The overarching theme of Tuesday’s McAllen State of the City Address appeared to be to send a message to Washington (and the rest of the nation) that one of the largest cities in the Rio Grande Valley is a “safe place” to live.
It was a bit of preaching to the choir, since most who were in attendance are from the Rio Grande Valley. Except, of course, for the Laredo mayor and San Antonio delegation, who were called out by McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and told not to refer to their cities as “South Texas,” when one is clearly in “West Texas,” and the other is maybe “South Central Texas,” Darling told a lunchtime crowd of over 1,000 at the McAllen Convention Center during his fourth such annual address.
His stage quips were vintage Mayor Darling, but his underlying message — that McAllen “has the lowest overall crime rate and is one of safest city,” — was serious and much appreciated.
We need to tout that South Texas’ flagship city is one of the safest cities in the state and that our border, overall, is a safe and healthy place to visit, shop and work.
“We have a problem: The rest of the state, and many in the United States, don’t believe that,” Darling rightly said. “We need to send that message that McAllen is what?” He asked the audience, encouraging a somewhat collective response of: “Safe and sound.”
Raising our own cheerleaders is certainly one way to begin, along with an emphasis through our politicians, marketing and other mediums to spread the word of our decreasing crime and healthier environment.
In 2017, the crime rate in McAllen was the lowest in 33 years. There has been a 67 percent drop in crime since 1995. In 1992, there were over 2,000 car thefts; in 2017 there were 46; in 1993, there were over 2,100 burglaries; in 2017 there were 185, Darling said.
He also touted a four-minute response time by McAllen firefighters and a recent fire Insurance Service Office rating that is the best of any city south of Corpus Christi. This has dropped fire insurance premiums by 11 percent for resident and 13 percent for commercial properties.
We also respect that he sent a message — albeit somewhat veiled — to lawmakers in Washington of the importance of NAFTA. He highlighted the addition of empty cargo trucks that in 2017 first began crossing southbound into Mexico via the Anzalduas International Bridge — a total of over 17,000, so far.
We hope thousands more will use this new route in 2018 and will come to see it as a viable and important international southbound trade corridor. And we again hope and encourage that President Donald Trump will realize the economic necessity of renegotiating NAFTA for our region.
As is his style, Darling made a dramatic entrance on Tuesday: Coming down a rope from the convention center ceiling. (In past years, he has rode in on a bicycle, marched with veterans and run with children.) This year, first responders were his invited guests. An appropriate opportunity, indeed, to thank them for helping to keep us all safer.