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McAllen’s Proposed New Smoking Ban (And This Email) Can Eat Dick

in Rants/RGV by
mcallen city hall

Earlier today, I received a “Fwd” in my inbox, urging others including myself to throw support at a “100% Smoke-Free Ordinance” for the City of McAllen. You may have also received this email today, and perhaps like me also felt the need to vomit moments after reading it. Keep Reading

No One Is Being Held Accountable For The McAllen Apartment Fire

in Rants/The News by
Abellon Condos McAllen Apartment Fire

It’s been four days since the Abellon Condominiums building went up in flames, displacing forty-seven residents from the twelve units that made up the complex. The investigation is ongoing and there are already preliminary reports claiming the fire had been started in a kitchen on the 2nd floor. We know that eventually, investigators will come to the conclusion as to what caused the fire exactly and we’ll all simply hope for the best for the displaced residents, but that’s not the point here.

Yes the fire may have been started by a resident but every bit of this disaster was made possible by the failures of both the City of McAllen and a potentially negligent owner.

The Monitor’s Molly Smith published an article detailing the on-going investigation into what caused the fire. In her article, Smith quoted McAllen Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Gerald Williamson saying that “12 units in the building did not have smoke detectors and the building was not equipped with a working fire alarm system.” and that “the City of McAllen Building Department (had) yet to inspect the building to determine whether it can be occupied.”

The article also stated the following:

Although the McAllen Fire Department does not have a mandatory inspection program for residential buildings in the city, landlords and residents can request for their apartment or home to undergo a courtesy inspection. Williamson could not say if and when the building was last inspected, nor could he comment as to whether it was in violation of city code due to the lack of an alarm system.

So let’s summarize all three of these sound bites: Not a single unit of the twelve had a smoke detector nor a working fire alarm system, at no point was the city or the Fire Marshal required to even inspect the building for smoke detectors or a working fire alarm system and the building itself has never been inspected to determine of it was safe to live there and ensure the safety of 40 or more occupants.

Got it. So this is what an institutional and systematic failure looks like.

So where do we begin to even dig up just WHO on Earth is to blame for such a dubiously shitty system?

According to the McAllen municipal code, maybe we can start with the Fire Department and McAllen Code Enforcement:

ARTICLE 5. – FIRE PREVENTION AND PROTECTION
Sec. 3. – Powers and duties of fire department and chief; board of firemen.
The fire department and the fire chief are charged with the duties of enforcing all of the fire ordinances of McAllen

Ok, so we’re off to a decent start. It makes sense that the Fire Chief and the fire dept. WOULD be in charge of enforcing all fire ordinances, meaning any and all rules and regulations regarding the safety of certain buildings that occupy forty or more residents at a single time. Great, but let’s dig a bit deeper:

PART II CODE OF ORDINANCES
CHAPTER 50 – FIRE PROTECTION AND PREVENTION
ARTICLE 1. – IN GENERAL
Sec. 50-44. – Inspection of premises; ordering removal or repair of dangerous conditions.
(a)
The fire marshal or his designee shall have the right at all reasonable hours, for the purpose of examination, to enter into and upon any and all buildings and premises within the city.
(b)
It shall be the fire marshal’s duty to enter upon any mercantile, manufacturing or public building on a periodic basis to conduct a thorough examination where in his professional opinion circumstances so require.
(d)
Whenever the fire marshal shall find any building or other structure which for any cause is especially liable to fire and whenever he shall find conditions or materials which may be dangerous in character or liable to cause or promote fire or create conditions dangerous to firefighters or occupants, he shall order such materials or conditions to be removed or remedied, and such order shall be forthwith complied with by the owner or occupant of the building or premises. All such orders shall be in writing and delivered to the owner or person otherwise in control of such premises.

So here’s where it gets a bit shitty. In McAllen’s code of ordinances, the Fire department is not required to inspect residential buildings housing multiple family units together “on a periodic basis” unless they are called out to. Although residents can call the fire department to schedule an inspection, most are left at the mercy of their landlord since most tenants are not even aware that they have a right to an inspection and have every interest to not get themselves on their landlord’s shit list.

So who owned these units, anyway? The property was actually a group of condos, which are, for those who know a little bit about properties, typically have individual owners per unit.

So in the interest of finding out who exactly these people were, I searched the property address (2313 Iris Ave.) on the Hidalgo CAD property search site and got the following results:

Juan J De La Garza Hidalgo CAD

Hidalgo County lists Juan J De La Garza and Nancy De La Garza as the owners of units 101, 102, 103, 104, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, all of which perished in last Friday’s fire. Effectively they were the owners of the entire building.

A quick google search of Juan J De La Garza got me to his personal Facebook profile, his Facebook Broker Page, and his company, De La Garza Realty Group’s Facebook Page, as well as his mixes as DJ Trajic (his email is dj_trajic@yahoo.com if you need a DJ who moonlights as a broker)

I messaged Juan J De La Garza about Deputy Marshal Williamson’s quotes that none of the units had smoke detectors or a working fire system via Facebook and here was our conversation in full:

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2017-07-11 14_49_57-Messenger Juan J De La Garza 1

So, according to De La Garza’s versions of the events, each and every single resident took out the battery in each of their smoke detectors and that Deputy Fire Marshal Williamson was misquoted, apparently.

The Texas Property Code states that there should have been at least twelve smoke alarms in that building (assuming each condo is a one bedroom, etc.). Also, according to the Texas Property Code, the landlord has a lawful duty to inspect every smoke alarm at the time of a new tenant arrival to ensure that it is in working condition. So knowing these facts, and assuming he followed the law and inspected each smoke detector at the time each tenant moved in, that would also assume that there hadn’t been a new tenant in quite some time.

Enter Angelica Cerino, a new tenant who lost everything in that fire when KRGV Channel 5 reported her story.

Again, with this information, I reached out to Deputy Fire Marshal Williamson for some clarification to see if he was, in fact, misquoted:

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Apparently, he believes he was quoted accurately.

Again, I tried drawing water from the De La Garza well and came up empty this time:

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Understandably, it would be nearly impossible for the fire department and city code enforcement to both knock on every single resident’s door to check for fire hazards OR for private citizens to have the resources to adequately keep their homes up to a stringent fire code, but it’s beyond me that a city the size of McAllen has no provisions in place to duly inspect large resident buildings higher than one floor that occupy multiple families in the event of a fire.

It’s equally unbelievable that a building and it’s inadequate fire alarm system can be “grandfathered” in without some periodic inspection to ensure the safety of their residents.

The only liability De La Garza would face would potentially derive from whether or not he inspected Angelica Cerino’s smoke alarm before she moved in as required by law. Legally, there is no problem with De La Garza wiping his hands clean of the ELEVEN other units that did not have a properly functioning smoke alarm (albeit from a battery removal or not) or even a working fire alarm system for the entire building.

There’s no justice, no reprieve or remedy for most of these people who probably couldn’t afford to live anywhere else and that’s fucking stupid.

We’ll keep you updated if De La Garza, McAllen Fire Department, McAllen Health and Code Enforcement reach out to us.

UPDATE: Deputy Fire Marshal Williamson got sick of my shit, so I asked the other guy:

2017 Best Bars In McAllen Ranked

in RGV by
Suerte Bar and Grill McAllen Texas

Can you believe that this will be the third yearly edition of the Best Bars in McAllen?

No. You can’t, because even I didn’t think I’d still be writing this garbage in 2017 but HERE WE ARE!

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POLL: Who Are You Voting For? (2017 McAllen Mayoral Election)

in RGV by
mcallen mayor jim darling othal brand jr

Well…who are you voting for? Poll ends Saturday at 3:00 PM Keep Reading

Can We All Agree That The Median On N. 10th Is A Bad Idea?

in The News by
McAllen Median Project

Construction is about halfway done on the median that is being installed on North 10th between Trenton and the outer rim of the universe and everybody, especially me, hate the fuck out of it.

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2016 Best Bars In McAllen Ranked

in RGV by
El Devino

Last year, our list of the best bars in McAllen was met with literally no acclaim from ANYONE we ranked on the list. (thanks guys!)

So here’s a toast to another year of The Bench Wire going, potentially, unnoticed. (here, HERE!)

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Rep. Terry Canales Goes On Epic 2 AM Rant About McAllen Iglesias Secret Spending

in RGV by
terry canales

At 2:19 AM Sunday morning, I was about 5 or 6 tequila and sodas in, clumsily climbing into my car and trying my best not to alert the cop parked a mere 20 feet away of my absolute incapacity to operate a motor vehicle. Glamour shot enthusiast and State Rep. Terry Canales, on the other hand, thought it would be a good time to tweet out a rant. Keep Reading

McAllen Found One Sweet-Ass Loophole To Hide That Enrique Iglesias Money

in RGV/The News by
Enrique Iglesias McAllen

On Tuesday, the Texas Attorney General’s office denied The Monitor’s request for the City of McAllen to disclose how much they paid Enrique Iglesias for his performance at December’s Christmas Parade concert.
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The Bench Wire Hater’s Guide To The Valley: South Padre Island

in RGV by
The Bench Wire South Padre Island

The Valley is one of a kind when it comes to diversity. From the racist white people, the country-wannabes, the ghetto Hispanics, the snobby Mexicans from Monterrey and the token black person in between. With all that diversity and culture mixing all over, visiting the Valley might be a little overwhelming. Not to worry, tourist: The Bench Wire is here to help.

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2015 Best Bars In McAllen Ranked

in RGV by
the centennial club is one of the best bars in mcallen

McAllen has a lot of bars. Bars on 17th St., bars on Nolana, bars on Main, bars on 23rd, bars on Ware…So it might help if people knew which ones were actually worth the drive around.

To find the best bars in McAllen, we’ll need to take a few things into consideration before we grade them.

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