SAN JUAN, RGV – The Rev. Jerry Frank says around 1,000 supporters of a healthcare district for Hidalgo County will help with a major Get Out the Vote effort over the next month.

Rev. Frank said about 100 team leaders were identified following 11 town hall meetings at various Catholic parishes last month. These 100 volunteers have agreed to find ten people each to knock on doors across the county.

“The people that are going to help us get out the vote in favor of Proposition 1 came from the 11 town hall meetings we held in September. We got about eight or nine people per meeting. We are going to work with them. They are going to get their friends and family to help. So you can multiply them by ten,” Rev. Frank said.

Asked if he was confident the effort in the Catholic parishes would be enough to secure a “yes” vote in favor of a healthcare district for Hidalgo County, Rev. Frank answered affirmatively. He said he has a friend, Socorro, who is going to lead the Get Out the Vote campaign.

“I am confident we will be able to rally enough support. We have got workers to turn out the vote. Plus, it is a presidential election, that is going to be in our favor because more people will be coming out to vote. We have aroused the attention of the community at large.”

Rev. Frank threw his support behind a healthcare district when he was able, with others, to secure a commitment from hospital chiefs that 20 percent of the funds raised by a healthcare district would go towards federally qualified clinics like Nuestra Clinica Del Valle and non-profit clinics like Hope and El Milagro.

He said he is also pleased that 20 percent of the funds will also go towards UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. “The future doctors produced by this school of medicine are going to be getting their training in the clinics that serve the indigent. So, you see, all of this is rebounding back to the poor. It is a great thing for Hidalgo County. That is why we are for it.”

Rev. Frank acknowledged that not everyone at the town hall meetings was in support of a healthcare district. He said he stood by his decision not to allow them to speak because they were not parishioners.

“We are achieved a lot of good things from the meetings by limiting them to parishioners of the parishes. But, I must admit, I had a couple of sleepless nights after the meetings. Some of the meetings were pretty raucous. I had to keep the protestors in their place. If we had given an inch they would have taken ten miles,” Rev. Frank said.

“But, in retrospect, I am glad that they showed up because they showed their ugliness to the community at large and this spurred a response that enabled us to win more support. They created a reaction in the parishes and this has energized the people to get out the vote in favor of the healthcare district.”

Rev. Frank said there were three main reasons he organized the town hall meetings. One, to report the successful result of a petition signed by 12,000 parishioners across Hidalgo County in support of a healthcare district. He said the petition directly led to the decision by hospital CEOs to approve more funding for the non-profit and federally qualified clinics. Two, to inform parishioners on the merits and costs of a healthcare district. Third, to invite those in support of a healthcare district to help get out the vote on Nov. 8.

“I would like to publicly thank Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez and former Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza for their support. They were exceptionally talented and gifted presenters at the meetings,” Rev. Frank said.

Rev. Frank said he was surprised that an official from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office called Bishop Daniel Flores to ask about the validity of the town hall meetings. He said this may have occurred because opponents of the town hall meetings were questioning whether the Separation of Church and State doctrine was being violated.

“I think the ‘no’ folks pulled out all the stops to have our meetings disrupted, including calling the Lieutenant Governor’s Office for help. The Bishop called me about it. He wanted to know who Aron Peña was. The Bishop made the comment that if the allegations of the opposition had any substance it would have been the Attorney General calling, not the Lieutenant Governor,” Rev. Frank said.

“Let’s be clear about this. The Bishop does not take a position on the healthcare district but he was in favor of the petition being circulated. He wants to see the poor helped with better healthcare. He knows what I am doing. We have had several conversations.”

Asked to respond to critics who say a healthcare district will be another layer of bureaucracy that could impose higher and higher taxes, Rev. Frank said: “The annual budget of the healthcare district is always subject to the discretion of Hidalgo County Commissioners Court. The buck stops there.”

Rev. Frank concluded the interview by saying he had a personal message for one of the highest profile opponents of a healthcare district, Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas.

“If Norberto Salinas really wanted to get the biggest bang out of our tax dollars he should influence his friends in the Legislature and the Governor’s Office to pass expanded Medicaid. It would bring in 15 times the amount of money the healthcare district would bring to Hidalgo County. We are paying the taxes and other people are getting the benefit. Where is his voice on behalf of the people who have been taxed? We need Norberto Salinas to stand up and influence his friends. Imagine what it would do for the Valley if we had expanded Medicaid.”