Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Peek At Future Laredo Economic Development

Did we get a peek at Laredo's  economic development future in the San Antonio Express News Saturday when they published an article about HEB being embarrassed by the city for stating that HEB wanted to close a road for future development.

Here are some pieces of the article (full story at:  )

City officials Friday found themselves backpedaling and apologizing to one of San Antonio's biggest employers in the wake of a premature notice that H-E-B wanted to close part of Main Avenue to build a downtown grocery store.

The city has been courting H-E-B and badly wants a downtown grocery, but the grocer has not, in fact, requested a street closure nor definitively said it will build a downtown store.

“Let me first say, H-E-B has not made a request to close Main,” said
Pat DiGiovanni, deputy city manager. “That canvassing sheet that was sent out to a number of entities was premature and unauthorized. We apologize to the company publicly that their name was put on that petition form. It was inappropriate and unsanctioned.”

“We are in discussions with H-E-B, and those discussions will remain private at this point,” DiGiovanni said. “We have not reached any agreements. It is exploratory, and we're each doing our part to advance this project.”

H-E-B spokeswoman
Dya Campos said she was surprised when her office received inquiries about the canvassing note.

“We were not aware of any kind of paperwork being in the process at all,” she said.

King William Association president
Dick Davis said he had received the survey, and had invited H-E-B to attend the association's meeting next week to share its plans for a store.

“And the answer we got was, ‘We really don't have anything to tell you,'” Davis said.

Davis said he still plans on broaching the topic at the association next meeting to gauge member support.

Again, these are cutouts from the article, and you need to read the whole thing for the flavor.   But, this is what happens when cities try to do economic development.

Cities work under the expectation of "open government" and have processes in place that support that concept.  This is exactly the opposite of the process that is required when in the beginning phases of economic development.

No, repeat, NO company wants their business discussed in the public forum until they are ready for that to happen.  In this case, when and if HEB had decided it was feasible to move forward with the project, then that would have been the time to move forward with city processes for closing a street.

My friends, just imagine the City of Laredo handling a prospective move of a large manufacturing/distribution/retail/etc. company from the upper mid-west.  Now imagine that a labor union is involved.  Do you really think our mayor, city council, or city staffers will keep this prospective move quiet until the company decides whether to embark on its move venture?  I don't think the city could keep it quiet?

And why does it need to remain quiet?  For one there are specific "closing" laws that require companies to give notice within a specified amount of time of the actual closing.  Companies keep moves close to the vest to keep the announcements within the minimum time frames required.  And if the company is just "exploring" opportunities, then what happens if the employees and or suppliers find out?  Would there be retaliation?  Companies do not want to deal with those possibilites. 

One big question is: "Do we want to give the city more power to suppress information from the public?"  We want and expect our city to be open and transparent in it's business dealings.  In fact, there are several laws that require the city operate in the light of day.  How, when, and where do we draw the line between open government and keeping secrets?  Who will be the one that determines what should be kept quiet?

Should  information should leak to the press/public about a prospective move, what will be the consequences?  I can give you a couple.  One, the company will not move here and will tell everyone they know about the experience.  Two, the word will get out amongst the consulting community that handles company relocation's, and that word will be that you cannot trust Laredo and that you would be best in avoiding the move there if there is any requirement of confidentiality.

What kind of pressure will the city be under by developers and businesses who file open records request/lawsuits wanting to know what prospective clients/competitors may be coming to town?  Should the citizens have to pay for those defenses?  Or should we continue with public/private funding that removes the potential for Laredo's future companies being embarrassed?

Do cities have a role in economic development?

Of course cities have a role in economic development.  They are needed when negotiations are required for such things as tax abatement's, passing of ordinances for zoning, and other local regulation.  But those come much later in the discussions with prospective clients, and usually occur after a very strong commitment is made by the client to locate in a city.  So, the chances that information about the client becoming public are less likely to affect the move.  In the case shown about the HEB above, if the information would have gone public after HEB had decided they did want to open the store, they would have expected the public involvement as that is the process. 

What is the City of Laredo planning to do about economic development?

Talk is that the City of Laredo is getting ready to cut all funding to the Laredo Development Foundation, and that the city will take over economic development.  Is this more than just talk?  Listen to the city manager setting the table for cutting LDF funds when he talks of less revenue coming in.  Listen to, and watch the actions of certain city councilmen who seem to have chips on their shoulders for the LDF.  Look at the city hiring an LDF staffer who has experience in economic development.  The script is there and is being executed. 

My prediction;  LDF will not receive any money from the city of Laredo in the FY2012 budget.  The city will move forward with 4A-4B talks to allow the city to use the sports venue tax for economic development (I am for the 4A-4B plan, but not the city managing it).  Whether or not 4A-4B does or does not pass a required vote of the public, the city will move forward with it's own agenda of economic development.

Those are my predictions, and they will come true unless we citizens stand up and say no to the city trying to manage economic development.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I will be compiling photos and habits that can only be found in Laredo, Texas.  They don't have to be good or bad habits to make the list, just be unique to Laredo.  So fill in the blanks after the starting phrase:

"You know you are in Laredo when"

Such as:

You know you are in Laredo when at 7 in the morning you see a person at a convenience store and they have a taco in one hand and a cold 16 oz. beer in the other. 

You know you are in Laredo when every driver around you is racing to be the first in line at the next stoplight.

You know you are in Laredo when the person you are meeting is late, and they say, "Well you know, it's Laredo time."

You know you are in Laredo when you pay at the cash register, and the clerk tells you how much you owe in Spanish, and then when giving you changes, tells you in English how much you got back.

You know you are in Laredo when the person ahead of you in the drive thru lane at the bank is cashing checks for 15 people back at their workplace.

You know you are in Laredo when every other vehicle driving down the road is a tractor trailer rig.

You know you are in Laredo when you avoid the mall on Mexican holidays.

You know you are in Laredo when you drive down a traffic "loop" and hit a stoplight every time you turn around.

You know you are in Laredo when you see the driver ahead of you slam on their brakes just because it started to rain.

You know you are in Laredo, or at least getting close, when you see a citys name taped over on the interstate highway.

You know you are in Laredo when the city council ask the city attorney if something is legal, after they already did it.

You know you are in Laredo when wear a heavy coat when it is 50 degrees outside.

You know you are in Laredo when your TV weatherman is named Heatwave.

You know you are in Laredo when Heatwave tells you a cold front is  moving in and it will only reach 95 degrees tomorrow.

You know you are in Laredo when you go to a Walmart at 7 in the morning and there is only one cashier on duty.

Help me out here...give me your "only in Laredo lines."

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Look out Laredo, you may be financing a new convention center downtown with the 1/4 cent sales tax you approved for building the Laredo Energy Arena  and new baseball stadium.

You heard it hear first.  The city council is looking at options under the ordinance allowing the sales tax that would give them the authority to fund a new convention center.

I was wondering why ol' Mike Garza was questioning the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau chief about convention centers at the last city council meeting.  Mike wanted to know how many conventions Laredo had lost due to not having an convention center.

Groundwork is being laid.  I am not sure if voters even get to vote on this.

More to come.


Well, maybe this new process will help reduce the anxiety of those who fear fracking takes too much water.

From an article on new advances in fracking (link below)

In short, the use of water is the aspect of fracking that worries citizens and drives activism against the technique.

Luckily, there may be a technical fix that addresses these water worries and does an end run around drilling opponents: gas-fracking. Developed by GasFrac Energy Services in Alberta, Canada, gas-fracking uses liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which consists mostly of propane, instead of water to crack open shale formations to release oil and natural gas. Robert Lestz, GasFrac’s chief technology officer, and his colleague Audis Byrd spent 10 years developing the technique. Lestz explains that the company produces a LPG gel using phosphate esters, iron sulfate activator, and magnesium oxide. None are seriously toxic or are thought to be carcinogenic. The injected LPG gel combined with sand fractures shale formations to release trapped oil and/or natural gas.
As a hydrocarbon, propane easily mixes with natural gas and returns to the surface where it can be recovered and reused or flared. Since essentially no water is used and the gelling chemicals are relatively benign, there is no possibility that well wastewater can contaminate wells or streams. 
Gas-fracking is also more efficient than hydrofracking. In conventional hydrofracking, injected water tends to block the pores and cracks through which natural gas would otherwise flow into the well. This does not happen with gas-fracking. As a consequence, Lestz claims that gas-fracked wells often produce 20 to 30 percent more natural gas than do hydrofracked wells. One more advantage: hydrofracked wells often need to be flared for a couple of weeks to purge fracking fluids. This wastes saleable product and emits extra greenhouse gases. Gas-fracked wells, which need far less flaring, save gas and can go into production sooner.
There are, however, additional safety concerns when dealing with large quantities of propane. Unlike water, LPG is flammable. In January 2008, a well site in Alberta suffered a blast as a result of a propane leak. Three workers suffered non-life-threatening burns and GasFrac suspended its operations to devise techniques aimed at preventing future accidents. Lestz claims that insurers give the company the same risk rating as conventional hydrofrackers. So far the company has fractured 300 oil and gas wells in both Canada and the United States.

From this link:

If this process really works.  It should quell most complaints.  Fix the propane issue and cheap and affordable energy, without protest, could be the norm.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Here is my list of the top ten stupidest things I have seen happen in Laredo since I moved here in 1992.  This one was hard, as there are a lot of stupid things that have been done by elected officials and supposed city leaders in this town.

10. Not finishing the construction that would make Del Mar Blvd. 4 lanes from I-35 to Loop 20.

9.  Not making Loop 20 a limited access highway.  A limited access highway would have no stop lights and would require vehicle entry/exit to be handled via on/off ramps, just like I-35.  Now we are paying double to fix traffic issues, and the cost will continue.  No wonder TxDOT has no money.

8.  Put stop light at Yeary and Calton Road.  This has caused more traffic headaches than one can imagine.  The I-35/Calton road intersection has to be the worst in Texas, and maybe the United States.

7.  City councilman Pancho Casso demanding that a "staging" area be built along Santa Maria to stage trucks going to Mexico via I-35 and bridge 2.  (Pre-April 2000 when WTB built)  Casso said Mexican truck drivers would enter the staging area and leave in the order that they arrived on their own. 

6.  Webb County Commissioner's Court approving a "rain-making" machine for Webb County by unanimous vote.  Then two weeks later changing their minds after Heatwave Burler said the machine would not work and the citizens were in an uproar.  The commishs said they misunderstood the vote.

5.  The city of Laredo allowing TxDOT to put a covenant in the agreement to build the Camino Colombia Toll Road that would prohibit TxDOT from funding any roadway that would "compete" for traffic with the toll road.  Now, the city, or a developer will have to totally fund any roadway connecting I-35 with Mines Road near dead man's curve.

4.  The idea of building Bridge 5 in South Laredo for commercial vehicles.  Laredo just doubled the capacity at World Trade Bridge, and still has Camino Colombia for commercial traffic.  A third commercial facility is not needed, and may never be needed.  Also included in this item should be the note that some persons think a new bridge will bring in "new" revenue versus just taking traffic from one bridge and have it cross at another.

3.  The City of Laredo stopping the construction of Town Center.  Because of a dispute over an overgrown retention pond, which a local environmental group claimed was a wetland, the city council voted to stop construction of the Town Center on Loop 20 across from the airport.   The owners of the Town Center had actually started construction on the project, but local environmentalist fought back with a petition signed by school kids and parents who were told that Lake Casablanca was going to be polluted by the development, and that the beavers, and animal life in the wetland would die. The developer had planned to build a water retention system that was better than the original retention pond, and with more capacity to clean runoff water that might enter Lake Casablanca.   The environmentalist did not want to accept this fix, and still fought, and won the right to keep the retention pond intact.   Because of this action, Laredo lost out on the sales tax, property taxes, and jobs that would have been created by the building of a retail center composed of outlet shops.  Laredo also became known as a city who cannot be trusted, even after a contract has been signed.    Note:  The wetland is dry as a bone right now.  I wonder if the animals all died.

2.  The Laredo Chamber of Commerce asking that Nuevo Laredo be removed from highway mileage information signs on I-35, so Laredo would not be confused with Nuevo Laredo.  This action by the COC was designed to let travelers know there is a difference between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo.  The action was rescinded in two days after locals decried the action.

1.  The City of Laredo cutting funding of the Laredo Development Foundation by 50% in 2011 budget.  Laredo spends less than % .00325 on economic development.  Expect the number spent by the city to decrease in the 2012 budget cycle as the city will cut off all funding to the LDF.  When someone at city hall uses the phrase "It's for the children" remember that cutting off economic development funds will assure that our children will have no place to work in Laredo.


Here is my top ten list of smartest things I have seen happen since I moved here in 1992:

10.  Increase funding to Laredo Development Foundation under Mayor Betty Flores.

9.  Move city and school district elections to first Tuesday in November.  This has helped turnout and helped ease voter burnout.

8.  Laredo Transportation Association suggesting that truck crossing fees increase enough to fund the police to monitor the intersections along I-35 near bridge 2, and place a police officer on I-35 to assist the public in avoiding collisions with the trucks stacked up waiting to enter Mexico.    Remember when the trucks backed up on I-35 waiting to enter Mexico before the World Trade Bridge opened in April 2000.

7.  Mayor Saul Ramirez punching councilman Pancho Casso after a city council meeting. 

6.  Build Laredo Energy Arena.   Over 2.5 million people have visted the arena.

5.  Build I-35 and Loop 20 (Milo) interchange.  This project opened the warehouse district and allowed easy access to I-35 without the blockage due to train traffic.

4.  City council supported the North American Free Trade Agreement.

3.  Texas A&M International University was built.

2.  Loop 20 was constructed.

1.  The World Trade Bridge was built, and expanded.   By building WTB, Laredo was able to continue as the number one port along the US/Mexico border.  By expanding WTB by 8 lanes, Laredo was able to double its current capacity and throughput.   Laredo did what other cities only dream of, have 16 lanes for commercial truck traffic.

These are mine.  What are yours?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The Laredo Chamber of Commerce has made my top ten list of most stupid things I have seen since I moved here in 1992.

By urging the removal of Nuevo Laredo from the highway information signs along I-35, the chamber has shown just how superficial they are when trying to distance Laredo from the violence in Mexico.

I remember several different meetings which I attended with Laredo Development Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, and Logistics and Manufacturing Association members where I pointed out that the only way Laredo can distance itself from the perception of high crime rates in Laredo is to publish our crime statistics in a package where we compare ourselves with other cities in the northern parts of the US.  By doing so, we can show we are as safe as other cities that those inquiring about us would know.

For instance, if we say and document that Laredo is safer than Kansas City, that would go along way to helping our image.

For example, here are the FBI’s 2010 crime statistics for violent crime per 1,000 people. 
Laredo – 2.51
Providence RI – 3.61
Baton Rouge, LA – 5.43
Springfield IL – 6.11
and my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, which no one calls a violent city, had a violent crime rate of 5.26 per 1,000 population.

Comparisons of Laredo’s violent crime statistics to other well  known cities is something that people from anywhere in the world can relate to.

By asking TxDOT to remove Nuevo Laredo from the highway signs, the CoC has opened a can of worms that will have long lasting effects, and open wounds that may not heal. 

By the way, there is NOT ONE place on the Laredo Chamber of Commerce website that talks about the violence in Nuevo Laredo, nor any mention of how safe Laredo really is. 

Laredo CoC, work on real solutions, not gimmicks, to show that Laredo is safe.

PS, I hope our city leaders were not involved in this fiasco.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Here is a press release just sent out by TxDOT.  Remember when TxDOT said we are out of money to fix highways, and have no money to build new roads.  Well, here is $2 billion being spent by the federal government for "studying" high speed rail in the country.
TxDOT should use that money to buy one of several studies show how much it cost to run AMTRAC.  Then use the leftover money for our highway system.  We do not need trains like Europe.  We have cars and trucks and airplanes. 
$15 million in high-speed rail funds awarded to Texas
 AUSTIN—The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced today that the state will receive $15 million in federal funds to advance preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the development of a proposed high-speed rail corridor between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.

On Monday, US Department of Transportation officials released the list of recipients for $2 billion in High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) funds that became available earlier this year.

TxDOT will use the money to fund preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the proposed Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston High Speed Rail Line, a corridor that would connect two of the nation’s most populated metropolitan areas. Proposed speeds would be up to 150 mph. This project is identified as a priority corridor in the Texas Rail Plan.

Bill Glavin, TxDOT Rail Division director, said the funding is crucial to advancing high-speed rail projects in the state.

Texas is fortunate to be selected for this award,” he noted. “Money is in short supply and competition is tough. We really appreciate the funding that does come our way.”

So far, Texas has received about $53 million in federal rail funds including $34 million to the Fort Worth Tower 55 project for improvements to ease congestion and improve safety and a $5.6 million planning grant for high-speed rail on the corridor connecting Oklahoma City and South Texas

Additional awards include $4 million in high-speed stimulus funds to adjust signal timing for several at-grade crossings for Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer and approximately $7 million from the 2009 appropriations bill to lay additional track along a portion of the Trinity Rail Express (TRE) in Fort Worth. Texas also received $2 million for projects on the state owned South Orient Railroad in West Texas.

More than 90 applications from 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak were submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration with requests totaling about $10 billion dollars.

TxDOT originally requested close to $43 million for two projects—the Fort Worth to Houston corridor and safety improvements on the Trinity Rail Express corridor between Dallas Union Station and the T&P Station in Fort Worth.

For more information call TxDOT’s Government & Public Affairs Division at (512) 463-8700.

FRACK-A-PHOBIA.......It just keeps getting better

A new report on "fracking" hit the news wires yesterday. 

Most headlines for the article looked like this, "New study finds high levels of methane in water from wells near fracking sites."  However, on the Rio Grande International Study Center's Facebook page, they linked to the article via a group called "  And the same article had a title that read: "Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking."  A pretty big leap considering that the article did not make that leap at all.

Please read the Pro-Publica article,, then read the AP article, .

The bottom line is that you need to read the whole article, not just the headlines.

Here is the conclusion reached by the researchers: 
In a white paper [10] the group issued along with the journal article, Jackson and the others acknowledged the uncertainty and called for more research. “Contamination is often stated to be impossible due to the distance between the well and the drinking water,” they wrote. “Although this seems reasonable in most (and possibly all) cases, field and modeling studies should be undertaken to confirm this assumption [2]… Understanding any cases where this assumption is incorrect will be important—when, where, and why they occur—to limit problems with hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Another of the final thoughts of the article:
A hydrogeologist closely affiliated with the drilling industry raised questions about the study. "It's possible, assuming their measurements are accurate, that all they have done is document the natural conditions of the aquifer," said John Conrad, president of Conrad Geosciences in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Conrad spoke with ProPublica at the suggestion of Energy In Depth, a drilling industry advocacy group, but said that he did not work for EID.
He said that the thermogenic methane -- which many scientists say comes from the same deep gas layers where drilling occurs -- could be naturally occurring. He also said the researchers didn't test enough wells to support their conclusions, though he could not say how many wells would have been appropriate.
Conrad said the most likely cause for the contamination identified by the Duke researchers -- that the gas was leaking out of faulty well casings -- seemed implausible.
"For their assumptions to hold up there would have to be more than just the occasional bad cement job," he said. "They are implying that where you see hydraulic fracturing you should expect to see elevated methane. We are aware of faulty cement jobs. But we don't believe that it is common and we certainly don't believe that it is universal."

The conclusion that I reached reading the article in two formats is that while the study shows there is contamination in the drinking water, there is no direct, scientific evidence that it was caused by fracking, or even drilling.  This should make the RGISC happy.  Yet, it does not.

Again, an article that answers none of the questions being raised by RGISC.  And yet, they link the Pro-Publica article on Facebook via Earthworks,  

Earthworks describes their purpose as:  EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project works with tribal, urban and rural communities to protect their homes and the environment from the devastating impacts of oil and gas development.

I wonder what the RGISC is trying to really accomplish.  Are they asking for answers to questions about drilling and contamination?  Or, are they trying to push an agenda that wants to end natural gas capture?

RGISC, which is it?


We are still having problems in Nuevo Laredo with the transmitting boards.  I should be back on the air in the morning.  We will have lot to cover.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oil Subsidies

President Obama is right in saying we should end subsidies to oil companies.  Where he is wrong, is that he wants to "re-invest" that money in wind and solar (big waste).  

All subsidies should be ended.  If a product, or process is not economically viable, it should die on the vine like any product nobody will buy. 

This goes for farming, alternative energy, and any other government funded business capable of making a profit if their product is for sale on the open market.

Never Before Seen Civil War Photo At Laredo

You are the first to see this civil war era photo showing a Confederate soldier at a Laredo building.


I hope the city does a better job of fund management with the airport noise abatement money ($4M) than the county did with the two million they had.

Of course, any sane person would ask:  Why would someone who moved into a house near an airport that has been in place for over 50 years not know that airplanes were going to take off and land.

Maybe the fund should be called the "The Idiot Fund for Those That Think Airplanes Make No Noise."   Yes a fund for those people who think airplanes make no noise, "Look honey at that airplane way up in the sky, it makes no noise.  Ok, let's move into a new house near the airport.  There will be no noise."

The TIFFTTTAMNN fund is ripe for political favoritism since the only houses that should qualify are in Alexander Estates and Winfield.

Go figure that no one in Laredo is concerned.  Especially city council.  How sad.