Mitchell Ferman

Mitchell Ferman covers the city of McAllen and cross-border trade and politics for The Monitor. He can be reached at [email protected] or (956) 683-4474.

Applications to open for migrant aid reimbursements

Following a first round last year, another round of applications are expected to become available on Feb. 17 for governments and nonprofit organizations to apply for reimbursements stemming from expenses made on migrant aid last year. The applications will be open until March 16 and from there, the national Emergency Food and Shelter Program is expected to review and eventually select how money approved by Congress will be distributed, according to U.S. Rep. Henry, Cuellar, D-Laredo, who held a conference call Tuesday to inform stakeholders of the applications coming online. Cuellar and the board hoped Tuesday’s information session could provide governments and NGOs more clarity than the first round of funding applications in 2019, when the city of McAllen’s reimbursement was delayed months, frustrating city officials. But McAllen was represented on Tuesday’s call and is expected to apply for more money once applications open. Read the full story at

Bid begins to halt reconstruction of historic Roosevelt Elementary

A preservation group on Monday began efforts to save the historic Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in McAllen, and city commissioners handed them a temporary victory at Monday’s city commission meeting. But Bert Guerra of the historic Cine El Rey was not totally pleased. A vote still looms at the next city commission meeting on Feb. 24, where McAllen commissioners will vote to decide whether to save the school site. On Monday, commissioners decided to support four of five proposed tax credits for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments in the city, with a deadline looming in February for developers to submit applications for the federal funding. The one commissioners decided not to support on Monday was the historic site. Read the full story at

McAllen, other Texas cities hoping to benefit from new sales tax policy interpretation

It’s not in-person shopping that leaders in McAllen have been unsure about. They know consumers spend money at La Plaza Mall and other brick-and-mortar stores across the city. But online sales have been tricky to quantify, they said, and following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Texas regulators are now working to tweak the interpretation of the sales tax revenue law that could allow hundreds of cities across the state like McAllen to receive some new revenues and be able to quantify online sales. “Once these rules are implemented, you’ll have an idea,” McAllen Chamber of Commerce President Steve Ahlenius said of measuring online sales in municipalities. Read the full story at

Texas Comptroller proposing tweak to online sales tax revenues

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is proposing a change in state sales tax policy that would tweak who receives sales tax revenues from online sales, an attempt to keep the money in local communities as opposed to exporting the revenues, Hegar wrote in a column this week. The tweak would be in the interpretation of state policy. Read the full story at

McAllen seeks to highlight city’s cultures during state of the city

Nearly out of breath from dancing with “cultural groups” of “the many diverse communities” in McAllen, Mayor Jim Darling sought to highlight the city’s cultures in Tuesday’s annual State of the City Address. Separate groups of Native Americans, African Americans, Koreans, Scots, Jews and Mexicans were featured in dance routines and in video segments before an audience of more than 1,000 at the McAllen Convention Center. After another introduction, which featured recordings of all six city commissioners discussing projects in their respective districts across the city, followed by a personal introduction by Army Col. Frank Plummer, Darling reported the state of the city is strong, vibrant and “ready to move forward” into “the roaring 20s.” Read the full story at

Pharr updates city employee manual, no paid family leave included

The city of Pharr on Monday sought to update the city’s employee manual, editing out wordy sections about federal standards that changed, clarifying clauses about substance abuse policies and ensuring employees can transfer paid leave for sick leave. The birth of a child, though? Employees must use other accrued time off such as sick or paid leave, city commissioners voted on Monday at their commission meeting. Unanimously, commissioners approved changes to the “personnel policy manual” and after the meeting, Interim City Manager Ed Wylie said that city employees in Pharr have more paid time off than many other cities — three weeks, as opposed to the more common two weeks, Wylie said. Read the full story at

Dallas Fed: So. Texas still reaping benefits of retail sales

In forecasting a steady economic outlook for Texas in 2020, Keith Phillips of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on Friday rehashed what happened over the last year. Phillips hit on tariffs, energy, construction, high employment numbers. And retail. “Retail was flat because of the crisis at the border,” said Phillips, a senior economist at the bank, which held its 2020 Texas economic outlook. “We had a lot less traffic than normal because of the congestion at the border.” Read the full story at

Trump signs new US-Mexico-Canada trade deal

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a new North American Free Trade Agreement, an update to the two-decade old pact that transformed the Rio Grande Valley economy. Trump said renegotiating the North America Free Trade Agreement was “probably the No. 1 reason that I decided to lead this crazy life that I’m leading right now.” “Today, we’re finally ending the NAFTA nightmare,” Trump said in a ceremony on the South Lawn. Read the full story at

McAllen Expressway construction to finish in October

Three days before Christmas, the Texas Department of Transportation announced what many motorists were waiting for. “As of this late afternoon, the Bicentennial/I-2 intersection has been opened to the public,” the state agency wrote on Twitter. The state demolished the Bicentennial Boulevard overpass as part of a 3-mile construction project on Expressway 83, which officials said would be a necessary headache for drivers that would result in smoother traffic flow. After a brief opening in December, the intersection then closed, with more construction needing to be completed. It remains so. Read the full story at

McAllen approves paid day of leave for city employees

Full time city employees in McAllen will now have one day of paid leave for the birth of a child or the adoption of a child, city commissioners voted on Monday.  City employees have had to use accrued time off, such as vacation days, for the birth or adoption of a child, city officials said. Now, they will have one day of paid leave specifically for the birth or adoption of a child. If an employee gives birth to or adopts twins, they will receive two days of paid leave. Mayor Jim Darling said the younger generation now “wants more days off.” Darling added: “This is about making sure everyone is taken care of instead of them having to take a sick day.” Read the full story at