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South Texas Alliance of Cities holds first meeting of 2024

The South Texas Alliance of Cities met in Edinburg for their first quarterly meeting of the year, discussing workforce, infrastructure, and border issues.

Courtesy of the City of Edinburg

The meeting opened at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine in Edinburg, where South Texas Mayors met in person and via Zoom.

“The whole idea is that we’re having these quarterly meetings in each different member’s city to share with everybody a little bit about those communities,” said Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr, Chair of the STAC (South Texas Alliance of Cities). “We want to all be aware of what is happening in our communities so that as we talk about South Texas, we share our story as a whole.”

Mayors, such as San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Mission Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza, and McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos, joined the first meeting of the year with concerns about economic and educational growth.

“We have been discussing a number of issues that are important to the growth and prosperity of our collective communities. Infrastructure, economic development, workforce, education, things like that,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Infrastructure concerns highway I-69 and connecting the Rio Grande Valley region to San Antonio and interstate highway were one of the topics discussed during the morning meeting.

I-69, which covers the lower Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, ports of Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Houston, all to the bordering north town of Texarkana, remains one of the main unsegmented interstate highways systems in Texas.

With construction still underway in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Pharr District, the lower RGV has miles worth of transportation gaps to northern cities such as Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

Effective transportation is a resource needed especially for those seeking careers beyond the valley, a factor brought up by Garza for vocation or trade education expansion in the Valley.

Courtesy of the City of Edinburg

Garza touched on expanding education opportunities by adding post-high school vocational and certification schools for those seeking a career in the labor force.

“It looks a lot the same, San Antonio and down [in] our area. We have a very young labor force but unfortunately…it doesn’t have the education we’d like to see to lure jobs here,” said Garza. “We’re talking about how we can integrate programs that can help us help the kids that want to continue some kind of higher education. Or, provide some kind of technical skill so they can get into the labor force.”

The Edinburg mayor said that alternative education pathways like these will help reduce poverty for residents.

The South Texas mayors also briefly touched on the border narrative following their endorsement of the bi-partisan border bill coined by President Joe Biden last month.

“There needs to be a solution to this immigration challenge we have,” said Garza. “And that bipartisan bill, we felt, represented a good start.”

However, Garza emphasized the bill’s job in not giving ‘everyone what they want’ in terms of a partisan border and immigration policy. Yet, he and the South Texas Alliance of Cities backs it.

“When the President came down, he alluded to that. Because we, as mayors, we’re here to make decisions and get things done for our cities. We can’t put things off.”

The STAC mayors finished their meeting at the Museum of South Texas History, where they met with cultural community leaders and the Edinburg 2040 Youth Advisory Council to discuss concerns young citizens want to see change in the future.

The STAC looks forward to holding its next quarterly meeting in the summer, with its next stop in Brownsville, Texas.

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