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Census dispute likely

Mission moves to 4th largest RGV city

20110225_TEXAS-MapMISSION — The commercial boom here along U.S. Expressway 83 hasn’t just proved beneficial for sales tax or hotel-motel tax receipts in Mission, but has also moved families to call the city home, 2010 U.S. Census estimates show.

According to the results released last week, Mission grew to a population of 77,058 over the last 10 years. That’s nearly a 70 percent increase in residents from 45,408 reported in the 2000 Census.

Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas said he predicted the city to have anywhere from 85,000 to 100,000 people, but said the results released last week are still positive signs.

“It’s good,” he said. “We worked hard enough in the last 10 years to get good results.”

With these new population estimates, Mission is now the fourth largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, only about 50 people behind Edinburg, which has a population estimate of 77,100 people.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the rapid growth here is due in part to the improving quality of life.

“We have more jobs, better education, recreatiational opportunities and security,” Hinojosa said.

Salinas agreed and said the city’s evolving quality of life with shopping and housing developments along with a 55-cent tax rate have become attractive to families.

“It makes a big difference,” he said. “We want to get to 49 cents in the future. People like when you have to pay less than to the county.”

Over the next few years, as the council works to bring property tax down, Salinas projected the city and its housing developments to grow even more.

“The investment made by the Hunt Development on South Shary Road has been a tremendous help,” the mayor explained. “And we will continue working.”

Results from the 2010 U.S. Census also show the state has become largely populated by Hispanics over the last 10 years, pushing the border region and Hidalgo County into the eighth-largest county in Texas.

Census results showed Texas grew by 20 percent in 2010 to 25,145,561 from 20,851,820 in 2000. Hidalgo County’s growth since the last count, increased by about 36 percent; census results show the county grew to 774,769 residents from 2000’s 569,471.

“That count is somewhat disappointing,” said Hinojosa. “Many people were not counted so this isn’t accurate.”

Weeks leading up to the official announcement, Hidalgo County leaders said they were inclined to contest the results if the area was undercounted. Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia in an interview last week said the rumored 700,000 population estimate here was inaccurate and could cost the county a loss in funding.

Hinojosa said the Valley is traditionally undercounted in the colonias.

On Tuesday at Commissioners’ Court, officials agreed to move forward with disputing the count, hiring San Antonio attorney Rolando L. Rios to lead the charge.

“This must be done soon, otherwise those figures are just going to be institutionalized,” Garcia said.

In 2000, the county disputed the census population estimates and was successful in fighting the undercount gaining another 12 percent in its population, officials said.

“It was in the right direction,” Garcia said, explaining the amount wasn’t the full estimate local officials had hoped for. “It adds up.”

State leaders have said inaccurate population estimates account for a loss of about $10,000 per individual not counted.

“Do the math,” said Yolanda Chapa, the county judge’s chief of staff, who said she knew of at least three families that didn’t receive a mail-in form or a visit from a census worker.

The loss of funds from the undercount could affect the county’s federal and state funding like education, health care, indigent funding and Medicaid, among others, Hinojosa said.

“It’s important for us to include all of our residents otherwise our resources will be limited,” he said. “A lot of our federal and state funding is based on population.”

Hidalgo County has an estimated 300,000-registered voters with only about 25 percent participation from the eligible voters. Additionally, the county has thousands of undocumented and colonia residents that don’t participate in the census.

“It’s the underprivileged that are being cut,” Chapa said. “We need real counts and therefore we need to challenge the counts.”

While he believes Mission was undercounted, Salinas said he was unsure of how a count dispute would be necessary.

“A fight with the federal government is a long process,” Salinas said. “I believe if we just keep on rolling and do what we should do we’ll be okay. I’m kind of happy with the number.”

Although the region was undercounted, Hinojosa said the area is still set to benefit from its growth. As Texas has grown by another five million people, the state could earn four additional congressional seats, with the Valley likely getting representation with three representatives.

“We will have a very strong voice,” he said, adding the Valley could also gain a seat in the state House. “We’re going to have a voice in who gets elected.”

And while Mission’s economic and residential upsurges have helped the city, neighboring cities have benefited, as well. Alton, just north of Mission, tripled its population to 12,341 residents. In the 2000 census, the city’s estimate was 4,384.

“We have a good relationship with our smaller cities and we depend on them,” Salinas said. “It makes a difference for everyone.” 

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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