Que Pasa in Baja?

March 21, 2016 Edition
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

Drug-free government. Baja government officials were just drug tested.  This indignity has been mandatory since in 2013 as part of a “Public service accountability” law that was passed requiring all officials to take the test every year before the end of march.

The law has been heavily criticized as several media outlets have tried to get a peek at the results each year but officials have responded that the results are classified. Officials say that based on the results of the test they issue recommendations if they find positive results. So, like, where is the accountability in that?

Teachers pass the test. In the very controversial competency test that was given to teachers all over the country, Baja did not do so bad. 90% of our evaluated teachers passed the test. About 7% of the teachers actually had an outstanding grade which automatically grants them a 30% salary increase.

The 288 teachers that failed the test will have a second and third opportunity to pass in one year. If they fail three times, they are automatically fired from their jobs. So, let’s just get this straight: 288 teachers who are in the classroom today can’t pass a competency test, but they will be allowed to entertain our children for the next three years. Because they sure won’t be teaching them anything. Jeeze, I don’t remember having three shots to pass a test while I was in school.

The test was controversial because the teacher’s union was against it, saying it violated the teacher’s rights to be tested every year, sparking several teacher strikes and protests all over Mexico.

Elba Esther Gordillo, the national teachers’ union president, was the biggest opponent of the test and widely seen as a tope on the road to education in Mexico. She’s been in the stony lonesome since President Pena Nieto clapped her there as soon as he took office more than three years ago, but it will take at least a generation to clean up the mess she left behind when she built her queendom in order to loot the money out of the education sector.

Desalination plant. Built with private capital under the newly passed public-private partnership law, the desal plant currently under construction in San Quintin is expected to produce about 66 gallons of squeaky clean water per second.

This new law allows the state to make contracts with private entities who build the plant, ensuring that their investment will pay off because the public water agency will buy all the water.  The investment in the plant is made almost fully by the private sector, (in some cases a small percentage is ponied up by the government).

The same type of partnership is being used for the Ensenada desal plant that is expected to be finished in March 2017, producing an extra 66 gallons of water per second for that city.

Kiko Vega, our state governor, has repeatedly said that having enough clean water is a priority for the development of Baja California, so there are several water projects underway to water for everyone, including agriculture and industry.

New fountain in Ensenada. We told you about a year ago that a fountain was being built on the pier as part of the remodeling job. You don’t remember? Consult your notes!

Well it has been finished now, it was just inaugurated and it’s muy bonito! Very pretty. The fountain features a lights, water and music show all computer controlled that’s already attracting crowds of looky loos next to the huge flag. If you’re too lazy to drive down to see for yourself, crank up your computer and go to http://bit.ly/ensfountain

The fountain cost $ 2 million dollars and the money was ponied up by the port authority which is in charge of all the renovation of the pier.

Tourist buses could come from U.S. Kiko Vega, our state governor, said in a press conference that he is working to allow tourist buses from the U.S. to cross the border and tour Baja cities as long as the buses have no more than 30 passengers. 

A Mexican federal law made it illegal for U.S. buses with tourists to cross the border and tour the cities. It was intended as a way to generate more business for local tour operators but it backfired, costing Baja about 1.5 million tourists every year. Seems the Gringos didn’t want to hop on the Mexican bus, Gus.

Off-Road Museum for 2017. The state tourism office announced its plan to build an off-road racing museum for 2017.

“We want the museum to be ready next year because that’s when the Baja 1000 celebrates it’s 50 years” said Oscar Escobedo, head of the state tourism office.

The museum will be an interactive space where all the aspects of off-road racing will be featured: the concept of the race, the vehicles, the drivers and more. Escobedo said that they are planning on spending about $1.1 million USD on it.

We will be interested in seeing if they include in the museum all the politics swirling around the race. Every year it gets more expensive to buy the “permits” required, and this year an agreement couldn’t be reached with Baja Sur, so SCORE cancelled the Baja 500 scheduled for next month. 

Holy week is here! By the time you read this it will already be holy week, Easter week, also called spring break. Expect beaches packed with families and lots of children since school will be out. Although they are not official holidays, most of the Mexican working force gets March 24 and 25 off, so expect the beaches to be asshole to elbow those days.

Rosarito and Ensenada authorities have extra lifeguards deployed these two weeks but almost inevitably we’ll lose a couple of drowners.

Federal authorities approve train. The governor’s plan to build a train that will go to Ensenada and connects with the train in Tecate was just approved by the Federal Transports and Communications office. Our governor says there are various possible routes for the train and that it hasn’t been decided yet which is going to be chosen. The options on the table so far are passing through the Wine Valley, maybe to have a train sightseeing tour.  Another option would be for it to go all the way to the proposed but not built or even approved airport in Ojos Negros.