Mitchell Ferman

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Mitchell Ferman covers the city of McAllen and cross-border trade and politics for The Monitor. He can be reached at mferman@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4474.

McAllen approves paid day of leave for city employees

Full time city employees in McAllen will now have one day of paid leave for the birth of a child or the adoption of a child, city commissioners voted on Monday.  City employees have had to use accrued time off, such as vacation days, for the birth or adoption of a child, city officials said. Now, they will have one day of paid leave specifically for the birth or adoption of a child. If an employee gives birth to or adopts twins, they will receive two days of paid leave. Mayor Jim Darling said the younger generation now “wants more days off.” Darling added: “This is about making sure everyone is taken care of instead of them having to take a sick day.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

US Customs monitoring possible signs of virus at international bridges

Customs officials at international bridges in South Texas have been monitoring any signs of Wuhan coronavirus among people crossing from Mexico into the United States, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson. The agency has been put on high alert at ports of entry across the country, especially at airports, where officials have implemented health screenings for “travelers entering the U.S. on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, China due to an outbreak of pneumonia caused by a novel coronavirus,” the spokesperson said. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Legislature candidates push messages in forum as election season ramps up

Candidates seeking two state representative seats anchored in Hidalgo County displayed their cases on Thursday at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, where they discussed medical marijuana, health care and transportation issues in the area. Challenging incumbent state Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, were Democrat Richard Gonzales, a municipal judge in Edcouch, who is hoping to defeat Guerra in the March 3 primary election. The other candidate, Republican John Guerra, is an OB-GYN. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen mayor, commissioners report light campaign coffers

Candidate campaign signs have surrounded intersections across the city, with election season underway ahead of the March primary. But the campaign coffers of Mayor Jim Darling and city commissioners are light. There is not a scheduled McAllen city election in 2020 — the upcoming primary mostly involves races for county, state and federal positions. And the low levels of McAllen commissioners’ campaign accounts reflect the lull of an off year. “For the next five, six, seven months I don’t think a whole lot of anything will happen,” said Darling, who received $1,000 in political contributions in recent months, according to semi-annual campaign finance reports due on Jan. 15. “There’s a lot of campaigning going on with the primaries. You can’t exhaust people.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Faith leaders, lawyer: Wage theft rampant at local cold storage facilities

They keep hearing the same stories: Workers in cold storage facilities in McAllen and the surrounding area are routinely paid less than the minimum wage. “Wage theft is an epidemic in the Valley,” said Kathryn Youker of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. She added: “People are getting robbed. It’s our neighbors, our family members.” Youker on Friday was joined by faith leaders Elisa Alfaro of Holy Spirit parish in McAllen and Valley Interfaith and Dayra Campos of San Juan Diego Church, where they compared working conditions at some local cold storage facilities to being treated “like slaves.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Future of Pharr is bright, mayor declares in State of the City address

The future of Pharr is bright, Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez declared Thursday, as exhibited by the Pharr-branded sunglasses left at every seat in the audience at Pharr’s annual State of the City address. There were reasons the future is bright, Hernandez said: The city’s economy is strong, cross-border trade is booming at the bridge, more parks and buildings have opened and transportation has expanded throughout Pharr. And on the same day the Senate overwhelmingly approved the revised NAFTA, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Hernandez touted the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge’s bustling commercial traffic: “In 2019, trade in Pharr exceeded $35 billion,” he said, adding: “We have grown by $1 billion in trade every year.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Cornyn’s ‘expectation’: Senate to vote Thursday on new North American trade deal

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Wednesday that he expects the Senate to vote Thursday afternoon on the new North American trade deal that has already passed the U.S. House. “My expectation is that by tomorrow afternoon, we will pass the USMCA out of the Senate and send it on to the president for his signature,” Cornyn told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen takes up more drainage projects

City commissioners on Monday authorized two contracts for the design on multiple drainage projects, joining more than 20 drainage projects that are currently in the works across the city. The projects — one awarded to Halff Associates, the other to Cruz-Hogan Associates — come as the city has had to temporarily close some streets with new road closures beginning as soon as Wednesday for other drainage construction as the city continues a steady pace to attack drainage issues following the implementation of a sweeping drainage improvement plan. Main Street from Daffodil Avenue to Whitewing Avenue will be closed from Wednesday through March 13. Harvey Avenue from 12th Street to 16th Street, including the intersection of Main Street and Harvey Avenue. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Board names interim Hidalgo, Anzalduas bridges director

Juan Olaguibel was named McAllen’s interim superintendent of bridges Monday, a director position that oversees the Anzalduas and Hidalgo bridges. Olaguibel, who has been the deputy director for nearly 10 years, will take over his interim role later this month following Superintendent of Bridges Rigoberto Villarreal submitting his resignation last week. The board of directors overseeing the Anzalduas International Bridge and Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge made the move unanimously Monday at their monthly meeting, and a search is underway for a full-time superintendent of bridges. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Sushi, steak and booze: McAllen taxpayers funded Enrique Iglesias’ lavish requests

Once Enrique Iglesias finished his performance at McAllen High School’s football stadium in 2015, a smattering of sushi and sashimi waited backstage. There were 48 beers on ice — Heineken and Corona; and there were 10 pizzas — two vegetarian, four meat and four cheese. That was only after the show. Beforehand, Iglesias was served two dinner plates, including a steak cooked medium. Iglesias also requested that his dressing room was stocked with two washed king-sized white sheets, which were “EXTREMELY IMPORTANT;” 36 500 mL bottles of room temperature spring water — “Fiji only;” one bottle of aloe juice with pulp, and if city officials didn’t know what that was, they were instructed to “ask for clarification;” one bottle of aloe juice without pulp; and three bottles of vodka, including one of the brand Ketel One — “NO SUBSTITUTES.” Read the full story at themonitor.com