AUSTIN, Texas – Pharr city leaders visited the state Capitol in Austin on Wednesday to help promote the Rio Grande Valley as a safe place to live, work and visit.
“Many people up here do not realize the Valley is a safe place, a fun place to live, to work and to visit. We have to quash those misconceptions,” said Pharr City Commissioner Arturo J. Cortez.
Three other Pharr city commissioners joined Cortez in Austin for “Pharr Day at the Capitol.” They were Adan Farias, Aquiles ‘Jimmy’ Garza, and Edmund Maldonado, Jr. The commissioners were joined by City Manager Fred Sandoval, governmental affairs director Sergio Contreras, public information officer Gary Rodriguez and other city staff.
“You need to have a strong presence at the Capitol for events like this. Nothing is going to just come to you. You have to come up here and plead your case and bring that money home for our taxpayers. That is what it is all about, helping the taxpayers,” Cortez said.
Asked if the day had been successful, Cortez said: “We have had a great day. We got in front of a lot of important people today. We asked for a lot of things. If we can walk away with half of what we asked for, it will be great.”
Commissioner Farias, the mayor pro tem, said Pharr’s legislative agenda includes efforts to secure more funding to recruit and train additional USDA agricultural inspectors to work at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. The bridge is challenging Nogales, Arizona, as the No. 1 port of entry for the importation of fresh produce.
Other key legislative issues, Farias said, are funding for a Texas Department of Public Safety training academy and firing range and funding for a loop to connect a new border inspection facility at the Pharr Bridge to Military Highway.
In remarks at an evening reception at the Capitol, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, praised the Pharr leadership. “Pharr is one of the most proactive communities in South Texas,” Lucio said.
State Rep. Sergio Muñoz agreed. The Mission Democrat, who, like Lucio, represents Pharr, said the border region is often wrongly portrayed.
“Let’s talk about what is true and what are the real facts. Pharr, like the Valley as a whole, is vibrant and growing fast,” Muñoz said. “Look at the billions of dollars in trade that crosses the Pharr Bridge. This is vital for our state and our nation’s economy. The produce our bridge handles helps feed the American people.”
Muñoz said the legislative issues he is working on for Pharr include expanding the foreign trade zone designation around the Pharr Bridge. “We want this put in statute so that we know exactly what we can accomplish in economic development,” he said. “We are also looking for more funding from TxDOT to expedite goods more efficiently at the Pharr Bridge. We need more highway infrastructure in order to get the trucks away from the downtown area, either through a spur or a connector. We need to relieve the stress on our city streets.”
Muñoz said he is also working on legislation to help secure a DPS training academy that dovetails a law enforcement training project currently underway by South Texas College. “We need to tap into the support of the state to establish a training facility that will help the whole Valley.”