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A Futuro McAllen candidate forum was held at the McAllen Public Library on Thursday evening, March 5, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Mark Hanna)

McALLEN, RGV – Futuro McAllen held a candidate forum at the McAllen Public Library on Thursday evening for the three McAllen city commission races currently underway.

Questions were posed by moderator Noe Canales of the McAllen Cable Network and media panelists Dave Hendricks of KGBT Action 4 News, Davis Rankin of KURV News Talk 710, Sky Chadde of the McAllen Monitor and Oscar Margain of Fox 2. The candidates also got to pose one question to one of their opponents, which made for lively discussion.

The candidates running for the vacant District 1 seat are Javier Villalobos, Richard Cortez, Debbie Crane Aliseda, and Eduardo Hinojosa. The candidates for District 5 are incumbent John Ingram and challenger Eli Olivarez. The candidates for District 6 are incumbent Veronica Vela Whitacre and Eduardo “Eddie” De La Rosa.

The candidates were given sixty seconds to make closing remarks. These were the points they made in the closing remarks:

Javier Villalobos:
Sixty seconds does not give us time to do much. But, anyway, 17 years of municipal government experience and now I think McAllen really needs to get more into… a fiscally conservative individual in there. Yes, I am a Republican and I have no problem admitting it. But when it comes to fiscal issues I can look at it. I was an auditor and I can take this book (the city budget), dissect it and tell you what funds have to be going where and what should be paid from what funds. For example, that 380 agreement (between the City of McAllen and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance), even though it is a great vehicle, it never should have been from the city. That should have been from the economic development corporation. For my district, District 1, one of the most important things is property values. I am telling you, I am going to do it. However, just because I am from District 1… One of the things that I disagree here with Eli (Olivarez) is that look, McAllen is one. We have to make our decisions for the whole city. So, I am asking if you all have the same kind of mentality that I do, I am asking for your support.

Richard Cortez:
If you have $250 million to invest and you had a business that brought you $110 million and you had multiple businesses you had to run and you could not manage it yourself, who would you turn it over to? Someone who had 45 years of experience doing exactly that? Somebody that has lived under a code of ethics as a CPA for that many years? As an elected official? When innuendos come out, anybody can say anything. But, proving it is another (thing). If any of my opponents have any proof that this man, after so many years of public service, has done anything unethical or wrong bring me the proof. If not, shut up.

Eduardo Hinojosa:
I hope my message is as strong as those big billboards that you see out there. There’s new leadership I want to bring to the city, a new generation. I think there comes a time with some political leaders where they have had their time to lead. There comes a time when you need a new generation, a new vision to lead the city. I think with all due respect, Mr. Mayor, you’ve had your time to lead and I think it’s a new generation and a new vision that needs to be in city hall.

Debbie Crane Aliseda:
I think high ethical standards is the very least that you can expect from an elected official. That is me. I don’t take money from people and vendors that I am going to be doing business with. And if I do I would abstain and I would not vote for them. I am your neighbor. You know me. I have been on your school board for a long time. You know I am a very ethical person. I have a lot of integrity. I am the right choice for commissioner for District 1. I am right now doing the projects for District 1. It is very easy for me to switch lanes, from the school board lane to the city lane. It is very, very, easy for me to do that. I am already on the ground running. I am simply going to reach out, grab the baton and keep running in that same direction forward.

John Ingram:
I have been on the city commission for ten years and I have to thank my wife Debbie who has given up a lot of time and has really been supportive in my role as a city commissioner. I have worked really hard in District 5. We have done lots of drainage projects. We are doing a lot of community revitalization. But, you have to balance your budget with the needs of your community so that taxpayers are confident in what the city is doing and they are happy with the tax rate they are getting. We have the fifth lowest tax rate in the whole state of Texas and we should work to get it lower. We need to continue to invest in the core of McAllen but do it in a way that’s affordable. I have really worked hard to do that. And, just to let you know, I will be transparent. I have been transparent. I have taken some tough positions that I have paid a price for but I thought it was the right thing to do and I will continue doing that.

Eli Oliverez:
First of all, I want to thank all of you for being here. This is what it’s about. Listen, I have not been a two-term commissioner but perhaps, maybe, it’s time for a change. Not because Mr. Ingram has not done a good job but because we need a change. And listen. I have to come back to my district. These are the people that are voting. We’ve got to listen to our constituents. That will also help the city in general. That’s why we have single member districts. Budgets need to be allocated with equity. People need to be treated the same. I want my district to feel that they are valued. That they have a place. That is why I am running. Because it is about integrity. It’s about commitment. And it’s about accountability. I will give you all those three.

Veronica Vela Whitacre:
I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time for coming out this evening and listening to each and every one of us. How we are going to move McAllen forward, how we are interested in what is taking place in our own city. Your support shows that each and every one of you does believe in McAllen and believes in one of us, maybe not all of us but one of us. I would also like to thank Futuro McAllen for hosting this event because it takes time for each and every one of us to be able to educate you all on our beliefs, our motives, and our accomplishments and how we are going to move McAllen forward. I got an introduction into the city commission in the last two years and I believe what I have done in the last two years has been strong and that my voice has been heard. I am the voice for my district and I want to continue to be my voice. I want to continue to do the right thing for each and every one of you. And, all of you know I am a very honest and outspoken person and so because I am I do tell them this is my constituents say, this is what my constituency wants and this is what they need. I appreciate all of your support.

Eduardo “Eddie” De La Rosa:
Again, I am going to reflect on my background. In 1990 I took on the pledge of serving for you guys, the community at large, and District 6 as a police officer. I ended up being a sergeant and I was very honored by all the education I got from the police department. As a kid out of high school, I went to college for two years, could not afford it and had to go back to the workforce. I got hired by McAllen and my degree; I sought my degree and who paid for it – the City of McAllen with an initiative for education. I have my education because you all invested in me. I served at the police department with honor, dignity, respect and humility. On a couple of occasions, my family members that are here… I almost, like any other officer, could have gotten killed. But, God was on my side. I am sitting here. I put my life on the line for all the citizens. I am asking for your support so I can continue to serve as a commissioner.