Monday, February 25, 2013

Vouchers For You (NOT)........... Private School for Politicos (YES)

I for one am split on the idea of school vouchers.  I agree we need a very strong public school system  However, until someone finds a way to really fix (and money is not the solution) our broken schools, I feel sorry for those who cannot afford to send their children to a private school that could make them better future citizens.

Note to Politicians:  If you say vouchers won't work, you need to explain, if you send your kids to private school. why poor folks should not have the same opportunity of school choice that you have?  This includes elected officials, and school administrators.  Before you tout the public education line, explain to us where your kids go to school, and WHY.

On the one hand, public schools seem to focus entirely too much on the lowest common denominators in the school system.  If their focus was on the better students, those at the bottom would  start to rise.  But if you constantly teach to lowest levels, the smart kids are done for.  And school district run charter schools may fix some of that, but the politics of these schools is overwhelming.

Now, for $5,000, you can get a good private school education.  Yet, in Laredo, our schools spend nearly $10,000 per student.  Yes, I understand that the private schools are very selective and get rid of those kids that do not want to learn.  Maybe, just maybe they have an idea that we need to really investigate.

That being the idea that there is always a group of students (I use the term loosely) who could care less about school and spend their entire time in class rooms being disruptive.  Enough already.  We need ditch diggers and other persons to fill menial task that no one else wants to do.  Just ask those that preach about illegal immigration.  They tell us there are millions of these jobs to that Americans do not want.  

So, try this....if a kid is disruptive early in their school career, sent the kid out to do a few days work at a job like ditch digging, picking crops, whatever job requires little education (there are not many left.)  If that does not scare them straight, and their parents don't care enough to be involved in their schooling, it is time to let them go.  I know, then these kids might become wards of the state (prison/welfare, etc...)  But, hey, that is happening now at an alarming rate.

Or how about this:  If you are a student and you do not get a high school diploma, you will not be eligible for welfare.  None.  Would this be a valid incentive for some?

How about we give new ideas a try?  What can it hurt?

What say you?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Part II: Intersection Begging - A problem, or just a Laredo tradition?

So, city council thinks this orange vest, and a few cones makes one safe when standing in the middle of the busiest intersections in Laredo.  And now they pretend if you wear one of these you should be allowed to be an "authorized panhandler" and if you do not you will be the dreaded, unsafe, "un-authorized panhandler," subjecting both the giver and givee to police ticketing.

No matter what city council, or city staff says, I have not heard of a panhandler being hit by a car in the act of panhandling.  I just cannot remember reading such an article.  Maybe it has happened, but I just don't recall it.  So, if it is sooooooo dangerous, where's the mangled bodies city council.  Where are the facts.  Laredoans let elected officials get away with far too much anecdotal information than they should.  Let's see the statistics that back up your claims on panhandling being dangerous city council.

At what point do we wise up and say, HEY, no more authorized or un-authorized panhandling period.  That would be a perfect ending to the whole issue.  Just stop it all together and go after the giver, not the givee, and things will get better, not stop, but get better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Intersection Begging - A problem, or just a Laredo tradition?

I blurred the sign..Tom
Well, well, Laredo City Councilman Jorge Vera wants to have the police issue a ticket (take your money) to those that give money to the folks who stand in the intersections and beg for money from passing motorist.

Councilman Vera only wants the police to ticket you if you are giving to a person who is not "authorized" by the city to beg.  His reasoning is that because he almost ran over a homeless person begging for money, and the city not being able to enforce its own laws against panhandling, it is now time to go after the PUBLIC who give these people money.

Now, you may have noticed I use the word begging to describe "all" of the people who stand at intersections and ask you for money, whether they are "authorized" or not.

I moved to Laredo in 1992 from the Midwest   I lived in cities of all sizes before moving to Laredo at the ripe age of 39.  Until I moved here, I had never, repeat never, seen school age kids, adults, and organizations wanting to raise funds stand in the street, just like the panhandlers, and beg (ask) for money.  I don't know if this is just a Laredo thing, a border thing, but I don't, or haven't seen it occur in San Antonio or Dallas.  But I must admit, I have not spent a lot of weekend time in those cities.

What really shocked me, and still does, is that our school districts allow kids to work intersections and beg for money.  Yes, when they are in the intersections, they are begging you to give them money for some cause, whether it be to fund a trip, or buy uniforms, whatever.  How can any parent, guardian, or school administrator allow such an activity to take place?  What happened to "earning" your money for whatever reason you are promoting.  Have a car wash, plate sale, anything but begging.  The only people that should ever be on a street corner asking for something are legitimate charities, ie, Red Cross, United Way, the fire departments boot fill, and the other real groups too many to mention.  Even most of the real charities do not stand in the street begging, but fund raise in other manners.

So, if I am a city council person, I tell Councilman Vera during his comments that Laredo should ban all the begging at intersections.  No one, repeat no one can go and beg in the street.  And then I tell him, we have a police department to enforce that law, and we will not hold the generous public accountable for being generous.  And if we cannot find appropriate means to enforce the no begging ordinance, then we will look to the community for assistance in dealing with the truly homeless.

It is time for Laredo to take a big step and tell our children that standing on a street corner asking for money is never a replacement for working/earning money the old fashion way if you want to fund a trip, buy uniforms, or whatever your money making cause is about.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Who Say's There Is No Movement To Confiscate Firearms?

Democrats will have you believe that they truly are hunters who only care about stopping criminal shootings.

They also tell you on national television that there is no movement to confiscate firearms.  That they, as true hunters, would never, "In a hundred years," as one politician put it, try to confiscate firearms from law abiding citizens.

Well read this story about Missouri Democrats who introduced a bill requiring law abiding citizens to turn in firearms that they want to ban.  If the law abiding citizen does not turn in the firearms, they will be charged as felons.

So, for all you bloggers and Facebook contributors who keep saying that there is no movement by Democrats to confiscate firearms, what say you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Minimum Wage- Why just $9, why not $20 per hour?

In last nights State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a new minimum wage of $9 per hour.

If we are going to raise the arbitrarily obtained number, why not just go ahead and make it $20 per hour?  That way, no one working a minimum wage job would live in poverty.

Come on Mr. President, dream a little.  We know you think the government is the do all, save all for the American public.  So really, just $9?  $20 per hour would do so much more in your dream world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

School Funding Will Never Be Equal

There won't likely be a ruling from the appeals courts on the equality of school funding this legislative session.  But there will be plenty of discussion, both at the legislature and in the local school houses about the issue.

My take is this, there will never be 100% equity is school financing by district.  It is just not possible with the number of school districts and the varying economic situations of each district.

The state cannot equalize every dollar spent as some districts will always find a way to spend more as they are richer districts.  What do the courts want to do, lower the potential spending to the lowest common denominator?   If say, $1700 is the number, is that all you can spend?

To think that if the state says it costs $1700 per student to educate them properly, do you really think that the richer districts will stop there?  No, they will hire better teachers and pay more, they will offer benefits and perks that do not appear on budget lines, and any host of other methods to secure the best help, and the best facilities.   What about buildings, must each district have exactly the same square foot per student ratio in buildings and amenities?  And finally, how do you equalize socio-economic issues?

I have real trouble when people say everything must be equal, because it can never be equal when talking about education.  There are too many factors that influence the learning process and those that teach.  You will not achieve 100% equal funding unless you stop richer school districts from spending above whatever the state deems the educational cost per student that will be allocated to each district.

You don't believe me, just look at the difference in Laredo between UISD and LISD.  Will they ever be equal?  Probably not, and they are in the same city.  The only way to truly equalize schools is to make everyone spend whatever the lowest common denominator spends.  And that would be a very sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wetland Sold - Still a lack of vision with local group

At last night's city council meeting, the acreage for the Town Center development was sold by the city of Laredo to the developer.

What was most striking about the renewed debate of the wetlands issue was Rio Grande International Studies Center (RGISC) lack of future vision and misunderstanding of what was planned for the site by the developer.  

When Riazul Mia, the Director of the City of Laredo's Environmental Division made his presentation at the council meeting concerning the wetlands and the rumors of it's demise, I was shocked at how much the developer had accomplished since this issue was raised years ago.

Mia's presentation showed what really was going to take place, and what the developer had done in the background to help secure and improve the sustainability of Lake Casablanca.  The only thing changing in the layout of the wetland in question is the movement of a currently inefficient retention pond.  The new pond will provide real filtration for run off pollutants, unlike the current pond which is filled with silt and does nothing for filtration.  As an added bonus, the developers is adding a new man made run off filtration system to clean the run off even more.

Second, the developer bought 40 plus acres of land on the north side of the lake as a conservation easement.  Both the  conservation easement and the wetland (although a little smaller) cannot be built upon without another hearing in front of the United States Corps of Engineers.

Reality:  This is a good deal for Laredo as a whole.

My issue:  I suggested a couple of days ago that the folks at the RGISC might want to ask the city for some of the proceeds from the sale to start discussions on creating a wildlife refuge here in Laredo abutting Lake Casablanca on the east side.  I was told that it would be too hard to do, and that I was crazy in suggesting such a thing, and that business people had no business in dealing with environmental issues.  Now, these were not official statements from the RGISC, but from their followers.  I guess I should have expected as much.

However, the RGISC, through it's director, failed in realizing the facts of the developers plans.  They failed in understanding the meaning of the Corps of Engineers permit.  The RGISC never mentioned the purchase of the additional 40+ acres north of the lake for the conservation easement.   Instead they painted the movement of a 20 year old retention pond as the end of a "Laredo Treasure" which is just not true.

The RGISC missed a golden opportunity to work with the business community to further the future of Laredo by asking for future funding to develop a "real" area of wildlife preservation with protections provided by the United States government.  Instead they burned valuable political capital on a misinformed venture to save something that was never gong to be destroyed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Casablanca Retention Pond Battle II. A lack of vision.

Here is a string off Facebook concerning the Casablanca Retention Pond.  Please add your thoughts.

  • Abigail Gutierrez Mayor Salinas answered my email and said he understood my concerns.....
  • Elisa Gutierrez @ Mr. Jorge Vera: Well then, if the information of the wetland is farce, what is it considered? I would like to know and so many others.
  • Eric Ellman what's the rush?
    Friday at 6:41pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Tricia Cortez We thank Councilman Vera for his response, which is no longer showing up for some reason -- Jorge Vera wrote: "It's only three acres that will be altered, the green space where the palm trees will be spared. The information that the area is a wetland i...See More
  • Virginia Elizabeth The reason why Laredo can't be like Austin and San Antonio is that it doesn't have as many wetlands as those places!
  • Tricia Cortez In response to the points that Jorge Vera raises: 1) This area IS FEDERALLY DESIGNATED as "wetland" and "waters of the United States." This has been confirmed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in a study by PBS&J, a private engineering firm out o...See More
    Friday at 8:08pm · Edited · Like · 3
  • Tricia Cortez P.S. One last comment in response to Jorge Vera -- yes, the Corps of Engineers gave the green light to fill nearly all of this wetland. They almost always do. However, this does not mean that it has to be done. The will and voice of the people should a...See More
  • Elisa Gutierrez This is a plea to the City Councilmen, whom WE voted in, to consider the preservation of the wetland and to cherish and treasure what nature has given Laredo for the future of our city. Build the mall but SAVE the WETLAND. Laredo may not have as many wetlands as other cities but MORE reason to preserve what we do have. Do the RIGHT THING COUNCILMEN......
  • Arturo Trevino this so called wetlands is not even a will the childrens children benefit from this.....we need jobs and growth to boost economy,get over it,publish the real blueprint plans....right now its he said she said syndrome....besides this area is not public land,its man made....
  • Tricia Cortez Art -- Lake Casa Blanca is manmade, so is Falcon Dam, so is Amistad Dam. They are all manmade but with time they have become highly functioning eco-systems. Not just that, the Rio Grande Valley has taken advantage of its green spaces. Nature tourism, l...See More
    12 hours ago · Edited · Like · 9
  • Ernie TreviƱo We really need to protect our natural resources. Look what we have done to our rivers and our atmosphere. When do we say "no" to destroying everything for the sake of a dollar. "We need jobs and growth?" Look around when has the economy in Laredo slowed down. Jobs -- how many "Help Wanted" signs are all over town.
  • David Hunt Over the last year I have spent less than 2 hours and less than $50.00 at our mall. I spend many days and lots of money enjoying wild places. Will my money and I always have to leave Laredo to do this? I'm sure there are less obtrusive places Laredo can grow.
  • Arturo Trevino we can have both...Amistad and Falcon dam is our only choice of drinking water ....not the lake...dont compare it to who is righton the blueprints..
  • Virginia Elizabeth It's true...we can have an economy that's respects need for jobs and nature, but we are relying on our decision makers to make smart choices for us -choices that take everyone's values into account. We are counting on our decision makers to recognize ...See More
  • Elisa Gutierrez About 2 or 3 years ago the Amazon Kingfisher was spotted along the Zacate Creek, I was just a novice at bird watching but I was amazed at the people that had arrived from Kansas, Lousiana, Canada, Tennessee and other parts of the USA just to take a gli...See More
    Friday at 9:05pm · Edited · Like · 5
  • C.j. Soto Hey guys I stopped by the wetland today, our brother palm trees miss our company. We should throw another walk!
    Friday at 9:42pm via mobile · Like · 4
  • Rob Simonton The right balance enhances the shopping experience! That area if preserved and integrated into the project could attract even more customers and tourism dollars. San Antonio has several shopping areas that have done this well and they are the best places to shop in the city.
    Friday at 10:16pm via mobile · Like · 5
  • Elisa Gutierrez It can be done!!!
  • Tom Wade Just a suggestion....Loop 20 is prime real estate for business. Everyone knew it when it was built, and everyone expected development along the loop to occur.
  • Tom Wade This entire "wetland" came about as a retention pond put in place to handle drainage from the airport land mass to the lake. It was built within the last 30 or so years I believe. So, my suggestion is this: Why not ask city council to take a large p...See More
  • Tom Wade Keep this in mind also, as you all have to be realistic, this is not a $15 million project, it is (and I don't know for sure) most likely a $100 million plus development project. The $15m is just for the purchase of the land, not the construction an...See More
  • C.j. Soto Realistic? Last 3 years? No offence, some people needa get out more, its Wildlife were trying to save, those palm trees are older than all of us, they put up with two wildfires and are still standing tall. All were asking is to build around it, not pa...See More
    23 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2
  • C.j. Soto Some people just needa open their eyes thats all. Life belongs there, another crap mall wont satisfy the whole world and meet job quota, unless your a business man. In that case stick to your field, leave ours alone. Excuse me, leave nature alone. Like it has been for the last, not 30 but over 65 years. Peace!
    23 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2
  • Elisa Gutierrez I am 65 years old and that oasis has been there since I can remember. It didn't just develop 30 years ago....
    23 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Tom Wade Elisa, CJ, I am talking about the retention pond, not the other trees or area, being about 30 years old. CJ if you are so narrow minded to not include the business world in this discussion, so be it. Keep you mind closed dude. Peace
  • C.j. Soto I didnt say dont build the mall DUDE, therefor it isnt a closed minded statement. Again, just build around the beloved WETLAND and both parties live happily, including Wildlife.
    19 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2
  • David Hunt What I'd like to hear from developers is an answer to the question "Why not just leave it alone?" Yes, I understand there are already plans. They can be changed.
    18 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Tricia Cortez Tom Wade, I understand that you are a birder! And that you actually like to bird off Ranchito Road near this wetland. So why is it that you are so ready to just have it taken out? Do you not believe in balance, and sustainable development?
    12 hours ago · Like · 3
  • Tricia Cortez And speaking of how much money the retail center is projected to bring in -- we believe that is a great thing for the city! But we also believe that this wetland can also enhance the tourism industry in Laredo. Today there were birders there from British Columbia, Vermont and Pennsylvania, awe-struck by the beauty of that place and diversity of bird species that they saw in it. A&M-College Station released a report in April 2012 that showed nature tourism contributes $463 million to the economy in the Rio Grande Valley and sustains 6,600 FT and PT jobs. That is serious stuff. Why take out a place that has the potential to begin doing this for Laredo???
    12 hours ago · Edited · Like · 3
  • Tom Wade Trish my problem has never been with preserving areas for nature. I consider myself a conservationist, but not an environmentalist. The whole problem here is that the center ( RGISC) is acting in a reactionary fashion, beginning it's protest long after the city and the developer have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process of identifying markets, properties, and financing. Around 2005 the center waited until the city had leased property to the developer then started complaining. No one had even heard of this "wetland" until then. The center put together a petition made up mostly of children who thought Lake Casablanca was being destroyed. The center forced a Corp of Engineers hearing. All of this could have been avoided by being proactive. If you truly want to protect these types of areas, they should be identified (inventoried city wide) and then that list taken to the city ahead of time. When has the center ever approached a landowner and said, hey, you have some very interesting wildlife/plants here and should consider saving this land for just such a purpose, versus waiting until a landowner has invested hard earned money in developing the land? Why has the center not worked towards getting land around the lake classified as a wildlife preserve? Again, a proactive measure that would stop development at the lake. I suggested this in a post earlier in this string, and what did I hear...."Life belongs there, another crap mall wont satisfy the whole world and meet job quota, unless your a business man. In that case stick to your field, leave ours alone. Excuse me, leave nature alone." That and other post tell me that this group is only interested in confrontation, not long term vision. That is pretty sad. Again, if you talk with the city, you might just get some money out of this deal to look at starting the process to build a wildlife refuge somewhere along the east/south side of the lake. But your time is running out, as I-60 spur is being considered along 59 hwy. Your center needs not only the city, but the landowners to buy into what you are trying to accomplish. Confrontation after plans are initiated to invest millions of dollars will not work. And if you win this battle, you may save a few acres, but will lose out on the opportunity to do something big.