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RGV rulers stoke divisions in their pitch to expand athletics markets with public money

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Update: Cameron County voters rejected sports stadium proposal, Prop 2.

By Jonathan Salinas

A mostly empty H-E-B Park in Edinburg, where UTRGV proposes to house a college football team, 25 September 2021.

Rio Grande Valley officials, from Edinburg to Cameron County, are counting on divisions between communities to O.K. the use of taxpayer money to expand the Valley’s athletics markets.

In Edinburg, current students will vote next week on whether to increase the athletics fee by almost double for incoming freshmen who enroll after 2022 and for everyone after 2025, in order to principally fund a college football team and a few other athletics and student programs that do not at all compare to the costs of football. In Cameron County, residents are voting today on whether to use “tourist taxes” to build a sports stadium near Brownsville. In both cases, officials appeal to their voting constituencies by assuring them "someone else will pay for it."

Although officials emphasize entertainment and communal benefits of what such a center or a football team could bring, everybody knows the government does not act solely out of a deep care for the wellbeing of all in society. That large event centers and sporting stadiums are money-makers for very wealthy and powerful people is amply documented. Profit is the prime motive.

Thus the question before us isn’t whether semi or professional sports in the Valley, and their associated pleasantries, are desirable. Most people, including this author, enjoy sports and community activities. The real question is whether the public, or specific sectors of it, should foot-the-bill for a for-profit venture that mostly only those with the means will be able to enjoy?

Officials also emphasize localist solidarity, as if the region in which we live was the main unifier between Valley residents. The Valley, like every advanced capitalist society, is class-divided between those who must sell their manual labor to survive and those who don’t. Life for nurses, delivery drivers, restaurant servers and teachers is quite similar whether they live in Edinburg, Brownsville or Austin. Likewise, life for the affluent transcends locales. Working-class UTRGV students have courageously spoken-out against ever-rising inflation and misplaced priorities.

In both cases of college football at UTRGV Brownsville/Edinburg and a sporting stadium in Cameron County, officials seek public funds that will disproportionately affect lower-income people in order to provide investment capital for already-rich contractors, stadium owners, bankers, doctors and advertisers. This "trickle-up" scheme further punishes working people who face punishing inflation to-date. This rule through division is a simulacrum of a tactic used by big employers to depress wages. Also appealing to divisions, bosses like those at John Deere and elsewhere demand current workers agree to lower wages and benefits for future workers. They're known as "two-tiered" contracts.

The RGV capitalist class, at whose pleasure institutions like the Cameron County board and UTRGV serve, must be told if such projects would be such public goods they should pay for it themselves. And if they say that's impossible without taxpayer money, they should open their books and the County and UTRGV should publish their business plans for public inspection. If the ruling classes who run both institutions are so efficient at mobilizing public support for endeavors, why aren't they collaborating to create a free public health service and universal education for all residents?


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