City Hall says no to circus animals

By Pamela Cody
Special to the PRESS

From circus animals to tax bond proposals, the Port Isabel City Commission met at City Hall at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, January 28, evening to discuss and take action on numerous items of business. 

During the public comments portion of the meeting, local resident Glenda Stafford addressed the Commission about a request by the Carson and Barnes Circus to utilize animals during their shows in Port Isabel scheduled for February 19 – 20. Initially, they had not planned to bring animals to these performances, but later came back to city officials asking for permission to do so.

Stafford spoke, posing questions to the circus owner, asking “Why is he bringing the animals? He wants to do more work and make less money? That doesn’t make any sense. So we’re asking the one thing we can do, is to do no harm. And by that, your vote ‘no’ will go a long way in adding your voice to the many other voices that are out there that are stopping these small circuses from using animal entertainment.”

 Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema commented, clarifying “I advised them that what had been approved was without animals. So if they wanted to do that, then we would need to put that back on the agenda.”

Port Isabel Mayor JJ Zamora quickly responded, stating “I make the motion to go against this item. I’m not in favor of them bringing animals.” Zamora was swiftly seconded simultaneously by both Commissioners Jeffery Martinez and Carmen Rios.

Also at the meeting were members of the Laguna Madre Water District (LMWD), who were there to offer a presentation to the Commission about a tax bond project proposal they are seeking in the 2020 elections. They are asking voters to approve a bond of more than $27 million dollars to address infrastructure needs. 

The money would provide for, among other things, improvements to water treatment plants, elevated storage tanks, and water distribution systems. If the bond proposal passes, LMWD customers can expect their water bills to increase $49 per year per $100,000 property value. 

LMWD board member Herb Houston spoke about the district’s current predicament of being down to only one fully operating plant, warning “If that one plant in Laguna Vista goes down, we’re in a lot of problems.” Houston urged voters to support the bond proposal, and the Commission thanked the LMWD representatives for their video presentation. 

The Port Isabel Commission also approved a resolution to amend the city charter and lengthen terms held by the mayor and commissioners from 2 to 3 years. Mayor and city commissioners would serve staggered terms and be required to win by a majority vote.

Hockema commented on the change, saying “This would make us consistent with other terms of office in Laguna Madre area cities that have 3-year terms rather than 2-year terms.”

Zamora responded, noting “I think we tried it once and it didn’t go through. I think it’s time to change it to 3 years from 2 years. It’ll probably save the city more money in the long run.” The Commission voted to approve the resolution.

Other business the Commission voted to approve included appointing Fire Marshal John Sandoval to the Port Isabel Planning and Zoning Board; an interlocal cooperation contract between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the City of Port Isabel for a Failure to Appear (FTA) Program; a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the American Red Cross and the city for responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters; and to allow Police Chief Robert Lopez to use the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) for a street crimes training session from May 11 – 13, 2020.

The Commissioners ended the meeting by going into executive session to discuss three items, among them requests by Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and Annova LNG for air permit and other applications. No information was available about these deliberations at press time. 

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