MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen City Commission wants more say on economic development issues involving their city and believe restructuring the Development Corporation of McAllen, Inc., will help.

On Monday, the city commission voted to remove the current board of directors of the Development Corporation of McAllen (DCM) and replace them with a majority comprising city commissioners.

The four new board members will be Mayor Jim Darling and City Commissioners Omar Quintanilla, Tania Ramirez and Seby Haddad. Mayor Darling would serve as president.

The other three board members will be appointed at a later time and could include McAllen Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) President Keith Patridge and McAllen Chamber of Commerce President Steve Ahlenius. 

The executive director of DCM will be City Manager Roy Rodriguez. 

The City of McAllen’s website explains what DCM is all about. It states:

“The Development Corporation is a non-profit corporation that administers money from a 1/2 of one percent local sales and use tax. It was created after an election held in May of 1997 and operates according to Section 4B of the Act. The Corporation is overseen by a board made up of City Commissioners, a representative of the Mayor’s Office and a member of the City Attorney’s office.Funds are used for a wide range of programs and projects that benefit the City of McAllen and the quality of life for our residents. Some projects stem from the original ballot language from 1997 (Section 4B of the Act) while other projects are added over the years through the appropriation process which the Development Corporation Board approves during the annual budget. The Development Corporation was organized and operates under the laws of the State of Texas. The City Commission of the City of McAllen appoints the members of the Board of Directors of the Corporation and under the provisions of the Act and the Corporation’s by-laws is required to approve certain actions of the Corporation, including the issuance of the Bonds by the Corporation.”

Currently, there are two members of the city commission on the DCM board of directors – Mayor Darling and Commissioner Joaquin Zamora. The other members are appointed by city commissioners.

The Development Corporation of McAllen is a different entity to McAllen EDC. 

At Monday evening’s city commission meeting, City Manager Rodriguez opened the discussion on composition of the DCM board. He pointed out that the issue was first discussed at a recent city commission retreat.

Rodriguez said there was agreement at the retreat that the seven-member board of directors include the mayor and three commissioners, “versus what we have now which is the mayor and one commissioner.” 

In his remarks, Mayor Darling said he initiated discussion on the composition of the DCM board for two reasons.

“Number one, I would like to see us get more involved in economic development issues,” Darling said.

“I think there are opportunities coming forward that are going to be significant with relationship to policies and dollar amounts. I think it is incumbent upon the city commission not only to get involved but to take responsibility and not get those (opportunities) handed to us as recommendations necessarily, but to get involved from the very beginning.”

Darling said the other reason he initiated discussion was to make sure everyone involved in economic development was rowing in the same direction.

“There is also concern, a little bit, about some cities where the development corporation gets to be outside city hall and can be controlled by factions within the city and hopefully this addresses that by having the city manager involved in that policy,” Darling said.

“There is always going to be change, obviously, but I think the intent of it is for the city commission to take responsibility but also, more importantly, to be involved in these decisions up front. I think that is what we are trying to do, to eliminate some of the silos that we have in economic development.”

Darling said his recommendation is that DCM meet monthly, “so we can have reports from the Chamber and the MEDC. We will then be much more involved in those processes, perhaps. But also, in future, the possibility (exists) that there will be some exciting things to do.”

Commissioner Quintanilla said he was concerned about the pace of change, that the city was moving from an appointed DCM board to one controlled by elected officials. “I am hung up with the other three (on the board) that are not elected officials.”

Quintanilla said he would like to see the remaining three CDM board members be appointed by the city commission. Mayor Darling responded:

“I do not have a problem with that. The reason I suggested that (the appointment of MEDC’s Patridge and the Chamber’s Ahlenius) is because it is going to be an educational process for all of us. Hopefully it would be easier for Keith and Steve to report to us, from that standpoint.”

But, Quintanilla pointed out, the Chamber and EDC already gives reports to DCM. “Why do they need to be on (the board)?” Quintanilla asked. 

Darling answered: “I think because of the nature of these projects that are going to come to us… they are pretty large projects. I did not want to tie your hands but my intention was to put those people on there and then the six of us figure out who that seventh person would be based on whatever criteria we have.”

Darling said time is of the essence.

“I would like to get us rolling because there are some budget projects we need to probably start working on as part of the budget session. I think it is important we start taking responsibility for that, as opposed to getting this second hand,” Darling said.

Darling also addressed the executive director role. 

“What I would like to see eventually is have somebody who reports directly to the board. It could be somebody who is part of the city manager’s team but we have our own person.”

After City Attorney Kevin Pagan pointed out that the City of McAllen could one day take over economic development responsibilities from MEDC, Mayor Darling said: “MEDC, in their charter, provides for the city to take over the assets if they are dissolved.”