EDINBURG, January 27 - Shades of “South Pacific.” The City of Valley High. (“Bali Hi” . . . “Come to me, my favorite island”, etc.) Get it? No? You don’t remember the famous book, Hawaii, by James Michener?
Or the great movie(s) and music (“Some Enchanted Evening”)? No? No matter. My focus here is Valley High, a suggested name for a new, amalgamated metropolis of South Texas.
If local political leaders were wise, if local residents would urge them to do so, a merger of all the towns of the Rio Grande Valley (or at least Hidalgo County) would be a great idea (whose time has not yet come, but might come and should come). Yes, if, if, and if . . . .
If we could somehow manage to overcome our “Friday Night Football Mentality.” If our warring cities could only cease their warfare. The recent territorial dispute mid-Valley between Pharr and Donna comes to mind, as do previous or on-going rivalries between McAllen and Edinburg. Must this impasse continue, wasting time, money, patience, dissipating strength that could be useful for more effective lobbying for things we all need?
If (and when) we could manage to do those things, this region and its people would have much greater clout in both Austin and Washington. Why continue squabbles over the RAHC, over where airports and (as yet a non-existent) Medical School or Law School will be located? We so often fail to see we are one, or should be.
Why not reverse the trending threats (worldwide?) of separation (Cataluña from Spain, England from the European Union) or even secession (a la Rick Perry “leading” Texas out of the Union of the United States)? Why not embrace positive centripetal force, instead of negative centrifugal force?
The results would be more and quicker and better representation, better results in terms of funding and beneficial projects for our people; a rising tide raises all ships. Am I a dreamer? Yes, I see my Bali Hi beckoning in the mist. Or, you think about it, please, and propose a better name. “Rio Grande City” is already taken but how about just “Grand City”? Or “River City”? Or “United City”?
Try a few more names; you can do it. Meanwhile, think of the advantages of the unity a merger would bring. A city of a half-a-million people (a million or more if we include the whole Valley) would be respected and influential far more than we are now. But we must start thinking and, as soon as possible, when a core of awareness and agreement surface, start acting.
Would it be difficult to achieve? Yes, without doubt. But it has been done, to great advantage at other times, in other places. Think of New York City. Its boroughs consolidated in 1889 - Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island. Each was a county; each retains its own District Attorney. Troublesome, important details had to be worked out then and will now, in the 21st Century. Think of consolidated government of Dade County/Miami in Florida. Think of taxes saved, services unified and streamlined.
We have our specialists already with us who can advise as we begin the brain-storming. The University of Texas—Pan American hosts a Masters of Public Administration (headed by Dr. William Turk) with experts such as Professor John Milford and others. My own Department of Political Science will have, in the near future, a new Masters of Political Science. New professors are on the horizon, some international, with practical experience and knowledge of experiments in local government cooperation in other countries. We will have, in the near future, a new, amalgamated University. Why not go all the way? Why not unite politically?
Of course, we will need state (Legislature) approval. Texas is a unitary state, not a federal one. The cities are not as free as the States of the Union to re-organize without official stamp of approval. Other details are perplexing, but not impossible to work out. Would there be one Mayor? Would he/she be elected in partisan elections, as are most mayors of large cities? I would hope so. What of Starr County; why not include it, if those citizens so decide? What of school district re-organization? All are daunting questions but all have solutions, with the right attitude.
Why should the U.S. not be a leader in this innovation? And why should the Valley of South Texas not be a leader in that creative, “pro-people” process? Our “Bali Hi or City of Valley High may be, one day, if not a huge Shining City on a Hill, at least a million-member-plus Consolidated City along the Rio Grande River Valley, an ever-more-important link between the U.S. and Mexico, and the world.
Dr. Gary Mounce is political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American. His columns appear regularly in the Rio Grande Guardian.