McAllen District 4 City Commission candidates express perspective of city in forum

LEFT: Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo, candidate for McAllen City Commissioner District 4, poses with supporters outside a polling place at the Palmview Community Center on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected]) RIGHT: Javier Salazar

We need a strong commissioner. We’re not here to be politically correct, we’re here to speak the truth.

Candidates for the only contested race in the city of McAllen’s municipal election expanded on their platform during a candidate forum held Thursday evening.

McAllen City Commissioner for District 4 Rodolfo “Rudy” Castillo and his challenger, Javier Salazar, participated in the forum hosted by Futuro RGV.

Castillo, a business owner, said he was seeking reelection because he believed there were still things left to be done for the south side of McAllen.

“We’ve done a lot of things but we need more,” Castillo said.

Salazar, a real estate agent, said he was running again after running unsuccessfully last year because he believed in the issues, describing District 4 as probably the most neglected in the city.

“If you don’t live in my district, you would probably have the perception that everything is OK with McAllen when it’s not,” Salazar said. “If I sat here and told you what goes on in my district — the disorder, the chaos, the neglect — you would not believe me.”

Salazar said he couldn’t pinpoint the problem but said he would get to the bottom of it, adding that the problems have only gotten worse since the last time he ran.

Asked to describe the specific problems within District 4, Salazar said vehicles were allowed to speed and even race on a daily basis, disturbing the peace.

Castillo agreed there was a lot of traffic but said that wasn’t specific to District 4.

“It’s everywhere,” Castillo said. “People speed, people have accidents; we’re trying our best to have the safety in place. That’s what we’re working on.”

Regarding needs for drainage in the area, Castillo said the drainage infrastructure was better than ever.

“We’ve gotten help from the county and we have opened a lot of canals, our drainage system,” Castillo said. “We’ve done South 23rd Street, we did a big drainage system there and then we got the one at the airport.”

He added the city is currently working on drainage near Bentsen Lakes.

“So I think if it rained one of these days, we’ll see that we’ve done a very good job in District 4 with our drainage,” Castillo said.

Salazar disagreed, given that the city hadn’t seen significant rain since the last time the area flooded.

“How do we know it’s been fixed? We don’t know that,” Salazar said.

Arguing that the district was under served by the city, Salazar suggested looking at the job performance of the city’s department directors and taking “appropriate measures.”

Castillo stood firm in his belief that the city was doing well, pointing to the city being recognized as the third safest city in the U.S. by just last month.

“We’re third in the nation of the safest (cities) so I think our fire department, our police department are doing their best,” Castillo said. “We’ve got some issues but we’re fixing them.”

Salazar said he questioned those numbers.

“I’m sorry, the numbers don’t correlate, at least not in my district,” Salazar said. “If a study was done, what are you classifying as crime?”

The candidates also addressed the budget, with Castillo saying he was happy with the $643 million budget that the city commissioners approved for the current fiscal year.

Salazar said the budget looks healthy but argued the funds weren’t being appropriated equally among the districts.

Turning to the McAllen International Airport, which is situated in District 4, Salazar said he couldn’t opine about what it needed, saying he did not have insight into its current operations.

The McAllen International Airport on Thursday, October 29, 2020, in McAllen. (Emily D’Gyves | [email protected])

Castillo said the city is trying to get more direct flights out of the airport to destinations in McAllen and praised the current airport director.

Asked about parks, Salazar said the district had enough parks and felt there were better uses for property such as a public golf course.

However, Castillo said he was very proud of the parks the city had established and that they were prioritizing making them all-inclusive.

Regarding education, Castillo said the city had to be committed to their partnership with South Texas College.

While Salazar advocated for increasing the partnership with STC, he questioned why the Rio Grande Valley didn’t have a law school, requiring students to move away to pursue a legal career.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s not being done when it comes to education,” Salazar said.

Bringing the forum to a close, Salazar said that while he was Castillo’s opponent, he considered him a friend.

“I just feel that my district is at a level that … it’s critical that we need change,” Salazar said. “It can’t keep on going the way it’s going.”

“We need a strong commissioner,” he added. “We’re not here to be politically correct, we’re here to speak the truth.”

Castillo said he ran to improve his district and is trying his best to do so.

“I wasn’t a politician and I still ain’t but I guarantee you one thing, my constituents are very happy with what I’ve done,” Castillo said. “We’re cleaning our alleys, we’re putting our sidewalks.”

He pointed out he’s only been in office for about a year.

“But believe me, I am trying my best and I will always try my best and it’s, really, for all my community,” Castillo said.

The McAllen municipal election is on May 6. Early voting begins on April 24 and runs through May 2.