowed to participate in free elections).

Under Vega’s tenure, these 526 household were taken off tax rolls and turned over to the county’s. Their utility rates were raised to those prior to Mayor Rivera’s annexation adjustments. Vega insisted that even law enforcement be sponged out from this area.

On May 10, 2010 and August 2010 and March 11, 2011, via written declaratives and memos reinforced to the City of Taft that the De-annexation Ordinance (#839) was unenforceable; however, as of today, Mayor Vega nor the city officialdom have not complied with the requirement of the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice has been gravely concerned that many a resident might have been disenfranchised – this was expressed in a memo in 2010, and said that many a resident in the disputed area should at least vote provisionally until a decision was rendered. In the last election the Department of Justice send representatives to make sure that the Vega Administration allowed residents in the disputed area to vote.

Thus in the last city council meeting which took place a little over a week ago, Mayor Vega had no choice but to declare and rescind his de-annexation move as not valid. Vega by making such a move is saying, he did not abide by the law and de-annexed a sizeable geographical residential community unlawfully. He is asking some of his friends to begin to begin from zero and start a de-annexation move – one move that is segmenting the community all over again.

A group of people (close to Vega) have filed a new petition to de-annexed and it has been placed in the November election – the vote will decide to keep the city “in” or “out” of the city.

Final notes: As of February of last year at least $13.32 cents for utilities and garbage fees have been charged to households in the disputed are per month. A total of 526 households come to about $126,113. Every month that goes by it increases the calculation. A group of residents in Taft have united in the disputed area and want what they call the “illegal” charges to be stopped immediately. Additionally, they are prepared to take legal action if necessary, but currently are asking (it was done the last city council meeting) that every household in this area be paid all the money they are owned within sixty days.

In the last meeting cited above, the request for reimbursement by a group of residents – a total of $126.113 -- was denied. They (the residents in the disputed area) were however placed back in the tax rolls of the city.

Edward "Eddie" Valadez Announces for Constable in Jim Wells county

Jim Wells, TX – Edward “Eddie” Valadez, 35, has announced for Jim Wells Constable Precinct #6. He feels that he can fill a void – a void of concern expressed by many in the community. It can be phrased in one sentence: “There needs to be more visibility and frequent visits from law enforcement in the precinct.”

Valadez – likeable, approachable, nimble-minded – said: “There are some pockets of neighborhoods in this precinct that feel so isolated. Many are raising families here. Law enforcement needs its presence here and other places to serve as a cloud of security.”

The concerns expressed by Valadez are some that are growing by the day. Valadez, who has a hefty resume in law enforcement and community service, is not a newbie to tackling tough problems. He has worked in law enforcement departments ranging from San Diego to the Jim Wells Sheriff Department (ten years) to the City of Robstown Police Department (going on two years). From the specialty of drug interdiction to solving burglaries to inspiring young students in school to elevate their grades and shape a better world – how many are the things that surface in the minds of those who have known him for a while.

Currently there is only one full-time job in the department – that is, that of the constable. This is why he feels the constable needs to religiously abide by time management and try his best to be ever-present when the occasion arises for the need of law enforcement. Valadez wants “advance safety” measures in place when the kids get out of school – this comes through meticulous planning. He wants parents to know that there will be an added hand of support to serve as a glue that a functional family should have. In youth he sermonizes daily: “schooling is the way to improve once station in life in many ways. But sometimes, there is no easy road, and many a time you have to give it 110 percent. The more you work for it, the more you will appreciate it.”

The constable serves also as an assistant to the Justice of the Peace. Sometimes functioning as a bailiff, serving subpoenas, duties of peace officer, duties of civil processor, a supportive arm for truancy programs – there are other hats a constable has to put on to fully meet his job description.

With an encouraging tenure of 15 years in law enforcement, he has learned tremendously to recognize complex patterns that might be either detrimental or positive to a community. He also wants to try and make some of the positions full-time by bringing in new monies via grants and state and federal funding for rural-like areas. “There are also monies out there for infrastructure and for recreational endeavors to keep kids out of trouble – even to make side-walks for them believe it or not. We live in progressive times. It just takes a person that is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to bring in the essential resources,” he explained. “This is where I live. This is my community. I have two step-children and a new born. In a sense it is us against the world. Either we do for our community and precinct or no one else will. I ask the people to jump in my humble band wagon of a campaign. I plan to get a lot of things done. Give me a chance.”

Where does Valadez get his entrepreneur spirit and larger cause to serve the community? Valadez does run a trucking business while off duty. He is used to solving day in and day out problems; moreover, he is used to dealing with a constantly changing environment and is able to think of his feet to make critical and judicial and wise decisions. He wants to use it to bring out the best in the community. Something optimistically charge radiates from him. As one resident put it: “It shines from him. From his face, words; it has to come from deep inside him. From his heart and soul. A native’s soul does not lie.”

Valadez, who worked in the Jim Wells Sheriff Department for about a decade and was promoted to corporal and then patrol supervisor and then canine officer and even earned quite a name working drug interdiction in the highways and later working as a narcotics investigator -- knows the limited resources he has if elected constable. He plans to use an immediate interagency approach to address the visibility issue and concerns in his precinct. He will work alongside other law enforcement agencies, encouraging regular team works and endeavors to address issues anywhere from narcotics to disruptions to traffic. The residents, the parents, those that orbit his precinct will also be his eyes and ears and conscience to help him determine what issues and concerns carry emotional weight and should be priority – a pulse and soul that every community has but is ignored sometimes due to the apathy of politicos who displace their goals.

“I have a strong background in working with other agencies in my regular duties as a peace officer. I have positive goals and thus I feel I can turn this ‘one-man” job as constable into a powerful department,” he said passionately. “I know I will have some deputies which function as part-time but with diligence and hard work and research we will have a fully functional department.

“Where does Edward ‘Eddie’ Valadez come from – what is his bio?” – some have asked. He is 35 years old and was born in La Bandera Ranch. His mom and dad and sister work for a school district in the area. Valadez – who worked both at the Orange grove High School and Jr. High as a COPS Program Officer and graduated from the Dell Mar Police Academy -- feel his work-ethic comes from his first close-knit and value oriented structure -- that is, his family of upbringing. “I was taught that a strong neighborhood, a strong precinct is a reflection of strong families --- and vice-a-versa. This is one my goals to reinforce this spirit as a constable.”

His last words echoed in the interview: “My life story clearly shows that I can do what I have said. I respectfully and humbly ask the voters and constituents to allow me that chance to serve them.”

He is married to Veronica (Valadez) and has two step-children and recently a two-month old little boy.