Survey: McAllen needs to improve traffic, drainage

McALLEN — In one of the documents that city officials in McAllen value most, residents said they want improvements to traffic flow, street maintenance, drainage and the quality of the city’s social media accounts.

The 2019 citizen survey, in which a third-party company analyzed responses from 403 random respondents, has most citizens saying the city is safe and welcoming and is a high quality place to live, raise children and retire.

The results were presented Monday to the mayor and city commissioners, who respondents said they were satisfied with in the survey. Greg Townsend, strategic planning coordinator, gushed about the findings to city officials at Monday’s public workshop before the regularly scheduled city commission meeting.

“It shows there’s a desirability about this city that we haven’t seen,” Townsend said. “Nothing’s a big surprise.”

While the city received mostly positive marks, McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said he was more interested in addressing the areas the city needs to improve. Drainage and traffic, which were top issues in this survey, were also top issues in the 2015 citizen survey, the last time the city conducted a similar exercise.

Following the guidance of that survey, the city went to voters in May 2018 with a two-item bond election, one devoting $22 million toward 23 drainage projects across the city and the other $3 million toward traffic improvements, including signal synchronization, hardware, fiber and new equipment.

And since that 2015 survey, city officials have referenced it as a north star.

“We realized, like many cities in the Rio Grande Valley, that we had some deficiencies,” Rodriguez said at a groundbreaking for a large drainage project earlier this year.

Voters approved those bond items last year, and the city has moved on both drainage and traffic projects. Following this year’s survey, the city is unlikely to ask voters to again support another bond election, which typically raise taxes slightly. (The 2018 drainage bond cost the average McAllen taxpayer $21 per year; the traffic bond cost the average taxpayer $3 per year.)

A confidence in elected officials was also a point of pride for Townsend when he presented the findings, saying that “polarization hasn’t hit McAllen yet.”

“We may get polarization at some point,” Townsend said. “Thank God that we don’t have all the bad news that some places around here have.”

However, the runoff election for the District 5 City Commission seat may have already underscored that polarization. Incumbent Commissioner John Ingram has pointed to the issue of immigration in McAllen as a reason for his near-miss win in the May general election. Instead, Ingram and his challenger, Victor “Seby” Haddad, headed to a runoff, which is set for June 22.

While it’s unclear if political polarization really has swept over McAllen, Townsend was clear about the state of the city:

“We’re not a little Valley town any more, based on what you see here,” he said.