Two high ranking members of LULAC—one of them the national civil rights committee chairman—told the George West City Council Monday LULAC is initiating an investigation into the actions of the city watchdog group in that regard.
Both LULAC representatives questioned whether racism has played a factor into the reasons Martinez has been so heavily criticized and relentlessly dogged in the media by the group.
Friends of George members deny that racism has played any part in their campaign to get answers to numerous allegations against Martinez and the city—which include refuted claims the city manager lives rent-free on GW property and that GW officials refuse to tell residents how much money the city has in its coffers.
Ramiro “Gambi” Gamboa—civil and human rights committee chairman for LULAC Council #1, based in Corpus Christi—asked why these allegations continue to be leveled against Martinez.
“The city manager has answered all their questions (but) the Friends of George is going to start a campaign of lies in the court of public opinion,” Gamboa said. “I believe that this has some racial innuendo behind it. What is really behind the whole thing of questioning the city manager?”
Dr. Nick Adame—LULAC Council #1 president and chair of the LULAC national civil rights committee for 2014—said he also has concerns the campaign against Martinez could be a “racially charged situation.”
“We’re here to research the situation,” Dr. Adame said. “(Are) racial connotations involved here? That went out a long time ago, and it’s a sad day when we have to come back and look at this again. We of the League of Latin American Citizens take this very seriously, especially in South Texas. Whether subtle or implicit, it’s still there. As far as innuendos go, we as an organization will be looking at it further and will be making our own opinion and seeing what’s right.”
These comments were made during the citizens’ comments portion directly before the meeting begins.
When the council later broke into executive session, members of the audience who belong to the Friends of George could be heard discussing the LULAC allegations with disbelief.
Reached on his cell phone afterward, John Walker (who helped form the Friends of George group) said he wasn’t at the meeting but welcomed any scrutiny by LULAC.
Walker denied any member of the group has racial motivations.
“They don’t—let me get that clarified,” Walker said. “But that’s good. They’re conducting an investigation. That’s fine.”
During a break in proceedings, City Manager Martinez said she had no idea LULAC was coming to George West.
“It was brought to my attention before the meeting,” she said. “But I am sure they will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.”
This wasn’t the only Friends of George complaint leveled at Monday’s meeting. Also during citizen comments, city employee David Flores took issue with a claim that the city’s crime rate had increased 300 percent. It had been voiced by a Friend of George member at a recent council meeting.
Flores works closely with GW Police Chief Rey Garcia and helps procure grant money for the department. In that capacity, Flores clarified that the statistic being misquoted was a 319 percent increase in felony arrests last year—basically the opposite of a crime rate increase.
“It’s amazing what stupidity and hatred can bring out,” Flores said to the council and the audience. “What the chief has done here is good. Your children don’t have to worry about being shot at night. Your children don’t have to worry about finding drugs in every other locker.”
Flores then pulled out a special flag the Texas Senate had asked to be presented to Chief Garcia in recognition of his work.
In response, the council formally presented the flag to the chief.
Garcia was initially reluctant to come forward to claim the flag—given the circumstances.
But after a brief second, he did—and to much applause.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.