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Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider, featured here with his wife, the former Edna Casas, and their 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, on Tuesday, June 17, was honored by the Edinburg City Council for his recent selection as president of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals Association of Texas. In the 132-year history of the group, only three other Valley residents – including two other fire chiefs from Edinburg – have ever held the top leadership position of the association. Snider, who was born in San Diego, California on July 10, 1964, and was raised by his grandparents in San Juan, has been Edinburg Fire Chief since 1991. He now resides in Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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The Region One Education Service Center is one step closer to realizing a 38,171 square foot expansion to its Edinburg facility, located immediately west of the University of Texas-Pan American. The new construction, which officially began with a May 7 groundbreaking ceremony, will increase its size from 74,000 square feet to more than 112,000 square feet. The total project will take about 474 days, with a completion date in mid-August 2009. Featured in this portrait taken at the groundbreaking are, from left: Region One Board of Trustees members Abel Cavazos (Place 7-Willacy County); Alicia E. Requenez (Place 1-Hidalgo County); Dora Ruiz (Place 5-Cameron County); Jack Damron (executive director); Richard R. Cantú (Place 4-Hidalgo County); Dr. Manuel Gómez, Jr., (Place 6-Cameron County); and Noé R. Sánchez (Place 2-Jim Hogg, Starr, and Zapata Counties). See story later in this posting.

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U. S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, along with Rex Tillerson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon, on Thursday, June 19, were chosen as the 2008 recipients of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) Inspira Award. The annual award honors leadership in education and community service for Latinos and for inspiring a new generation of Hispanic leaders in the United States. Actor and CSI: Miami star Adam Rodríguez will be the third Inspira Award recipient and presented during the National Youth Awards Ceremony in Kansas City, Missouri on July 11. See story later in this posting.

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Former Mayor Richard García, feature here in a file photo, was reappointed by the Edinburg City Council to another two-year term on the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. He currently serves as the president of the EEDC board of directors. Under García’s leadership, as well as during the first and current administrations of Mayor Joe Ochoa, Edinburg has seen unprecedented economic development and growth in new construction, record-low unemployment rates, advances in higher education, and the development of a significant medical corridor that includes two comprehensive hospitals, a women’s hospital, a children’s hospital, two behavioral health care centers, a high-tech cancer treatment complex, and a University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center. “I’ve seen Richard García in action, and he’s not doing just a good job, he’s doing an excellent job in bringing commerce to this city,” said Councilmember Alma Garza. “In my opinion, it is in the city’s best interest to keep him in this position.” See lead story in this posting.

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Former Mayor Richard García reappointed to new term on Edinburg EDC Board of Directors

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Former Mayor Richard García on Tuesday, June 17, was reappointed by the Edinburg City Council to another two-year term on the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

He currently serves as the president of the EEDC board of directors. The length of his term is for two years.

García was reappointed to the board on a unanimous vote by the four city councilmembers. The mayor usually only votes to break a tie.

The EEDC, a non-profit corporation whose creation and funding was authorized by Edinburg voters in the early 1990s, generates millions of dollars annually in revenue from a one-half cent economic development sales tax.

With those funds, the EEDC – which is a government entity under the control of the city council – develops and funds strategies to help bring new businesses to the three-time All-America City and to help existing businesses expand in order to stimulate the local economy and create thousands of jobs.

García, a former U.S. Army veteran who is a lifetime resident of Edinburg, is a partner in the law firm of García, Quintanilla and Palacios in McAllen, one of the most influential legal firms in South Texas.

His public service career has included serving as Edinburg Municipal Court Judge, as a long-time Hidalgo County Court-at-Law Judge, and as interim county judge of Hidalgo County.

The former mayor’s credentials, leadership experience, and record of accomplishment on behalf of the city paved the way for his reappointment.

Councilmember Alma Garza expressed her support for keeping the former mayor in a position of leadership for the community.

“I’ve seen Richard García in action, and he’s not doing just a good job, he’s doing an excellent job in bringing commerce to this city,” she said. “In my opinion, it is in the city’s best interest to keep him in this position.”

Councilmember Noé Garza made the motion to reappoint the former mayor to the EEDC board of directors, and his motion was seconded by Councilmember Alma Garza (no relation to Noé Garza).

Mayor Pro Tem Gene Espinoza and Councilmember Gus García, Jr. (no relation to Richard García), also voted for the reappointment.

From 2006 through 2007, García made a statewide impact as chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, an alliance of mayors, county judges, and economic development officials representing more than two million residents who live in the 14 Texas counties which border Mexico.

During his tenure, TBC effectively lobbied the Texas Legislature on major proposals that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in new state funding for projects and programs that benefit the border region, including Edinburg, on issues ranging from child health insurance to highway construction funding and higher education initiatives.

As mayor, García led the city’s own legislative agenda during the 2007 legislative session in Austin, which included working with Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, to secure an estimated $40 million for the planned construction of a fine arts facility at the University of Texas-Pan American.

That complex, which is still in the planning stages, is expected to be one of the crown jewels of the local university.

Also under García’s leadership, as well as during the first and current administrations of Mayor Joe Ochoa, Edinburg has seen unprecedented economic development and growth, both in new construction, record-low unemployment rates, advances in higher education, and the development of a significant medical corridor that includes two comprehensive hospitals, a women’s hospital, a children’s hospital, two behavioral health care centers, a high-tech cancer treatment complex, and a University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center.

In addition to his own political and professional achievements, García’s professional and political influence is also extended through his law partners – C.J. Quintanilla and Toribio “Terry” Palacios, who, like García, are accomplished trial lawyers.

Quintanilla is married to Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, a daughter of U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes.

Palacios also hails from one of the city’s most prominent political and business families, which includes Hidalgo County 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr., Edinburg school board president Omar Palacios, Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios, and Fred Palacios, who serves on the board of directors of the EEDC.

García has served on the EEDC board of directors for six years, beginning in May, 2003, when he was elected mayor.

Under the bylaws of the EEDC, the mayor automatically serves as one of the five members of the EEDC governing board. The remaining four board members are appointed by a majority vote of the city council.

From June 2006 through the present, García has been an appointee of the city council, representing the public, and the EEDC board of directors have selected him as president of the board.

Also under the bylaws of the EEDC, the four non-elected board members represent different constituencies: García represents local citizens; Palacios represents local industry; Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D., represents the University of Texas-Pan American; and Elias Longoria, Jr. represents the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to investing the city’s half-cent economic development sales tax for job-creation initiatives, the EEDC also provides the following services to the public:

  • Site selection assistance;
  • Real estate database of properties and buildings;
  • Business seminars;
  • Job training assistance;
  • Data Information Center;
  • Coordination of state and local assistance; and
  • Access to business start-up resources.

In addition, the EEDC can arrange custom tours, schedule meetings with community leaders, arrange introductions to necessary business contracts, and serve as an advocate with state and local governmental entities.

More information on the EEDC, its board members, and its staff is available on the Internet at http://www.EdinburgEDC.com or by calling the EEDC office at 956/383-7124.

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Boosted by Region One’s campus expansion plans, Edinburg construction passes $12 million for May

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Total construction activities in Edinburg in May registered more than $12.3 million, with $6.8 million in additions to the Region One Education Service Center leading the way, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa; former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president; Fred Palacios; Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D.; and Elias Longoria, Jr.

The construction figures include the value of everything from installing plumbing to building the structures, but not the price of the lots.

Also, the city figures do not include the value of any construction work being conducted at the University of Texas-Pan American.

The additions for Region One, which are classified as commercial additions/non-taxable (no property taxes are generated because it is a government facility), involve enlarging the Edinburg-based educational center by 38,171 square-feet, from its current 74,000 square feet to more than 112,000 square feet.

Region One is located at 1900 W. Schunior.

Most valuable projects

In addition to the work at Region One, other commercial and governmental facilities represented the most valuable construction projects begun in Edinburg in May.

Coming in second for May was Hugo Chapparo, who received a building permit for a new commercial facility, valued at $750,000, which is being built at 4011 S. McColl Road in the Trenton Town Center Subdivision.

Meanwhile, Rafael Cárdenas registered the third-most valuable project approved for construction in May – a commercial facility, worth $490,000, being built at 4770 S. Jackson Road in the Stoneworks Plaza Subdivision.

Another governmental entity – the City of Edinburg – began building the fourth-most valuable facility in May. The city government began work in May, valued at $365,000, at the city’s municipal airport, located at 1552 FM 490.

The most valuable home approved for construction in May is worth $350,000. The city issued a building permit to Albert and San Juanita Ochoa for a single-family residence located at 2405 Hampton Avenue in the Bentley Estates Subdivision.

Work also began in May on the latest store that will be part of the Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, now under construction, which will is projected to become the Edinburg’s premier retail conglomerate. A building permit for work valued at $250,000 for Shoe Depot, located at 449 E. Trenton Road in the Shoppes of the Rio Grande Valley, was issued to Jeff Radesi.

Year-to-date, Edinburg has reported $45,956,536 in total construction, compared with $102,291,804 during the same five-month period in 2007.

In May 2008, total construction in Edinburg was reported at $12,317,700, compared with $13,056,149 in May 2007.

Some of the large difference in the year-to-date figures are due to several commercial projects which began in the first part of 2007 as part of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance expansions, which included a cancer treatment center, a behavioral medical center, and a women’s hospital.

What are building permits?

The values of the construction are listed in building permits issued by the city’s Code Enforcement Division.

Building permits are permits taken out in order to allow excavation and to protect public safety.

Building permits represent the estimated cost of construction, not the selling price.

The building permits do not include the price of the lot.

A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building.

A building permit is permission issued by a city’s planning department to oversee and approve any changes to structures.

They are documents designed to guarantee that any construction work, from remodeling to demolition to building a new home or business facility, meets the city’s building codes.

Single-family new homes

In May 2008, building permits were issued for the construction of 19 single-family homes, valued at $1,869,500, compared with 54 single-family homes, valued at $6,610,897 in May 2007.

Year-to-date, building permits have been issued for the construction of 134 new single-family residences, valued at $12,117,000, compared with 278 single-family residences, valued at $27,185,210 from January through May 2007.

Highlights of construction in May 2008 of single-family homes valued at $100,000 or more include:

  • Albert and San Juanita Ochoa, 2405 Hampton Avenue ($350,000);
  • Jaime Springer, 3806 Wolf Drive ($181,000);
  • Hernán Lugo, 2418 Stirling Avenue ($170,000);
  • Jaime Springer, 507 Barton Drive ($124,000);
  • West Wind Homes, 3530 Prestwick, ($110,500);
  • Rodrigo Cainglet, 432 Padre Lane ($110,000);
  • Adalberto Garza, 2027 Evaristo Lane ($106,000);
  • Óscar Cantú, 1911 Chippewa ($100,000); and
  • Óscar Cantú, 2003 Chippewa ($100,000).

Commercial new construction

In May 2008, the value of new commercial construction – not counting government facilities or churches – reached $1,651,250, compared with $6,265,000 in May 2007.

Year-to-date, new commercial construction reached $18,970,150, compared with $55,641,650 during the first five months of 2007.

Multi-family new homes

Building permits were issued in May 2008 for two multi-family homes, both duplexes, with a combined value of $160,000. By comparison, in May 2007, building permits were issued for six multi-family residences (four duplexes, two triplexes/fourplexes) valued at $710,000.

Year-to-date, building permits have been issued for 10 new multi-family homes (all duplexes), valued at $920,000, compared with 26 new multi-family homes during the first five months of 2007 (26 duplexes and two triplexes/fouplexes), valued at $5,395,000.

Residential repairs

Also in May 2008, work was authorized for alterations, valued at $578,013, on single-family residences, compared with alterations, valued at $1,211,677, on single-family homes in May 2007.

Year-to-date, alterations on single-family residences were valued at $2,146,544, compared with $2,564,765 between January and May 2007.

Commercial repairs

Also in May 2008, work was authorized for alterations, valued at $726,737, on commercial structures, compared with alterations, valued at $320,300, on commercial structures in May 2007.

Year-to-date, repairs/alterations on commercial structures total $2,063,971, compared with $1,682,688 from January through May 2007.

Non-taxable structures

The work at Region One accounted for most of the alterations/repairs on non-taxable structures in May 2008. That monthly total reached $7,296,200. There were no alterations/repairs on non-taxable structures in May 2007.

Year-to-date, building permits valued at $9,738,871 were issued for repairs/alterations on non-taxable structures, compared with $9,858,500 during the five months of 2007

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Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg undergoing $7.6 million expansion project

By ANNETTE S. GARCÍA

The Region One Education Service Center is one-step closer to realizing a 38,171 square foot expansion to its Edinburg facility, increasing its square footage from 74,000 square feet to more than 112,000 square feet.

An official groundbreaking ceremony was held on the front lawn of the current facility on May 7, 2008. In attendance were Region One ESC Board of Trustees, Administration, and staff members to commemorate the historic event.

A project start date is slated for May 12, 2008. The total project will take approximately 474 days with a completion date in mid- August 2009.

In the April 22, 2008 regularly schedule Board of Trustees meeting, approved Texas Descon as the contractor.

“We are excited at the prospect that this new addition will bring to Region One and the clients we serve,” said Jack Damron, Region One ESC Executive Director. “We will be able to increase the number of professional development opportunities to our school districts and keep those workshops and training to one location.”

The $6.8 million expansion will add 5 new meeting/conference rooms on the ground floor that will accommodate approximately 450 workshop participants. The meeting rooms will range in capacity from 54 to 150 participants. Like the West wing of the current facility, the meeting rooms can be utilized individually or automated partitions can open up the meeting rooms to a grand room to serve a keynote style address.

To accommodate the growth, three new parking lots will be built bringing the total parking capacity to approximately 700 vehicles.

The second floor addition will house administrative offices, to include Executive Services, Business and Finance, the Child Nutrition Program, a computer server room, and a staff lounge. By relocating these offices, explains Damron, the move will free up much needed space for the ever-growing staff of education specialist.

A training room for smaller groups up to 36 will also be located on this level.

Approximately 4,500 square feet of space on the second floor has been designated as “unoccupied expansion space” for future program growth.

Finally, the new addition will feature a uniquely designed, grand spiral stairwell in a freestanding glass “cube” that will reflect the giant oak tree in the front yard.

“We are eager to see construction begin, but we also know that the construction over the next year or so will cause some inconveniences to building visitors and to our staff,” says Damron. “We will make every effort to limit these inconveniences but we do ask for everyone’s patience during the project’s duration. When we hold the grand-opening, there is no doubt it will have been well worth the inconvenience.”

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Edinburg’s retail economy up almost three percent over first four months of 2007, EEDC reports

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy in April 2008, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was up almost three percent during the first four months of 2007, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

For the month of April 2008, however, Edinburg’s economy generated almost four percent less in local sales taxes than during April 2007.

During the first four months of 2008, Edinburg has generated $6,768,066.92 in local sales taxes, compared with $6,584,445.76 from January through April 2007 – an increase of 2.78 percent.

During April 2008, Edinburg generated $973,886.46 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,013,449.24 in April 2007 – a decrease of 3.9 percent.

The April 2008 figure represents local sales taxes sent to the state comptroller of public accounts in May, then sent back by the comptroller’s office to the Edinburg city government in the form of a rebate on June 13, 2008.

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

It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa, former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president, Fred Palacios, Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D., and Elias Longoria, Jr.

The local sales taxes are generated by the city’s 1 1/2 cent local sales tax, and the 1/2 cent economic development sales tax that is administered by the EEDC.

Retail businesses are required to collect both the local and state sales taxes and send them to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The state government then sends the local share of the sales taxes to the communities in which they originated.

The local sales tax is used to help pay for dozens of major city services, ranging from new streets to city personnel.

McAllen – the largest economic engine in South Texas – also showed a drop in local sales taxes generated in April. McAllen’s economy almost $4.2 million in local sales taxes in April 2008, compared with more than $4.3 million during the same month in 2007, a decrease of 2.65 percent.

According to the comptroller’s office, Hidalgo County also reported a small decrease in total local sales taxes collectively generated by the cities in the county.

In April 2008, all cities in Hidalgo County generated more than $9.14 million in local sales taxes, down almost one percent compared with April 2007, which reached more than $9.15 million.

By comparison, Cameron County registered better economic growth than its larger neighboring county, based on the percentage of the increase, according to the state figures.

In April 2008, all cities in Cameron County generated almost $5 million in local sales taxes, compared with almost $4.6 million during the same month in 2007, an increase of 7.6 percent.

Other major cities in Hidalgo and Cameron counties reported the following sales tax figures.

  • Brownsville’s retail economy generated almost $2.7 million in local sales taxes in April 2008 – 14.8 percent percent better than the April 2007 level of more than $2.3 million.
  • Harlingen’s retail economy showed a smaller increase – more than 3.5 percent – in April 2008, compared with April 2007. That community generated slightly more than $1.45 million in local sales taxes in April 2008, compared with slightly more than $1.4 million in April 2007.
  • Mission’s retail economy showed the best percentage increase among the major Valley cities, generating more than $1 million in local sales taxes in April 2008, compared with almost $912,000 in April 2007, an increase of more than 11 percent.
  • Pharr’s retail economy generated slightly more than $995,000 in local sales tax activities in April 2008, compared with almost $908,000 during the same month in 2007, an increase of 5.19 percent.
  • Weslaco’s retail economy generated more than $695,000 in local sales tax revenue in April 2008, compared with almost $689,000 during April 2007, an increase of almost one percent.

Statewide, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced that the state collected $1.8 billion in sales tax revenue in May, a 4.7 percent increase over May 2007.

According to Combs:

“For the first nine months of fiscal 2008, state sales tax collections are up 5.8 percent over the same period in fiscal 2007,” she said. “While increases are smaller than in 2006 and 2007, growth in state sales tax revenues continues at a healthy rate.”

Combs sent cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $459 million in June local sales tax allocations, up 9.3 percent compared to June 2007.

Combs sent June sales tax allocations of $306.3 million to Texas cities, up 8 percent compared to June 2007. So far this calendar year, city sales tax allocations are up 5.4 percent compared to the same time period last year. Texas counties received sales tax payments of $28.4 million, up 13.2 percent compared to last June. So far this year, sales tax allocations to counties are up 6.4 percent compared to 2007.

In addition, $17.3 million went to 135 special purpose taxing districts around the state, up 21.3 percent compared to last June. Ten local transit systems received $106.9 million in sales tax allocations, up 10.2 percent compared to a year ago.

State sales tax collections in May and local sales tax allocations in June represent sales that occurred in April and were reported to the Comptroller in May.

For details of June sales tax payments to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, locate the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports on the Comptroller’s Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html.

The Comptroller’s next sales tax allocation will be made on Friday, July 11.

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Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider honored for his selection as president of firefighters association

Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider was honored on Tuesday, June 17, by the Edinburg City Council for his recent selection as president for the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals Association of Texas.

In the 132-year history of the group, only three other Valley residents – including two other fire chiefs from Edinburg – have ever held the top leadership position of the association.

Snider, who was born in San Diego, California on July 10, 1964, and was raised by his grandparents in San Juan, has been Edinburg Fire Chief since 1991. He now resides in the City of Edinburg with his wife, Edna Casas, and 13-year-old daughter Sarah.

The resolution, which was read publicly into the record by Mayor Joe Ochoa, follows:

WHEREAS, Shawn Michael Snider was born in San Diego, California on July 10, 1964, and was raised by his grandparents in San Juan, Texas. He now resides in the City of Edinburg with his wife, Edna Casas, and 13-year-old daughter Sarah; and,

WHEREAS, In January of 1991, Shawn Snider was first hired by the City of Edinburg as Assistant Fire Marshal/Fire and Arson Investigator, and was also voted into the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department. Shawn Snider moved up the volunteer ranks as Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief and Training Coordinator, and was elected as Volunteer Fire Chief in November of 1998. He was later hired in January of 1999 by the City of Edinburg as Fire Chief; and,

WHEREAS, In June 16, 2004, Chief Snider was elected as 4th Vice President to the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas. Over a four year period Chief Snider excelled from 4th Vice President to President of this 132-year-old organization that began in 1876; and,

WHEREAS, In June 11, 2008, in the 3rd Business Session of the 132nd Annual State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas Convention held in Beaumont, TX., Fire Chief Shawn Snider was sworn-in as President; and,

WHEREAS, During this year’s legislative sessions, Chief Snider’s Presidency will play an important role in passing laws that will benefit the fire service of Texas. The Current membership of the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas includes 1,114 departments across the State of Texas and consists of 19,044 members; and,

WHEREAS, In the history of the State’s Association there have been three other members from the Valley who have held the prestigious position as Presidential leader of the organization. In 1948, Chief G. F. Dohram from Mission Fire Department; in 1956, at the age of 49, Chief E.E. Sanders from the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department; and in 1982, at the age of 52, Chief Dayne Hill from the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department held the office as President; and,

WHEREAS, With the swearing-in of Chief Snider, as President, at the age of 43, he is the fourth member from the valley to hold the position. Three of the four Fire Chief’s from the valley who have had the honor of being President of the Association have been dedicated professionals from the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department; and,

WHEREAS, The citizens of Edinburg can be proud of Chief Shawn Michael Snider and the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department who are dedicated to the fire service of Texas.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOE OCHOA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF EDINBURG, TEXAS: By the power of authority vested in me by law, do hereby issue this Proclamation of Commendation recognizing Shawn Michael Snider, Fire Chief for his dedication and accomplishment of serving as President of the State Firemen’s & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas and for his commitment and devoted leadership to the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the City of Edinburg, Texas, a Municipal Corporation, to be affixed on this the 17th day of June, 2008.

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UTB/TSC asks court to enforce agreed order that would prevent Border Wall from cutting through campus

By LETTY FERNÁNDEZ

Attorneys representing The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas System Board of Regents filed a motion on Thursday, June 19, to compel the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to comply with the provisions of a previous federal court order.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court in Brownsville.

In March 2008, Brownsville Federal Judge Andrew Hanen dismissed a lawsuit against the university after an agreement was reached with DHS regarding access to university property.

That order required DHS to conduct a joint assessment with UTB/TSC and the UT System to study alternatives to a physical barrier in the campus area, to take account of UTB/TSC’s “unique status as an institution of higher education” and to “conduct such investigations as will permit it to consult with Defendants in order to minimize the impact of any tactical infrastructure on the environment, culture, commerce and quality of life” on or near UTB/TSC’s property.

“Instead of working under these dictates of the order, they chose to move forward with their original plan to construct the fence in the exact same location and manner as previously announced, and to move to seize our land for a token payment,” President Dr. Juliet V. García said. “We have been disappointed with DHS’s and Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) lack of cooperation as laid out in the order.”

In the motion the university states the federal government plans to obtain property through eminent domain for the construction of an 18-foot fence. The location of the fence would slice off up to 180 acres of substantial university land, severely curtailing critical and valuable expansion land for the university’s future growth.

“Our intent remains to be concerned preeminently with the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff,” García said. “So, in good faith we agreed to allow DHS access to our campus and we have been attempting to collaborate fully with representatives from DHS, Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Justice, the International Boundary and Water Commission and the offices of both local and Washington based elected officials.”

The university has made several attempts to work with DHS to conduct joint assessments without success.

“We have invested the equivalent of hundreds of hours of hard work by faculty, staff, administrators and volunteers,” García said. “We have conducted research and gathered information, assisted by some of the best security experts in the country, to seek alternative mechanisms for providing a secure border and safety for our students and university community.”

The federal government filed a lawsuit in January 2008 against UTB/TSC for not signing a right of entry for federal agencies to survey land for the proposed U.S. -Mexico border fence.

Prior to the hearing, the university and the Department of Justice entered into an agreed order which allowed access to the property for surveying, but required joint assessments to determine alternatives to a fence, as well as investigations to minimize the impact of any tactical infrastructure on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Monday, June 30.

For more information go to http://www.utb.edu and click on Updated Border Fence Information.

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Congressman Hinojosa presented prestigious Hispanic Heritage Foundation Award

By ELIZABETH ESFAHANI

U. S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, along with Exxon Mobil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, on Thursday, June 19, were chosen as the 2008 recipients of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) Inspira Award.

The annual award honors leadership in education and community service for Latinos and for inspiring a new generation of Hispanic leaders in the United States. Actor and CSI: Miami Star Adam Rodríguez will be the third Inspira Award recipient and presented during the National Youth Awards Ceremony in Kansas City, Missouri on July 11.

Hinojosa and Tillerson were honored on Capitol Hill during the 11th Annual Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards in Washington, D.C., which recognizes more than 20 outstanding students from the region. Washington, D.C. was the last of the 12 Regional Youth Awards ceremonies which annually honor more than 200 Hispanic high school seniors and provide more than $600,000 in educational grants in eight categories including math, science and engineering, sponsored by ExxonMobil. Microsoft donated software to each of the Youth Awardees as they matriculate to college.

Hinojosa has played an instrumental role in helping to improve educational and workforce-improvement programs for minorities and low-income families. In addition to the many education initiatives he has supported, Hinojosa founded the year-round program Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology, or HESTEC, in 2002. Held at The University of Texas-Pan American, HESTEC serves as a catalyst to increase the number of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, and engineering. The week’s events include workshops, motivational speakers, celebrities, and interactive activities that attract over 30,000 participants.

Hinojosa is widely recognized as a powerful voice for communities traditionally left behind in America’s education system. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness, Hinojosa helped pass the College Cost Reduction Act which will allow students to pursue higher educational goals by making college more affordable. Hinojosa also serves as chairman of the Education Task Force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and has had tremendous success in vaulting Hispanic-Serving Institutions to a position of prominence.

“I am extremely honored to be selected for this prestigious award,” said Hinojosa. “Education is the cornerstone of opportunity. It paves the way to improve technology, spreads new knowledge, advances innovation and ultimately shapes our future. It is vital that Hispanic-serving organizations, educational institutions and corporations help America stay competitive by advancing our educational system and capitalize upon the abundance of young and talented Hispanic students.”

Hinojosa noted that he was honored to share the award with Rex Tillerson, a native Texan and Chairman and CEO of the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. Tillerson has also been a strong advocate of improving opportunities for minorities and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Exxon Mobil, under the helm of Tillerson, has been a key supporter of programs such as HESTEC that encourage more Hispanic students to attain higher educational achievements.

Last year, Rex Tillerson joined Hinojosa to address more than 1,000 middle and high school students, business leaders and parents as part of Robotics Expo Day at the sixth-annual HESTEC Week. Tillerson discussed opportunities available in math and science education, emphasizing the critical shortage of students and the even smaller representation of Hispanics in these fields.

Tillerson and Exxon Mobil, along with leaders in America’s education community, have also launched the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is a major new non-profit designed to help America maintain its global leadership position in technological innovation. NMSI aims to scale-up two proven programs: training and incentive programs for AP and pre-AP courses and UTeach. UTeach is a program that encourages math and science majors to enter the teaching profession by offering an integrated degree plan, financial assistance, and early teaching experiences for undergraduates. Exxon Mobil Corporation announced its support for the initiative with a commitment of $125 million.

“To be recognized by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation is a great honor,” said Tillerson. “In today’s challenging fields such as technology and energy, our nation needs more brilliant minds than ever before, that is why we support programs like the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, which emphasizes the importance of role models, including those who have succeeded in the math and science fields, while celebrating the unique Latino culture that brings added strength and dimension to our nation’s workforce.”

According to Jose Antonio Tijerino, HHF president and CEO, the Inspira Award was created to honor Latino leaders who inspire youth and diversity in the public and private sector, and in the media.

“The Inspira Award recognizes those who have taken a leadership role in breaking barriers and creating opportunities for Hispanic youth,” said Tijerino. “We commend Rex Tillerson for his vision in encouraging and facilitating young Latinos to focus on science, technology, math and science through our Youth Awards and countless other efforts including the National Math and Science Initiative. We also loudly applaud the lifetime of commitment of Rep. Hinojosa who is our champion from barrios to Capitol Hill on the issue of increasing educational opportunities for Latinos. They are truly an inspiration.”

The Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards were created to identify, promote and prepare Latino leaders by celebrating their accomplishments in the classroom and community and presented as role models. These young leaders are fed into a youth Speakers Bureau, the Mi Mentors program and LOFT (Latinos on Fast Track) workforce program (visit http://www.HHFvideo.com for a brief introduction).

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, identifies, prepares, and positions Latino leaders in the community, classroom and workforce through national cultural, educational, and career development programs. For more information about the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, please visit http://www.HispanicHeritage.org

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Mike Allen elected president of seven-member South Texas College Board of Trustees

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR

South Texas College’s seven-member Board of Trustees on Wednesday, June 4, elected new officers to serve for a two-year term from May 2008 to May 2010. Mike Allen, retired president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, has been elected chair. Atlas and Hall managing partner and trial lawyer Gary Gurwitz has been elected vice chair. Manuel Benavidez Jr., director of transportation for the Rio Grande City School District, has been elected secretary.

“All three of these gentlemen have worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens they serve, always looking for new ways to keep college affordable for our students, expand our certificate and degree program offerings, and expand support services for students,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “I am confident that under their leadership, STC will continue to thrive and will find new ways to continue bringing opportunity and prosperity to the communities of Hidalgo and Starr counties.”

Allen was elected as District 3 representative in May 2004. He represents the interests of the constituents of South McAllen, Southwest Pharr, Hidalgo, Sharyland, Southeast Mission and Granjeno. Re-elected in May 2004 to a second, six year term, Gurwitz is the District 4 representative for the constituents of North McAllen, Northwest Pharr, Palmhurst and Northeast Mission. Re-elected in May 2006 to a third term, Benavidez is the District 1 representative for the constituents of Starr County. Both Gurwitz and Benavidez were hand-selected by the late Governor Ann Richards to serve as founding board members in 1993 with the inception of the college.

During their tenure the college has grown to serve more than 20,000 students each semester. This is due in part to expanded business and industry training programs, affordable tuition costs, expanded student support services and enhancement of student life activities. They also played an integral role in helping the college secure the necessary approvals to offer the Bachelor of Applied Technology Degree in Technology Management, and in Computer and Information Technologies.

Additionally, because of their vision and direction, the college has expanded its tuition-free dual enrollment programs to more than 32 high school districts across the Valley, offering more than 6,000 students the opportunity to earn college credit in critical subject areas like history, math and science, as well as in technical trades like precision manufacturing and automotive technology. The Achieve Early College High School at South Texas College’s Pecan Campus with McAllen Independent School District and the T-STEM Early College High School with PSJA Independent School District are new initiatives for fall 2008.

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Gov. Perry says DPS, Border Patrol to target Texas truckers who smuggle drugs, weapons, and humans

Gov. Rick Perry announced on Thursday, June 19, that the state, working in concert with the U.S. Border Patrol, will begin cracking down on commercial truckers who knowingly smuggle illegal weapons, drugs or humans across the Texas-Mexico border.

Perry directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to work with Border Patrol, in an initiative dubbed Texas Hold ‘Em, to revoke the commercial driver licenses of those convicted of felony smuggling.

“The vast majority of Texas truckers are law-abiding citizens who work incredibly long hours to feed their families and keep our economy moving,” Perry said. “But there are those who are breaking the law to make a quick buck. And to those law breakers, we are sending the message: If you knowingly smuggle goods across the Texas border, you will lose your license and your livelihood.”

Texas border security operations have put mounting pressure on Mexican crime cartels and other crime organizations to find alternate ways of smuggling contraband into the state. This includes recruiting commercial drivers to transport contraband, including drugs and humans, across the border in return for bribes.

Due to these increased illegal recruitment efforts, Border Patrol recognized the need to establish a process ensuring DPS receives the necessary court documents to suspend violators’ driver licenses upon a felony smuggling conviction. As part of Gov. Perry’s ongoing efforts to secure our border through coordinated state-federal efforts, he has instructed DPS to work with Border Patrol to enforce this law.

In the first eight months of fiscal year 2008, Border Patrol agents in Texas intercepted 423 tractor trailers resulting in the detainment of more than 1,800 undocumented immigrants and more than 112,000 pounds of illegal drugs. In the Laredo area, 330 truck drivers have been caught smuggling drugs or humans into Texas in the last 18 months.

“This joint initiative is another step in securing our border against all-threats,” said Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar. “Together with our shared-mission partners, we will continue to take away the means by which smugglers try to put the American way of life at risk.”

“DPS, in cooperation with the U.S. Border Patrol, is pleased to have established this process for reporting felony convictions for commercial drivers who have committed felonies by transporting drugs and/or undocumented aliens in a commercial vehicle,” said Chief of DPS Driver License Division Judy Brown. “Taking action to revoke the privilege of these drivers will further assist our efforts to increase safety on the public roadways and to increase the security of our nation’s border.”

The Texas Hold ‘Em initiative includes:

  • Revoking CDL privileges for felony convictions
  • Increasing awareness of smuggling penalties
  • Initiating a public service announcement campaign and
  • Creating a “Tipster” Hotline and offering rewards for information leading to felony smuggling convictions

Texas Hold ‘Em is a permanent program that will serve as a standard operating procedure across all five border sectors within the state. The Border Patrol is also actively pursuing similar agreements with other states to expand the program nationwide.

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Sen. Cornyn: How high must gas prices rise before Democratic-controlled Congress acts?

Following President Bush’s announcement on Wednesday, June 18, that he is prepared to lift an executive order on offshore exploration for oil once Congress lifts its own moratorium, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked how much higher gas prices must continue to rise until the Democratic-controlled Congress finally acts to strengthen domestic energy production.

Cornyn is being challenged by Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, in the November general elections.

“The Democratic leadership in Congress has been grossly irresponsible in failing to address America’s growing energy crisis,” Cornyn said. “Texas families are struggling and Texas businesses are beginning to lay off workers. How much higher must gas prices continue to rise before Congress acts to strengthen domestic energy production?”

He continued:

“Senate Democrats acknowledge the serious consequences of America’s energy dependence for our economy and our national security. Just this week, Senator Barack Obama said, ‘our dependence on foreign oil strains family budgets, and it saps our economy. Oil money pays for the bombs that go off from Baghdad to Beirut and the bombast of dictators from Caracas to Tehran…’ So I again ask why Senator Obama and his Democratic colleagues continue to oppose any and all efforts to strengthen domestic production, which would reduce our dependency on oil from the Middle East?

“Congress must continue to pursue and encourage alternative energy sources and increased energy efficiency. These energy policies will serve us well in the future. But we must acknowledge that oil and gas is the bridge into that future. It is simply irresponsible and harmful to ignore solutions that will increase energy supply and help bring down the gas prices that are pinching the American taxpayers’ pocketbook. Americans spent an additional $1,400 on energy costs last year, and the Department of Defense spent $12.6 billion on fuel just last year.

“We cannot afford to keep filling the coffers of Iran and Venezuela while we wait for alternative energies to solve our problems. We need a comprehensive and balanced energy policy that includes increased American energy production. We have raised CAFE standards, implemented a renewable fuel standard, and supported tax incentives for wind, solar, biomass and energy efficiency appliances. Now, we need to grow our domestic energy production by tapping into America’s proven oil and gas reserves.

“As gas prices continue to rise, the opponents of domestic production are running out of excuses. Congress must act and act now.”

Cornyn is a co-sponsor of the American Energy Production Act (S.2958) and the Clean Energy Tax Stimulus Act (S.2181) to promote renewable energy production.

Click here for more information on Cornyn’s efforts to reduce gas prices and bolster America’s energy security:

http://cornyn.senate.gov/gasprices.

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Top Democrats helped Rick Noriega reach fundraising goal for his campaign against Sen. Cornyn

By HOLLY SHULMAN

U.S. Senator Jim Webb, D-Vermont, a distinguished Vietnam veteran and a senator known for fighting to give today’s war veterans the benefits they deserve, joining with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, a member of the Senate’s Veterans Committee, and supporters to exceed fundraising goals and build momentum for Rick Noriega’s U.S. Senate bid while he was on active duty with the Texas Army National Guard June 1- 13.

Noriega, who is currently as Houston state representative, is challenging Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the November general elections.

While Noriega was serving his country, supporters of his bid for Senate, including Webb and Tester, his wife and prominent Texans launched the “Fill Rick’s Boots Campaign”, which was a success.

The “Fill Rick’s Boots” program exceeded the campaign’s original fundraising goal by more than $25,000. During the Fill Rick’s Boots campaign, donors gave more than $75,000 to Rick’s Senate campaign elevating him to the position of top recipient on ActBlue.com – the online clearinghouse for Democratic fundraising.

Webb shocked the Washington establishment in 2006 with his come-from-behind victory in the commonwealth of Virginia, and Tester took on a long-time incumbent and won by contrasting the incumbent’s special interest ties with his authentic interest in advocating for his state. Now, Noriega has the chance to duplicate that success in Texas and stand up for Texas families.

“I want Rick Noriega by my side in Congress to bring the change our country so urgently needs. I hope you will join me and help support Rick’s campaign,” Webb wrote in an email to Noriega supporters.

“I am grateful to Senators Webb and Tester and to all of my Texas supporters who gave of their time and resources to not only keep my campaign on track – but also surpass our fundraising goals – while I was on active duty the last two weeks. We’re going to need all the support we can get to oust John Cornyn, stand up to the special interests he represents and ensure that Texas families get a real voice in the U.S. Senate and we’re off to a great start,” said Rick Noriega. “Beyond all expectations, Senators Webb and Tester took on entrenched incumbents who were representing their states poorly in the U.S. Senate and won. That is precisely what I intend to do and it is an honor to have the support of Senators Webb and Tester in this effort.

“My thanks also must go out to my online supporters who spread the word of the ‘Fill Rick’s Boots’ campaign throughout the blogosphere,” Noriega continued. “Texas is one big state and it is through supporters like these that our message will be carried to every corner of the state,” added Noriega. “Of course my biggest thanks must also go to my top supporters: my wife Melissa and our children Alex and Ricky Jr., who gave me a great Father’s Day welcome back home yesterday. ”

The “Fill Rick’s Boots” campaign was inspired by Noriega’s wife, Melissa, who stepped in for Rick in the Texas State House while he was serving in Afghanistan with the National Guard after 9/11. She filled her husband’s boots again during the last two weeks, but this time she was joined by a whole host of her husband’s supporters.

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Senate-House select committee examines Texas public schools with series of public hearings

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

A legislative committee is examining challenges to the Texas educational system. The Select Committee on Public School Accountability is traveling throughout the state, hearing from educators and the public alike on the issues they face in general, but specifically how good a job the schools are doing.

On Monday, June16, the group met at the University of North Texas campus in Dallas.

Some of the educators who testified were critical of the goals that have been set for the schools. They were saying that there is no way to measure how well the schools are doing if the state’s expectations or standards aren’t clear. That, the educators said, is where the state must begin if it expects to have a good idea of how successful schools really are.

Former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff told the committee that his group, Raise Your Hand Texas, is examining what the curriculum is and what it should be. The group, a bi-partisan coalition of business and community leaders, says it is working to strengthen Texas schools.

Ratliff says they have a plan to create a reporting system that will have fair, understandable and concise information about how any subject on any campus is doing. The main part of the plan proposes using a model that gives credit for a school’s success or for showing improvement in any area.

Ratliff says their system is more fair, but more stringent, than the current accountability system. He also said there was much more information available about other schools than was presented today.

Committee member Sandy Kress commented that such steps are necessary, as in his area there are schools that, while gaining academic honors from the state, are currently failing to properly educate their Hispanic and African-American students. Mary Ann Whiteker, Superintendent of Schools at the Hudson Independent School District, testified that under the current system, one child can change the rating of a single campus.

During public testimony, parents testified that the pressure of the TAKS test has interfered with the learning process, and that time spent preparing for it is not time spent actually learning. Others said that under the current system, any work and growth the students may achieve is considered failure if certain goals are not met, while other students, who start out with higher scores, are considered successes even if they learn little.

The Select Committee on Public School Accountability is chaired by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands. Members include: Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington; Education Commissioners Robert Scott and Raymund Paredes; public members Salem Abraham, Ronald Steinhart, Sandy Kress, Larry Kellner, Susan Lewis, Dalia Benavides, Dr. David Splitek, Dr. Thomas Randle and Beto Gonzalez. The meeting recessed subject to call of the chair.

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Drug lowers conversion to type 2 diabetes by 81 percent in multi-center research study

By WILL SANSOM

In a research study of hundreds of patients facing the prospect of developing type 2 diabetes, the oral drug pioglitazone (brand name: Actos®) reduced the rate of conversion to the disease by 81 percent in the active therapy group compared to those taking a placebo, the study leader, Ralph A. DeFronzo, M.D., reported June 9 during the 68th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco.

Individuals randomized to take pioglitazone also recovered part of their insulin production and their bodies became more sensitive to insulin, therefore using it more efficiently to control plasma glucose or blood sugar, Dr. DeFronzo, professor and chief of diabetes at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said. He designed and led the four-year ACTos NOW for the Prevention of Diabetes (ACT NOW) Study that enrolled 602 individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, a prediabetic state, along with 102 healthy controls.

Currently no drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of prediabetes to prevent progression to diabetes.

The maker of Actos®, Takeda Pharmaceuticals of Japan, funded the study but gave the researchers complete freedom to perform the study and interpret the results, whether positive or negative, Dr. DeFronzo said. The study was conducted at eight of the foremost centers for diabetes in the U.S. The American Diabetes Association labeled the ACT NOW presentation late breaking and clinically relevant.

Pioglitazone corrects two core defects in type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and beta cell failure. Beta cells are the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. “The drug is the best insulin sensitizer we have and it also preserves beta cell function,” Dr. DeFronzo said. “The clinical response in this study is next to astronomical, not 100 percent but obviously highly significant.”

Pioglitazone came to the U.S. market in 2000 and the original mechanism-of-action studies were conducted by the Division of Diabetes in the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine. Subjects in the ACT NOW study were treated at the clinical research area of the Texas Diabetes Institute, a comprehensive diabetes treatment and research facility staffed by UT Health Science Center faculty physicians in a University Health System facility on San Antonio’s West Side.

About 1 in 10 individuals with impaired glucose tolerance shows signs of diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the retina that may affect vision), and 5 percent to 10 percent of prediabetic individuals are estimated to have peripheral neuropathy (blood vessel damage in extremities). A drug to treat impaired glucose tolerance and prevent further decline is therefore of great importance. “Prediabetes, I believe, is really diabetes,” Dr. DeFronzo said.

In the ACT NOW study, 10 subjects with impaired glucose tolerance developed diabetes while taking pioglitazone. That compared to 45 subjects with impaired glucose tolerance who developed diabetes after receiving a placebo. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either active drug or a placebo.

Forty-two percent of individuals in the pioglitazone arm of the study returned to normal glucose tolerance at the study’s end versus 28 percent of those in the placebo arm.

Pioglitazone was safe and well tolerated during the study. Weight gain and edema were more frequent in the treatment group.

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Cameron County Precinct 1 Constable Saúl Ochoa pleads guilty to drug trafficking

Cameron County Precinct 1 Constable Saúl Ochoa has pleaded guilty to one count of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced ion Thursday, June 19.

Ochoa pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to Count 2 of the indictment alleging possession with intent to distribute approximately 10 pounds of marijuana. Three other counts alleged possession of marijuana with intent to distribute on various dates in May 2008. At this morning’s hearing, Ochoa admitted to selling 10 pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant on May 12, 2008, and stipulated to the written factual summary read in open court outlining the events resulting in the additional three counts charged:

Port Isabel Police Department (PIPD), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and FBI observed Ochoa, the elected Constable of Precinct 1 in Cameron County, selling multiple pound amounts of marijuana to a confidential informant on four different occasions in May 2008. Each of the sales were recorded by audio and video and observed through surveillance by law enforcement.

• May 8, 2008 – Ochoa sold approximately five pounds of marijuana he had retrieved from his office to the confidential informant for $700 at Ochoa’s house on in Laguna Vista, Texas, where the informant witnessed Ochoa snort cocaine.

• May 12, 2008 – Ochoa retrieved 10 pounds of marijuana from his office and subsequently sold it to the confidential informant for $1,400. The informant told law enforcement that during his meetings with Ochoa that night, he saw weapons in Ochoa’s squad vehicle. This is the count of conviction.

• May 15, 2008 – Ochoa sold approximately five pounds of marijuana for $900 at Ochoa’s house on Ebony in Laguna Vista, where he was again seen using cocaine. During the meeting, the informant, in Ochoa’s presence, picked up a rifle that was in Ochoa’s living room.

• May 22, 2008 – Ochoa delivered another approximately five pounds of marijuana in the Port Isabel area for $750 . Prior to this sale, a recorded conversation between the informant and Ochoa confirmed the amount would be similar to the prior deal on May 15th.

Prior to each of these events, both the informant and his vehicle were “frisked” to determine there was no marijuana on the informant or in his vehicle prior to Ochoa’s sales. The informant told law enforcement that prior to becoming an informant, he had purchased approximately 20 pounds of marijuana from Ochoa on various occasions that are separate and apart from the four indicted counts.

• May 28, 2008 – Ochoa was arrested by members of the PIPD, DEA and FBI. Upon arrest and after being read his Miranda Warnings, Ochoa admitted to making the four sales to the informant, further noting he had a $40-a-day cocaine habit and had been selling marijuana seized as evidence to the informant. Ochoa consented to a search his vehicle and his part of an apartment he was living in on Washington St. in the Port Isabel area.

• Search of Ochoa’s Marked Unit – Three bundles totaling approximately eight pounds of marijuana were found in Ochoa’s marked unit, along with a loaded 9MM Beretta, two shot guns, shot gun ammunition, an M-16 as well as Ochoa’s wallet with a personal use amount of cocaine. Evidence bags were also found that contained a unique evidence control number matching one of the marijuana seizures that was officially reported in the past by the Constable’s Office.

• Search of Washington Street – A digital scale, commonly used to weigh narcotics, a lighter, pipe, two hunting rifles and one brick of marijuana was found along with empty bags containing the same evidence identification number as those in Ochoa’s truck and the evidence locker.

• Search of Precinct 1 – Cocaine residue in a bag and in Ochoa’s desk were found in Ochoa’s personal office, along with the actual evidence locker and other evidence bags containing the same unique evidence control number as found in other searches detailed above were also found. All Deputies were interviewed and told law enforcement Ochoa was the only person with a key to his office and to the evidence locker. Deputy statements and some office paperwork established the evidence locker was supposed to have approximately 190 pounds of marijuana from two recorded seizures. The FBI took custody of the drug evidence and can only account for 15 pounds of marijuana remaining from these two seizures.

• Search of Ebony St. – Approximately one pound of marijuana was found in Ochoa’s master bedroom along with marihuana residue found in his master bedroom closet. A black bag with more empty plastic bags containing the same evidence identification number as the other searches, ammunition, and a bullet-proof vest with marijuana residue on it was also recovered.

Ochoa took office in January 2005. He was arrested Wednesday, May 28, 2008, at the Port Isabel Police Department by agents of the DEA, FBI and officers of the PIPD, who jointly investigated the case. Ochoa faces a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 22, 2008, before Judge Hanen. He remains in federal custody.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Young.

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