Three positions are up for grabs in the Brownsville municipal election and voters will decide who will fill the position for Brownsville City Commissioner At Large B, Commissioner District 3 and Commissioner District 4.
For this story, The Brownsville Herald reached out to the candidates to find out why they are seeking a position on the Brownsville City Commission.
At Large B
In the At Large B race voters have the option to vote for either Rose Gowen, Yuri Peña or Erasmo Castro.
Gowen, who has been the incumbent for the past 12 years, said she decided to run again because the original goal she established still needs to be met. She said together with her team, they have managed to reduce the rate of diabetes from one in three to one in four people.
“This represents thousands of people who are no longer diabetic,” she said. “Yet, the national average is one in ten. We have more work to do to continue promoting healthy food choices and regular physical activity.”
She said people should vote for her because she is a person of science and integrity.
“I make decisions based on evidence, based on best practices and scientific study, and not on special interests,” Gowen said. “I will continue to work hard for the home I grew up in and for all the people of all income levels.”
Political newcomer Yuri Peña said she decided to run because as a mother and a professional, she wants her children to be able to stay in Brownsville and have successful careers but there are not enough good jobs here and she wants to change that.
“I think the city commission needs to focus on the fundamentals that will improve our community. The most important priority for me is the creation of good jobs,” she said.
“This requires fundamental changes in the way the commission operates: a.- refocus our efforts on providing low cost and reliable services including streets, drainage, electricity and public safety; b.- learn to work together instead of fighting over control and power, and c.- stop wasting taxpayer money on unimportant things and keep our taxes low.”
Former BISD board member Erasmo Castro said he decided to run because he wants to give the silent majority in the city a voice. He said for too long elected officials have led the community on a path that benefits the “elite corrupt political machine” he says exist in the city.
He said if he wins he would clean out all committees and boards that are made up of all the same people that continue to keep Brownsville stagnant while enriching themselves and their compadres, end the monopoly with Brownsville Public Utilities Board, reduce the size of the City Manager’s Office and upgrade the Gladys Porter Zoo.
“I am accessible to everyone in our community. I am a consummate professional who speaks truths which my detractors spin as negativity,” he said.
District 3 Commission Seat
In the District 3 Commission race, voters have the option to choose between Jessica Puente Bradshaw, Roy de los Santos and Carlos Elizondo.
Jessica Puente Bradshaw said she decided to run because she noticed her district being neglected and overlooked in regards to basic needs.
“There is too much wasteful spending of tax payers’ money by way of outside consultants and special projects that do not serve all of Brownsville,” she said.
She said when it comes to the board, she said more individuals need to be allowed to serve in these positions. She said too many everyday members of the community have been overlooked.
“We have great people with great minds here in our community, we need to search from within, no one cares more for Brownsville than its own people,” she said.
Roy de los Santos, current Camille Playhouse Board president, said he decided to run upon hearing that incumbent Joel Munguia was not seeking reelection and none of those who were planning to run made him feel represented.
“I did not hear the name of anyone I’d want representing me confirm they’d be in the race, so, I felt an obligation to run so that the citizens have a choice,” he said.
De los Santos is vice-chair and past chair for the Board of Adjustment and past chair of the Building and Standards Commission both quasi-judicial boards. He has also served on the Arts and Culture Task Force and currently serves on the LGBTQ Task Force for the City of Brownsville. He is also part of Sombrero Fest, TSC Foundation and Mitte Foundation.
“With my service on city boards both in Brownsville and previously on South Padre Island, I have become very knowledgeable in the area of municipal law and state statute,” he said.
“I dedicate time to researching case-law so that I am smarter than those who would offer advice.”
Former Brownsville Fire Department Chief Carlos Elizondo said if elected, in his first 60 days he is proposing a complete audit of the Brownsville PUB as it pertains to any monies collected in support for the TENASKA project and return all monies collected to their rightful owners. He also said he would like to see more family-focused projects.
“I would like to see more interest from investors geared at family focused projects,” he said. “I would also like to see areas of Brownsville like the Zoo, Camille Playhouse and our parks be a center of interest in our community.”
District 4 City Commission Seat
Candidate for District 4 Pedro Cardenas said if elected he will work diligently on a plan to assist small businesses to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19 and also bring more jobs.
“We need to focus on getting back to basics: making sure we have low cost and reliable services including water, streets, power, and public safety,” he said, and finally, “I hope to bring better and higher paying jobs to the citizens of Brownsville by recruiting retail and industrial business to our community.”
District 4 Incumbent Ben Neece said he wants to continue the work he did on his first term and wants to continue to develop the city economically, on a global scale, as well as locally and address housing and downtown development. He also wants to address the homeless issues facing us and follow through with downtown parking issues.
“I would like to see Brownsville become a globally recognized space entrepot. I was instrumental in getting the City of Brownsville to provide support for space based economic development,” he said.
“I helped to obtain funding for Expanding Frontiers, through BCIC, which brought into play Spaced Ventures a financing company to support economic development, as well as, other space technology based operations, such as Permittivity and Lunar Station. Additionally, through efforts of Greater Brownsville Economic Development Corporation, the Space Channel is relocating to Brownsville.”
Neece is part of the boards at Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, GBIC, Main Street, TIRZ 3, and Ozanam Homeless Center. He is a past chairman of the Audit and Oversight Committee, which was, subsequently, abolished.
Candidate “Beto” Velez said he has been working for the Brownsville Independent School District since 2004 and has experience working with the migrant education program and migrant families. He also participated in Leadership Brownsville Class XVII and served on the Board of Directors from 2004 to 2006. He is part of the Accounting Technology Advisory Committee for Texas Southmost College.
“I want the city to develop a streamline process for economic development,” he said.
“Entrepreneurs of all sizes and from all parts of the world should feel welcome in our city and we need to be ready to provide the support and guidance to help them boost our economy and help decrease poverty in our city.”
District 4 Candidate Joe Valdez did not reply to The Brownsville Herald’s request for comment.