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The newest members of Edinburg’s Tejano Walk of Fame, which honors the titans of the music genre, were joined by the Edinburg City Council on Thursday, November 15, for a portrait during a ceremony, hosted by The Social Club, commemorating the legendary musicians’ contributions to the Hispanic culture. Featured, from left, are: City Councilmember Noe Garza; inductees Emilio and Genaro Aguilar of Los Aguilares of San Antonio; inductee Gilberto Pérez of Mercedes; Mayor Joe Ochoa; inductee Gilberto López of Edinburg; inductee Paulino Bernal of McAllen; and inductee Freddy Martínez of Corpus Christi. “Edinburg, the Tejano Capital of the Valley, continues to promote the Tejano Walk of Fame, which brings international attention, not only to our diverse cultural riches, but also our shared history and sound music to the city,” said Ochoa. “These great artists surely characterize our culture and heritage through their outstanding musical contributions.”

See lead story later in this posting.

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Freddy Martínez of Corpus Christi, featured left, proudly displays the marble plaque bearing a star with his name that will become part of the Tejano Walk of Fame in Edinburg. Martínez, featured here with Mayor Joe Ochoa during the Tejano Walk of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, November 15, is an internationally-renowned musician and producer whose many achievements earned him the honor from the three-time All-America City. Profiles on him, and the other four inductees, are featured following the lead story in this posting.

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Dr. Noel Oliveira, M.D. an internal medicine specialist who also plays with the group, Renaissance Rockers, plays guitar with vocalist Little Joe booming out a song during the scholarship fund raising concert that was held in conjunction with the Tejano Walk of Fame on Thursday, November 15. The event, which honors legendary talents of the Tejano music genre, is also designed to raise scholarship funds for music majors at the University of Texas-Pan American. See lead story later in this posting.

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Criss dice que Yañez haría historia en Tejas retando el partido republicano en vez de su compañera demócrata

Escritor: DAVID A. DÍAZ

Con tres puestos en la Corte Suprema de Tejas – bajo el control de republicanos – disponible para todos en noviembre de 2008, el juez Susan Criss de Galveston, candidata demócrata para uno de los puestos, está animando a su compañera juez Linda Yañez de Edinburg que debe correr para el puesto de jefe juez de la corte civil más alta del estado, y no contra Criss.

Criss, quien ha presidido sobre algunos de los más famosos tribunales en Tejas últimamente, es una candidata demócrata para el puesto 8 de la Corte Suprema de Tejas, actualmente ocupado por Phil Johnson, un republicano de Amarillo. Johnson fue nombrado por el gobernador Rick Perry, un republicano, el 15 de marzo de 2005.

La inscripción comienza en los primeros días de diciembre y acaba en el principio de enero para todos los candidatos que estén buscando el nombramiento de su partido en las elecciones primarias del 4 de marzo del año 2008.

Pero Criss dice que después de que ella anunciara sus planes en la primavera anterior de retar al republicano Johnson, Yañez dijo varios meses después que ella iba retar a Criss en las elecciones primarias del partido demócrata el 4 de marzo para el derecho de enfrentar a Johnson.

“No tiene sentido que dos demócratas se reten para enfrentar a un republicano cuando hay dos otros puestos en la Corte Suprema de Tejas, también ocupados por republicanos, que estarán en la boleta electoral de la elección presidencial del próximo año,” dijo Criss.

La Corte Suprema de Tejas es la arena legal más alta del estado para los asuntos civiles y consiste de un jefe juez y ocho jueces asociados de la corte que son elegidos por votación estatal.

Si un juez de la Corte Suprema de Tejas no acaba su mandato, el gobernador nombra un reemplazo- que fue el caso de Johnson- y para el jefe juez Wallace Jefferson de San Antonio, que fue nombrado por Perry el 14 de septiembre de 2004.

Criss, que es reconocida alrededor de la nación por su liderazgo de parte de jueces que son mujeres y el reclutamiento de minorías para las carreras en la ley, dice que Yañez se esta devaluando y el partido demócrata de Tejas.

“El juez Yañez dice que ella desea hacer historia haciéndose la primera Latina en la Corte Suprema de Tejas. Si ella realmente desea hacer historia, ella tiene la oportunidad de hacerse la primera Latina en ser jefe juez de la corte estatal más alta ambos en Tejas y en los Estados Unidos,” dijo Criss.

El padre de Criss, ex representante estatal de Tejas Lloyd Criss, Demócrata de Galveston, anteriormente fue presidente de un poderoso comité legislativo de la Cámara de Representantes, y quién en los años 80 ayudó fuertemente al representante Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Demócrata de McAllen, y representante Alex Moreno, Demócrata de Edinburg, aprobar “unas leyes de derechos civiles históricos ” ella dijo para librar miles de trabajadores agrícola en Tejas de las condiciones laborales que aproximaban “esclavitud.”

“El juez Yañez tiene la oportunidad para construir velocidad política y unidad dentro el partido para ella y los otros demócratas de Tejas buscando la elección como jefe juez de la Corte Suprema de Tejas, en vez de innecesariamente dividiendo recursos y lealtades del partido democrático,” dijo Criss. “En cuanto a mí, yo estoy muy capacitada, organizada y determinada para derrotar a mi opositor republicano.”

Criss ha servido casi 10 años en la corte 212th como juez de distrito estatal en el condado de Galveston, y fue anteriormente un procurador, abogado defensor, y abogado de distrito auxiliar en el condado de Galveston a partir de 1986 a 1997. Ella criticó la Corte Suprema de Tejas que está bajo control de los republicanos por perder contacto con la inmensa mayoría de Tejanos.

Ella puso en contraste su filosofía judicial con la de la Corte Suprema de Tejas que está bajo control por republicanos. “Los jueces hacen cumplir la garantía de impartir la justicia igualmente bajo ley,” dijo Criss. “Los impotentes y más vulnerables deben recibir la misma justicia igualmente a los más poderosos y ricos.”

Estando unidos como equipo, en vez de estar en lados opuestos, Criss dijo que ella y Yañez ayudarían a los demócratas finalmente a romper el dominio republicano de los puestos elegidos estatalmente.

“El juez Yañez en el año 2002 solamente obtuvo 42 por ciento del voto cuando ella corrió contra el asignado republicano para la Corte Suprema de Tejas,” Criss recordando. “Pero en equipo, nosotras podemos ayudarnos para generar grandes números de votos desde mi región casera de Houston y desde la región casera de ella en el sur de Tejas. Juntas, podemos ayudar al partido democrático de Tejas con unas victorias históricas el siguiente noviembre del año 2008, desde el palacio de justicia al capitolio hasta la casa blanca.”

Anuncio político pagado por la campaña de Susan Criss. Tesorero, Lloyd Criss. P.O. Box 16474, Galveston, Texas 77552.

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Edinburg school board will hear from publicon Tuesday, November 27, regarding terms, election date

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A special public hearing on why and how the terms of the Edinburg school board trustees will be extended to four years, plus whether the next round of school board elections will be held in May 2008 or delayed until November 2008, has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 27, said Jacques Treviño, the school board attorney.

The meeting will be held in the second floor Board Room of the ECISD Administration Building, located at 411 North 8th Street.

The two issues to be discussed – but for which no board action is scheduled – are:

• Does the school board allow trustees to finish out their three-year terms in May – the next scheduled election date for the school board – and then the four year terms begin? Two of the seven incumbents – Board President Carmen González and Board Secretary Ciro Treviño (no relation to the school attorney) – are up for reelection in May.

• Does the school board switch the election date from May until November, and then the four year terms begin? That would add six months to the current terms of trustees González and Treviño.

The issues have been brewing for several months, following last spring’s passage of Senate Bill 607, which was designed to address issues unique to the board of trustees of the Alief independent school district, located in the Houston region.

But as is sometimes the case, the bill flew through the legislative process without any apparent concerns that it would affect possibly dozens of school districts statewide, including Edinburg.

Since last summer, attorney Treviño, Superintendent Gilberto Garza, Jr., and Mario Salinas, the school district’s Assistant Superintendent for District Administration, have been researching the impact of of the Legislature’s actions, which Treviño contends requires Edinburg, and possibly dozens of other school boards, to go from three-year terms to four-year terms.

“We are compelled to do this,” the school board attorney said Wednesday. “Our intepretation of an Attorney General’s opinion is it is mandatory that we do it. It’s not just the board members wanting to give themselves an extra year on their term.”

An Attorney General Opinion is a written interpretation of existing law. Opinions interpret legal issues that are ambiguous, obscure, or otherwise unclear. Accordingly, although an Attorney General Opinion is advisory, it carries the weight and force of law unless or until it is modified or overruled. Ultimate determination of a law’s applicability, meaning or constitutionality is left to the courts.

The Texas Legislature has given Edinburg and other school boards until December 31 to take action on the school board terms and on the election dates.

Treviño said he will feature a power-point presentation on the legislation, and provide the school board trustees and the public the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.

“I encourage members of the public to come out because either plan will have an impact on the voters, so they can be informed and make their wishes know regarding their preferences,” Treviño said.

He said the public hearing will be broadcast on the school district’s television channel, available on Time Warner Cable Channel 17, and the school attorney also is considering other ways to put the presentation on the Internet – most likely on the school district’s web site – for more complete access by the public.

The school board attorney said his presentation will explain that “this is the law, this is why we have to do it, these are the pros and cons of both plans. We are going to try to explain everything in the power-point presentation, go over the law, and AG opinion that pretty much compels us to go to a four year term.”

On Tuesday, October 30, Garza, Salinas, school district attorney Treviño, and board members Robert Peña, Jr. and David Torres went to Austin to try to get answers to a difficult problem.

They met with Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn, lead attorney with the Elections Division of the Texas Secreatry of State, trying to get a handle on what stands to be a political hot potato along many different levels.

“We wanted to get an opinion from the Secretary of State on the mandates of the new law, because we need to know what options we have,” Salinas said earlier this month.

Such action also would require the U.S. Department of Justice to come into the process, making sure that any proposed changes do not discriminate on a number of different levels.

It is also unclear what would happen if no action is taken by the local school board.

A bill analysis, which is background provided by the Texas Legislature, explained the history that led to SB 670, and some of the impact of the measure:

House Bill 1, passed by the 79th Legislature, Third Called Session in 2006, mandated that school districts hold joint elections with a municipality, county, or the state. This would require 50 to 70 school districts to change from May to November elections, either because they are not part of a municipality with a May election, or because the district is not located in a municipality and therefore, will have to join with the county or state elections.

The approved bill and subsequent changes came about because Alief ISD, located in part within the Houston city limits, currently holds elections each May, and about one-third of the trustees are elected to the school board each year for three-year terms. Because the district is required to change to a November election, trustees will be running for election in even-numbered presidential and non-presidential years and in odd-numbered Houston city election years. This would raise the costs of the elections for Alief ISD.

SB 670 authorizes a school district’s board of trustees to adopt a resolution changing the length of the terms of its trustees not later than December 31, 2007, to address the rising costs of multiple elections and the confusion among voter precincts.

This bill does not expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, institution, or agency.

SB 670 amends Section 11.059, Education Code, by adding Subsection (e), as follows:

(e) Authorizes the board of trustees of a school district to adopt a resolution changing the length of the terms of its trustees not later than December 31, 2007. Requires the resolution to provide for a term of either three or four years and to specify the manner in which the transition from the length of the former term to the modified term is made. Requires the transition to begin with the first regular election for trustees that occurs after January 1, 2008, and requires that a trustee who serves on that date serve the remainder of that term. Provides that this subsection expires January 1, 2013.

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Hundreds pay homage to Tejano music royalty at 2007 Tejano Walk of Fame event at The Social Club


By DAVID A. DÍAZ

More than 300 area residents showed up on Thursday, November 15, to help raise scholarship money for music majors at the University of Texas-Pan American while honoring five legends of the Tejano music industry at The Social Club in Edinburg.

Mayor Joe Ochoa, Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza, and Councilmember Noe Garza (no relation to Alma) were among the local leaders who participated in the celebration.

Generally, Tejano music is described as roots-based hybrid of traditional Mexican music styles, including rancheras, polkas, and cumbias that also incorporate blues, pop, and country music elements.

The Sixth Annual 2007 Tejano Walk of Fame celebration, organized by a volunteer citizens’ advisory panel and partially supported by the city government, paid homage to five titans of Tejano music, including one with deep roots in Edinburg.

Gilberto López, one of the original founders of the Edinburg conjunto, “Los Dos Gilbertos” (The Two Gilberts), was one of the honorees.

Also honored were Paulino Bernal y Conjunto Bernal of McAllen; Gilberto Pérez y sus Compadres of Mercedes; Emilio Gerardo y Los Aguilares of San Antonio; and Freddy Martínez of Corpus Christi.

The induction ceremonies, which will later feature the laying of marble plaques with stars at the Tejano Walk of Fame outdoor exhibit at the Edinburg Auditorium, will be broadcast on the Edinburg Cable Network, which is available on Time Warner Cable Channel 12.

Detailed biographies of the honorees follow this article.

The outdoor event, which began at 6 p.m., was free and open to the public.

Following the ceremony, the honorees and their families, along with sponsors, were treated to a concert inside The Social Club that featured performances by Little Joe y La Familia, José Roberto Pulido, his son, Bobby Pulido; the Renaissance Rockers; The UTPA Mariachi; and René Sandoval.

López, an accordion master whose duets became famous in South Texas with tunes such as Nuevo Laredo Polka, Alma Enamorada, and El Foracero Polka, is now a deacon at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Edinburg.

But, according to his biography, his journey to salvation was marked by struggles and temptations for much of his life, with his saving grace being his family.

Now, he said, he plays his music as a testament to his faith.

In his biography, López talked about how the entertainment industry brought with it outstanding professional achievements, but also harsh personal demons, even as a young teenager.

“I also started to smoke cigarettes more and more,” he said. “Actually, I had started smoking very young in my life,” he readily confessed. “So, I began to enjoy smoking and hiding tobacco to make my own cigarettes to smoke when no one would see me. But as I started to play more and more, and to organize my own conjunto, I also began to smoke more and more, not realizing the consequences that smoking would have in my life later on.”

With the life of a “músico” (musician), smoking cigarettes go hand in hand; then came drinking which also became a part of his life, he added.

“I didn’t just drink hard liquors and smoke cigarettes, but I also started to smoke marijuana and take pills and other junk.I did this hidden from my parents who were always asleep by the time I would get home from playing late at night,” López added.

The limelight of conjunto music and later hooking on with Gilberto García, whom together became known as “Los Dos Gilbertos”. This lifestyle took its toll on his family life and on his health, he said. It appeared that López was heading up life in a fast paced way that deemed him to self-destruct if he wouldn’t slow down.

“I am still playing, which I am very grateful to my wife for supporting me and keeping me on the right track while still playing my accordion, only this time I play for God,” López said.

The successful event was organized by Ochoa; Roberto Pulido of Edinburg, a pioneer in Tejano music; developer Hector Casas, who donated the use of The Social Club for the ceremony; Marc González, funeral director with González Family Funeral Home in Edinburg; Sonny González, funeral director with González Family Funeral Home; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at UTPA, and sister to former Mayor Richard García; Mary Patlán with the Edinburg city government; Flaco Pulido, a brother of Roberto Pulido; and Johnny Torres, a spokesperson for the Hidalgo County Health Department.

In 1999, the Tejano Walk of Fame was created by a citizen’s advisory panel organized by Ochoa and the Edinburg City Council. Located on the grounds of the Edinburg Auditorium at 415 W. McIntyre, the Tejano Walk of Fame features a sculpture by Richard Hyslin that honors Edinburg native José Roberto Pulido, a pioneer in Tejano music.

For five years, five Tejano music stars from throughout Texas were honored during elaborate ceremonies that included an indoor concert at the auditorium, preceded by the stars’ official induction, which included the laying of marble pavers with a star and their names engraved.

The annual event, which was discontinued in 2004, was credited by city officials as helping draw thousands of visitors to the Walk of Fame.

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Paulino Bernal’s music career first helped feed his family, but now produces songs that nourish the soul

Texas-Mexicans have always been prolific music makers. They have been the music trendsetters among Mexicans in the Southwest throughout most of the 20th century. In fact, beginning in the 1930’s, the Texas Mexicans created the two most powerful regional styles ever to emerge among Mexicans anywhere – orquesta and conjunto.

The best of the conjuntos is, beyond a doubt, El Conjunto Bernal. Described by connoisseurs of conjunto music as “the only one of its kind” and “twenty years ahead of its time” El Conjunto Bernal is well known for its tremendous range of innovations. Its musical experiments spanned the gamut of conjunto, from the traditional polka to Latin music such as the bolero, cha cha cha, and even American rock and roll.

El Conjunto Bernal owed much of its originality and meteoric rise to fame to the genius of its founder, Paulino Bernal. Bernal was born June 22, 1939, in Raymondville, deep in South Texas, Reared in the grinding poverty that visited most of the Texas-Mexicans of his generation, Bernal was forced to quit school when he was in the seventh grade. An accomplished accordionist by that time, he left school he says “to try to earn money and get us out of the poverty in which we found ourselves.”

Bernal’s mother was a divorcee, and early on she moved to Kingsville, where Paulino, his older brother Eloy, the younger Luis, and three sisters were all forced to pick cotton, cucumbers, and other crops to help support the family. One day a man came by the house selling a guitar, and Mrs. Bernal “with great sacrifice,” bought if for the boys.

Paulino Bernal soon learned enough to play the cantinas with an elderly accordionist, where he picked up tips to help buy food for the Bernal family. But Bernal’s future lay with the accordion. He remembers hearing the best accordionists of the late 40’s and early 50’s on the radio – Narciso Martínez, Valero Longoria, Tony de la Rosa – all of whom were recording for the largest Texas-Mexican company at the time, Ideal Records.

Bernal dreamed of joining their ranks, and when a friend of his was given an accordion as a gift, it was Paulino who spent the most time practicing on it. Shortly afterward, on a trip to visit their father in Rio Grande Valley, Eloy was given a bajo sexton by his father, and the Bernals were soon on track toward their future.

Los Hermanitos Bernal launched their musical career in 1952. They were hired to play a dance in nearby Premont – Paulino on accordion, Eloy on bajo sexto, and a friend Adan Lomas, on drums. According to Paulino Bernal, “a lot of people attended, and they liked the Bernal Brothers so much they kept calling us back.”

They began playing in nearby Falfurrias and in Alice, the home of the powerful Ideal Records. Soon the Bernal Brothers came to the attention of Armando Marroquín, the man who recorded all the artist for Ideal Records. The Bernal Brothers were first recorded as the backup conjunto for some of the duets then popular among Texas-Mexicans, such as Carmen y Laura.

In March 1955, Marroquín gave the Bernals their chance as headliners, and a 78 rpm record was released with the canción ranchera Mujer Paseada on one side and the romantic bolero Desprecio on the other. With the release of their first record, the Bernal Brothers quickly put their cotton-picking days behind them forever and soon joined Valerio Longoria and Tony de la Rosa as the top conjuntos in the Texas.

El Conjunto Bernal recorded prolifically for Ideal between 1955 and 1960 and some of the best sided including the monster hits: Mi Único Camino and Sentimiento Y Rencor, both from late 1958, are on this CD and cassette. Marroquín began taking them on tours throughout the southwest and beyond where they always played for packed houses.

They were especially popular in Arizona, where local bandleaders Pedro Bugarin was fond of featuring them with his orquesta. In fact, according to Paulino, he and Eloy used to sit in with Bugarin’s band, and some of the band musicians would in turn sit in with El Conjunto Bernal. This exposure to band music inspired Paulino Bernal to branch out of the normally simple ranchero music of the conjunto into the more sophisticated style of the orquesta.

When Marroquín ended his relationship with Ideal Records around 1960, El Conjunto Bernal stayed with him and recorded for his new label, Nopal Records. Shortly however, El Conjunto Bernal relocated to McAllen, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, across the border from Mexico. Bernal began working with Víctor González, and the two men founded Bego Records (the company name a combination of their two last names).

The Bego years represent some of Conjunto Bernal’s most innovative work. It was at his time that Bernal attracted the most talented musicians in the conjunto traditions to his group. In the late 1960’s, González bought out Paulino’s interest in Bego Records and Paulino went on to found Bernal Records, which also produced many outstanding hits by El Conjunto Bernal.

By this time however, Bernal had given up performing in favor of the administrative aspects of show business. He ran the recording company, hosted a regional TV music show, and generally concentrated on the promotional aspects of the business.

Meanwhile, Óscar Hernández and other very able accordionist picked up the slack and carried on the tradition of excellence begun by Paulino. During this same time, success in the music field took its toll on Paulino and he succumbed to the allure of alcohol and drugs. In 1972, however, a cook Paulino had hired to work in a restaurant he owned changed his life by converting him to the teaching of born-again Christianity.

From that day on, Bernal gave up the life of alcohol and drugs to devote himself to preaching. He also resumed his career as accordionist, only this time he did so in the service of Christianity. He started a new recording company, Bernal Christian Records, under whose banner he has continued to develop his inimitable style.

As he once commented in an interview, “People who knew me before lament that I’m not playing anymore. They don’t seem to realize that I play more now than I ever did before!”

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Gilberto López’ life has taken him from performing before packed houses to preaching in God’s house

Growing up poor and being not very academically inclined in school can really test a young man’s will to survive in this hard world. But when he explores and acknowledges his gifts and talents as gifts from God, he survives everything.

Many know of Gilberto López today as one of the original founder of Edinburg conjunto, “Los Dos Gilbertos” or The Two Gilberts, as it would be translated in English. Born of poor dwellings in 1935 in the northern parts of Hidalgo County, today Gilberto López of Edinburg considers it a miracle for him to still be alive after enduring so many obstacles in his life. But he attributes his survival to his mother and her maternal loving instinct to help him grow.

“When I was a young child I always needed that special love and attention more than most of my brothers. Realizing this, my mother would take me under her wing and was there for me when I needed my parents the most,” López said.

How about school?

“I was never really a bright school student either because I was a little hard-headed and it took me longer to learn what my friends and classmates learned easily,” López says about his educational experience. “I never really graduated from high school because I dropped out instead so that I could work in the fields along my dad and my brothers and sisters.”

There was very little work here in the Valley during those trying times for the López family.

“Then, work started in the northern states. My parents, of course, would want to pursue this opportunity to go up north and work while there was work in the cotton fields of West Texas, first the chopping of the cotton and later on, the picking of the cotton fields,” he added. “So, of course, this was my call to drop out of school permanently and go to work as a migrant field worker.”

Year after year, the migration pattern became a routine for the López family.

“We would follow the work seasons up north and return to the Valley a few months later to continue working in the fields here,” López said.

But one day, fate took a turn for the better for the young Gilberto López.

“One of my dad’s friends, who would come to get together to drink, play cards and shoot dice with my dad, had an accordion. I saw my dad take the accordion and play something on it. And even though he was not a very good accordion player, I was really impressed by how the accordion sounded melodiously. As we went home, the accordion seemed to be emblazed in my memory and in my heart and my desire to learn to play it became my goal in life,” he said, never realizing that it was going to be this that would get him out of the cotton fields and into making a living an easier way.

It was during one of these migrant life trips “a los estados del norte” – to the northern states – where the poor followed their hopes and dreams in the fields that López’ life was about to be changed.

López’ father had some “músico” (musician) friends who would go up north with them to work. Once, during a conversation, López heard that someone had an accordion that they wanted to sell. And remembering that wish when he had first seen his dad play the accordion, he made it a goal that this dream would someday allow him to own an accordion and play it well enough to be able to make a living with it and get out of this cycle of a migrant life. But to start off, he needed to buy an accordion, which seemed out of reach for a while.

“So I asked my mom for $15 to buy it,” López said. “My mom wanted to buy it for me but she feared that my dad would not agree to spend this much money for an accordion. In her heart, my mom wanted to buy me this accordion, but in reality, she also knew that this $15 could be better utilized for something more important,” he said.

But as the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, his mother found a way.

“You know what, son? Let’s work tomorrow. And with what we make this day, we can use it to buy the accordion!” his mother told him. That’s exactly what they did, and she bought him his first accordion at age 14. And thus, his life as a “músico” was born.

López began learning the accordion little by little until he was able to play complete numbers. He was eventually hired to play a wedding which would be his first time ever as a public performer. But as it is feared by many young musicians, his nerves were getting in the way. And to make matters worse, his “bajo player” showed up drunk to the point where he could not perform. Fortunately, another man in the audience who was also a guitar player came through and allowed López to do his first “gig” as a conjunto accordionist player.

This was the beginning of his life as a conjunto musician and all that goes with this.

“I also started to smoke cigarettes more and more,” he said. “Actually, I had started smoking very young in my life because my mom smoked a lot, too. As she would do housework or cook, she would ask me to roll a cigarette, light it and give it to her. So, I began to enjoy smoking and hiding tobacco to make my own cigarettes to smoke when no one would see me. But as I started to play more and more, and to organize my own conjunto, I also began to smoke more and more not realizing the consequences that smoking would have in my life later on.”

With the life of a “músico,” smoking cigarettes go hand in hand; then came drinking which also became a part of his life.

“I didn’t just drink hard liquors and smoke cigarettes, but I also started to smoke marijuana and take pills and other junk. I did this hidden from my parents who were always asleep by the time I would get home from playing late at night,” López added.

The limelight of conjunto music and later hooking on with Gilberto García, whom together became known as “Los Dos Gilbertos”. This lifestyle took its toll on his family life and on his health. It appeared that López was heading up life in a fast paced way that deemed him to self-destruct if he wouldn’t slow down.

“I am still playing, which I am very grateful to my wife for supporting me and keeping me on the right track while still playing my accordion, only this time I play for God,” López said.

Los Dos Gilbertos gained popularity with their music with the “in” crowd of conjunto.

Their accordion duets became famous in South Texas with tunes such as Nuevo Laredo Polka, Alma Enamorada, and El Foracero Polka.

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After 47 years in the profession, San Antonio’s Los Aguilares still among elite conjunto groups in Texas

The Los Aguilares legendary conjunto brothers, Genaro Aguilar and Emilio Aguilar, Sr., have been performing and recording for the past 40 years. Los Aguilares introduced their music style combining Emilio’s distinctive accordion style in addition to Genaro and Emilio’s unique vocal styling, making them one of the elite conjuntos to come out of San Antonio, Texas.

Los Aguilares have been honored with the Congressional Recognition Award and the City of San Antonio, Texas, Recognition Award for their 30 years of excellence in Music; have been inducted into the National Hispanic Music Hall of Fame and the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame; and have been nominated on several occasions for the Tejano Music Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Conjunto of the Year.

Los Aguilares originated in the mid 1950’s in Atascosa, Texas, which is located outside of San Antonio in the countryside. A “dream” which three brothers (Emilio, Genaro and Frank) had in their younger years became a reality and their music lives on ‘til this day. In the beginning of their professional music career, Emilio, Genaro and Frank, teenagers at the time, formed the group Los Guadalupanos. Frank Aguilar left the group in 1955 to join the United States Air Force.

In 1960, the group changed their name from Los Guadalupanos to Los Aguilares. Their first album was released under Norteño Records, circa 1958. Afterwards, they recorded with Sunglow, Ideal, Zarape, Redondo, Nopal, and with Joey International.

Throughout their professional career in the music business, they produced and released many singles, albums and CD’s and have performed all over Texas, California, Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and in Mexico.

Los Aguilares are celebrating 47 years in the music industry this year. Their near future plans are to release additional CD’s and to continue to perform at special events.

“Special Thanks” goes out to band members who have accompanied Los Aguilares throughout the conjunto’s professional music career and who have contributed their lives to the success of Los Aguilares. Acknowledgements go out to band members who have been with Los Aguilares for the past 30 years: Luis Aguilar, Charlie Houton, Michael Aguilar, Henry Esquivel, including the most current member, “JR” Ramos. Without them, the “dream” could not be possible.

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Corpus Christi’s Freddie Martínez has done it all as musician, producer in Latino music industry

A talented trumpet player and vocalist, Freddie Martínez was a musician’s musician during the years in which he toured the Tex-Mex circuit at the head of his eight-piece orchestra. In 1977, while still at the peak of his popularity, Martínez made a business decision to store away his trumpet, quit the road, and devote his energies and full-time attention to developing the Records Label he had started some eight years before. The decision was to be an important one for Martínez and his family. It was to place him in the position of helping to shape the direction of Latin music from a perspective far removed from the dance halls and endless blacktop roads he had experienced as a performer.

Alfredo Ricardo Martínez was born in Corpus Christi on April 15, 1942, youngest of three children. Their father, Lee Martínez, Sr., owned and managed several night spots in Corpus Christi. Freddie’s mother, Rosa, was a Galván – sister to orchestra leaders Ralph, Sammy, Eddie, and Bobby Galván. The Galván Ballroom, one of Corpus Christi’s premier dance halls, and a venue visited by large nationally known orchestras, such as Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, the Glen Miller Orchestra and others, was owned by Rafael Galván, Freddie’s grandfather.

It is safe to say that Freddie Martínez grew up with music and was constantly influenced by it. Older brother Lee Martínez, Jr., was and still is an outstanding trumpet player. Up until his retirement in March 2001, Lee fronted one of the most popular orchestras in South Texas. In the 50’s, Lee was an in-demand trumpet player with connections to some of the top orchestras in the circuit, including the legendary Isidro Lopez.

Young Freddie Martínez took up the trumpet at age nine. Although he loved athletics, he bowed to his mother’s wishes and stayed away from football and track, sticking it out in band. Given that he was musically inclined to start with, and with musical influences all around him, it followed that he would excel once he got to the junior and high school levels. He was a drum major at Wynn Seale Academy of Fine Arts, and owned First Chair Trumpet throughout his school years.

By 14, Martínez was sitting in as a substitute in uncle Ralph Galvan’s Orchestra. In 1958, while still in high school and only 15 years of age, he formed the Freddie Martínez Orchestra and became a professional musician. He immediately ran into problems. Because he was still a youngster in the eyes of the members of his orchestra, he was forced to deal with some management problems. Vocalists, in particular, were difficult to deal with. Although he was a trumpet player by choice, he decided to try his hand at singing so he could bring some consistency into the aspect of the music.

In 1959, Martínez landed a DJ job on Corpus Christi Radio Station KCCT. At the same time, Martínez was going to school full-time, managing and fronting his orchestra, and working part-time as a DJ to boot. He was also busy in the studio, recording mostly 45’s and an occasional album for the smaller South Texas Record Labels.

In 1963, Martínez married his junior high school sweetheart, Joann. When they realized that there were no other record companies that he could go to, they decided to take a shot at starting a label of their own. In November of 1969, with $400, Freddie Records began its journey.

The first album released on the Freddie Records Label “Botoncito de Carino”, made a substantial initial impact. The album produced several hits, including the Title Track, a tune written by noted composer Johnny Herrera.

“Muñequita de Canela”, Freddie Records’ second album was also a hit, as the third, “Un Par de Ojitos”. But in 1971, with the release of an album called “Te Traigo Estas Flores”, Freddie Records and Martínez hit it big- time. Avenues opened everywhere. The Freddie Martínez Orchestra was being heard on radio all over the United States and Mexico, and offers to perform were coming in from venues all over the country.

Martínez and his band mates performed before capacity crowds in Los Angeles’ million-dollar theatre, The Hollywood Palladium, and New York’s Madison Square Garden. He was also offered and accepted a role in the movie “La Muerte de Pancho”, co-starring with famed ranchero performer Antonio Aguilar.

“Te Traigo Estas Flores” eventually sold more than one million copies in the United States and Mexico and was covered by such well-known international artists as Lucha Villa and Antonio Aguilar. Freddie Records was still just a one-artist label.

In 1977, after 11 years on the road and after recording nearly 30 albums, Martínez decided to retire his orchestra and devote more time to his family. The Record Label was also demanding more of his time and it was going through some growing pains. Artists such as Tony de la Rosa, Little Joe, Joe Bravo, Augustín Ramírez, and Sunny & the Sunliners signed with Martínez.

Ramón Ayala, who had made a name for himself as one half of Los Relampagos del Norte came under the Freddie Records Label in 1974. Curiously, but representative of their styles, Ayala and Martínez did not have a recording contract for the first 15 years of their business association. A handshake was all there was between them. Ayala, now a norteño music superstar, has been a Freddie Records artist continuously since 1974.

Today, Freddie Records is one of the premier independent Latin Record Labels in the business. Few independent record labels can claim the longevity, solid success ad growth that Freddie Records has achieved under Freddie Martínez.

Although Martínez has turned over the day-to-day operations of the label to his sons Freddie, Jr., John and Mark, he continues to keep his hands in the business. He takes great pleasure in producing and writing songs and enjoys the artistic give and take of recording sessions. His talents have earned him numerous accolades, including five Grammys for his work with his tex-mex supergroup “The Legends” and for his production and songwriting work on Ayala’s Grammy-winning album, “Del Otro Lado del Portón”.

In early 2002, Martínez and his family opened their highly-anticipated new corporate facility on Corpus Christi’s Southside. At nearly 40,000 square feet, the building serves as Freddie Records’ new headquarters and houses the company’s sales, distribution, marketing, promotion, and publishing departments. In addition, the site features legends sound studios, Martínez’ state-of-the-art recording facility, which houses two world-class studios, a mastering suite and a production/demo room to accommodate Freddie Record’s growing roster of music acts. Today, Martínez’ artist roster includes well-known and top-selling acts, such as Michael Salgado, Sólido, Jimmy González y Grupo Mass, Los Terribles del Norte, Siggno, La Tropa F, Masizzo, and of course, Ramón Ayala y Sus Bravos del Norte.

Freddie Martínez is also very active in several local community organizations. He is especially active in helping several churches within the Corpus Christi Catholic Diocese. He is also involved with children’s programs in Corpus Christi and is on the Board of Directors for Ark Assessment Center for Youth.

Martínez has been inducted into practically every Latin Music Hall of Fame that there is and given many honors by different organizations in the USA and Mexico. He has been called, “El Embajador de la Musica Tejana”, “El Rey de la Música Tejana”, “El Cariñoso”, and “The Don of Tejano Music”. Martínez is also recognized as one of the single most influential businessmen in the Latin Music Industry.

Earnest and soft-spoken, Freddie Martínez lets his accomplishments speak for themselves. A generous humble and religious man, Freddie is a man of honor, a throwback to the days when a man’s handshake and his word were as good as gold.

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Gilberto Pérez has seen his prolific career profiled from Mercedes, Texas to the Smithsonian Institute

As the youngest of 12 siblings, Gilberto Pérez was born in Mercedes, Texas on August 3, 1935. From humble beginnings, Pérez’ original choice of instrument was the guitar which he credits longtime friend and local musician, Eristeo Flores, as his initial teacher.

His early appearances during “Los Aficionados”, live music programs usually held before or during intermissions of movies at the local El Rio Theater in Mercedes, would provide both experience and exposure as Pérez plied his talent in search of applause. During these events he would usually team up with other local musicians, but most especially with a young, fledging accordion player by the name of Rubén Vela.

Eventually Pérez would take up the accordion, following in the footsteps of one of his older brothers and even one of his sisters who also played accordion. This interest would yield a career spanning almost 50 years. His distinctive alto voice and signature accordion style would become synonymous with the “Valley sound” and would open opportunities for touring that would encompass most of the United States and eventually into Mexico.

His recording career would yield over 50 albums which have been recorded for most of the independent labels, including his own, as well as for national labels such as Sony and Capitol. His signature hits include his first entitled “ El Dia De Tu Boda”, recorded for Discos Falcón in 1960 and would be followed up by many, many more including “Con Cartitas”, “Porqué Dios Mio”, “Mi Última Parranda”, “Aguanta Corazón”, penned by his departed brother, Alejandro Pérez, and the 1997 Grammy-nominated “Arráncame El Corazón”, also penned by the late Alejandro Pérez.

Accolades have been many in such a distinguished career. Most recently, in May 2007, Pérez was inducted into the Tejano Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Antonio.

He has also been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions from organizations such as the South Texas Conjunto Association, of which he is also a founding member, and the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in San Benito, Texas, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

In 1998, he was one of the groups recorded by the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage as part of their field recordings of the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Conjunto Festival in San Benito. The recordings would eventually be released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings as a CD entitled, “Taquachito Nights: Conjunto Music from South Texas”.

In 1999, as part of the CD release festivities, Gilberto Pérez y sus Compadres were invited to Washington, DC to perform live during the Festival of American Folklife, sponsored by the Smithsonian and held on the National Mall in downtown Washington, DC. Additionally, the group also participated in presentations for dignitaries and conducted workshops at community-based cultural centers in the metropolitan DC area.

Pérez continues to tour and record and has most recently released a series of compact disc tribute recordings where he has invited longtime musical colleagues and friends to record.

Over the years, the group has had many members but has always strived to ensure family participation. His brother Alejandro toured with him for years as did Ramón Medina and Cruz González, both legendary names on the conjunto circuit. The group currently includes both his older son, Gilberto, Jr., on bajo sexto guitar, and his grandson, Zeke, on drums.

Gilberto Pérez has secured a place in the Texas-Mexican Conjunto music history as one of the premier accordionists and dance band of the genre.

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Enríquez Enterprises, Inc. gets approval for $103,000 for more work on city hall

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

With Councilmembers Gene Espinoza and Gus García, Jr. excused on important business, the remaining three members of the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, November 20, approved more than $103,000 in payments to Enríquez Enterprises, Inc. for needed work on the new multi-million dollar city hall currently under construction.

The city leaders, without comment, approved two change orders – the sixth and seventh since the Edinburg-based contractor landed the construction contract about two years ago – at the recommendation of City Manager J.J. Rodríguez.

A change order is a written document that changes the plans and specifications and/or the price of a construction contract.

Although the two change orders were listed in the city council agenda under the “Awarding of Bids” category, former Edinburg school board trustee Gilbert Enríquez, the chief financial officer for the influential contracting firm, evidently felt confident enough in his proposals, and he did not appear for the city council session.

In his brief written explanation to the city council, the city manager said of change order number 6, valued at $58,695:

“As part of the ongoing project for the new City Hall, staff is respectfully requesting approval of change order number 6 for the asbestos abatement for the old E.C.I.S.D. Administration Building. This service was provided by Enríquez Construction and A&M Environmental out of Houston, Texas.”

Rodríguez said funding for change order number 6 was available in the Construction Fund for this project through the 2006 Tax and Revenue Certificates of Obligation Construction Fund.

As for change order number 7, valued at $45,783.10, Rodríguez stated:

“As part of the ongoing construction of the new city hall, Enríquez Enterprises, Inc., at the request of city staff, has issued a proposal for the remote drive-thru numeratic (sic) system, also including trenching, sand, electrical requirements, tape, float and installation. The proposal was issued on October 10, 2007. This installation would take place in the second phase of construction.

He noted that money to pay for change order number 7 is available through the 2006 Tax and Revenue Certificates of Obligation Construction Fund.

The work is part of an the overall construction of the new city hall, located at 412 West McIntyre.

When the groundbreaking was held for the facility in early May 2006, then city public information officer Monique Maynez offered this background:

•The 42,000 square foot building will triple the amount of space utilized by City employees at the current City Hall.

•The new facility will include key architectural elements resembling other structures unique to Edinburg such as the Tower at the South Texas Historical Museum and the University of Texas-Pan American.

•In addition, the new city hall will include a city council chamber, a drive-thru for utility and tax payments and a plaza area for community events.

•Enríquez Construction is the primary contractor and TAG International is the architectural firm.

•The project is expected to cost $6.65 million and will be funded through Certificate of Obligation Bonds.

•Due to construction, the section of McIntyre Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue will be permanently closed.

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Homeland Security leaders meet with county judges Salinas, Cascos on levee improvements, border fence

By CARI LAMBRECHT

The top brass at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering an alternative plan for the construction of more than 70 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

The plan, suggested and championed by the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission and local officials in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, proposes a massive hydraulic structure in place of a fence that would protect the region from both floods and terroristic threats.

On Friday, November 16, top DHS officials met with a delegation from the Valley to discuss these possible alternatives to the border fence program that has been at the heart of controversy throughout the nation. Federal government officials called the meeting with the two counties to discuss the feasibility of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission’s alternative approach. The federal officials also recorded the recommendations as part of a legislative mandate requiring local input be considered before final plans to build — or not build — the fence are revealed.

The Valley delegation included Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, Hidalgo County Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios, and Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 Director Godfrey Garza.

Federal agency heads attending the meeting included Customs and Border Protection Chief David Aguilar, IBWC Director Carlos Marín, and Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Chief Ron Vitiello.

Both Cascos and Salinas reiterated to DHS officials the need to have the levee rehabilitation project addressed and stressed the need for a compromise on the design and construction of border tactical infrastructure in South Texas. County officials stated that the meeting was highly productive and that DHS committed to working with the IBWC and the counties on a plan to address levee deficiencies along the Rio Grande.

Both counties have adamantly and publicly expressed their objections to construction of the border wall, citing its effects on bi-national relations, the environment, and potential obstructions to the over 270 miles of levee system along the Rio Grande.

County officials have also been raising the issue of the need to restore the deteriorating levee system along the Lower Rio Grande Valley basin for some time now. Federally owned and operated, the levees could overtop in the event of a major rain event, causing billions of dollars of damage to the local economy and endangering the lives of many Valley residents.

In the interim, the decertification of the levees may soon be made official with the release of a new FEMA flood plain map, and costs of mandatory flood insurance would be more than $100 million in just two years’ time for residents and businesses. Officials from the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), a U.S.-Mexico agency that regulates the Rio Grande, have been working with both counties to secure federal funding for the proposed $125 million improvement as part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Flood Control Project.

IBWC officials have expressed concern that building the border wall on or near the levees could violate a 1970 bi-national treaty which prohibits any construction along the system that would obstruct water flow on either side of the border. Officials say that the border fence could impede continual maintenance work performed on the system.

It is for these numerous reasons why IBWC and the counties have proposed a design alternative to the levee system rehabilitation plan that would serve both agencies’ missions (DHS & IBWC) – by raising the levees up to 18 feet to provide a better perch from which federal agents can monitor illegal border crossings.

Given the urgency of the fence construction as part of the government’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI) program to have over 370 miles of pedestrian fence and 200 miles of vehicle barriers in place by December 31, 2008, both Cameron and Hidalgo County officials will continue to push for a an alternative infrastructure plan that would address border security and flood control concerns.

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Following meeting with Gov. Perry, Hidalgo County leaders say he supports efforts to improve levees

By CARI LAMBRECHT

Hidalgo County officials met with Gov. Rick Perry two weeks ago in Austin to brief him about the condition of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission’s river levees, hoping to gain an important ally in the fight for much needed federal funding.

On Friday, November 16, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios and Hidalgo County Drainage District Director Godfrey Garza presented a proposal for a hydraulic structure that would protect citizens from flood waters while, at the same, help the U.S. Border Patrol protect the homeland.

At that meeting, Perry announced privately that he was “on board,” but now the governor has publicly shown his support for Hidalgo County’s plan. In a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Perry writes that he believes it “would be appropriate to examine very closely the proposal to combine levee remediation with the SBInet border fence.”

The governor states he is opposed to the construction of the fence, and continues by saying, “It is imperative that the IBWC levees be rehabilitated as soon as possible to provide effective flood control to over one million United States residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the approach advocated by the local officials may afford a practical way to achieve that end.”

“It feels great to know that the top elected official in the state of Texas is on board with us. This letter shows that our views about the construction of the border wall and the need to fix our levees is in sync,” said Salinas. “The governor even called us up to Austin again this week to put together a work group to see how the state could take action on our dire levee situation. Let the federal government see this as a sign that the whole state knows we need levees and not walls on the border.”

“This is a common sense plan the governor is endorsing,” said Commissioner Palacios. “The hydraulic structure will keep us safe from nature and man and keep our economy going strong. We thank the governor for his public support.”

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Edinburg’s jobless rate drops to 4.4 percent for October, ties second best-showing so far in 2007

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s jobless rate, which is a key indicator of the strength of the local economy, in October 2007 dropped to 4.4. percent, the second-best showing among major Valley cities, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC’s five-member governing board includes Mayor Joe Ochoa; former Mayor Richard García, who is president of the EEDC board of directors; and Fred Palacios, Elias Longoria, Jr., and Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D.

The 4.4 jobless rate for October 2007 also represented a drop in the jobless rate from September 2007, which came in at five percent.

Edinburg’s best showing so far in 2007 came in April, when the jobless rate dropped to 4.3 percent.

The highest jobless rate in Edinburg in 2007 came in July, reaching 5.8 percent.

The October 2007 jobless rate in Edinburg represents a growth of 773 jobs over October 2006, and a growth of 1,339 jobs over October 2005.

With the exception of the July 2007 level, Edinburg has posted either the lowest, or second-lowest jobless rate, in the Rio Grande Valley each month this year.

The state’s jobless rate in October averaged 4.1 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate in October was 4.4 percent.

The latest figure, compiled by the Texas Workforce Commission, compares with a 4.8 percent jobless rate in October 2006, and a 4.3 percent jobless rate in October 2005.

Only McAllen, which reported a four percent jobless rate, registered a better showing than Edinburg in October 2007.

All cities in Hidalgo County for October 2o07 had a combined 5.3 percent jobless rate, while all cities in Cameron County had a combined 5.1 percent jobless rate during the same month.

Among the Valley’s largest cities, Weslaco in October 2007 posted a 5.5 percent jobless rate, followed by Brownsville with a 5.4 percent jobless rate, while Pharr and Mission each registered 4.8 percent jobless rates.

Harlingen had the third-lowest jobless rate among Valley cities in October 2007 at 4.6 percent.

The jobless rate is the number of persons unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force.

The civilian labor force is that portion of the population age 16 and older employed or unemployed.

To be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working but willing and able to work and actively seeking work.

In October 2005, there were 26,233 people employed in Edinburg.

In October 2006, there were 26,799 people with jobs in the three-time All-America City.

In October 2007, there were 27,572 people employed in Edinburg.

Those levels represent some of the lowest unemployment rates and the largest numbers of people employed in the city’s history.

In 2006, the annual jobless rate for Edinburg was 5.3 percent, while in 2005, the annual jobless rate for Edinburg was 4.7 percent.

The monthly breakdown of the city’s jobless rate in 2007 follows:

In October, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.4 percent.

In September, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 5 percent.

In August, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.9 percent.

In July, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 5.8 percent.

In June, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 5.5 percent.

In May, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.4 percent.

In April, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.3 percent.

In March, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.4 percent.

In February, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.8 percent.

In January, the jobless rate in Edinburg was 4.9 percent.

Statewide, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas’ unemployment rate in October 2007 matched a record low:

The October statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 4.1 percent, down from 4.3 percent in September and 4.8 percent in October 2006.

For the third month in 2007, the statewide unemployment rate reached the lowest point since the current series began in 1976.

Seasonally adjusted nonagricultural employment in Texas grew by 24,200 jobs in October.

Texas employers now have added 206,400 jobs over the past 12 months for an annual growth rate of 2.0 percent.

“The strength of the Texas economy is reflected in this record low unemployment rate,” said Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chair Diane Rath. “Texas employers continue to expand at a tremendous pace, offering workers strong opportunities.”

The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) experienced the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted).

The Amarillo, Lubbock, and Odessa MSAs were second at 3.1 percent.

Employment in Professional and Business Services led the gains with 5,600 jobs in October, for an increase of 56,400 positions over the year and an annual job growth rate of 4.5 percent.

Leisure and Hospitality recorded a monthly increase of 3,200 jobs, for a total of 37,200 since October 2006, a 3.9 percent annual job growth rate.

“Texas employers continue their impressive run by adding jobs and fueling the state’s economy,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ron Lehman. “We have job growth in 10 of 11 industry sectors over the past month, with notable annual job growth rates in Natural Resources and Mining, as well as Professional and Business Services.”

Education and Health Services gained 3,400 jobs in October, contributing to an annual job growth of 24,100. Natural Resources and Mining continues to maintain the highest annual job growth rate at 8.0 percent, adding 1,400 jobs during the month and 15,300 over the year.

“Job availability and low unemployment rates position Texas workers to succeed,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton. “This historically low unemployment rate indicates that workers are taking advantage of all the opportunities available to them.”

Construction employment posted a significant gain of 2,100 jobs in October, bringing the number of jobs added in Construction since October 2006 to 10,800. Trade, Transportation and Utilities added 2,100 jobs in October for a total of 23,600 positions since October 2006.

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La Villa Mayor René Castillo, former mayor Carlos Pérez, endorse Eddie Sáenz for state representative

By KELLY FERO

La Villa Mayor René Castillo and former Mayor Carlos Pérez have endorsed Democratic challenger Eddie Sáenz in his race for House of Representatives District 40, citing the need for a partnership with Austin to help meet the needs of their growing city.

“We are confident that Eddie will work closely with us and our state senator to guarantee we get the help we need to provide basic services to our families,” Castillo said. “He understands the challenges we face in the areas of health care, education, and infrastructure.”

Pérez, former mayor of the town in eastern Hidalgo County, agreed.

“Our current state representative plays politics with his friends in Austin and then takes credit for the good work of others,” Perez said. “Meanwhile, our population has boomed by more than 12 percent, and our median income is less than half the statewide average. We need a state representative who puts us first, not one who treats us as an afterthought.”

House District 40 includes all but southwest Edinburg, La Joya and Sullivan City in western Hidalgo County, Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and San Carlos in eastern Hidalgo County, and northern Hidalgo County.

Sáenz, owner and chief executive officer of one of South Texas’ leading civil engineering firms, is a recognized expert in helping cities, school districts, and other public entities improve their operations and basic services.

As chairman of board of governors – a citizens’ advisory group – of South Texas Health Systems, Sáenz helped lead the effort to pass Proposition 15, the cancer research fund approved by voters last week. His opponent voted against putting the measure on the ballot.

Sáenz also served as chairman of Avance, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen families. Avance helped implement the enrollment process for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in South Texas. Since his opponent took office, hundreds of thousands of eligible children of working parents have been stripped of their CHIP benefits.

A former chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, the Texas Border Infrastructure Coalition Transportation Committee, and the Edinburg 2020 Action Committee, Sáenz graduated from McAllen High and earned his degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife, Sandra, and their teenage daughter live in Edinburg.

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Edinburg awarded “Community of the Year Award” from American Planning Association of Texas

The Texas chapter of the American Planning Association (Texas APA) has awarded its most prestigious honor, the “Community of the Year Award”, and a “Current Planning Award” to the City of Edinburg.

Edinburg is the first city in the Rio Grande Valley to receive sprestigious award.

The two honors were announced Friday, October 19, at the Texas APA’s annual conference and awards luncheon held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addison, Texas.

Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza and Fred Palacios – both members of the Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission – accompanied Planning and Zoning Director Juan R. López and key staff members at the gathering, which was held from October 17 – 19.

Palacios also serves on the five-member governing board of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The “Community of the Year” Award was presented to Edinburg for it’s on-going efforts to plan and manage future growth, as evidenced by adoption of the Gateway Plan, an Agenda for 2025, the city’s comprehensive plan and the city’s Parks and Recreation Plan on October 3, 2005 and preparation of the Unified Development Code, as recommended by the Gateway Plan in 2007.

Edinburg was also the recipient of a “Current Planning Award” for the Unified Development Code. This award is given in recognition of an outstanding ordinance, program or process directed to the implementation of a plan.

The city‘s Unified Development Code was implemented as a result of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The Unified Development Code compiles all of the city’s development standards in one Code, is accessible on the city’s web page, contains illustrations, is user friendly and can be used as a model for other Texas Cities. The Unified Development Code was adopted on August 7, 2007.

“It’s a proud moment for the City of Edinburg,” said Garza. “I think I can safely say that we were all beaming with pride as we accepted the highly coveted Community of the Year Award. There were a lot of people that worked hard for both honors.”

She praised López and his staff.

“They put in many dedicated hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to earn this award. The Current Planning Award was truly a labor of love by all the people who contributed to the efforts because they really care about this community,” Garza added.

López said the awards are highly coveted by communities in Texas and can help to market and attract more development companies to Edinburg. He added winning the awards were the result of a combined effort of the City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, City’s Environmental Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board, the City’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, City staff and the City’s Planning Consultant, Kendig Keast Collaborative Inc.

Palacios said that he was very honored to be a part of the Awards Ceremony at which the City of Edinburg was recognized for its planning efforts.

More than 700 planners, planning and zoning commissioners, and guests were in attendance to hear a brief description of the work completed by the City and to witness the presentation of these awards to the City of Edinburg.

The American Planning Association is a nonprofit public interest and research organization representing over 39,000 practicing planners, planning and zoning officials, and citizens involved with urban and rural planning issues.

The Mission of the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association is to advocate the profession of planning, providing expertise and processes that empower citizens to be engaged in the development and sustainability of Great Communities in Texas. The Texas APA Planning Awards Program recognizes individuals, organizations and communities for outstanding contributions to planning in Texas.

Nominees are evaluated based on innovation, transferability, quality, implementation and comprehensiveness.

For more information on Texas APA contact Dick Lillie, Texas APA Executive Director at 512 – 306-1674 or for more information on the city’s awards, contact López, at 956-292-2088 or at jlópez@ci.edinburg.tx.us.

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Congressman Hinojosa secures $850,000 for extension of Edinburg airport runway

By ELIZABETH ESFAHANI

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, November 13, helped secure critical appropriations that would give South Texas a $2.6 million infusion of federal funding, including critical money for highway and airport construction.

The investments garnered for South Texas include:

•$1 million to keep the I-69 project moving forward;

•$850,000 for the Edinburg International Airport for a runway extension, the construction of a taxiway, and other upgrades;

•$500,000 for the addition of mid-valley bus routes to the current transit system in Hidalgo County; and

•$250,000 for the construction of a larger San Juan Public Library at a new site,

“This much-needed funding will address key transportation and infrastructure issues in our region,” said Hinojosa. “It will enable our communities to better handle the extraordinary growth in South Texas and improve the livelihoods of all its residents.”

The money was included in H.R. 3074, the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Conference Report, which the House of Representatives overwhelmingly on November 14. The $100 billion legislation supports critical transportation and housing projects across America and includes $40 billion for highway funding, $1 billion for dilapidated bridges, and $3.5 billion for airport efficiency, modernization and safety grants.

The bill also includes a timely 500 percent increase in funds to alleviate problems due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis by providing housing counseling. Homeless veterans, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations will also benefit from 15,500 new housing vouchers that will provide safe, affordable housing around the nation.

The bill now goes to the President’s desk for his signature.

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Norma G. García honored by Hidalgo County Commissioners Court for selection as County Treasurer of Texas for 2007

By CARI LAMBRECHT

Norma García, Hidalgo County Treasurer, was recently selected as Outstanding County Treasurer of Texas for 2007 by her colleagues at the annual County Treasurers’ Association of Texas (CTAT) conference held in Lubbock, Texas. The association’s membership consists of elected county treasurers from each county across the state.

On Tuesday, November 20, the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court recognized García’s achievements by presenting her with a resolution in her honor. The court noted that García acquired the payroll department, which had been under the control of the County Auditor’s Office since the late 1950s. She also implemented payroll direct deposit, and, with the help of the auditor and the information technology director, was able to jump start Hidalgo County’s biometric and time attendance program for approximately 2,700 employees.

García, in turn, recognized her staff, which was in attendance at the meeting, saying, “The boss is only as good her staff.”

“I am truly humbled and grateful to know that such fine people would bestow me with this honor,” García added.

The position of county treasurer dates back to 1846, when the Texas Legislature first created the office by statute. The office was later placed in the Texas Constitution and has remained there since. The county treasurer acts as the chief custodian of county finances and plays an integral part of the checks and balances system of local government.

García, a Donna native, was elected County Treasurer in 1994 and is now serving her fourth term. She served as mayor of the City of Mercedes from 1986 to 1993 and has sat on numerous boards and organizations, including the Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials, Hidalgo County Women’s Political Caucus, and the Mercedes Housing Authority.

She was a gubernatorial appointee by Gov. Ann Richards to the task force that merged the Texas Air Control Board and the Texas Water Commission to form the Texas Natural Resources and Conservation Commission, now known as Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

García has served two terms as president of the Lower Rio Grande Development Council, and she has three children.

Immediate past president of CTAT and Taylor County Treasurer, Lesa Crosswhite, recognized García at the conference.

“A county treasurer is someone who is dedicated to the profession of servitude. It is important that the citizens be educated in county government, and the constituents of Hidalgo County should be proud of Norma for her service to the county,” Crosswhite said.

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Sen. Cornyn calls on Secretary Chertoff to address delays at ports of entry


U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Ranking Member of the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee, on Tuesday, November 20, called on Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to address extended delays at Texas ports of entry. Cornyn sent a letter to Secretary Chertoff saying Customs and Border Patrol should act to prevent any significant disruptions in commerce and trade along the border.

Cornyn noted that this is particularly important with the increased travel around the holidays. He said in the letter: “These delays are attributed not only to the high volume of individuals and freight seeking to enter the United States everyday, but also to the lack of adequate resources, infrastructure, and personnel at primary and secondary inspection stations.”

Customs and Border Patrol has had several successful initiatives, Cornyn said, but “the recent GAO report highlights areas that still need to be addressed to ensure that your Department is able to continue protecting our nation’s security while facilitating legitimate U.S. commerce and trade.”

Cornyn’s letter also asks Secretary Chertoff to provide an update on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Governor Perry for the Texas enhanced driver’s license (EDL) pilot. This program will help U.S. citizens comply with the upcoming Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements.

– Below is the full text of Cornyn’s letter to Chertoff–

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

Recently, members of the Texas Border Coalition, the Border Trade Alliance, and many local elected officials and business owners have expressed concern about the rising delays in vehicle and pedestrian traffic at Texas-Mexico border land ports of entry. These delays are attributed not only to the high volume of individuals and freight seeking to enter the United States everyday, but also to the lack of adequate resources, infrastructure, and personnel at primary and secondary inspection stations.

Texas handles a significant volume of cross-border traffic, with nearly 42 million border crossings by U.S. citizens and 2.5 million admissions of legal nonimmigrants coming to Texas annually. The Texas Border Coalition and BTA are concerned that continued port-of-entry delays will adversely affect local and State economies that rely primarily on cross-border trade.

I understand that BTA representatives recently met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and had an opportunity to express their concerns about port-of-entry delays and the impact on legitimate commerce and travel. I am glad to hear that CBP has committed to continuing to work with my constituents to address these concerns. However, given the upcoming holiday season and the increased volume that we will see at Texas ports over the next few months, I would like to hear what steps the Department has taken to address these delays in the short-term.

I recognize that Congress must ensure you have increased resources to hire and retain experienced staff, construct new ports of entry in Texas, or expand existing facilities to alleviate congestion at ports. And though CBP has had several successful initiatives, like the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers’ Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) trusted traveler programs, the recent GAO report highlights areas that still need to be addressed to ensure that your Department is able to continue protecting our nation’s security while facilitating legitimate U.S. commerce and trade.

The Texas Border Coalition has recommended a number of short, mid, and long-term strategies for addressing the various issues associated with land port of entry inspections. I would like to receive a copy of any forthcoming written response issued to the Texas Border Coalition about their recommendations.

I also request a briefing on where things stand in terms of your Department’s plans for:

• Land port of entry infrastructure expansions and upgrades;

• Temporary or permanent re-assignment of CBP personnel at high volume ports of entry to reduce wait times at primary and secondary inspections during the months of November 2007 through January 2008;

• Anticipated dates for phase-in of WHTI requirements and DHS efforts to coordinate with Texas Border Coalition and the Border Trade Alliance on public outreach and public service announcements regarding the new documentary requirements; and

• Efforts to upgrade communications and data-sharing to speed inspections and coordinate law enforcement between ports of entry.

Finally, I would like to know when you anticipate signing the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Governor Rick Perry to pilot an enhanced driver’s license (EDL) for U.S. citizens. I support this pilot program and believe it will facilitate the ability of U.S. citizens to quickly meet the new WHTI requirements.

For my part, I will continue to work with your Department on legislative proposals that will adequately fund CBP so that it can hire the additional personnel needed to inspect those seeking to enter the United States along the Texas-Mexico border. I am also committed to expediting construction of new ports of entry along the southern border, particularly in high volume border crossing States like Texas, California, and Arizona—a move that will alleviate much of the congestion at the largest border crossing points.

We must find a good balance between essential border security and legal commerce and traffic across our nation’s international borders. Thank you for your consideration of these issues and I look forward to discussing Texas concerns with you in the near future.

Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN

United States Senator

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee.

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