By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
City officials from San Benito and Harlingen will join forces in making a joint trip to Austin on Tuesday, Feb. 10 to petition legislators at the State Capital.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Z. Sanchez said, “This is the first time that San Benito is going to be visible and active at the Capital.”
Of San Benito’s effort to make its voice known in Austin, City Manager Manuel Lara said, “I am excited that the City of San Benito and the City of Harlingen are working together to build a closer relationship. It’s good. It’s the beginning, and I think it’s going to be very good. I’m very pleased that our mayors are working together.”
“Mayor (Chris) Boswell was very gracious,” said Sanchez of Harlingen’s Mayor. “He said we should partner and go together because we (our cities) have basically the same issues. Our own legislators and representatives know our area and are familiar with our issues … others do not. Traditionally it’s McAllen, and (other) bigger cities that go before legislatures.”
Excitement flooded Sanchez’s voice when she said, “There’s a lot of information that we put together.” She explained that city officials “teamed together” and created a brochure that contains messages from both cities’ mayors, as well as the issues each city wishes to address with legislators. “We’re going to get an opportunity to meet with other legislators and governor’s aids,” Sanchez said.
The Harlingen Chamber of Commerce has facilitated bus transportation for the city’s officials, and at least two San Benito officials – including Honorable Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Gonzales and San Benito Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Salomon Torres – will be traveling with Harlingen’s group.
“It’s really unique that two cities are partnering like this,” Torres said. “It’s significant and reflective of how we’re open to working with Harlingen on projects and regional events. We actually have a good working relationship with Harlingen … and this is symbolic of that.”
“The Mayor and I are going to take the opportunity to inform officials of what San Benito offers,” Torres said. “We are almost in a public relations role in promoting San Benito up there to the legislature,” he added.
“I know one topic that’s going to come up is we’re going to support other cities … efforts … to the legislatures, about Brownsville (strip) annexation,” said Torres. “Like Harlingen, we are going to urge that more transportation funds get allotted this way. We’re going to educate the legislators about our economic growth … Our metro area of Harlingen and San Benito is 100,000 plus (people). When combining rural areas like Rio Hondo and Los Indios, etc., we are at about 150,000.”
Sanchez said Harlingen and San Benito officials will have a reception to host State Representatives Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) and Oscar Longoria (D-Mission). She said, “We can address the whole group. I think it’s wonderful for San Benito. (Legislators) are going to know that San Benito exists … not just McAllen, Harlingen and the upper Valley.”
The bus will leave Harlingen Tuesday morning around 6:30 a.m., and depart from Austin around noon on Wednesday.
“I think this is a pretty good idea,” said Penny, “that was struck up by the Mayor. Actually, it was just going to be Harlingen going (but this will) put us in front of some of the legislators and people at the Capital, and we can promote the area, also promote (the Los Indios) bridge.” Cameron County owns 50 percent of the bridge, where Harlingen and San Benito each own 25 percent, respectively.
“Just talking to some of the people can open up some doors,” Penny said, “And that’s what we’re looking to do.”
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