When I first took the oath of office as your Mayor in May of 2003, I immediately recognized that the tremendous growth our city had experienced in the past decade has us smiling at our accomplishment, but in tandem with those emotions we found ourselves reeling in pain.
The workforce that served you, which were the people that insure that you have good clean water when you open your faucets, that your streets are paved, that your children are safe by providing police and fire protection, that your trash bins are emptied, that our families have neighborhood parks to enjoy, and the list goes on. THAT workforce had, by necessity, grown in proportion to population, business and new homes.
We had major growing pains because, unfortunately, our City Hall was built in the 50's and it only had space for amount of people employed in the 50's. Our water plant had the capacity to service only the population we had in the 50's, so we were having to buy water from neighboring entities.
Our library had become way to small to serve our needs.
Our police department and municipal court facilities were bursting at the seams.
And the parks buildings where we sent our children to play ball were somewhat dilapidated, and in dire need of TLC. Just like all these other buildings and facilities that I just mentioned.
Today, I'm proud to say that through the responsible teamwork of this city council and staff, we have:
This beautiful and magnificently functional new City Hall complex, built not only with the public workforce in mind but also with a mind for multipurpose use for the general population.
An award winning new second water plant that serves all the needs for now and will for years in the future.
State of the art police and municipal court facilities that will serve our needs for many years to come.
A multi story new library facility that serves in so many educational ways in relation to cultural events and being named for and dedicated to the first young hero that lost his life in Iraq from Edinburg, further serves as a reminder and inspiration to so many impressionable young children that patriotism is alive and well in our community.
We have refurbished our park facilities in recognition that we can never have enough park space for our children. We have set in motion, plans to convert the old golf course into a large central park and city wide hike and bike trail that is safe for it's users by being off the streets and out of harms way, and taking the lead from the magnificent job our great neighbor to the south has done on Second Street and also Bicentennial to link the city wide hike and bike trail to the Second Street McAllen system.
The best news about all this is that, because our benchmark has been fiscal responsibility, all these things have been accomplished with no increase in tax rate to our constituents.
Having identified and dealt with the problems, or growing pains I just mentioned, we as a Council set out to identify what other problems needed addressing by us. Well that didn't take rocket scientists to figure out, thank goodness huh?
Well anyway, it was readily apparent that with all these new people in town we were going to be short on jobs.
We had a new mountain to climb.
I'm pleased and proud that for seven years I have served on your Economic Development Board and for most of those years served as Chair.
With the help, support and encouragement of the Council, and so many members of the private sector, we took proactive steps to encourage foreign investment in our city.
And guess what? Our phones are ringing off the wall!
We also went to National Mall developers conventions, and met with those people to get them to consider investment in our area. We were innovative, but shrewd as a Board in offering incentives to interested investors to our community.
Job creation folks, we got it then, we get it now!
Good afternoon and welcome to our newly restored City Auditorium. Incidentally, this beautiful building was built in 1927 and has, over the years served proudly for our University, our public schools and City functions.
The news today is that it will soon serve again as a community performance venue when the original seating is restored. We are fortunate that we discovered those original seats stored away and forgotten and have, upon further examination; found that the seating is very usable and restorable condition. We will be able to seat 750, which compares to seating projections for the new Performing Arts Center and the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Both soon to be built. The good news to our citizens is that these venues will not compete events.
They will serve a different need and be a compliment to each other and the citizens of this and surrounding communities.
I am humbled that so many of you, our citizens, friends and colleagues have taken time from your busy schedules to join us as we unveil the financial status of our city. As elected officials, we are tasked with the duty of developing and maintaining a sound responsible budget each year.
I am proud to announce that we have achieved that, and our outlook is good.
Seated here with us today is the team responsible for that achievement. Our Edinburg City Council: Mayor Pro Tem Noe Garza, Councilmember Gene Espinoza, Councilmember Alma Garza, Councilmember Gus Garcia.
Upon taking my oath of office for the second time are your mayor in May, I pledged to build consensus with the City Council, as well as reaching out our neighboring and elected officials throughout Hidalgo County and South Texas to improve the quality of life for all our residents.
We continue to move in a positive direction.
We have opened lines of communication with many of our municipalities and governmental agencies to develop a spirit of cooperation and collaboration for the enhancement of our region.
Recently our president gave his State of the Union message to the country, and in talking about the national economic crises, what I heard that rang most true is the need for job creation.
Folks, we got it then and we need it now.
Day before yesterday, my colleague and tocayo Richard Cortez and I had lunch with our Lt. Governor.
Governor Dewhurst commended the Valley for being the only place with positive job growth in these times when jobs are being lost everywhere else. He noted that because the whole nation is looking at our positives, our population is growing faster than the jobs can be created.
Growing pains folks, remember?
We get it. We got it then. We get it now, job creation!
The City of Edinburg proved in 2009 that is was tough enough to withstand a faltering national economy be strengthening our workforce. Edinburg maintained the lowest unemployment rate in the Rio Grande Valley for the last five months, finishing the year at 6.7 percent as compared to 12 percent in Hidalgo County, 6.9 percent in the State of Texas, 10 percent as a national average.
Edinburg created such an impressive number of jobs that we were recognized, along with McAllen and Mission, by Forbes Magazine and Forbes.com "One of the Best Place to Live and Find a Job in the United States."
The jobs created were due in part to national and international chains locating within our city limits. This year we welcomed to our community more than 300-square feet of retail space.
In addition, the City of Edinburg was one of the few in the Country who experienced an increase in new homes being built. We saw a 20-percent increase in 2009 in homes being built as compared to 2008.
These new businesses I just mentioned stimulated both the workforce in our city and the local sales tax.
I am proud to announce that we saw a two-percent increase in the sales tax collection. This increase is an indicator that our residents are enjoying the convenience of numerous more options when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars. You must be pleased with our new shopping mall that is enjoying record sales.
As your Mayor I’m here to tell you that the City of Edinburg’s financial stability was re-affirmed late in 2009 when our credit rating was upgraded from “A” to “A+” by the leading Global Rating Agency Fitch Ratings out of Austin.
Fitch credits the upgrade to Edinburg’s ability to sustain its current water needs and those of the future. The construction of the new water plant has allowed us to meet the water needs of our citizens without having to purchase water from other entities.
The business community is not alone when it comes to growth. The current population in our city is 71,520 according to the latest estimates from the Census Bureau which represents a 48 percent increase since the last Census in 2000.
I am sure that the 2010 Census will reveal even higher numbers.
The City of Edinburg has partnered with the United States Census Bureau to promote the importance of participating in the 2010 Census.
In December, Edinburg was selected as the location for the New Regional Census Bureau Office which will not only ensure an accurate count of all residents but also creates two-thousand new jobs.
And speaking of new jobs, we are pleased to have join us here today, Mr. Roberto Cantu from Monterrey Mexico who is the representative of the Brazilian Manufacturer, Santana Denim that come to our city through efforts of our Monterrey Economic Development Office.
SANTANA is slated to break ground in March and will bring to our community, 800 new jobs at full production.
JOB CREATION FOLKS…….WE GOT IT THEN…AND WE GET IT NOW1
Going back to the 2010 Census,
I must tell you how important it is for all of us to participate in this process.
WE can help determine the dollar amount that will that will be allocated to our region affecting the next ten years in the areas of education, housing, job training, public works, roadway and utility projects.
We recognize that along with growth comes the need for many additional services.
Already we are finalizing the design to expand the Waste Water Treatment Plant that will increase water collection capacity from 7.6 million gallons per day to 12.3 million.
The expansion will allow this one plant to collect the waste water from all of the City’s 43 lift stations.
Additionally, in an effort to optimize efficiency, we are in the process of relocating The Department of Solid Waste Management which will centralize all of the department’s resources in one single area.
The new facility on Jasman Road will also serve in freeing up necessary office space at the City’s Service Center and allow for the expansion of other departments that need additional office and storage space.
The need for temporary satellite offices through out the city will be eliminated…….
Another area experiencing a need for expansion due to the growth in our area is….
The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg.
We are fortunate that our airport is best positioned when it comes to disastrous water events which our area is so famous for.
Our airport enjoys, geographically, the highest elevation of any airport in the Valley.
We are fortunate that it is situated on a point further north than any other airport in the Valley sitting right on the interstate highway through which most cargo moves north.
We are also fortunate that it is the largest airport in land area with over 700 acres available for expansion purposes.
Currently, we are in the process of expanding the runway and taxiway,……which will make our airport number one in the valley in runway length making our plan to develop it into a major cargo airport very viable.
Toward achieving that goal, we are currently in the process of upgrading our airfield navigational system,
Adding a new traffic control tower,
Building a much needed and required fire station that will be equipped with an aircraft rescue fire engine,
As well as adding ten aviation hangars.
Our Airport enjoys the designation of a free trade zone AND a designated US Customs facility which all combined will inevitably lead to enormous economic impact for our region.
The current great interest in future rail development for our region make the possibilities boundless when it comes to our airport’s future.
The increase in population in our city has brought about a need to improve and repair some of our major thoroughfares used by people traveling to and from our city.
Several roads are currently under construction as part of the City’s Capital Roadway Improvement Project.
Canton Road is currently being converted into a five lane roadway with curb and gutter and sidewalks as is Sugar Road between Trenton and Owassa.
Work is also being done on North Jackson Road From 107 to ¼ mile Chapin Road. This project also includes bike lanes.
I’m also happy to report that 6th street between Schunior and University will soon be getting a new look. City crews will be resurfacing, regarding and replacing the asphalt.
And in today’s paper we were reminded of the expansion occurring on McColl Road in the Dr”s Hospital area…..
We must be ever thankful, incidentally, to Dr’s Hospital that brings 3000 jobs to our city.
The growth of our population also demands a better quality of life.
This demand brought forth the interest to bring life back into the downtown area beyond the regular 8-5 workday. We are currently working with the Consulting Firm Broaddus & Associates to develop a master plan that includes; plazas and streetscape improvements, pedestrian connections to UTPA and the County Courthouse, Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Districts. These improvements will help create economic development opportunities to attract new businesses to downtown. Your input on this project will help create a thriving and energetic area. We hope that by working together we can create a place that will draw families, professionals and students. In essence, we want to create a place that can be enjoyed for many generations to come.
We expect that very soon, if our plan prevails, you will see- right outside this building-on McKintyre- a grand pedestrian and bicycle walk-way between this City Hall Plaza and the jewel of our City –University of Texas- Pan American. We are honored to have with us here today, Dr. Nelsen, our new UTPA President. UTPA now enjoys the honor bestowed on few of being rated one of the top 100 universities in this United States. They have been rated number 33 in this nation and only two other universities have been favored with a top 100 rating in our great State of Texas.
We renew our pledge to continue to strengthen our relationship with UTPA. Currently we are involved in meetings relating to upgrades required in connection with drainage, lighting, sidewalks and the joint effort on the hike and bike trail.
Folks, you, me and our children must remember the importance of this city historically in the development of our MSA.
It all started h ere…..the grand ole courthouse….that never should have been torn down….go see the railings from the balconies at the MOST.
Another one of the gems that preserves and reminds us where we came from and what we are capable of…..
We WILL have a vibrant downtown folks…..
Where people live and have cultural venues available to them after the beehive, that is county government, has wound down for the day!!!!
We are and will continue to be a college town that remains wholesome, cultural and family oriented in our development……look at what McAllen did on 17th street….hide and watch it happen here….
But in a venue focusing on the arts for citizens of ages and walks of life…….
The City of Edinburg stands tall when it comes to students of all ages.
The Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg continues to provide opportunities helping us change lives in our city.
As some of you may know a new facility is currently under construction.
This state of the art facility located on the North East part of Edinburg will double the square footage making room for even more children.
It will feature new amenities like a full service kitchen,…….an outdoor play area that will double as a community park and ……two indoor gyms.
I have total confidence that because of this new facility this will become a thriving area providing a better quality of life for everyone who lives, works or visits our great city.
Also, in the same location, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation will be building a new facility that will serve as the new EEDC offices.
In addition, it will serve as a business resource center to assist businesses looking to invest in Edinburg.
I think part of our success is our willingness to work jointly with our neighbors.
We have re-affirmed our partnerships with the entire region.
This year, we made history by holding a join City Council meeting with the City of McAllen.
We have pledged to work together on several major infrastructure projects that will benefit residents and visitors of both cities.
One project deals with water……..we have joined forces to ensure that water is available during emergencies by opening the Interconnect on Owassa and McColl. We are also working together to convert Owassa into a four lane road complete with a left turning lane between McColl and Jackson. Both of these projects will help us meet the demand and growth in that area.
Our strong relationship with the Edinburg School District continues.
As represented by the scheduled joint meeting the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg School Board later this week**********mention Superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez*********
Cognizant of the many challenges in the year to come,
We stand steadfast in our commitment to meet those challenges with fiscal responsibility.
We must remain diligent in providing a level of service our residents have come to expect.
I encourage all Edinburg residents to stay informed and engaged in our community. I will continue reaching out ro our local elected leaders, community leaders and residents to work together for the betterment of our City.
I am humbled and proud to have been given this opportunity to stand before you today as your Mayor.
I will continue to lead in exercising fiscal moderation and bringing about a sense of personal responsibility to do what is right for the taxpayers.
I pledge to keep the city on sound financial footing and supporting economic development and infrastructure,
I will continue to partner with state and local governments to move our region forward and address the pressing needs of the citizens in a fair, responsible and expeditious manner.
I am confident and believe with all my heart that together we are “tough enough” to make Edinburg a great city to work, live and visit.