City of Brownsville offers airline $2 million guaranteed revenue

Members of the public questioned and criticized the Brownsville City Commission Tuesday night in regards to a pending contract between the city and Public Charters, Inc.

Public Charters is a Pennsylvania-based air charter company that has proposed airline service to Monterrey and Tampico under the name “Fly Frontera.”

At the meeting, which was streamed online, Mayor Pat Ahumada and the city commissioners insisted bringing in Fly Frontera to the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport was vital to expanding the city. Securing international flights at the Brownsville airport was a venture they had been vying for for well over a decade.

City Commissioner Charles Atkinson said the city had gone to conventions and trade shows in years past, but had unsuccessfully bid on airlines to provide service to the city.

While this all sounds like a reasonable quest for the city, the underlying issue is that Public Charters is requesting a guaranteed minimum revenue over two years of $2 million, with $500,000 of this being start-up cash.

Individuals at the meeting criticized the city’s lack of proper protocol in dealing with accepting a bid from Fly Frontera without opening up to other airlines. Earlier in the week the president of Pan American Airways opened up to the local paper, saying his company was told last August that the incentives included in the proposed Fly Frontera contract were not available.

A individual who spoke at the meeting (who just happens to be my dad) said he had previously requested the documents showing the details of the contract and preliminary research from the mayor via Facebook. The mayor asked that he attend the meeting for more information. At the meeting, this same individual requested information, and the mayor told him it was his fault he had not taken personal responsibility to become informed. The mayor also asked this individual if he expected him to be his “little errand boy” and give him the information he requested without digging for it. (Nice move during election season, mister mayor.)

Neither the mayor nor any of the city commissioners could inform the individuals at the meeting what the ROI on the proposed contract was or explain the details of the contract without interrupting each other (and the audience members) by yelling or banging a gavel.

While from the prospective of wanting to expand the city, the Public Charters contract sounds like a good idea at first glance, the lack of government transparency and failure to allow competing airlines to submit bids gives the impression that an under-the-table deal is in progress.

Ultimately, the issue was tabled for no more than 25 days, but concerned citizens believe the commission has already made up its mind and will vote to sign the contract with Public Charters.

A city that is considered one of the most impoverished cities in the country cannot toy around with money, regardless if it is a prime tourist destination or not. (The provided link shows data from 2006, but I can guarantee these results haven’t changed much.) And this city should certainly not be making decisions such as this one without a proper bidding process and widespread approval from its citizens.

If Public Charters wishes to bring a portion of their company to Brownsville, let them do so--but without the promise of guaranteed business or free cash. The requested monies show that Public Charters lacks confidence in Brownsville’s ability to bring in businesses, and should the city really do business with an entity that has no faith in its abilities?

Let the free enterprise system play out and soon enough, an international airline will realize the city has potential and lay an offer on the table without asking for cash upfront.

With an election approaching shortly, the careless Brownsville city commissioners can guarantee they will not be sitting on their thrones much longer. Without listening to we, the people, the commissioners can guarantee we will not be supporting them any longer.


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