Monday, May 28, 2007

Bird Center Disinformation Campaign

There has been a flurry of email flying around the island about a supposed attempt by three aldermen to “kill” the new Birding Center. I was aware that there was some consternation expressed - and not just among alderpeople - regarding the 6.5 million dollar price tag to build what some might consider to be an overly-grandiose structure -- but I had not heard of anyone wanting to kill the project altogether. So I went directly to one of the alleged birdhouse murderers - alderman Kirk Mills - and asked him pointblank if he intended to throttle the birding center and why would he want to do such a thing...

This was his response:

Everyone wants a birding center including me - I maybe more than most as I have a bird book and mark it regularly with sightings of birds. I am interested in seeing something along the lines of the Port Aransas project - ie. not an enormous building and parking lot but rather a modest building with lots of habitat mixed with boardwalks and bird blinds. Something that would promote wildlife, visitors, and not cost in excess of 6.5 million dollars. Why do I object to the 6.5 plus million dollars? Because - the EDC was set up as an agency to promote toruism including to protect our number one attraction/asset: the beach. The current scheme would obligate the income from the edc sales tax through the year 2031 - allocating about $500,000 plus to the bird house and approximately $100,000 per year to the beach. This doesn't make sense to me. It should be the other way around - concentrate on the beach and then the bird center. Additionally I have concerns at the amount of money the EDC spends on it's 50% share of the lobbiest costs (approximately $100,000) and who might be benefitting from it....

It seems to me that these are fair questions for our city officials to be asking and they do not sound like the words of someone who is bound and determined to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Rather, this appears to be an honest attempt to define the priorities of this town and open up discussion as to how to best use our limited resources -- and I think it extremely disingenuous of certain parties to claim the three alderpersons want to kill the project completely.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Favorite Magazine Cover EVER!

Some folks would say that we don’t have any seasons here on South Padre Island, or that if we do they can be simplified as Early summer, Summer, Late Summer, and Next Summer. But they couldn’t be more wrong. We have lots of seasons - - way more than four. In fact, I have identified 12 distinct if sometimes overlapping seasons, starting (more or less) with the beginning of the calendar year, and this is what I call them:

Winter Break
Spring Break/Mexican Break
Locals Break (aka “Peace-N-Quiet”)
First Wind
Turtle Days (aka “Sargassum”)
Dog Days
Back-To-School (aka “Where’d everybody go?”)
Second Wind
Peace-N-Quiet II/Pirate Days

Right now we are at the tail end of First Wind which is segueing into Turtle Days which very soon will be overlapping with Fireworks -- which coincides with the arrival of the Summer People to the beaches and the Bongodogs to Wanna Wanna.
I will be seeing many of you here at the Sandbox, which is almost completely booked through Fireworks, Dog Days and much of Back-To-School -- and even more who are signing up for sand castle lessons in truly gratifying numbers, thanks in large part to the June issue of Texas Monthly, which features an SoB sand castle on the cover and the cover story (“The Best Texas Beaches”) has a nice mention of my lessons and my Sand Castle Academy at the SandBox Inn.

Better run out and get a copy quick before I - or the Summer People - beat you to it!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Engraved Invitation to Destruction '07

It’s that time of year again when city officials flood the news media with hurricane preparedness features. I’m not going to bother going into the whole tired, fear-mongering “if you are planning on staying on the Island during a storm ... you might as well buy yourself a toe tag so we can identify your crab-eaten body when it washes up on the shore,” crap that they trot out every year, because Sam Wells has already done a brilliant job of skewering that thang to the wall in his blog.

No, I’ll content myself with harping on the “How the hell does the city have the nerve to lecture me about hurricane preparedness when they persist in scraping a canal at the end of my street to ensure that even a mild storm surge will have no problem finding its way to my front door” crap.

Yeah, I’m tired of it too but I am even more tired of the officials’ empty promises that something is going to be done about it. Yet another year has come and gone since I last complained about this and the city is still blithely knocking down the best protection my neighbors and I might have from the upcoming storm season. I guess they are too busy trying to scare the hell out of us to actually take steps to protect us from the bad situation their folly has created.

To quote my May 29, 2006 blog entry:
This is not just my problem. The town is endangering the property of everyone who lives (close to Saturn or Venus) and I am surprised - after witnessing how the town handled the storm surges from Rita (in 2005) - that more people are not up in arms about this. Just to refresh your memory, city workers pushed up a loose sand berm at access #16 at least three different times during this surge, which had the unintended consequence of dispersing huge amounts of sand onto Gulf Blvd. and fouling up the sewer system in the process -- but did not seem to slow the surge down any; surf trash was deposited halfway up East Saturn.

Access #16 is not the only weak spot in the chain, but it is the one that I care most deeply about for admittedly selfish reasons. And I think the BOA needs to give serious thought to the possibility that the town could in fact be held liable for damages to private property if they are found to be a result of the town’s negligence in this matter.

Feel free to wrap your newly-purchased toe tag around that bit of fear-mongering.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sad News in Bongodogland

I just received word that Joey Tamayo's wife Toni passed away yesterday from a very short battle with cancer - she was only diagnosed two weeks ago. The couple has a brand new baby and that makes this sad story even sadder.

The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), 2 PM at Holy Family Catholic Church at Harrison and 24th in Brownsville.

The Bongodogs will still perform - with a stand-in singer - at Palm St. Pier tomorrow night - as far as I know. Though who could blame them if they felt they had to back out? Certainly not I...

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Even if you have to crawl....

I returned home from British Columbia Monday night and have finally gotten around to catching up on all the newspapers, minutes of meetings I missed, etc. and if a concentrated diet of published vitriol and sheer lunacy does not make you want to cry and crawl in a hole somewhere then you are perhaps too heavily armored, brothers and sisters.

Hey - let the developers have their way! Who are we to stop them? Let them build their 8-story condos in your neighborhood! Forget any hopes you might have had of insisting that the southside problems not be replicated as SPI grows north because this town lacks the will to deny any little thing the developers ask for. Want to know why Sand Blasters 2008 won’t come to SPI? (I got the inside scoop last week): 1) We don’t have a town beach where crowds can easily gather, and 2) the consulting sculptor had a really bad experience with one of our town officials during a recent Sandcastle Days contest, leading to the conclusion that we are difficult to deal with.

Yes, it could have been so easy for me to fall into the depths of despair this week, but for one thing:

Turtle Days!!!!

I can’t wait to see all the painted fans at today’s Turtle Tea!

Friday night’s Lighting of the Tiki Torches is going to be a gas and the Saturn Street Strummers have a brand new song to unleash upon the unsuspecting public. You’d better be at Palm St. Pier by 7 PM or you are going to be in the unenviable position of having to listen over and over again to multiple and detailed reports of all the sublimely silly stuff you missed.

Saturday morning you really need to show up at Beach Access #1 (Harbor st.) as we unlitter the fore-dunes and recreate the Arribada with sandturtles - my goal is 100 or more and I will really need some help - no artistic talent required.

Last but not least is Saturday night’s Turtle Ball. Music by The Agency and every penny of the $25 ticket fee goes to Sea Turtle Inc. We hear tell that a sweet blue seahorse is picking up the entertainment tab out of her own pocket so that we can all get dressed up in silly/lovely costumes, flutter our fans and dance the night away -- just for fun!

I’ll tell you, it is enough to make me (almost) forget the election ugliness and the shortsightedness of our leaders and believe that there are still enough good people here to give me hope for our town’s future.

I’m heading to the Turtle Ball --
Hope to see you there.
(Get your tickets at Zeste -- I’ll be the one leaving a trail of sand in my wake....)

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

C'mon Baby Light My Tiki Torch!

The turtles are returning to SPI to nest and that means it’s time to get ready for the second annual Lighting of the Tiki Torches Flotilla, scheduled for Friday, May 18 at just before sunset. The reigning King and Queen Sargassum, along with their court of local kayakers, will paddle the entire length of the island, lighting tiki torches all along the bay. Upon arriving at Palm Street Pier, they will be greeted by drummers, hula dancers, ukuklele players and a special performance by the Bongodogs. This is a perfect excuse to break out the Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts and get ready for summer!

There are multiple ways to participate -- all of them FREE:

Kayakers: Meet at Ted’s Landing at 5:30 if you are up for the whole trail, or join in at any point along the way. A trailer provided by The Beach Service will help you get your kayak back up to Ted’s after the ceremony.

Bayside residents: Place your (unlit) Tiki Torch in the bay and the King and Queen of Sargassum will light it from the ceremonial torch. Contact organizer Nancy Marsden to get your location on the Tiki Trail Map.

Everybody Else: Walk to the nearest by access point to cheer on the flotilla and pay homage to King & Queen Sargassum! Then head over to Palm Street Pier to participate in the festivities.

The Island Drummers and hula dancers will be on hand to welcome the flotilla at Palm St. Pier. At 7:45 the sunset ceremony begins, culminating in “the calling of the turtles” (on a conch shell, of course!) as the island officially welcomes nesting sea turtles and the beginning of summer. Following the ceremony, the Saturn Street Strummers will break out their ukes as warmup for the ever-popular Bongodogs and their unique blend of Texmex Puro Caliche Island music.

The Bongodogs appearance at the Tiki Festival should come as no surprise. "Above all, we are citizens of the Island and lovers of the sea" says David Cassady, the Bongodogs bassist. "We hope that our involvement will inspire others to take an interest in the sea turtles...".
David, his wife Cathi, and Dave Lorhy are all Bongodogs and avid divers. "Cathi and I have had some great turtle experiences in both Belize and Hawaii" said David, "but last year was probably the best! We all three traveled to Mexico to do some diving and had many wonderful close encounters with these very friendly creatures."

"This one took a particular liking to Dave!"

"We hope everyone on the Island, and in the Valley, will come out to support this event. See you there!"

The Tiki Trail flotilla is part of the week-long “Turtle Days” festivities which is being brought to you by a whole bunch of hard-working island locals who take their silliness very seriously. Other Turtle Day events include A Turtle Art Exhibit and Turtle Tea at Treasures of the Gulf Museum in Port Isabel; Sand Turtle Arribada workshops with a local sand sculptor; and the much anticipated Turtle Ball on Sat., May 19.

For a complete schedule of all Turtle Day events, surf on over to

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

'Tis the season

for mud to fly and accusations to hurl... for ugly signs to spring up like pimples and trashy campaign cards to be hung indiscriminately on doors that are rarely opened and almost never darkened by registered SPI voters. (I wonder how many of them will end up as trash in the yards and streets? Most, I would wager.) Alas, I am on my way out of town to the Tournament of Champions - had to exercise my franchise during early voting - and will miss the frenzied peak of margarita-fueled campaigning.

O darn.

So I went to the chamber forum and came away mostly convinced that every one of the candidates is qualified, dedicated and capable. So how to choose?

It seems to me the main issue in this year’s election is trust. You vote for someone you hope will make the same decisions you would if you had the time and energy to research all the issues the BOA will face in the next two years. Elections are expensive and it is simply not practical to poll the voters on every issue that comes up, so you elect someone whom you hope will take the time to do the research and make informed decisions.

However, some issues - like big bond issues for big municipal projects - are deemed big enough and important enough to be decided by popular vote. Blue ribbon committees are appointed to advise the aldermen and it is the responsibility of the elected officials to listen to those committee reports and pay close attention to the wishes of the voters. Or ignore them, I guess.

Of course things are never as clear cut or black and white as we might hope. Perhaps proceeding with the municipal building that the town staff and BOA really wanted as opposed to the building that the voters and blue ribbon panel were willing to bless was in fact the wisest and most efficient course of action. I am willing to concede that possibility. But even so, it is also fair to pose the question: Why put the issue up to vote in the first place? Why waste the time of the citizen’s committee if the BOA was going to basically ignore its report? Why allow us to feel like we have a say in how our tax money is spent if we really don’t?

Perhaps the voters in the upcoming election will trust that the aldermommies and alderdaddies they elect really do know what is best -- public sentiment be hanged.

On the other hand, maybe the voters will show that they are fed up with officials on all levels of government who turn a tone-deaf ear to the will of the people.

Either way, the results of this election will reveal a lot about the community in which we live.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why I distrust developers

The vegetated dune that used to reside here is now just a big pile of loose sand that is dispersing itself around the neighborhood thanks to all the wind we have been having. I could understand if someone actually intended to build something here, but apparently the plan was to bulldoze first, plan later and to hell with the native flora and fauna that used to call this dune home.

Maybe all the "for sale" signs on my street have something to do with it. No fewer than five four-plexes have been built on East Saturn in the past year, with what appears to be yet another well underway. And all of them have "for sale" signs in front of them, -- some more than one.

I guess it's hard to flip when no one is buying.

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chilling words from the NY Times

“The Bush administration is zeroing in on the most environmentally sensitive areas for offshore drilling,” said Richard Charter, a lobbyist for Defenders of Wildlife and co-chairman of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition. “These areas that they are characterizing as buffer zones are woefully inadequate when you consider that the Exxon Valdez oil spill traveled hundreds of miles in a matter of weeks.”