Annual address highlights 2018

McALLEN – For years now, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling has been devising of a plan to make a grand entrance at his annual state of the city address.

His plan this year, with the help of magician Oscar Munoz, was to give attendees an illusion. Darling, Munoz and members of the McAllen Fire Department orchestrated a ruse as they carefully stuffed Darling in a box and inserted dividers by way of blades. The magic trick crescendoed as four fire fighters walked on stage of the McAllen Convention Center with a section of the box holding the mayor, separately.

In a comedic struggle Munoz attempted to put Darling back together. First his head was where his legs were suppose to be, but ultimately Darling emerged with a cape donning the city's logo to the applause of the crowd. Always a showman and always quick with a quip, Darling thanked Munoz and the fire fighters for arriving in one piece.

State of the City

Last year McAllen was hit with the flood of the century, zero tolerance and separation of family policy, the migrant “caravan” and deployment of U.S. Troops and the armed robbery at La Plaza Mall. The First Lady, the Vice-President and President also visited the city.

“All these things and more more focused the attention of the nation on our city,” Darling said. “Not all of it was positive but we weathered those storms.”

Darling assured the audience the city is strong, vibrant and hopeful. City leaders remained being fiscally conservative, transparent and optimistic about the future.

As in previous addresses, Darling highlighted the EST's, which include best, highest and lowest. All measurements of the city's progress which included McAllen being one of the safest cities in Texas.

Last year McAllen crime rate was down by more than 7.5 percent, the lowest rate in 34 years.

The rhetoric saying otherwise aims to paint a crisis at the border. But Darling has hope elected officials will dial back the rhetoric and focus on fixing immigration and asylum system and agree on sound border security.

The City will continue to support groups that help the women, children and family units like The Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley and all the local churches and civic groups that help said folks.

“Rest assured Sister,” Darling called out in his speech to Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of the Catholic Charities. “We are going to find a place for those families.”

Darling was referencing to the council decision Monday night that closed the new respite center on Hackberry and Second Street.

Darling thinks that there was not much the city council could do to alleviate the situation with angered neighbors, but he said the people arriving at the center are not here to harm anyone.

“They want to get out of here and go to where they're suppose to go with their family and friends,” he said.

The program continued as usual with each city commissioner highlighting major accomplishments in each of their districts.

Employment in 2018 was consistently low, all below five percent monthly and 4.1 percent in November. The lowest unemployment rate on record for the city.

When events, tragic or not, happen in McAllen notes are taken to see how the city can improve.

Take for instance modifying drainage infrastructure and reprioritizing drainage projects after the flood.

McAllen received several accolades for 2018 including top 50 small cities, 25 most popular cities to relocate to, ranked sixth among best places to retire and 26th Happiest City in America to name a few.

“The 25 cities that were ahead of us in the Happy list are all in states where marijuana is legal,” the mayor quipped.

2019 and beyond

Future projects include a Motocross park south of the airport, improvements of existing parks, adding new parks and continuing upgrades at Palm View golf course.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will open its doors to a new research center in 2019 and once filled, they plan to begin construction on a new research facility.

“I think medical research is a huge opportunity in the Valley,” Darling said.

McAllen will continue its strong economic relationship with Mexico because he believes what happens to Mexico happens to us.

Like the rest of the Valley McAllen continues to grow and prosper.

The food business in McAllen is thriving with 1,389 retail food establishments. There are two food truck courts with 77 trucks.

The city is also providing assistance to some of the areas on 10th and 23rd streets to help develop curb appeal with eco-friendly modifications and the program has expanded for other needed improvements for merchants.

The Hidalgo and Anzalduas crossings are strong and the Anzalduas crossing is ready to implement full commercial truck traffic which will help the businesses that occupy the seven million square feet of logistic space in the trade zone area.

Soon travel will become easier North to South on 29th Street and Bicentennial, both of which will go to Highway 107. The major focus will be East/West corridors to improve traffic flow with new state of the art signals that can be adjusted to decrease wait times.

“All of the investments in our City, from infrastructure and public buildings, to shopping centers and security are done with the idea of making McAllen a magical place to live, work and play,” Darling said.