McALLEN, RGV – On the eve of his 4th state of the city address, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling has unveiled his city’s agenda for the 85th Legislature.
Darling said that as with other legislative sessions, he does not want to see too many unfunded mandates handed down from Austin and he hopes the home-rule rights of citizens are respected by state lawmakers.
“I think one of the things you have to do is go in front of legislators and we are always kind of in a defensive mode as cities because the legislature traditionally tries to limit city authority,” Darling said.
“Something may happen in Houston and all of the sudden you’re facing a statewide law that affects you. So, I think you always start out in a defensive posture, making sure that home-rule rights are respected by the legislature.”
Darling said McAllen is seeking funding from the legislature for key city projects, such as highway improvements and renovating Quinta Mazatlan.
“Funding is always a key reason for going up there, asking the legislature to help on certain projects. We have Quinta Mazatlan’s projects, we have highway projects, we want to seek funding for some bridge projects.”
On Jan. 18, Darling filed the necessary paperwork to run for re-election as mayor.
Asked what his major accomplishments have been in the last four years, Darling mentioned Texas A&M University’s planned McAllen campus on the Tres Lagos development in north McAllen, and the creation of a research center by UT-Rio Grande Valley on Dove Avenue. “Those are huge things that are happening for McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley,” Darling said.
Another accomplishment Darling listed was getting southbound traffic rolling on Anzalduas International Bridge. He said he was pleased to get the Large Cities Coalition started while president of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. The LCC comprises cities across the Valley with a population over 25,000.
Darling said he is also pleased with a change in rezoning regulations. “I think one of the biggest accomplishments was getting the AO parts of the city rezoned so that development can happen without NIMBY (not in my back yard) fights. We have rezoned over 3,000 acres, which I have wanted to see happen for like 30 years.”
Darling said the City of McAllen has also redefined its investment policy. “We have hired an investment counselor. I think that is going to generate over half a million dollars, with a little tweaking to the investment policy we had before.”
Asked why he wants to run for re-election, Darling said there were on-going projects he would like to see through to fruition.
“We have made a lot of progress these last four years but there is still some unfinished business. I think we have done a great job but there is always an opportunity to do better. So, let’s finish some of the projects we have on-going,” Darling said.
Darling said one area for improvement is the recruitment of retail stores and retention of small businesses. “I want to establish a more formal recruitment effort for the city commission in relationship to retail. We are pretty close to getting that done,” Darling said. “And, I especially want to focus on, not only new businesses but taking a look at 10th Street and 23rd Street and Business 83 to make sure we stay competitive.”
Darling said another area to focus on, in a second term as mayor, would be housing. “We are working with the housing coalition we created. We are making some progress there, dealing with some homelessness issues we have in the city.”
And when it comes to the health of McAllen citizens, more could be done, Darling said. “We want to McAllen a healthier city and I think we have done a great job with that. We must keep that going.”
Darling also praised the partnership McAllen has with South Texas College. He said the partnership helps to ensure training for technical skills thrives in the city, thus boosting economic development opportunities for the region. “We have done a great job with that, building a future for our kids,” Darling said.
He also referenced help for special needs students. “Making sure we do a great job with special needs kids and kids that have special challenges in our community, making sure we finish and follow up on those programs.”
Mayor Darling will deliver the State of the City Address on Jan. 24 at the McAllen Convention Center at 11:30 a.m. The mayoral election is scheduled for May 6.