LETTERS: On new Hidalgo County courthouse and 2nd Amendment rights

New courthouse costs

In my opinion, it is laughable that Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia feels that a county that has an average personal income of under $25,000 (2016 data) — third from the bottom of Texas counties — can afford a new courthouse costing approximately $150 million, no matter where the money comes from. I am waiting to see if county judge candidate Richard Cortez feels the same. It makes no matter how much of our money has already been invested by methods that circumvent a public vote. If they, and commissioners are as interested in transparency as they claim to be, then the exact plans, costs and financing should be laid out, chapter and verse, for us to examine, question and vote on.

The recent posting of an Internet “dashboard,” on the county’s website, while a nice puff of smoke, is completely inaccurate because it doesn’t include $1 million in land costs, $13.5 million in already signed contracts or any other expenditures, such as architectural services, prior to the project manager taking over. What necessities have been left undone to acquire these funds? I also find it insulting that Judge Garcia seemed to equate paying his taxes with the same struggle that those making the county’s average personal income endure.

Commissioners say the new courthouse will be built without an increase in taxes. OK. So what about maintenance on the old one? Remember they told us it is falling apart. What about the added maintenance, personnel wages, utilities, etc., for both courthouses? Will it require more taxes for those new expenses?

Additionally, what will the existing building be used for? The present courthouse may have some crowded hallways on the north side, but the south side is nearly vacant most of the day. I have provided pictures of this to The Monitor but unfortunately, they haven’t been printed

It seems to me that there is no justification for such a lavish expenditure. While there may be a state mandate to adequately support the courts, I doubt that it specifies marble floors, polished wood paneling and other lavish accessories. Will we be paying for those again?

Finally, this new courthouse is an example of our elected officials’ inability to think ahead beyond doing the same thing the same way, and making the same mistakes over and over again. Put the misdemeanor trials in the precincts. Use video conferences for depositions and hearings. Lease space in the soon-to-be under utilized Bentsen Tower. There are dozens of ways to find the space, increase efficiency and accommodate the needs without spending $150 million of our money. Or could the truth be that it is not needed by the county’s 850,000 residents and it’s being built only because the various courts and judges want it?

Ned Sheats, Mission

2nd Amendment rights

My modifier to the title of a prior letter by Auston Cron would state ‘Sensible’ gun laws exist (in countries other than the United States) … As Mr. Cron apparently prefers “facts,” then let me offer the “fact” that, a study published in the March 2016 issue of the American Journal of Medicine found the “gun homicide” rate per capita in the United States is 25.2 times higher on average than that of the 22 high-income countries that comprise the OEDC. That same study published the “fact” that the U.S. “gun homicide” rate for those ages 15 to 24 was 49 times higher than the OEDC average.

Mr. Cron questioned whether Mr. Garibay had his “facts” right about “18 acts of gun violence in the past year?” Please note a Feb. 15 article in The Guardian evidencing in great, and very specific, detail 1,624 mass U.S. shootings (defined as shootings involving four or more people) in the last 1870 days. The “fact” is that AR-15 assault-style rifles (the “weapon of choice” almost universally for all the recent mass shootings) can fire up to 45 to 60 rounds per minute and can accommodate magazines with up to 100 rounds (as was used in the mass shooting in the theatre in Aurora, Colorado).

In my opinion, in a civilized society, such weapons should not be put in the hands of civilians. Mr. Cron seemed to scapegoat the “mentally ill” (a term that is used rather amorphously in the gun debate). I would refer him to a study published in the December 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, in which it was found that “Adults with mental illnesses … were more likely to be victims than perpetrators of community violence”. Another “fact” is that the United States doesn’t have per capita 25.2 times as many “mentally ill” people as do other developed countries. What we do have, as per the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is roughly 5 million to 10 million AR-15 rifles in the United States.

We have a “gun” problem and politicians who have proven themselves inept and incapable of taking on this issue, as well as immigration reform, the national debt, future problems with Social Security, and so on.

Jim McNamara, McAllen

Letters to the Editor are written by concerned citizens just like you. To submit your own letter to the Editor email to letters@themonitor.com. Limit letters to 300 words. We will not publish anonymous letters, personal attacks or consumer complaints. Include your full name, address and a phone number for verification. All letters are subject to editing.