Nueces County leaders are looking to cash in on President Barack Obama's proposed stimulus package, but one county commissioner has expressed concern that some residents are not being allowed input into what is being sent to Washington.
The proposed federal stimulus package was presented to the Nueces County Commissioners Court at a Jan. 22 meeting. But discussion soon became heated when Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Pusley asked why he had only been shown the document the day before the meeting.
"It's not that I didn't get to have an opportunity to have input into it, but the 80,000 people I represent in Precinct 1 don't have an opportunity to have any input into this document and there are projects that are vitally important to the people that live in my precinct, as well as the rest of this county," Pusley said.
The stimulus package contained items from Commissioners Betty Jean Longoria, Chuck Cazalas and Oscar Ortiz. The only item dealing with Pusley's precinct was funding for County Road 52, a proposed $10 million relief route in Calallen, but that had been added by County Judge Loyd Neal via a request from U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz for transportation projects.
"It seemed to me that every commissioner there but me was afforded that opportunity and I just think that was unfair," Pusley said after the meeting. "Nobody called me about that document and I think the staff in the courthouse had been drafting that document for a while.
"Basically, when they exclude me from that, they're excluding the constituents from Precinct 1."
Pusley asked that the item be tabled for further discussion and to give him an opportunity to meet with his constituents to find out what they would like to see included on the stimulus package. However, that idea was met with resistance almost immediately.
"We are one of the few communities here that has not submitted a stimulus package and we are delaying a vote on the stimulus package," Ortiz said. "I don't see that delaying this particular agenda item would be of any benefit to anyone."
Cazalas said while he agreed with Pusley, holding off on approving the preliminary stimulus package would do more harm than good.
"We're behind the curve and I don't understand why we haven't discussed this entire thing as a court earlier, as a group," Cazalas said.
However, during the public comments portion of the meeting, Corpus Christi resident Abel Alonzo said the public should be allowed input on such an important document.
"I'm (disappointed) that the public didn't have an opportunity to come before you and also to inform you about what's important for the stimulus package," Alonzo said. "To exclude the public from debate, it's very wrong.
"I understand the urgency of sending it, but I would like to see it tabled."
County commissioners voted to approve the stimulus package, 4-1, with Pusley the only one voting against it. County Judge Loyd Neal said he would work in the future to make sure communication is better between county leaders.
"I think Mike has a legitimate concern," Neal said, adding amendments can be made to the stimulus package proposal. "I'll accept responsibility for that - I should have probably communicated better to the commissioner, since he's new, how this was done."
For Pusley, being offered the chance to make additions to the stimulus package does little to change the fact that he and his constituents were not given the chance to be involved from the start.
"I'm very disappointed that I was not included in this process," Pusley said.