By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
It might be a lot to bite; however, when you have County Judge Richard Cortez putting together the Prosperity Task Force, the effort will have a better chance—considering that Hidalgo County is the 8th most populated county in Texas out of 254 counties, with 880,356 people. So, the task is enormous.
Mario Reyna, former STC Dean and Business Developer for Texas Border Business was retained by the county to secure members and follow up with Cortez’s idea.
“As government officials, we serve the people, in making sure that we serve those in poverty by being efficient and effective in ensuring that all of what’s available is reaching them.” Cortez stated. He continued, “We had to send back $12 million that we received from the government because we didn’t have enough people apply for services. And yet we’re a poor area.”
Judge Cortez stated, “We couldn’t get people to apply and receive those services.”
Because of this, his priorities have changed in this regard, “Goal number one for the prosperity task is to find out how do we serve the people that we have as best as we can.
He emphasized that the county cannot do it alone and that the need for partners by forming the task force is a must.
Judge Cortez is counting on the participation of cities, schools, and non-governmental agencies to help provide those services. The task force’s responsibility is to identify the groups of people with a high probability of getting out of poverty.
Once identified, they are sent to a counselor to determine their education level, knowledge of mathematics, or if they speak English, Spanish, or both. Those are just some parameters that will be used to identify the targeted group. The task force is interested to know what they are best suited for, either vocational learning or higher education which is also in the plan for citizens ready to take the challenge.
At the beginning of this article, I reported population numbers based on the last CENSUS report. However, Judge Cortez has other numbers based on rooftops. He can answer the question of what Hidalgo County’s population in two ways is. One way to answer is subjectively because he said, “Objectively, I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that they didn’t count all the people that we have.” He continued, “I’ll give you one of my suspicions. We have an accurate count of how many rooftops we have in Hidalgo County, so let’s simplify the math. Let’s say we have 300,000, and the average number of people that live on each rooftop is four. You must apply four times, 300,000. That’s 1.2 million,” he said.
He pointed out that that’s an indirect way of estimating how many people we have. “The official count was like 890,000, which is a tremendous undercount,” he said.
By looking at Cortez’s bigger picture, their task just became monumental. According to him, the prosperity task force is designed to develop a protocol and a program. One is to serve people in poverty, and two, to move people out of poverty by creating human capital. And number three, to provide a job opportunity for them. “Those are our three goals.
An initial meeting took place, where a large group of leaders responded to the invite. From there, the group broke into eight subgroups. Cortez said, “These eight subgroups are now meeting at different inner rows and frequencies.”
“I’m excited about the enthusiasm that everybody has about wanting to help, to create a community that cares, loves people, and wants to help. We’re creating a good environment,” the judge said.
Anyone interested in participating and being part of the task force should call my office at 956-318-2600.