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Romeo M. Villareal, featured far left, and his wife, Mary, featured far right, beam with pride during a public ceremony in early August that dedicated a state-of-the-art academic facility in Edinburg, part of the South Texas Independent School District, in honor of him. Andi Atkinson (center), the public information director for STISD, shown here explaining some of the historical artifacts that will grace the inside of the new educational center as further recognition of Villarreal’s many contributions to the school district. Villarreal, owner of Edinburg Child Care, Inc., has served on the STISD Board of Directors for 37 years, including 10 as president. He became a board member in 1972, but his ties to STISD go back to the 1960s, before the school district was born. The Romeo M. Villarreal Academic Building is located at 724 S. Sugar Road, at the corner of Sugar Road and Sprague Street, in Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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Dr. Charles A. Sorber, interim president of the University of Texas-Pan American (featured second from right), on Monday, August 17, announced that the university’s graduate school campus in McAllen will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, August 26, at 10 a.m. The facility, located at 800 South Main Street along Eastbound Frontage Expressway 83 in the Main Place Shopping Center adjacent to La Plaza Mall, will provide Rio Grande Valley residents more convenience and greater access to higher education. Sorber is seen here on July 19 during an unrelated, but still historic, event, welcoming Dr. Bernard A. Harris, former astronaut and the first African American to walk in space. From left: Rosendo Cruz, program officer for Education and Diversity at ExxonMobil; U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Dr. Harris; President Sorber; and John Edwards, vice president for UTPA’s Division of Enrollment and Student Services. See story on McAllen graduate school later in this posting.

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Area legislators on Wednesday, August 12, posed with key leaders of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce following that organization’s successful Legislative Report Card dinner held at the McAllen Country Club. The session allowed the majority of the Valley’s state lawmakers to provide highlights of major legislative accomplishments, and allowed the public opportunities to ask them questions. Featured, from left: Hari K. Namboodiri, founder and chief executive officer of Health Options International; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, August 27, will host a Leadership Edinburg Alumni mixer at Los Lagos Golf Course, located at 1720 South Raul Longoria, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Food, drinks and door prizes will be part of the festivities. All Leadership Edinburg graduates from Class I-XX – who number about 450 – are encouraged to attend the mixer. Leadership Edinburg is governed by a steering committee, whose members are featured in this photograph, made up mostly of alumni of the organization. Leadership Edinburg is intended to better the future leaders of Edinburg through motivation and exposure to the realities and the challenges affecting the community, including seminars in government, history, media, criminal justice, education, quality of life, health care and economic development. In addition, Leadership Edinburg Class XXI is currently accepting applicants, with the deadline set for August 27 as well. Individuals must file an application at http://www.edinburg.com or call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Standing, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra; Abel Leal; Pamela Doughtery; Fernando Quintanilla; Imelda Rodríguez; Marty Martin; Destiny Campos; Roy Peña; Dina Araguz; and Jay Flores. Seated, from left: Flo Prader; Letty González ; and Edna Peña.

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A survey of 135 regional employers is over and the results are in – area employers are very satisfied with the hiring of South Texas College graduates, according to a recent survey by the two-county community college system. “It is so pleasing to us that when asked if they would hire STC graduates again, all of the employers responded ‘yes’,” said Dr. Brenda Cole, director of STC’s Research and Analytical Services Department. “We also uncovered that most employers find our graduates to be well prepared for their jobs, work well in team situations, are energetic, responsible and possess good math and computer skills.” STC Bachelors Program Graduate Michael Parker, standing, works confidently alongside Keith Patridge, the president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg City Council invests another $1 million to help Boys and Girls Club build health facility

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Add the Boys and Girls Club Rio Grande Valley of Edinburg to the exclusive list of public and private entities that have successfully tapped into a special fund, controlled by the Edinburg City Council, that is designed to promote medical care in the three-time All-America City.

On Wednesday, August 5, the local Boys and Girls Club received a second $1 million grant from the city council that will be used to help cover construction costs of a planned $3.6 million, 34,000 square foot Comprehensive Health and Wellness Facility, according to City Manager J.J. Rodríguez.

If the planned facility is not constructed within five years, the Boys and Girls Club RGV of Edinburg would return the money to the city, plus interest, according to the contract.

Sabrina Walker-Hernández, the chief executive officer for the local Boys and Girls Club, was scheduled to sign the contract on behalf of her organization.

The issue was listed under the consent portion of the city council agenda, which means there was no opposition to the measure – and as is usually the case – no remarks by any of the city council members or top administrative staff during the meeting.

The two $1 million contributions – the first was made on September 27, 2007 – come from the Restricted Medical Authority Appropriations Fund. That fund has contained proceeds from the sale of the former Edinburg Hospital to Universal Health Services, Inc. in the 1990s.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was also a recent beneficiary of the city council’s use of the Restricted Medical Authority Appropriations Fund.

On Wednesday, August 5, the Edinburg City Council unanimously approved giving Doctors Hospital at Renaissance up to $2.25 million from a that fund that will go towards helping build DHR’s planned $14 million Edinburg Medical Conference Center (see other lead stories about the DHR conference center which were posted on this website on August 11, July 29, March 2, and February 26, 2009, and on December 2, 2008).

Several years earlier, the city council, under the leadership of then-Mayor Joe Ochoa contributed $1 million from this fund to the University of Texas System in exchange for the UT System locating and building the $20 million UT Regional Academic Health Center next to the UT-Pan American campus.

In his memorandum to the current city council – now led by Mayor Richard García – the city manager laid out the background and rationale for boosting the city’s contribution to the local Boys and Girls Club with the latest $1 million grant.

However, the city manager did not make a recommendation, leaving that decision up to the city council.

Rodríguez’ observations follow verbatim:

The City of Edinburg has previously appropriated $1,000,000 (First Distribution) from the Restricted Medical Authority Fund for use in the construction of a facility of 34,000 square feet for the new health and wellness facility for the Boys and Girls Club RGV as set out in the Appropriation Request and Agreement dated September 27, 2007.

The city has received an additional request from the Boys and Girls Club RGV requesting additional financial participation for the construction of a new health and wellness facility. The facility will consist of two gymnasiums for exercise, physical fitness and recreation; classrooms for education programming; a technology center to equip children and youth for the information age; and a kitchen an dining area.

The estimated cost is $3,600,000 to be constructed on 20 acres of land, located along U.S. Expressway 281 and Rogers Road, donated by the Edinburg Foundation, Inc. Funding is available from the Restricted Medical Authority Appropriations Fund.

Staff has prepared a First Amended Appropriation Request and Agreement which acknowledges the first contribution and provides for the second contribution of $1 million. The City Council has fiscal management responsibility of the Restricted Medical Authority Appropriations Fund. The city finds that its participation will enhance the availability of medical care for the inhabitants and citizens of the City of Edinburg by offering comprehensive health and wellness programming for Edinburg children and youth.

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More than 100 attend dedication ceremony naming academic center in honor of Romeo M. Villarreal

By ANDI ATKINSON

On Saturday, August 8, leaders with the South Texas Independent School District (STISD) dedicated the new academic building at South Texas Preparatory Academy (STPA) in Edinburg in honor of Romeo M. Villarreal of Edinburg, who was praised as a leader in education, business and community affairs.

The Romeo M. Villarreal Academic Building is located at 724 S. Sugar Road, at the corner of Sugar Road and Sprague Street, in Edinburg.

Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, former president of the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) was among several major guest speakers during the dedication ceremony, which drew more than 100 well-wishers, family members, colleagues and friends.

Villarreal, who is owner of Edinburg Child Care, Inc., has served on the STISD Board of Directors for 37 years, include 10 as president. He became a board member in 1972, but his ties to STISD go back to the 1960s, before the school district was born.

Villarreal began his educational career as an agriculture teacher for youth with cognitive disabilities. In 1962, he helped a group of parents from Edinburg lobby the state for a school district dedicated to serving the challenged students of the Rio Grande Valley.

In 1963, Villarreal was the first person hired at South Texas High School in Edinburg. South Texas High School opened in 1964 as a residential school for special-needs students. South Texas High School was the first “child” of South Texas Independent School District, and the campus is now home to South Texas Business, Education & Technology Academy (BETA) and STPA.

In the 1970s, this Edinburg resident transitioned from a school administrator to a program executive serving the residents of Edinburg and Hidalgo County. At different points in time, Villarreal was director of the Child Nutrition Agency in Edinburg, director of El Tule Bilingual Day Care Center in Edinburg and director of the Migrant Program for Hidalgo County. Always active in local government, he was a member of the Edinburg Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and City of Edinburg Urban Renewal Board.

In the 1980s, this community leader was even the acting city manager for the City of Edinburg. It was at the City of Edinburg where he met his future wife, Mary. During that decade, he opened Edinburg Child Care, Inc., a federal program that provides nutrition training to child care workers.

Villarreal became fully self-employed in the 1990s and started his real estate company, Edinburg Properties, where he focused on helping the indigent and underprivileged. Throughout his professional career, he also managed his family’s ranch in San Manuel, Santa Rita Farms.

Though he became a businessman, Villarreal never stopped serving the students of the Rio Grande Valley. In addition to STISD, he served on the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District Board of Directors for a term as well as the Texas Association of School Boards and Texas Special Education Continuing Advisory Committee, each for approximately 10 years.

An active member of his community, he has also been a loyal member of the Edinburg Noon Lions Club for 23 years.

Born on September 21, 1936, in Encino (near Falfurrias), this native Texan graduated from Edinburg High School in 1955. Villarreal earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from Texas A&M University-Kingsville and one in Special Education from UTPA. He earned his master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

He and his wife have five grown children: Yvonne Villarreal of Edinburg, 48; Rick Villarreal of Edinburg, 46; Michael Villarreal of Edinburg, 36; Mark Corona of Chicago, 39; and Gylma Garza of Edinburg, 34. Villarreal’s oldest son, John Villarreal of Edinburg, passed away in 2001, and his youngest son, Joshua Villarreal of Edinburg, passed in away in 2002.

They would have been 49 and 29, respectfully.

Now retired, the 72-year-old enjoys hunting, relaxing at the family ranch and spending time with his 13 grandchildren. Villarreal still spends much of his time helping those in need.

The public is welcome to attend the building dedication ceremony, with fine food and beverages to be served.

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UT-Pan American schedules August 26 ribbon-cutting ceremony for McAllen grad school campus

The University of Texas-Pan American will officially announce the opening of the new McAllen Teaching Site with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, August 26 at 10 a.m.

The McAllen Teaching Site, located at 1800 South Main Street along Eastbound Frontage Expressway 83 in the Main Place Shopping Center adjacent to La Plaza Mall, will provide Rio Grande Valley residents more convenience and greater access to higher education.

Starting fall 2009, UTPA will offer 12 graduate-level courses in the Colleges of Education, Business Administration, Arts and Humanities and Science and Engineering at the 10,000 square-foot leased facility.

The community is invited to celebrate the opening of the facility with The University of Texas System Regent James Dannenbaum, UTPA Interim President Dr. Charles A. Sorber, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz and other university and city officials.

“The university is a regional entity and we serve that region in all ways we can. We have learned in some cases we have to take our product to the people because some people can’t get to us – we’ve done that in Starr County and now we are doing it in McAllen,” Sorber said.

In 2003, UTPA opened a facility in Rio Grande City to alleviate the 50-mile commute by a number of Starr, Jim Hogg and Zapata County residents. More than 200 students have since graduated primarily in the University’s education programs from the Starr County Upper-Level Center and most have gone on to teach in Valley schools.

“We see this new partnership (at the McAllen facility) as a starting point. We see a future where those courses will be expanded and we are particularly excited about the opportunities along the way to begin offering upper division courses so the graduates of South Texas College can take advantage of a site here in town to finish their bachelor’s degrees,” Sorber said.

Other planned offerings at the McAllen Teaching Site are professional development courses, certification training classes, English language training and other continuing education courses demanded by the community or identified by local government and business partners as important to maintaining a marketable and competitive workforce.

Both UTPA and city officials said there was a demand for a site in McAllen from those seeking advanced degrees but because of family and job responsibilities needed a more convenient location to attend classes. Four of the courses offered this fall are ones in the master’s degree program in educational administration. Other courses will meet the needs of business professionals interested in UTPA’s MBA program and health care workers seeking foundation courses to pursue master’s programs in the health sciences.

The facility, with a projected capacity of 200 students on site, will have eight classrooms, one configured as a conference room setting for seminar type classes. All classrooms will be “smart” classrooms, which means they will be equipped with all the technology and interactive capabilities that are available in UTPA’s campus classrooms, recognized as state-of-the-art in The University of Texas System.

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Edinburg’s retail economy in June report is down again from same period last year

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy during June 2009, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was down almost 2.5 percent over the same month in 2008, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The latest figure represents the second consecutive decrease when comparing monthly figures between this year and during 2008.

For the month of June 2009, Edinburg generated $1,227,059.94 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,370,825.10 in May 2008 – a decrease of 2.46 percent.

In May 2009, the monthly sales tax figure was almost five percent lower than the same month the previous year.

For the month of May 2009, Edinburg generated $1,072,843.02 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,126,236.46 in May 2008 – a decrease of 4.74 percent.

However, year-to-date – from January 2009 through June 2009 – Edinburg was holding on to a positive showing, with the local retail economy during the first half of 2009 up almost nine percent over the same period last year.

From January through June 2009, Edinburg generated $10,071,978.61 in local sales taxes, compared with $9,265,128.48 from January 2008 through June 2008 – an increase of 8.70 percent.

The report represents the latest figures compiled by state, and announced in early August.

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 sales taxes generated in June 2009 were collected in July by the state comptroller’s office and then sent back to the communities in early August. The June 2009 figures also include sales taxes collected in April, May and June by quarterly filers.

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

Local sales taxes in Edinburg 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 Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC, which is a city government entity, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It sits on a public treasury of millions of dollars.

McAllen – the largest economic engine in South Texas – continues to struggle.

For June 2009, McAllen generated more than $4.9 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $5.5 million in June 2008, a drop of more than 11 percent.

Year-to-date, McAllen’s retail economy remains sluggish. From January through June 2009, McAllen generated more than $37 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $40 million during the same period in 2008 – a decrease of almost almost 7.5 percent.

For the month of June 2009, all cities in Hidalgo County generated more than $11.1 million in local sales taxes, compared with almost $11.6 million in June 2008, a decrease of almost four percent.

The county itself does not collect a local sales tax.

Comparable cities in Hidalgo County also posted negative numbers for June 2009.

• Pharr’s latest monthly retail sales activities dropped more than one percent, generating more than $975,000 in June 2009 compared with almost $990,000 in June 2008;

• Mission showed a larger decrease, generating more than $1.1 million in June 2009, compared with almost $1.2 million in June 2008, a drop of 5.35 percent; and

• Weslaco just missed breaking even in the monthly comparisons. In June 2009, Weslaco generated more than $785,000 in local sales taxes, compared with $786,000 in June 2008, a decrease of one-tenth of one percent.

Also posting decreases were the two key communities in Cameron County.

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populated city, suffered from a double-digit drop.

In June 2009, Brownsville’s retail economy generated almost $2.8 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $3.1 million the same month in 2008, a decrease of more than 10.3 percent.

Harlingen did somewhat better, but still posted a negative showing.

In June 2009, Harlingen reported more than $1.7 million in local sales taxes, compared with almost $1.8 million in June 2008, a decrease of almost three percent.

All cities in Cameron County generated a total of more than $5.6 million in local sales taxes in June 2009, compared with almost $6 million in June 2008, a drop of almost six percent.

At a statewide level, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs offered the assessments:

“Sales tax collections in July were again down significantly as major sectors of the economy, such as retail trade; oil and natural gas; and construction, remain weak,” Combs said. “The sharp drop in revenue is a reflection of the current poor performance of these sectors as well as unusually strong sales tax collections in July 2008.”

Combs sent $544 million in August sales tax allocations to local governments, down 6.8 percent compared to August 2008. So far this calendar year, sales tax allocations to local governments are down 2.2 percent compared to this time last year.

August sales tax allocations represent sales taxes collected in June by businesses that report sales taxes monthly, and sales taxes collected in April, May and June by quarterly filers.

Combs sent sales tax payments of $367.4 million to Texas cities, down 6.5 percent compared to last August.

Calendar year-to-date, city sales tax revenues trail 2008 by 2.3 percent. Sales tax payments of $33.8 million went to Texas counties, 4.2 percent below last August. So far in calendar year 2009, county sales tax allocations are up 0.2 percent compared to last year.

In addition, $21.2 million in sales tax revenue went to 151 special purpose taxing districts, down 0.8 percent compared to August 2008. Ten local transit systems received $121.5 million, down 9 percent compared to a year ago.

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

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the Comptroller’s next sales tax allocation will be delayed until Monday, September 14.

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Fred Palacios, brother to mayor’s law partner, reappointed by Edinburg City Council to EEDC board

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Fred Palacios, whose brother, Toribio, is a law partner with Mayor Richard García in their McAllen-based firm, on Wednesday, August 5, was unanimously reappointed by the Edinburg City Council to a two-year term on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors.

Also on August 5, the city council appointed another familiar Edinburg community leader to a key city panel.

Former Edinburg school board president Gilbert Enríquez, executive vice president of Enríquez Enterprises, Inc. a construction firm located at 3025 South Sugar Road, was appointed to a seat on the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

Enríquez’ term is for two years, effective August 6.

Palacios’ term was also effective August 6.

The EEDC, a city government agency, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

It is led by a five-member governing board, with four of those seats appointed by the city council.

The mayor gets an automatic appointment to the EEDC Board of Directors.

The EEDC collects the one-half cent economic development sales tax in Edinburg, and uses those funds to pay for a wide range of programs that meet state guidelines for such public entities.

The EEDC usually sits on a treasury of several million dollars per year.

In addition to his reappointment on the EEDC Board of Directors, Palacios sits on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which is also a political appointment of the city council.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has widespread jurisdiction, including making recommendations to the city council regarding how areas of the city are developed, such as residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

According to the EEDC web site, Palacios is listed as secretary-treasurer for the EEDC governing board.

Palacios hails from one of the more active political families in Hidalgo County. Three of his close relatives are elected officials in Edinburg.

Toribio "Terry" Palacios serves as Edinburg Municipal Court Judge – an elected position – and is one of the marquee attorneys in the law firm, which also features the mayor and Crispín "C.J." Quintanilla.

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

One of Fred Palacios’ sisters is Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios of Edinburg.

Two of his nephews are elected officials as well: Hidalgo County 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr. of Edinburg, who previously served on the Edinburg City Council, and Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board.

Palacios has resided in Edinburg for 65 years.

On the EEDC web site, Palacios is listed as being associated with South Texas Concrete, located at 1420 South 28th in the three-time All-America City.

However, in his application filed with the City Secretary’s Office and dated July 28, Palacios listed his profession as business owner, Monte Cristo Golf and Country Club, located at 2919 N. Kenyon Road in Edinburg.

Palacios’ reappointment to the EEDC Board of Directors came a few days after he and his extended families suffered a personal trauma with the unexpected passing of his brother, Nicolás "Nico" Palacios Jr., 62.

Nicolás Palacios Jr., a longtime Edinburg business and political leader, died on July 23 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, California from a reported heart attack.

According to the EEDC, some of the other roles played by that city agency includes providing the following services:

  • 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.

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Sales tax holiday, including breaks on up to $100 of school supplies, begins on Friday, says Rep. Gonzáles

By RICARDO LÓPEZ-GUERRA

Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, August 17, announced relief for families preparing to send their children back to school due to measures passed by the Texas Legislature.

"Preparing children for the school year can be very expensive, especially during challenging economic times. I am proud that the Texas Legislature was able to help families save money this year by including school supplies in the sales tax holiday," Gonzáles said. "We also allocated federal stimulus monies to help our state’s poorest children start the school year with the clothes and supplies they need."

The annual sales tax holiday takes place Friday, August 21 through Sunday, August 23 and starting this year, tax free items include notepads, pens, pencils, binders and other school supplies under $100, as well as clothing to help children get ready for the school year.

The sales tax holiday is expected to save Texas families more than $65 million this year.

Low-income families will also see some assistance this month due to the legislature’s approval of a $70 per-child increase in the annual payment for those using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The money will go to about 59,000 children around the state and raises the amount families receive per child to $105.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the agency which administers TANF, will add the increase to families’ August benefits. The extra payments are provided through about $6 million in federal funds. The stimulus funds allowed the legislature to also approve the same increase for children next year. TANF provides cash payments to extremely poor families, such as a family of three earning less than $188 a month.

For more information on the sales tax holiday, visit the Texas Comptroller’s website at:

http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx98_490/tx98_490.html.

For more about TANF and other services, visit http://www.mytexasbenefits.com.

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Needle-free flu vaccines to be given to area youths on Saturday, August 29 by Edinburg Children’s Hospital

By DALINDA GUILLEN

Mark your calendars. Final preparations are underway as the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation gears up for a Back-To-School Family Health Fair on Saturday, August 29 from 9 a.m. to noon at Edinburg Regional Medical Center.

Area doctors, health care professionals, vendors and celebrity mascots are getting ready for the big event. Free vaccines, health and safety education, entertainment, raffles prizes, and meet-and-greet time celebrity mascots are enough to get any family excited about attending.

For the first time, the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation, together with the Kohl’s Cares for Kids Foundation, are teaming up to provide free needle-free flu vaccines and education. To receive the needle-free vaccine FluMist, children must be two to 18 years old, not have an allergy to egg and not have pre-existing cold, cough or fever at the time of vaccination.

Limited doses are available, so participants are encouraged to arrive early.

Parents may benefit from visiting with health care professionals and non-profit organizations to discuss programs and services available in the community. Some of the exhibitors attending include Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg, Books are Fun, Chick-fil-A, Gladys Porter Zoo, Hidalgo County Health Department, Hidalgo-Starr County Child Fatality Committee, Kiddos Rehab, Fantasy Skateland, Pablo Tagle III, Ronald McDonald House Charities RGV, SweetWater Filtration System/RainSoft, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, Texas Health Steps and with other businesses and health and human service organizations.

The free flu vaccines for area youths are being made possible through funds from the Kohl’s Cares for Kids Foundation.

The Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation was recently awarded a $53,695 grant by the Kohl’s Cares for Kids Foundation to provide flu fighting education and vaccines to children in Rio Grande Valley.

The two foundations committed to the health and wellness of Valley children have teamed up to provide needle-free flu vaccines and education for children during a Back to School Family Health Fair on Saturday, August 29th from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Edinburg Regional Medical Center. To receive the needle-free vaccine FluMist, children must be 2 to 18 years old, not have an allergy to egg and not have pre-existing cold, cough or fever at the time of vaccination. Limited doses are available, so participants are encouraged to arrive early.

Limited doses are available, so participants are encouraged to arrive early. This year’s project is supported by the $21,000 Kohl’s Cares for Kids grant awarded in 2008.

“That’s more than $75,000 that the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation has raised and will put back into the community,” says Brenda Garza, President of the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation.

In addition, six Valley elementary schools will receive special presentations and flu fighting supplies to help strengthen infection control measures and flu prevention and transmission of the flu during its peak season.

Support of this project is made possible through net profits from the sale of Kohl’s Cares for Kids merchandise at Kohl’s department stores aimed to support children’s health and education. Kohl’s has raised over $100 million for health and education initiatives nationwide. The program also includes the Kohl’s Kids Who Care scholarship program for youth volunteers, fundraising gift cards for local schools and non-profit groups, and an associate program to encourage volunteerism.

About Kohl’s

Based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Kohl’s (NYSE: KSS) is a family-focused, value-oriented specialty department store offering moderately priced, exclusive and national brand apparel, shoes, accessories, beauty and home products in an exciting shopping environment. By the end of April, Kohl’s will operate 1,022 stores in 49 states. A company committed to the communities it serves, Kohl’s has raised more than $102 million for children’s initiatives nationwide through its Kohl’s Cares for Kids® philanthropic program, which operates under Kohl’s Cares, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. For a list of store locations and information, or for the added convenience of shopping online, visit http://www.kohls.com.

About Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation

The Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to provide assistance to medically challenged children who require additional services to re-enter their homes. A significant portion of the money raised by the foundation goes to the purchase of medical equipment and programs to help pediatric patients cope with their illness and prevent healthy children from becoming ill.

About Edinburg Children’s Hospital

Edinburg Children’s Hospital is the Rio Grande Valley’s only stand alone children’s hospital. It is also the first to open a Ronald McDonald Family Room together with the Ronald McDonald House Charity of the Rio Grande Valley. It is a facility of South Texas Health System. The hospital system is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc. (UHS), a King of Prussia, PA-based company that is one of the largest healthcare management companies in the nation. As the Valley’s leading hospital system, it offers specialized services in behavioral health, cardiovascular care, emergency medicine, neuroscience, oncology, pediatric care, women’s services, and rehabilitation. Its facilities include: Edinburg Children’s Hospital, Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg Regional Rehab Center, McAllen Medical Center, McAllen Heart Hospital and South Texas Behavioral Health Center and Cornerstone Regional Hospital.

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Efforts to streamline U.S. passport applications for Americans delivered by midwives hits close to home

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

On January 20, 1946, a midwife delivered me in the Texas border town of Brownsville. This was not an uncommon happenstance, particularly at the time, when many women delivered their children at home with the assistance of such a health care provider.

Most of these midwives were honest, caring women with a great deal of expertise that proved invaluable to mothers. To this day, midwives continue to provide care not only along the Texas-Mexico border, but throughout the country and of course, in other nations.

What is unfortunate and has become prominent in the media are stories of passport denials because applicants born at home cannot produce official birth certificates. Claims of fraud whereby midwives may have falsified birth documents have compounded the problem for many.

Fortunately, my Catholic baptismal certificate, school records, lifelong residence in Cameron County, along with my status as an elected official enabled me to obtain a passport without difficulty. This is not so for many.

I regularly hear horror stories from people of all ages, incomes and education levels who are struggling through the maze of bureaucracy and inevitable distrust to try to obtain a passport.

In one instance, I knew of a young man who after a lengthy time that mainly involved submitting what seemed endless documents, finally obtained his passport. His twin brother, who lives in Houston where a federal office to handle these matters is located, was denied a passport. I’m no medical expert, but I’m pretty sure if a twin was born on American soil, his brother should have been also.

Yet the inconsistencies, unfairness and costs continue. Denied applications must be resubmitted. An application runs anywhere from $35 to $100, depending on the person’s age, when applying in person and a little less by mail. (Some reports indicate fees are waived or lowered when resubmitting.)

If this isn’t burdensome enough, people from the South Texas area must travel hundreds of miles to Houston for help in applying for passports.

Some media accounts have reported there are plans for opening a federal office to handle passport applications in the Rio Grande Valley.

Opening a South Texas location would eliminate the trips to Houston for many South Texans, and perhaps ease the backlog at the Houston center. I urge our South Texas congressmen to continue to pursue this goal until it is realized.

In the meantime, I urge the federal government to streamline the passport application process, including the elimination of endless requests for additional documents when enough proof is provided, and to remove all barriers of discrimination and distrust against those delivered by midwives.

Conversely, any case of fraud should be fully investigated and prosecuted to the law’s extent.

In the meantime, we continue to hear pleas for help. At the state level, we do what we can but feel pretty helpless, since passports are exclusively a federal matter.

The state has no jurisdiction over the issuance of passports, so my efforts are mostly verbal and written pleas for the federal government to step up to the plate and recognize the suffering and stress of many Americans who happened to have been born at home.

I urge the public to be patient and to obtain as much documentation as possible that proves American citizenship when applying for a passport without official birth records. And I urge our friends in D.C. to please streamline the process and increase impartiality in the decision-making.

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Cornerstone Fitness, L.L.C. of Edinburg reaches data protection agreement with Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Friday, August 14, reached an agreement with Cornerstone Fitness, L.L.C. that requires the fitness center to better protect its customers’ personal information.

In February, Abbott charged Cornerstone with violating a Texas law that governs the disposal of confidential consumer data. According to the state investigators, the defendant hired a moving company to transport equipment, furniture and business records to its flagship facility on Cornerstone Blvd. in October 2007. A filing cabinet containing customers’ personal training service contracts was found in a dumpster behind the defendant’s McColl Road location. The contracts included customers’ sensitive personal information. State investigators subsequently showed that the defendant failed to satisfy Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act document security requirements.

Under the August 14 agreement, the defendant must implement a comprehensive records management policy and strictly comply with state document disposal laws.

Cornerstone Fitness Texas, L.L.C. agreed to pay $28,000 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees to resolve the state’s enforcement action.

To prevent identity theft, all Texas should monitor their credit reports by obtaining cost-free copies annually. To get free copies of credit reports, visit http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com, call (877) 322-8228 or write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga. 30348-5281.

To learn more about the Office of the Attorney General’s efforts to prevent identity theft, visit the agency’s Web site at http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

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Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is now accepting nominations for 2009 Man and Woman of the Year

By EVANA VLECK

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is now accepting nominations for the 2009 Man and Woman of the Year. This will be the first time the chamber has organized a community-driven selection process that will appoint a man and a woman that exceeds in professional and civic commitment and avid volunteerism within the community of Edinburg.

The Chamber of Commerce encourages everyone to nominate someone they know who fits the criteria.

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Man and Woman of the Year should be a person who:

  • Has provided valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community in the way of volunteerism;
  • Has demonstrated a commitment to his/her community by sharing of time and talent in ways that benefit the community or individuals within it;
  • Has demonstrated exceptional personal commitment to civic endeavors outside of professional obligations; and
  • Has demonstrated community service in civic or service organizations, non-profit boards, religious groups or other involvements, such as merchants’ associations, chamber of commerce or educational activities.

Nominees also must be an Edinburg resident, own a business in Edinburg or work in Edinburg.

Nominations must be received no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, September 4, 2009 and must be accompanied by a resume. Nominations will not be accepted after that date.

Forms to select Man and Woman of the year can be downloaded from http://www.edinburg.com or picked up at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Please mail nominations to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Attention: Selection Committee, 602 W. University Drive, Edinburg, Texas, 78539 or deliver them to the chamber office. For more information, please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974.

Recipients will be announced at the Chamber’s Annual Banquet on October 3, 2009 at the Social Steak House and Club.

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Regional employers say they are happy with South Texas College graduates, according to STC survey

By HELEN ESCOBAR

A survey of 135 regional employers is over and the results are in – area employers are overwhelmingly satisfied with the hire of South Texas College graduates.

“It is so pleasing to us that when asked if they would hire STC graduates again, all of the employers responded ‘yes’,” said Dr. Brenda Cole, director of STC’s Research and Analytical Services Department. “We also uncovered that most employers find our graduates to be well prepared for their jobs, work well in team situations, be energetic, responsible and possess good math and computer skills.”

The survey, conducted by STC’s Research and Analytics Department, included national companies operating regional branches like Tyson Foods and Ticketmaster, as well as regional operators like Mission Regional Medical Center, The City of McAllen and Hidalgo County.

Survey findings also show that STC’s Bachelor of Applied Technology graduates outperformed all STC graduates in terms of their managerial and leaderships skills.

“I am not surprised by the findings because I am very familiar with STC’s BAT Program, having one of my own employees successfully go through it,” said Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. “It is obvious the instructors work hard to instill in their students a sense of quality and pride in everything they do. They walk away from the program with a clear understanding of how to do the job and contribute to the success of the company. While the survey shows there is still room for improvement I am pleased with the skills and work ethic of the graduates.”

The college plans to continue the survey annually to align its curriculum with the needs of the region’s workforce.

“Our goal at STC is to provide graduates with the skills to enhance the quality of their lives,” added Cole. “Part of measuring that is to find out how they are perceived to perform the jobs they were trained to tackle, and that was our goal with this study. We look forward to continuing to determine areas of success, as well as areas that we can work on to better prepare our students for the demands of a very competitive workforce.”

For more information about STC’s 2009 Graduate Employer Satisfaction Survey or for more information about the college’s Research and Analytical Services Department contact Dr. Cole at 956/872-5584.

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Sen. Lucio named to National Conference of State Legislatures and Southern Legislative Conference

By DORIS SÁNCHEZ

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently appointed Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, to two committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and two of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) that is overseen by the Council of State Governments.

"It is indeed a profound honor to be appointed to serve on these committees to help advance government at the state and national levels both in the Southern region of the country and at the national level," said Lucio. "I thank Lt. Gov. Dewhurst for these critical assignments and feel honored to represent the interests of all Texans on these important committees that develop national strategy and policy."

Lucio was appointed to the Labor and Economic Development Committee and the Redistricting and Elections Committee of the NCSL, a bipartisan organization serving legislators and staffs of the country’s 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policy makers to exchange ideas on pressing state issues, and serves as an advocate for the interests of state governments before Congress and federal agencies.

A few of the issues the Labor and Economic Development Committee has been addressing are green jobs, unemployment, state pension plans and export and trade. The Redistricting and Elections Committee will share ideas on the proper technology, data and staff for effective redistricting efforts, as well as improving elections systems.

The Council of State Governments, founded during the Great Depression, provides state leaders with resources to succeed in difficult times. The strictly nonpartisan organization brings state leaders together to share capitol ideas and provides them the chance to learn valuable lessons from each other, while fostering innovation in state government. CSG advocates for the interests of the states in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1947, the Southern Legislative Conference is the largest of four regional legislative groups operating under the Council of State Governments and comprises the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

SLC’s mission is to foster and encourage intergovernmental cooperation among its 16-member states.

One of the senator’s SLC appointments is to the Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee of the SLC for the 2009-2010 term. This Committee reviews topics relevant to the progress and advancement of the southern region, the arts for economic growth, federal transportation plans and their implications for Southern states, high speed rail, biotechnology and many others.

His other SLC appointment for the 2009-2010 term is to the Fiscal Affairs and Government Operations Committee, which will review the myriad fiscal issues that impact state budgets and finances. Members of the FAGO Committee have been interested in exploring the experiences of their southern state counterparts in devising strategies in their own states. The Committee has most recently studied the impact of the federal budget on state finances; revenue forecasting in the

16-member states; health care reform; state fiscal trends; performance-based budgeting; e-commerce and taxation; the future of Medicare; implications of Social Security Trust Fund reforms; and the impact of large bank mergers in Southern states.

"These memberships are of tremendous benefit to our state’s efforts and to those of District 27," added Lucio. "I hope to gain a wealth of information as well as contribute to the discussions bringing to the table my 20-plus years in the Legislature."

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An estimated 200,000 people die each year from medical errors and hospital acquired infections each year, according to Hearst Corporation report

An estimated 200,000 Americans will die needlessly from preventable medical mistakes and hospital infections this year, according to Dead By Mistake, a wide-ranging Hearst national investigation, which began reporting the findings on Sunday, August 9.

Despite an authoritative federal report 10 years ago that laid out the scope of the problem and urged the federal and state governments and the medical community to take clear and tangible steps to reduce the number of fatal medical errors,a staggering 98,000 Americans die from preventable medical errors each year and just as many from hospital-acquired infections.

Dead By Mistake is the result of an investigation conducted by Hearst newspaper and television journalists.

Ten years ago, the highly-publicized federal report, To Err Is Human, highlighted the alarming death toll from preventable medical injuries and called on the medical community to cut it in half—in five years. Its authors and patient safety advocates believed that its release would spur a revolution in patient safety. But Hearst’s Dead By Mistake reveals that the federal government and most states have made little or no progress in improving patient safety through accountability mechanisms or other measures. According to the Hearst investigation, special interests worked to ensure that the key recommendations in the report — most notably a mandatory national reporting system for medical errors — were never implemented.

Among the key findings of the Hearst investigation:

  • 20 states have no medical error reporting at all, five states have voluntary reporting systems and five are developing reporting systems;
  • Of the 20 states that require medical error reporting, hospitals report only a tiny percentage of their mistakes, standards vary wildly and enforcement is often nonexistent;
  • In terms of public disclosure, 45 states currently do not release hospital-specific information;
  • Only 17 states have systematic adverse-event reporting systems that are transparent enough to be useful to consumers;
  • The national patient-safety center is underfunded and has fallen far short of expectations;
  • Congress approved legislation for “Patient Safety Organizations” as a voluntary system for hospitals to report and learn from errors, but the new organizations are devoid of meaningful oversight and further exclude the public;
  • Hearst journalists interviewed 20 of the 21 living authors of To Err Is Human — 16 believe that the U.S. hasn’t come close to reducing medical errors by half, the primary stated goal of the report;
  • New York’s reporting system has run out of money and staff—its last public report is four years old;
  • The law mandating reporting in Texas expired in 2007, and funding ran out — a new reporting law has been passed, but no funds have been allocated;
  • Washington State requires reporting, but doesn’t enforce that requirement — and the legislature failed to provide funds to analyze the results.

Dead By Mistake includes profiles of more than 30 people who died or were injured while seeking medical care. Most lost their lives, some in lingering pain. Others lived on, with paralysis, amputation, burns and emotional distress. Families suffered in the aftermath. In some cases, paperwork was lost, or mischaracterized the cause.

“Ranging in age from newborn to 91, these Americans are a small sample of a huge and poorly accounted for population,” said Hearst Newspapers Editor-at-Large Phil Bronstein, who oversaw the project. “To the families, each case is a unique and compelling argument as to why a system that allows such preventable mistakes is intolerable.”

In addition to investigative reporting and case profiles, DeadByMistake.com features an interactive map that provides a state-by-state snapshot of reporting systems and two interactive databases created as part of this investigation. One database tracks hospitals’ participation in three prominent national safety programs. The second brings together the millions of anonymous patient discharge records that Hearst reporters collected from California, Texas, New York and Washington. Hearst worked with expert statisticians at the Niagara Health Quality Coalition, a not-for-profit think tank, to analyze this data to produce never-before published patient safety ratings from medical details buried in hospital records. The results appear on five searchable databases with interactive maps.

“More people die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” Bronstein added. “The annual medical error death toll is higher than that for fatal car crashes.”

Bronstein continued, “Dead By Mistake is the result of two things converging: a critical and neglected health-care issue that dramatically affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year and the tireless work of a team of skilled and dedicated journalists.”

The investigation utilized the reporting resources of seven Hearst newspapers — the San Francisco Chronicle, Albany Times Union, San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle, Greenwich Time, Stamford Advocate and the Connecticut Post—as well as SeattlePI.com and Hearst Television. In addition to contributing to the national television, print and Web stories, these Hearst journalists also produced market-specific reports highlighting the results of local investigations. Students, faculty and graduates of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism also contributed research, stories, photos, audio, video and Web content to the report.

“This comprehensive investigation allowed us to draw on the unique journalistic resources of our various Hearst properties and platforms, and enabled us to broaden the breadth and depth of the reporting,” Bronstein said. “This investigation is a new, collaborative way of reporting, but, more importantly, it is a public service focusing on the plague of fatal and preventable hospital errors.”

Dead By Mistake is the third Hearst investigative reporting initiative, following January’s series on Boy Scouts councils across the country logging and selling prime woodlands to turn quick profits, sometimes on lands that were bequeathed to the organization for preservation purposes. Before that, Hearst Newspapers’ I-team investigated disastrous military housing privatization programs across the country, which earned a 2008 George Polk Award for Military Reporting.

Hearst Corporation (http://www.hearst.com) is one of the nation’s largest diversified media companies. Its major interests include ownership of 15 daily and 49 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union; as well as interests in an additional 43 daily and 72 non-daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which include the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune; nearly 200 magazines around the world, including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine; 29 television stations that reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including Lifetime, A&E, History and ESPN; as well as business publishing, including a minority joint venture interest in Fitch Ratings; Internet businesses, television production, newspaper features distribution and real estate.

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Even after 10 years, Gov. Perry taking Republican Party and Texas government down the wrong road

By SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON

It is with pride and humility for history that I announce today (Monday, August 17) that I am a candidate for Governor of Texas.

Texas is like no other place on earth. It started on March 2, 1836 when our forefathers declared an end to tyranny with the Texas Declaration of Independence. Among the signers was my great, great grandfather, Charles S. Taylor. The great men who signed that document put their lives on the line, and their fate in the hands of God. Why did they do it? Because they yearned for freedom and they believed in Texas. Today, 173 years later, I’m running for Governor because I believe in Texas. And I know we can do better.

Let me start by saying this about Rick Perry. He’s a dedicated public servant. I know he loves Texas. But now he’s trying to stay too long – 14 years, maybe longer.

And after ten Perry years, where are we? Property taxes? Highest in the country. State debt? Doubled. Tuition? Skyrocketing. Dropout rates? Among the highest. Uninsured children? Leading the nation. Private property rights? At risk.

Ten years is enough. We can do better.

In my administration, we will tackle these challenges. We will be specific, and direct.We will lay out a clear, conservative vision for the future of Texas. As Governor, I will focus on five areas: Fiscal policy, education, transportation, health care and government reform.

For starters, I will spend less, tax less, and borrow less. Just look at Governor Perry’s new tax on business. It’s been called a "job killer." More than 200,000 Texans lost their jobs this year. In the month of June alone, Texas lost more lost jobs than any state but one. And now we have the highest unemployment in the region. The governor said he was "proud" to sign his record tax increase. Well, I don’t call a job killing tax increase something to be proud of. I call it a tragic mistake.

Taxes have increased and government has grown. Over the last ten years, Texas has added 30,000 new workers to the state payroll. And to make a political point, we turned down half a billion in federal money, sacrificed it to other states, and now we’re borrowing three times as much and sticking Texas business with the tab. That’s not conservative. That’s irresponsible. We can do better. It’s time for results, not politics.

As governor, I want to help create an education system that prepares our children for the jobs of tomorrow. To begin, we will no longer accept one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Our students deserve quality teachers who are well educated and trained, and schools where bad teachers aren’t just transferred, but let go. But good teachers should be rewarded and they should have continuing opportunities for professional development. I will propose incentives for math and science teachers to earn a degree in what they teach.

In Texas, discussion of basic education should no longer be K through 12, but pre-K through 14. We have to look for ways to support early childhood education efforts on the front end.

And every child should have the support and encouragement to attend college. But those who don’t, must be trained with marketable skills to find a good job.

Ignoring these fundamental challenges is a recipe for mediocrity. Or even worse: failure. We can do better. And our future depends on it.

Today, TXDOT is the most arrogant, unaccountable state agency in the history of Texas. I will reform and expand the Commission. It should be more representative of all regions of our state. And it will seek and embrace local input. It is time to return to our tradition of free, quality highways and roads.

“Then there’s the Trans-Texas Corridor. The biggest land grab in the history of Texas. And the governor wanted to turn it over to a foreign company to build toll roads. Well, they can call it the Trans-Texas Corridor. Or they can call it something different. But here’s what I will call it when I take the oath of office, dead, buried, history. We can do better.

We must build a health care system that will leverage the vast resources of our state to bring health care options to the uninsured, and assistance to business owners so they can afford to provide it. And know this, while I’m in the Senate, I will spend every moment fighting this massive government takeover of our health care system. If you want to know what health care in Texas will look like when I’m governor, just imagine the exact opposite of what is proposed in Congress today. We will offer carrots, not sticks. Help, not fines.

There’s another reality here in Texas. Too often our state government is doing what it shouldn’t, and isn’t doing what it should. When we have systemic abuse at the Texas Youth Commission, and fight clubs at state schools for the disabled, the last thing we need is government mandating vaccines for 6th grade girls or playing politics with a great university like Texas A&M.

We need results, not politics. And that starts with term limits for Texas governor. For any Governor, eight years is enough. We can’t afford fourteen years of one person appointing every state board, agency and commission. It invites patronage. It tempts cronyism. And it has to stop, now.

As governor I will give our agencies a top to bottom scrubbing. I will appoint a Commission 2025 – respected scholars, business, agricultural representatives, and community leaders – to look at Texas state governance. What we should keep, what should go, and what should change.

Finally, let me say this to every Texas Republican. For the last decade, the Republican Party in Texas has been shrinking. We’re losing elections we used to win easily. In Austin, we’ve gone from 88 seats in the House to 76 – just two away from losing the Texas house.

As Republicans, we can continue down the road of shrinking majorities. Or we can inspire, unite, and grow our party. Rebuild it from the bottom up, and reach out to Texans and say, ‘If you are for limited government, lower taxes and less spending, we want you in the Republican Party, we welcome you and want you to be active in our cause.’ That’s how we will win elections, keep the majority and be worthy to lead our great state. And that’s what we’re going to do if I’m heading the Republican ticket.

It’s time for a governor for all Texas. Join me and together we will make the Texas of tomorrow everything our children deserve.

This is a special time in Texas. A time for principled leadership. A time for reform. And a time for results.

We can do better.

And together, we will.

••••••

Gov. Perry honored by Israel with Defender of Jerusalem Award during his Middle East visit

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, August 13 received the Defender of Jerusalem Award, which is given to public figures who have demonstrated support and commitment to the state of Israel and its capitol, Jerusalem. The governor accepted the award while on his trip to Israel, where he also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and business and academic leaders.

“I have long supported the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East and firmly believe in the protection and preservation of democratic states in that part of the world,” Perry said. “After visiting several sacred and historic sites, meeting with business, civic and government leaders and seeing the day-to-day lives of the people on my trips to Israel, I am even more convinced that a safe, secure Israel is an essential part of stability in this part of the world.”

The Defender of Jerusalem Award was created in 2008 by Guma Aguiar, head of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation, as a tribute to dignitaries within Israel and around the world who have demonstrated strong support for the people of Jerusalem and Israel. The first award was presented to Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Perry continues to be a staunch supporter of Israel. After a trip to the area in 2007, the governor supported Texas’ divestment from companies that do business with Iran, a main opponent of Israeli freedom. Additionally, as a result of meetings with Israeli leadership during the governor and first lady’s visit to Israel in 2007, the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce was created to help launch future commercial interests and solidify the strong business and cultural connections between the two states.

Texas is Israel’s fourth largest American trading partner. Texas and Israel’s commercial relationship began with agriculture and natural resources, and has grown in recent years to include a variety of major business sectors, including information and communication technologies, aerospace and defense, medical technologies, homeland security initiatives and renewable energies.

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Cooperative program that features EEDC board member Dr. Martínez offers a Ph.D. in Spanish

By MELISSA C. RODRÍGUEZ

Jose Castro is thankful he is able to further his education in Spanish while continuing to pursue his career as a linguistics educator in the Rio Grande Valley. This is possible due to a cooperative program between The University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Houston (UH), which offers students the opportunity to pursue their doctorate in Spanish through advanced interactive courses on the UTPA campus.

“It’s a great benefit for me to be able to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Houston without moving away from here,” Castro said.

Through the use of technologies such as interactive TV (ITV) and Blackboard – a personalized online classroom environment – doctoral courses taught at UH are broadcast to the UTPA campus.

“We designed the collaboration so students can participate in doctoral-level education and get the doctoral experience without having to leave here, by using the resources that already exist on campus,” said Dr. Glenn Martínez, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at UTPA.

Martínez sits on the five-member board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Martínez said the cooperative Spanish Ph.D. program was developed due to the large amount of student interest. There are currently 13 students enrolled in the doctoral program from UTPA and more are starting this fall.

“There was a back log of a lot of people who were wanting to improve their ability to teach Spanish and weren’t able to because they had barriers such as moving away, leaving their families behind and going into debt,” Martínez said. “The student interest is connected to local market demands. The level of competency that a Ph.D. offers, I think, improves the kinds of jobs people have in schools, such as bilingual coordinators, and it’s an opening for the growing need for University and college professors.”

Martínez said students with doctorates in philosophy generally find employment in university-level teaching or language-based administration.

Interim Chair for the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston Dr. Manuel J. Gutiérrez said the partnership with UTPA was formed because of the institution’s reputation and quality faculty members.

“UTPA has developed as an institution that is recognized as a referent in the academic world,” Gutiérrez said. “Therefore, UTPA was the natural academic place to build a collaborative program.”

One advantage of the program is that students have a UTPA faculty mentor and access to the library resources at both universities.

Students apply to the cooperative program through the University of Houston, and once accepted, are required to complete one summer residency at the University of Houston. While there, they can work on a variety of research interests, including Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literacy Heritage Project – a national program to locate, identify, preserve and make accessible the literary contributions of U.S. Hispanics.

Martínez said the collaboration is mutually beneficial as UTPA graduate faculty are also teaching courses to the doctoral students. This fall, he will teach a course on campus to the doctoral students and it will be sent via ITV to Houston.

“We aligned our graduate faculty criteria with that of the University of Houston,” Martínez said. “One of the key factors is the trust that exists between their faculty and our faculty, which is evidenced by them allowing us to teach their doctoral students.”

Gutiérrez said UTPA students who have pursued graduate study in Spanish at UH have done well because of the foundation and preparation they received.

“A number of them have already graduated from our Ph.D. in Spanish program and they hold positions of great responsibility in several important universities in Texas,” Gutiérrez said. “UTPA students come with a solid foundation and most of them are part of the best students we have had in our Ph.D. program.”

The deadlines to apply for the cooperative Ph.D. program are September 15 for the spring 2010 semester and January 15 for the fall 2010 semester.

“We are trying to create the cooperative Ph.D. in Spanish as a model that can be replicated,” Martínez said. “I think this is not only a model for UTPA to build more doctorate offerings for the College of Arts and Humanities, but a model for the nation to look at.”

For questions about the cooperative program, contact Dr. Guadalupe Cortina, graduate program coordinator, at 956/381-3446 or Martínez at 956/381-3441.

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