As we watched the weather events in Texas and Florida the last two weeks, we at Proyecto Azteca could not help but think of how we would fare here in the Rio Grande Valley.

We are so grateful to Raul Sesin, director of Hidalgo County Drainage District and T.J. Arredondo, director of the Hidalgo County Planning Department for leading the community to make improvements on the Model Subdivision Rules (MSR), which will be ready to go to Commissioners Court soon.

Raul Sesin

After numerous failures at making modifications to the rules in Austin, we are glad that our County Judge Ramon Garcia, chose to use a health code as justification for making modifications.

Under the leadership of Mr. Sesin, Mr. Arrendondo and the Planning Advisory Committee, input on the changes was encouraged at open meetings with the community, including developers and nonprofits in the Equal Voice Network. They listened and took our recommendations.

Now new Model Subdivisions in the unincorporated areas of the County will have better constructed streets, sidewalks, street lights, and most important, engineered drainage to ensure that when we have water events the storm water will be evacuated quickly. All subdivisions will be connected to outfalls and even have retention ponds if necessary, a change that is being implemented already.

T.J. Arredondo

And that leaves the needed infrastructure improvements for the existing colonias. We are very appreciative to the Hidalgo County Urban County staff for the excellent work they did on the draft report for the Assessment of Fair Housing Plan, looking at disparities and disproportionalities that exist in our County. This 111-page document is posted on the County Website for public review until September 19th. Again, they reached out to the community in their process of collecting data, including the Equal Voice Network, to assist in collecting surveys.

We all know the disparities and disproportionalities that exist in our County and region, but many of us are not aware of how they affect the protected classes which the Hidalgo County Urban County Program (UCP) along with its entitlement cities and Public Housing Authorities report shows.

Our County itself faces the same disparities when compared to others. The two poorest urban areas in the country are Brownsville MSA and McAllen MSA. We suffer from persistent poverty, a condition that has existed for decades. The draft report on the Assessment of Fair Housing is loaded with statistics and changes over the last two decades.

We all need to be familiar with the assessment. And, we need to thank our elected officials who over the last decade have made concerted efforts to involve the community in the decisions that are being made, whether that is in drainage, community services, transportation, or housing. But, it’s not their responsibility alone. We all have to take responsibility.

Perhaps as the discussion goes forward on the Plan we can begin to change the paradigm of how these improvements can be made to lower the disparities and disproportionalities. Perhaps it is a time to get the Economic Development Corporations to be involved in investing in housing and transportation and health care. Can we have cooperation with the private, public, and non-profit entities to correct the disparities and disproportionalities? Can cities think outside of the box when they do their revitalization to mix income in housing? Can both the County and the cities plan housing that is close to transportation for workers and other community services, like clinics and grocery stores, thus eliminating the food deserts colonia families find themselves in?

And as we move forward, let’s again be thankful for the understanding and sensitivity our elected officials have for those on the margins especially to those in the protected classes, and celebrate the great contributions that their staff provide for all of us.