Mission bond election pushed to November

MISSION — The city council is pushing a proposed bond election to November after members expressed a desire for more time reduce the number of propositions they want to place on the ballot and more time to communicate with the public about the need for the projects.

The consensus among the council members to delay the bond election until November was reached during a workshop held Wednesday evening during which they also suggested cutting down the number of propositions from the 18 that were initially proposed.

Those 18 propositions were for the following projects:

-Drainage improvements: $10 million

-Boys & Girls Club facility: $5 million

-Land acquisitions: $3 million

-Major N. St. Bridges improvements: $5 million

-Remodeling of city facilities: $4.8 million

-Golf course improvements: $1 million

-Relocation and new animal shelter: $1 million

-City information technology: $7 million

-New library: $10 million

-Two satellite libraries: $3 million

-Museum improvements: $3 million

-Park improvements $5.6 million

-Swimming pool: $3 million

-Public safety training center: $3 million

-Relocation of fire and police station number 2: $3 million

-Downtown parking improvements: $1 million

-Sidewalks: $2 million

-Street improvements: $7.5 million

The city’s bond counsel, Jesus “Chuy” Ramirez of the J. Ramirez Law Firm of San Juan, said that trying to pass just 10 propositions was “tough” and raised the possibility that constituents were opposed to just one or two of them, they could decide to just reject all of them.

“All I am saying is that if you have one or two propositions that people are opposed to, the people who are opposed to that may have the ability to go in there and just oppose everything,” Ramirez said.

He also noted that the city is not required to have a bond election and could fund these projects by instead issuing certificates of obligation, or CO bonds, which don’t require voter approval.

Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña, however, said they decided to go with an election because they want the voters to decide.

But Ramirez warned that the risk with that is if a proposition is rejected by the voters, the city cannot fund that project through certificates of obligations for three years.

“Under the worst circumstances or emergencies or anything, you will not be able to do that project,” Ramirez said. “You will be prohibited from doing that.”

For Council member Norie Gonzalez Garza, that was too big a risk to take for a project like drainage improvements.

“The ones that I feel are the most important, are the drainage and streets,” Gonzalez Garza said. “I think that’s the most important project on this whole list and if we run the risk of not having the option of going out for certificates of obligation for three years, I think that would be devastating to our city.”

She also pointed out that in about three weeks, the city would be receiving a drainage assessment that would include recommendations for drainage improvements

“And we need to be ready on day one,” she said. “We need to hit the ground running.”

Council member Ruben Plata agreed that drainage was too important a project to risk it being rejected.

“I don’t think that should even be put on the ballot,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done.”

But Plata went further, suggesting that the list of propositions be heavily narrowed down and questioned whether the city was in a financial position to service those projects.

“I think if we narrow it down — maybe drainage, maybe a park, maybe this — it’d be a lot easier to have line items on the (ballot) than having 18 items and $78 million,” Plata said. “If we go out for $78 million, I will vote against it and I would campaign against it.”

There was also the concern about funding the election for the bonds.

Initially, the city was looking to hold the bond election in May when two places on the city council will also be on the ballot.

However, council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa expressed concern over that would give the city enough time to communicate with their constituents and suggested holding town hall meetings for that purpose.

“My concern is if we do this for May, it’s too soon for us to work together as a city to inform our constituents the needs and wants for us to move to the future,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “I think if we wait for a November election or sometime next year in May, that gives us enough time to pinpoint the different areas that we really want, instead of getting this whole list and then them saying no.”

O’Caña, however, reminded the council members that holding a special election in November would cost the city at least an additional $45,000.

However, Plata appeared to think it was worth it.

“Mayor O’Caña, if we’re going to go for $78 million I think $45,000 is not going to make a difference,” Plata said, “but you have the public, you have a (larger) percentage of the citizens giving you their feedback versus only having about 3-4,000 people out of a 100,000 people on a council election.”

The rest of the council agreed and, with the matter of when to have the election settled, O’Caña asked the council to decide which projects to place on the ballot and which they wanted to fund through CO bonds.

After the propositions are decided on, the council plans to hold town hall meetings for the public.