BND board election is crucial

Posted on 4 of May, 2008 by in Common Sense

Published Brownsville Herald May 4, 2008

This is the first of a two part piece – don’t miss part two in the next “Common Sense”


Early voting at the Brownsville Navigation District Offices at the Port started Monday and will continue through Tuesday. Election Day is Saturday.
   This election has the possibility of changing the pace and direction of the navigation district for years as three of the five positions will be replaced and none of those remaining were on the board when the “bridge debacle” took place. Only Carlos Masso and Martin Arambula remain!
   I asked Dann Rivera, a successful political strategist for more than 20 years, for a comment on the races.
   Dann indicated that he was very disappointed at the way the port has been administered and looks for improvement.
   He expressed high hopes for candidates “who want to do good rather than do well.“
   This election could create new centers of influence at the port for several years.
   In Place 1 (currently held by Peter Zavaletta) the “BISD conscience,” Eliceo Muñoz, is battling one of Brownsville’s great promoters, Ralph Cowen. Neither appears to have experience in the maritime or logistics industry. Mr. Cowen’s brother Phillip, however, is a successful customs broker and lawyer in the field and the prominent Cowen Group Logistics Co. is also in the family.
   Ralph has been active in Brownsville since I can remember, helping to with this problem or that, and has been one of the city’s great promoters for decades. For years Charro Days could not start without his “grito.”
   Mr. Rivera said he hopes voters will consider Ralph’s long-refined talents and many years of being there when the community needed him.
   My concerns are all focused on where these talents will be focused. The debate and advertising have only described the same aspirations others have voiced in the past. I would like to know who his principal financial supporters are and precisely how the goals will be met.
   I must admit a predisposition toward Mr. Muñoz. I have been able to discuss a number of public issues at length with him and watched this “conscience of BISD” in action. His background in construction and facilities at Brown and Root provided an ideal setting for skills in oversight that the BND sorely needs. Mr. Rivera cautioned, however, that I consider whether the level of detail and focus might not take into consideration the overall goals and plans, or possibly bog down potential successes with micromanagement.
   The bottom line is, what is more important in this case: oversight or promoting new goals successfully?
   John Reed, senior vice president at Capital One Bank, is running against Don De Leon, son of perennial political figure Ernie De Leon, an independent mortgage broker and operator of an injury rehabilitation clinic in Place 3, currently held by Luigi Cristiano.
   Mr. Reed has 23 years’ banking experience and is seeking his first political office. In forums he pointed out the need for new infrastructure to attract new business and the need to search for new markets. Mr. Reed has a lot of potential with his background in financial services, not only with regard to oversight but also his understanding of the financial marketplace
   The Brownsville Herald recently reported that Mr. De Leon said he would develop strategies for more business from the Mexico. He also said, “I will fight for the development of a major container terminal, which will allow our port to compete globally with other containerready ports along the Eastern Seaboard and Mexico. He said 99 percent of the world’s cargo is container-traffic.
   Like everyone else in the race, De Leon hasn’t said how more jobs will be made or how we will bring in new facilities and where would they go.
   Sergio Lopez is unopposed for Place 5, but still took the time to share his views and goals in the recent candidate forums. I have talked to Mr. Lopez about his trucking business and its relationship to the port, and was quickly convinced of his high expectations for the port, and that for his business to thrive and expand the port must thrive and expand.
   I worked for a time with Dann Rivera at Victory Data more than 18 years ago. I saw how a candidate was evaluated as to electability and then watched his unique skill in communicating the candidate’s message to the public with just the right tenor. Recently, this was superbly demonstrated in Tara Rios-Ybarra’s campaign for Texas House seat 43, which stretches from Kingsville to South Padre Island.
   All candidates seem motivated and qualified but to this point no one except Mr. Lopez has demonstrated an understanding or even an interest in the maritime industry, which is one of the most unique and regulated today.
   I would have liked to see a member of the maritime family on the panel of one or more of the forums so that specific questions relating to ports could be addressed. Instead all we really saw were standard political questions. I think we do have some candidates with a lot of potential, and encourage everyone to think carefully and vote.
Fred

4 Comments

  1. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was super long)
    so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly
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  2. Fred says:

    Thanks Kurgan
    I have ben trying out a couple of things.
    Fred

  3. Kurgan says:

    love the new format!

  4. Fred says:

    I must assume I was not critical enough or did not take an expected position. The whole point is to encourage new candidates. I don’t dislike anyone who has the courage to participate; though I do not think well of folks that kibbitz and don’t actively participate.
    I would encourage you to takea position and work for a candidate of your choice. Any of these have skills that could advance the Port, it only leaves it to the community to hold the elected candidate to do the right things. Apparently, we were asleep during the past debacle as well.