Citizens in the border city of McAllen have an opportunity to dramatically change their local government with tomorrow’s elections.
For several weeks, McAllen voters have already cast 5,476 in-person ballots in just two contested races, with five candidates running for local offices representing the City of McAllen.
The race for mayor, which will likely prove the most interesting, involves three candidates where voters will have a choice between incumbent Mayor Jim Darling, Jonathan Carranza, and Othal Brand Jr.
Darling, a former native of Rochester, New York, has said that he envisions the future of McAllen as “Houston by day, Las Vegas by night, and Disney World on the weekend,” yet many taxpayers are concerned about the price-tag of these grandiose musings.
Indeed, the most recent controversy faced by the city stems from the mayor’s misuse of public funds for the 2014 McAllen Holiday Parade, as the city lost an estimated $771,000 on a concert performed by Enrique Iglesias. Additionally, Darling’s involvement as General Counsel to Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) lost him credibility with residents, as he testified in favor of a Hidalgo County Healthcare District (Hospital District) that was unanimously rejected three times by Hidalgo County voters.
When asked by concerned constituents on the lack of transparency and accountability on these issues, Mayor Darling appeared on the defensive and rather unapologetic.
Othal Brand Jr. has been the financial heavy hitter of the race, with his approach centered around gathering a strong pool of volunteers block walking on his behalf every weekend. Brand serves as the Chairman, President, and General Manager of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District 3, in addition his agricultural company Griffin & Brand of McAllen Inc. is the largest employer in the city of McAllen.
A McAllen native, he says he finds the city to be a “totally different world” as an adult and his motivation to run comes from his desire to return the community to the way he remembers it as a child: safe. Brand is also the son of McAllen Mayor Othal E. Brand Sr., who held office for two decades from 1977 to 1997, and left a strong reputation for McAllen as a thriving city.
So far, Brand Jr.’s platform of “accountability, transparency, and open government,” is resonating strongly with McAllen residents as he openly attacks Mayor Darling’s failure to produce the cost of the 2014 McAllen Holiday Parade, as well as the failed perception of a safe community when violent crime has dramatically increased in the previous years.
Brand argues that he can do a “better job” by applying his business acumen to the city, building a safer McAllen that starts with stronger families, and effective communication with constituents.
The third candidate, disabled veteran Jonathan Carranza, claims the combination of his military background, though limited, and absence of political affiliation will resonate with the majority of the voters. However, his inexperience, failure to produce an outline for eliminating property taxes, and desire to become “less of a mayor” doesn’t appeal to many.
Concerned citizens of McAllen should make their voice heard at the polls. Voting ends tomorrow, May 6th, 2017.