HARLINGEN, February 19 - Harlingen mayoral candidate Rick Morales says Cameron County needs to do a much better job in protecting the Regional Academic Health Center and making sure it develops into a four-year medical school.
Speaking at his campaign kickoff event at La Playa Mexican Grill on Monday evening, Morales bemoaned the leadership in Cameron County on the issue. He said Hidalgo County was far more organized in its efforts to land a medical school.
“People in the medical community are telling me, we are afraid we are going to lose the RAHC, the Regional Academic Health Center. That is the (future) medical school,” Morales said.
“We need that medical school in Harlingen. We need it desperately. It will create a lot of jobs. A lot of doctors will come practice medicine here in Harlingen. That is what we need. Good health care in Harlingen.”
Morales pointed out that there is a bill before the legislature that references a new medical school for South Texas but does not say which city it should be built in. “It has no name or where it is going to be. That is a step back for us in Harlingen. That is absolutely unacceptable,” Morales said.
Morales said the leadership in Hidalgo County is hustling to have the medical school built in the Upper Rio Grande Valley. He said that on Monday of last week, city managers and economic development corporation leaders from across Hidalgo County got together to strategize on the issue.
“Where is Cameron County? Where are we? Are our city managers meeting? No. Are our EDC officials meeting? No. You know what, that is unacceptable. We could lose a $200 million to $300 million deal, a medical school,” Morales said.
Morales said Cameron County has no leadership on the issue of the medical school. All it has, he said, were three or four people working on it. “You know what we need our whole county working on it. We need our county judge. We need all the city managers. We need all the people in Willacy County to get involved. Why is there not an organized effort, a coordinated effort like there is in Hidalgo County? Why? I do not know. We are lacking leadership in that field. Absolutely unacceptable.”
Morales said Cameron County can and will do better. “It boggles the mind how these (Hidalgo County) people are getting organized and we are not. I just do not understand,” he said.
Morales pointed out that the new legislation requires the UT System to conduct a study on where the medical school should be located. Morales said he does not want to wait around and hope a study is favorable for Cameron County.
“Study? I am not one of those guys that waits around. I want to make things happen. We need that medical school. I will meet with the every single board of regents. I will go to Gene’s house if I have to,” Morales said, referencing Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System board of regents.
“I will say, Gene, let’s go get some coffee. I know you like Starbucks. We are going to have a conversation. You know what, Gene, we have to have that school in Harlingen. There has been a large investment already made in the RAHC, we cannot lose it to Hidalgo County.”
Morales acknowledged there is a “lot of money in Hidalgo County,” as compared to Cameron County. He said not only is the Hidalgo County leadership getting organized, but Starr County leaders are getting behind that effort.
Morales is a former mayor of Donna, in Hidalgo County. He said he has been told by people in Hidalgo County that if he wins his mayoral bid, the dynamics in the push to get a medical school will change.
“They tell me, once you win, everything changes. We know you are going to be hustling. You are going to making phone calls. You will go to Rick Perry’s office and say, hey, I will wait an hour until you have finished, let’s talk.”