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The Pharr Forward slate of candidates agreed to support Valley Interfaith's agenda for Las Milpas at an accountability session last month. Three of the four candidates were elected, including mayoral candidate Ambrosio Hernandez. Dr. Hernandez is pictured speaking at the event.

LAS MILPAS, RGV – Valley Interfaith leaders in Las Milpas are thrilled that, as a result of the impact the group had in the recent Pharr city commission elections, their initiatives for the area are about to be implemented.

The community group’s six top initiatives for Las Milpas are on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Pharr City Commission meeting and are expected to be approved. The six items are: a bridge across a canal to link the neighborhood north of West Las Milpas Road to Jones Box Park; more funding for Project VIDA; the building of a library, recreation and resource center, curtailing predatory lending in Pharr; more buses and bus routes for Valley Metro, and paving of more neighborhood streets.

“Valley interfaith is extremely pleased that it is the community who is truly the winner. In passing Valley Interfaith’s agenda, it means that issues that affect our families will finally be addressed,” said Valley Interfaith organizer Eddie Anaya, a lifetime resident of Las Milpas. “We will continue to hold our public officials accountable. We are building an organized constituency to gain power through education and collective leadership to bring systemic change to an unjust structure.”

Valley Interfaith is a non-profit, institutionally based community organization, composed of 25 member institutions from across the Valley.  The group seeks to identify and educate leaders to work with their communities to identify issues that affect the welfare of their neighborhoods. “Valley Interfaith leaders initiate discussions and encourage active participation necessary to exercise our birthright as citizens in a democratic society,” the group states. It is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates, political parties or political philosophies.

In the recent Pharr City Commission election, Valley Interfaith leaders knew the races were likely to be close. They calculated that if they turned out their supporters and members, particularly in south Pharr, they could impact the election and thus have leverage on which policies get implemented.

Next Tuesday’s city commission meeting will see Pharr’s new mayor, Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, and three new city commissioners, Ricardo Medina, Eleazar Guajardo, and Mario Bracamontes, sworn into office. Hernandez, Medina, Guajardo, Bracamontes all attended a Valley Interfaith accountability session at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church on April 26 and pledged to work onto the community’s group’s action plan for Las Milpas.

Here are the items on next Tuesday’s city commission meeting that Valley Interfaith supports:

•    Presentation and possible action, if any, on project relating to a bridge to cross a canal to link the neighborhood north of West Las Milpas Road to Jones Box Park.
•    Presentation and possible action, if any, on project relating to a library and recreation center in south Pharr.
•    Consideration and action, if any, on request from the City of Pharr to the Pharr Economic Development Corporation to increase their contribution to VIDA, from $50,000 to $100,000.
•    Presentation and possible action, if any, on lending and predatory lending ordinances and/or resolutions that are in favor of protecting the citizens of Pharr.
•    Discussion and presentation on current Metro transportation in south Pharr.
•    Consideration and action, if any, on request from the City of Pharr to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council on Metro transportation in the City of Pharr.
•    Presentation and possible action, if any, on City of Pharr paving program and/or plans, to include south Pharr.

The Rev. Edouard Atangana, pastor at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church, is in no doubt that by participating in the city commission elections, south Pharr voters have made an impact on the agenda commissioners will undertake.

“It is part of our Christian responsibility to participate in the life of the community; we do this by participating in small group meetings with our neighbors to identify issues of common concern and by voting,” Atangana said. “When we are faithful to responsibility as citizens, City Hall knows that we exist. The best way to say we exist is to participate in the democratic process. When we go out and vote, we exert significant influence.”

It is not just Valley Interfaith’s initiatives for Las Milpas that are on the agenda for Tuesday evening’s Pharr City Commission meeting. There are also items dealing with a reduction in water rates, a reduction in property taxes that would be put in place on Oct. 1, a city employee living wage policy, and changes to the organizational structure of the city administration, including executive managers and all directors.

These subjects were referenced during the campaign by the Pharr Forward slate of candidates. Pharr Forward won three of the four slots available on the city commission. The rival Pharr First slate holds the other four slots on the city commission.

Incoming Mayor Hernandez was interviewed by Davis Rankin on KURV News Talk 710’s Drive Home show last Thursday afternoon. Rankin asked Hernandez what the first order of business would be, once he is sworn into office. “The first order of business is to bring the Commission together under one flag, which is the City of Pharr,” Hernandez told Rankin. “The second order of business is… the agenda will be set and I’m bringing it forward. There is a 90-day plan and a four-year plan. Exactly what we stated (during the campaign) is exactly what is going to get done. That is what the citizens want.”

Hernandez then ran through some of his top agenda items.

“We as a commission are supposed to be doing what the citizens want, lower your water rates, lower your property tax. We are going to help build a bridge on the south side, where, actually a child died because there was no crossing over a canal. Both teams said we are going to make a library/rec center on the Southside, transportation to the Southside, to help citizens get to STC and other schools), and then there is a non-profit called VIDA, which we already fund… we are going to expand that,” Hernandez told Rankin.

“So, those are the first order of business to my mind that is what we all independently agreed on. We need to ratify it in my opinion in the first meeting so that people can see that we are No. 1, and held accountable. I never make promises… I said I was going to do it. So, now is time to ‘fess up and get it done.”