MCALLEN, Texas – State lawmakers from the Rio Grande Valley were quizzed recently on why the legislature is so hostile to municipalities.

The question was posed by McAllen City Commissioner Seby Haddad. Former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling also weighed in on the subject. 

Answering the question were state Reps. Terry Canales of Edinburg and Oscar Longoria of La Joya. They both said all the cities in Texas suffer because legislative leaders do not like the way Houston is run.

The commentary came at a luncheon hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and held at the Radisson McAllen Airport Hotel. Two other Valley legislators, state Reps. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen and Sergio Muñoz of Mission, were on the panel with Canales and Longoria but they did not answer the specific question from Haddad.

Darling moderated the discussion. After asking four of his own questions, Darling asked those in the audience if they had a question for the lawmakers. Haddad asked the first question.

Haddad asked: “So this is fresh off our minds because we just had our TML Region 12 meeting last night. And what seems is coming is what we call the continued attack on the cities. 

“There are two main items that are a major concern to the commission and our mayor. 

“One is, we already saw the harm done with the annexation and so it appears now the next attack will be on ETJs. This is an issue we want you to be aware of. 

“The second is McAllen’s economic development has relied heavily on 380 agreements. Some of them very small, some of them of a larger magnitude. But they have been a very important economic development tool. And we get the impression that that is something that… they (the legislature) are going to hinder that.”

TML stands for Texas Municipal League. ETJ stands for Extra-Terrestrial Jurisdiction. Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code authorizes municipalities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development such as commercial and retail projects.

After Haddad asked his question, Darling said: “I think the question is, when does the war on cities end?” To which Haddad said: “There you go.”

Darling then answered his own question. “Not any time soon,” he said. 

Answering both the questions from Haddad and Darling, Longoria jokingly said: “When we get rid of Houston.” 

Darling responded: “You know, there is a time bomb because we can’t annex. So people who cannot be annexed will be put in substandard housing. When we annex the county gets all the benefits of that new subdivision. They do not provide anything, though. No sheriff, no nothing.”

Canales expanded on Longoria’s answer. “We spend almost 80 percent of our legislative time dealing with issues that come out of Harris County. It is crazy.”

Longoria agreed. “The city of Houston dictates the whole legislative session.”

Darling said there is a way round that. If the legislature does not the like policies adopted by the city of Houston there is a way to bracket legislation so that it only applies to that city, he explained. 

“Why don’t you go back to the population brackets like you used to?” Darling asked. “If you are really mad at Houston (just) do any city over two million people. That is the way you used to do it in the Legislature, if you had a problem with a particular city. That is what you ought to go back to.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a five-part series focusing on the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s recent Legislative Update Luncheon. Part Two will be published in our next edition.

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