McALLEN – Before Mayor Jim Darling delivered his annual state of the city address, attendees were treated to a social media segment called Sweet Tweets.
Taken from a play on Jimmy Kimmel's Mean Tweets sponsors and employees of the city read tweets that were praising the city in 2016. The segment led into the same talent pool expressing to the audience the mayor's theme for the address, “It's Our City.”
Over the years Darling has made his entrances for the state of the city grand and for 2017 it was no different as a video showed him working as a blue-collared employee of the city before entering the McAllen Convention Center dancing with his coworkers.
Darling got down to the business of the event with a highlight of 2016 including announcing the general fund balance of $44 million, the 100 percent special needs compliance of all programs offered through parks and recreation, Texas A&M campus, UTRGV Research Facility and STC campus expansions.
For 2017 Darling hopes citizens of McAllen will participate in making a better place to work, live and play.
“We need all 140,000 of us to make our city better,” Darling told the audience. “The theme I choose for 2017 McAllen 'It's our city' is centered in all of us doing our part.”
Another video aired showing Darling getting his hands dirty by working at the only compost facility in South Texas, driving a tractor to the A&M construction site and then hopped into a recycling truck to talk about the McAllen recycling program.
Darling continued on his way in the video and with the help of each district city commissioner. They talked about the library being awarded the most beautiful library in Texas, the fact McAllen was the first city to be an All-Star Community for their participation in Let's Move, making the old police department into the Texas transnational intelligence center, the ongoing humanitarian effort to immigrants under the leadership of Sister Norma Pimentel and the new jewel of the city the McAllen Performance Arts Center.
Darling appeared again after the video now donning a suit and tie to report the state of the city “remains strong and vibrant.”
In 2016 the city broke the record for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce economic index and the unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in December 2016.
“McAllen is well positioned to take advantage of many opportunities we see in the future,” Darling said.
The city also remains the highest sales tax collector per capita in the state. And although the decline of the peso has seen a small dip in those taxes city leaders know that Mexican shoppers are still coming as bridge crossings are up by 4.2 percent but they are not buying as much or staying as long.
“The good news they're still coming regardless of some of the Washington (D.C.) rhetoric,” Darling said.
Property taxes in McAllen are some of the lowest in the state compared to other cities the same size at the rate of 47 cents. McAllen can maintain that rate because construction is up in the city and as of October 2016 there was $350 million in construction compared to $163 million in 2015.
Not one tax dollar was used for the production of the state of the city and the money raised will be used to donate to charities.
To close his state of the city Darling highlighted the event with the Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center and brought out his “little friends” the dogs up for adoption.
Editor's Note: McAllen Memorial High School provided two singers for the state of the city. Antonio Julia sang the National Anthem and Sydney Ramon performed “Over the Rainbow” wearing a Dorothy dress.