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 paid Enrique Iglesias $485,000 at 2015 holiday parade

The city of McAllen paid singer Enrique Iglesias $485,000 for his performance at the city’s 2015 holiday parade, the city disclosed on Tuesday, ending more than four years of city officials keeping the contract private. The contract also revealed that the city chartered a flight to fly in Iglesias from Guadalajara, purchased 24 hotel rooms for two nights and provided and paid for sound, lighting, special effects and a runway at the 2015 concert. The release of the contract comes days after a new law went into effect following bi-partisan legislation that was voted through the Texas legislature in 2019. Before Senate Bill 943 became law on Jan. 1, a 2015 Texas Supreme Court decision allowed local and state officials to conceal from the public certain information about how taxpayer money was spent on outside contracts. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Anzalduas, Hidalgo international bridge director resigns

McAllen Superintendent of Bridges Rigoberto Villarreal, who runs the Anzalduas International Bridge and the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, submitted his resignation on Monday after more than nine years with the city. "Roy, the mayor, the bridge board, they've all been great," Villarreal said in a telephone interview on Monday, referring to McAllen City Manager Roel "Roy" Rodriguez. He added: "It's family. I've been contemplating making this decision for the last two years. But the New Year got me thinking, and the passing of my dad in September, and spending a lot of time with my little girls over the holidays. I'm 55, I want to enjoy life and spend time with my kids."  Villarreal said his last day with the city will be Jan. 20. In his resignation letter, Villarreal said 2019 “was not an easy year for me.” He said he finalized his divorce and his father passed away. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Pharr names interim city manager

For the second time in 14 months, Ed Wylie has been appointed Pharr’s interim city manager. Following the departure of city manager Alex Meade, whose final day with the city was Jan. 3, Pharr city commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to appoint Wylie, the deputy city manager, to the interim role after commissioners and Wylie met for nearly an hour in private. After the private session, Wylie sat on the dais next to Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez and city commissioners as they voted to assign Wylie the interim title. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Pharr Bridge to host info session for tomato industry ahead of new inspections

Pharr will host members from the tomato trade industry on Tuesday at the Pharr Research & Development Center for an informational session about new tomato inspections that are expected to begin this spring. Tomato industry stakeholders will receive briefings from a panel of inspection agents from the Texas Cooperative Inspection Program and the United States Department of Agriculture. They will also be allowed to ask questions. Read the full story at themonitor.com

McAllen finishes drainage project as nearly 2 dozen more take shape

Just before the end of 2019, construction at the intersection of Pecan Boulevard and 27th Street to improve drainage was completed. The city awarded the project bid for $233,333 to a Mission contractor at the beginning of the year, around the same time when city commissioners issued bids to various other engineering firms to design other drainage projects. The conclusion of the drainage construction at Pecan Boulevard and 27th Street has not received a ribbon-cutting or a press conference, but it displays the city’s aggressive push to improve drainage. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Rep. Canales appointed to Sunset Advisory Commission

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, was appointed by Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to the Sunset Advisory Commission, which conducts rigorous evaluations or each state agency or program. The appointment marks the first time a Rio Grande Valley Texas House member has been part of the commission — State Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio Jr. of South Texas have both served on the Sunset Advisory Commission, but never a House member. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Auburn, Wisconsin connector road opens in North McAllen

A new North McAllen road — the Auburn/Wisconsin connector — opened on Thursday, a street that city officials said will serve as an artery between North Main Street and North 10th Street and is expected to enhance east and west traffic flows in the northern part of the city. The short yet pivotal four-lane connector road attaches Auburn Avenue on the west with Wisconsin Road on the east, providing a more efficient option for motorists in North McAllen to drive eastbound from North 23rd Street to U.S. Highway 281. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

South Bicentennial reopens after expressway construction

Bicentennial Boulevard’s intersection with Expressway 83 has reopened after more than a year of construction — turning from an overpass to an underpass, the highway now passing over the busy thoroughfare. An officer directed traffic Monday night as cars clogged Expressway 83 and the surrounding La Plaza Mall area ahead of the holidays. The Texas Department of Transportation, which led the construction project, confirmed that the road has “opened to the public.” The construction began in August 2018 and at the time of the road closing, TxDOT said in a news release that Bicentennial Boulevard would reopen in September 2019. The road reopened Sunday. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Trucks cross Pharr bridge in greater numbers in November

If the trade industry was treading cautiously in the United States and Mexico toward the end of 2019 when it was unsure if the U.S. House of Representatives would authorize a new North American trade deal, that caution was not reflected in November at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. Trucks continued crossing the bridge in greater numbers toward the end of the year and eclipsed the crossings of the same months in 2018. There were 50,665 trucks that crossed the bridge southbound in November, a minor increase of nearly 1% and netting $1.2 million in revenues for the month. While the trend of steady truck traffic at the bridge since the summer continued into the fall, the U.S. House took until just last week to finally authorize the new NAFTA, called the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement following months of negotiations between the Trump administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers and Mexican officials. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Former Second Lady Biden visits Matamoros refugee camp

Hundreds of migrants from the largest refugee camp on the United States-Mexico border lined up for food with mud caked on their feet following a rainy weekend in the Rio Grande Valley that left their squalid camp a muddy mess. Food is often brought by American volunteers who cross Brownsville’s Gateway International Bridge, but Sunday was different. Tamales, beans and rice from Taco Palenque were on the menu and Dr. Jill Biden — the former Second Lady of the United States and a campaign surrogate for her husband Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020 — was about to arrive with her host, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. An early Christmas meal is the least they could do, Vela said. Read the full story at themonitor.com.