By DUARDO PAZ-MARTINEZ |Editor of The Avenger
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – This rough-edge bordertown doesn’t take well to newcomers, especially those who arrive to criticize and immediately want to change things. Mike Hernandez, III did just that this year, and he’s still doing it. His efforts to improve local education, politics and the economy are laudable, but, man, it’s been as if he helicoptered into town and began dropping grenades. The city that always sleeps is still reeling.
Hernandez, the brains behind the controversial OP 10.33 undertaking, is still around. Yeah, and for that reason, because he seems to have survived, well, we name him the 2016 Person Of The Year – an award that goes not solely go to something positive, but also to someone who brings, as they say in weekend hoedowns out west, the band.
It was a pretty easy choice. Not too many other locals have done a damned thing this wild and crazy year, at least not the spectacular. Hernandez brought the idea and he brought the cash. That alone sets him apart from the city’s elected officials. We believe 2017 will be an even bigger and better year for OP 10.33’s doings. And it’s not that we’re being overly kind to Hernandez, ’cause there’s much we would say to him about his methods, but his arrival has been hard to ignore.
Blogger Jerry McHale, shown in stoic pose at left, has also been a big part of the unfolding OP 10.33 story, although only in a legal way. He was sued last summer for defamation by Mike Hernandez, III, and that lawsuit is still on a docket somewhere in Tarrant County upstate. The targeting of the popular blogger has done the one thing everybody in town thought impossibile: it has silenced him on all things to do with Hernandez or his organization. A rebel from another era, McHale nonetheless perseveres as best he can. His blog is still a must-read for many in Brownsville. It’ll be interesting to see what the eventual resolution of this lawsuit does to McHale and his writing on local issues, events and personalities. He dreams of retiring to Portugal after a long career as a schoolteacher, but it says here that he’d like to leave on a better note. This is the local writer who had students at UT-Brownsville bolting out of their classrooms to get a copy of his legendary, Gonzo-fueled El Rocinante, so…
She’s kept the trains running, as they say in bureaucratic lingo. That would be Brownsville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Esperanza Zendejas. A long year that;s ending for her likely will segue into another one of the same in 2017. Like most employed public schools superintendents, Dr. Zendejas has only he votes on the BISD’s Board of Trustees to help with the mission. Support from that body means good things for the district and its many schoolchildren. Lack of support and everything turns to dust. They criticize her for being on the lookout for another, better position, but that’s the nature of the job. Superintendents are as political as their boardmembers. Dr. Zendejas has done well in spite of the naysayers. And didn’t she spring for a new car earlier this year that went to a student with perfect attendance? Yes, she did. A news Mazda, in fact. You pair that with the many days teacher and City Commissioner Ricardo Longoria has skipped and you learn to appreciate the little things in public education. Plus, we’re also of the opinion that to have a Stanford grad as superintendent is a good thing.
Yeah, he lost. But Rigoberto Bocanegra, shown at left, exhibited the one personality trait that is, well, rare in Brownsville – he publicly, graciously acknowledged his defeat during the November BISD elections. What beaten candidate does that around here? Not many. Not any. Nope. You just don’t get that sort of classy gesture from the many louts who post themselves up to the voters, spill their nothingness, lose and then, like freighter rats, vanish into the dark night. Rigoberto, a paramedic/firefighter, was not our choice for the schoolboard, but maybe he should have been. Sometimes, a moment as rare as this one is enough to make one pay attention. Yep…
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Avenger Editor Duardo Paz-Martinez doesn’t know everybody in town. But it is the noisemakers who get the attention, and the ones noted above got a good chunk of it. Millionaire Mike Hernandez can keep with his mission of finding a new day for Brownsvile. McHale will likely never leave. Supt. Zendejas will keep on keeping-on and Rigo Bocanegra will no doubt again seek elected office. It’s what Brownsville is, a city still allowing for a good load of individualism…