Can we seize back our local government from the twelve tongs?

Published Brownsville Herald February 11, 2007  

As many of you who read my columns know I am Libertarian and advocate for the smallest government possible consistent with maintaining order.
The smallest should be the Federal Government whose basic goals should be related to protecting the people from harm and refereeing between the States.
In my scheme the most power would be reserved to the communities and the people. This concept has been sorely troubled of late because of the more appearances of misuse of office that pop up with each sunrise.
The worst of it is that our elected officials seem to think that they should rule by decree after secret meetings!
In the city the Mayor and commissioners are running the city; I wonder why we even have a City Manager!
My understanding of this kind of government is that the Professional City Manager is recruited by the City Council and that party selects a professional staff, without the interference of the politicians. These employees of the city conduct the business of the city. The City Manager and staff research the issues that are brought up by the residents and their representatives and make recommendations, they prepare budget and other recommendations, new laws needed to better the efficiency of the city. When have we heard anything about the City Manager recommends this or the Chief of Police recommends that. It is all about the Mayor and Commissioners.
The city fathers are selected to conduct oversight in how the city’s money is spent not necessarily to do the spending. How can they effectively provide any such oversight?
They are also there to advocate for the needs of the residents and assuring that the very hard earned money that is successfully extorted from their constituents is used only for the best value. I have seen little of this mostly I have seen seeking benefits for the members of their tong.
Fortunately, the city’s owners, to use a Ross Perot euphemism, will have an opportunity to rethink their choices and set the city in the right direction.
I would like to see some candidates that are not part of the “twelve tongs”; Translated from the Chinese that means the twelve factions. Brownsville Herald Editor Rachael Benevides recently focused attention on recycling of candidates in an editorial and a frequent guest to the same pages, Mr. Bobby Wightman-Cervantes addressed the issue of qualifications quite elegantly in the opening shot of his new Blog brownsvillevoice.blogspot.com.
We need good candidates but we very much need our neighbors to realize how important it is to find out how competent a candidate is personally and get out and discuss them with all your neighbors; then all of you get out and vote. If you don’t vote someone else will decide for you, how your money is spent.
I was once told that if there is a lot of smoke around that there is a good chance there is a fire burning, and here in Brownsville there is so much smoke, which equates to the appearance of wrong doing, it is difficult to tell where it is coming from.
At the Navigation District there are rumors of another re-invented politician being prepared to become a Port Director, and is being supported by the remaining Commissioners that were not reached by the recent purge. They were part of the cabal that brought us the missing $21 million, which included large payments made without any authorization or Board action.
Could any of these folks expect to remold and move into a BISD seat or become a City Father?
BISD with two new players on board is also still smokin’ from the stir caused by the assertions of overpaying for a piece of property without even an appraisal to support the transaction; and the now infamous restaurant meeting which taints all of the members because it was asserted by the Board President that it was a common practice.  It may well be more common around the state than we think.
Some gossip from construction firm cloakrooms would suggest that the promotion expenses approach $30,000 to $80,000 per board vote for a middle sized school. While I doubt that anyone is paid an outright bribe or benefit such as that, it sure brings out the cynic in me. I also doubt that in order to demonstrate their consistent drive to be clear and transparent, the trustees will make any attempt to have the construction expenses of the past five years and those for the next five years be subjected to a forensic examination (free in many instances – usually paid from a percent recovered from over invoicing) as was suggested by former trustee Munoz.
It just seems that the same players go from place to place and the same tong members seem to benefit more and more. At the same time our taxes go up and up to provide more buildings to name and provide services, some of which the most of us may not need and couldn’t afford even if we had the need. Did I hear golf coarse in the back of the room?
In all three of these public entities there is little or no pay and the candidates spend sizable sums to get there and work far longer than was envisioned when the structure was first envisioned. It boggles the mind.
With the above in mind it is crucial that we all get out there and carefully watch what our representatives are doing so we can make good judgments when the polls open again, soon.