EDINBURG, RGV – Hidalgo County Judge candidate Richard Cortez has pledged his full support for the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.
On a Rio Grande Guardian Conversation with the Candidates taping on Facebook last Saturday, the former McAllen mayor said that with Internet sales hurting brick and mortar retail establishments and fewer Mexican shoppers visiting the Rio Grande Valley, the medical school will become increasingly important to the region’s economy.
Cortez pointed out that most jobs in the Valley are associated with the government, healthcare, and retail sectors. He also said the Valley could not expect the State of Texas to pay for the medical school’s entire growth.
“The medical school partly should be paid by the State of Texas, because it is creating a Texas asset and it benefits the whole State of Texas. But, also, people of Houston and Dallas should not be paying for something in the Rio Grande Valley, so there has to be kind of a mixed responsibility as to how we pay for a medical school,” Cortez told Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna, during the livestream.
“The State of Texas also wants to make sure that we ourselves are investing in ourselves, investing in our medical school because we are going to be the beneficiaries of it. So, to me, I am a huge believer that this medical school is a Godsend to us because retail sales are going down, the Mexican shoppers are not coming as much they were. The threat of Internet sales, going to the Internet, not brick and mortar sales, that is going to put a lot of pressure on our economy. We are basically a retail based economy.
“So, having the medical school for us is a huge advantage. We should nurture it and do everything we can to make it successful because I believe this is where a lot of our future jobs are going to come from.”
By way of an example, Garcia pointed out that his son in law is in the medical profession in San Antonio. He said the impact of San Antonio’s medical school has been huge.
“At some point in time we have to make an investment. An investment, by definition that means I am going to put money in and I am going to get it back, plus more,” Cortez said.
Asked about the creation of a healthcare district, which some have argued would be the best way to pay for a medical school, Corte said the county has a legal duty to care for the indigent poor. ‘Statutorily it is something we must do,” he said.
On the healthcare district issue, he added: “I do not want politics or emotion to lead me in a direction. For me to say I have a pre-determined position when I come in (as county judge) would be incorrect. Because until I get there and find out (what is going on), I would be guessing.”
Cortez said if elected county judge he would hire an efficiency engineer to see if the county is being and efficient.
Another subject that came up in the livestream was the possibility of building a new county courthouse. The current administration says a new courthouse is needed and is working on a plan to build one on the current courthouse square for around $150 million.
Asked about the issue, Cortez said: “It is a complicated matter because the county has a partner, the City of Edinburg. It already has an investment in place.”
Cortez said he has spoken with County Judge Ramon Garcia and his staff, and they said they have looked at all possible locations. He said they have come to the conclusion that a new courthouse should be built on the current courthouse square in downtown Edinburg.
Cortez also noted that the City of Edinburg has been considering a $30 million investment in the courthouse project, if it is built in the courthouse square.
“I am going to work with the commissioners’ court. I don’t want to go in biased, saying I have already made up my mind. I need to look at everything first. Once I am convinced I have all of the correct information in front of me, then I will make a judgment. I think we owe it to the taxpayers of the county to do that,” Cortez said.
One of Cortez’s rivals for county judge is the former Hidalgo County Judge, Eloy Pulido. Asked what he thought about Pulido’s claim that private investors may be able to build a new courthouse with a lower price tag than $150 million, Cortez said:
“My answer is the same. If he (Pulido) knows someone who can do, that it is not speculation, that it is real information, and real possibilities, then I would offer it to the stakeholders, the County and the City of Edinburg, to determine which is the best choice of the two. I am not going to say I am for it, I am not going to say I am against it, I am going to say I will consider it.”
In his livestream, Cortez also discussed improving voter turnout, reducing the digital divide, getting an accurate census count in 2020, the merger of the Valley’s three metropolitan planning organizations, building a loop around Hidalgo County, and the county’s lawsuit against former drainage district director Godfrey Garza.
A conversation with Richard Cortez, candidate for Hidalgo County Judge in the Democratic Party primary.
Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Saturday, January 13, 2018
Interview with Rio Grande Guardian and 88 FM
In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM after the livestream, Cortez said Hidalgo County’s best days in the future.
“The future depends on the leadership we have at the county level. The future right now is questionable because we have so many economic issues, including how we raise revenues to finance government and all the needs associated with the growth that we have in the Rio Grande Valley. I want to let the people know out there that I have certain skills and experiences that I think will bring value to the position of the county judge. Everything gets done with knowledge and skill and leadership,” Cortez said.
“That is why we have to be efficient and effective in all the services we provide. That means we have to work together. Hidalgo County has many, many cities and governments, it is important we speak the same language and have the same goals, so we can all benefit from good public policy.”
Asked what issues he is hearing most from voters as he visits different communities in Hidalgo County, Cortez said: “That they do not want to be taxed anymore, they want more infrastructure and mobility, they want us to fix their drainage issues, and they want more economic opportunity for themselves and their children.”
Asked about his thoughts on voter turnout, Cortez said: “I am always very disappointed with the turnout of our voters here. If I happen to be the next county judge of Hidalgo County I am going to be your advocate, I am going to be out there looking for monies and partners in the state and federal government and the more people that vote the more attention I am going to get and the higher the likelihood I will be successful in bringing resources back to Hidalgo County.”
Cortez added: “I hope to continue the good leadership of Ramon Garcia, and really make Hidalgo County the best county in Texas. Already we are one of the largest and certainly one of the fastest growing. Now let’s make it one of the best.”