OP 10.33, the group behind the billboards, which started appearing around the first of the year, has ambitious plans for Brownsville and CameronCounty.
Mike Hernandez III is the man behind the group, which was formed in October. The Brownsville native left the city at the age of 15 when his family relocated to Dallas-Fort Worth. As an adult, Hernandez made a fortune with D&M Auto Leasing and other business interests.
Now he’s in the business of trying to lift up CameronCounty, with the goal of making the county “the land of opportunity by October 2033.” Hernandez chose that deadline because it will mark exactly 20 years that Brownsville was identified as the poorest city in America by the Houston Chronicle.
Semi-retired and dividing his time between Cameron and Starr counties and Dallas-Fort Worth, Hernandez is publicizing his intention to support effective means of educating CameronCounty’s young people beyond high school, combat official corruption, attract businesses and create jobs, and fill gaps in social services.
Hernandez is listed as the founder/director of OP 10.33, though the board of directors also includes Joe Gutierrez, community organization director; Carlos Strength, education initiative director; Carlos Marin, job development director; Frank W. Hill, legal counsel; Rev. Ryan S. Reed, social programs director; and Roger Lee, director of communications.
Lee, who’s had D&M as an advertising client for years, said in a phone interview that Hernandez did exhaustive research into Brownsville’s underlying problems before launching the campaign. Hernandez determined, among other things, that too much state money earmarked for the city fails to make its way here, Lee said.
Having the right people in elected positions would remedy that, which is why another aspect of the group’s mission is supporting candidates who agree with OP 10.33 goals and opposing those who don’t — without regard for party affiliation, he said.
Lee said the group isn’t ready to name names and hasn’t decided which races to back, though it has interviewed candidates and elected officials. He said the board has also spoken with business leaders to gauge their workforce needs as part of preparations to establish a not-for-profit trade and technical school.
OP 10.33 has already applied to the state for licensing, he said. Lee said the school would not replicate pre-existing post-secondary education in CameronCounty.
“We’re doing something else,” he said. “We’ve talked with representatives of all the colleges down there. We’ve talked to UTRGV, TSC. We’ve been down there well before the billboards went up.”
BY STEVE CLARK | STAFF WRITER, The Brownsville Herald
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