Mitchell Ferman

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Mitchell Ferman covers the city of McAllen and cross-border trade and politics for The Monitor. He can be reached at mferman@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4474.

Alyssa Milano tours migrant respite center with Rep. Gonzalez

Actress gets firsthand look BY MITCHELL FERMAN STAFF WRITER McALLEN — For years, actress Alyssa Milano has advocated publicly for human rights, gun safety and progressive climate...

McAllen OKs $1 million for UTRGV medical school research

McAllen City commissioners this week authorized a $1 million payment for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s School of Medicine, and the money is specifically allocated for the school’s new cancer research program. Commissioners unanimously approved the funds, which were budgeted. Commissioner Veronica Whitacre recused herself from the vote and did not participate in conversation about the medical school payment, as Whitacre has done in previous years. It was the first time in years the measure was passed smoothly. In 2014, McAllen and other surrounding city councils pledged to annually pay UTRGV for its medical school. McAllen’s memorandum of understanding with UTRGV reads: “on or about Oct. 15, each year from 2014 to 2023, the city shall pay/transfer/provide to The University of Texas System up to $2,000,000.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen authorizes $1 million for UTRGV medical school research

McALLEN — City commissioners this week authorized a $1 million payment for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s School of Medicine, and the...

Officials: Local economy is heading in right direction but obstacles remain

McALLEN — Unemployment has hovered around 4%, a low for the region. Sales tax revenues hit a record year, eclipsing $63 million. Multiple bridges have brought in millions year after year for the city, too. The city of McAllen has seen swells across various segments of its economy recently, city leaders raved at an economic forum this week at the Chamber of Commerce. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling ticked off various points of pride about the city’s economy, and noted that the city’s population balloons during weekdays, with 25% of the people who work here not living in the city. But the city’s economy isn’t where it should be yet, Darling said. Read more at themonitor.com

As produce season begins, truckers reminded about permits

PHARR — A flurry of commercial trucks drive through South Texas, often going to or coming from Mexico. In hopes of keeping communities safe and streets in decent condition, authorities have established weight and size regulations, along with certain corridors that the trucks are allowed to drive. With the produce season launching earlier this month and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge being the top produce port of entry in the United States, authorities have stopped several overweight trucks carrying produce in the Rio Grande Valley. On Thursday, bridge officials held one of its periodic seminars for the cross-border trade industry, free to attend and to hear from officials on both sides of the border pertaining to a particular issue. Thursday’s was about overweight trucks, led by Fred Brouwen and Freddy Flores of the Pharr bridge, who typically run these regular seminars that cover a range of trade-industry topics. Read more at themonitor.com

Pharr adds 2 assistant city managers

For years, the city manager in Pharr has had one deputy. Now there will be two additional assistant city managers, as Human Resources Director Anali Alanis and City Clerk Hilda Pedraza have been promoted to assistant city manager positions, joining Deputy City Manager Ed Wylie as the senior leadership of the roughly 650 city employees in Pharr, overseen by City Manager Alex Meade. “These types of leaders are always learning, growing and adapting to a fast-paced and ever-changing environment,” Pharr Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez said this week. “Their leadership is the key to our success and sustainability and will keep Pharr moving forward across generations of administrations.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Darling joins chorus of criticism toward Speaker Bonnen

Late Monday, the night before Texas Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen, announced he would resign, Bonnen defended himself of comments he made over the summer bashing cities and counties, which was revealed in secretly recorded audio released last week. “Let me tell you something,” Bonnen, R-Angleton, said in the audio, which was from a June meeting with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, who recorded and released the audio. “In this office, and in the conference room on that end, any mayor or county judge who’s dumbass enough to come meet with me, I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.” Bonnen was widely criticized for many of his remarks in the 64 minutes of leaked audio, and on Monday night, Bonnen for the first time publicly specifically addressed components of the remarks, which was met with a response from McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

City launches initiative to spruce up storefronts

Businesses that fall within certain sections of McAllen will have an opportunity to apply for a grant to beautify their storefronts with art, landscaping, lighting and other repairs and improvements to enhance the building’s appearance. Called a “storefront revitalization project” and run by the city’s retail and business development department, businesses that are located within the following corridors will be eligible to apply for the 50% match that could be worth up to $15,000: 10th Street between Houston Avenue and Nolana Avenue; Business 83 between McColl Road to 29th Street; 23rd Street between Idela Avenue to Pecan Boulevard; and South Ware Road between Idela Avenue and Pecan Boulevard. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Cotton exporter, NAFTA’s future in South Texas among senator’s focus

Fielding requests for assistance from international trade officials in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn toured a large cotton exporter in Weslaco on Monday and hoped for an upcoming Congressional vote on the revised North American Free Trade Agreement. “Here in the Valley, as much as you’re growing, as much as you’re creating new jobs, USMCA is absolutely critical to get done,” Cornyn told a room full of trade stakeholders from across Hidalgo County at Commodities Integrated Logistics of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as the new NAFTA deal has been called.  “And in a strange way, the hyper-partisanship may incentivize the speaker to take this up and pass it just to demonstrate that she can get that done,” Cornyn added. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Produce season launches at Pharr-Reynosa bridge

Tightly connected at their core, two pillars of trade in North America celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. But their futures are not in lockstep. The North American American Free Trade Agreement, implemented in 1994, has hit snags under President Trump, who has sharply criticized the deal and has threatened to pull out of the agreement altogether, before his trade negotiators last year reached a deal on an updated trade agreement, but it has yet to be approved by the United States and Canadian bodies of Congress. And there’s the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which opened for business in 1994, and has grown significantly to now become the top produce port of entry in the country, with 60% of the avocados that enter the U.S. from Mexico crossing the bridge in Pharr. That statistic was not lost on Thursday’s speakers at the annual launch of the produce season at the bridge. Most people, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said, don’t know the genesis of fruits and vegetables they buy at H-E-B. Read the full story at themonitor.com.