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Mission visits Austin

20110218_Mission-Visit-to-Austin_-IMG_6282AUSTIN — From the House and Senate floors, to legislative offices and the governor’s headquarters, over 30 representatives from the City of Mission made a trip the state capitol this week to meet with lawmakers and push the city’s key goals like improved highways and ports of entry for better cross border traffic for Mexico.

Mission Day was held in Austin on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, city officials held a reception at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel with over 100 people, including 14 state representatives.

Armed with local citrus, city leaders broke into teams at the event to meet with lawmakers and their legislative aids to discuss Mission and its needs.

“Once they’d meet us, they’d say, ‘Oh, you’re the guys with the grapefruit,’” said Pat Townsend Jr., president of the Mission Economic Development Authority. “They recognize that.”

The reception provided lawmakers in Austin a better, easier way to learn about Mission, he added.

“We talked about who we are, what it’s like to live along the border, and sometimes they don’t get a chance to understand that,” Townsend said. “In a social setting, it’s a good way for them to ask questions.”

Besides promoting the city’s agenda, Mission leaders also aimed at supporting their local delegates like state Reps. Veronica Gonzales and Sergio Muñoz Jr.

“It’s key to remain engaged in the political session,” said Matt Z. Ruszczak, president/CEO of the Mission Chamber of Commerce. “Their work affects people’s everyday lives.”

Visiting Austin with a large group not only shows that Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas has a strong group supporting him, but that his group also supports its local state representatives, Townsend said.

“It’s a ceremonial thing…but cities all across Texas are trying to show that they support their elected officials,” he explained. “It’s important we remind them and make a link with the people in office, no matter where they come from.”

For Salinas, the city’s visit with Gov. Rick Perry was important to discuss highways and urging the state to not increase the $10 fee for license plates.

“We had a good response from the governor,” Salinas said. “We have a good relationship with him for the last 12 years and we’ve supported him from the start. He’s always taken the time to help us.”

In visiting dozens of legislative offices, Ruszczak said the chamber was poised to advocate keeping a prosperous environment for Texas businesses, especially those in the Mission-area.

“We’re here to advocate on behalf of businesses and the Mission community,” Ruszczak said.

For MEDA, meeting with officials on the Border Affairs Committee allowed the group to discuss the importance trade is here with Mexico.

“We want to remind them about our message to keep” expanding trade relationships with Mexico, Townsend said. “We’re happy to have them.”

These types of visits are key in helping Mission successfully complete its projects or goals.

“Our growth is because of the governor and all the help he’s given us,” Salinas said citing highway projects and the city’s water plant. “It’s a good relationship to have. Things are happening for us and we have those doors open, so it’s good for us to go visit with the governor.”

Along with Mission projects, state representatives also discussed some of the Legislature’s biggest issue in budget cuts.

“All of them have that on their minds,” Townsend said of Muñoz and Gonzales. “Everyone kept telling us they were supportive of Mission and education, but it’s definitely an overriding issue. They face a tough session and we want them to know we support what we do.”

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