April 26, 2013
McALLEN -- The McAllen Police Association’s hefty campaign contributions to City Commission candidates sparked a debate Thursday between the men vying to represent northeast McAllen.
Union police officers have backed challenger Ruben Daniel Elizondo, a 25-year-old student at the University of Texas-Pan American, against two-term incumbent Commissioner Scott Crane, the businessman who runs Carwash Carwash.
Crane and Elizondo sparred Thursday afternoon over the police union’s campaign contributions, officer pay and how the Commission handled contract negotiations three years ago.
“You should be aware that the police officers union has made extraordinarily large campaign contributions in this campaign to several candidates sitting before you here today,” Crane said, speaking to about 50 people who attended the monthly McAllen Citizens League meeting. “Draw what conclusions you may from that.”
The McAllen Police Association — formerly known as the McAllen Police Officers Union — endorsed Elizondo and donated $2,500 to his campaign.
Banker Omar Quintanilla, who’s running against three-term incumbent Commissioner Hilda Salinas, also received $2,500 from the union. (Quintanilla received the union donation after the April 11 deadline to file campaign finance reports, and hasn’t officially reported the contribution.)
Both campaign contributions rank among the largest from a single donor, according to campaign finance records.
“I’m, frankly, a little bit disheartened to hear certain words that you have chosen to use in describing the police officers here in our fine city,” Elizondo said.
Edinburg now pays officers more than McAllen, Elizondo said, adding that the Commission wasted taxpayer money hiring attorneys to negotiate the union contract three years ago.
“Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to get into office and give the cops a raise,” Elizondo said. “I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is: I am saying that these ladies and gentlemen deserve more attention than they’ve been receiving from this commission and this administration.”
While the Commission supports local police, McAllen simply can’t afford the union’s demands, Crane said, adding that the Police Department’s budget already consumes nearly all city property tax revenue.
“This is why every commissioner has been unanimously resistant to giving the police union everything they’ve asked for,” Crane said. “We just can’t afford it, and will not go the way of many bankrupt cities in California.”
Officer David Alvarado, who heads the police union, wasn’t available for an interview Thursday afternoon.