RGV trip to DC uses strength in numbers

WESLACO — The importance of the Rio Grande Valley’s first united trip to Washington was seen in its volume.

When officials from the Valley visit Washington, it’s often with others from their respective municipality or institution. But for the inaugural RGV-to-DC trip last week, there were more than 40 officials from the Valley meeting with the Valley delegation in Washington, as well as various national agencies and Congressional members from outside Texas.

Sergio Contreras, President of the RGV Partnership, organized the trip. Laredo, San Antonio and many other Texas cities have had organized Washington trips for years. Contreras, Brownsville Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, South Texas College Trustee Rose Benavidez, Lower RGV Development Council Director Ron Garza and RGV Partnership Chair-elect Danny Gurwitz were some of the members in Washington last week, who spoke briefly about the trip during a news conference Monday. McAllen Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez was expected to attend the news conference but could not make it.

An important part, Garza said, was to tell the Valley’s story. There are a lot of perceptions in Washington that the group tried to squash.

“We had a book and we tried to be more visual,” Garza said, holding it up, citing employment numbers and the local economy.

As the Valley grows, infrastructure is becoming increasingly important. So the group met with the Chairman of the Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania.

Often, when the group met with people in congress, Vela said the group in total made an impact, which is why this trip is important.

Laredo Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar suggested last week that the group take the next RGV trip in March or April before certain committees begin budgeting. Vela said those details will be sorted out.

“Working in isolation makes things harder,” Vela said. “That’s why this was so important. When there are 40 people in the room and you have to get extra chairs, that says something.”