McALLEN – County Hidalgo Judge Richard Cortez spent Thursday evening speaking to about 50 members of the McAllen Citizens' Association on issues he needs to tackle when he takes up office in January. However, the county's aging infrastructure and its multi-million dollar debt is at the top of its agenda.
“We are about to borrow,” said Cortez, a certified public accountant, referring to bond projects like the county courthouse. “I don't know where we are to get the money. … But I think we will do it when we get there. ”
In the 2010 census, Hidalgo County grew over 30 percent, Cortez said. That was more than the national growth rate and Texas. While the growth in the amount of investment made and the number of taxpayers living in the county increases, it also means that the county has a period of time to develop infrastructure to serve the growing population.
“It's a blessing and a curse,” said Cortez. “… Our future will depend on how we will attract investment to Hidalgo County.”
But to do this effectively, he said, the 22 cities in the county must start thinking as a region.
“It is an urban area that is not an urban area,” said Cortez, pointing out that while tax incentives are good tools for attracting businesses to certain cities, they should not be used hastily. Cortez later defended McAllen's city commissioner for a tax break on the parking garage built at La Plaza Mall. At the time, 25 per cent of the city's income was at the mall, so it was worth it, he said.
While Cortez believes that the county should cut costs where possible, there are places where investment is required. For example, he said that the county would need to support the UTRGV Medical School to effectively improve access to healthcare in the county.
“I believe (the medical school) that it was serious to us and that we must do what we can to look after it,” said Cortez, conservative self-reported democracy, adding that he has been criticized.
Cortez also said that the county needs to invest in tourism, particularly nature tourism. However, when asked what he would do about the region's image in the context of border issues, he replied: when the construction of the boundary wall is due to take place through a number of Hidalgo County nature parks in February: “I wish you had a reply today, but no.
Cortez described the behavior of the county to be in the center of the bell curve. In order to move it nicely, Cortez said, the county must educate more citizens, and make citizens and taxpayers more effective thereafter.
“Not all of our problems will be a perfect solution,” he said. “But there will be a better way to do it.”