MISSION, RGV – The incoming mayor of Mission says he will definitely increase the minimum wage of city employees from $7.35 an hour to $15 an hour.
Armando ”Mando” O’Caña was responding to claims on social media from supporters of current Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas that he would renege on one of his top campaign promises. Indeed, Salinas himself said he had heard on the radio that the city employee wage commitment had been dropped. Not so, said O’Caña, who met privately for three hours Monday with Mission City Manager Martin Garza.
“My First 100-Days plan was put into motion today. I want the public to know there are no changes to the 100-Day plan,” O’Caña said, emerging from his meeting with Garza. “The 15 items on the 100-Day plan, we discussed them, we looked at the budgetary impact of it and the decisions will be made after I have been sworn in.”
O’Caña will be sworn into office next Monday at 3:30 p.m. Later this week the votes will be canvassed. Unofficial results show O’Caña defeating Salinas in Saturday’s runoff election by 51.12 percent to 48.88 percent. Salinas has been mayor for 20 years.
Referencing the top item on the 100-Day plan, O’Caña said:
“The minimum wage for city employees will move from $7.35 to $15 an hour for all employees of the city of Mission. I am standing by that pledge and I will bring it to reality. Keep in mind, Mission is my Vision and our employees are our customers service, our first contact (with the residents of Mission). They need to be compensated. They need to have a salary and a wage that is competitive with cities across the Valley.”
O’Caña said Mission has been losing too many good employees to other cities.
“They spend two or three years with us, they get trained, they get their certifications and then they move to other cities for higher wages. And I do not blame them for that. I want them to stay for 20 years.”
The Salinas campaign said O’Caña could not increase the minimum wage of city employees without increasing taxes. O’Caña said he has found a way to do it.
“I have no plans to raise taxes, let’s make that clear. I am freezing the current tax rate. Mission has grown from over $4 billion in property values. We will have enough money to fund the $15 an hour program. Do I have to cut other things? Yes. We allocated $131 million last year. Out of the $131 million there are some projects that we did not complete that maybe we could wait two years more for. It is extremely important our city employees get their fair share in wages.”
O’Caña said he has had to recharge his cell phone twice a day since Saturday’s victory. He said he has never had to do that before. “The phone will not stop ringing. I have had so many text messages, lots of congratulatory messages.”
One encounter impressed him. He said that on a visit to I-Hop on Sunday, a boy of about nine years of age come up to him and said, “Wow, you are the new mayor of Mission.” O’Caña said he was impressed with such civic interest. “I am going to set up a Millennium advisory board, so we can hear from young people. It is great for the future.”
O’Caña said he also wants to honor Salinas.
“Anybody that has put in 24 years of service deserves to be recognized. He needs to be honored and he needs be implanted in the history books of the city of Mission. That is one of the plans I want to do,” O’Caña said, without revealing the form of the honor. “I want to surprise him. We have worked together very well over the years. The projects we worked on together, we did very well.”
In his exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, O’Caña also refuted claims that his campaign paid voters to vote. A claim from the Salinas camp was that around 400 votes came in thanks to bribing voters at $20 a vote.
“I heard my opponent was doing that, not me. I have not paid a single penny to any of my voters. All my voters, I went door to door, I had my staff go door to sort. We provided the literature, we provided videos, we met with them face to face, we answered them on text, on Facebook,” O’Caña said. “That is a false accusation. I have never run a negative campaign and I have no plans to do so. I have run multiple races. Some of them I have lost, some I have won. I will not run a negative campaign.”
O’Caña dismissed gossip that former Mission mayoral candidate Jaime Gutierrez was in line to be the next city manager.
“Jaime Gutierrez did endorse me, unconditionally. We have talked about the same goals for the city of Mission. I am going to use him. Mr. Martin Garza, I can categorically tell you, he has four years of me. Unless I get re-elected, then he will have eight. I have no plans to change him. He is important to the city and the current projects, the transitional process and the betterment of Mission.”
O’Caña was asked where he stood on specific projects that Mayor Salinas has been strongly for or against. Here was his response:
Metropolitan Planning Organization
“I keep the same position that Mayor Salinas had. The MPO system is working so why do we want to change it. Sometimes when you merge you create new problems. Right now, the funding is coming down from the state pretty well. Everybody, the cities in Hidalgo County, are getting a just and fair chance at it, and I want to maintain that. “
UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
“Round one of medical school money, we actively participated and we did give funding for the development. Round two of the contract, we had some specific questions on the contract and we were not satisfied with the answers we got so we put a hold on it. We never resolved the issues. But, I will entertain the Rio Grande Valley medical school, to come to the table. Let’s look at the contract again. I cannot promise we will go in because there were some things in the last contract we had questions with. We unanimously voted not to fund it. That is the position I am taking.”
“Any way we can get funding for the indigent, I will take the position to help them. When that proposition came in, I voted against it. I was one of the 70 percent who voted against it because I could not get our county government to commit, if we are going to add this proposition to the process, are you going to lower the taxes for the county, given that the county is responsible for indigent care, for individuals outside our city.”
Madero International Bridge
“Yes. The bridge is part of my plan and we are going to work together on it. I have already made contact with the mayor of McAllen and also the County Judge candidate Cortez. I have already stated my position: the Madero Bridge project is going on and we are going to finish it.”
Asked for any wrap-up remarks, O’Caña said:
“I want to reassure the citizens that my 100-day-plan is going to be reviewed at the 50-day mark, the 75-day mark and the 100-day. I am going to put on our website a progressive note, where the 15 items are listed, as part of my transparency with the public.”
In a brief phone interview on Monday, Mayor Salinas spoke about votes being purchased and the minimum wage.
“They (the O’Caña campaign) bought a bunch of votes, there is no doubt about it. I am not going to challenge it. It is up to the police. We might learn more about it on Thursday,” Salinas said.
“The minimum wage, now he (O’Caña) is not doing it. I heard that on the radio. He used it to get the city employees to vote for them. He (O’Caña) is involved with the wrong people. People that will get him in trouble.”