EDINBURG--Less than a week before the polls are set to open, candidates for mayor of Edinburg participated in a forum hosted by the The College Republicans and the Progressive Young Democrats at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Over 100 people filled the seats of the UTRGV PlainsCapital Bank Theater as candidates answered 13 questions submitted by various student organizations.
Among the topics discussed, sustainability, immigration and public transportation had pretty uniform answers across the board. However, other topics left a lot more room for debate.
Questions were asked about emergency preparedness, and how the existing drainage issue may leave Edinburg vulnerable to flooding if tropical storm were to hit.
Gina Alamia said the issue should be alleviated by addressing drainage issues first, specifically the maintenance of current drainage systems.
“We dodged a very big bullet with hurricane Harvey,” she said. “One of our biggest problems is that we aren’t cleaning out our drains fast enough. With flooding comes a lot of trash and debris which clogs up the drains and doesn’t allow the water to flow freely; we need to make sure our drains are clean.”
“I believe we can have a better drainage system not just on the East side where it’s most needed, but everywhere in the city,” she said.
Mayor Richard Garcia said the city of Edinburg has 11 pumps in case of flooding--though the fire department requesting 10 more-- he states that in the past they’ve gotten by with rental pumps when needed.
Richard Molina, a current Edinburg city councilman, said allocating money for the pumps should be a priority.
“Right now we’re seeing the most hurricanes that we’ve ever seen,” he said. “The chief is saying that we need 10 extra pumps; each one is about $25,000. If we don’t have the money in our funds we need to start looking very quickly, because eventually a storm will hit and we need to be prepared.”
Molina went on to suggest that the city should consider raising taxes as form of allocating funds for such infrastructure projects--a stance he admits may cost him votes.
Mayor Garcia argues that during his term many new facilities were constructed without needing to raise taxes.
“When I first became mayor in 2009 all the facilities were from the 50’s,” he said. “I was told by the financial advisors that it [replacing them] couldn’t be done without raising taxes… We were able to build the city hall, police department, a new library and a new fire department. All of that was done without raising taxes; it was by raising revenue.”
Later on, after questions about city finances and transparency, Santana Textiles--a denim manufacturing plant in Edinburg--became dividing topic.
Molina said the plant is “costing millions of dollars to the taxpayers,” and that the EEDC-funded project is a “bad deal.”
Mayor Garcia said the money given to Santana Textiles is in the form of a loan, which doesn’t cost taxpayers anything.
“Santana Textiles employs 160 people, the payroll is a half a million dollars a month, they pay $1 million dollars a year to the city of Edinburg--let's be transparent here... The bottom line is numbers don’t lie, people do,” he said.
“The city is doing very, very well,” he assured.
Early voting begins Monday Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 3. The general election is Tuesday Nov. 7. For polling locations visit the Hidalgo County Elections department.