MCALLEN, Texas – Former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling thought that by purchasing one square meter of land within the boundaries of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 (HCWID No.3 ) he would be able to run for the district’s board of directors. 

But, it was not to be. 

And, so he is sitting out the current elections. 

“They bumped me off,” Darling said, referring to the HCWID No. 3 board. He then joked: “They sent me a letter rejecting me because, they said, there was some deed way back in the 1940s that said Jim Darling can’t run.”

He then gave a serious explanation. “It was something to do with, it (the land) is in the district but it is not taxable because there was some agreement with irrigation district No. 3, or something like that.”

Othal Brand, president of HCWID No. 3’s board of directors, gave his explanation.

“Jim Darling was given one square meter of land by Dan Worthington, who owns land in the old floodway of McAllen, which is in our district. But, apparently, there is a drainage ditch that goes through his property and that ditch was conveyed to Hidalgo County a long time ago. And so, the one square meter that Dan gave him was actually Drainage District No. 1 property, which is not taxable by our district. That means he cannot run because he would have to own land in the district that is taxable.”

Darling, pictured above, said he received a different legal interpretation but decided not to push to be on the ballot through litigation in order to save the taxpayers of McAllen money. 

“I have had a title company say that is not true, I could still be in the district. But, it would have had to go to court and if I went to court here’s the problem… everything the district does, the city is 97 percent of customer paying for it. So it would kind of be hypocritical for me to sue the district to get on the ballot and then burn through thousands of dollars in legal fees and I not make it. But even if I did make it… I thought, I will wait, there will be another time down the road.”

Asked if he was not on too many boards of directors right now, Darling said: “I am on 12 boards. But, I know water, I am a pretty good water guy.”

In the past, Darling has supported legislation filed at the state Capitol to dissolve HCWID No. 3. Asked why he now wanted to be on the district’s board of directors, Darling said: “Well, you know what, I think the City of McAllen should run the district. Not take it over but have a management contract. Hey, if I am on the board of District No. 3 I represent District No. 3. Now the city is a big customer but I would also represent the farmers on that board. I would make sure they are okay. I think if anybody who doubts that doesn’t know Jim Darling.”

So, under Darling’s plan, the assets of the water district would still be owned by the district. But, the operations and management would be conducted by the city.

“I would say, let’s try it. Let’s try it in a contact, the management of it. Who manages it now? They have got this guy who is elected to the board and not many people vote for that board. So, what is the difference, really?” Darling said.

“I think it is much more efficient to have somebody who uses the system (the City of McAllen). They are going to take care of it. They are 97 percent of the customers. They cannot mistreat anybody because they would be mistreating themselves, as far as operations are concerned.”

In the past, the farmers that get their water from HCWID No. 3 have been vehemently opposed to the City of McAllen taking control of the district. They have said in the past that they fear their voices would not be heard. Asked to respond, Darling said: “The commitment of the City would be, they would not charge the farmers. They could run it efficiently enough so the farmers would not pay a flat rate, they would just pay a water delivery charge.”

Darling explained his plan in more detail. “The City of McAllen would commit to saying there would not be a flat rate, there would only be a water delivery charge, which is a reasonable thing. Make it reasonable. It would save the farmers money and they (the City) would operate it, I think, pretty efficiently. It would be to the City’s benefit to have the canals and the pumping station in good shape.”

While Darling did not make it to the ballot two candidates of a like mind did. One is former McAllen city attorney Kevin Pagan. Darling said shaking up the composition of the board of directors makes sense.

“I do not know who is going to get elected but it makes sense (to change the management). Why would you not trust the City with your pumping station? They would want it to be as efficient as possible. They are responsible for 97 percent of the bills. It would be kinda crazy not to operate it properly. They have a lot more to lose than the three percent farmers.”

There are three incumbents running for re-election to the HCWID No. 3 board of directors and three challengers. One being Pagan. 

Asked how the election winner is determined, Darling said: “I think it is, whoever is first, second and third.”

Asked if they have single member districts, Darling said: “That would be hard if you saw a map of the district, which is hard to find, by the way. It is hard to get a map of the district. They exclude a whole bunch of property. You know what the district map reminds me of? You know those QR codes that supermarkets have? That is what a map of the District looks like. No continuity.”

Darling said after a long hunt he finally got an up-to-date map of the district. He said he can see which parcels of land were recently excluded.

“I have got a map of what they excluded, right before the election. I know voting rights do not apply any more. They never did for that District. If the City of McAllen said, okay, we are having an election and we are going to exclude you but your next door neighbor stays in, I think we would be asking questions of why that was. They say, well, they (those that were excluded) were not watering. But I have heard people say, I want water (from HCWID No. 3) and I can’t get it.”

Asked if he was disappointed not to be running, Darling said: “Yes, but I will be back. I am still young. I do not understand. I would be telling the farmers. I am not with the City of McAllen any more. Why would you think they would not or could not do a better job when they are paying for it? You know what I am saying? I don’t know how you get around that argument.”

Pagan, meanwhile, has sent a letter to HCWID No. 3 and its attorney, urging them to allow Darling to run in this election. The board of directors did not take up Pagan’s advice. 

Here is a copy of Pagan’s letter: K.Pagan

Editor’s Note: We will have the HCWID No 3’s position on Darling’s unsuccessful bid to be on the board in a later edition. 

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