EDINBURG-- Over 150 people met on Oct. 15 in the Holy Family Church parish hall to hear candidates for mayor and city council answer “yes” or “no” to three major community concerns.
The forum, which was organized by Valley interfaith, did not allow any campaign material, and only allowed the candidates a minute to explain their answers.
Candidates were asked if they would allocate funding for drainage, safety zones and Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA)--a local nonprofit that provides career services.
Before they were asked, they heard from community members who are affected by those issues.
Father Thomas Luczak of Holy Family Church, lives in the “infamous” corner of 22nd Street and Champion st., which he said is an area that’s very vulnerable to flooding.
“The drainage here is so bad, that after 10 or 15 minutes of rain you can’t even cross the street in your vehicle,” he said. “What would an ambulance do if they needed to get here after it rains?”
All candidates answered “yes” to addressing the drainage issue in Edinburg.
Another concern was the allocation of safety zones, which consists of sidewalks, speed bumps and street signs, in areas that are close to busy traffic. Attendees of Holy Family Church, which is a block away from highway 281, often see cars speeding by in the area which doesn’t even have sidewalks.
Monica Silva, a life-long Edinburg resident and Holy Family Church parishioner, said when she was a little girl in the 1980’s she experienced the same the same problem.
“When we would walk to Holy Family from the Memorial Park the adults used to tell us not to walk by the streets, so we would go by the alley ways, and all these years later we’re still having the same problem,” she said.
All candidates answered “yes” to addressing safety zones in high-traffic areas in Edinburg.
The most controversial topic of discussion was the whether or not Edinburg should continue allocating funding for VIDA. In previous city council votes mayor Richard Garcia was unable to cast a vote because his wife is interim director of the nonprofit organization.
Advocates for funding VIDA say there is an economic value in funding an organization that helps educate Edinburg residents. According to supporters the city gets $12.12 for every dollar they invest in VIDA.
Elisa Hernandez, an Edinburg resident and VIDA alum, moved to Edinburg from Houston with her son after she divorced. As a single mother she relied on government assistance while she worked toward her education.
“I almost decided to drop out of school because I just couldn’t make ends meet,” she said. “Luckily I came across VIDA, and at that point it was just a godsend. Thanks to them, I graduated in 2015 with a degree in nursing and I now make over $75,000 a year and I purchased my own home here in Edinburg.”
Richard Molina, Gina Alamia and Gilbert Enriquez responded “no” to providing funding for VIDA.
Enriquez said it would be “fiscally irresponsible” for candidates to promise the amount of funding that is being proposed, which is $150,000 for the remainder of the year and $292,000 for 2018.
Richard Molina, a city councilmen who voted against funding VIDA in January, said it is unfair to prioritize one nonprofit over others.
“There are a lot of nonprofits out there that need money,” he said. “I’m willing to compromise at a lower amount.”
A mayoral forum is set to take place on Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the UTRGV Student Union.