EDINBURG, RGV – The Edinburg mayoral race is getting heated with two of the three clashing over the financial state of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the indebtedness of Santana Textiles.
Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia is seeking his fourth term in office, with two other candidates running, Edinburg City Council member Richard Molina and immigration consultant Gina M. Alamia, daughter of former Edinburg mayor Richard R. Alamia.
As the election approaches in November, candidates have focused on city spending and pitching their vision on improving Edinburg.
In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Molina said he is concerned how the city is investing taxpayer money and believes money should be focused on city services rather than investments like Santana Textiles, a denim manufacturer from Brazil with a plant in north Edinburg.
“Now remember the city is doing okay, but we could do a lot better and like I said, we’re swimming in debt right now, specifically at our EDC,” Molina said. “We have a thing called Santana Textiles, which hasn’t made payments in the last three months and that is an iceberg waiting to happen.”
Molina said board members from the Edinburg EDC have reached out to him about the debt the EDC incurred in helping Santana Textiles. But, he said, they are afraid to go on the record because of the upcoming election.
The council member said Santana Textiles caused the city to become $23.9 million in debt, not including interest. Molina is also concerned how the city plans on financing the new Hidalgo County Courthouse and wants to find ways to minimize debt.
“Like I said before, we continue to spend more than we make,” Molina said. “Because what ends up happening is, there’s a matter of time where we’re gonna have our children and our children’s children incur this debt and I said this in an interview before, no matter who the mayor is or who the councilmembers are or the EDC board members this November whether new or old, are going to have to bear the burden of problem solving with these bad deals that have been placed in the past.”
Mayor Garcia dismissed Molina’s claim that the city is “swimming in debt” when asked for a response from the Rio Grande Guardian.
Garcia says there are educated individuals with “finance or business degrees” who deal with city finances, and claims Molina does not bring educational or political expertise to the table.
“Well the financial picture is actually very, very, good,” Mayor Garcia said. “I don’t know exactly where he gets his information, but we have gentlemen that have finance degrees that run our operations in the city, in the EDC. The people that sit at the corporate table with us most of them have finance degrees, or at least business degrees. A pretty good guess on this individual; what he brings to the table is high school mathematics, a history of failures personally and politically, and he wants to tell these people what to do and what’s right and not right. I’m not buying it.”
Garcia argues that the city has been financial sound and that the Santana Textiles investment has proved worthwhile, with the manufacturer progressing towards its goal of 800 jobs. He said the company currently employs 140 workers but is adding more. “Numbers don’t lie.”
“We have gotten awards within the last year for being a top city in the way we run our business as far as financially,” Garcia said. “We have been upgraded on our credit rating because we are in such good shape. We have 35 percent reserves instead of 25. Santana pays over a million dollars a year in taxes to the city, not behind at all on their taxes they pay to the city. They pay a note themselves directly; I guess that’s what he’s making reference to. Sure I’d like for them to always be on time, but they are selling product. They’ve got $54 million on the ground operational. They just finished an upgrade; they spent $6 million more in our community this year. They upgraded their facilities so they can produce and sell in the United States.”
Garcia said Santana Textiles had to jump many hurdles to maintain an even operational keel; external forces like the 2008 global recession, the crisis in Argentina, and NAFTA renegotiation.
“There’s two things that happened with Santana,” Garcia said. “When they were first gonna get off the ground, we had the 2008 worldwide recession, that affected them. Another thing affected was that they had just finished a brand-new plant in Argentina. We know what happened in Argentina politically. That plant is doing fabulously well, but they can’t pull their money out of Argentina because the president ordered that no funds could leave the country, that was an effect,” Garcia said.
“And now with what’s happening in Washington with NAFTA and all of that, we all know that Mexico kinda put the skids on trade. We’re going to wait and see. Although this company has weathered all of that and they have negotiated with Mexico in spite of the skids that they had put on their trade, they’re still buying from Santana. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
The mayor believes investments like Santana Textiles are beneficial because they open the door to the manufacturing industry as more maquiladoras are looking to move to the United States.
“I think this is also going to be a new big plus for us. We’ve been focusing on retail, on so many other things, on the quality of life issues for our city, but manufacturing, this was a big step, and that’s also another future for also,” Garcia said.
“We know that our biggest future is in medical investment in our city, which is going to bring us big financial rewards, but I think manufacturing is something that we’re going to look at. We’re already reading and hearing about some of the maquilas in Mexico considering moving to the United States. Santana was a first so that could tell a story down the road.”
Garcia says his experience as a blue-collar worker, an attorney, municipal judge and county judge, puts him ahead of his opponent and what he has to offer to the city of Edinburg.
“This is what I bring to the table. If you have nothing to bring to the table, the only thing left to do is complain. As we say in law, create rabbit trails and smoke screens. That’s what we’re seeing today. It’s unfortunate, we’ve got a man that’s trying to take shortcuts instead of doing what I teach my grandkids to do, it will come if you work hard, if you get an education, it will come,” Garcia said.
“There are no shortcuts in life. The city of Edinburg does not deserve that. They’re entitled to a lot more because we have a bid weld to choose from. Education is the way up and out. We have a lot of educated experienced individuals that are willing to give back to the community. That’s what we need to be electing. I don’t need to be mayor, I could leave today, I don’t need this job, but I’m not going to leave unless there’s the right person to take over. We don’t have that at this moment running in this race.”
Molina said his campaign is focused on improving the city’s infrastructure, creating term limits for Edinburg elected officials, and maximizing all avenues to fund big investments like the new courthouse. He believes his experience as city council member and his desire to add ‘conservativeness’ in spending would better Edinburg.
“Remember when I came in and ran for office the first time I didn’t know any of this, but now since being on the council for the last four years these are some things that I’ve been very observant on and I honestly believe the city needs change,” Molina said.
“They need somebody that is more conservative with spending, but yet I’m pro-business and I don’t want people to get confused. I’m still pro-business, I still believe in job creations and I believe in all those great things that make our city more productive. But I’m also very, very, afraid on the way we’ve spent money back in 2010 that will affect us in the future.”