AUSTIN, February 19 - United Brownsville Executive Director Mike Gonzalez says his group’s agenda for the current legislative session was crafted with the input of local citizens.
The agenda includes major issues such as education, immigration, healthcare, infrastructure, transportation, economic development and insurance.
“The vision of our legislative agenda was defined by the citizens of Brownsville. They guided the priorities. It is really a grassroots agenda,” Gonzalez told the Guardian.
United Brownsville comprises, among others, the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Public Utilities Board, the Port of Brownsville, the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation, the University of Texas at Brownsville, and Texas Southmost College.
Gonzalez said the United Brownsville Legislative Committee took the biggest challenges the city faces and then thought about how the group can partner with the state and the local legislative delegation to overcome the challenges.
The challenges Brownsville has are contained in the ten-page legislative priorities report. The report notes that Brownsville has a population of 178,448 and is growing rapidly. It also notes that only 60 percent of Brownsville’s population have high school diplomas and only 23 percent go on to obtain postsecondary education. And, it notes that 34 percent of Brownsville families are living in poverty and that t median household income is only $30,454 a year.
“One of the great priorities is education and the human capital pipeline in our area,” Gonzalez said. “This is an exciting time for us because of the plans for a new university for South Texas. Brownsville and this region are a critical part of the state’s economy and just like any other economy we need direct investment. We want to help put a fine point on where that investment should go to get a good return.”
Gonzalez said United Brownsville’s legislative committee considered 30 local initiatives. He noted that numerous proposals in the Legislature have the potential to seriously impact the ability of local entities to carry out their overall mission. “By taking a proactive role in monitoring and commenting on proposals in the Texas Legislature, we are working to ensure that the citizens of the City of Brownsville continue to enjoy the quality of life they have come to expect and deserve,” the United Brownsville report states.
Here, are the key points in United Brownsville’s Legislative Priorities Report:
Education and Human Capitol:
“Through our Partners for Postsecondary Success initiative, the community is improving and fundamentally transforming educational opportunities in the region. The Brownsville Independent School District, University of Texas at Brownsville, and Texas Southmost College serve as the foundation of an increasing regional focus on advancing education and progressive career development. To this end, for any successful efforts to expand educational attainment and postsecondary education, adequate state funding is imperative. Only 60 percent of Brownsville’s population has high school diplomas and only 23 percent go on to obtain postsecondary education, statistics that mutual collaboration can improve. Further, the support of continued skills and development programs is fundamental to the above mentioned development of the current job market and any future growth.”
“The economic development of this region is a vital issue to which the Brownsville community has extensive potential for business expansion and job creation. With 34 percent of families living in poverty and the median household income being $30,454 yearly, Brownsville’s economic growth is of supreme urgency to its constituents and municipal leadership. With that said, all indications lead to the conclusion that the region’s growth is intrinsic to the state’s current and economic endeavors. Thus, the receipt of state policy and financial support will enable this mutually beneficial endeavor of regional economic growth and industry development.”
“The consideration to increase revenue for the risk pool by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) for the Texas coastal region, could negatively impact multiple homeowners, windstorm, and small business policies. This matter will force local residents to pay more for insurance, furthermore placing the local small businesses and compliant residents at an economic disadvantage to other regions of the state where businesses will not be faced with the increased rates. This rate influx could hinder a progressive and expanding new market. It is our desire to prevent any unfair TWIA rate increases through policy changes initiated by restructuring the TWIA.”
“Infrastructure is paramount to business development, municipal logistics, and in the maintenance of safe and efficient community dynamics. Thus, support for adequate street construction is essential. With a population of 178,448 and rapidly growing, it is necessary to support and implement the following pieces of legislation: the Utilities Easement for Recreational Use Bill, the Safe Passing Bill, and the Complete Street Act, all of which will provide for fluid business transport management, efficient governance, and adequate pedestrian support, all indicators of a healthy community.”
“We believe that improvements infrastructure are essential when planning for population growth and an overall successful economy, and as such, are inseparable from any goals in the improvement of transportation. Therefore, we request and support the accommodation of ‘Space X’ in Brownsville on the grounds that it is tantamount to regional, state, and even transnational business and community needs in this ever increasing global era.”
“It is important that our city receives support for programs that assist in identifying the core public health services offered along the border and reinforce existing efforts and resources via any grants or legislative funding that protect the health of all Texans. Unfortunately, current intra-community revenues from services are inadequate due to the existing regional impoverishment and the reduction in local budgets at a time when the needs for such services, which protect the public health and contribute to a stronger, healthier work force, are increasing.”
“The geographic, demographic, and social centrality of this issue logically necessitates that the requisition of the majority of funds directed to border security, border management, and further border issues be intrinsic to this region. The result of which dictates that a central locality is imperative to the execution of the state’s mandates and ensures that its goal of regulating the border region.”