FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2001
The University of Texas Board of Regents recently acquired a very capable and dedicated individual to join its ranks: Brownsville native and current Dallas resident, Mr. Robert Estrada.
I truly feel Mr. Estrada will do an outstanding job on the board and will help the border region because of his first-hand knowledge of higher education issues here. But his appointment brings to light a growing problem: equal representation on boards and commission of state agencies and institutions for every region of the state.
Suppose an issue arises that, depending on the outcome, would impact either the Dallas area or the Rio Grande Valley? An appointee like Mr. Estrada may feel pressured to vote in favor of the Dallas area because for years this city has been his home. Worse yet, he could be the deciding vote. This is why we need equal representation on these boards.
This problem didn't originate with Gov. Rick Perry's administration. It has been a concern with every governor, regardless if that person is a Democrat or Republican. The governor's main power is through appointments, and many are appointed because they were active supporters. Although this process is customary in Texas, it still isn't right or certainly what is in our best interest.
Perhaps now is a good time to look at selecting representatives for boards more on a regional basis, like single-member districts. We could start with the U.T. and A&M boards, which each have nine members. For the next legislative session, I will be proposing a bill that will divide the state into six regions, and each would be given a dedicated spot on the board. The governor would still have the power of appointment in each region, with the added benefit of having three at-large positions. Each region would be served by someone who understands the day-to-days issues and concerns of the area. It is more difficult for a person from West Texas to make decisions for the an area like Houston, and vice-versa. Also, the three at-large members could help in votes where two members strongly disagree. Another perspective always adds a different dimension to any disagreement or debate.
It is time to stop depending on the rest of Texas to take care of our needs and make our voices heard. It doesn't work. We need to act on our own.
Perhaps in the more distant future, we can look at similar proposals for some of our major state boards and commissions. The Rio Grande Valley is an area that is growing three to four times faster than the rest of the state. For this very reason alone, we need representation on boards like the Texas Transportation Commission, which decides not just on colonia but all roads; the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which regulates health care and programs like immunizations; and the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is even more invaluable in the wake of terrorism.
It is vital to have representation on these and other boards, so that the regions of this vast state will be adequately served, especially our own Rio Grande Valley.