Consider Residents in Planning

As we continue to experiment with a new site, set it up, take care of business, you will notice activity on both this site and the former Que Fregados website.  With that said…. on to a post.  We’ll be practice posting for the next few weeks as we make changes.
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Neighborhood empowerment has always been of interest.  Having been part of the first neighborhood association, not to be confused with a Home Owner Association, in Laredo in many years (if ever there existed one before), I was disheartened by the approach and attitude city government continues to hold over groups united for a common voice.

Movies-Cm Balli2On Thursday, July 30th, a movie night was held at St. Peter’s Plaza.  It was sponsored by the city’s Parks & Leisure along with Councilman Balli, with an opportunity to meet city department staff and talk to your representative.  All around a great program except… why was it not planned along side those that have organized the area and regularly go door-to-door?  The only consistent Neighborhood Association in all of Laredo that is run by the neighbors for the neighbors and it was not taken into account.  The Rio Grande International Study Center was given a space to distribute shopping bags and talk about their program but the St. Peter’s Historic Neighborhood Association was not.  To make the evening worse for having representation and a fair opportunity for those interested in city developments, the final Charrette for the Border to Boulevard project was held around the same time.  The timing was simply awkward.

It could have been an oversight, miscommunication, or simply bad planning – that is not the issue.  It is a pattern that is consistently seen when planning for the city of Laredo.  An ideal community will take input from residents to then formulate goals and plans and ordinances for the better of the municipality.  Unfortunately, what Laredo consistently sees is those in city leadership positions make decisions and expecting the masses to conform – punto.  One excellent example of how resident participation was garnered was in the aforementioned Charrettes that allowed for the general public to attend sessions and give ideas and a glimpse into what is important to them.  Whether the idea of these sessions came from previous pressure to make planning more transparent or whether it is because it was not the city coordinating these sessions but the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in cooperation with the city leaders, either way, the public was part of the process and various architects were involved with coming up with ideas for what to do with the strip of land at the beginning of IH35.  For all we know, the architects did what they pleased but there is no escaping the fact that the public that is not connected with the decision-making, bore witness.  This one brief moment of attempts at civic engagement was refreshing but the question remains… when will we see a more inclusive effort to involve the general public? When will groups that have formed to represent specific part of Laredo be considered partners rather than afterthoughts?  When will we see the transparent government where bottom-up solutions are looked to for some of our city’s top-down problems?

We’ll be listening in on the next city council meeting – ready to hear about issues that truly concern residents and how they are dealt; decisions that range from water treatment plant plans to municipal management districts to other items where varying opinions have been raised by pockets.  I’d show you the agenda items but they are currently unavailable but you can still try for yourself to view both the agenda and supplemental agenda for Monday, August 3, 2015.

Zombie Walkers Make A Difference

Laredo is a buzzzzz… I would love to say it is because of Make A Difference Day but it actually has more to do with ZOMBIES. Combined together, though, zombies can also make a difference!

A collaboration amongst QuickTurtle Productions, St. Peter’s Historic Neighborhood Association, Laredo Paranormal Research Society, Laredo’s Parks and Leisure and volunteers from Girl Scout Troop #91062, Konqueror, The Bender Antiguo Hotel, Totem Strategies and others resulted in a multi-layered event for Make A Difference Day. The Zombie Walk was the 1st Laredo community service event listed on the official Make A Difference Day database.

The concept is simple – show up as a zombie or get to the St. Peter’s area early for help with make-up to look like a zombie. In order to participate, you bring a donations. Anything. Bag of clothes, box of food, furniture, heck – even scrap metal or a simple cash donation. In return, you get your receipt which is your admission ticket to participate in the Zombie Walk.

If you want a little extra, participate in the Laredo Paranormal Research Society’s presentation for $5 at a local residence. But prepare yourself – it’ll be dark, it will be real and it will make your skin crawl.

Don’t care for zombies or collected sounds of the paranormal? Just visit St. Peter’s neighborhood to donate and give a helping hand to the only food pantry for veterans with financial need, Volunteers Serving the Need. The neighbors of St. Peter’s want you to know about Laredo’s early history. Maybe you will even spot one of the green parakeets of Laredo that only live in the downtown area. You might even meet Pete, the parrot. Or everyone’s darling, Russ the Downtown Hound. Russy even offered the following advice on his Facebook page:

I can’t wait for visiting zombies to check out MY part of town. Don’t worry, I may bark but I won’t bite… unlike… certain zombies I know. The best tips from this humble hound of yours:

1) Park in residential St. Peter’s and WALK to the Bender – you will avoid tickets and traffic. Avoid blocking the plaza for those coming to drop off donations – help us make this smooth for everyone.

2) If yo
u want make-up applied, do it EARLY because the 1//2 hour before 6:30pm when it all starts is going to be crunch time.

3) If you prefer to donate at VSTN earlier than 3pm, the thrift store is on Salinas at the TexMex RR lines. They will also give you a tax receipt to use as admission in to the Bender. The SIFE students will be helping them out for Make A Difference Day at the offices, too.

4) The LPRS presentations can only handle a certain size of group at one time every 15 minutes and will be $5 fee. Be patient and be organized and make sure you walk around St. Peter’s neighborhood to check out the homes while you wait.

5) The plaza will not have chairs for the movie. You can bring your own or borrow a blanket from us but please be sure to give it back – they will be given back to VSTN.

6) We plan these events from our hearts but we are not many. If you want to volunteer with transporting donations & clean-up at the end of the night, let us know.

7) You can go to just the zombie walk, just the LPRS ghost tour, just donate, just walk the neighborhood, just to come visit me or… any combination of the above!!

8) Be respectful of our homes and pets, we neighbors want you to know us and Laredo history and hope you come back!

There you go, humans (for today), the rough ruff of tips from me, Russ the downtown hound. “Like” me if you want to know more about what happens downtown or add St. Peter’s Historic Neighborhood Association.

Oh yeah. Talking dogs and zombies… Hope to see you there!

My Laredo Likes

With all the loads of cool things going on, I figured I would sacrifice a little sleep to tell you the things that piqued my interest:

Big ups to the Laredo Borderslammers!! This intrepid group traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, paying their own way to represent Laredo in the Southwest Shootout Regional Poetry Slam. And guess what? I know you are going to guess. If you have been to one of the border slam slams, I know you know what I am going to write…

The team that went to Tulsa, OK to compete – Crystal Ortiz, Julia Orduña, Beatriz Ceja and Armando X. Lopez. (not pictured, M. Robert “Chibbi” Orduña)

For their first time out, they got 3rd Place!!! YAY! The above photos was taken the day before they left as they prepared to have a poetry slam at Gallery 201 in downtown Laredo. This weekend really pushed Laredo Border Slam into a new category. I love when people follow their passion and explore their talents.

Of course, at the same time, the PORTICO Street Festival was going on. Despite being on the organizing side and being in the heat, I had a BLAST! Again we have another instance where people (in this case, neighbors) do something because they WANT to, not because it is their job, not because they will get paid, not because of ulterior motive other than to celebrate creativity and that which we already have and love.

In the ring with LWA and the leaders of St. Peter’s Historic Neighborhood Association

I only had the chance to snap a photo of the Laredo Wrestling Alliance (who also follow their wrestling passion, not because they have to or are making big bucks but because they want to!) while Cindy Liendo Espinoza and Jaime Canales were being recognized for having smoothed some of the wheels to help this group of neighbors put on a festival. Judge H. Liendo also assisted by providing the portable toilets, the Webb County Sheriff’s Reserve who were so helpful in providing security, Laredo Crime Stoppers who provided printing and chairs, Laredo Main Street who let us borrow their tables and chairs, Olivia Cotton who lent us her tremendous art talent, Cory la Payasita who let us borrow her Duck Train, Dr. Ike’s provided a great banner, not to mention all the other folks who displayed their talents in arts and crafts.

The big highlights were the volunteers with the professional wrestlers of the Laredo Wrestling Alliance, the Laredo Paranormal Research Society, the Ramos Family, Jesus Najar’s wildly popular architectural tours, the great singers organized by SIFE, Buitron Academy‘s Capoeira and Kenpo demonstration and Victor Mendoza who had everything go wrong with his screen-printing demonstration so he decided to sing instead!

A promising surprise is that the clean-out of the Beckelhymer Home has begun… or at least Parks & Leisure dedicated an initial first hour to it:

Beckelhymer Home on Chihuahua as the clean-up begins and the city takes responsibility for its repair.

We’ll be watching the progress from a distance. Of course, we will be watching a different kind of progress from further up close as PBS (KLRN in this area) hones in on South Texas culture with the documentary about to premiere, Mariachi High. Way to go Zapata, Texas!! The PBS website give this snippet:

MARIACHI HIGH documents a year in the life of “Mariachi Halcon,” a top-ranked competitive high-school mariachi band in the rural ranching town of Zapata, Texas. The program premieres June 29, 2012, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) as part of the PBS ARTS SUMMER FESTIVAL, a seven-part event anchored by films that highlight art, artists and performances from around the world.

I’ll be watching! I am excited to see so many pursue their hobbies with passion. Let’s see what other Laredoans have in store.