By Othal Brand, Jr.
McAllen is my home. The city has done a tremendous amount for my family. I appreciate it and I love my community. I want to give back.
I am running for Mayor of McAllen because, as a lifelong resident, I love my city. McAllen is a great city to live in but there is room for improvement.
For example, did you know that 23 percent of McAllen residents live below the poverty line? That is unacceptable. We have to do more to raise our families out of poverty. I can improve that.
The reason I know about the poverty rates is through the nonprofit I am a part of. Hidalgo County has two and a half times more poverty than the nation as a whole. Indeed, I would not be the largest distributor of free food outside of the food banks in the entire nation if it was not for the Valley having such a high poverty rate.
One area we must address is drainage. The City has spent a great deal of money on drainage. This is a good start, but we are far from finished. I have a plan.
Another area to address is fiscal discipline. If there is a way to cut taxes, I will do it. If there is a way to make better use of the taxes, I will do it. If there is waste, I will fix it. We have one of the biggest budgets in this county. I have said that if elected mayor I will work to give the city’s stimulus money back to the small business community. It is the small businesses that have been impacted the most by COVID-19. If we are given $43 million by the federal government, it needs to be spent wisely. It does not need to go towards building a bigger bureaucracy.
Another area of concern is leadership. If I am in tune with the electorate, I can tell you, local residents do not want a city leadership that ‘lords’ over them. What we want are people running the city, that are good public servants, not people who think of its residents as a customer or a number.
That is not to say we do not have good people working for the city. In fact, you will not find better public servants than those in the rank and file. The mindset I am talking about is coming from the second floor of city hall. There needs to be a mind reset.
I learned a lot from my father, Othal Brand, Sr., who served as mayor of McAllen for 20 years. He would not allow any of his family or friends to be employees or sit on any boards. That was good policy. My Dad loved working for the city, he had a love for it. I plan to serve with the same dedication.
I sit on the boards of two local and important entities. One, a faith-based charity, brings in 50 to 80 groups a year to do work in the colonias, in homes and in our local churches. They participate in day camps, working in hospices and in the respite center. And they do theological training. As a society, we want good citizens, responsible people, with children growing up with moral fiber. That is what we do.
We also supply food to those most in need. We work with over 1,000 churches in the 16 counties of South Texas, from Laredo to Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande Valley. Most of the food is distributed in the Valley. Working with USDA we have distributed over two million boxes of food over the past year. We get over 35 truckloads of food a week. The organizers asked me, how much food can we take. I have never found the bottom of the need.
I also work with is Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3. As well as being a board member, I work, in an unpaid capacity as general manager. When I came onto the board, they had just built a brand-new pump station. I persuaded the board to raise it six inches higher than the levees, so our pump station could never be flooded.
During the floods of 2008, caused by Hurricane Dolly, we came into our own. For three months we supplied 98 percent of all the water consumed in the City of McAllen. Two other local water districts could not reliably supply water to the city. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Pilar Rodriguez, when he held a leadership position with the City of McAllen. He said, Othal, are you going to be able to get us water? I said, Pilar, tell everybody to put their heads on the pillow and sleep well tonight. McAllen did not miss a lick.
In the recent freeze, we provided the majority of the drinking water because the other districts could not be relied upon. Reliability is so important. We were the only reliable water source, and only water district with totally uninterrupted power through backup generators. No other district has backup generators. The City of McAllen was so confident of our supply they sold water to four other entities that did not have enough water.
As I have repeatedly said to the McAllen city leadership, Water District No. 3 is not your enemy. We are the only water district in the Valley with the largest makeup of McAllen residents. They are dedicated to McAllen’s success.
We supply water at 29-plus cents per 1,000 gallons of water. Those are better rates than Third World countries pay. I received a report last year from the U.N. showing water costs from around the world. We are a fifth to an eighth of what those costs are in Third World countries.
I have said that McAllen needs a good mixture of backgrounds on its city commission. Currently, there are no businessmen or women on the commission. We need to balance this so we can further serve prospective developers and cut back on the red tape that stifles potentially lucrative projects, while not forgetting the small entrepreneur.
You give me an entity that does not pay taxes, I promise you I can put it in the black and keep it in the black. It is easy to do when you use business principles in a non-tax environment.
I believe I am the most experienced candidate running for mayor, and that I have the vision, dedication and ideas to make McAllen one of the great cities of Texas.
POL. ADV. PAID FOR BY THE CANDIDATE.