‘Safe and sound:’ Mayor Darling touts city’s safety, success to rest of Texas, US

McALLEN — In a thinly veiled message to Austin and Washington, D.C., Mayor Jim Darling highlighted in the annual State of the City address Tuesday to show how safe and successful McAllen is.

President Donald Trump emphasized a “desperately needed WALL” between the United States and Mexico as recently as Monday, and the border region has become a political issue on both the state and national level. Trump has also referred to many immigrant countries with derogatory names.

On Tuesday, Darling called McAllen “the overall safest city in Texas and one of the safest in the U.S.”

“But we have a problem with the rest of the state and many in the country who don’t believe that,” Darling said. “As a result, we’ve had trouble recruiting business, retail, healthcare professionals, professors and events to our area.”

After entering by rappelling down from the ceiling of the Convention Center, Darling talked of the positive qualities of the city, such as the growth of Quinta Mazatlán, city parks, street improvements, education, the manufacturing and distribution sector in south McAllen and the “more than $100 million” La Plaza Mall expansion, dubbing McAllen the shopping hub of South Texas.

In a video segment with District 2 Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora, the mayor promoted the city’s 11-field, “state-of-the-art” youth baseball complex, which was supposed to open last year. City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said in January that the complex will “probably” be ready by mid-February after delays due to Hurricane Harvey and other inclement weather.

The city is now waiting for grass to take root on the field at the complex, located on the corner of 29th Street and Auburn Avenue, Rodriguez added. The first tournament is scheduled in April and the complex should be ready, he said.

Darling said sales tax “is still king” in McAllen, as the city has the second-highest sales tax revenue per capita in the state. The city collected $58.6 million in sales tax last year, Darling added.

Nearly 40 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue comes from Mexican shoppers. In addition to the business ties, Darling talked about the deep cultural and familial relationships between both sides of the border.

While Darling avoided praising or bemoaning elected officials, one he did point out briefly was Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca.

“I want to commend Gov. Cabeza de Vaca for his efforts for increased security,” Darling said.

However, the U.S. State Department in January added a travel advisory for Tamaulipas, urging Americans to not travel there. The advisory is the department’s highest risk Category 4 warning, the same level as Syria.

Darling hasn’t ignored the violence in Mexico, but his message Tuesday was that this side of the border is safe, alluding that some top elected officials are painting the border with too broad a brush.

“I was advised not to get involved in a political discussion by our legal department,” Darling said during his address.

He may have done just that.