The campaign to secure neighborhood streetlights to boost safety in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas took more than a decade of community meetings and lobbying from residents. Parents were particularly concerned about keeping their kids safe at night.
Now, streetlights will start appearing in the neighborhoods, known as colonias, as early as January.
On Tuesday, residents in the largely Latino area in South Texas breathed a real sigh of relief after elected leaders with the Hidalgo County Commission approved a plan to implement them, according to La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a grassroots organization that supports the idea.
“Colonias will come out of the darkness and into the light,” John-Michael Torres, LUPE spokesman, said in a statement.
The Hidalgo County Commission vote was needed to fully implement the streetlight plan, following approval in June by state lawmakers for a method for the local tax assessor to collect money for them.
“This is a huge step and a victory for our members who have worked for streetlights,” Torres said in a statement. “Almost 11 years have passed since our first major meeting to address the lack of streetlights in colonias.”
Not only was there concern for kids, but adults, especially those with diabetes and heart problems, lacked lit places to walk in the evenings. Also, residents said, vandalism, theft and automobile accidents can occur in communities that lack streetlights.
Despite these concerns, resident had to navigate much so that their elected leaders would approve the plan.
At the Tuesday meeting of the Hidalgo County Commission, members from LUPE and ARISE Support Center, another community organization that helps residents, spoke in support of the streetlights.
The Tuesday vote, Torres said, also means:
– Streetlights will be installed on an individual basis for each colonia in Hidalgo County, which has more than 831,000 residents and a 35 percent poverty rate.
– A majority of 75 percent of homeowners in each colonia must show proof that they are willing to pay for the streetlight electricity.
– Colonia precincts will pay to install the streetlights.
La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) is a grassroots organization based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and was founded by farmworker and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. LUPE works with residents on social and economic justice issues.