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Voters hear from Brownsville commissioner candidates during online forum

2 months 4 days 18 hours ago Tuesday, April 13 2021 Apr 13, 2021 April 13, 2021 8:44 AM April 13, 2021 in Election Coverage

With a week left until early voting begins, voters in Brownsville got their first of two chances to hear from some of the candidates ahead of the May 1 elections.

As part of a two-night forum hosted by Frontera Progressives, two candidates running for Commissioner District 4 in Brownsville laid out their thoughts on topics from the city's involvement in aiding migrants, security for those living and visiting downtown, and the future of the city's economic development.

While both saw eye-to-eye on a few of the issues, such as the possible donation from SpaceX not being a problem that could lead to the gentrification of those living in Brownsville, there were some distinct differences between incumbent Ben Neece and one of his three challengers, Beto Velez.

The city's involvement in aiding migrants at the top of that list. Velez said the city should focus its resources for those living in Brownsville. 

"We don't have the infrastructure,” Velez said. “We don't have the funding. We don't have a plan and I don't think it's a responsibility of the city."

Neece said while that is the optimal route, the reality is different.

"Even though it is the federal government’s ultimate responsibility we can't ignore it, ok? And, unfortunately, our state and our federal government are at odds,” Neece said. “And they're trying to play one-upsmanship."

In addition to current issues dominating national headlines, the city's economic development was also on Monday night’s agenda.

Neece said both small and big business have a spot in Brownsville.

"We can't just rely on developing local, we need to go global,” Neece said. “We're now a spaceport. We're looking at the global level and we have been global in the past."

Velez countered, saying the city should drill down its focus on mom and pop businesses before reaching outside the area.

"For over 20 years, we've been bringing large corporations to our city,” Velez said. “And a lot of times the problem with that is as easy as they come - just as easy they can turn around and leave because they really don't have any roots in our city."

On Tuesday night, three more candidates, one from the District 3 race and two from the at-large position B race, will take part in the forums.

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