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Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick on Wednesday, April 30, told area residents in McAllen that he has been a champion for Texas community colleges since his 1969 election as a state representative from Midland. It was his work with Midland College, he says, that led him to realize the important role of community colleges. “Being here today makes time served in the legislature worthwhile,” Craddick told a crowd during his late morning visit to the South Texas College Pecan Campus in McAllen. The college honored Craddick at a reception and thanked him for his many contributions to STC and other Texas community colleges. Featured with him in this portrait are, from left: STC Board of Trustees member Mike Allen; STC President Dr. Shirley Reed; Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview; Craddick; STC Board of Trustees president Irene García; Palmview Mayor Jorge García; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Howard Pebley, featured left, on Wednesday, April 30, in Pharr received a special award from Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, center, honoring Pebley, President of McAllen Construction, for his many years of dedicated service to the Republican Party and the community. Craddick, a Republican from Midland, was the keynote speaker for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which raises funds for the Hidalgo County Republican Party. Hollis Rutledge, featured right, who is chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, told more than 100 supporters at the event of Pebley’s considerable professional and community achievements, ranging from serving as chairman of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, being appointed by then Gov. George W. Bush to the One Call Board of Texas, to holding the leadership role of President of the Associated General Contractors of Texas (Highway, Heavy Utility, and Industrial Branch).

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Five student leaders at The University of Texas-Pan American were honored during the Salute the Leaders Award Luncheon held April 17 as part of the annual National Student Leadership Week April 14 – 19. Now in its fourth year, the program hosted by the UTPA Student Leadership Academy and Program, honors outstanding university students for campus and community involvement. Students are nominated based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and/or service to the community. Forty-four students were nominated. Featured are award recipients Melissa Hernández, graduate student in occupational therapy, from Pharr; Cruz Ríos, senior communications major, from Edinburg; Diana Cepeda, senior biology major, from Los Fresnos; and María Hinojosa, senior bilingual education major, from Donna. Not pictured is James Berglund, senior biology major, from Corpus Christi. For more information on the Student Leadership Academy, contact Amy Martin, program coordinator, at 956/381-2262.

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Sen. Hinojosa announces plan by TXU to allow low-income and senior citizens to spread out payments of upcoming costly summer utility bills

By ARTURO BALLESTEROS

TXU, the electric service provider, announced a summer moratorium on electric service disconnections for low-income and senior citizen customers. TXU’s voluntary moratorium is similar to a provision sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, during the 2007 legislative session.

Hinojosa’s amendment died during the last days of the session, but he applauded TXU’s initiative.

“I want to congratulate TXU for showing corporate responsibility and setting a high standard for protecting Texans. This moratorium will save lives during the long Texas summers. I challenge other electric companies to join TXU in recognizing that residential electric service during the summer months is not a luxury – it’s a necessity, especially for the elderly and low-income Texans,” Hinojosa said.

Texans who are at least 62 years of age or who meet the low-income standard of 125% of the poverty guideline (http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_1327.html) are eligible for the disconnection moratorium. The moratorium in effect allows qualifying TXU customers to pay as little as 25 percent of their current electric charges. Remaining balances may be paid in equal installments over the next five billing cycles.

Residents who meet both the age and income standards are eligible for deferred payment plans if they cannot pay their electric bill. For additional information regarding payment options under the moratorium, TXU customers may call TXU Energy at (800) 242-9113.

Hinojosa stressed his dedication to keeping a close eye on electric service providers and their commitment to protecting Texas’ most vulnerable residents.

“I will continue to monitor the deregulated electric market to make sure that Texans have access to essential electric service when it is needed most. In Texas, having electric service during the summer is an issue of survival, not comfort. Today’s commitment by TXU is a strong sign that the company understands the basic needs of Texans and is willing to address the issue of securing our more vulnerable neighbors,” he said.

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Mayor Ochoa, former Mayor García contributing to Edinburg City Council war chests

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Mayor Joe Ochoa and former Mayor Richard García, among other familiar political leaders, have contributed money to the treasuries of three of the four candidates in the May 10 races that could reshape the control and direction of the Edinburg City Council, according to campaign finance reports filed April 10 with the City Secretary’s Office.

In addition to the city’s two most recent mayors, other well-known political personalities also have put money or in-kind contributions into the city council contests, including Edinburg school board trustees Robert Peña, Jr. and David Torres; Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, who is a law partner with Richard García; and Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioners Óscar Garza, Jr., a first cousin of Mayor Pro Tem Alma A. Garza, who is up for reelection.

Early voting for the city council spots – which involve Place 3 and Place 4 – began on Monday, April 28 and continues through Tuesday, May 6.

Garza, the assistant court coordinator with 430th District Court Judge Thomas Wingate, is facing a challenge from Johnny Rodríguez, co-owner of Austin Personnel Services, for the Place 4 slot.

Meanwhile, Gene Espinoza, a public relations consultant with Rio Grande Steel, Ltd., is being challenged by Leonel Guerrero, a pharmacist with Cornerstone Pharmacy, in the campaign for City Council Place 3.

The terms of those offices are three years, and would begin almost immediately after the May 10 election.

At stake is the political and philosophical control of the five-member city council, which has been led by Ochoa for about a decade, until García defeated him in May 2003. In May 2006, Ochoa ran against and defeated García.

Under both mayors’ tenures, Edinburg has experienced unprecedented economic growth, and has catapulted into being the third largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, behind in population only to Brownsville and McAllen.

Both mayors also have made their presence felt in helping fund three of the four candidates in the May 10 election, based on campaign finance reports that covered the period from January 1 through April 10.

According to those reports:

Ochoa made a $700 contribution on January 24 to the Johnny Rodríguez campaign;

García, through his law firm, García, Quintanilla and Palacios of McAllen, provided $1,000 on January 25 to the Alma Garza campaign. Garza was nominated in 2005 by García to take over the unfinished term of City Councilmember Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr., who had resigned in order to pursue what turned out to be a successful campaign for judge of the Hidalgo County 92nd District Court.

One of Rodríguez’ uncles is municipal court judge Palacios, who is one of García’s law partners at García, Quintanilla and Palacios.

(Johnny Rodríguez and Ricardo Rodríguez are not related.)

The law firm of García, Quintanilla and Palacios also contributed $1,000 to Espinoza’s campaign, although Espinoza did not provide the dates for any of his contributions – only that the political donations came between January 1 and April 10.

Felipe García, an Edinburg attorney and former board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, donated $500 to Espinoza. Felipe García also is a brother of former Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García. They are not related to the former Edinburg mayor.

The Edinburg City Council appoints four of the five members of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the city council’s job-creation arm.

Edinburg school board trustee Peña on January 25 made a $500 donation to the Johnny Rodríguez campaign, while fellow trustee Torres also donated $500 to Rodríguez on January 22, and made another $100 donation to Rodríguez on February 6.

Former state Rep. Cullen Looney and his wife, Carol, together on February 21 made a $1,000 contribution to Garza’s reelection bid, and the Looneys also jointly contributed $1,000 to Espinoza’s campaign, which did not provide the date of the contribution.

The top contributors for each of the candidates follow.

Alma Garza:

$1,000 contributions each to the Garza campaign:

  • García, Quintanilla and Palacios, 5526 N. 10th Street, McAllen, on January 25;
  • David and Dee Dee Adame, 2409 El Encino Drive, Palmhurst, on January 25;
  • Mark Luper, 17046 Mason Ridge Drive, Houston, on January 31;
  • Calime Linebarger, Groggin, 1726 W. University Drive, Edinburg, on February 14; and
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Looney, P.O. Box 118, Edinburg, on February 21.

Johnny Rodríguez:

$1,100 contribution to the Rodríguez campaign:

  • Juan Carrillo, 610 East Expressway 83, Pharr, on January 26.

Thomas E. Espinoza

$1,000 contributions each to the Espinoza campaign:

(No dates or street addresses/post office box addresses regarding campaign contributors were listed by Espinoza on his campaign finance report.)

  • Doug Smith, McAllen;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Looney, Edinburg;
  • García, Quintanilla and Palacios, McAllen;
  • Alfonso Quintanila, McAllen; and
  • Linebarger, Edinburg.

Leonel Guerrero

$500 contribution to the Guerrero campaign:

  • Augustine Negrete, (no street address or post office box address listed), Edinburg, on March 10.

A breakdown of the political donations to the four city council candidates through April 10 follows:

ALMA GARZA

Mailing Address: 2122 Ichabod Lane, Edinburg

Campaign contributors

$1,000 each

  • García, Quintanilla and Palacios, 5526 N. 10th Street, McAllen, on January 25;
  • David and Dee Dee Adame, 2409 El Encino Drive, Palmhurst, on January 25;
  • Mark Luper, 17046 Mason Ridge Drive, Houston, on January 31;
  • Calime Linebarger, Groggin, 1726 W. University Drive, Edinburg, on February 14; and
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Looney, P.O. Box 118, Edinburg, on February 21.

$800

  • Dr. Omar and Dora Garza, 1423 South 15th, Edinburg, on January 31.

$500 each

  • Lewis, Monroe and Peña, Attorneys-at-Law, 208 West Cano, Edinburg, on January 31;
  • Noe and Lisa Oliveira, 2415 Dorado Drive, Mission, on January 31;
  • Bill, Mark and Jim Carlson, 201 East Cano, Edinburg, on February 21; and
  • Richard and Carrol W. Ruppert, 3803 Hobbs Drive, Edinburg, on April 8.

$326.33

  • Denise and Roy, 309 South Las Vegas Drive, Edinburg, in-kind contribution, on March 31.

$300

  • Óscar Garza, Jr. 3910 West Freddy González, Edinburg, in-kind contribution, on March 25; and
  • Richard Garza, 3910 West Freddy González, Edinburg, in-kind contribution, on March 25.

$250

  • Salil Mangi, M.D., 1901 South 1st Street, Ste. 600, McAllen, on January 31.

$200 each

  • Dr. Marin and Peggy Garza, P.O. Box 180, Linn, on January 31;
  • Agustín Hernández, 211 W. Expressway 83, Ste. A, Pharr, on February 14;
  • Fred and Josie Cappadona, (no street or post office box address listed), Linn, on February 14; and
  • Toribio Palacios, 5526 North 10th Street, McAllen, in-kind contribution, on March 29.

$150

  • Arcadio R. “Felo” Guerra, P.O. Box 44, Linn, on January 31.

$140

  • Sal’s Vinyl Graphics, 2030 North Cage, Pharr, in-kind contribution, on March 28.

$100 each

  • Helen and Tommy Santiago, 3004 Las Cruces, Edinburg, on January 31; and
  • José René and Almira Cantú, 980 W. Ebony Drive, Edinburg, on April 8;

$50

  • Roger and Susan Wieshan, 2127 Ichabod Lane, Edinburg, on February 21.

$25 each

  • Esperanza Torres, 1206 Jo Ann Court, Edinburg, on April 8

JOHNNY RODRÍGUEZ

Mailing Address: 1108 Tanglewood, Edinburg

Campaign contributors

$1,100

  • Juan Carrillo, 610 East Expressway 83, Pharr, on January 26.

$700

  • Joe Ochoa, 1002 South 10th, Edinburg, on January 24.

$600

  • Gerardo Carrizales, P.O. Box 1773, Kingsland, Texas, on January 26.

$500 each

  • David Torres, 3901 W. Schunior, Edinburg, on January 22;
  • Gus Casas, 1613 Vista Chula, Edinburg, on January 23;
  • Robert Peña, Jr., 4622 South Business 281, Edinburg, on January 25; and
  • Sam De la Garza, P.O. Box 17428, Edinburg, on February 1.

$300

  • Jerry Lozano, 2425 Flipper Drive, Edinburg, on January 22.

$150 each

  • Jim Sammons, 10083 Circleview Drive, Austin, on January 23; and
  • Ricky Arce, 610 South Doolittle, Edinburg, on April 2.

$100 each

  • Rudy Ramírez, 4207 Curry Drive, Edinburg, on January 23;
  • René and Cris Torres, 211 Ric-Mar Avenue, Edinburg, on January 24;
  • David Torres, 3901 West Schunior, Edinburg, on February 6; and
  • Raul Betancourt, 3520 Mill Woods Street, Edinburg, on February 7.

THOMAS E. ESPINOZA

Mailing Address: 3327 Zoe, Edinburg

Campaign contributors

No dates or street addresses/post office box addresses regarding campaign contributors were listed by Espinoza on his campaign finance report.

$1,000 each

  • Doug Smith, McAllen;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Looney, Edinburg;
  • García, Quintanilla and Palacios, McAllen;
  • Alfonso Quintanila, McAllen; and
  • Linebarger, Edinburg.

$550

  • Alejos Sánchez, Edinburg

$500 each

  • Carlson Condos, Edinburg;
  • Joe Williamson, Pharr;
  • Jim Merraman, McAllenkk;
  • M.Merraman, McAllen; and
  • Felipe García, Edinburg.

$250

  • María García, Edinburg

LEONEL GUERRERO

Mailing Address: 4101 Michael Boulevard, Edinburg

Campaign contributors

No street addresses/post office box addresses regarding two campaign contributors were listed by Guerrero on his campaign finance report.

$500

  • Augustine Negrete, Edinburg, on March 10.

$200 each

  • Dr. Victor González, (no street or post office box address listed), McAllen, on March 8; and
  • David Negrete, (street address not legible), Austin, on March 10.

A breakdown of the political expenditures by the four city council candidates through April 10 follows:

ALMA GARZA

Mailing Address: 2122 Ichabod Lane, Edinburg

Campaign expenditures

$1,755

  • Sals Vinyl Graphex, 2030 North Cage, Pharr, for signs, on March 12.

$1,700

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B, Edinburg, for shirts, signs, bumper stickers, on January 8.

$963.46

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B, Edinburg, for shirts, signs, bumper stickers, on January 8.

$800

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B, Edinburg, (no reason listed), on February 1.

$759.37

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste B, Edinburg, for shirts, caps, signs, on March 14.

$727.55

  • Gateway Printing, 315 South Closner, Edinburg, for push cards, on January 20.

$452

  • Edinburg Review, 320 West University Drive, Edinburg, advertisement, on January 24.

$420.86

  • Gateway Printing, 315 South Closner, Edinburg (no reason listed), on February 23.

$420 each

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B., Edinburg, (no reason listed), on February 15; and
  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B., Edinburg, for caps, metal stakes, on February 27.

$350

  • Melinda Rodríguez, (no address listed), food for campaign kick-off, on February 21.

$317.17 each

  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste. B., Edinburg, for caps, metal stakes, on February 27; and
  • Graphix Xpress, 308 North Closner, Ste B, Edinburg, (no reason listed), on March 5.

$300

  • Edinburg Boys and Girls Club, 305 East Palm Drive, Edinburg, shirt sponsorship, on March 12.

$142.98

  • Edinburg Review, 315 South Closner, Edinburg, (no reason listed), on March 26.

$135

  • Julio González, (no street or post office box address listed), Edinburg, for photographs, on January 23.

$100 each

  • ECHO Hotel 1903 South Closner, Edinburg, (no reason listed), on January 1; and
  • Dustin Sekula Library, 1918 South Closner, Edinburg, (no reason listed), on March 1.

$60

  • City of Edinburg, P.O. Box 1169, Edinburg, water for campaign headquarters, on March 7.

$25

  • City of Edinburg, P.O. Box 1169, Edinburg, inspection of campaign headquarters, on March 20.

JOHNNY RODRÍGUEZ

Mailing Address: 1108 Tanglewood, Edinburg

Campaign expenditures

$3,664.19

  • A&A Custom Designs, 1003 Ragland, Mission, for campaign signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts, buttons, and caps, on January 21.

$3,000 each

  • Claysports, 1726 West University, Edinburg, skeet competition fundraiser, on January 26; and
  • A&A Custom Design, 1003 Ragland, Mission, for political signs, T-shirts, on February 5.

$1,210.63

  • A&A Custom Designs, 1003 Ragland, Mission, for campaign T-shirts and signs, on March 24.

$1,797.68

  • The Monitor, 1400 Nolana Loop, McAllen, advertisement, on January 17.

$996.62

  • Academy Sports Outdoor, 116 East. Expressway 83, McAllen, prizes for skeet competition fundraiser, on January 24.

$836.50

  • Aguilar’s Meat Market, 1306 East University, Edinburg, meat for campaign kick-off, on February 15.

$589

  • Edinburg Review, 320 West University Drive, Edinburg, advertisement, on February 16.

$400

  • South Texas Nation, (no street or post office box address listed), McAllen, for advertisement, on January 31.

$323.13

  • Copy It, 1001 South 10th, Ste. F, McAllen, for push cards, on April 5.

$229.30

  • Vera’s King O Meats, 2012 East University, Edinburg, items for skeet competition fundraiser, on January 23.

$197.86

  • Fulwiler Enterprises, 2608 North Main, Belton, Texas, prizes for skeet competition fundraiser, on February 12.

$180

  • A Clean Portoco, 1403 West Ferguson Avenue, Pharr, for porta-potty for skeet competition fundraiser, on January 24.

$175 each

  • Juan Sánchez, 121 Northern Darrer, Edinburg, push-cards, on January 26; and
  • Lady Bobcats Homerun Club, 2600 East Wisconsin, Edinburg, sponsorship, on April 4.

$168 each

  • Lee Elementary, 1215 West Sprague, Edinburg, candy for political promotion, on April 7; and
  • Lee Elementary, 1215 West Sprague, Edinburg, candy for political promotion, on April 10.

$150 each

  • Johnny Economedes High School, 1414 North Alamo Road, Edinburg, advertisement, on March 25; and
  • Johnny Economedes High School Girls Choir, 1414 North Alamo Road, Edinburg, sponsorship, on April 2.

$125

  • Aguilar’s, 1306 East University, Edinburg, mean for political gathering, on April 6.

$100

  • Johnny Torres, 204 North 28th Avenue, Edinburg, DJ services for kick-off, on February 1.

$66.03

  • A&A Custom, 1003 Ragland, Mission, campaign shirts, on April 8.

$61.47

  • Valdéz Meat, 917 South 17th, Edinburg, meat for skeet competition fundraiser, on January 26.

$51.70

  • Copy It, 1001 South 10th

$50.02

  • HEB, 901 W. Expressway 83, San Juan, food for campaign meeting, on January 22.

$37.50

  • City of Edinburg, P.O. Box 1079, Edinburg, to rent Memorial Park for fundraiser, on January 24.

$32.46

  • Party Universe, 3422 North 10th, McAllen, campaign kick-off supplies, on January 21.

$30

  • City of Edinburg, P.O. Box 1079, Edinburg, for two-mile walk to publicize, on January 24.

$28.32

  • HEB, 2700 West Freddy González, Edinburg, items for skeet fundraiser, on January 25.

$21.97

  • Wal-Mart, McColl Road, Edinburg, cake for event, on April 2.

$16.39

  • Party Universe, 3422 North 10th, McAllen, decorations for fundraiser, on January 26.

$15

  • City of Edinburg, 210 West McIntyre, Edinburg, two-mile run/walk for advertisement of campaign, on January 24.

THOMAS E. ESPINOZA

Mailing Address: 3327 Zoe, Edinburg

Campaign expenditures

No street addresses/post office box addresses or cities regarding campaign contributors were listed by Espinoza on his campaign expenditure report.

$3,009.05

  • A-A Signs, 4 x 8 signs, on February 7.

$1,200

  • Adobe Grill, food for kick-off, on April 3.

$584.55

  • A-A Signs, signs, on March 28.

$582.04

  • Ruiz – Olzver, campaign T-shirts and caps, on February 12.

$548.03

  • Buiz – Olzver, shirts for walkers, on February 12.

$513.57

  • Staples, printer for flyers, on February 17.

$489.50

  • Edinburg Review, advertisement, on February 18.

$422.18

  • A – A, signs, on March 21.

$382.83

  • Ruiz – Olzver, campaign polo shirts, on February 22.

$350.30

  • All Ocassions Rentals, tables and chairs, on February 20.

$236.66

  • Ricks Auto, work on campaign trucks, on March 24.

$243.60

  • Edinburg Review, advertisement, on February 28.

$237.50 each

  • Edinburg Review, on March 13;
  • Edinburg Review, on March 24; and
  • Edinburg Review, on April 3.

$216.50

  • A-A Signs, magnetic signs, on March 14.

$215.42

  • A-A Signs, campaign buttons, on February 8.

$215.33

  • AT&T, campaign phone, on March 3.

$129.90

  • A-A Signs, signs, on March 4.

$112.50

  • City of Edinburg, donation for rental, on March 11.

$100

  • Sal’s Graphics, bumper stickers, on March 17.

$93.40

  • Pocket Communications, phone bill, on March 12.

$76.09

  • Rio Grande Steel, wire and tools, on March 6.

$75.78

  • Pocket Communications, campaign phone, on February 10.

$64.95

  • Copy Express, flyer, on February 7.

$55.37

  • Best Western, donation, fire family hotel room, on February 28.

$53.04

  • Staples, card stock, on February 10.

$41.56

  • McCoys, stakes, on February 15.

$35.17

  • McCoys, stakes and nails, on February 20.

$29.23

  • Dollar General, supplies for headquarters, on February 8.

$26.36

  • HEB, food for volunteers, on February 18.

$18.45

  • JJ’s Party Supplies, campaign kick-off supplies, on February 16.

LEONEL GUERRERO

Mailing Address: 4101 Michael Boulevard, Edinburg

Campaign expenditures

$3,241.25

  • Imperial Banner, 6011 Jet Point Industrial Blvd., Tampa, Florida, for 4 x 8s, on February 25.

$1,751

  • R.L. Carriers, P.O. Box 271, Wilmington, Ohio, freight on 4 x 8 campaign signs, on March 3.

$1,296.84

  • Ramos Bar-B-Q, 6700 North 23, McAllen, catering for campaign kick-off, on February 4.

$718

  • The Monitor, (no street address or post office box address listed), McAllen, advertisement, on January 25.

$716

  • Valley Media, 1811 N. 23rd, McAllen, advertisement for campaign kick-off, on February 5.

$570

  • University of Texas-Pan American, 1201 West University, Edinburg, rental of ballroom for campaign kick-of, on February 6.

$470

  • University of Texas-Pan American, 1201 West University, Edinburg, rental of UTPA Ballroom, on January 25.

$300

  • (Name non-legible), 1201 West University, Edinburg, bar services for campaign kick-off, on February 1.

$279.87

  • Party Universe, (no street address or post office box address listed), decorations for campaign kick-off, on February 5.

$225

  • Kolor Pro, (no street address or post office box address listed), McAllen, video photography for campaign kick-off, on February 13.

$203

  • Logos Etc., 2301 North 10th, McAllen, campaign shirts, on January 22.

$200

  • Sun Palace, Business 281, Edinburg, down payment for rental of dance hall, on April 3.

$100

  • Omar Pérez, (no street address or post office box address listed), Edinburg, DJ services for campaign kick-off, on February 6.

$98.04

  • Pocket Communications, P.O. Box 100255, San Antonio, campaign phone payment, on March 31.

$86.66

  • Tejas Rental, 1212 North 23rd, McAllen, tuxedo rental for campaign kick-off, on February 6.

$105

  • Celltex Communications, 5000 North 23rd, McAllen, campaign phone bill, on January 28.

$34

  • Hidalgo County Elections Department, (no street address or post office box address listed), Edinburg, maps and data, on March 26.

$30

  • City of Edinburg Parks and Recreation, 315 E. Palm Drive, Edinburg, entry for for 5K and 10K run/walk, on February 1.

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Johnny Rodríguez: term limits on city boards, open government reforms are needed in Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Johnny Rodríguez, who is challenging Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza in the May 10 Edinburg City Council election, says one of the best ways to improve the local city government is to bring more of it out into the open.

Another way to improve public confidence is to set term limits on how long people can serve on the major city boards and commissions, such as the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, he contends.

Rodríguez, who over the past two decades has risen from general laborer to the co-owner (along with his wife, Melissa) of Austin Personnel Services, says those two campaign pledges would go a long way towards empowering people from all walks of life with the opportunities and knowledge to truly shape city council policies and actions.

“I just wanted to take it to the next level,” Rodríguez said in a recent interview. “I think this city can use new people on the city council. I am just your typical citizen wanting to get involved, maybe change it a little bit, and for the better – bring it up to par.

“There are things upon which we can improve, from focusing on what we are doing with our taxes,” Rodríguez added. “We really need to scrutinize every single tax dollar that is going out, and how we spend it.”

Bringing in new people and their expertise and ideas into key city boards is important, he said, pointing out that the EEDC – the jobs-creation arm of the city council – can tap into a great wealth of talent in the community.

“I have looked at the EEDC board – we have good people serving there, but I believe we should set some term limits, some guidelines,” he said. “We need to have some new representation, perhaps every two or three years. I know there are some people who have served more time than that. We should spread the wealth, make sure we have new representation.”

Under the guidelines that governs the EEDC, which is a public entity created in the 1990s by voters, the Edinburg City Council appoints four of the five members of the EEDC board of directors. Only the mayor of the city is guaranteed an automatic seat on the EEDC board.

If elected, Rodríguez also wants the city council and EEDC to post their entire agenda packets, not just the agenda notices, on their respective Internet websites (http://www.cityofedinburg.com and http://www.Edinburgedc.com).

That agenda packet includes every document that is provided to the city council and EEDC three days prior to their respective public meetings.

The agenda, which is posted, provides only the list of items that will be discussed in those meetings.

Just providing the agenda is not enough, Rodríguez believes.

“That is one thing we need to implement. I know the City of McAllen does it, we need to do it. This is very crucial for our taxpaying citizens, to be able to scrutinize,” he said. “We don’t want to hide anything, we don’t want to put anything under the table, discuss it behind closed doors.

He even wanted more details to be provided about executive session items, which sometimes are not specifically identified, or use generic terms, such as to “discuss potential litigation.”

“I think we should also promote and discuss what the city council discusses behind closed doors, in executive session,” Rodríguez said. “This is something that Edinburg taxpayers have the right to see. We want to run a clean government here in our city. Why not post the complete agenda packet? Why not share the information we receive with the citizens of Edinburg? They have that right. They are paying the salaries and benefits from every city employee.”

He also favors utilizing the Edinburg Cable Network, which is owned and operating by the city government, to begin to televise the meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which makes recommendations of land usage to the city council, and the Edinburg Housing Authority, who oversees public housing in the community.

“Anytime we can provide for the citizens all the information that we can – and by far, about the housing authority and the Planning and Zoning Commission – this is crucial, crucial knowledge that we can share with our citizens, we should do it,” Rodríguez said. “That would be a great idea. We should implement something like that in the future.”

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School board quorum at Yes4Kids rally may have required legal posting by Edinburg school district

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Did the attendance on March 31 by the majority of Edinburg school board members at a Yes4Kids political rally violate the Texas Open Meetings Act, which is a state law that requires the public to be notified in advance when a governmental body is going to meet?

A violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act can result in a fine and possible jail time.

Yes4Kids is the name of a political action committee formed earlier this year to generate voter support for passage of two school bond construction measures facing area voters in a May 10 election.

The issue of whether those four trustees discussed the bond measures among themselves or with any members of the public during the political rally cannot be independently verified because there evidently was no audio or video recording made of those four trustees while they were there.

At that meeting, school board president Carmen González, vice-president Omar Palacios, secretary Ciro Treviño, and trustee David Torres showed up, and were all there at the same time, which meant that a quorum – the majority – of the Edinburg school board was present for a discussion of school business.

The May 10 bond election involves public business over which the school board has direct control and supervision – and that fact may have been enough to trigger the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act, but which were not met.

According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office web site on the law:

“The Open Meetings Act (the “Act”) was adopted to help make governmental decision-making accessible to the public. It requires meetings of governmental bodies to be open to the public, except for expressly authorized closed sessions, and to be preceded by public notice of the time, place and subject matter of the meeting. The provisions of the Act are mandatory and are to be liberally construed in favor of open government.”

It should be noted that the event was publicized in advance, but by Yes4Kids through an advertisement in the Edinburg Review.

Their meeting was free and open to the public, and drew a wide array of other political leaders, including Mayor Joe Ochoa and State Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Yes4Kids has been following strict state election laws by filing with the Edinburg school district a campaign finance report of their political contributions and donations.

Jacques Treviño, the school board attorney, says certain conditions must be met before the Texas Open Meetings Act goes into effect.

“Were they (the four board members) there as observers, or did they participate in discussions?” Treviño asked. “If they were there as observers, they, too, are taxpayers, if they didn’t participate or discuss.”

He did suggest that in similar events, he would require the school board to post an advance agenda notice when there was a likelihood that a majority of trustees will show up “out of a preponderance of caution.”

There are a number of scenarios where a quorum of a governing body like the Edinburg school board may attend and not be in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

According to Section 551.001(4)(B)(iv), examples of events that are not considered meetings and subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act include:

Section 551.001(4)(B)(iv), which was amended effective May 22, 2007 to include the language:

“The term [meeting] does not include the gathering ofa quorum of a governmental body at a social function unrelated to the public business that is conducted by the body, or the attendance by a quorum of a governmental body at a regional, state, or national convention or workshop, ceremonial event, or press conference, if formal action is not taken and any discussion of public business is incidental to the social function, convention, workshop, ceremonial event, or press conference.”

The bond election issues involve the following measures:

Proposition 1 includes building four (4) elementary schools, two (2) middle schools; converting Harwell Middle School into a fourth high school; three (3) multi-purpose fine arts centers at each of the existing high schools; Brewster School addition/renovations, and land acquisition for a total of $111,920,000.

Proposition II includes $37,675,000 of 1998 Lease Purchase Bonds to be converted into Series 2008 voter authorized IFA supported bonds.

IFA means Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA), which is a state fund available to help qualified school districts such as Edinburg receive help in paying for construction of new campuses.

IFA is distributed through grants, most of which go to districts with low property wealth.

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Speaker Craddick honored by South Texas College

By JENNY CUMMINGS

Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick on Wednesday, April 30, told area residents in McAllen that he has been a champion for Texas community colleges since his 1969 election as a state representative from Midland. It was his work with Midland College, he says, that led him to realize the important role of community colleges.

“Being here today makes time served in the legislature worthwhile,” Craddick told a crowd during his April 30 visit to the South Texas College Pecan Campus in McAllen.

The college honored Craddick at a reception and thanked him for his many contributions to STC and other Texas community colleges.

Among those in the audience were students in Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Irene García of La Joya, who is president of the STC Board of Trustees; STC trustee Mike Allen, and former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen.

STC’s Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degree program. Without Craddick’s support, STC President Shirley A. Reed, said the program would not have been possible.

It was a groundbreaking move in 2003 when Craddick created legislation that led to STC, Midland and Brazosport colleges being selected for a 10-year pilot program to offer a limited number of bachelor degrees in the field of applied technology. The three colleges became the first and only Texas community colleges allowed to grant four-year degrees.

Craddick was instrumental during the last legislative session to have the pilot status removed from the degree programs, making them permanent at the three colleges.

Reed said the BAT degree provides a career ladder for students who want to build on their technical skills, and become prepared for supervisory and managerial positions.

On May 10, STC will graduate its second class of students with bachelor degrees in technology management. This spring STC began offering a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Technologies. Fifteen students completed the program in May 2007, with 41 expected to graduate this year. More than 200 students are enrolled in the program.

Flores partnered with Craddick to bring the BAT program to STC. Flores, who introduced Craddick at the STC event, said the speaker has been involved with “all the successes STC has had” since its inception almost 15 years ago.

“Tom Craddick has been a part of it all,” Flores said, pointing out the many influences Craddick has had in legislation that benefitted STC.

Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corp., spoke on behalf of the business community. He said the Bachelor of Applied Technology degree is needed to help the community provide a more skilled workforce. Patridge introduced one of his own employees, Michael Parker, who has benefitted from the BAT program.

Parker, who received his associate’s degree from STC, was one of the first students to enroll in the BAT program.

He said the training he is getting at STC is “more than just theory. Students are getting hands on experience that will make them more employable.”

STC officials also took the opportunity to thank Craddick for his leadership in restoring $154 million in funding for Texas community college’s group health insurance. Governor Rick Perry vetoed the funding during the last legislative session, but Craddick fought to get the insurance fund restored.

STC stood to lose $4 million for fiscal year 2009 if Craddick had not been successful in getting the funding restored, said Diana Peña, STC vice president of Finance and Administrative Services.

“Based on your promises and commitment as speaker, along with those of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Gov. Rick Perry, this has meant no tuition increases for our students and no reduction in services to them,” Peña said of the temporary solution for the 2009 fiscal year. “Most importantly, our almost 1,000 full-time employees that are covered under group health insurance will continue to receive these benefits.”

STC and other Texas community colleges are looking to Craddick to come up with a permanent solution for the funding of community college group health insurance benefits.

STC history instructor Charles Robinson, who has been battling lung cancer, said without insurance he would not have been able to pay his mounting medical bills. He asked Craddick and other legislators in the audience to work “across party lines” to come up with a permanent solution for funding.

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Congressional hearing on Border Wall hosted by the University of Texas at Brownsville

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College was at the center of the nationwide border wall debate Monday, April 28, as two U.S. House of Representatives subcommittees held a field hearing to hear testimony on the wall’s impact on the environment and border communities.

The House Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee listened to 13 panelists representing law enforcement, municipal government and special interest groups. More than 300 people attended the public hearing that included news media from the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico ,border wall supporters and opponents.

UTB/TSC President Dr. Juliet V. García testified during the first of the day’s three panels. She gave a summary from summer 2007 to the present regarding the university’s dealings with the federal government and the wall’s proposed construction.

The university and the U.S. Department of Justice came to an agreement approved by Federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Wednesday, March 19, which avoided a federal hearing on the construction issue. Under the terms, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a six-month limit in studying security measures on campus and must work with the university on physical barrier alternatives, among other stipulations.

“While we have often felt during this process that the Department of Homeland Security was unwilling to openly and legitimately consult with local communities regarding the effects an 18-foot high wall would have on our region, we are pleased that the court system fulfilled the purpose our forefathers had planned,” García said. “It brought together two parties to be fairly represented and heard.”

Under the federal government’s current plan the wall is projected to place the Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course on the south side of the fence and contain an opening to channel illegal activity close to Scorpion Field, home to the university baseball team, and the Recreation, Education and Kinesiology Center under construction on University Boulevard. The wall opening would also be designated as the entrance and exit for people to access the golf course.

“To support a plan that would build an 18-foot high steel barrier between two friendly countries would be to directly contravene our mission and destroy the campus climate that has been so painstakingly and carefully created,” García said.

Panelist U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said curing illegal immigration would not be solved by building a wall through historic properties. “Would we put up a wall to divide the battlefield of Gettysburg?” Ortiz asked the panel.

García said the campus is also a player in the Rio Grande Valley’s ecotourism industry. As $140 million in construction takes place at eight sites on campus, the environment is taken into account with walking and bicycle pathways and native trees and vegetation.

“Many have worked for decades to design a campus that is respectful of the natural and rich environment of this special ecological zone,” García said.

Panelist U.S. Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo, R-Colorado, said illegal immigration has damaged sensitive vegetation, produced trash and human waste and destroyed federally-held land.

“The risk of fires has increased from migrant traffic as well,” Tancredo said. “Illegal aliens start warming or cooking fires and leave them unattended.”

For more information on the continuing border wall issue, log on to http://www.utb.edu

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Congressional hearing on Border Fence omits local input

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.
D-Brownsville

I want to thank South Texas newspapers for giving me and countless others the forum we were denied at the Monday, April 28 Congressional field hearing on the proposed border fence.

The public and various local elected officials were denied the representative government guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution by not allowing us to address the Congressional party. The witnesses were unmistakably pre-chosen and the rest of us ignored. Fortunately, freedom of the press still exists, but not freedom to address our grievances to federal officials. It has been stymied by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

This blatant disrespect for the many people who wanted to address their public officials originates with Chertoff’s failure to listen to the people who will be hurt the most, especially landowners.

Although it was clear that the final decision has been made by Chertoff, we could have been given at least two minutes to add our remarks to the record. His refusals to hear the will of the people prompted many more of us to attend the hearing, thus straining the time constraints the Congressional delegation was under.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva from Arizona, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands of the House Natural Resources Committee, presided over the hearing. Although he has filed legislation that would repeal Chertoff’s waiver authority, he was unable to get the Congressional hearing to accomplish his intent. He said, “The decision to invoke a waiver for fence construction will devastate the region and is an insult to those of us who live near the border. This Administration believes that it is above the laws that protect the environment, health and human safety of border communities. We have a fundamental responsibility to consult with local communities on the best approach to border protection for each specific region.” His good intentions were sabotaged by others.

Colorado U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo verbally assaulted us when he said, “If you don’t like the idea (of a fence), maybe you should consider building the fence around the northern part of your city.” The lack of sensitivity to our region and our culture by this elected official defies all logic.

The following are excerpts from my silenced testimony:

I want to commend Congressman Grijalva and Congresswoman Bordallo for their leadership in hosting this hearing; as well as the members of our Texas Congressional Delegation present today. This is truly what representative government is all about.

I also want to thank everyone here today who will share their views and who plan on taking the bus tour that will follow the hearing. Efforts such as these are the most effective way to unite against an ill-advised policy those in Washington want to force upon us.

I cannot comprehend how our federal government thinks it reflects the wishes of Border Americans through such actions.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made a decision to waive laws and regulations to begin construction of the border wall, showing a complete disregard for the law and wishes of the Border community.

His expedited wall plan has misplaced priorities and has threatened the very landowner rights we cherish in our great nation. This is unacceptable.

With the current state of our economy and problems with our nation’s financial health, one would expect spending priorities to be elsewhere.

Why waste billions of dollars on a wall that won’t keep illegal immigrants out? It’s a stronger Mexican economy and enhanced equipment for our Border Patrol that will keep illegal immigrants out. Not a wall.

Funds would be better spent to clean up the Rio Grande. There are transportation infrastructure needs that could use additional funding. We need money for improving health care and education. Funding would be better used to build a Veteran’s Hospital for our wounded warriors here in South Texas. We need to strengthen our levee system and our bridges. Instead, the federal government erroneously proposes to spend taxpayer money on a wall nobody wants or needs. This is inexcusable.

I trust that our congressional leaders —united against intrusion by the federal government on our lives, our lands, our economy, and our way of life, will do all that is possible to prevent this giant waste. This congressional hearing is proof that we do have leadership in Congress willing to listen to what communities along the entire U.S.-Mexico border have to say.

This “field trip,” which probably cost in the neighborhood of $50,000, accomplished what? Chertoff is getting his way and we must comply.

••••••

Sen. Zaffirini calls for broader health insurance coverage for 1.5 million children from poor families

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was joined by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, along with child insurance advocates on Tuesday, April 29, called for broader health insurance coverage for the 1.5 million uninsured children in Texas.

Zaffirini praised the increases to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) passed last session, but says more needs to be done. “Clearly we agree the greatest wealth is health,” she said, quoting Emerson, “We can do a better job for the children of Texas, and secure a better education, because they are healthier.”

According to Children’s Defense Fund Texas Director Barbara Best, one in five Texas children lacks health insurance, the highest rate in the nation. Eighty percent of these children have parents that work, but can’t afford or do not have private insurance. Best lauded the Legislature for restoring funding to CHIP last session, adding room for an additional 127,000 kids, of which 109,000 have already enrolled. She said, however, that Texas must find a way to guarantee health insurance for all children.

CHIP is available to families that make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $42,000 a year for a family of four. Zaffirini wants to give families that make a little more than this the option of buying into the program, with premiums determined by income above the poverty level. While income levels may pose a barrier for some families, Zaffirini said that more than 700,000 children in Texas qualify for state-assisted health care programs, yet are not enrolled because their parents don’t know they qualify.

She gave a list of priorities for next session, to increase participation in CHIP and Medicaid. First, state and local governments must begin an outreach campaign, to let those eligible for CHIP know they are eligible, and also to implement an assistance program to help these families sign up. She says, the red tape surrounding the application process must be cut, and the state electronic filing system must be improved. Finally, she called for increasing the Medicaid coverage period from six to twelve months, as the Legislature did with CHIP last session. “This has been a long time goal, one that we have addressed repeatedly since the 1990’s, and we must continue to prioritize,” she said.

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Deirdre Delisi, William Meadows appointed to Texas Transportation Commission by Gov. Perry

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, April 30, appointed Deirdre Delisi of Austin and William Meadows of Fort Worth to the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation. Their terms expire Feb.1, 2013.

Delisi, former chief of staff for Perry and former policy advisor to the presidential campaigns of Lamar Alexander and George W. Bush, replaces Hope Andrade of Boerne as chair of the commission.

Meadows, former vice chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, was named commissioner and replaces the late Ric Williamson of Weatherford. Meadows is chairman of Hub International Rigg. He is also a past appointee to the Texas Water Development Board and formerly served as a city council member and mayor pro-tempore for the City of Fort Worth.

“Texas faces serious challenges in providing a transportation infrastructure that will sustain our state’s rapid pace of population and trade growth,” said Perry. “Both Deirdre and Bill have the integrity and expertise to ensure that these needs are met efficiently and responsibly. I am confident their contribution to the commission will maintain the momentum of the late Commissioner Ric Williamson’s pioneering vision, and secure comprehensive transportation solutions that will reduce traffic congestion, improve safety and keep our state’s doors open to economic growth and success.”

Delisi has more than 12 years of experience in government policy. She served as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Perry, and served as special assistant to then-Lt. Gov. Perry. Additionally, she is a former policy advisor to the presidential campaigns of Lamar Alexander and George W. Bush, and served at the Texas Department of Commerce and as legislative aide for Texas Senator Bill Ratliff. Delisi received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and master’s degree in international policy studies from Stanford University. She replaces Hope Andrade of Boerne and will serve as chair of the commission.

Meadows is chairman of Hub International Rigg. He is vice chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, and a trustee of the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. He is also a past appointee to the Texas Water Development Board and formerly served as a city council member and mayor pro-tempore for the City of Fort Worth. Additionally, Meadows is past vice chairman of the City of Fort Worth Parks and Community Services Advisory Board, and past board member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and Southwestern University. Meadows received a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and attended the Harlaxton Institute in Grantham, England.

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TexasHealthOptions.com updated to educate residents about coverage options for the uninsured

During Cover the Uninsured Week 2008 on April 27 through May 3, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) urges consumers to use the online tools available at http://www.TexasHealthOptions.com to learn more about and compare the various health coverage options available in Texas. This website was recently updated and enhanced to provide consumers with a comprehensive resource to help them shop for health coverage.

Information on TexasHealthOptions.com is organized into eight web “pages,” each dedicated to a different type of consumer. This organization allows each person to learn about options for their specific needs. The eight consumer types, or profiles, are: Parent or Guardian; Person with a Disability or Uninsurable Medical Condition; College Student; Individual; Senior, Unemployed; Small Business Employer; or Mid-sized or Large Employer.

TexasHealthOptions.com contains various other tools to help consumers, including the Using an Agent feature, which allows consumers to enter their Zip Code and receive a list of agents selling health insurance in their area. A Health Issues page can educate consumers about various medical conditions and a Health Compare page houses various tools for consumers to compare prices and features of health plans and providers. The Health Compare page also offers tips for finding affordable and qualified providers and directs consumers to the appropriate agencies for filing provider complaints.

The Health Plan Finder feature of the website was updated recently using information companies provided about their health care plans. Consumers can use this feature by choosing from 26 policy types – including basic hospital, major medical/children only, and cancer – and clicking “submit” to receive a list of specific information about carriers’ policies.

It is estimated that one in four Texans lack health care coverage for various reasons, including affordability and the inability to find coverage. TDI created TexasHealthOptions.com to help consumers learn about coverage options, compare the options, and find agents to assist in the process.

TexasHealthOptions.com, which also can be accessed from the agency’s main website at http://www.tdi.state.tx.us, has had more than 379,000 hits since its inception in 2005; the website had an average of 18,132 hits each month in 2007.

Cover the Uninsured Week is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation intended to highlight the fact that too many Americans are living without health insurance and to demand solutions from our nation’s leaders.

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Rubén Salazar Stamp unveiled, Mexican American honored with other great journalists

The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday, April 22, unveiled a stamp to honor trailblazing Mexican American journalist Rubén Salazar Tuesday, and he was in excellent company.

Salazar, war correspondents Martha Gellhorn, John Hersey, and George Polk and foreign correspondent Eric Sevareid all had varied backgrounds but shared one thing in common: they reported on some of the most important stories of the 20th century – often at great personal sacrifice.

To recognize their contributions, the “American Journalists” stamps series was unveiled at a special ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington.

“To each of these great Americans, the nation says thank you,’’ said Postmaster General John “Jack” E. Potter during the ceremony.

To help tell the stories of the trailblazing reporters whose faces now appear on 42-cent postage stamps, the Postal Service assembled an impressive group: Newsweek Contributing Editor Eleanor Clift; CBS News’ Bob Schieffer; Daniel Zwerding, Peabody Award recipient for NPR; Jeff Price, foreign correspondent and cousin of George Polk, and Frank Sotomayor, Pulitzer Prize winner and associate director of USC’s Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism.

The event also drew relatives and friends of those honored. Now that the public can buy a Rubén Salazar stamp, NAHJ founding member Charlie Erickson said that can help keep Salazar’s story alive for the next generation.

“Too many young journalists don’t know who the heck he was,’’ Erickson said.

Salazar, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a news director for the Spanish-language TV station KMEX, was the first Mexican American journalist to have a major voice in the mainstream news media. On August 29, 1970, Salazar was killed when a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy fired a tear-gas projectile into The Silver Dollar Bar.

Eyewitnesses say Salazar went into the bar because he thought he was being followed. He had been covering an anti-Vietnam war rally.

Sotomayor, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning member of NAHJ’s Hall of Fame, started working at the Los Angeles Times about a month after Salazar was killed. He was inspired by Salazar’s columns while serving in the U.S. Army in Japan and made him want to become a journalist. Sotomayor said that Salazar was killed on the same day he completed his military service and that at 42 cents, the stamp bears Salazar’s age when he was killed.

“I realized that there were very few Latino journalism role models. Salazar became an inspiration to me, my colleague Frank del Olmo and a generation of other Latinos,’’ Sotomayor said. “While Salazar will always remembered as an advocate for Mexican Americans, I see his work in a broader context, as advocating for the best values of American democracy: fairness, justice, equality.’’

Salazar was remembered in special ceremonies in Los Angeles to commemorate the pioneering journalist’s life. To mark the occasion, the Los Angeles City Council declared April 22 Rubén Salazar Day.

Salazar earned his bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1954 from Texas Western College, now called UTEP, University of Texas at El Paso. According to the University of Texas at El Paso, Salazar was the first Mexican American journalist to work for the El Paso Herald Post; to cross over into mainstream English-language journalism; and to become a foreign correspondent, having reported from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Vietnam.

A Los Angeles Times article that ran two days after his death described him this way: Salazar “sometimes…was an angry man, and properly so, as he observed the inequities around him, yet he spoke out with a calm vigor that made his words all the more impressive – and influential.”

Since his death, parks, libraries, university buildings, scholarships, and housing projects have also been named after him in part because he gave a voice to the large Mexican American community, which was deemed powerless at the time. For journalists of color, Salazar is a symbol of the need to fight for diversity in the nation’s newsrooms.

The California Chicano News Media Association, the nation’s oldest association for journalists of color, was formed as a way to create something meaningful after Salazar’s death.

“Our goal was to encourage young Latinos to enter the media and to improve news coverage,” Sotomayor said. “CCNMA presents the Salazar journalism awards each year.” In 1986, NAHJ created the Ruben Salazar Scholarship Fund which has awarded $1.4 million to 525 promising journalism students over the past two decades.

Like the others in the American Journalists series remembered Tuesday, Salazar wasn’t out for public recognition. He and the four other journalists honored cherished the ideals of a free press and informed citizenry. Following are their biographies*:

• Martha Gellhorn broke new ground for women in journalism. She covered the Spanish Civil War, World II and Vietnam War, during times when women did not assume the roles of war correspondents. During World War II, she reported on the Allied landing on D-Day and later the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Clift told the audience at the National Press Club that Gellhorn was an opinionated, free spirit who was dedicated to exposing the truth about war and about conflict and had the distinction of being the only wife of famed writer Ernest Hemingway who dumped him.

• John Hersey wrote Hiroshima, a non-fiction account of what happened when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on that Japanese city during World War II. This article, his most famous work, filled the entire issue of The New Yorker of August 31, 1946, quickly selling out and contributing to the national dialogue about the effects of the bomb. In February 1999, Hiroshima was voted the top work of journalism of the 20th century by members of the journalism faculty at New York University.

• George Polk was a CBS radio correspondent who filed hard-hitting reports from Greece describing the civil strife that erupted there in the aftermath of World War II. He was on the trail of a story about corruption involving U.S. aid to Greece when he disappeared on May 8, 1948. His body was found a week later floating in a bay with his hands bound and two bullet holes in the back of his head. The prestigious Polk Awards, recognizing journalistic excellence, are named in his honor.

• Eric Sevareid is particularly remembered for his reporting on World War II, the Vietnam War, and for his commentary on American politics in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In his radio commentary for CBS, Sevareid reported on the approach of the Germans to Paris, the exodus from the city, and life in London during World War II. Back in the United States, he was an early critic of the anticommunist witch-hunting tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy. In 1963, Sevareid joined Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News as a regular commentator.

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Fired FOX4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar fights back, files EEOC complaint controversy over story

Fired KDFW-TV FOX4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Wednesday, April 23, charging the real reason behind her dismissal was because she challenged newsroom management.

Aguilar was suspended on Oct. 16, just 12 days after receiving NAHJ’s 2007 Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award. Her suspension came the day after airing a story that drew the ire of many viewers, some of whom identified themselves as gun owners and who sympathized with the man she interviewed who shot and killed two alleged burglars.

“I have a documented history of complaining about the treatment of Hispanics and Latinos by Fox4,’’ Aguilar says in the complaint dated April 23rd. “In September of 2007, I proposed to Ms. Barrs (Fox4’s Vice President of News) that the station at least apply the Rooney Rule (requiring management to seek out qualified minorities) when it came to interviewing Latino and Hispanic candidates for management positions.”

The complaint continues: “…the next month the station, specifically Barrs, trumped up an incident that resulted in my termination.”

Aguilar’s attorney Steve Kardell said he is confident that the six-month EEOC investigation will confirm his findings that she did nothing wrong and was treated unfairly.

“To accuse her of being too aggressive, that’s what FOX reporters get paid for,” Kardell said. “She did a great job for 14 years and all of a sudden on somebody’s whim she’s out.”

When asked for a comment, the station released this statement: “FOX4 looks forward to defending our decision in the appropriate forum.”

Aguilar said that the support she received from colleagues, viewers, community members and others helped her get through this dark period and motivate her to fight for her professional life.

“Thank God for the support of other journalists. They realized that this can happen to them,” Aguilar said. “I still love being a reporter. You can lose a job, but you don’t lose your desire to be a journalist. I hope I can repair the damage that’s been done to my name and my reputation.”

During the 14 years she was at FOX4 in Dallas, Aguilar said didn’t hold her tongue.

“I specifically wanted diversity pertaining to management and I was always the squeaky wheel, so they wanted to shut up the squeaky wheel,” Aguilar added. “If I’m allowed to improve things on the outside with my reporting, why am I not allowed to seek to improve the newsroom?”

Aguilar, who accepted NAHJ’s Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award at the association’s Noche de Triunfos Awards Gala in October 4, is a multiple Emmy Award Winner. Also a 2003 winner of the News Corp. (Fox) Global Employee of the Year, she impressed the NAHJ judges because of her solid journalism, dogged investigations and advocacy particularly on the issues of foster care, child abuse and domestic abuse.

On Oct. 16, the station suspended Aguilar after complaints from the blogosphere that she conducted an “ambush” interview with 70-year-old James Walton who had fatally shot two burglars coming onto his junkyard business.

The station received many phone calls and emails with complaints about the story, particularly from some people who identified themselves as gun owners and others who defended Walton’s right to protect his property. They accused her of being against guns and charged she was abusive toward the elderly man.

Although there were differing opinions among journalists about the style, not the substance, of her questioning, most of the analysis of the piece by journalism experts concluded that the story was fair, that she did nothing unethical, and that she treated Walton appropriately given the situation. Aguilar rebutted the charge that she “ambushed” him by stating that Walton himself told her where he was going to be – at a gun shop buying a rifle to replace the one police had confiscated from him.

She received death threats as a result of the story. Initially, Aguilar said, station management just referred her to local police to handle the situation on her own.

Four days after her suspension, NAHJ called for Aguilar’s immediate reinstatement “for the sake of good journalism” and criticized the station’s handling of this matter.

“It signals that journalists stand alone and without defense by the news media companies they work for when their lives are threatened for doing a job so essential to our society and democracy,” said NAHJ President Rafael Olmeda in a letter to Kathy Saunders, KDFW’s vice president/general manager.

Saunders wrote back, saying: “while it is not our standard operating practice to discuss confidential matters regarding our employees, our corporate security professionals have reached out to Ms. Aguilar regarding the threats she received.”

Both NAHJ and UNITY: Journalists of Color expressed concern that Aguilar was the only person disciplined. If the piece were so objectionable, the associations contend, others should have been reprimanded. Some weeks later, three other employees, including the editor who approved the piece, were suspended for a few days.

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The Republican Party of Texas launches new media campaign on You Tube

“RPT TV” is a video blogging project sponsored by the Republican Party of Texas hosted by Texas G.O.P. Chairman Tina Benkiser along with local, state and national G.O.P. party leaders. “RPT TV” will be an episodic video blog with special reports from the campaign trail along with commentary from GOP leaders across the state.

“Communication is an essential component of Republican Party of Texas’ mission. You Tube and the power of the Internet gives us the ability to reach the hearts and minds of voters across Texas and the nation. “RPT TV” will allow voters across the state to hear and see from Texas Republicans from the Courthouse to the State House to the White House.” stated Tina Benkiser, Chairman of the Texas G.O.P.

Stay tuned for monthly episodes of “RPT TV” at http://www.youtube.com/ as well as on The Republican Party of Texas website, http://www.texasgop.org/.

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UTPA students win more than 30 awards at Texas Intercollegiate Press Association competition

By GAIL FAGAN
Student publications and media at The University of Texas-Pan American – The Panorama Magazine, The Pan American Newspaper, and Bronc Radio and TV – were big winners at the recent 2008 Texas Intercollegiate Press Association statewide competition at Texas A&M University-College Station bringing home more than 30 awards including first in the state for literary magazine and best of show in its newspaper division.

Garnering 15 of the honors was the 2006-2007 edition of The Panorama Magazine, a yearly publication produced by students and advised by faculty members Donna Pazdera, journalism lecturer, and Dr. Kimberly Selber, assistant professor of journalism-advertising. Besides the top award for overall excellence, Panorama won one first place, four second place, three third place and six honorable mention awards.

In the student newspaper competition, The Pan American Newspaper, published weekly and advised by faculty member Dr. Greg Selber, associate professor of journalism-print, garnered 11 awards in its division. In addition to its first place in the Best of Show-On-Site Category, the student-produced newspaper gained eight additional awards – one second place, four third places and three honorable mentions.

UTPA’s Bronc Radio and TV also performed well. Advised by Fred Mann, lecturer in journalism and television production, Bronc Radio and TV picked up six awards including first place in On-Site TV Advertising. They also took home a second place award, three third place honors and an honorable mention.

Established in 1909, TIPA is the oldest and one of the largest press associations of its kind in the United States and offers competitions in general magazine, radio, television, online, two divisions of yearbook, literary magazine and six divisions of newspaper as well as more than 25 on-site contests during its annual convention. TIPA also presents scholarships to students representing two-year and four-year institutions.

A complete list of TIPA winners from UTPA are as follows:

The Panorama Magazine

  • First Place, Overall Excellence, Literary Magazine – 2007 Panorama staff
  • First Place, Story Package, Literary Magazine – Trey Serna (Editor in Chief) and Brenda Hernandez
  • Second Place, Feature Story, Literary Magazine – Javier Cavazos
  • Second Place, Essay, Literary Magazine – Ana Ley
  • Second Place, Column/Essay, General Magazine – Salvador Grajeda
  • Second Place, Student Life Copy, Yearbook Division Two – Brenda Rodriguez
  • Third Place, Overall Design, General Magazine – 2007 Panorama staff
  • Third Place, Sports Copy, Yearbook Division Two – Nayelly S.J. Barrios
  • Third Place, Academics Copy, Yearbook Division Two – Trey Serna
  • Honorable Mention, Cover Design, Literary Magazine – Trey Serna, Daniel Flores, Christopher Ramirez
  • Honorable Mention, Overall Design, General Magazine – 2007 Panorama staff
  • Honorable Mention, Feature Story, General Magazine – Ana Ley
  • Honorable Mention, Illustration, General Magazine – Jennifer Terrazas
  • Honorable Mention, Organizations Copy, Yearbook Division Two – Brenda Rodriguez
  • Honorable Mention, Cover Design, Yearbook Division Two – Trey Serna, Daniel Flores, Christopher Ramirez

Pan American Newspaper

  • First Place, Best of Show, On-site – The Pan American staff
  • First Place, Single Subject Presentation – Juan Torres
  • Second Place, Special Edition/Section – The Pan American staff
  • Third Place, Headline – Sandra Gonzalez
  • Third Place, Illustration – Roy Bazan
  • Third Place, Spanish Newswriting – Sara Jeske
  • Third Place, On-site-PR Crisis Management – Ana Ley
  • Honorable Mention, Information Graphic – Roy Bazan
  • Honorable Mention, Page One Design – Roy Bazan
  • Honorable Mention, Sports Action Photo – Onydia Garza

Bronc Radio and Bronc TV

  • First Place, On-site TV AD – Alfredo Vela
  • Second Place, Spot Commercial, PSA, Promo – Ad Club: NSAC Team
  • Third Place, Spot News Radio – Freddy Vela
  • Third Place, Spot Commercial Radio, PSA, Promo – Alex Del Barrio
  • Third Place, Documentary TV – Cyn Vaquera
  • Honorable Mention, Documentary TV – Javeria Farooqi

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