Brownsville voters approve mayor, commissioner pay

Mayor of Brownsville Trey Mendez delivers the State of the City address Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at the Brownsville Event Center. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
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Of the six propositions on the May 6 ballot for the city of Brownsville, only one failed, though perhaps not the one many would have predicted.

Brownsville voters approved 4,927 to 3,587 Proposition “A” amending the city charter to pay the mayor a salary of $40,000 a year and members of the city commission $25,000 each. The city commissioners and mayor currently receive no salary.

At the same time, voters defeated Proposition “B,” which would have extended the city manager’s maximum contract length from two years to three years. That vote was 3,937 for and 4,589 against. Brownsville has approximately 100,000 registered voters.

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez said Monday that all six propositions on the ballot were recommended by a city charter committee created by the commission, and admitted he’s surprised Proposition “A” passed, noting that a similar proposition was defeated almost 20 years ago.

Mendez said roughly half the mayors he knows around the country are salaried, though in some of those cities the mayor is responsible for running the city’s day-to-day operations — the city manager’s role in cities like Brownsville.

He said that while he did not support putting Proposition “A” on the ballot he’s glad it passed because serving as a mayor or commissioner is a difficult, demanding job.

“To now have some sort of income (for) serving will probably encourage more people to run,” Mendez said.

He said he doesn’t know Proposition “B” was unpopular with voters.

Proposition “C” amends the city charter “providing for the appointment of a city attorney and defining the duties and powers of the office” with the aim of eliminating duplication of services and creating administrative efficiency. Mendez said it’s essentially a “housekeeping kind of proposition” designed to streamline the operations of the city attorney’s office. It passed 6,464 to 1,963.

Proposition “D” amends the city charter to allow a two-thirds super-majority of the city commission to appoint Brownsville Public Utilities Board members, with each city commissioner making a nomination to the board when a vacancy exists. The proposition passed 6,111 to 2,335.

Proposition “E,” which passed 6,390 to 2,026, amends the city charter to allow a two-thirds super-majority of the commission to remove three BPUB members in a 12-month period. Under the current charter provision, only one BPUB member can be removed every 12 months and it has to be a unanimous vote on the part of the commission.

“It was nearly impossible,” Mendez said. “Even if somebody abstained that would cause the vote to not be unanimous. It was pretty clearly an almost impossible standard, so we just (changed) it to ensure we had a process in place in the event that there was a reason to remove a board member and also ensure that it wasn’t politically motivated.

“There are safeguards there in the way that it requires the vote to be, and only a certain amount of members can be removed per year.”

Mendez said propositions “D” and “E” stemmed from the fallout over a forensic analysis of BPUB’s failed Tenaska Brownsville Generating Station project, which allegedly revealed a number of problems with the way BPUB top management handled the project. The commission’s concerns over that “caused us to rethink that process entirely,” he said.

Mendez said the amended city charter strikes the right balance between BPUB having autonomy to make decisions and the commission being able to exercise oversight when necessary, such as when “members that are appointed by the commission are not fulfilling their roles and duties.”

Proposition “F” amends the city charter to declare a BPUB member’s position “vacant upon being continuously absent four … times from any regular meeting in a calendar year,” excluding the mayor’s ex-oficio position on the BPUB board. It passed 6,963 to 1,448.

Find the complete, unofficial election results of races across the Rio Grande Valley here.