Mitchell Ferman

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

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

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

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

US Census 2020 jobs to open in RGV

Thousands of new jobs related to the U.S. Census count in 2020 will be open in the Rio Grande Valley, with local job fairs to be held in McAllen over the coming weeks as officials hope to “get the count right” in South Texas. Beginning at 9 a.m. Oct. 5, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16, the city and an outside partner will hold job fairs at the McAllen Public Library affording residents in the region opportunities for various jobs, many of which will likely begin this winter.  Candidates for the jobs must be English-speaking U.S. citizens, 18 years or older, provide their own vehicle, and have basic skills and knowledge about emails and computers. There will be full-time and part-time positions open. Read the full story at

Trucks cross Pharr bridge in large numbers ahead of produce season

Trucks crossed the bridge here in large numbers this summer, ahead of a busy stretch of winter months anticipated at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, when produce season goes into full swing come October. It was capped off with an August where 53,662 commercial trucks crossed from Pharr into Mexico, up nearly 3,500 trucks from August 2018, as the bridge continues its aggressive push to continue commercial truck expansions. Read the full story at

Rep. Gonzalez says he supports Trump impeachment inquiry

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said on Wednesday that he supports the formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, which U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the day before. “I am deeply disturbed by the documents disclosed by the White House today,” Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday evening. “The documents detail the President of the United States seeking political and personal gain through an investigation by foreign powers. The context in which these statements were made is as telling as the statements themselves. “The law is clear: the Acting Director of National Intelligence must provide the complete, unredacted, whistleblower complaint to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at once. Read the full story at

McAllen begins design process to upgrade Anzalduas Bridge

Commercial trucks have crisscrossed the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge by the hundreds of thousands each year, bringing the city roughly $13 million annually, and growing. No bridge in the Rio Grande Valley comes close. But the Anzalduas International Bridge is trying. The bridge in Mission opened in 2009 and is overseen by the cities of McAllen, Mission and Granjeno, with McAllen employees providing the daily leadership. After years of passenger vehicle traffic, in 2016 the bridge was finally able to open for empty commercial trucks driving southbound into Mexico. Read more at the

McAllen passes $422M budget

City commissioners and public utility board members in McAllen on Monday unanimously passed a $422 million budget that will slightly increase property taxes, add more than two dozen city employees, including firefighters and police officers, and will dedicate millions of additional dollars to paving, walking and cycling trails and traffic and drainage improvements. “There’s a lot for you to brag about,” City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez told the elected officials of the budget, which he has called the most important document in the city. Perhaps most notably, sales tax revenues over the last year were record breaking for the city, Rodriguez said, exceeding $63 million. That increase, and Rodriguez’s projected 2.5% sales tax increase for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, will allow for nearly $4 million of sales tax revenues that will be transferred to street and infrastructure improvements — there is more than $100 million dollars budgeted for these capital improvements, Rodriguez said. Read the full story at

Respite center building now owned by Catholic Charities

Former City Commissioner John Ingram blamed his underdog defeat in the May election, in part, due to issues involving the city and the migrant relief center. False advertisements were aired on local radio waves calling McAllen a ‘sanctuary city’ in relation to the migrant aid operation run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, with support from the city. And nearly every city commissioner argued about the respite center building yet hardly any of them provided an alternative. Ultimately, city commissioners decided the city would purchase the building and Catholic Charities would be the tenant. Read the full story at

Pharr increases property tax rate

Pharr City Commissioners on Thursday voted to raise property taxes by about 11% in order to pay for infrastructure upgrades across the city, specifically for drainage improvements. Pharr City Manager Alex Meade said the average home in Pharr costs roughly $88,000, which would cost that median homeowner about $48 more annually. “If we don’t raise the taxes, we will not be able to address the infrastructure needs that we have,” Commissioner Ramiro Caballero said. “Us coming together as a community,” Commissioner Itza Flores said. “Less than a Netflix account,” Meade said of the average Pharr homeowner paying around $50 annually after the 11% property tax bump. “People spend more on hot Cheetos.” Read the full story at