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Sergio Muñoz, Jr., who has made job creation, more health care, better  access to education, and improved public safety – including cracking down of sexual predators – the foundation of his campaign, on Thursday, January 28, was endorsed for State Representative, House District 36, by the mayor and city council of his hometown of Mission. “Mission and House District 36 have been leaders in economic  development, international trade, and business growth for many years, not only in South Texas, but in the entire state,” said Mayor Norberto Salinas. “Sergio Muñoz, Jr. will deliver on his vision, which will result in the  creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our entire region.” Featured, from left: Councilmember  Rubén Plata; Councilmember María Elena Ramírez, Sergio Muñoz, Jr.; Mayor Norberto Salinas; Councilmember Nori González Garza; and Mayor Pro Tem Leo Olivarez, Sr. See story later in this posting.

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A kick-off of the strategic planning process for the Hidalgo County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) was held recently at The University of Texas-Pan American. CEDS, being developed through input from both public and private sectors, will incorporate results of an asset map of the region identifying its human, intellectual, financial, physical and institutional capital strengths, to help provide a roadmap to ensure the future economic vitality of the region locally and nationwide. The CEDS project – locally titled “IGNITE Hidalgo County” – and the asset map development was made possible by a grant received by the county from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in 2007. Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez said it was important to have current data for the area in order to solicit companies to relocate or expand here or to successfully gain financial support from the state or other government agencies for projects to enhance area economic development. Featured at the Thursday, January 14 session, from left: Mike Blum, partner and managing broker with NAI Rio Grande Valley; Steve Ahlenius, president/CEO of McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Mayte Garrett, market director for Verde Corporate Realty Services; Ramiro Garza, Edinburg city manager; Dr. Daniel King, PSJA ISD superintendent; James Langabeer, UTPA vice president for Business Affairs; Dr. Fausto Meza, physician administrator with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Judge Ramírez; and Mike Willis, vice president of Office of Business Partnerships with Texas Workforce Division. See story later in this posting.

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Hernán De La Rosa, a bus driver with the Edinburg school district, featured second from left, was recently recognized by the local school board for being a hero by saving students from a burning school bus.  At 7 a.m. on December 17, De La Rosa called 911 for emergency help when he noticed that his bus was on fire as he drove into the unloading zone at Cavazos Elementary. His bravery included trying to extinguish the blaze with his fire extinguisher, but he quickly realized that the fire had spread. He then evacuated the students from the burning bus in a timely manner, preventing any children from being injured. The school board recognized De La Rosa for his brave and steadfast actions in saving the children and for his quick thinking in stopping the burning bus far enough away from the school, where it could have created more problems for the school campus. De La Rosa is a five-year veteran bus driver for the ECISD. Featured, from left, are: Omar Palacios, board president; De la Rosa; Rudy Zamora, Director of Transportation; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, the superintendent of schools.

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Members of a newly-created organization, United Brownsville, participate in a major ceremony held on Thursday, January 21 at Brownsville City Hall to commemorate the launching of their organization and its efforts to promote their region of the Rio Grande Valley. The wheels of change kept their momentum as The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and six other entities launched United Brownsville with a signing ceremony at Brownsville City Hall. Starting where Imagine Brownsville left off, the newly formed United Brownsville will have an organizational structure designed to provide a sustainable mechanism for cooperation to leverage institutional resources for the implementation and tracking of the initiatives in the Imagine Brownsville plan. “We must again come together,” said UTB/TSC President and a United Brownsville Board Co-chair Dr. Juliet V. García. “Any one of us alone can achieve small things, but it takes a community to come together to achieve bigger things.” See story later in this posting.

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President George W. Bush in September 2008 signs into law a measure that expanded the definition of a disabled person to individuals who have cancer and diabetes, along with several other major illnesses. As a result, Sergio Muñoz, Jr., a Democratic candidate for House District 36 in South Texas, says he would file legislation in 2011 in Austin that would allow Texas voters to extend the existing property tax freezes to homeowners with cancer, diabetes, and the other major illnesses now considered as physical disabilities by federal law. Under the property tax freeze currently in effect in all Texas school districts and among many cities, counties and community colleges in the state, qualified homeowners still have to pay their taxes, but those taxes – under most circumstances – would never increase. “In light of the changes at the federal level, I believe that the current state property tax freeze protections should be extended to homeowners with cancer, diabetes and the other illnesses identified as disabilities by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008,” said Muñoz. See lead story in this posting.

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Sergio Muñoz, Jr. to file bill extending property tax freeze to homeowners with cancer and diabetes

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Homeowners in Texas who are suffering from cancer, diabetes and several other debilitating illnesses would be protected from increases in their school property taxes –  and in many cases, from hikes in their city, county and community college taxes – under legislation that will be filed by Sergio Muñoz, Jr., a Democratic state representative candidate for House District 36.

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

“I will file legislation seeking a statewide election on a constitutional amendment that would extend existing state property tax freeze laws to Texas homeowners who are now considered physically-disabled by federal law,” said Muñoz, a successful attorney and Palmview Municipal Court Judge. “We need to get this issue before the Legislature and take appropriate action.”

Muñoz said his proposal is required because a major change to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act left a big question on whether new categories of Texas homeowners with serious illnesses now qualify for the state property tax freezes.

“In light of the changes at the federal level, I believe that the current state property tax freeze protections should be extended to homeowners with cancer, diabetes and the other illnesses identified as disabilities by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008,” said Muñoz.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 has expanded the definition of a disability to include persons with diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and other illnesses that can be controlled by medications and other treatments, according to federal lawmakers and published reports of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in the fall of 2008, went into effect on January 1, 2009.

Muñoz explained that under his measure – like the existing property tax freeze protections – the protection against higher taxes would apply only to the principal residence of qualified homeowners.

He also noted that homeowners who qualify for the existing or proposed tax freeze still pay their taxes, but they are freed from the worry of paying higher property taxes in the future.

Current law

Muñoz’ measure would be a major addition to the existing property tax freeze provisions, which now only apply to homeowners who are aged 65 and older, and to homeowners who have permanent physical disabilities.

The existing property freezes in Texas are the result of a statewide constitutional election overwhelming approved by voters in 2003, according to legislative analyses.

By an overwhelming majority, the people of Texas voted for two state constitutional amendments to provide property tax freezes to elderly and disabled homeowners, who have to deal with extraordinary financial medical expenses, according to proponents of the two successful measures.

In a growing number of cities, counties, and community colleges, a homeowner aged 65 years and older, or a homeowner with a physical disability, are eligible for a property tax freeze as well.

State voters in 2003 approved original tax freezes

As a result of two constitutional amendments in 2003 – Proposition 13 and Proposition 17 –  the property tax freezes means that for qualified elderly or disabled homeowners, several property taxes they pay on their principal residence will never increase as long as they own and live in the home.

Proposition 17 required school districts to provide the property tax freeze to qualified disabled homeowners.

Proposition 13 allows community colleges, county governments, and city governments to provide the property tax freeze for qualified elderly (aged 65 years and older) and disabled homeowners.

The property tax freezes apply to only one home per owner.

Statewide, at least a dozen community college systems, more than 60 counties, and more than 100 cities have approved their respective property tax freezes for elderly and disabled homeowners – not including the groups added by Congress to the expanded federal definition of the ADA – according to the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, an advocacy group for older Texans.

In South Texas, the cities of Edinburg, McAllen, Hidalgo County, and South Texas College have adopted the property tax freeze on the residential homesteads of disabled and elderly homeowners – not including the groups added by Congress in the expanded federal definition of the ADA.

That list of local governments in Texas which offer the property tax freeze for disabled homeowners is available online at http://www.txshl.org/taxfreeze.cfm

Under both approved propositions, those taxes can increase only in certain circumstances, such as if the qualified homeowner makes additions to the structure, such as adding more rooms or building a swimming pool. But in general, the tax freezes are designed to keep a lid on rising property taxes because those two groups are often faced with huge medical expenses and reduced income potential relating to their age or physical disability.

Current process to apply for tax freeze

Texas homeowners have to apply for the property tax freeze with the local appraisal district, and the application requires medical documentation, including a letter from a physician, to help provide proof they meet the disability requirements.

Other requirements to qualify for the property tax freeze based on a disability include the homeowner must have been under a disability for the purposes of payment of disability insurance benefits under the Federal Old Age, Survivor’s and Disability Insurance Act OR must meet the definition of disabled in that act. The homeowner also must produce a letter from the Social Security Administration or their physician stating that effective date of disability. This letter must be no older than six months.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008

On September 25, 2008, following a public ceremony where President Bush signed into law, the measure’s main author, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, explained the need by the federal government to expand the definition of a disability.

According to an announcement released by Harkin following the bill’s signing:

“The day, 18 years ago, when President Bush’s father signed the original Americans with Disabilities Act into law was the proudest day of my Senate career. But this day comes close, because this new law overturns Supreme Court decisions that have taken away the rights of people with disabilities, and restores the original promise and protections of the ADA.

“I think of my brother Frank, who was deaf, and who suffered terrible discrimination and exclusion, and I think of millions of other Americans with disabilities who face similar obstacles.

As chief Senate sponsor of both the original ADA and this new ADA restoration act, I am deeply gratified that we could work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that all Americans have the right to equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.”

Since the ADA became law in 1990, a series of court decisions narrowed the category of who qualifies as an “individual with a disability,” contrary to Congressional intent. By raising the threshold for an impairment to qualify as a disability, these court decisions have deprived individuals of the discrimination protections.

Congress intended to provide. The ADA Amendments Act would remedy this problem and restore workplace protections to every American with a disability.”

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

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Hidalgo County to promote area’s health care industry to benefit region, says Judge Ramírez

By GAIL FAGAN

A kick-off of the strategic planning process for the Hidalgo County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) was held on Thursday, January 14, at The University of Texas-Pan American.

CEDS, being developed through input from both public and private sectors, will incorporate results of an asset map of the region identifying its human, intellectual, financial, physical and institutional capital strengths, to help provide a roadmap to ensure the future economic vitality of the region locally and nationwide.

The CEDS project –  locally titled “IGNITE Hidalgo County” – and the asset map development was made possible by a grant received by the county from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in 2007.

Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez said it was important to have current data for the area in order to solicit companies to relocate or expand here or to successfully gain financial support from the state or other government agencies for projects to enhance area economic development.

UTPA was awarded the contract in early 2009 to put together the asset map and help develop the CEDS plan. The project team includes staff from the Division of Community Engagement, Dr. Aziz Zemrani, assistant professor in UTPA’s Master of Public Administration Program (MPA) and a number of MPA graduate students.

“To develop the asset map, we looked at what do we have to work with here in Hidalgo County and what can we build on to promote jobs and economic development here,” said Michael Uhrbrock, associate director of Economic Development in the UTPA Division of Community Engagement and the project director.

The process also includes the input of an 18-member Strategy Committee composed of economic and workforce development leaders, business owners, education and healthcare representatives, community organization leaders and media representatives.

A central data base of project and asset map information can be found at:

http://hidalgocountyceds.wikispaces.com.

The site includes a GIS-based asset map locator which shows locations of schools, airports, hospitals, bridges, industrial parks, major highways, commercial banks, workforce centers, etc.

“Hidalgo County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and even in the recession there has been good continued growth in the economy. We found a lot of assets that the county has that can be built on as part of an economic development strategy,” Uhrbrock said.

Some of the assets Uhrbrock cited included the region’s geographic location on the U.S.-Mexico border, a strong transportation infrastructure, excellent climate, a young and growing labor force, a strong network of colleges, financial capital and a pro-business regulatory structure. Hidalgo County plans to focus particular attention on the health care industry, since it is currently the largest sector of the area’s economy, as well as growth in manufacturing and research center development and education.

Dr. Fausto Meza, a physician administrator at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and a member of the Strategic Committee, said the creation of good jobs in the region was important to the health of its citizens.

“Prosperity and the health of the community are linked,” he said.

Sylvia Quiñones and Edgar Cantú, who are two of the three MPA graduate students selected to participate on the project, said the compilation of the asset map required a lot of data research, surveys and one on one interviews with people in the community. They both described it as a great opportunity for hands-on experience.

“We knew it was community-driven from the get go and we know we are helping to set the framework for what is about to come. We are learning a lot about research, how to read the numbers, planning, and public management,” Quinones said.

The public is encouraged to participate in the public outreach component of the CEDS project. Precinct committee meetings will continue into February. A focus group event on business, education, and economic development and one on healthcare will also be held. An IGNITE Community Summit, which will be streamed live at both the UTPA and Hidalgo County Web sites, is planned for February 22 at UTPA.

For more information, contact Cari Lambrecht, Hidalgo County public information officer, at 956/318-2600 or cari.lambrecht@hidalgocountyjudge.com or Uhrbrock at 956/316-7185 or “uhrbrock@utpa.edu.

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Mission Mayor and City Council endorse Sergio Muñoz, Jr. for HD 36 state representative

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Sergio Muñoz, Jr., who has made job creation, more health care, better  access to education, and improved public safety – including cracking down of sexual predators – the foundation of his campaign, on Thursday, January 28, was endorsed for State Representative, House District 36, by the mayor and city council of his hometown of Mission.

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

Muñoz, who currently serves as Palmview Municipal Court Judge, is a successful attorney who earned his law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston and his business degree the University of Texas at Austin.

Muñoz has the skills, ideas and energy needed to succeed in the high-stakes world of the Texas Legislature, said Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas.

“Mission and House District 36 have been leaders in economic  development, international trade, and business growth for many years, not only in South Texas, but in the entire state,” said Salinas. “Sergio Muñoz, Jr. will deliver on his vision, which will result in the  creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our entire region.”

Among Muñoz legislative proposals are:

  • Securing state funding for the planned University of Texas Health Science Center – South Texas, which will include a medical school for the region;
  • Working with the governor on a plan that would tap into two existing state programs – the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund – to help pay for the construction of a Veterans  Affairs Hospital in the Valley; and
  • Seeking major state pay raises for educators in order to keep and  attract the best teachers in the Valley and state’s public schools.

Summarizing his legislative goals, Muñoz proclaimed, “It’s time for everyone to have the education they want, the health care they need, and the jobs they deserve.”

Councilmember Norie González Garza said Muñoz has the proven abilities to work with people from all walks of life.

“Sergio Muñoz, Jr. knows that any leader, like a great society, is ultimately judged by how we treat the weakest, the neediest, the most vulnerable among us,” she said. “His main priority will be to help those in the greatest need. That’s one of the main reasons he returned home to the Valley because he has never forgotten his roots.”

Defender of the People

During his campaign kick-off last fall, Muñoz offered his reasons for seeking public office.

“I am running because I believe that my years in professional and community services, and my experience as a defender of the people, combined with my vision and commitment for all of us to have a better life, are positive qualifications to serve the good people of District 36,” he said.

“We all want what’s best for our families,” Muñoz added. “Working as an attorney in this region, I know what it takes to fight for people every day.”

Equally important, in presenting his candidacy to voters, Muñoz is holding himself up to the highest standards of professional and personal conduct.

“It’s about having strong core values that matter: leadership, integrity, compassion, hard work and faith,” he told voters. “I won’t forget where I came from and who I serve.”

He said his decision to run “is not one that I take lightly. I don’t want anything just given to me. I would rather have life provide me with an opportunity and then earn it.”

Muñoz said he would continue the Valley legislative delegation’s strategies of always rallying behind the major issues of the day.

“If we want more jobs, more resources, and more funding for our community, we all need to work together, cooperatively, both here locally, and in Austin,” said Muñoz. “As long as we can work together, plan together and agree on the right projects that help our community, we can attract the right funding and resources we need to have a better education system, a healthier and safer community, and to have the jobs of which we can be proud.”

He said he would be accessible to all constituents, both during the campaign and as an elected official.

“Over the next several weeks, I will continue walking our neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and visiting as many people as possible. You deserve this,” Muñoz said.

“Call me and let’s visit. I hope that you and your family will vote for me on March 2,” Muñoz concluded his campaign speech. “Thank you for being here. May God bless our families, our troops, and our great community!”

Other legislative goals

Muñoz’ legislative plans also include the following measures:

  • Spark economic development and jobs creation through legislative and state agency policies that result in the the recruitment of new, and expansion of existing, large and small businesses in deep South Texas through state tax incentives, with improvements of the state highway and roadway systems;
  • Pass legislation that promotes the development of small businesses in the Valley – “the backbone of our local economy,” as he characterized them – while opposing a state personal income tax, which he said would hurt both employers and employees;
  • Promote reforms in the state’s legal and tax systems that will help homeowners better protect their most valuable investment, while making it more affordable for Texans to buy and hold on to their homes;
  • Expand the academic programs at The University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College;
  • Boost public safety with a strong border security system in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, and pass laws that protect crime victims while cracking down on violent criminals and sexual predators;
  • Protect the pensions and health insurance coverage for retired educators and state professionals; and
  • Expand health care coverage for South Texans by making it easier for thousands of Valley families and individuals to protect their families by expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and improving access to Medicaid – advances that would result in millions of additional federal matching dollars coming into the South Texas economies.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission:

Texas families with uninsured children may be able to get health insurance through Children’s Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Both programs offer health care benefits, including regular checkups and dental care; and

Medicaid in Texas is a program to provide health insurance coverage to low income families, disabled persons, and poverty level seniors. It is a joint program of the federal government and the state (Texas), where the federal government provides most of funding and sets the eligibility standards, and the Texas government provides the specific care to all eligible persons and families. Medicaid covers hospital stays, doctor visits, emergency room visits, prenatal care, prescription drugs, and other treatments.

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

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles endorsed for reelection to District 41 by Texas Hospital Association

By AMANDA ENGLER

The Texas Hospital Association’s state political action committee, HOSPAC, on Wednesday, January 20, endorsed Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, for reelection in Texas House District 41.

District 41 includes southwest Edinburg and northeast McAllen.

One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents more than 85 percent of the state’s hospitals and health care systems, which employ some 355,000 health care professionals statewide.

“Texas hospitals face numerous challenges in delivering care to our diverse, fast-growing population,” said Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, president/chief executive officer of the Texas Hospital Association. He noted that Texas continues to have the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, and if federal reform is enacted, Texas will face many infrastructure and budget challenges with its implementation. Some 70 percent of Texas are at or below 400 percent of poverty, and potentially will be eligible for Medicaid or government subsidies.

“Hospitals are major employers in the state, and workforce needs will grow as demand for services increases among those newly covered,” added Stultz. “Sound health care policies will be more important than ever, and Rep. Gonzáles has indicated a willingness to work with hospitals to address Texas’ health care issues.”

The 33-member HOSPAC board makes endorsements based on a candidate’s position on health care issues and input from local hospital representatives.

Founded in 1930, the THA is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members’ abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. Learn more at http://www.tha.org or follow THA on Twitter at http://twitter.com/texashospitals.

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Another Shade of Brown – desegregation in Edinburg school district to be presented on February 7 by Dr. Beverly Ashley-Fridie

By JAY GARZA

The Supreme Court’s decision in Oliver L. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) forever changed the education system in the United States. The decision laid the foundation for integration of not only African-American and Caucasian students, but also extended it to other shades of brown.

The Museum of South Texas History’s Sunday Speaker Series presents Dr. Beverly Ashley-Fridie’s Another Shade of Brown on Sunday, February 7 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Dr. Beverly Ashley-Fridie will discuss her doctoral dissertation, Another Shade of Brown: A History Study of Brown v. Board of Education and Its Impact of the Education of Mexican Americans in Edinburg, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

The unique view of the landmark decision sheds light on the racial situation in the Rio Grande Valley, specifically among Mexican-American and Caucasian students. Edinburg residents Dr. Lucas Hinojosa, Sr. and Estella Treviño were Ashley-Fridie’s primary resources for information on the segregation situation.

Ashley-Fridie is a native of Houston, and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley for more than 20 years.

She received her doctorate in education leadership from The University of Texas-Pan American and her master’s degrees from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and the University of Houston.

She is currently co-owner of Fountain Park Plaza in Edinburg, manages her husband Dr. David H. Fridie II’s medical office, and she is an adjunct faculty member at UTPA.

The Sunday Speaker Series program is included with regular museum admission.

FRIENDs of the Museum are admitted free as a benefit of FRIENDship.

For more information on the program or becoming a FRIEND of the Museum, call 956/383-6911 or visit http://www.mosthistory.org.

The Museum of South Texas History is located at 200 North Closner, on the Hidalgo County Courthouse square in downtown Edinburg.

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Bankrupt Freedom Communications strikes deal to slash money it owes to secured creditors nationwide from $770 million to $325 million

Freedom Communications, a California-based media empire which owns about 30 daily newspapers, including the McAllen Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, on Thursday, January 21, reached a deal in its federal bankruptcy case that will allow it cut its secured debt to creditors from $770 million to $325 million.

The firm, headquartered in Orange County, California, has filed its joint Disclosure Statement and Plan of Reorganization, which is supported by the agent bank for its secured lenders and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors.

“Our ability to achieve consensus on this joint Plan among our major stakeholders is very good news, not only for our Company but also for our former and existing employees, our communities and our business partners,” said Freedom CEO Burl Osborne. “Taking this significant step will help us to emerge from Chapter 11 expeditiously and focus on the business of providing the news, entertainment and advertising our communities depend on.”

In general, when a business is unable to service its debt or pay its creditors, the business or its creditors can file with a federal bankruptcy court for protection under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11.

In Chapter 7 the business ceases operations, a trustee sells all of its assets, and then distributes the proceeds to its creditors. Any residual amount is returned to the owners of the company.

In Chapter 11, in most instances the debtor remains in control of its business operations as a debtor in possession, and is subject to the oversight and jurisdiction of the court.

The court held a hearing on January 21 and approved the adequacy of the Disclosure Statement supporting the joint Plan of Reorganization, paving the way for the company to solicit votes on the plan. The confirmation hearing is scheduled for March 9, 2010.

Under the new, joint plan, the company’s secured debt would be reduced from $770 million to $325 million, with the secured lenders holding 100 percent of the common stock in the new company.

Additionally, the plan provides that participants in the company’s non-qualified pension program will have 70 percent of their benefits reinstated, to be paid out according to the terms of those pension plans.

Further, a fund of $5.5 million will be established for payment to trade creditors who participate in the trade arrangement outlined in the Plan of Reorganization. For the benefit of other general unsecured creditors, the company will establish a $14.5 million trust, which will also receive rights to pursue certain litigation claims on the company’s behalf.

Freedom Communications, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 just four and a half months ago and has moved through the process with no disruption to its business, according to a company press release.

“We believe this joint plan provides the best opportunity for the company, its more than 5,000 employees and all of its stakeholders to be successful in the future,” said Osborne. “The pension rights of our current and former employees are very important to us. Therefore, we’re especially pleased that we have been able to preserve a very significant portion of the non-qualified pension plan. In addition, full benefits for the more than 6,000 current and former employees who participate in the qualified pension plan have been protected from the beginning of the process.”

Osborne added: “We appreciate the willingness of our key stakeholders to work together with us to reach this mutually acceptable resolution which addresses our balance sheet issues while providing a meaningful recovery for as many of our creditors as possible.”

The Chapter 11 petitions were filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, in Wilmington. The case number is 09-13046. The company has also established a restructuring information line at 800-299-1960. Additional information regarding the filings, including the company’s plan of reorganization and disclosure statement can also be found at:

http://www.loganandco.com.

Freedom Communications, headquartered in Irvine, California, is a national privately owned information and entertainment company of print publications, broadcast television stations and interactive businesses. The company’s print portfolio includes approximately 90 daily and weekly publications, including approximately 30 daily newspapers, plus ancillary magazines and other specialty publications. The broadcast company’s stations – five CBS, two ABC network affiliates and one CW affiliate – reach more than 3 million households across the country. The Company’s news, information and entertainment websites complement its print and broadcast properties.

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The New York Times to begin charging fees in 2011 to access Internet version

The New York Times announced on Wednesday, January 20, that it will be introducing a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011.

The new approach, referred to as the metered model, will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number. This will enable NYTimes.com to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business. It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web.

Through 2010, NYTimes.com will be building a new online infrastructure designed to provide consumers with a frictionless experience across multiple platforms. Once the metered model is implemented, New York Times home delivery print subscribers will continue to have free access to NYTimes.com.

“Our new business model is designed to provide additional support for The New York Times‘ extraordinary, professional journalism,” said Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of The New York Times. “Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services.”

“This process of rethinking our business model has also been driven by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles,” said Janet L. Robinson, president and CEO, The New York Times Company. “We were also guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision.”

More details regarding the metered model will be available in the coming months.

NYTimes.com is the No. 1 newspaper-owned Web site and a top five current events and global news site according to Nielsen Online.

The New York Times Company, a leading media company with 2008 revenues of $2.9 billion, includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 15 other daily newspapers and more than 50 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com, and About.com.

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Ten Starr County residents indicted for lying to buy more than 60 semi-automatic firearms

By ANGELA DODGE

A 12-month investigation by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has resulted in the indictment of 10 persons accused of lying to buy more than 60 firearms over a five-month period beginning in December 2008, United States Attorney Tim Johnson has announced.

An 18-count indictment, returned by a McAllen grand jury under seal on Tuesday, January 26, was unsealed on Friday, January 29, after eight of the 10 persons charged made their initial appearances in federal court. Eight were arrested early in the morning on January 29 by teams of ATF agents, while the ninth was taken into custody that afternoon.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

According to allegations in the indictment, the 10 defendants conspired and aided and abetted one another to knowingly make false statements to federally licensed firearm dealers in both McAllen and Roma to purchase a variety of semi-automatic pistols and rifles of varying calibers, claiming they were purchasing the weapons for themselves when in fact they were purchasing the firearms for another.

José Alberto Ríos, 40, and Josefina Guzmán, 34, both of Roma, are alleged to have recruited Juan Antonio Ávalos, 23, José Ángel Celedón, 25, and Siboney Hinojosa Navarro, 32, all of Rio Grande City; Daisy Yesenia Santo, 22, José Alberto Treviño, 40, Roxana Pérez, 29, and Eluid Sáenz, 23, all of Roma, to act as straw – to falsely represent themselves on records required to be maintained by federal firearms dealers as the actual purchasers of numerous firearms when they knew that statement was false.

All nine of the defendants taken into custody on January 29 have been ordered temporarily held without bond pending a detention hearing to be held on Wednesday, February 3. A warrant remains outstanding for the one other alleged recruited straw purchaser, Jeniffer López, 28, of Rio Grande City. Anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of López is asked to contact the ATF at (956) 661-7930.

All 10 defendants are accused of conspiracy. A varying number of substantive making false statement charges have been lodged against the defendants individually.

The making, aiding and abetting and conspiring to make false statements which are required to be kept in the records of federally licensed firearms dealers carries a statutory maximum prison term of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000, upon conviction.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.

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South Texans must vote in larger numbers this year in order to make a real difference for all

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

It’s that time again when you begin to see campaign ads on television or hear campaigners on the car radio asking for your support.

While many of you may switch the station or ignore the ad, election time is around the corner and the outcomes impact all of us, whether we choose to participate or not.

Unfortunately, complacency doesn’t make our voices heard, especially in areas like the border region where we traditionally have low voter turnout.

As in 2006, this year we again have a gubernatorial election. Records for 2006 show that a total of 68,514, or 24.1 percent of registered voters went to the polls in Senate District 27 that encompasses Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Willacy and part of Hidalgo counties. This means that only 16.3 percent of the voting age population of these counties actually voted.

In the 2008 presidential election – general elections typically generate higher voter participation – turnout practically doubled from 2006 with 147,282 or 49.2 percent of registered voters casting their ballots in SD 27.

This means that 35 percent of the voting age population for these counties voted. (These numbers are derived from 2000 census population figures and do not reflect any increases.)

South Texas should aim for a higher voter turnout. We can do so much better.  The more we fulfill our civic duty, the more likely we are to effect change and make a bigger difference in Austin and Washington, D.C.

Regardless of candidate or party preference, elected officials, especially statewide officeholders, know where the loudest call for their attention comes from. Why not from the people of South Texas?

Information on the issues is readily available. You can call campaign offices, read the newspapers, listen to television and radio news, get online to review the candidates’ positions on their websites and talk to other people in the community to learn about a candidate. You’re also able to attend or tune into discussion forums or debates.

I want to remind all registered voters to encourage family members, friends and neighbors to go to the polls and take someone with you both to vote and to register to vote.

When a parent or older sibling votes, it sets a good example for the younger generation, who will be our future voters and candidates.

Remember you can’t vote if you’re not registered. Voter registration applications can be obtained at county elections offices, some post offices and libraries, or online at: http://www.votexas.org.

Individuals may also check online to determine if they are registered to vote or update their registration information if they have moved.

To be eligible to vote in the primary elections this March, remember to register by the February 1 deadline.

For more voting information, please visit:  http://www.votexas.org or call the Secretary of State’s voter hotline at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683).

Just remember the primary election is March 2 and November 2 is Election Day.

No matter what party or candidate you support, please go vote! And remind others of the importance of their votes!

••••••

Gov. Perry announces $2 million grant  to help Houston company market new cancer therapy

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, January 28, announced that the Texas Emerging Technology Fund will invest $2 million in Salient Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Houston for the commercialization of their CASAD therapy, used to prevent and treat some side effects of cancer therapy.

“This investment in Salient Pharmaceuticals will help commercialize a product that will improve cancer patients’ quality of life, and strengthen our state’s biomedical technology sector,” Perry said. “It is imperative that we continue to foster the growth of Texas’ biotechnology industry to grow our economy and develop products that can improve and save lives.”

Formed in 2007, Salient’s mission is to improve patients’ health and quality of life by developing and commercializing therapeutic products for the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal side effects caused by disease, chemotherapy or radiation. Up to 45 percent of chemotherapy patients suffer from severe gastrointestinal problems that affect their treatment outcome and protocol through reduction in dosage and malnourishment. Salient’s preventative treatment will be administered alongside a patient’s chemotherapy drugs to reduce the gastrointestinal complications associated with chemotherapy treatment.

The TETF is a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the governor’s request, and reauthorized in 2007 and again in 2009 with $203.5 million for the 2010-2011 biennium. A 17-member advisory committee of high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts reviews potential projects and recommends funding allocations to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. To date, the TETF has allocated more than $128 million in funds to 99 early stage companies, and $153 million in grant matching and research superiority funds to Texas universities.

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Congressman Cuellar to lead Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee

By ASHLEY PATTERSON

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, January 28, was named the new chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

His appointment was made by Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Massachusetts, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

In order to assume this latest leadership role, Cuellar had to drop his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response, but the South Texas lawmaker will remain as a member of that congressional panel.

“This unique mission of securing our nation’s borders and fighting terrorism is vitally important to our nation and directly tied to my background as a native of our nation’s southern border,” said  Cuellar. “Along our border are some of the world’s busiest trade ports, and we collaboratively work to defend against threats of all kinds everyday. I thank Chairman Thompson for his faith in my ability to serve in this new leadership role as we confront those homeland security challenges of the 21st Century.”

Cuellar has served on the House Homeland Security Committee for three years and he’s been actively engaged in the work of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“With this opportunity, I will build upon my work with the Department of Homeland Security and I will actively pursue those border initiatives that will further secure our nation against terrorism, human smuggling, drug trafficking and the trading of weapons and illegal arms,” said Cuellar.

Since coming to Congress in 2005, Cuellar has authored dozens of border security related bills, including H.R. 1437, the Southern Border Security Taskforce Act of 2009, which directs DHS to create a security task force to coordinate the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement officials to protect U.S. border cities from the violence associated with drug trafficking, gunrunning, human smuggling and kidnapping.

In December 2009, this legislation was included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP), a bill that also falls into the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

Also in 2009, Cuellar authored legislation which was signed into law by the president in December that calls for a high-level U.S. – Mexico Commission to increase interoperability between law enforcement agencies working to secure the border in the U.S. and in Mexico.

In the coming weeks, Cuellar and the Department of State will meet to determine how and when the commission will be created.

The House also passed in 2009 legislation authored by Cuellar calling for a Coast Guard mission analysis to determine the Coast Guard’s presence along the Rio Grande. The 1,800 mile river and international waterway separates the U.S. and Mexico and is vitally important to the interdiction of drugs, weapons and contraband.

“Securing our nation’s borders, shores and ports requires us to constantly assess the security gaps in place,” said Cuellar. “By identifying our vulnerabilities, we can work to resolve them and stay one step ahead of the threats of terrorism and those security challenges we face.”

Cuellar replaces Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez (D-California) as the new chairman of the Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee.

Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-California) will assume Cuellar’s former role as chairman of Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response.

Cuellar will continue serving in the full committee of the House Homeland Security Committee and will still remain an active member of the Emergency Communications Subcommittee.

For more information on the House Committee on Homeland Security, please visit: http://hsc.house.gov/

••••••

Los Fresnos school bus accident is reminder of need to install safety belts in all school buses

By DORIS  SÁNCHEZ

Though relieved that the children involved in the Los Fresnos CISD elementary school bus accident on Wednesday, January 27, were not seriously hurt, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, is emphasizing the critical need for the law that now requires lap and shoulder seat belts for new school buses.

“I am so thankful that none of the children involved in this accident was seriously injured and wish each one a speedy recovery,” said Lucio. “It is incumbent upon the state of Texas to ensure that the safety of our children in public school buses is the highest priority, and that is the reason I passed legislation in 2007 requiring three-point safety seat belts in all new school buses purchased on or after September 1, 2010.”

The bill, named Ashley and Alicia’s Law, was partly in response to an accident occurring March 29, 2006, in which a chartered bus carrying 23 soccer players from West Brook High School in Beaumont was involved in an accident en route to a playoff game. The bus overturned and two players — Ashley Brown and Alicia Bonura — were killed and others severely injured. Despite their grief, parents of the students actively campaigned for change. Their advocacy led to Beaumont I.S.D. becoming the first Texas school district to require all new buses to be equipped with seat belts and to passage of the legislation.

“It makes no sense and sends a mixed message to children when school buses are the only type of transportation where children do not have to buckle up,” said Lucio. “School buses involved in side impacts toss children around like rag dolls.”

Although built safely, current technology of school buses is 30 years old. They are designed for frontal impacts, and not for accidents involving side impact or rollover collisions. With nothing restraining students in their seats, they can be thrown around the inside of the bus, collide with hard surfaces, or ejected from the bus.

“Since 2002, new technology lap-shoulder belt restraint seating for school buses has been available from several manufacturers at a reasonable price. To install lap-shoulder three-point restraint seat systems on a new bus, it costs from $7,000 to $10,000. That’s less than 10 percent of the total cost of a new bus,” explained Lucio. “It’s about two to three cents per student rider per day. Compare this to the staggering cost of even one accident.”

The cost of fitting new buses with three-point safety belts will be paid by the state and private donors. An appropriation of $10 million during the 81st Legislative Session will fund safety belts for the average number of new school buses typically purchased every year.

“My heart goes out to the families of the students involved in this accident who must be so worried,” added Lucio. “We should minimize the worry for parents who entrust their children to our schools.”-

••••••

STARR – the new statewide student assessment tests – to be launched in the fall of 2011

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott  announced on Tuesday, January 26, that the next generation of student tests will be called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness  or STAAR.

STAAR will replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which is the criterion-reference assessment  program that has been in place since 2003.

The STAAR name, pronounced the same as star, will be used for the 12 end-of-course assessments mandated by Senate Bill 1031 in 2007 and the new grade 3-8 assessments mandated by House Bill 3 in the 2009 legislative session.

The new tests will be used beginning in the 2011-2012 school year.

Students in the graduating Class of 2015, who are currently in seventh grade, will be the first students who must meet the end-of-course testing requirements, as well as pass their classes, in order to earn a diploma.

The new tests will be significantly more rigorous than previous tests and will measure a child’s performance, as well as academic growth. The grade 3-8 STAAR tests in reading and mathematics, by law, must be linked from grade to grade to performance expectations for the English III and Algebra II end-of-course  assessments.

During a speech at the Texas Association of School Administrators’ Midwinter Conference in Austin, Scott also said the last TAKS-based school accountability ratings will be issued in 2011. Ratings will be suspended in 2012 while a new accountability system is developed. The new state rating system will debut in 2013.

Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS) – in use from 1986 through 1990 – tested reading, mathematics and writing in grades 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11; first state test students were required to pass to earn a diploma.

Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) – in use from 1990-2002 – tested reading,  mathematics and writing, ultimately given to students in grades 3-8 and 10. Additionally, science  and social studies tested at eighth grade, Spanish-language tests available for students in grades  3-6, four end-of-course exams provided optional method for meeting graduation requirements.

Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) – in use from 2003 to the present –  assesses mathematics, reading, writing, English language arts, science and social studies. Students tested in grades 3-11; promotion tied to test results for students in grades 3, 5 and 8; graduation requirements expanded to include English language arts, mathematics, science and  social studies.

••••••

Houston podiatrist with offices in Pharr and San Juan, pleads guilty to health care fraud

By ANGELA DODGE

Franklin Beltre, 39, a licensed podiatrist, on Wednesday, January 27, pleaded guilty to committing health care fraud by submitting false and fraudulent claims to both Medicare and Medicaid for services performed by an unlicensed podiatrist, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have announced.

Beltre, of Houston, who owned and operated the Valley Medical Foot Care in Pharr/San Juan, and a similar business in Houston, pleaded guilty to health care fraud before United States District Judge Randy Crane. At the January 27 hearing, Beltre admitted to defrauding both Medicaid and Medicare by billing for medical services not rendered by a licensed podiatrist and billings for services he claimed were performed while he was actually vacationing outside Texas.

Overall, since August 2004, more than $536,000 was submitted in false and fraudulent claims to both Medicare and Medicaid by Beltre for podiatric services he never performed and that were actually performed by an unlicensed, unsupervised podiatrist.

Beltre and the unlicensed podiatrist working for him at the Valley Medical Foot Care, Manuela K. Alana, were charged by indictment in September 2009 with multiple counts of health care fraud arising from the scheme to fraudulently bill the two health care programs.

Alana, 40, of Pharr, pleaded guilty to health care fraud on December 21 before Judge Crane. She admitted that from April 29, 2006, through May 2006, claims totaling approximately $17,069 were submitted to both Medicare and Medicaid for podiatric services that falsely claimed Beltre had performed the services, when in actuality, Alana – an unlicensed and unsupervised podiatrist – had performed the services.

Both Alana and Beltre face a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $250,000. Alana is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2010, while Beltre will be sentenced on April 12, 2010, at 2 p.m. Alana and Beltre have been permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Ferko is prosecuting the case.

••••••

Small business, jobs and Wall Street reform

By CONGRESSMAN RUBÉN HINOJOSA

In my most recent visit to House District 15, I’ve had the chance to speak to many citizens about their concerns. Everyone says they are worried about the economic situation we inherited from the Bush Administration and they add to their concerns the lack of job opportunities.

In President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the president proposed lending $30 billion of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to community banks to increase lending to small businesses. President Obama also proposed eliminating capital gains taxes on small businesses investments and implementing tax incentives for small businesses that hire new workers or raise the wages of existing workers.

I supported the “Small Business Financing and Investment Act” which passed the House in October 2009. It will create new jobs and stimulate the economy by providing small businesses with access to the loans and investment dollars they need to expand and grow their operations.

We all want small businesses to succeed and more incentives are needed to help them accomplish their goals. The president also proposes that small businesses be given continuing tax incentives which allow them to immediately write off much of the cost of investments in new equipment instead of having to depreciate it over time. In addition, it is proposed that small businesses not pay pay-roll taxes with a cap of up to $105,000. I believe small businesses are the number one source of new jobs in this country. Small businesses create 60 percent to 80 percent of new jobs every year. I believe these proposals will help jump start new jobs in our country.

In January 2009, I voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This $787 billion program is already creating jobs and infrastructure in District 15. In just one year, my district has received $941 million. This money has been used to renew highways and build affordable homes, save jobs and improve and re-new water systems. In fact, $2 million is being used to rebuild the city of Elsa’s water plant and $4.5 million was awarded to the city of Alice to reconstruct and repair its water plant.

These funds were also used to keep Texans in their jobs. People like firefighters and teachers. Highway and levee projects were also awarded millions of dollars in District 15. So far ARRA has saved or created 1.5 to 2 million jobs nation wide.

President Obama, as I do, believes in investing in the future when it comes to energy and our environment.  Through ARRA, more than $80 billion will be invested in creating clean-energy jobs of tomorrow. We must commit ourselves to be less dependent on the world oil market. We must develop new, green jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. We must plan for our future in a responsible and efficient way.

I voted for the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173) in December 2009 to help restore common sense to Wall Street and to protect consumers with the largest reform of our nation’s financial regulations since the New Deal.

For eight years, the Bush Administration looked the other way as Wall Street and big banks exploited loopholes and gambled with our money, compromising our savings, our future, and the American Dream. Risky and irresponsible behavior and the failure to regulate the financial industry led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. My goal is to protect consumers from predatory lending, safeguard our retirement and college savings from unnecessary risks, and inject transparency and new accountability into a financial system run amok.

This bill will also include the creation the Office of Financial Literacy, which I authored. The proposed office will help educate consumers on consumer financial products and services by providing one-on-one financial counseling; helping individuals understand their credit history and credit score; assisting individuals in their efforts to plan for major purchases, reduce their debt, and improve their financial stability.

I, along with my colleagues in Congress and with the president, will always support legislation that will prevent another global economic crisis. I believe we are working our way out of this terrible recession. It will take time and a lot of effort from both sides of the aisle. I am very hopeful that Congress will be successful in these endeavors and keep our nation’s economy strong and on top.

••••••

Gov. Perry: Veterans have made our nation great; cites state laws designed to help them

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, January 29, emphasized Texas’ commitment to its veterans at the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Mid-Winter Round Up held in Austin.

“Texas has a deep appreciation for the men and women who don the uniform of our country and risk their lives for our freedom, and that appreciation continues after they return home,” Perry said. “We must ensure our veterans return from the field of battle to live a life of dignity, with the opportunity to find their place in our economy and access to the services they were promised when they joined up.”

Perry is committed to providing services to help our veterans, especially those men and women returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, transition into civilian life. In November, the governor responded to a backlog of more than 39,000 pending disability and health benefit claims at Veterans Administration regional offices by funding a 12-person Claims Processing Assistance Team (CPAT) within the Texas Veterans Commission. To date the CPAT, has assisted in over 1,400 cases and has 866 cases ready for action by the VA.

Additionally, the governor worked with the Legislature and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to secure an additional $5 million to supplement the $1.2 million from the state budget to expand mental health treatment and support programs for veterans and their families. This additional funding has been made available to local mental health authorities in grants of up to $245,000 to help with programs such as vet-to-vet peer support groups, family education and trauma therapy.

In the last legislative session, Perry signed Senate Bill 297, which provides in-state tuition for veterans who are eligible for federal education benefits, and to their spouses and children. The bill also provides a tuition exemption for dependent children with a parent who is a Texas resident deployed on active duty overseas. The governor also signed Senate Bill 93, which makes important changes to the Hazelwood Act allowing eligible veterans, their children and spouses to receive an exemption from the payment of tuition and most fees for up to 150 semester credit hours of state-supported classes at colleges and universities.

Perry also touted the Texas Veterans Leadership Program, which provides employment and training services, resources and referrals to veterans.

••••••

United Brownsville kicks-off with signing ceremony to promote positive image of region

The wheels of change kept their momentum on Thursday, January 21, as The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and six other entities launched United Brownsville with a signing ceremony at Brownsville City Hall.

Starting where Imagine Brownsville left off, the newly formed United Brownsville will have an organizational structure designed to provide a sustainable mechanism for cooperation to leverage institutional resources for the implementation and tracking of the initiatives in the Imagine Brownsville plan.

“We must again come together,” said UTB/TSC President and a United Brownsville Board Co-chair Dr. Juliet V. García. “Any one of us alone can achieve small things, but it takes a community to come together to achieve bigger things.”

UTB/TSC was asked to collaborate as a full partner with the community around the implementing the key investments and strategies identified in Imagine Brownsville as a member of the United Brownsville Plan Coordinating Board.

The board represents a new approach to create a more sustainable, competitive regional community.  The university joins with city of Brownsville, the Port of Brownsville Independent School District, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board and the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation on the board.

“What’s more exciting is we are taking the next step in moving forward with the notion of a plan to a movement of making things happen,” said Irv Downing, UTB/TSC Vice President for Economic Development and Community Services and a board co-chair. “All this is beyond just one institution and only when we leverage our resources can Brownsville really meet the challenges.”

The Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan provided the foundation for guiding the future growth of the Brownsville Borderplex that is consistent with the vision and goals of the community. The development of the plan involved the participation of hundreds of residents and institutions throughout the process.

“When we agreed to lead Imagine Brownsville, it was never meant to be a plan that would sit on the shelf when it was completed,” said Fred Rusteberg, President and CEO of International Bank of Commerce and board co-chair. “Plans demand action, and that’s what United Brownsville is about. We are excited to begin the implementation phase of the plan. This is a truly an historic occasion.”

The plan outlines the key private and public sector strategies needed to create a more sustainable competitive community in order to attract the capital and resources needed to improve the economic development and quality of life of the Brownsville area.

For more information about United Brownsville, please go to:

http://www.imaginebrownsville.com

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