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Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, featured center, welcomes two of the several hundred constituents who showed up to his reelection campaign kick-off in Weslaco on Wednesday, October 21, at the Best Western Palm Aire Motor Inn & Suites. "It’s all about what we have done in the Legislature as a team, because there is no ‘I’ in team," Martínez told the overflow audience at his rally. Martínez,  who this year has played key roles in many of the Valley’s legislative successes — from authorizing the creation of a University of Texas medical school for the region to improving the chances to land a Veterans Administration Hospital for deep South Texas – says more major legislative victories are on the way for constituents in his House District 39. Martínez is seeking his fourth two-year term as state representative for House District 39, which includes San Juan, Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes, Progreso, and Progreso Lakes.  "I have kept my promises," said Martínez.  See story later in this posting. 

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René A. Ramírez, the longtime chief-of-staff for Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured in this recent news portrait with his wife, Laura Guerra Ramírez, on Tuesday, October 27, was appointed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court as interim county judge, replacing Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, who resigned earlier that day in order to take a major federal appointment in north Texas. "My task is to carry out the priorities laid out in the budget by Judge Salinas and Commissioners Court, ensure our community sees no interruption in public services, and continue to advocate at the state and federal level for our fair share of investments in order to spur economic development, increased educational opportunities, and greater access to affordable health care," Ramírez pledged.  He is scheduled to leave his state post as Hinojosa’s right-hand man in the coming days in order to prepare to take his oath of office as the administrative leader of the county government. Hinojosa spoke highly of Ramírez’ credentials and dedication to South Texas. "René has done an outstanding job working with me and with my legislative team, is well-respected by the legislative leadership in Austin, and has excellent working relations with people from all walks of life in South Texas," said Hinojosa. "Moreover, he is an accomplished Texan, a dedicated public servant, a wonderful family man, a loyal friend, and a proven confidant. These are some of the many qualities he will be bringing to this new role."  See story later in this posting. 

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Former President Bill Clinton speaks from the podium in the Fine Arts Auditorium at the University of Texas-Pan American during his Thursday, October 22 visit to the three-time All-America City. Clinton, who has visited UTPA several times during his presidential career, addressed an overflow audience of more than 1,000 people about pressing issues facing the world and how his Clinton Global Initiative is set to help. “I am delighted to be here at UTPA and there is nothing I would rather do than be here tonight and have the opportunity to speak to all of you, particularly those who are students,” Clinton said. “I like to come to colleges and universities to ask young people to think clearly, have a clear view of the world and its challenges so you can learn what you can do.” See story later in this posting. 

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South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed, featured center, has been named the Pacesetter of the Year by District 4 of the National Council for Public Relations and Marketing. The college’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing also earned 10 District 4 Medallion Awards from NCMPR. The Pacesetter of the Year award recognizes a community college president who has demonstrated special leadership and support in marketing and public relations. “This is really an honor, but it’s pretty easy to be the pacesetter when you have such a great staff,” Reed said at an honorees luncheon during the annual NCMPR District 4 Conference held in mid-October. “This nation is going through some pretty tough times and it’s the community colleges that will play a leading role in helping solve our economic situation. We get more accomplished with fewer resources, more passion and more commitment than any other group in higher education. I salute my team and all of you for your great work.” Featured, from left: NCMPR District 4 President Fred Peters; STC President Reed; and National NCMPR President Judi Sciple. See story later in this posting. 

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Hundreds filed into the Fine Arts Auditorium on Tuesday, October 20 as The University of Texas-Pan American kicked off its sixth annual Distinguished Speakers Series with Steve Wozniak, featured right, co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc. and chief scientist for Fusion-IO. Wozniak is the first of four distinguished speakers invited to present at UTPA. He was greeted with a warm applause from the audience and an official welcome from Dr. Van Reidhead, Dean of the College of Social Behavioral sciences, and Dr. Timothy Mottet, Chair and professor of the Department of Communications, who was also moderator for the evening. “The goal of this series is to bring to campus speakers who not only are renowned for their accomplishments, but whose work is relevant to one or more of the academic programs offered here at UTPA,” said Reidhead. Wozniak is featured here with UTPA students during a dinner before his presentation at the Fine Arts Auditorium. See story later in this posting. 

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Proposition 8 for Valley VA Hospital "an idea whose time has come," says Sergio Muñoz, Jr.

By DAVID A. DÍAZ 

South Texans are being encouraged to show up in force on Tuesday, November 3, to support Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that would help speed up the construction of a U.S. Veterans Affair Hospital in the Valley, says Democratic state representative candidate Sergio Muñoz, Jr. 

Proposition 8 would authorize the state government to pool resources with the federal government to construct and maintain a VA Hospital in the Valley. 

Muñoz, an attorney and Palmview Municipal Court Judge, is seeking the March 2010 Democratic Party primary for state representative, House District 36. 

House District 36 includes Granjeno, Hidalgo, southern McAllen, most of Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr. 

Muñoz praised the current Valley legislative delegation for its work in getting Proposition 8 on the November statewide ballot. 

But he saved his greatest appreciation for the many roles that Valley veterans groups and their families have played in pushing for a Valley VA Hospital. 

"Proposition 8, in many ways, is part of a great battle for justice that has been undertaken by our Valley veterans for years and years," said Muñoz. "But as the famous saying goes: ‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: and that is an idea whose time has come.’" 

Proposition 8 is one of 11 state constitutional amendments facing Texas voters, not only on Tuesday, November 3, but for many, during the early voting period, which was set for Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 30. 

Information on the times and locations of early voting substations, and voting locations on Tuesday, November 3, is available by calling the Hidalgo County Elections Department at 956/784-VOTE (8683). 

As state representative, Muñoz said he would work closely with the state and legislative leadership to bring about the state-federal partnership to develop the Valley VA Hospital. 

"Both in the Valley, and throughout Texas, support continues to build for Proposition 8, and South Texans must show up at the ballot box in order to help guarantee its success," said Muñoz. "Proposition 8 is also important because it would give clear, constitutional authority for the state government to contribute money, land, or other resources to help make a Valley VA Hospital a reality." 

Muñoz is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. A Mission High School graduate, he went on to perform at the highest levels at The Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, graduating Magna Cum Laude, a designation reserved for the top students.

Muñoz passed the State Bar of Texas to become a licensed attorney, is a member of the Hidalgo County Bar Association, and has established a successful law firm in Edinburg. 

Muñoz’ support for Proposition 8 is part of  a growing, statewide movement for its passage among other Valley and statewide leaders. 

The measure placing Proposition 8 on the ballot was authored by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio. 

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was the Senate sponsor of the Proposition 8 legislation, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, serving as Senate coauthor. 

Locally, Proposition 8 also has been endorsed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, the Willacy County Commissioners Court, and the Cameron County Commissioners Court. 

Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn, former Texas Comptroller John Sharp and Houston Mayor Bill White are among the state’s top leaders who have endorsed Proposition 8. 

Earlier this month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer urged Texas voters to cast their ballots for Proposition 8 on the November 3 constitutional amendments ballot.   

"A full-service, in-patient VA hospital is a long overdue necessity for Valley veterans," Schieffer said.  "The closest facility today is in San Antonio, and that drive is too long for veterans with critical care, even life-or-death, medical needs. My hope is that the passage of Proposition 8 will finally convince the federal government to build a hospital in the Valley." 

Schieffer noted the crucial importance of bringing a VA Hospital to the Valley. 

"Valley veterans have served their country honorably, often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families," Schieffer said. "Many suffered severe, crippling injuries in the course of protecting our freedom.  They deserve full medical care close to home. As governor, I will do everything in my power to convince Washington to build a VA hospital in the Valley. In the meantime, Proposition 8 is a major step toward making that happen." 

Political announcement paid for by Sergio Muñoz, Jr., 1110 South Closner Boulevard, Edinburg, Texas 78539. 

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With South Texas posting major achievements, Rep. Martínez says more victories on the way

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, who this year has played key roles in many of the Valley’s legislative successes — from authorizing the creation of a University of Texas medical school for the region to improving the chances to land a Veterans Administration Hospital for deep South Texas – says more major legislative victories are on the way for constituents in his House District 39. 

"In 2004, when I first ran for state representative, I promised to ensure that education budgets would not be reduced, that the Valley’s medical needs would be improved, that our state roadway systems would be developed, that public safety, public health, and economic development be top priorities," said Martínez. "These, and other goals, have been reached, and there is much more to come." 

His reflections on legislative victories for House District 39 and his predictions for continuing successes for his constituents highlighted his standing-room only campaign reelection kick-off, held on Wednesday, October 21, at the Best Western Palm Aire Motor Inn & Suites in Weslaco. 

Martínez is seeking his fourth two-year term as state representative for House District 39, which includes San Juan, Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes, Progreso, and Progreso Lakes. 

"I have kept my promises," Martínez said. "Teachers have received pay raises. Our schools have received additional funding. Retired teachers received a ’13th’ monthly check, and their health insurance premiums have remained stable." 

He said he made good on one his first campaign pledges in 2004 to help restore crucial funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which is a health insurance for the children of families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford to buy private health insurance.  

"Before I was elected state representative, CHIP benefits were severely cut back by the Legislature," Martínez said. "But I continually fought to restore those benefits, and I filed legislation to expand CHIP.  As a result, more than 133,00 children – including thousands in South Texas – are eligible to qualify for CHIP benefits." 

In addition, Martinez said he successfully worked on legislation to make it easier for Texas families to keep their children protected by CHIPs by reducing bureaucratic paperwork and income requirements that had discouraged many families from securing those crucial health benefits. 

Martínez: "Think big for South Texas" 

Martínez, a legislative veteran who first began serving in January 2005, has attained numerous leadership positions in the House, including being appointed in the first days of his first term to the powerful House Appropriations Committee – a honor for new House members.  

His first term also saw him selected as "Freshman of the Year" by the entire House of Representatives. 

Improvements in health care, economic development, job creation, public safety, veterans issues, education, and infrastructure advancements have been the focus on his legislative agenda during his current three terms. 

This year, among the numerous major bills and amendments he carried, Martínez was a sponsor of legislation that authorizes the University of Texas System to begin plans to build a major health science center — including a four-year UT medical school – in and for the Rio Grande Valley. 

In addition, Martínez was an author of another groundbreaking measure this year that has placed Proposition 8 on the November 3 statewide ballot. 

Proposition 8, one of 11 statewide constitutional amendments, would authorize the state to contribute money, property, and other resources to establish, maintain, and operate VA Hospitals in Texas,  including building one in the Valley.  

He says his legislative track record, his growing legislative seniority, and his ability to "think big for South Texas" provides his House District 39 constituents a powerful voice in the affairs of Texas government.  

"In my own line of work back home, I often have to face pressure-packed situations, from dangerous rescue missions to life-threatening medical emergencies," said Martínez, whose professional credentials include his service as a firefighter, licensed paramedic, critical care flight paramedic, and Texas Department of Health instructor and coordinator.  

"So when it comes to working with the top leadership of Texas, either at the State Capitol or at the huge state agencies, I am always prepared, armed with the truth and empowered by my legislative knowledge, to work on behalf –  and need be, successfully fight for – the best interests of the people here at home," he added.  

High marks for effectiveness 

Even before the Texas Legislature had finished its work on June 2, Martínez’ influence on behalf of South Texas had already drawn praise from one of the major independent newspapers which specializes in state politics.  

Capitol Inside, an Internet-based, widely-read political news daily, says Martínez, who is already preparing legislation for the 2011 regular session, earned high marks for effectiveness and legislative influence.  

"There are other ways to generate power beyond official leadership positions," wrote Mike Hailey, editor and publisher of Capitol Inside. He named Martínez among Democrats "who are wielding more clout this year than they have in the past even though they didn’t technically qualify for the power chart because they don’t chair committees."  

Martínez says that his expert knowledge of the complicated state legislative process has continued to allow him to champion crucial, but tough, issues to benefit his constituents in House District 39.

In all, about 150 bills were filed during the five-month regular legislative session that included Martínez’ name, with many of them eventually becoming state law.   

Other gains for deep South Texas that Martínez has helped shape during his time in office include: 

• More than $614 million has been awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation for state highways and roadways in the Valley;

• $108 million for border security operations;

• More than $46 million in grants for water and wastewater systems that impact House District 39 have been awarded by the Texas Water Development Board, including a $6 million TWDB grant to Mercedes to improve its wastewater system;

• $45 million for a Regional Department of Public Safety facility, set to begin construction in early 2010, that will be built in Weslaco;

• $9.5 million for the planned construction of a 25,000-square-foot Citrus Center, a state-of-the-art Texas A&M System research facility designed to promote and protect the Valley’s $159 million citrus industry; and

• $4.5 million for local parks and nature centers, including $400,000 for the Rio Grande Nature Center in Weslaco. 

Medical school, law school progress 

Just this past legislative session, Martínez scored numerous other successes, including the following legislative achievements: 

• Senate Bill 98 (Lucio, III, primary sponsor, Martínez, sponsor), a directive authorizing the University of Texas System to begin developing plans for a health science center/medical school for the four-county South Texas border region;  

• House Bill 2217/House Joint Resolution 7 (Flores, primary author, Martínez, author), which will require, upon passage by Texas voters in November of a constitutional amendment, that the state government begin negotiations with the U.S. Veterans Administration to bring a VA Hospital to deep South Texas and other regions of the state;  

• Senate Bill 956 (Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, author, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, sponsor) was amended by Martínez and Rep. Norma Chávez, D-El Paso, that requires lawmakers to begin an in-depth study of how to best bring a public law school to the Rio Grande Valley;

• HB 4577 (Martínez, author), which will create a state program to detect and try to prevent agricultural diseases from destroying the Valley’s $159 million citrus industry;  

• SB 526 (Martínez, sponsor), which will continue a state grant program that will help non-profit health clinics in the Valley apply for federal money, which will be used  to provide medical care for thousands of uninsured and low-income families;    

• HB 635 (Guillen, primary author, Martínez, author), which authorizes the commissioner of education to determine whether a Head Start program operated outside of a public school facility is eligible for certain federal grants. This bill also gives the Texas Education Agency the authority to seek, accept, and distribute public education grants awarded by the federal government or any other public or private institution; 

• HB 2571 (Gonzáles, primary author, Martínez, author), which will stop towing companies from charging outrageous fees before releasing a vehicle back to its owner;

• HB 3 (Eissler, primary author, Martínez, coauthor), which will amend the public school mission to include  striving for student performance— disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and  socioeconomic status— to rank in the top 10 nationally in terms of college readiness by 2019-20;  

• SB 187 (Lucio, III, main sponsor, Martínez, sponsor), which will help families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid benefits to be able to buy, at an affordable rate, Medicaid insurance to provide crucial health care for a disabled child;    

• HB 51 (Branch, primary author/Martínez, coauthor), which will create additional nationally-ranked universities and help existing universities to provide dramatic gains in the education of all Texans;  

• HB 1579 (Gonzáles, primary author, Martínez, author), which authorizes Hidalgo County to provide assistance for the removal from private property, including a road, of flood water resulting from a natural disaster in a colonia if the removal of the water is necessary to protect the health and safety of the colonia;  

• HB 2275 (Raymond primary author/Martínez, author), which will create a task force to develop uniform standards for subdivisions in the unincorporated areas of counties near the international border and in colonias;  

• HB 2372 (Guillen primary author/Martínez joint author), which will authorize the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to help local governments pay certain costs related to water and wastewater connections and plumbing improvements in colonias;  

• SB 1685 (Gonzáles, primary sponsor, Martínez, sponsor), which will create  a district court records technology fund to help protect the integrity and permanent collection of vital court records;  

• HB 1789 (Maldonado, primary author, Martínez, author), which allows cities with populations of between 13,000 and 39,000 residents, including numerous communities in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, to use revenue from a municipal hotel occupancy tax for the promotion of tourism by the enhancement and upgrading of existing sports facilities or fields if the municipality owns the facilities or fields; and  

• SB 915 (Martínez Fisher, sponsor, Martínez, cosponsor), already signed into law, which provides journalists the ability to protect their confidential sources. 

Political announcement paid for by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez, 1107 W. 4th Street Weslaco, Texas, 78596 – Dr. Rodolfo Guerrero, Treasurer. 

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René A. Ramírez of Edinburg bringing much legislative expertise as Hidalgo County Judge

By DAVID A. DÍAZ 

René A. Ramírez, the longtime chief-of-staff for Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, October 27, was appointed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court as interim county judge, replacing Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, who resigned earlier that day in order to take a major federal appointment in north Texas. 

The U.S. General Services Administration on Friday, October 23, announced the appointment of Salinas to serve as the Regional Administrator of GSA’s Greater Southwest Region, effective on November 9, 2009. 

Ramírez, whose extensive public service credentials also include a previous appointment as an Edinburg City Councilmember from September 2002 to May 2004, is scheduled to leave his state post as Hinojosa’s right-hand man in the coming days in order to prepare to take his oath of office as the administrative leader of the county government. 

He will finish up the final 14 months of Salinas’ four-year term, which means Ramírez will help guide the operations of the county government through the end of December 2010. 

He said he does not plan to seek election as county judge. 

"After next year’s elections, I look forward to handing over the reigns to a county that has been a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars and is creating new economic opportunities for its citizens," Ramírez said. 

So far, former Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, also of Edinburg, is the only announced candidate for county judge, as he is seeking the upcoming March 2010 Democratic Party primary nomination. 

Following the announcement of his selection, Ramírez expressed both gratitude and humility for the opportunity to be part of the leadership for one of the state’s largest and increasingly-influential counties. 

"I am honored by the decision of the Commissioners Court to appoint me as Interim County Judge, and I am eager to hit the ground running to help see our communities through this time of transition," he said. "I recognize that this decision was a difficult one, as times of change and uncertainty will naturally spark a healthy debate and bring out differences in opinion." 

Ramírez said he viewed his new role "as a managerial one, not a political one.   

"My task is to carry out the priorities laid out in the budget by Judge Salinas and Commissioners Court, ensure our communities see no interruption in public services, and continue to advocate at the state and federal levels for our fair share of investments in order to spur economic development, increased educational opportunities, and greater access to affordable health care," he pledged. 

"Our ability to move our county forward will rest on strong communication and accountability — traits that I believe I have long demonstrated in my previous positions of service to the county," Ramírez added. 

Hinojosa spoke highly of Ramírez’ credentials and dedication to South Texas. 

"René has done an outstanding job working with me and with my legislative team, is well-respected by the legislative leadership in Austin, and has excellent working relations with people from all walks of life in Texas," said Hinojosa. "Moreover, he is an accomplished Texan, a dedicated public servant, a wonderful family man, a loyal friend, and a proven confidant. These are some of the many qualities he will be bringing to this new role." 

According to a biographical sketch released following his selection as interim Hidalgo County judge: 

As chief of staff for Hinojosa, Ramírez has put his management skills into overdrive since the McAllen senator was named last January by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as Vice Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which shaped the Senate’s version of the state’s $151.9 billion, two-year operating budget. 

In addition to his responsibilities of managing a Capitol legislative staff of 10 professionals, Ramírez oversaw the research and staff support that helped Hinojosa secure critical funding needed to reopen the McAllen Women’s Cancer Clinic, and he helped increase the budgets for the University of Texas-Pan American by $6.3 million and the UT Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) by $6.5 million. 

On a larger regional basis, Ramírez and his colleagues on Hinojosa’s Austin legislative team helped in the senator’s successful efforts to secure more than $170 million for infrastructure and transportation projects throughout Senate District 20, which includes Hidalgo County. 

A graduate of the University of Texas – Pan American with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Ramírez has long been a behind-the-scenes player in Hidalgo County economic development.   

As an Edinburg City Councilmember, he helped build public support for tourism, business travel, and eco-tourism projects in the three-time All-America City, including a professional baseball stadium, the Los Lagos Golf Course, and the establishment of a World Birding Center. 

He has also previously served as a board member for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the McAllen Medical Board of Governors, the Hidalgo County Housing Authority, and the Red Sands Ground Conservation District. 

Known for his easy demeanor and a leadership style that focuses on consensus building, Ramirez has a reputation for bridging political factions to get the job done. His work in helping pass House Joint Resolution 7, an important step in paving the way for a veterans hospital for the Valley, is a reflection of his deep knowledge of the process, and what it takes to ensure Hidalgo County receives its fair share of state and federal resources. 

While Ramírez has focuses on job creation for Hidalgo County, he shares with Hinojosa a deep concern for the less-fortunate in the area. Ramírez  has helped oversee a legislative agenda that addressed the safety of seniors who were at risk of losing their utilities during the hottest months of summer, brought attention to the rising cost of college tuition, helped expand children’s health insurance, and addressed the disparities in health care for border communities. 

Ramírez and his wife, Laura Guerra, have two daughters, Gabriela and Mía Carmen, and he and his wife are active in raising funds for local scholarships. 

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Hidalgo County Judge Salinas named Regional Administrator for General Services Administration; will begin working in new role in Ft. Worth effective on November 9

By CHRIS HOAGLAND

and

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

The U.S. General Services Administration on Friday, October 23, announced the appointment of Hidalgo County Judge Juan “J.D” Salinas, III, to serve as the Regional Administrator of GSA’s Greater Southwest Region, effective on November 9, 2009.  

As a result, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, October 27, accepted Salinas’ resignation, which will be effective at midnight on November 8.  That action took place during their regular scheduled meeting, which was held in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Administration Building, 100 E. Cano, 1st floor, in Edinburg. 

Also during that session, René A. Ramírez of Edinburg,  the longtime chief-of-staff for Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen,was appointed by the county commissioners Court as interim county judge. 

Salinas was in his third year of a four-year term, and was facing the prospects of being challenged by former Hidalgo County Judge Ramon García. Salinas defeated García by a very slim margin in the March 2006 Democratic Party primary; there was no Republican candidate in the November 2006 general election. 

So far, García is the only announced candidate for Hidalgo County judge. That post will be on the ballot in the March 2010 primary election and on the November 2010 general election. 

As the Greater Southwest Regional Administrator, Salinas will oversee all of GSA’s activities in Arkansas,  Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; including management of federal real estate and  information technology. He will also be responsible for an inventory of 1,350 government-owned buildings    Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, was one of the principal advocates supporting Salinas’ appointment as regional administrator. 

"For months we’ve anticipated this announcement and now it’s official. I congratulate Judge J.D. Salinas on this appointment as it’s a shining moment for Hidalgo County," said Cuellar. "For two decades, he has served our area with pride and dedication. It’s an honor to support him as he moves forward to serve in this esteemed role with the GSA." 

Cuellar noted that among Salinas’ many achievements, "he has worked hard in meeting the needs of Hidalgo County, protecting our land and our people from dangerous flooding by helping us construct the levee system. I’m confident in his ability to serve the GSA, and the White House, the President and his administration have shown their confidence in J.D. Salinas by appointing him to this position." 

Salinas’ administrative experiences as leader for Hidalgo County government were part of the credentials that drew federal government interest. Since 2007, as county judge, Salinas was  responsible for coordinating the maintenance of more than 175 county buildings and leading more than 3,000  county employees.  

Also during his almost three-year tenure, Salinas developed and implemented the Hidalgo County  Prescription Drug Discount Card, established a wireless emergency notification system for county  residents, and worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the International Water  and Boundary Commission on the Levee/Barrier Project.     

Salinas has a long history of public engagement and community service.  

Elected in 1999 as Hidalgo  County Clerk, he established satellite County Clerk offices and extended hours to allow more convenient  access for country residents.  

Additionally, while in office Salinas established the “Public Report Card” system, a transparency measure of the County Clerk’s Office.     

Salinas received his Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University and a Masters of Public  Administration for the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.    

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Former President Bill Clinton speaks before overflow crowd at UT-Pan American

By AMANDA PÉREZ 

Long winding lines marked the wait for President Bill Clinton at The University of Texas-Pan American on Thursday, October 22. He spoke at the Fine Arts Auditorium about pressing issues facing the world and how his Clinton Global Initiative is set to help. 

More than 1,000 people from UTPA and the community witnessed his visit and listened to Clinton encourage change for a better world through education, community service and sustainability efforts. 

 “I am delighted to be here at UTPA and there is nothing I would rather do than be here tonight and have the opportunity to speak to all of you, particularly those who are students,” Clinton said. “I like to come to colleges and universities to ask young people to think clearly, have a clear view of the world and its challenges so you can learn what you can do.” 

Clinton touched on many issues such as the world’s fundamental character of interdependence and its profound negative forces of inequality, instability, and unsustainability. He addressed examples that many could identify with, such as diseases and death caused by lack of resources, instability of finances, the spread of swine flu and security issues and the unsustainable way energy is used. 

“This is how I view the world,” Clinton said. “But there needs to be framework and the answer is first having the right approach and be communitarian to simply realize that we are in this together, we go up and down together and we need to create a world of shared benefits and shared responsibilities so that everyone plays to win.” 

Among his discussion he stated that the United States must be more competitive in education with decreased dropout rates of high school students and higher performance rates. The dropout rate comes from students needing to work to help families financially, he said. Clinton has a hope that high schools will be developed more like colleges so that students can work while pursuing education. 

He also said better health care is needed and more jobs must be produced. He focused on encouraging zero emissions campuses and how preserving energy can create twice as many jobs by building efficiency in creating and running solar panels and windmills. 

“We have to get serious about energy,” Clinton stressed. 

However, Clinton’s visit was not primarily to state the issues, but to discuss solutions and the goals of his foundation and how the joined forces of students and the community can help advance the public good. 

“Citizens have never had more power than they do now to make a difference,” Clinton said. “We all have a role.” 

In 2007, to build upon his Clinton Global Initiative, he created Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to bring together and engage next generation leaders to take action on global challenges. Since its inception young leaders have taken action towards solving world challenges by creating commitments to action and by taking part in working toward their goal. 

Clinton took the time to recognize two UTPA students that have created commitments to action. Christopher Ramírez in 2008 committed to conduct a program for 15 low-income children in the Rio Grande Valley and introduce them to making eco-friendly, sustainable works of art from natural and recyclable materials. Nadia Thomas Robledo made a commitment to sell photography and handmade crafts and used the money to donate to Mujeres Unidas, the RGV Food Bank and other nonprofit organizations for supplies. 

“The world is hungry for solutions, so think about this: What can you do,” Clinton said. 

As Clinton wrapped up his speech for the night applause roared through the auditorium as people, like UTPA freshman Maggie Rodríguez, had been inspired to work toward a cause. 

“He really touched my heart. I was amazed how his speech opened my eyes,” Rodriguez said. “He inspired me to serve the community and the world to make a difference.” 

Others like, Marianella Franklin, director for sustainability programs at UTPA, believed that his speech had a great impact for the University. 

“I feel very honored and privileged to have had President Clinton come speak to our students, especially at a time when UTPA is beginning its journey and commitment in implementing sustainability measures,” Franklin said. “His examples clearly encouraged students to follow in the footsteps of world leaders, in taking action on global challenges.” 

Before exiting the stage, Clinton left the audience with one final thought. 

“I think this generation of young people will live in the most exciting and prosperous time in U.S. history,” Clinton said. “If you just keep in mind that we are trying to build up the positive forces and beat down the negative forces of our shared interdependence, you are going to be just fine.” 

•••••• 

Sen. Hinojosa encourages voters to support Propositions 6, 7, 8, and 9 in statewide election

By JERRY HADDICAN 

Two constitutional amendments by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, will appear on the constitutional election ballot, set for Tuesday, November 3. 

Hinojosa is encouraging voters to turn out and support those two propositions and two other measures as well: Proposition 6; Proposition 7; Proposition 8; and Proposition 9. 

Early voting, which began on  is also going on for these and eight other state constitutional amendments. Early voting is scheduled to continue through 5 p.m. on Friday, October 30. 

Early voting in Hidalgo County for all of the state constitutional amendments began on Mnday, October 19, and ends on Friday, October 30. Information on the times and locations of early voting substations is available by calling  the Hidalgo County Elections Department at 956/784-VOTE (8683). 

"These amendments deal primarily with veterans’ affairs. As a Vietnam veteran, I take the welfare of our combat and service veterans very seriously, so the establishment of a VA hospital tops this list of constitutional amendments. I also encourage constituents to vote to approve Proposition 9 which would make the Texas Open Beaches Act a part of the Texas Constitution," Hinojosa said. 

Four of the amendments supported by Hinojosa are: 

Proposition 6 (House Joint Resolution 116). This amendment authorizes the Veterans’ Land Board to issue general obligation bonds, subject to certain constitutional limits, for the purpose of selling land and providing home or land mortgage loans to veterans of the state. 

Proposition 7 (HJR 127).  This amendment allows a civil official to become active in the Texas State Guard, or other state militia or military force, and to allow state military personnel to hold another civil office. 

Proposition 8 (HJR 7) by Hinojosa. This constitutional amendment encourages the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to work with the state and with local communities to establish a veterans hospital. This amendment will help veterans in the Rio Grande Valley by allowing the construction of such facility in the region. By establishing a veterans’ hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, veterans will no longer have to take the lengthy trip to the nearest inpatient V.A. hospital in San Antonio. 

Proposition 9 (HJR 102) by Hinojosa. This constitutional amendment protects the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico. 

•••••• 

Apple Computer genius Steve Wozniak addresses UT-Pan American, emphasizes roles of new technology and educational advances

By AMANDA PÉREZ 

Hundreds filed into the Fine Arts Auditorium on Tuesday, October 20 as The University of Texas-Pan American kicked off its sixth annual Distinguished Speakers Series with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc. and chief scientist for Fusion-IO. 

Wozniak is the first of four distinguished speakers invited to present at UTPA. He was greeted with a warm applause from the audience and an official welcome from Dr. Van Reidhead, dean of the college of social behavioral sciences and Dr. Timothy Mottet, chair and professor of the Department of Communications, who was also moderator for the evening. 

“The goal of this series is to bring to campus speakers who not only are renowned for their accomplishments, but whose work is relevant to one or more of the academic programs offered here at UTPA,” said Reidhead. 

Wozniak talked about his experience in entrepreneurship, computer science and other areas in which he has excelled. He stressed the importance of education to students in the audience and what they can accomplish by working hard and pursuing their dreams. Four students had the opportunity to serve on a panel that asked Wozniak questions and he based his presentation around those questions. 

“I could have never imagined the technology we have today, but I am glad to have seen the before and after,” said Wozniak. “It is great being a part of companies and areas that are booming and growing technologically.” 

As the evening unfolded he introduced his inspirations, goals and endeavors and shared valuable advice with his audience, with students being his primary target. 

“Believe in yourself and think out of the box,” Wozniak said. “Communication is the key so be honest and try to get along with others, it will make work fun.” 

Wozniak has received numerous accomplishments and awards including the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States in 1985, the induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2000, and the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, The Economy and Employment. He has also dedicated himself to the service of education. 

As part of his committment to education, Wozniak has donated state-of-the-art technology equipment to schools, providing teachers and students with hands-on technology that they otherwise would not have been able to obtain. He believes that students should have the opportunity to express their creativity. 

“Students and teachers should always have access to technology, especially a good laptop,” Wozniak said. “Kids need to be encouraged to be creative.” 

Beyond the world of Apple Inc., Wozniak volunteered as a fifth grade teacher for eight years. He told the audience that he had always wanted to be an engineer first and a fifth grade teacher second, so he is glad he had the opportunity to do both. 

“I love teaching. Donating computers is great, but donating yourself is even better,” Wozniak said. 

As the night came to an end Wozniak encouraged everyone in attendance to continue growing and reaching high for big things. 

As the night came to an end Wozniak encouraged everyone in attendance to continue growing and reaching high for big things. 

For more information on the Distinguished Speakers Series, contact 956/316-7989. The events are open and free to UTPA students, faculty, staff and the general public. 

•••••• 

Special payments approved for veterans whose enlistments were involuntarily extended since 9/11, says Congressman Hinojosa

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, October 21, announced that effective immediately, special payments are available to more than 185,000 service members who have had their enlistments involuntarily extended since September 11, 2001.  

The special payments will provide $500 for every month they were held under stop-loss orders. 

Stop-loss, in the United States military, is the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date. It also applies to the cessation of a permanent change of station (PCS) move for a member still in military service. Stop-loss was used immediately before and during the first Persian Gulf War. Since then, it has been used during American military deployments to Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent War on Terror. 

The policy has been legally challenged several times, however federal courts have consistently found that military service members contractually agree that their term of service may be involuntarily extended. 

Congress established this payment in the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act enacted this summer. 

“Our men and women in the armed services have served above and beyond the call of duty. This special payment is in recognition of the hardship placed on the troops and their families for having to remain in active duty longer than planned”, Hinojosa said. 

The Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay is available to service members who had their enlistment extended or retirement suspended due to Stop Loss between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2009. Service members from every branch of the military will receive compensation. Service members may begin submitting their claim as of Wednesday, October 21. 

All applications must be submitted to the respective services no later than October 21, 2010. Service members must present proof they were Stop Lossed with their claim.  

Family members of deceased service members should contact the appropriate military service for assistance in filing their claim: 

Army: https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil

Navy:  send email to – NXAG_N132C@navy.mil

Marine Corps:  https://www.manpower.usmc.mil/stoploss

Air Force:  http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss   

This payment builds on a significant record of accomplishment for veterans and troops over the last two and a half years under the New Direction Congress – including the New GI Bill, progress in improving veterans’ hospitals and facilities, expanding economic opportunities for returning soldiers and improving care for those with PTSD.  

“We in Congress made a promise to leave no veteran behind, and we are continuously working to fulfill that promise," said Hinojosa. "Our veterans have done their duty, now it’s our turn to do our duty and honor them for their dedication to our nation." 

•••••• 

Solar power in colonias to be studied under House bill supported by Congressman Cuellar

By ASHLEY PATTERSON 

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, October 22, voted for a sweeping solar energy technology bill which would direct the Energy Secretary to create a solar energy roadmap by conducting studies nationwide, including a study on how the sun could power undeveloped areas known as colonias.  

“These studies will give us a roadmap for how to tap the most abundant natural resource we have,” said Cuellar. “With my amendment, the Energy Secretary would study communities like the colonias who lack a traditional power structure.” 

On Thursday, October 22, the House passed by a vote of 310-106, H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, that requires the U.S. Department of Energy to create a long-term plan to guide solar energy research and its potential for widespread commercial use. The legislation also authorizes $2.25 billion for solar research over the next five years. 

Cuellar successfully added an amendment to the bill that requires the Energy Department to conduct these solar studies in underpowered and underserved communities such as colonias. Over the past several years, he has repeatedly secured federal funding to bring electricity to the underdeveloped dwellings along the Rio Grande River. 

“A little power goes a long way in colonias,” said Cuellar. “As the federal government makes these dramatic new investments, they should look at our underdeveloped communities who have little if no power at all.” 

In July, Cuellar secured $550,000 for colonias in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act 2010 to power approximately 100 dwellings in colonias through a micro-grid system in coordination with Texas A&M University. A prototype currently powers 12 dwellings in La Presa Colonia in Webb County. 

If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act would become law. For more information, please visit:  

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR3585:/ 

•••••• 

Joel López Sr., 51, of Roma, sentenced to life for plot to assassinate federal judge Hinojosa

By ANGELA DODGE 

Joel López Sr., 51, of Roma, on Friday, October 23, was sentenced to life in federal prison for a murder-for-hire plot to kill U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa – who had sentenced him to life imprisonment on drug trafficking convictions – and for conspiring with his wife to kidnap a Roma woman who purportedly owed him thousands of dollars for drugs, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced.    

López and his wife, Aracely López-González, were indicted in April 2008 and proceeded to trial separately before U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston. After a one-week jury trial and two hours of deliberations, a jury found Lopez guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder-for-hire. His wife pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her husband after hearing one day of testimony.  

The previous week, Harmon, who presided over the trials and considered López-González’ cooperation, sentenced López-Gonzalez to 108 months in federal prison without parole to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. 

López, who is currently serving a federal life sentence for a February 2006 drug conviction, was today sentenced today to a second life term of imprisonment by Harmon for these convictions. In determining the sentence ultimately handed down, Harmon considered the fact that López was the leader of the murder-for-hire and kidnapping plot and he attempted to execute the plots while in federal prison. 

In June 2007, while in federal custody, López approached a fellow inmate at the Federal Detention Center in Houston to solicit the murder of Hinojosa in McAllen for $2 million and a woman who lived in Roma for $1 million. López believed the murder of Hinojosa, who had imposed a life sentence for his drug convictions, would assist his pending appeal of that sentence. The Roma woman allegedly owed López a drug debt of approximately $100,000. López instructed the inmate to contact his wife upon the inmate’s release from custody and provided him with the contact information. In August 2008, López was transferred to a federal prison in Pollock, La., after which the inmate, still in custody in Houston, received word through the toilet system piping from another floor that he was supposed to contact Lopez’ wife. 

After this notification, the inmate instead contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and the FBI. Together, the USAO and FBI worked proactively to foil the murder plot and prosecute López and his co-conspirators. An extensive eight-month investigation by the FBI involved the cooperating inmate placing numerous recorded telephone calls to López-González from September 2007 to March 2008 and securing hundreds of hours of recorded conversations between López at the jail in Louisiana and his wife in Roma, meetings between the cooperating inmate and López’ wife, a daring and staged mid-day kidnapping of the Roma woman by law enforcement, extortionate calls to the family members (one of which knew of the fake kidnapping) and the carefully calculated drop of the $100,000 ransom demand. Lopez’ wife was arrested by FBI agents after receiving their share of the ransom demand ($50,000) and López, still in custody, was subsequently indicted.  

During the investigation, the inmate never left the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and no harm came to either the Roma woman nor Hinojosa. 

The case was tried and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Hileman and Ryan D. McConnell. 

•••••• 

Edinburg to receive $1.9 million for Hurricane Dolly recovery, says Congressman Hinojosa

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Friday, October 23, announced the cities of Edinburg and La Feria will receive disaster recovery funds totaling close to $2.5 million.  

Edinburg will receive $1,974,325 and La Feria will receive $243,611. 

The funds are a part of the 2008 Supplemental Disaster Recovery Fund grants which are being used to repair damage caused by Hurricane Dolly which slammed into the Rio Grande Valley last July. 

“I am pleased to make this announcement for the communities of Edinburg and La Feria. This funding will be used to repair and rebuild waste water plants and drainage systems which were damaged due to the flooding and electrical outages caused by Hurricane Dolly”, said Hinojosa. 

The federal funds are administered by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, Disaster Recovery Division. 

“This grant is a long-term disaster recovery plan for infrastructure, housing and economic revitalization for communities which have suffered through a disaster. These communities will begin rebuilding their new services and thereby creating job opportunities," Hinojosa said. 

•••••• 

Permanent School Fund’s value rebounds to $22 billion despite global economic problems

Despite turbulence in financial markets worldwide, the Permanent School Fund, which is overseen by the State Board of Education, has rebounded to a value of almost $22 billion, up from $15.9 billion this spring. 

“Given the market conditions of the last year when many asset classes fell 25 to more than 40 percent, the Permanent School Fund has turned in a better than anticipated return," said Gail Lowe, chair of the State Board of Education. "The allocation to the absolute return asset class has proven effective in reducing risk to the PSF during a very volatile period, and that is essential in protecting this endowment fund for future generations of Texas public schoolchildren.” 

A recent analysis shows that for the past 12 months, ending Sept. 30, the PSF total return was 2.55 percent. It was 4.74 percent annualized for the past five years. 

“This was a solid return for a year in which the capital markets experienced the worst decline since the Great Depression with a high degree of volatility. In addition, the fund outperformed its policy benchmark by 84 basis points,” said Holland Timmins, chief investment officer of the fund. 

The major areas of strength for the fund were: 

  • Superior fixed income performance which substantially outperformed its benchmark;
  • Solid performance by the domestic and international index portfolios, outperforming their respective benchmarks;
  • The benefit from the 10 percent investment in absolute return asset class which provided downside protection during the bear market; and
  • A disciplined rebalancing policy in which the PSF moved funds from equities to fixed income while equities were peaking in 2007. Those assets were then moved back to equities while the asset class was bottoming out. 

The Permanent School Fund was established in 1854 with a $2 million state investment. The fund helps to pay for textbooks and other educational expenses. Since 1960, the fund has provided more than $19 billion in financial support to the Texas public schools. 

•••••• 

Gov. Perry: Texas recognized for best dropout prevention practices in NGA report

The National Governor’s Association (NGA) on Thursday, October 22, highlighted many of Texas’  dropout prevention programs as best practices in the nation in its Achieving Graduation for All guide. The study identified Texas as one of only a few states to reengage dropouts and bring them back to the classroom, and specifically cited Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership on this important issue. 

“One student who drops out is one dropout too many,” Perry said. “Working with legislators, educators and community leaders, Texas has taken deliberate steps to decrease the dropout rate to ensure students have a chance to succeed, and we will continue working together to apply innovative approaches to keep our students in the classroom and on the path to success.” 

The guide cited initiatives such as the Texas High School Project, a public-private partnership that helps at-risk students in high-need areas by creating model high schools such as the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (T-STEM) academies, which the governor recently proposed expanding; the Dropout Recovery Pilot Program, an effort to recruit dropouts and provide incentives to ensure students graduate; the district-based Reach Out to Dropouts program, which encourages district leaders to visit students who do not return to school; and the state’s high performing charter schools, which provide rigorous curriculum to minority and disadvantaged students. 

According to a July 2009 report published by the Texas Education Agency, high school dropout rates have declined in Texas for every student demographic between 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Additionally, under Perry’s leadership, Texas has created the largest teacher performance pay program in the nation.

“Texas believes that it’s important to hold schools accountable for students who drop out and that accountability has produced gains in the fight for our children’s future,” Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott said.  

The NGA report marks Texas’  second national education recognition in the last few weeks. Education Week praised Texas in September for leading the nation in adopting college-ready curriculum standards and developing a system-wide effort to align high school and college curricula through state laws, standards, assessments and professional development professionals. 

•••••• 

Congress exempts assisted-opening pocketknives from government regulation

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, released the following statement after the Senate on Tuesday, October 20, passed the DHS Appropriations Bill Conference Report, which includes their amendment to protect the use of pocketknives. The legislation, which is now on its way to President Obama for his signature, passed the House of Representatives a week earlier. 

Earlier this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed amending and expanding the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 to include spring-assisted or one-handed-opening knives. The senators’ amendment clarifies that assisted-opening pocketknives are exempt from regulation.  

Cornyn introduced the amendment with Pryor and Hatch in July. 

"In these perilous economic times, the last thing the federal government should do is take any action that will adversely affect job creation. This legislation ensures thousands of Texans and tens of thousands of Americans in the sporting goods manufacturing and retail industry will not lose their jobs," said Cornyn. "It will also ensure that the 35 million Americans who own pocketknives are free to continue using them without the threat of federal agency intrusion. I’m hopeful that President Obama will sign this important measure into law without delay." 

Prior added: "Customs and Border Patrol missed the mark with their interpretation, inadvertently banning ordinary pocketknives. In Arkansas, I heard from firemen, construction workers, farmers, policemen, electricians, hunters and fishermen who all took notice. A pocketknife for many people can serve as an entire toolbox, and the government really has no business taking that away from them. I’m pleased we could prevent this unreasonable ban from advancing,"  

"Without this amendment, there was a real danger that 80 percent of the pocketknives sold in the U.S. would have been reclassified as illegal switchblades, which would not only hurt knife and tool manufacturers across the nation but infringe on American’s knife-carrying rights," said Hatch. "I am very pleased to see the amendment sponsored by myself and Senators Pryor and Cornyn was accepted by the DHS appropriations conference to ensure that knives used every day by men and women who are craftsmen, sportsmen and tradesmen are not wrongly categorized as a switchblade," said Hatch. 

"This amendment was necessary to prevent commonly-used pocketknives from being branded as illegal switchblades. The National Rifle Association is grateful to Senators Cornyn Pryor and Orrin Hatch,  whose leadership fixed a provision that would have criminalized millions of law-abiding Americans – including millions of hunters and sportsmen," said Chris W. Cox, Executive Director for NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. 

"Our thanks to Texas Senator John Cornyn and many other federal lawmakers. Senate Amendment 1447, based on the AKTI-initiated Texas statute passed in June, was the basis for saving more than 35 million knife owners and users and the entire sporting knife industry," said Mike Manrose of Meyerco in Dallas, Texas and a member company of the American Knife & Tool Institute. 

This amendment is endorsed by American Knife and Tool Institute, Knife Rights, National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, Knifemakers’ Guild, Meyerco USA, Benchmade Knife Company, Gerber-Fiskars, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and SOG Specialty Knives and Tools. 

•••••• 

South Texas College president, staff earn accolades for excellence in communication

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR  

South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed has been named the Pacesetter of the Year by District 4 of the National Council for Public Relations and Marketing. The college’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing also earned 10 District 4 Medallion Awards from NCMPR. 

The Pacesetter of the Year award recognizes a community college president who has demonstrated special leadership and support in marketing and public relations. 

“This is really an honor, but it’s pretty easy to be the pacesetter when you have such a great staff,” Dr. Reed said at an honorees luncheon during the annual NCMPR District 4 Conference held in mid-October. “This nation is going through some pretty tough times and it’s the community colleges that will play a leading role in helping solve our economic situation. We get more accomplished with fewer resources, more passion and more commitment than any other group in higher education. I salute my team and all of you for your great work.” 

The pacesetter award is given in each of NCMPR’s seven districts, and district recipients automatically become a nominee for the national award, which is presented at the national conference in March. 

“Hearing Dr. Reed talk about elevating the image of the institution and community colleges shows she is passionate about the concepts of excellence, opportunity, access, and hope, all those things that mean so much to students that really want to come to community colleges to improve their lives," said Judi Sciple, national president for NCMPR. 

Dr. Mike Metke, president of Tyler Junior College, and vice president of student services for STC from 1993 to 1999, was also in attendance at the event to honor Reed. 

“I was at the college when it was founded, working closely with Dr. Reed and she is an amazing president; I can’t think of a stronger contender for this award,” said Metke. “It’s amazing to see what has happened since I left in 1999 with the change in the community and the development of the local economy.”  

The Medallion Awards earned by the college’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing recognize outstanding achievement in communications among the colleges in District 4, which encompasses Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado. It is the only regional competition exclusively honoring excellence among marketing and PR professionals at two-year colleges. Awards include gold medallions in the categories of college video, media success story, social marketing, online newsletter, TV and radio advertising; silver medallions in the categories of radio and special events; and bronze medallions in the categories of feature writing and online services.  

STC’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing includes the following professionals: 

  • Jenny Cummings, Director of Public Relations and Marketing;
  • Jennifer Solis, Coordinator of Publications;
  • Daniel Ramírez, Webmaster;
  • Helen J. Escobar, Coordinator of Public Relations;
  • Michelle Balani, PR Specialist;
  • Brandon García, Multimedia Specialist;
  • Sora Yañez, Graphic Designer II;
  • Lylony Cazares, Graphic Designer II;
  • Christopher Trejo, Graphic Designer I;
  • William Collins,  Web Specialist;
  • Samuel Peña, Web Specialist;
  • María Martínez, Events Specialist;
  • Lupita Castillo, Marketing Technician;
  • Cindy Martínez, Informational Writer;
  • Elizabeth Cardoza, Administrative Assistant;
  • Priscilla Ayala, Administrative Assistant; and
  • Kristal Ochoa, Secretary. 

For additional information about NCMPR visit http://www.ncmpr.org.   

•••••• 

Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials gathers at statewide convention in Ft. Worth

By SALLY VELÁSQUEZ 

The Association of Hispanic Municipal Officials (AHMO), as an affiliate and in conjunction to the statewide Texas Municipal League Association, gathered in Ft. Worth on Wednesday, October 21 through Saturday, October 23 for the 97th Annual Conference.  

AHMO members are role models and a reflection of our state’s increasing Hispanic population in Texas communities,” said Mayor Daniel Tejada of Floresville, who also serves as AHMO president.  

“Hispanic or non-Hispanic elected city leaders and their advocacy were enhanced at the conference with professional development training and awareness on key issues facing prominent Hispanic culture communities," said Tejada. "Together, members recognize their leadership roles increasing daily as they lead in communities reflecting Texas’ population as the second largest in the nation,” said Tejada.  

Throughout AHMO’s Educational Session, its members engaged with special guest speakers on compound issues related to water and the welfare of Hispanic communities. Topics include a select forum on the complexities of 2010 Census and discussions on how to better govern public services so they are equitable, accountable and economically feasible. 

Dallas area city elected leaders included Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem Pauline Medrano and Councilmember, Steve Salazar.  State officials also include Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, and Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. 

Throughout Texas, large portions of Hispanic municipal government elected officials are an indicator of community’s that represent a rate that continues to be on the rise.  In 2008, Texas estimated a 37 percent Latino population with a purchasing power expected to increase by more than 47 percent in the next five years to $252 billion annually, according to the University of Georgia, Selig Center for Economic Growth.   

These two factors are household contributions in Texas’ economy supported by local municipal governments, said Johnny Rodríguez, AHMO’s Executive Director.  

“Maximizing the use of federal dollars, promoting Texas’ 2008, recorded $171billion Hispanic, Purchasing Power force and translating its economic value to our city leaders for the benefit of their respective communities/families are pivotal issues we expect to expose,” said Rodríguez.     

AHMO’s program and objective are designed and driven to empower its Hispanic municipal elected members with opportunities to engage in critical issues, and enhance their organization with membership leadership goals and networking opportunities.  

••••••  

Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV providing free eye exams, free eyewear gift certificates

By SABRINA WALKER HERNANDEZ 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV, through a partnership with Sight for Students, is helping Edinburg and surrounding community youth do better in school this year thanks to a program that provides free eye exams and free eyewear to club members 6-18 years of age.  

Sight for Students is the national charity of VSP (Vision Service Plan), the nation’s largest provider of eye care wellness benefits. VSP donated more than nine million dollars to provide free eye care services through Sight for Students and has contributed more than $20 million since the program’s inception in 1997. 

There are six basic qualifications your child must meet in order to receive a Sight for Students gift certificate: 

  • Family income is no more than 200% of federal poverty level (must provide proof of income latest income tax return and/or AFDC letter).
  • Child is not enrolled in Medicaid or other vision insurance.
  • Child is 18 years old or younger and has not graduated from high school.
  • Child is a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant with a social security number (must provide a copy of the Social Security card).
  • Child has not used the Sight for Students program during the past 12 months.
  • Child is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV. Membership fees are $5 for youth ages 5-12 and $8 for teens 13 and older. 

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV 

The Boys & Girls Club has played an integral role in the Edinburg community for 38 years, providing daily programs and services to over 12,000 young people. During the school year, the club is open from 3:30 p.m. through 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday. During the summer, the club hours are from 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m on Monday through Friday.  The club offers programs that emphasize character and leadership development, education and career enhancement, health and life skills, the arts, and sport, fitness and recreation. 

To determine eligibility for the Sight for Students program, contact Gloria S. Zuniga at 956.383-CLUB  (2582). For more program information or about making a contribution to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV, call Sabrina Walker-Hernandez, Chief Professional Officer or log onto http://www.edinburgkids.com.  

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV is a proud City of Edinburg partner and a United Way of South Texas agency.  

About VSP 

VSP provides eyecare benefit plans that range from comprehensive eye examinations and materials to primary medical eyecare. With more than 44 million members nationwide, one in seven people in the United States relies on VSP for eyecare health coverage. VSP’s Sight for Students program has helped more than 320,000 low-income/uninsured children receive free eyecare services since its inception in 1997. VSP, a company with over $2.2 billion in annual gross revenue, has been recognized by Fortune Magazine for the seventh consecutive year as one of best places to work in America. For more information, visit us online at http://www.vsp.com.

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