I have been reading, with great interest, the different opinions on the Metropolitan Planning Organization merger issue.
I would like to remind the people of the Rio Grande Valley that two previous merger issues have been approved with great benefits to the region.
The Hidalgo County Urban County Program was a result of a merger of 12 non-entitlement cities with Hidalgo County and included the City of Pharr for the first three years of the program in order to amass the 300,000 population criteria.
This merger of independent political entities was unprecedented. Over the first 13 years of operation, the UCP had obtain over $130 million dollars for the County of Hidalgo.
The merger eliminated the “football Friday” mentality of the cities and resulted in noncompetitive annual funding allocations to all cities.
The Hidalgo Co. Urban County Program became the largest entitlement funding entity in the United States on a per capita basis. Approved in 1988 it has been providing much needed Community Development Block Grant funding to the smaller cities of Hidalgo County and opened the door to additional funding programs like Emergency Shelter, Colonia and HOME funding.
Likewise, in the 1990s, the federal government approved the Empowerment Zone Program, which provided funding to “destressed communities” for comprehensive projects that would address issues like housing, poverty, and unemployment.
Hidalgo County joined with Willacy and Starr Counties to submit an application for funding.
With the theme of “Fuerza Unida” (Strength in Unity) and guidance and political assistance from Congressman de la Garza, this merger of the three counties helped get one of the two national grant awards of $40 million plus other benefits like tax credits and low interest SBA loans. The RGV Empowerment Zone Program is still operating in the Valley, providing benefits to many Valley families.
I urged the citizens of the Valley to speak to their elected officials about the MPO merger. It will benefit the Valley in the long run.