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.

Texas House Speaker Bonnen bashes cities, counties in secret recording released Tuesday

As the 2017 and 2019 Texas State Legislatures were in session, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling called both an “assault on cities.” Former Mission Mayor Norbeto “Beto” Salinas asked why state leaders were “making life so difficult for us?” On Tuesday, those concerns were bluntly confirmed in secretly recorded audio released by hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, who met with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, in June at the state capitol. “Let me tell you something,” Bonnen said, according to the audio. “In this office, and in the conference room on that end, any mayor or county judge who’s dumbass enough to come meet with me, I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Cotton exporter, NAFTA’s future in South Texas among senator’s focus

Fielding requests for assistance from international trade officials in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn toured a large cotton exporter in Weslaco on Monday and hoped for an upcoming Congressional vote on the revised North American Free Trade Agreement. “Here in the Valley, as much as you’re growing, as much as you’re creating new jobs, USMCA is absolutely critical to get done,” Cornyn told a room full of trade stakeholders from across Hidalgo County at Commodities Integrated Logistics of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as the new NAFTA deal has been called.  “And in a strange way, the hyper-partisanship may incentivize the speaker to take this up and pass it just to demonstrate that she can get that done,” Cornyn added. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Pharr police partners with firm offering cameras for doorbells

PHARR — Hundreds of police departments across the country have formed video-sharing partnerships with the doorbell-camera company Ring, hoping to enhance what the company has called the nation’s “new neighborhood watch.” The partnerships permit police to request video recorded by homeowners’ cameras pertaining to a specific incident or case. Officers do not receive live video feeds and homeowners can decline the requests. This summer, the Washington Post revealed Ring’s partnership with 400 police departments across the nation, leading to questions about privacy and surveillance, as giant technology companies continue various methods of collecting user data. Read more at The Monitor.com.

South Texas nonprofits receive migrant aid reimbursements

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley will receive $601,557.88 in migrant aid reimbursements from the federal government, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar announced late Thursday. Also receiving federal reimbursements from the pot of $30 million passed by Congress in for money spent on immigration assistance, Cuellar announced, were McAllen’s Salvation Army Corps Center ($108.371.25) and the United Way of South Texas ($2,599.32). Since 2014, the Catholic Charities, with assistance from other non-profits and the city of McAllen, has temporarily taken in asylum-seeking migrants who federal authorities drop off downtown as they await their immigration court hearings. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Produce season launches at Pharr-Reynosa bridge

Tightly connected at their core, two pillars of trade in North America celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. But their futures are not in lockstep. The North American American Free Trade Agreement, implemented in 1994, has hit snags under President Trump, who has sharply criticized the deal and has threatened to pull out of the agreement altogether, before his trade negotiators last year reached a deal on an updated trade agreement, but it has yet to be approved by the United States and Canadian bodies of Congress. And there’s the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which opened for business in 1994, and has grown significantly to now become the top produce port of entry in the country, with 60% of the avocados that enter the U.S. from Mexico crossing the bridge in Pharr. That statistic was not lost on Thursday’s speakers at the annual launch of the produce season at the bridge. Most people, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said, don’t know the genesis of fruits and vegetables they buy at H-E-B. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

STC launches program for brewery apprenticeship

South Texas College said 38% of Americans call beer their preferred post-work wind down. Now, STC students can learn how to brew it. Thanks to a partnership between the community college and 5x5 Brewing Co. in Mission, STC students will have the opportunity to receive an American Brewers Guild-certified education in fermentation through the new brewery apprenticeship program, STC announced. “We’re getting the region ready for everything this industry is going to be,” George Rice, co-owner of 5x5 Brewing Co., said in a news release. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen launches 3-1-1 call center

In the city and have a need? Dial 3-1-1, city officials announced Tuesday. The non-emergency customer service call center is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and city officials said the line will eventually be in service at all hours. But if there’s an emergency, city officials urged residents to dial 9-1-1. “If your neighbor’s house has tall grass? 3-1-1. If it’s on fire? 9-1-1,” Marco Tovias, McAllen customer service coordinator, said at a news conference Tuesday at city hall announcing the new initiative, which included an online advertising campaign in conjunction with ImageHouse Media. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen to illuminate Oval Park for holiday season

Following the governor-approved theme marking McAllen as the South Pole of Texas, city officials announced Monday that Oval Park at the McAllen Convention Center will be illuminated with holiday and character displays for “Santa’s dazzling new winter home.” The officials also announced ticket sale prices for the Frio festivities, which is expected to feature 2 million pounds of “real” snow at the convention center from Nov. 27 through Jan. 6. The various ticket packages go on pre-sale this week. “Forty days,” City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said Monday at the announcement at McAllen’s Performing Arts Center. “We have lost our mind.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Breaking the mold

McALLEN — Robert Lopez was shirtless again, looking to get the angle just right. About a month before his new job announcement, Lopez was at the beach — his cardinal rule for any shirtless picture. Beaches and pools. But many people who know Lopez know what he looks like without a shirt — thanks in part to a Men’s Health magazine photoshoot — or with a tequila shot in his hand — from his online video series of sipping shots with South Texas personalities. “As long as it’s cool with Steve and my mom,” Lopez, 38, said of his online presence. Read more on the monitor.com.

Ahead of produce season, inspectors find rare pest in produce load

Just before the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge holds its annual produce season launch event next week, federal inspectors in late September found an unknown pest in pads of prickly pears. While the shipment was returned to Mexico, the pest was sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomology laboratory, where an initial identification found the pest to be the Dysschema mariamne, a type of moth. USDA entomologists said this pest had never been found at any of the nation’s ports of entry. Read the full story at themonitor.com.