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Featured: Edinburg City Councilmember Gilbert Enríquez, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, February 22, 2019, for the 21-acre Janet Ogden Vackar Sports Complex, created through a partnership between the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.

Photograph Courtesy CITY OF EDINBURG

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Edinburg Councilmember Enríquez uses state public comment law to contend that he was “removed” from Edinburg EDC Board of Directors

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

In a unique use of the state’s public comment law, Edinburg Councilmember Gilbert Enríquez on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, near the end of the regular meeting of the Edinburg City Council, revealed that he had been “removed” the previous day from the five-member Board of Directors of the city’s Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

On Monday, April 15, 2019, during an early afternoon special meeting of the City Council, Gilbert Enríquez was replaced by Sonia Enríquez, a licensed sales producer for the Roy Tijerina Insurance Agency of Edinburg.

Gilbert Enríquez and Sonia Enríquez – who goes by the name of Sonia Enríquez Lozano on her professional business card – do not have any family ties, the Edinburg city councilmember emphasized.

“I also want to wish the new appointee, Ms. Sonia Enríquez – she’s not related to me, so I wanted to make sure everyone understands that – she’s not related to me,” Gilbert Enríquez said. “I want to wish her good luck, and hopefully that she does the right thing, she’s an independent thinker, she asks questions, and most of all that she’s transparent. I know she’ll do well.”

But Gilbert Enríquez said he had initially wanted to publicly thank people who had helped him serve on the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors, “but I wasn’t allowed to” during the Monday, April 15, 2019, special meeting of the Edinburg City Council.

As a result, the council member resorted to signing up for the public comment section of the Tuesday, April 16, 2019 meeting to express his viewpoints.

In general, a public comment is an opportunity for any interested person to submit data, views, or arguments on a proposed rule. The opportunity for public comment is required by state law.

Mayor Richard Molina asked City Attorney Omar Ochoa whether Gilbert Enríquez was allowed to use the public comment section to address him, Mayor Pro Tem David Torres, and Councilmember Jorge Salinas. The fourth city councilmember, Homer Jasso, Jr., was not at either meeting, as he was excused on important business.

Molina, Torres, and Salinas, along with Edinburg school board trustee Miguel “Mike” Farias, and now Sonia Enríquez, serve on the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Ochoa advised the mayor and city councilmembers that Gilbert Enríquez “is signed up to speak in the public comment section. As a general matter, that’s not exactly proper. The public comment section is for the public to address the governing body. Members of the governing body who want to address each other are carried out through the Rules of Procedure. Just of the general matter, that’s not the intent of the public comment section.”

Councilmember Enríquez, who was still on the city council dais (the raised platform in the City Council Chamber at Edinburg City Hall), explained why he believed he was eligible to address the mayor and fellow councilmembers during the public comment section, which restricts members of a government board from responding

“Well, let me clarify. This has nothing to with anything on the agenda. I can understand that I’m a citizen as well of the City of Edinburg. I can understand if it was something that was being discussed on the agenda, and that would probably constitute, you know, a different trigger, a different law,” Councilmember Enríquez said. “But if I’m not discussing anything that’s on the agenda, I’m not speaking out of turn. I’m not of speaking out the agenda item.

“I had it researched. In my opinion, I’m allowed to do public comments. But if you feel that I’m not, well then I guess I would have to file a report on that, because I don’t see how I’m not allowed to speak. I’m a resident of the City of Edinburg.”

Councilmember Enríquez said his intention was not to put the city in a bad light.

“It’s nothing, I’m not going to say anything negative. All I’m going to do is say ‘thank you’ publicly to the people that I wanted to say yesterday, when I was removed from the EDC, but I wasn’t allowed to, so all I want to do is just thank the public, the people who have given me the opportunity, that’s all I wanted to do,” he promised. “It’s nothing negative, but again, you don’t want me to speak, that’s fine. I won’t speak.”

Ochoa responded, “If I just may, just briefly, Mayor, it’s just simply a matter of it’s not the intent of the public comment section.”

“Well, if you’re telling me that I can’t do it, is that what you’re telling?” Councilmember Enríquez pressed the issue.

“No, I’m not telling you that,” the city attorney replied. “I’m just reiterating that that’s not the intent of the public comment section.”

“Okay, so I can get up and speak,” the city councilmember concluded, left his seat on the dais, and walked to the podium from which residents address the mayor and city councilmembers.

His comments follow:

“So, for the record, Gilbert Enríquez.

“I’m here since I was removed from the EDC yesterday, and not allowed to say a few comments.

“I want to publicly say right now that I wanted to extend a thanks to Ms. Nelda Ramírez, who while I was President of the EDC, she was very cooperative. She was very informative. She taught me a lot of the things that I needed to know about the EDC.

(Ramírez serves as Director of Finance and Contracts Administrator for the Edinburg EDC.)

“Since we transitioned to Mr. Joey Treviño, I want to thank him as well for the leadership he provided to the EDC while I was there as President and as a member, so I want to give him a thanks.

(Treviño serves as Executive Director for the Edinburg EDC.)

“I also want to wish the new appointee, Ms. Sonia Enríquez – she’s not related to me, so I wanted to make sure everyone understands that – she’s not related to me. I want to wish her good luck, and hopefully that she does the right thing, she’s an independent thinker, she asks questions, and most of all that she’s transparent. I know she’ll do well. I don’t know her, but from what I understand, she’s very active in our community, especially our crime stoppers.

“I also want to thank the council for allowing me the opportunity to serve for the 16 months that I was there, and I hope I served you with integrity and ethics. So again, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.”

According to her business card, which she handed out, it contains the following information about her:

Sonia Enríquez Lozano
License Sales Producer
Roy Tijerina Insurance Agency’

Allstate Insurance Company
1310 W. University Drive
Edinburg, Texas 78539

Office: 956/316-1040
Fax: 956/316-1662

sonialozano@allstate.com

Sonia Enríquez also maintains a public presence on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/sonia.e.lozano?__tn__=%2Cd*F*F-R&eid=ARDzi-AZgvNnTGADdC8yX-weYsQzk60LHVbmDJJ69HVpwajZUUpY78mOwrI2XCG1eLPpKVhJ7MM7jOTO&tn-str=*F

According to a news release, titled “Edinburg EDC Welcomes New Board Director Sonia Enríquez,” following her appointment on Monday, April 15, 2019:

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is pleased to welcome Edinburg native Sonia Enríquez as the newest member of the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors.

Enríquez, an insurance agent by trade, brings a wealth of business, civic, and community experience to the EDC board, which oversees the economic, business, and workforce development for the City of Edinburg.

Enríquez was appointed as Director by the Edinburg City Council at a meeting held on Monday, April 15, 2019.

Aside from her professional experience as an insurance agent, Enríquez has devoted her time volunteering and remaining involved in her hometown community. Enríquez has been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Edinburg, having served in leadership capacities as President, Vice-President, and even holds the regional leadership position as Lt. Governor for the Kiwanis International Division 11 – South Texas.

She has received numerous awards for her service including “Kiwanian of the Year,” among other notable accolades. Under her leadership, the civic organization has championed worthy causes and organized community events, such as a Memorial Day flag ceremony, “Remember Those Who Served,” and partnering with Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) to host special events for children affected by cancer.

Enríquez is also a Key Club Advisor to local Edinburg high schools. Her heart is in her community, and her motto is, “We work together as a family to accomplish our goals.”

A true community advocate, Enríquez also devotes her time to other organizations serving our Edinburg community including Mujeres Unidas, Walk out of Darkness Suicide Awareness, Team Mario Autism Awareness, Dustin Sekula Memorial Library Arte Events, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Texas Cook’Em, Edinburg Fiesta, and Night of Lights, among other local nonprofit organizations and events. Enríquez serves as Treasurer for the Edinburg Crime Stoppers, is an elementary catechist teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Edinburg, and is a member of the Catholic Daughters of America.

Most notably, Enríquez was honored in October 2018 with the city’s first “Community Champion of the Year” award in recognition for her generous contributions of time, support, and inspiration to the Edinburg community.

Upon appointing Enríquez, Edinburg Mayor and EDC Board Director Richard Molina stated, “We are proud to have selected such a civic-minded member of our community who is attuned to the needs of our Edinburg community and who will contribute to the vision we have to ensure positive and appropriate growth in Edinburg.”

Enríquez stated, “I appreciate the City Council’s vote of confidence in me to serve as an EDC Board Member, and I am excited to get to work to bring more growth and opportunity for our Edinburg community!”

According to the Edinburg EDC website, in its “About Us” section:

As the fastest developing city in the Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg has everything your company needs to be successful. The Edinburg EDC provides assistance in site selection, relocation, and other services related to a new, expanding or relocating a business. Please contact us; we are ready to help.

Our Services

Access

We connect you to the right people. Whether it is finding the right talent, necessary capital to grow your business, or connecting you to industry peers, EDC leverages its network of partners to help companies grow in our region. We’ll serve as your advocate with local government agencies, facilitate introductions to industry trade associations, and other private organizations throughout our region.

Advocacy

We coordinate and conduct outreach to discuss issues affecting companies’ ability to stay and grow in the region. We work with elected officials, universities, and other policymakers to facilitate your needs whether your concern is workforce, infrastructure, transportation, housing, or another issue.

Positioning

We work through local, state, national, and international communication channels to elevate our region, leading industry sectors, and individual companies. Our regularly distributed publications showcase investment in the region and news in a wide spectrum of industries.

Business Retention

We serve local companies by assisting with expansion plans, programs to help retain business, and advocating for policies that enhance the region’s economic competitiveness.

Business Expansion

We lead attraction efforts to bring new investment and new companies to the region. We market the region to highlight the incredible talent available and the quality of life that keeps them here. We collaborate with industry associations and economic development partners to develop cohesive approaches to regional issues.

Business Attraction

We see the big picture. Work with us to determine how your company can take advantage of the unique assets of this bi-national, bi-lingual, region.

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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