PHARR, RV – Pharr Mayor Ambrosio ‘Amos’ Hernandez gave his End of Year Report to the citizens of Pharr at Pharr City Hall on Tuesday morning.
He focused on campaign promises made during the May city election campaign and the promises that were kept.
After his speech, Hernandez gave an interview to the RGV Public Radio 88 FM and the Rio Grande Guardian about his speech and the past 12 months in Pharr. Here is what he said:
“I think this has been an exceptional year for Pharr. It has been a great experience for my wife and I. We are new at politics and so this has been a new adventure for us. The city staff have been overwhelmingly positive and they have pretty much embraced us as family at City Hall.
“We now have a very united commission that now sees and is aligned with putting Pharr citizens as their priority. We are no longer interested in sending money out. We want to keep money in. Any business that wants to locate in Pharr, we will be very happy to help them out as long as we both make money and by ‘we’ I mean the City of Pharr. It has to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Pharr.
“We always mean what we say and say what we mean. And we always complete it. We will always have an open door policy for any endeavor you may choose to pursue. We may not always agree and that is okay. But we will always be transparent. We promote business but we must always protect the interests of the citizens of Pharr. As long as those two things happen hand in hand we can move forward.”
Asked to list the promises kept, Hernandez said: “The reduction in taxes, the utility rate plan, the program to help the needy who cannot pay their bills; Jones Box Park, the streets, that transparency, extending Valley Metro all the way to our bridge, expanding the STC project into a much bigger project, the library in Las Milpas, and the bridge that will afford people safety when they want to visit Jones Box Park.”
Here, in full, are the remarks of Mayor Hernandez:
Thank you all for being here today.
As we approach the end of 2015, we are proud of the many strides we have made to move our great city of Pharr forward. When I took office a few short months ago, I and several of my colleagues promised to make sweeping reforms to rein in spending, to prioritize resources, and to truly give government back to the people.
As you all know, I am a surgeon by trade. My education, training, and experience in this profession have taught me to be strategic, precise, and efficient – in everything I do. I have taken this same philosophy and applied it to government, and we have been able to accomplish many milestones in such a short period of time, which may have seemed impossible to some. We are here today to announce that we have achieved many of our strategic goals for this year.
As your mayor of Pharr, I am proud to announce that the current state of the City of Pharr is flourishing, financially healthy, and a great place to live, work and play.
I want to thank our Pharr City Commission, my fellow colleagues who sit up here with me every week, for their part in evaluating recommendations, taking action, and implementing policies. It is only because of the collaboration among us that we were able to have made many positive changes for our residents.
I want to thank each of you for your leadership, for your collaboration, and for your support. We all want what is best for our residents and families, and keeping that as our number one priority, we will continue to do great things together.
Now, let me highlight some of our accomplishments.
This year, your Pharr city leaders focused on improving city governance, improving the quality of life for our citizens, and increasing economic development in our city.
We implemented effective management and leadership strategies in City administration and for our employees, proving that we can in fact come together and work hand in hand to improve the lives of everyone in this community.
* Our new City Manager now complies with state and national code of ethics, and has implemented business management reforms to foster a more positive and professional working environment for our employees.
* We expanded opportunities for gender equality in the workplace, and hired our first female directors in, Development Services, Human Resources, Finance, and Legal.
* Pharr PRIDE Program. This program mandates Principles that exemplify what Pharr represents – Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Ethics. All city employees are expected to model these qualities.
* We implemented an Employee Living Wage Plan by having the lowest paid full-time employee earn $11/hour.
* We completed Collective Bargaining negotiations with the Police Department, finalizing a three-year contract.
* We are in the final steps of Collective Bargaining negotiations with the Fire Department that gets them in line to the regional department pay levels.
Aside from cleaning house from the inside, we focused our energy and resources externally, to prioritize improving the quality of life for our Pharr families. Making good on promises that several of us campaigned on prior to taking office, including focusing more resources to South Pharr/Las Milpas area, city leaders worked diligently to approve measures to improve the quality of life for our Pharr families.
* We authorized the building of a bridge linking neighborhoods in south Pharr to Jones Box Park. This area was a longtime safety concern, with residents crossing through a dangerous ditch to access the park. The bridge will provide a safer route to the park, minimizing the risk associated with trying to gain access.
* We approved the building of a Development & Research Center in south Pharr at a cost of an estimated $4 million. This facility can double as a Library and Recreation Center.
* We led the effort and assisted in funding additional Metro bus services which run all the way south to the Pharr International Bridge. Access to transportation for many residents in South Pharr was a priority to them, but resources were limited. The additional services will help connect citizens to the places they need to be.
* We made improving the City’s streets a priority by directing the development of a four-year repaving plan. Many neighborhoods had been in dire need of repaving for years, but other areas seemed to always have priority. With this strategic repaving plan, we analyzed all roadways and prioritized those areas most in need.
* In a joint collaboration with our Pharr-San Juan -Alamo ISD partners, we opened the City’s first special needs park. We transformed undeveloped land adjacent to Dr. William Long Elementary into a special needs park and playground that encourages a sensory and exploratory experience for all children, including those with disabilities. The park is open to the public in the evenings and on weekends.
* Started the process of responsibly reducing the utility bill by lowering it by three percent and starting a utility rate analysis. We identified the excess funds in the utility account and for the first time ever responsibly returned 50 percent of it to the utility rate payers of Pharr. We will have a presentation after my remarks, presenting a family and a business with their Utility Rate Rebate, which residents can anticipate receiving as well. Today I am authorizing 50 percent of excess utility funds to be returned to the Utility rate payers. Starting today, depending on the years of continuous active service, utility rate payers should see a refund of $50 to $590, as promised during my campaign.
* We helped those in need by creating a Utility Bill Hardship Program, which helps low income citizens and special need situations with assistance on their utility bill through a grant program.
Finally, we reduced the property tax rate by the biggest amount since 2000 and the biggest reduction in taxes since the early 1990s.
Pharr continues to be a business-friendly community, and fostering economic development remains a high priority among city leaders.
* Pharr leaders are doing their part to attract and retain businesses in our community, and the City continues to uphold a reputation as a “business friendly” community.
* This year, the City approved 276 certificates of occupancy, and the Pharr Economic Development Corporation welcomed over 35 new businesses into Pharr by hosting ribbon cutting or grand opening ceremonies.
* The Pharr EDC helped facilitate the construction of a new 100,000 sq. ft. building in the South Pharr industrial corridor by connecting them to City departments to expedite the process. This development will help increase bridge traffic at the Pharr International Bridge.
* We are proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership to have a South Texas College Facility in Pharr. The facility will bring $9M in economic impact and approximately $3M in payroll. The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence ” will be an accredited facility to educate law enforcement agencies and also an STC Branch for PSJA ISD students.
* We implemented an assessment on our investment at the Produce Park in South Pharr and determined that a reimbursement fee to the City was needed to ensure the return on the City’s investment.
We have many reasons to be proud of what we have been able to accomplish this year, yet there is still a lot of work to be done. We look forward to continuing the momentum we have maintained since taking office. We promise to continue keeping the needs and best interest of our citizens as our number one priority. We look forward to seeing the results of our positive changes and continuing to constantly improve.
To the media in attendance, I want to thank you all for your support and the work you do to tell our stories. We appreciate keeping our citizens informed on city business, we thank you for covering our events, and we look forward to continuing to maintain a close relationship with you in the years to come. Please know that our doors remain open, and we remain available to you to talk about any issue of interest to you and the general public.
Now, in celebration of our accomplishments and successes, we are pleased to present checks under the Utility Rate Rebate program to the following businesses and families.
Andres Diaz – Diaz Floor and Interiors: (29 years active as a Utility Customer)
Raul Fong – Junction Cafe: (25 years active as a Utility Customer)
Mrs. Martha Espejo (32 years as an active Utility Customer)
Mrs. Benita Lerma (28 years as an active Utility Customer)
Once again, thank you so much for attending today.
On behalf of the Pharr City Commission, our employees, and our families, we wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays, season’s greetings, and best wishes for a prosperous new year.
Editor’s Note: Video from the 2015 Pharr End-of-Year Review Press Conference has been posted on the Pharr.LIFE website. Click here to view it.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez and wife Cristina at City Hall. They are flanked by Andres Diaz, who has been in business in Pharr for 29 years with Diaz Floor and Interiors; Raul Fong, who has been in business in Pharr for 25 years with the Junction Cafe; Mrs. Benita Lerma, who has been an active utility customer in Pharr for 28 years; and Mrs. Martha Espejo, who has been an active utility customer in Pharr for 32 years. Each received a utility refund worth $590.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four-part series titled Pharr – A Year in Review. Part Two, featuring the views of Valley Interfaith, will be published on Thursday, December 24.