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The American Legion Alfredo "Freddy" González Post #408 will host the annual “Veterans Day Parade, Medal of Honor Recipients” on Saturday, November 6.  The parade will begin at 10:00am at Cats Stadium then exit on Cano. Set-up time for entries is from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and is free to those who wish to participate (rules and regulations apply). All area residents are encouraged to support U.S. veterans by either attending or participating in this wonderful memorial parade honoring those who have served, and in many cases, made the highest sacrifice.  More information on the event, including registering, is available by contacting Commander Gus García at 956/457-9681, 1st Vice Commander Manuel Cantú, Jr. at 956/867-5367, or by contacting the American Legion Post 408 between 4 p.m and 10 p.m. at 956/383-1182. Featured, from left: Manuel Cantú, Jr.; Gus García; and American Legion Post 408 Finance Officer Arnoldo Morin.

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The Hidalgo County Commissioners’  Court on Tuesday, October 19, passed a resolution  in conjunction with the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the Cancer Center at Renaissance to raise awareness about breast cancer risks and preventative screening tests. Wearing pink ribbons, the court members said they support programs and activities, scientific research and education, and healthy living habits that promote all aspects of public health, including the reduction of breast cancer among women. “We are hopeful that our action today will remind mothers, sisters and daughters to periodically get screened,” said Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez, seen here with his staff members and representatives from Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Featured, first row, from left: Richard Sánchez, Chief Administrator, County Judge’s Office; Gloria Rodríguez, Administrative Assistant, County Judge’s Office; Sandra De León, Administrative Aide, County Judge’s Office (holding proclamation); Erika Reyna, Economic Development Planner, County Judge’s Office; and Terri García, Administrative Aide, County Judge’s Office. Back row, from left: Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez; Elisa Perez, Community Events Coordinator, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Anabel Arellano, Cancer Center Director, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Chris Treviño, Assistant Chief Administrator, County Judge’s Office; and Michael Leo, Executive Assistant, County Judge’s Office. See story later in this posting.

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The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Positive Only Women (P.O.W.)  on Wednesday, October 20, held a successful fundraiser and mixer to help raise awareness of the risks, prevention, and health care related to breast cancer. The event, dubbed Hats Off to Breast Cancer Awareness, was hosted by The Patio, located at 116 South 17th Street in McAllen. Participants donated $10 each, with those proceeds donated to a local organization which helps patients with breast cancer. Those participants who wore a hat also were given the chance to win a door prize during the social mixer, which featured fun, food and refreshments for a good cause. Featured, seated, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; Melisa Tejada and Illiana Cabrera with the RGVHCC; Barbara Guerra with The Patio; Giselle Dominique Mascarenhas with P.O.W.; and Becky Guerra with The Patio. Standing, from left: Pedro Ayala, Celina González, Aaron Cabrera, Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, and Stephanie Ramírez with the RGVHCC; and Mariana Aguayo with P.O.W. 

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Attorney General Greg Abbott, featured in his wheelchair, front row, left, joined the Hidalgo County Republican Party at their first annual Skeet Shoot on Saturday, October 23, in Donna. Twenty teams of five shooters, sponsored by various local businesses, battled the high South Texas winds to vie for first place, said Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Javier Villalobos, featured standing, right. Abbott joined the shooters and their guests for a lunch break. The winning team was Wild Mesquite, while placing second was the Newkirk & Newkirk team. Abbott is being challenged in the November 2 statewide election by  Barbara Ann Radnofski, the Democratic Party nominee for Texas Attorney General.

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As part of their public service, members of the Leadership Edinburg Class XX recently made a donation to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot Restoration project.  The Depot Restoration Committee, headed by Elva Jackson Garza, creates fundraising efforts to assist in restoring damage while maintaining the historic integrity of the Depot, which houses the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Featured, from left: Roy Peña; Lisa Rosales; Angie Luna; Flo Prater; Abraham Pompa; Imelda Rodríguez; Mark Aguirre; Marty Martin; and Elva Jackson Garza. "We are so grateful to everyone who has believed in the historic integrity of our building. We appreciate all of the volunteers who serve on the Depot Restoration Committee and of course everyone who has donated money to keep our building sustainable and looking beautiful throughout the years," said Garza. "We are thankful to Leadership Edinburg Class XX for their amazing fundraising efforts and outstanding leadership. "Their generosity has certainly come full circle in helping restore one of Edinburg’s treasures." More information on the Depot or to make a financial contribution to its restoration is available by calling 956/383-4974. See story later in this posting.

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Coordinators from the 22 high schools participating in the University of Texas-Pan American’s GEAR UP project heard local leaders on Monday, October 18, about their efforts in helping Hispanic students achieve. Representatives from those 22 campuses participated in the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ National Education Summit and Call to Action meeting that morning as it was being streamed live from Washington, D.C. on campus monitors. UTPA hosted the viewing party and a lunch where they heard from Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, talk about the efforts he and other lawmakers made to pass Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 along with other laws that benefit students. Featured, from left: Dr. Martha Cantú, director of UTPA’s GEAR UP project; Congressman Hinojosa; Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, the university’s associate vice president and dean of admissions and enrollment services; and Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services. Eddie Zamora is the Republican Party nominee who is challenging Hinojosa in the November 2 general election. See story on Hinojosa’s congressional update later in this posting.

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Dr. Cynthia Orozco, author of the 2009 book titled, No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, is acknowledged and thanked by Víctor Gómez, Mexican American Studies Program Instructor at South Texas College, for her presentation on Thursday, October 14 at the Pecan campus in McAllen, based on her landmark book, which focuses on the history and impact of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Orozco, a professor at Eastern New Mexico University at Ruidoso, spoke on issues such as racial segregation against people of Mexican descent, exclusion of Mexican citizens and women from LULAC, and the recasting of that organization – which has been perceived as anti-Mexican and anti-working class – to one that was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the U.S. after World War I. “The typical American doesn’t know about this particular era of discrimination and segregation,” Orozco said. “We need to not just think black and white; we have to add brown to that color scheme. There are various civil rights movements that took place and one of those is ours. There’s a long history of struggle for people of Mexican descent.” See story later in this posting.

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Doug Martin, a community and business leader who is owner and president of Martin Farm and Ranch Supply, on Saturday, October 16, was honored as Man of the Year 2010 by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce during the local group’s Annual Installation Banquet held at the Monte Cristo Golf Club. Martin has been married for 31 years to Mary Alice Sánchez, and they have three children: Alyssa, Gregory and Charisse. Also during the ceremony, Maggie Kent received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, while Edward Kuprel, Edinburg’s City Forester, was recognized as the City of Edinburg Employee of the Year. Fire Marshal Richard Drewry was selected as Edinburg Firefighter of the Year. See story later in this posting.

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María Noemí  "Mimi" Cárdenas, featured third from left, on Saturday, October 16, was honored as Woman of the Year 2010 by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at the local group’s Annual Installation Banquet held at the Monte Cristo Golf Club. Among her many professional and community achievements was her work with the Texas Employment Commission, where she helped hundreds find jobs and hundreds more with unemployment claims during the hard economic times of the 1980s. Joining her for her big night, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra, who was honored as outgoing chairwoman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Mrs. Cárdenas’ son, Don; María Noemí "Mimi" Cárdenas; her daughter, Margaret Lucille "Myssie" Cárdenas-Barajas; and Johnny Rodríguez, incoming chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College trustees remain deadlocked on how to fill board vacancy

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Two rival philosophies on how to replace the late Mike Allen on the South Texas Board of Trustees again remained deadlocked on Monday, October 25, when a motion to advertise for candidates who wish to be considered for appointment as Allen’s successor by the remaining six STC trustees failed to get a majority support.

On a 3-3 vote –  which came after board members meeting that afternoon at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen went behind closed doors to hear from their legal counsel – trustees appeared no closer to agreeing on how to fill the vacancy caused by Allen’s untimely passing in late August.

STC Board Chairman Gary Gurwitz favors having the board conduct interviews to select an interim successor until a May 2012 election, contending that seven members should be available in case a crucial or controversial issue requires a tie-breaker.

Supporters of allowing the vacancy to exist until an election is scheduled for next May believe that voters in Allen’s District 3 – which includes southwest Pharr, Hidalgo, Sharyland, southeast Mission, and Granjeno – should be the only ones to select their representative on the seven-member governing board.

According to STC President Shirley Reed, the community college system, which serves Hidalgo and Starr counties, has faced the issue of a board vacancy on three previous occasions:

• In December 1996, Rubén Hinojosa resigned as a board member in order to serve in Congress. Hinojosa’s seat remained vacant for seven months, until current STC trustee Roy De León was appointed by the board. De León went on to win election to that seat in May 1998;

• In November 2008, Irene García resigned as STC trustee following her election to the Board of Trustees for the La Joya school district. Her position on the STC board remained vacant for seven-and-a-half months, until current trustee Óscar Longoria, Jr was elected in May 2009; and

• In March 2009, following the untimely passing of Manuel Benavidez, Jr., his position on the STC Board of Trustees remained vacant for eight months, until his daughter and current STC trustee, Rose Benavidez, was elected in November 2009.

"Give that another try…"

Last May, Allen was elected by voters in District 3 to a new, six-year term. He was first elected to the STC Board of Trustees in May 2004.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck on Wednesday, August 25, when Allen, who had been battling cancer for several years, died from complications of his disease, chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

On Monday, September 27, in their first full board meeting since Allen’s death, STC trustees debated whether to leave the vacancy until an election is held next May for voters of District 3, or have the board, by majority vote, appoint a successor who would serve until  May 2012, when an election would be held.

But of those options failed to get the needed fourth vote.

The issue resurfaced at the STC board’s October 25 meeting.

Gurwitz – whose District 4 includes southwest Edinburg – recommended that STC trustees consider breaking the stalemate by authorizing the community college system to advertise for qualifications of residents from Allen’s District 3 for consideration by the board as Allen’s interim successor.

"I thought we would try to give that another try, to see if we couldn’t do something," Gurwitz, who placed the item on the board agenda, explained to his colleagues.

"If we can at least pass the motion where we can post for interviews, see who applies – and I understand there is quite an interest out there in applying for the vacancy – we can interview those people, and perhaps we can find someone in that group which we can agree on to fill Mike’s (Allen) vacancy until May of 2012," Gurwitz continued.

Benavidez, whose District 1 is comprised of Starr County, made the motion sought by Gurwitz, with De León, STC’s board trustee representing District 7, seconding her motion.

But before the vote was taken, Gurwitz asked if trustees could further discuss the issue, and STC President Shirley Reed laid out the avenues available to them.

"You can discuss it, and you also have the option of executive session, if you need any advice from legal counsel," she said.

"I would just like to get this done today, if we can," Gurwitz said, then addressed fellow trustees. "Would you like to adjourn to executive session for a few minutes? To get advice from our attorney?"

Trustees go behind closed doors

José Guerrero, STC’s general counsel, advised trustees that, if they chose, they could adjourn into executive session, contending that under state law, issues dealing with litigation can be reviewed behind closed doors by governing bodies in Texas.

"If there are legal questions about this process, we can retire into executive session under Chapter 551.071 of the Texas Government Code, consultation with attorney," Guerrero said.

Trustees voted to go behind closed doors, and returned into open session within a half hour, shortly before 7 p.m.

"There was no decision made in executive session," Gurwitz reported once trustees returned to their public meeting. "The issue has come up, however, about clarifying some legal positions."

Gurwitz reminded trustees and the audience that the motion by Benavidez was still on the table, awaiting action.

"We have a motion on the floor, and a second," Gurwitz said, then added, "The concern is that we don’t know whether we appoint or elect. There is an issue about how long the appointment or the election is for, whether it is for the balance of the term, or whether it is for until the next general election in May of 2012."

"Then we are not going to do anything."

Gurwitz said he "would like to go ahead and at least start with posting of the notice (seeking applicants to fill the vacancy) while we ask legal counsel to give us a definitive opinion on that issue. We thought we had it, but apparently we didn’t. We would like to have that done."

Gurwitz continued, "I would like to go ahead and post – even though this, at least starting the applications coming in – we can’t possibly start interviewing for at least, probably, 60 days, anyway, and that does not require us to appoint even then. We can then decide to go to an election, if we so desire.

"So, we have a motion on the floor, we have a second. Is there any further discussion?" Gurwitz remarked. "All in favor of the motion, hold up your hand."

Gurwitz and De León voted in favor of the motion by Benavidez.

"All oppose, same sign," Gurwitz said, prompting trustees Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr., Jesse Villarreal and Longoria to vote against the Benavidez motion, without comment from those three men.

"It’s the same: three to three," Gurwitz observed. "Then we are not going to do anything. Let’s get back on the (board) agenda."

Existing board policy

In her memorandum to STC trustees, Reed explained the board’s existing policy regarding filling a vacancy.

According to Reed, who spelled out the history and issues in a memorandum to the governing board:

As per board policy #1220, the board has the option to fill the vacancy by appointment or by special election.

It is the board’s discretion as to how the vacancy should be filled.

If the vacancy is filled by appointment, the appointed person must meet the requirements of serving as a trustee, including residency requirements.

A vacancy may be filled by appointment only until the next regular election of members to the Board in May 2012, at which time the position shall be filled by election for a term appropriately shortened to conform to what regularly would have been the length of the term for that position.

To be in compliance with policy, the board must announce the vacancy through the news media. The board may also announce the vacancy to other individuals and organizations that they feel may have an interest in the vacancy.

If the vacancy is to be filled by a special election, the election is to be conducted in the same manner as the district’s general election except as provided by the applicable provisions of the Texas Election Code. The special election may be scheduled for May 2001 for the unexpired term of Allen to May 2016.

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Almost half of Hidalgo County’s young people age 18 years and younger are living in poverty, County Judge Ramírez tells Senate committee

(Editor’s Note: On Thursday, October 21, the Senate Redistricting Committee – which will play a major role in deciding whether the Rio Grande Valley picks up a new congressional seat – took public testimony during a rare hearing in South Texas, which was held at the University of Texas-Pan American. Among those submitting testimony was Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez. His comments follow.)

By COUNTY JUDGE RENÉ  A. RAMÍREZ

For a year now, I have had the honor of serving Hidalgo County residents as county judge.  This position has provided me with an incredible opportunity to witness first-hand the difficult challenges this community is experiencing as a result of rapid population growth and the inability of current local, state and federal resources to keep up with the increasing demand for social services, health care access, infrastructure and jobs.

Among the most pervasive problems affecting the well-being of families and children is poverty.  At least one in eight residents lives below the poverty level. The most recent American Community Survey indicates that Hidalgo County is one of the "poorest places in Texas." Children are most affected by poverty in this county, with nearly half of all residents under age 18 living below the poverty level.

No doubt, one of the most successful ways to try and meet the growing needs of Hidalgo County residents is to increase resources in the region. To accomplish this, we have been advocating this past year for an accurate Census count that will not only help bring more state and federal dollars to this region, but also support the need for a new congressional seat that will represent and serve the needs of county residents.

According to Census Bureau estimates, population growth in Texas since the 2000 Census compared to the growth nationwide could result in a gain of three additional congressional seats in the state. Because most of the growth has occurred in deep South Texas, with Hidalgo County being one of the fastest growing U.S. counties, I would urge you to consider any redistricting plan adopted by the Texas Legislature increase representation for this region of Texas.

Looking beyond the problems associated with poverty, it is important to point out that there are also tremendous opportunities in the county for growing the local and regional economy due to our proximity to Mexico. Our Valley ports process 12.6 percent, or $19.1 billion, of all trade processed by the U.S.-Mexico border ports with the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge carrying an estimated $12 billion alone.

We continue to contribute our fair share of sales tax revenue to the state because of the high number of shoppers from Mexico that have historically come to the region to spend money.  We have also made significant improvements to both human and physical infrastructure in recent years.

We continue to partner with the state and federal governments in an effort to develop future investment to this region for roads, education, health care, and infrastructure that helps attract industry. Having additional representation at the state and federal level can help us secure more investments for our community.

Thank you for visiting our county today and for your commitment to our constituency.

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Dr. Cynthia Orozco, civil rights author, brings in packed house for conclusion of South Texas

College’s Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration 

By EDGAR CHRNKO

Dr. Cynthia Orozco didn’t know that a 20-page college paper she wrote on the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in 1978 would lead her on a 30-year odyssey. A journey culminating in her 2009 book titled, No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Fittingly, another trip took her to South Texas College recently, where her presentation on her book and her thoughts on Mexican-American civil rights concluded the college’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. To start her presentation, she showed the audience signs reading, “No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed,” explaining that the signs commonplace years ago in establishments across the U.S., including Texas. 

Orozco, a professor at Eastern New Mexico University at Ruidoso, spoke on issues such as racial segregation against people of Mexican descent, exclusion of Mexican citizens and women from LULAC and the recasting of that organization, which has been perceived as anti-Mexican and anti-working class, to one that was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the U.S. after World War I. 

“The typical American doesn’t know about this particular era of discrimination and segregation,” Orozco said. “We need to not just think black and white; we have to add brown to that color scheme. There are various civil rights movements that took place and one of those is ours. There’s a long history of struggle for people of Mexican descent.” 

Although racist signs are a thing of the past, Hispanics still face struggles for equality. Orozco says that the biggest civil rights issues today for Hispanics are the law against undocumented immigrants in Arizona, and the Dream Act. 

“The Arizona law criminalizes undocumented people and discriminates against Hispanics perceived to be immigrants,” she said. “Another major issue is the Dream Act, which should give undocumented immigrants access to get an education.”  

During her talk, Orozco, whose mother is from Mercedes, encouraged students to get an education and become involved in their community and culture, as well as venture outside the Valley to experience other cultures. 

“Dr. Orozco sent a very inspiring message to our students. She promoted the importance of an education and pursuing dreams, even though we may doubt ourselves at times, or are doubted by others,” said STC Mexican American Studies Program Instructor Víctor Gómez. “Her work is cutting edge and her argument is thought provoking in the sense that many Chicano scholars dismiss LULAC as a ‘sellout’ organization or that the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement strictly began in the 60’s and 70’s, when it actually started in the 20’s and 30’s.” 

Orozco’s talk brought STC’s Mexican American Studies Program Hispanic Heritage Month lecture series to a successful close with a packed house at the Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room in McAllen. 

“The Mexican American Studies Hispanic Heritage Month celebration is important because not many people know how important Hispanics have been in the formation, identity and history of this country,” Gómez added. “Hispanics contributions are mere footnotes in literature, and these events promote awareness of the beauty and importance of such contributions. This year’s celebration was special because we continued and expanded upon a multi-disciplined approach. We brought in more authors to share their work, and saw more community members in attendance, including teachers from our local public schools.”

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Skin color linked to social inequality in modern Mexico, according to study by UT-Austin associate professor Andrés Villarreal

Despite the popular, state-sponsored ideology that denies the existence of prejudice based on racial or skin color differences in Mexico, a new study from The University of Texas at Austin provides evidence of profound social inequality by skin color.

According to the study, individuals with darker skin tones have less education, have lower status jobs and are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to be affluent.

Andrés Villarreal, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center affiliate, is publishing his finding in the October issue of American Sociological Review.

He found a high level of agreement among respondents of a nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 participants about who belongs to three basic skin color categories (blanco/güero — or white;  moreno claro — or light brown; and moreno oscuro — or dark brown). In addition, he investigated how skin color is associated with a person’s socioeconomic status.

Respondents who are light brown have 29.5 percent lower odds of having a college education or more compared to those who are white, while those who are dark brown have 57.6 percent lower odds.

The difference in occupational status between light-brown and white respondents, and especially between dark-brown and white respondents, is substantially reduced once education level is introduced as a predictor. In other words, the disparity in access to education among respondents in different color categories may explain a large part, but not all, of the observed differences in occupational status.

Respondents in the lowest occupational categories, such as domestic workers, manual workers, drivers and security guards, are much more likely to be in the dark-brown category and less likely to be in the white category than are respondents in the highest status occupations, such as office supervisors, professional workers and employers. Only 9.4 percent of manual workers are considered white, compared with 28.4 percent of professionals. Light-brown workers have 25.2 percent lower odds of being a professional worker than whites, while a dark-brown respondent has 35.9 percent lower odds of being in the top two occupational categories than a white respondent.

"These differences in socioeconomic outcomes are, of course, insufficient to demonstrate the persistence of discriminatory practices against individuals based on the color of their skin," Villarreal says. "However, the fact that differences in occupational status across skin color categories cannot be fully explained by other factors, suggests that Mexicans with darker skin tones may in fact face discrimination in the labor market."

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Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance promote breast cancer awareness

By CARI LAMBRECHT

The Hidalgo County Commissioners’  Court on Tuesday, October 19, passed a resolution  in conjunction with the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and the Cancer Center at Renaissance to raise awareness about breast cancer risks and preventative screening tests. 

Wearing pink ribbons, the court members said they support programs and activities, scientific research and education, and healthy living habits that promote all aspects of public health, including the reduction of breast cancer among women.  

“We are hopeful that our action today will remind mothers, sisters and daughters to periodically get screened,” said Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez.

Marissa Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance said, “The key to defeating this disease is an aggressive defense through appropriate mammograms, preventive medical care and the consistent availability of treatment options for those who are diagnosed.”

DHR and the Cancer Center at Renaissance distributed information to Hidalgo County employees and the public attending Commissioners’ Court and also made a public presentation. 

While Breast Cancer Awareness Month runs through the month of October, Ramírez said it was important that awareness be a year-round priority, and he asked that public support and awareness for other types of cancers does not wane. 

“Breast cancer may be the most prevalent form of non-skin cancer affecting women today, but it does not preclude all the other less public — less pink — cancers affecting both women and men. All people of all ages should practice best health practices to reduce risks,” Ramírez said. 

For more information on various forms of cancer, please visit http://www.cancer.org

A copy of the resolution passed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court can be found online at http://www.co.hidalgo.tx.us

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Sen. Zaffirini condemns TV political ads reportedly sponsored by Republican group allegedly designed to suppress Hispanic vote

By HAROLD COOK

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, on Thursday, October 21, issued the following statement in reaction to news reports that a Republican group attempted to air television ads in Texas and elsewhere, she said were designed to dupe Hispanic voters into not participating in this election.

Zaffirini, who was in Edinburg on October 21 as part of the Senate Redistricting Committee public hearing hosted by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, at the University of Texas-Pan American, issued the following comments:

"Hispanics have fought in all venues for the right to vote in a free democracy. They have given their lives in wars for such freedoms, and they have battled in courtrooms for this fundamental right. 

"For Republicans to tell Hispanics not to vote is an insult of the highest order, and we will not fall for such dishonorable tactics. 

"Texas Hispanics know what is at stake in this election: the kind of quality jobs we need to support our families and grow our communities; the quality of our neighborhood schools, and world-class universities; and the availability of health care our families can afford. We know that our vote is our voice on these and other issues, and we will not be silenced by this disgusting ad campaign. 

"I will not be deterred and intend to cast my vote proudly in this election. I know others in South Texas intend to do the same. Those who wish otherwise should be deeply ashamed." 

The second highest-ranking Texas state senator, Zaffirini is the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator and the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region. 

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Hidalgo County health officials announces state recall of potentially dangerous products from

Sangar Fresh Cut Produce of San Antonio

By CARI LAMBRECHT 

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Thursday, October 21, ordered San Antonio-based Sangar Fresh Cut Produce to stop all production and ordered a recall of all products shipped from the plant since January 2010, citing a link between a Sangar product and a small number of listeriosis cases across Central and South Texas that have caused severe illness or even death in people with underlying health problems. 

One elderly gentleman from Hidalgo County is counted among the victims. He is believed to have been infected with the bacteria Listeria Monocytogenes, which may have originated in the fresh cut produce in sealed packages distributed to various institutions. The man became ill in January; however, he passed away in April from other health complications. DSHS has investigated nine additional listeriosis cases, including four other deaths, since January. Six of the ten cases have been linked to chopped celery from the Sangar plant. 

Hidalgo County Health and Human Services is responding to the recall accordingly by working hand in hand with the DSHS team on the investigation. Eduardo Olivarez, HCHHS Chief Administrative Officer, said he believes Hidalgo County may see minimal impact from this incident. 

“The only confirmed case of listeriosis that is linked to this produce recall dates back to January 2010. There is no further indication that any other illnesses are linked to the allegedly contaminated produce, and we do not have any confirmation that our institutions have served or currently harbor any of the contaminated products,” Olivarez said. 

DSHS continues to investigate possible sources of contamination and the locations where the products were distributed. According to DSHS, Sangar’s customers are advised to discard or return the products. 

“Grocery store shoppers need not worry,” Olivarez said. “The products in question are bulk shipments to institutions. The produce on the shelves at your grocery store should be considered safe. However, we always advise people to wash produce thoroughly before eating.” 

Symptoms of listeriosis can include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting, that which is similar to food poisoning. However, symptoms typically occur three to 70 days after exposure. The most common form of listeriosis locally is that found in unpasteurized dairy products. Pregnant women, the elderly, newborns and those with a weakened immune system are at most risk. Contact your physician immediately if you suspect an infection.     

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María Noemí  "Mimi" Cárdenas, Doug Martin, honored as Man and Woman of the Year 2010 by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce

By EVANA VLECK

María Noemí "Mimi" Cárdenas and Doug Martin on Saturday, October 16, were honored as Man and Woman of the Year 2010 by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at the local group’s Annual Installation Banquet held at the Monte Cristo Golf Club.

The prestigious event also served to honor Cynthia Bocanegra as outgoing chairman for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce while congratulating Johnny Rodríguez, who is chairman for the next 12 months.

In addition to his selection as Man of the Year, Martin was also honored as the Chamber Ambassador of the Year.

Maggie Kent received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, while Edward Kuprel, Edinburg’s City Forester, was recognized as the City of Edinburg Employee of the Year.

Fire Marshal Richard Drewry was selected as Edinburg Firefighter of the Year.

María Noemí  "Mimi" Cárdenas

Cárdenas  was born in Laredo, but have lived her entire life in Edinburg. 

She is daughter to Petra and José Gómez and sister to adopted siblings, Luz "María  “Sissy” Gómez and Juan Eduardo Gómez, and raised in a humble home. 

She went to Sacred Heart Catholic School and sang in the choir at Edinburg High School. She was lucky enough to have surrounded herself with great supportive friendships along the way.  She went on to major in Business Administration at Pan American College, where she was a charter member of Delta Zeta Sorority.  It was at that time, amongst that wonderful group of friends that she met her husband, Don Cárdenas. They married on Thanksgiving weekend, November 27, 1968. They were the second couple to marry in the chapel at Pan American College. 

After Don served his country in the Army Reserves during Vietnam, they had their first child, a daughter – Margaret Lucille – whom they named after Don’s mother, Margaret, who had passed shortly before their wedding, and after her aunt, former Hidalgo County District Clerk Lucille Treviño, who helped raise Mrs. Cárdenas.

Three years later, their son – Don –  was born. They named him after his father. And Mimi’s whole world changed after that. 

As a student, "Mimi" Cárdenas worked at the Citrus Theatre and Pan American College.

But her career really began while working with former Mayor Ronald A. Case at Hidalgo & Starr Counties Abstract and Title Company.  She went on to work for the state with Texas Employment Commission, where she helped hundreds find jobs and hundreds more with unemployment claims during the hard times of the 1980s. She is loved by all.

Doug Martin

The Man of the Year 2010 was born and raised in Edinburg, son of Alfred “Al” Martin and Harriette Martin. He was one of nine children, a graduate of Edinburg High School and Pan American University with a degree in Biology along with a teaching certificate.

Martin has been married for 31 years to Mary Alice Sánchez, and they have three children: Alyssa, Gregory and Charisse.

Martin is owner and president of Martin Farm and Ranch Supply and is a member of River Rock Band, as well as being a lifetime member of – and serving on the Board of Director for nine years – with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Other community positions held by Martin includes his membership for 23 years with the local Rotary Club, for which he served as president in 1983. He was chairman of the Rotary (Youth Leadership Award) for 12 years, chairman of the Rotary Student of the Month Committee for 15 years, and has accumulated 17 years of perfect attendance with the local Rotary Club.

Martin also served as president of the St. Joseph School Board in Edinburg, as well as a teacher, student organizer, and server on the St. Joseph parish council for eight years. In addition, Martin served the community for three years as president of the Hidalgo County 4H Sponsor Committee, is currently president of Hidalgo County 4H, and was treasurer for three years for the Edinburg Beef Club.

Among his many other accolades are his successful participation in Leadership Edinburg II, as well as serving for nine years as  Area 6 Director for Magic Valley Electric Coop. He is the past president of the Edinburg Beautification Committee, and in 2009, he was the recipient of the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce also extended its public appreciation to the following individuals and businesses which help with its annual banquet:

• Ace Computer Networking Services;

• Alpha and Omega Cleaning Services;

• All Tune & Lube;

• Austin Personnel Services;

• Butterfly Wireless;

• Chaps Bar & Grill;

• City of Edinburg;

• Cosme’s;

• Cullen R. Looney;

• Doctors Hospital at Renaissance;

• EIA Properties;

• Family Optical;

• G & S Glass;

• International Bank of Commerce;

• Irma Garza, Director of Public Information for the City of Edinburg;

• Kent Family;

• Kleen Kut Lawn and Landscaping Services;

• Law Office of García, Quintanilla & Palacios;

• Leadership Edinburg Class XXI;

• Martin Farm and Ranch;

• Memorial Funeral Home;

• Rio Valley Realty;

Social Life Magazine;

• Texas Gas Services;

• The Monitor; and

• Tiger Rock Taekwondo.

••••••

GEAR UP coordinators hear about higher education initiatives at UT-Pan American

By JENNIFER BERGHOM

High school coordinators of The University of Texas-Pan American’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) project learned more about what opportunities await their students as they enter college next year during a videoconference held Monday, October 18.

Representatives from the UTPA GEAR UP program’s 22 schools watched the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ National Education Summit and Call to Action meeting that morning as it was being streamed live from Washington, D.C. on campus monitors.

UTPA hosted the viewing party and a lunch where they heard from Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, talk about the efforts he and other lawmakers made to pass Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 along with other laws that benefit students.

The local educators also heard key officials from the U.S. Department of Education and President Barack Obama’s administration talk about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and initiatives started by Dr. Daniel King, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District’s Superintendent, to prepare students for post-secondary education, said Dr. Martha Cantú, director of UTPA’s GEAR UP project.

Cantú said UTPA’s GEAR UP project already applies many of the initiatives in their schools, including parental involvement and programs that help English language learners.

 

"I think it validated a lot of what we do," Cantú said.

During the luncheon, Hinojosa talked about the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which provides $2.55 billion over 10 years to Hispanic Serving Institutions, such as UTPA, historically black colleges and universities and other institutions of higher learning that educate a significant amount of minority students.

The congressman also talked about how the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which took effect this year, increased Pell Grants from $4,000 to $5,700 per year and allows students to receive the grants for summer semesters.

Dr. John Edwards, vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, said the expansion of the Pell Grants allowed 2,000 more students enroll in Summer I 2010 than Summer I 2009 and 1,800 more students enroll in Summer II 2010 than Summer II 2009. Edwards thanked Hinojosa for the work he has done to improve higher education.

 

"Congressman, you understand fully the economic impact that your work is having and our work at the university and projects like GEAR UP is having on our society, but more importantly you understand the message from our founding fathers that a constitutional democratic republic cannot stand without an educated populace," Edwards said.

 

Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, associate vice president and dean of admissions and enrollment services, told the educators of several programs the university already has in place to help its students, including UTPAdvantage and programs to help migrant students.

"UT-Pan Am sits in an area of the country where we can make such a difference, and we do and we will continue to do that, and we will use every single dollar that we get, every single last breath that we have to continue to beat everybody in the state in retaining Hispanic students," Hinojosa said. "We know the future of the country is at stake and we will continue to do it better than anybody else."

GEAR UP counselors who attended the watch party and luncheon said they were excited to learn about what efforts are being done to help their students succeed in higher education.

 

"I think it is a wonderful opportunity to see what’s going on far away from us," said Evelyn Ramos, GEAR UP coordinator for McAllen Memorial High School. "This was an excellent opportunity for us to gauge where our political figures are standing when it comes to our kids’ education."

••••••

Edinburg to receive $1 million federal grant to help provide housing assistance funding

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, October 13, announced a grant for $1,015,964 was awarded to the City of Edinburg by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program.

“These funds will be used by Edinburg Community Development for on-going housing assistance, which involves the reconstruction and improvements of homes, to building brand new homes for those in need,” said Hinojosa. “I know these continued projects will go a long way to provide safe homes for many of our residents.”

The CDBG program provides annual grants to states and local units of government to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment. The grant also works to expand economic opportunities for families and individuals, principally for low-and moderate-income persons.

Marissa Garza, Director of Edinburg Community Development, says the funding will also be used for street improvements in the Bar-5 colonia subdivision and for a sidewalk that will connect a neighborhood to a local municipal park near East State Highway 107.

The grant will also be used for the emergency repair program for homes that have severe gas line, sewage or electrical problems that need immediate attention. 

••••••

Congressman Cuellar bill to improve efficiency, accountability of FEMA homeland security grants is signed into law by President Obama

By LESLEY LÓPEZ

President Obama on Tuesday, October 12, signed into law legislation authored by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, to increase the accountability and efficiency of homeland security grants.

H.R. 3980, the Redundancy Elimination and Enhanced Performance for Preparedness Grants Act, requires FEMA to take an inventory of its homeland security grants and devise performance metrics to determine their effectiveness.

The legislation also directs FEMA to eliminate unnecessary reporting requirements, rules and regulations that often discourage local entities from participating in the program. FEMA will now have 90 days to submit plans and timetables to Congress, illustrating its ability to achieve these objectives.

“This bill is long overdue,” said Cuellar. “Knowing how effectively federal dollars are being spent will ensure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.”

“Despite our best efforts, FEMA has not yet devised a way to systematically assess homeland security grants to determine how they can best improve first responder capabilities,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman Independent of Connecticut, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “This bill will help put FEMA on track to develop effective performance measures for its grants – and ultimately to ensure both that tax dollars are spent wisely and that our nation is better prepared. I commend Congressman Cuellar for his leadership in this effort."

Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Massachussetts, echoed the need for the Cuellar legislation.

“Without reliable performance measures, we risk allotting scarce homeland security grant dollars to activities that do not boost our nation’s preparedness,” said Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “I commend Representative Cuellar for identifying this gap in grant administration and look forward to working with him and other Members of the Committee to ensure that this law is implemented in a manner that fosters the necessary capabilities for first responders to prepare for, and respond to, any disaster.” 

FEMA has invested $29 billion in preparedness grants to state and local entities since 2002. In 2009, the agency reported its system for measuring those investments was seriously flawed. Last year, on behalf of Congress, the National Academy of Public Administration completed an independent assessment of FEMA offices and found that preparedness was not fully integrated across the agency. 

“I thank Senator Lieberman and Congressman Thompson whose tireless dedication helped usher this bill through the Congress,” said Cuellar. “Despite spending $5 million to measure how effectively it spent $29 billion over the past seven years, FEMA is still unable to accurately gauge if this spending has made us any safer.”

The House passed Cuellar’s original bill in December 2009 by a vote of 414-0. It was favorably reported by both the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Thompson, and by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, chaired by Lieberman. 

••••••

READY … SET … SHOOT! Hidalgo County’s 2010 Photography Contest now underway 

By CARI LAMBRECHT

Calling all photographers — youth, amateur and professional! Hidalgo County’s 2010 Photography Contest, New Beginnings, began on Friday, October 22, and runs through November 24. 

This is the third year for the county’s photography contest. Winners’ works from previous years grace the public spaces of Hidalgo County such as the tax office, the county clerk’s office and, soon, the district clerk’s office and the remainder of the courthouse. Winners’ photography has also been incorporated into the banners on Hidalgo County’s award-winning website. 

“We strive to put local talent on display,” said Karina Cardoza, director of the Executive Office-Division of Public Affairs, which has hosted the contest in conjunction with various county departments over the past two years. “This contest is not about winning a big money prize, but rather the satisfaction that one gets from having their work hang and be recognized day after day in very, very public places. We have the venue, and our people have the talent. We just wanted to find a way to bring it all together for the benefit of everyone.” 

The deadline for the 2010 Hidalgo County Photography Contest is November 24, and all digital submissions must be done online at http://www.co.hidalgo.tx.us/photocontest. There are four categories – Culture, Nature, People and Places — and shooters may turn in up to three photos in each category. First through fifth places will be awarded in each category, for a total of 20 winning images. Winners will be chosen based on overall quality of the image and how well the image captures the theme, “New Beginnings.” 

“This year’s theme conjures up images such as sunrises, babies, birthdays, New Year’s Day festivities, or new start up businesses. However the artist interprets New Beginnings will be interesting to see,” Cardoza said. 

For more information on the 2010 Hidalgo County Photography Contest, please visit http://www.co.hidalgo.tx.us/photocontest.

••••••

Leadership Edinburg Class XX contributes to the help in the restoration of historic Depot

By EVANA VLECK

The Leadership Edinburg Class XX recently made a donation to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot Restoration project. 

The Depot Restoration Committee is headed by Elva Jackson Garza, and creates fundraising efforts to assist in restoring damage while maintaining the historic integrity of the Depot.  The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau currently operate from the Depot, which is located at 602 W.University Drive. 

The committee oversees projects and hosts efforts put forth by the community in order to raise money to upkeep the wear and tear of the historic building.  In 2009, the Edinburg school district contributed their efforts by hosting a "Silver Campaign" where more than $5,000 was raised by participating schools to be donated to the Depot Restoration project. 

In the latest successful fundraiser for the Depot,  the Leadership Edinburg Class XX generously $4,919 to the restoration efforts as part of the class curriculum and required annual class project. 

"We are so grateful to everyone who has believed in the historic integrity of our building. We appreciate all of the volunteers who serve on the Depot Restoration Committee and of course everyone who has donated money to keep our building sustainable and looking beautiful throughout the years," said Garza. "We are thankful to Leadership Edinburg Class XX for their amazing fundraising efforts and outstanding leadership. Their generosity has certainly come full circle in helping restore one of Edinburg’s treasures."

The Edinburg Depot is the former Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, which was built in 1927, and which is also home to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Visitor information Center. Included in the facility is the Rio Grande Valley exhibit featuring Southern Pacific memorabilia such as a conductor’s cap, playing cards, lamps, lanterns, as well as the original "golden spike" driven on January 11, 1927.

There is free admission to the Depot, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

••••••

State resolves Medicaid fraud investigation into off-label marketing of Topamax drug

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday, October 14, resolved multiple Medicaid fraud and deceptive drug marketing cases against Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The multi-state $50.7 million agreement resolves sealed complaints that charged the defendant with improperly marketing the anti-convulsant drug Topamax for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under the October 14 settlement, Texas will receive $2.86 million for its share of this case.

The civil Medicaid fraud investigation into Ortho-McNeil-Janssen stems from the defendant’s off-label marketing of Topamax. According to state investigators, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen worked to convince health care providers to prescribe Topamax for symptoms other than those associated with epilepsy or migraine headaches – which are the only FDA-approved uses of that drug. Under state and federal law, doctors may prescribe drugs for unapproved purposes, but pharmaceutical manufacturers cannot market them for unapproved, off-label uses.

Because the defendant pushed its products for off-label uses – such as to treat bipolar disorder, alcohol addition, and drug dependency – Medicaid programs paid unnecessarily high prices to pharmacies for Topamax prescriptions.

The settlement among the states is part of last April’s $75.37 million agreement between the company and the U.S. Department of Justice for violations of the Federal False Claims Act. As part of the overall settlement, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen has entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. That office will closely monitor the company’s future marketing and sales practices.

The October 14 settlement does not resolve Texas’s ongoing litigation against Johnson & Johnson and several of its subsidiaries, including Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. and Janssen Pharmaceutica. The Office of the Attorney General intervened in that qui tam lawsuit in 2006, alleging the company engaged in off-label marketing of its atypical antipsychotic drug Risperdal.

•••••• 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg/RGV awarded $27,000 to implement area youths avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, premature sexual activity

By SABRINA WALKER-HERNÁNDEZ

The Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg/RGV was recently awarded a $27,000 grant to implement the TEXYSN (Texas Statewide Youth Services Network) Project, which is implemented by the Texas Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs in more than 200 programs statewide.

The special appropriations was secured through a state-funded contract between the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the Boys & Girls Club of America Texas Alliance.

This project, which began September 1, focuses on the SMART Moves program for youth ages 9-17.  

Developed by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, SMART Moves (Skills, Mastery and Resistance Training) is one of the few national prevention programs currently addressing the problems of alcohol and other drug use and teen pregnancy in one comprehensive curriculum. 

Unlike other programs, SMART Moves confronts young people in a positive way, equipping them with basic life skills, problem-solving and decision-making abilities and communications skills, all designed to boost self-confidence and self-esteem. 

“SMART Moves works because it provides us with age-specific curricula that engage the club staff, parents, community and older teen members in a team approach to prevention,” said Lizette Galván with the San Carlos Unit of the Edinburg Boys & Girls Clubs. “We are especially pleased that the new and improved SMART Moves has expanded its themes to include topics such as finding the courage to make your own decisions, avoiding risky sexual situations, drug trafficking, drunk driving and other forms of drug involvement.”

For more than a decade, SMART Moves has been successfully used by hundreds of Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. 

In a study conducted by Columbia University, SMART Moves was shown to dramatically reduce the use of drugs and the rate of crime in public housing communities (13 percent drop in youth crime, 22 percent drop in drug activity, 25 percent decrease in crack usage over a three-year period). 

The program has also been recognized as one of 10 exemplary primary prevention programs by the U.S. Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and singled out for praise in The Making of a Drug Free America: Programs That Work by Mathea Falco, a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Narcotics Affairs. 

The SMART Moves prevention program has been scientifically evaluated and documented for its effectiveness by exposing young people to protective factors that promote positive behavior, health, well-being and personal success.  The new edition builds upon this experience, incorporating the latest research about problems confronting young people and provides viable solutions to help them handle challenging circumstances while avoiding risky and unhealthy behaviors. 

“I can speak firsthand as to the effectiveness of SMART Moves,” said Alba Escobedo, former club member and current staff. “SMART Moves works because it empowers young people by increasing their knowledge about alcohol and drugs. It teaches them how to ‘say no’ to negative peer and media pressure.  Working with the professional staff, we are able to incorporate the lessons of SMART Moves in a wide range of activities that kids can relate to.” 

The Boys & Girls Club has played an integral role in the Edinburg community for 39 years, providing daily programs and services to more than 16,000 young people. 

During the school year, the Club is open Monday through Friday, from 3:30 p.m. until 8 p.m,  and during the summer, the hours are 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. 

The Club offers programs that emphasize character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sport, fitness and recreation.

For more information about the club, or how to join the club, area residents may call 383-2582 or visit their website at http://www.EdinburgKids.com.

Supporters who wish to make financial contributions may do by calling 383-2582, or may text "Club" to 20222 to donate $5.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Edinburg Rio Grande Valley is a proud City of Edinburg partner and Hidalgo County United Way Agency. 

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