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More than 500 family, friends and fellow educators on Saturday, October 15, attended the dedication ceremonies for the new Macaria De La Garza Gorena Elementary  in the Edinburg school district.  The Edinburg school board named the campus in her honor in recognition of the retired educator’s lifetime achievements, community service, and distinguished education career As an educator for 47 years, Gorena was on the cutting edge of education, often pioneering techniques that ensured the success  of all students, especially those with physical and emotional limitations. Gorena was one of the pioneers of the Edinburg CISD’s Special Education Program and was associated with Edinburg CISD’s program for more than four decades. In this portrait, Gorena, seated in the center, is joined, to her right, by Belinda S. Figarelli, principal of Gorena Elementary, and to her left, her children, Mariela Gorena, Macaria (Caro) G. Palmatier, and Roberto E. Gorena. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, October 15, publicly recognized five leading citizens for their public service during its annual awards banquet, which was held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center. Elva Jackson Garza was named the chamber’s Woman of the Year, while Mitch Roberts was named as Man of the Year. Cris Torres with International Bank of Commerce was honored with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award while Marty Martin from Rio Valley Realty received the Ambassador of the Year Award. Sally Marie Jaime was bestowed the City of Edinburg Firefighter of the Year Award. Featured, from left, are: Cris Torres; Elva Jackson Garza; Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Sally Marie Jaime; and Marty Martin.

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Young and old alike were left in awe during and after renowned author Sandra Cisneros’ lectures, held at three of South Texas College’s campuses to close out the college’s Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture Series and celebration. The month-long series was sponsored by STC’s Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Library Services. Cisneros’ appearances – she is featured here, standing at right – were also sponsored by the Education Leadership Series, led by William Serrata, STC Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “We’re going to remember this one for quite a while. We could not have asked for a better way to close our third annual Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture Series.,” said Center for Mexican American Studies Instructor and event coordinator Víctor Gómez. “In fact, this one may be hard to top. Ms. Cisneros is a prolific writer and the reaction from our students and community put this event over the top. See story later in this posting.

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Nominations are being solicited by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for area individuals who have succeeded in business. Any business person who lives in the Valley is eligible to be nominated for the following honors: Business Woman, Business Man, and Small Corporation, Medium Corporation, and Large Corporation of the Year. The awards will be determined based on the business successes achieved by nominees during 2011. These honors will be bestowed during the RGVHCC’s Noche de Gala, scheduled for Saturday, January 21, in McAllen. Deadline to submit nominations is Friday, November 4. More information on the nominations process is available by contacting the RGVHCC at 928-0600. Featured reviewing the upcoming business awards process are RGVHCC leaders, from left, seated: Marti Miller, vice chair of membership and Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, vice chair of international affairs; and standing, from left: Brent Smith, treasurer; Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of small business and economic development; and Hari Namboodiri, member of the advisory board.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Friday, October 28, sponsored “Meet and Greet the Author”, featuring David Rice of Austin, formerly of Edcouch, whose literary works include Crazy Loco, Give a Pig a Chance, and his newest endeavor, Heart Shaped Cookies and Other Stories. The event, hosted at the historic Train Depot, featured Rice meeting with and reading to students from Stephen F. Austin Elementary School. Although Rice has lived in Austin for the past 20 years, he always manages to leave his heart in the Valley, still calling Edcouch his home. He  is always happy to return to the RGV to share his work as a writer, educator, and friend to many. As a compulsive story teller, Rice has several published.
Rice has also given his time to film media and recently filmed Gone Hollywood – a romantic comedy – and Scavengers – a family film – both shot in the Rio Grande Valley. On those two projects, Rice worked alongside television star Valente Rodríguez, also from the Delta area. Rice is featured in this photograph standing in front of an image that graces the cover of Heart Shaped Cookies and Other Stories. See story later in this posting.

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In a move that McAllen school district leaders contend will put their students out front and center as a leader of instructional technology, plans are underway to spend $20 million to provide an iPad2, featured in this photograph of a McAllen ISD student, or an iPod Touch for each of the district’s 25,300 students and 1,634 teachers. “This is a wonderful day — a game changer that will revolutionize the way we prepare our students for the 21st century,” said McAllen ISD superintendent Dr. James Ponce. He recently spoke at an elementary school library filled with community leaders and other dignitaries, company executives, parents, students, and employees. The event marked the official launching of TLC3—Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus, and Community — a unique move to place a mobile device in the hands of every student in the district. See story later in this posting.

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Fall is here, and as the region anticipates cool weather approaching soon, Edinburg will spice things up. On Saturday, November 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 1st Annual Market Days Cook-Off will take place at the Edinburg Town Square. The event is being hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Edinburg Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and the Edinburg Market Days Committee. The event is free and open to the public. More information for prospective competitors and for local business owners who wish to sponsor an exhibit to sell their goods and services is available by contacting the local chamber at 383-4974 or by going online at http://www.Edinburg.com. Feature promoting the event are Edinburg Chamber of Commerce leaders, from left: Martín Rivas; Cristal Sánchez; Evana Vleck; Imelda Rodríguez; and Ramiro Rodríguez. See story later in this posting.

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The stars were shinning bright as community leaders gathered at The Club at Cimarron on a breezy October evening for the sixth annual South Texas College Valley Scholars Program’s A Night with The Stars. Attendees enjoyed an evening of dining and entertainment as the college saluted Atlas & Hall, LLP and Charles Clark Chevrolet Co. In this image, STC leaders are featured with honorees at the event. From left are: Juan Mejía, STC Vice President of Academic Affairs; Corinne Kelley, coordinator of the Valley Scholars program; Alexandro Sarabia; Kirk Clark; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president; and Anahid Petrosian, STC Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs. See story later in this posting.

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State’s $13.3 million investment into U.S. Highway 281 to improve economic growth, transportation in north Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A budgeted $13.3 million for key state highway improvements along a five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 281 in north Edinburg will significantly boost economic growth and transportation for the entire community, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

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

“This will be the latest upgrading of U.S. 281 through Edinburg that will meet federal interstate highway standards, which means more vehicles will be able to travel faster and safer to and from Edinburg,” said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the EEDC’s five-member board of director.

The current average daily traffic (ADT) for these projects are 21,800 in 2012 and projected to reach 34,500 in 2032.

“This will make it easier to keep and attract major businesses and their respective workforces, which need easy access to a first-class highway so they can effectively receive and transport their goods and services,” the mayor noted.

Upgrades critical to Valley economy

Mayor Pro Tem Noé Garza, P.E., the chairman of the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (HCMPO) Transportation Policy Committee, has influenced key decisions on state highway projects in Edinburg and deep South Texas.

The Transportation Policy Committee, which is comprised of elected leaders representing their respective constituencies in Hidalgo County, works with TxDOT and with HCMPO staff to help plan for the region’s future transportation needs.

“Currently, federal interstate standards on U.S. 281 exist approximately 13 miles from U.S. 83 all the way up to FM 2812,” said the mayor pro tem, who is Edinburg’s representative on the Hidalgo County MPO.

“With the planned upgrades between FM 2812 and FM 490, we will continue to improve the flow of traffic to our airport, which is being developed into a major commercial transportation system, and to the Edinburg North Industrial Park, which is home to the Santana Textiles denim manufacturing complex, the Fed-Ex distribution center, Nu-Co Tools, Inc., and future industrial and commercial developments,” Garza said.

The $13.3 million grant, announced on Thursday, September 29, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is part of $3 billion in Proposition 12 bond funding that is being distributed to projects statewide by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The Texas Transportation Commission, a five-member board appointed by the governor with consent of the Texas Senate, governs the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

“This investment by the commission and TxDOT is part of ongoing efforts to upgrade U.S. Highway 281 to interstate standards,” said Hinojosa. “These road improvements are critical to the continued growth of the Valley’s economy since this highway is a major artery for the shipment of merchandise from Mexico to the rest of the state and the country.”

Work to be completed by mid-2014

Mario Jorge, P.E., the District Engineer  for TxDOT’s District Office in Pharr, said that the selection of the U.S. 281 improvements in north Edinburg and several other projects in deep South Texas “was a collaborative effort which focused on regional priorities. This project on US 281 will improve and enhance traffic flow on a major route.”

In addition to reconstructing the main lanes of U.S. 281 along that segment, frontage roads will be added between Farm-to-Market Road 2812, FM 162, and FM 490, Jorge added.

“The frontage roads will be one-way and the crossovers will be removed, making that portion of U.S. 281 a controlled access facility – a standard that means access to the main lanes is controlled only by ramps,” Jorge explained. “The frontage roads are needed so existing development can maintain access to the highway.”

Both phases of the project will begin around August 2012 with the awarding of contract(s) to the successful low bidder(s). A detailed construction time estimate is currently being developed by TxDOT’s Pharr Disrict office. The reconstruction of the main lanes and the addition of the frontage roads should be completed around April 2014.

In a related development, Jorge also noted their project will include a structure to be implemented, with Hidalgo County bearing the costs, to allow the future Raymondville main ditch to cross U.S. 28 1.

“That drainage improvement and other potential improvements are designed to address issues occurring in Faysville and surrounding areas of Hidalgo County,” said Jorge. “The proposed Raymondville main drain ditch would help divert dangerous flooding from Hidalgo County, beginning at Lake Edinburg, to Willacy County, where excess rainfall would be dumped into the Laguna Madre.”

Ground, air traffic to be helped by improvements

Nelda T. Ramírez, EEDC’s interim executive director, noted the importance of the three farm-to-market roads slated to benefit from the upcoming state improvements.

FM 490 and the planned frontage roads will help handle more passenger and commercial traffic from the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, which is located at the intersection of FM 490 and U.S. 281.

Plans are underway by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation to invest $800,000 for the design and construction of the federal customs facility at the city-owned airport, said Ramírez, which will help significantly increase commercial and passenger flights – and with that boost in activity, increase road traffic on FM 490, the planned frontage road, and U.S. 281.

FM 162, also known as El Cibolo Road, currently handles traffic for thousands of employees who work at the county detention facility, the Evins Regional Juvenile Facility, and two state prisons, she said.

“FM 2812, also known as East Monte Cristo Road, will soon handle heavy commercial truck traffic from the Rio Grande Valley Produce Park, which will feature a 227,363 square-foot warehouse – now under construction – that will focus on importing and distributing fruits and vegetables from Mexico,” Ramírez, added. “Eventually, that produce park, located on an 87-acre site, will bring 800 jobs and $100 million in private investments to the city.”

Just south of FM 2812 is the Edinburg North Industrial Park, home to Santana Textiles, reportedly the fifth largest producer of denim in the world, which is investing more than $170 million into its sprawling complex, which will feature state-of-the-art equipment and will create 800 jobs.

Projects leading to I-69 extension

City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr. said bringing that additional leg of U.S. 281 to national interstate highway standards  – which include key elements ranging from shoulder widths to a minimum of a divided four-lane roadway separated by a grassy highway median – will help Edinburg and South Texas in their ongoing bid to actually have U.S. 281 become part of the proposed extension in Texas of U.S. Interstate Highway 69 (I-69).

“With the amount of commerce taking place in the Rio Grande Valley it makes perfect sense to upgrade these sections to interstate standards,” said the city manager, a member of the I-69 Advisory Committee, which advises TxDOT on planning, development and priority projects in their communities. “These investments by the state place the Valley one step closer to an interstate highway.”

A project that has been advocated for about 20 years, plans call for upgrading U.S. 281 to national highway standards until it links with other interstate systems in the San Antonio and Houston regions, resulting in non-stop routes from Edinburg through Texas and to the rest of the nation.

“The Legislature has chosen to invest some of the state’s limited dollars in transportation infrastructure. We approached this process with a strategy to identify, prioritize and select projects by working closely with local planning organizations, elected officials and the public,” said John Barton, TxDOT interim executive director. “This will help to address the greatest needs for mobility, rehabilitation and safety on Texas highways. We intend to deliver impressive results.”

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as president, Dr. Glenn Martínez as vice president, Fred Palacios as secretary/treasurer, and Felipe García and Mark S. Peña. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee holds first meeting, will gather again in Edinburg on Monday, November 7

By KARINA CARDOZA

The Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee on Tuesday, October 11, held its first meeting in Edinburg to discuss future plans for the existing county facility, which is located in downtown Edinburg.

The meeting was held at the Social Club, located at 217 Conquest.

The committee was created by Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court to serve in an advisory capacity and resource group between the stake holders and constituents of Hidalgo County and the Courthouse Master Plan consulting team: ERO Architects, led by Eli R. Ochoa, PE, AIA.

Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr., and Nelda T. Ramírez, interim executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), serve on the 28-member panel, and both city leaders attended the October 11 session.

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

The committee will meet monthly over the next three months to further contribute to the plan as it is developed. The next scheduled meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, November 7, at the University of Texas Pan American Trade and Technology Building, located at 1201 W. University Drive in Edinburg.

The November 7 meeting will be open to the public.

In addition to Garza and Ramírez, the Master Plan Committee is comprised of county officials and community representatives appointed by county commissioners court. The overall objective of the committee is to identify and discuss future needs and proposed plans for the current – and possibly new – courthouse.

The October 11 meeting brought the full committee together for the first time to educate members all on the current issues facing the existing courthouse, as well as to begin discussions and develop a timeline for future meetings.

To meet the growing requirements of the county and to address the structural needs in the existing courthouse, the county commissioners court earlier this year approved the development of a Courthouse Master Plan to help guide the region’s leaders on how best to allocate resources, identify future needs, examine current assessment and project anticipated actions. Having a master plan in place will support the coordinated growth of the judicial and administrative facilities and functions.

Originally constructed in 1954, with annexes and additions in 1968, 1978, and 2008, the 101,000 square-foot, five-story courthouse’s primary use is for judicial system operations.

The courthouse is currently utilized and home to the Hidalgo County District Attorney, Hidalgo County Clerk, Hidalgo County District Clerk, six county courts, nine district Courts, one master court, the Indigent Defense Office, and law library, among others.

At the meeting, County Judge Ramón García recommended that the committee be charged with several initiatives to help guide the Courthouse Master Plan, including:

  • Serving as an information resource to the ERO Architects Master Plan Team on Hidalgo County courthouse related issues;
  • Reviewing and providing master plan content and information;
  • Verifying that the master plan addresses the specific needs and priorities of the stakeholders and taxpayers of the county;
  • Reviewing recommendations of the ERO Architects Master Plan Team for implementation of the design, construction and financing of a new county courthouse; and
  • Assisting with public involvement of the master plan process.

“We are extremely fortunate to have such a diverse group of community representatives and County officials on board to lead us through the development of the master plan,” said  García. “Everyone brings a unique perspective to the planning process, and Commissioners’ Court will listen carefully to the recommendations made by the committee as we move forward,” Garcia continued.

The Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee is comprised of the following members, who are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Lt. Gabriel Castañeda, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Deparment;
  • Yolanda Chapa, chief-of-staff, Hidalgo County Judge García;
  • Sergio Cruz, budget officer, Hidalgo County Department of Budget and Management
  • The Honorable Rodolfo Delgado, presiding judge, Hidalgo County 93rd District Court, representing the Hidalgo County Board of Judges;
  • The Honorable Fred S. Garza, presiding judge, Hidalgo County Court-at-Law No. 4, representing the Hidago County Board of Judges;
  • Óscar G. Garza, procurement specialist, Hidalgo County Purchasing Department;
  • Ramiro Garza, Jr., city manager, City of Edinburg;
  • Eddy González, an appointee of Precinct 1 County Commissioner Joel Quintanilla;
  • Jaime E. González, Chief Public Defender, Hidalgo County Public Defender’s Office;
  • Valde Guerra, executive officer, Hidalgo County Commissioners Court;
  • The Honorable Arturo Guajardo, Jr., Hidalgo County Clerk;
  • Michael Leo, project liaison, Hidalgo County Judge García;
  • Former Rep. Cullen Looney, D-Edinburg, a community-at-large appointee of Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios;
  • Marcos López, an appointee of Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios;
  • Fern McClaugherty, a community-at-large appointee of Precinct 3 County Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios;
  • Juan M. Medina, a community-at-large appointee of Precinct 1 County Commissioner Joel Quintanilla;
  • Rey Merino, Hidalgo County Bar Association;
  • Anette Muñiz, chief deputy, Hidalgo County Clerk’s Office;
  • Juan M. Peña, a community-at-large appointee of the Precinct 1 County Commissioner Joel Quintanilla;
  • Nelda T. Ramírez, interim executive director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation;
  • René Rangel, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office;
  • Raul Silguero, an appointee of Precinct 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios;
  • Isidro Sepulveda, Jr., program director, Hidalgo County Indigent Defense Program;
  • Rick Sunday, representing the county’s Facilities Management Department
  • Virginia Townsend, a community-at-large appointee of Precinct 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios;
  • Homer Vázquez, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office;
  • Mingo Villarreal, an appointee of Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Flores; and
  • Paul Wilson, Hidalgo County Bar Association.

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T.C. Betancourt says he won’t run against Rep. Gonzáles, D-McAllen, if pending federal court ruling places her back in House District 41

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg businessman T.C. Betancourt on Wednesday, October 5, said he would not run against fellow Democrat and incumbent state Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, if a federal court overturns a Republican legislative redistricting plan, and Gonzáles winds up back in House District 41.

As a result of the House redistricting plan approved in the summer by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, Gonzáles has to run for election in neighboring House District 40, which includes central and north Edinburg, Pharr, San Juan and other communities formerly represented by Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg.

Peña now has to campaign for election in Gonzáles’ former House District 41, which includes southwest Edinburg, northeast McAllen, and other western Hidalgo County communities perceived as being favorable to the election of a Republican candidate such as Peña.

House District 40 is considered favorable to the election of a Democratic candidate.

The newly-redrawn House District 41, in which Peña owns a home, also includes the primary residences of Betancourt and McAllen attorney R.D. “Bobby” Guerra. Betancourt and Guerra are the two announced Democratic Party candidates seeking the March 2012 party nomination to face Peña in November 2012.

Meanwhile, Gonzáles is facing a challenge from fellow Democrat Michael Pruneda, a lawyer whose clientele includes the City of Pharr.

Under state law, a candidate for state senator or state representative must live – or intend to live – in the legislative district they seek to represent in the Texas Legislature.

“As I analyze the current turmoil with the state house district maps, I find it imperative that I take this time to determine our strategy for the potential changes,” said Betancourt. “It is important to me that the Democratic Party find some sense of stability through these trying times.”

If the federal court ruling does not allow Gonzáles to seek reelection in House District 41, Betancourt said voters will see a clear difference between him and Peña.

“If the lines stay the same, (House District 41) needs a fresh start and believes that it is time to focus on caring for people,” Betancourt said.

However, Betancourt did not rule out running for the neighboring House District 40 if the final boundaries for that legislative district allow him to run for that legislative seat.

“I want to be clear that I will continue to be a candidate for the House of Representatives,” he said. “At the onset of our campaign, we were very clear that we were running for an open seat against Republican Rep. Aaron Peña. Should this continue to be the case after the new lines are drawn, I assure you that I will continue to run.”

The legislative confusion could be settled, possibly by the mid-November, as a federal court in San Antonio considers legal challenges to the state’s new congressional, state senate, and state representative districts.

That process is known as redistricting, which occurs every 10 years in Texas in order to ensure that all legislative districts contain roughly the same population, and that the influence of minorities in those elections are protected by the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, representing the state, believes Hispanic voters would still be able to ensure the election of a Mexican American lawmaker from the newly-redrawn House District 41, and that the interests of other minorities are protected in all House districts statewide.

In a related development, the U.S. Department of Justice declared recently that the voting map for House District 41, among others, does not meet federal anti-discrimination provisions. In a court filing, federal lawyers believe that the district boundaries redrawn to reflect changes in U.S. Census data do not meet stipulations under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a federal law designed to prevent minority discrimination in the electoral process.

“The Republicans this last session cost South Texas billions of dollars in critical funding over the next several years,” Betancourt said. “I intend to work hard to create good-paying jobs, affordable healthcare and offer more people the ability to access the education they want. These are the opportunities and benefits that I have provided our employees and families in Hidalgo County for the past decade. I can be trusted to fight for the people of South Texas.”

Peña will counter, in part, with his legislative record spanning eight years, including service on the House Appropriations Committee, which approved hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding for the Valley while he served on that legislative panel.

Betancourt and his wife Ana started Elite Rehab Services six years ago, a regional outpatient therapy clinic specializing in occupational and speech services. In addition, they provide their clients with nutritional and social services. They service pediatric and adult clients throughout the South Texas area and San Antonio. He is also involved in the operation of Betancourt & Co., a local-area produce company.

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Edinburg’s retail economy registers second-best improvement among Valley’s major cities

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy in August reported a 13.42 percent improvement over the same month in 2010, a rate which was second best among the Valley’s major communities, as well as better than the statewide average for all Texas cities, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Statewide, retail sales activities for all cities were up 12.2 percent in August 2011 over August 2010, while year-to-date, that rate of improvement was up 7.3 percent, according to the state comptroller’s office.

From January through August, Edinburg’s retail economy continued at a double-digit pace of growth, coming in 12.58 percent better than during the first eight months of 2010.

The strength of the city’s retail economy is measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses.

Under the reporting system used by the state comptroller’s office, local and state sales taxes generated on retail sales in August were collected by the state in September. In October, the state began sending back the local sales tax portion – called a rebate – to the cities in which the retail sales were made.

For the month of August, the city’s retail economy generated $1,293,859.44 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,140,741.18 during the same month last year.

Between January and August 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $13,362,631.95 in local sales taxes – revenue which is used to help pay for important city services, such as public safety, infrastructure, and public parks. By comparison, the city’s retail economy produced $11,869,183.65 during the same period last year.

McAllen, the retail sales leader for the Valley, reported a 6.39 percent improvement in August over the same month in 2010, while Brownsville, the Valley’s most populous city,  registered a 10.18 percent improvement in retail sales in August compared with the same month last year.

Harlingen, the fourth most populous city after Brownsville, McAllen, and Edinburg, respectively, showed a 7.98 percent improvement in retail sales in August compared with the same month last year.

Among the major cities in the Valley, Weslaco had the best monthly showing, registering a 15.73 percent improvement over August 2010. Pharr and Mission also posted positive numbers, with their retail sales in August up 11.10 percent and 9.90 percent, respectively, over August 2010.

The rates of improvement for all cities combined in Hidalgo and Cameron counties were also positive in monthly and year-to-date comparisons.

Retail sales for all cities in Hidalgo County in August 2011 were 9.47 percent better than the same month last year. Retail sales for all cities in Cameron County in August 2011 were 8.74 percent better than in August 2010.

Year-to-date, retail sales for all cities in Hidalgo County were 5.82 percent better from January through August 2011 than during the same period last year. Year-to-date, retail sales for all cities in Cameron County were 4.19 percent higher from January through August than during the same eight months in 2010.

Hidalgo and Cameron county governments do not collect a local sales tax.

Edinburg’s August 2011 retail economy showings – both year-to-date and for the month of August – are part of a continuing positive trend documented by the state comptroller of public accounts.

The previous showings for Edinburg, going back to November 2010, follow:

In July 2011, the city’s retail economy generated $1,151,365.57 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,112,745.44 in local sales taxes in July 2010.

In June 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,566,171.55 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,242,389.38 in local sales taxes in June 2010.

In May 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,194,491.73 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,088,198.03 in local sales taxes in May 2010.

In April 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,181,367.28 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,124,172.20 in local sales taxes in April 2010.

In March 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,672,045.16 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,425,614.92 in local sales taxes in March 2010.

In February 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,127,941.23 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,069,450.28 in February 2010.

In January 2011, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,313,889.30 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,079,226.86 in local sales taxes in January 2010.

In December 2010 – the crucial holiday shopping period – Edinburg set a record for the amount of local monthly sales taxes collected – $1,724,220.34 – which was an 11.2 percent improvement over the same month in 2009, when $1,550,742.56 in local sales taxes were collected.

In November 2010, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,137,280.35 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,035,902.80 in local sales taxes in November 2009.

“Texas sales tax collections have now increased for 18 straight months,” said Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said. “All sectors showed increases in September, led by business spending, especially in the oil and gas-related sectors. Consumer sectors like restaurants and retail trade were also up. The recovery in Texas has brought sales tax collections almost back to peak 2008 levels, however the near-term outlook remains clouded due to the uneven performance of the U.S. economy.”

For details of October payments – which represent sales taxes generated from retail sales August – to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, locate the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports on the comptroller’s web site at:

http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as president, Dr. Glenn Martínez as vice president, Fred Palacios as secretary/treasurer, and Felipe García and Mark S. Peña. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Voter approval in November for Propositions 2 and 8 are important for water supplies in Texas

By SEN. JUAN “CHUY” HINOJOSA

If there’s any lesson from this terrible drought, it’s that nothing is more important to Texas than a clean, reliable water supply.  On Tuesday, November 8, Texans will have the chance to protect it.

Two propositions up for a vote on November’s state constitutional election ballot would amend the Texas Constitution to help protect water supplies for Texans, our children, and future generations.

Proposition 2 would allow the state to issue bonds that will provide money to partner with cities, counties and other local entities to create water, sewer and flood control projects. The total amount of bonds could not exceed $6 billion outstanding at any time.

And Proposition 8 would enact the law we passed in the recent legislative session encouraging landowners to manage their property in a way that conserves water and improves water quality.

Both of these initiatives were approved by the Legislature with considerable bipartisan support.  And they have been endorsed by a wide range of business, environmental and agricultural groups – all of them focused on ensuring a reliable supply of clean water for our children and grandchildren.

Regarding Proposition 2: Since 1957, legislators and voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing the Texas Water Development Board to issue up to $4.23 billion in bonds to make loans that help finance water-related projects. The Water Development Board needs the authority to issue more bonds if it’s going to continue working to meet Texans’ water needs.

This bond program is designed to be self-supporting. The Water Development Board plans to use these funds to create a self-supporting loan program, with repayments of the loans paying for the bonds.

Proposition 8 will create Texas’ first statewide water conservation mechanism, using what’s known as an agricultural property valuation to encourage land-management practices that protect water quality and increase the supply in aquifers, river basins, and tributaries.

Many rural property owners in Texas already have their land appraised using an agricultural valuation, generally resulting in a lower property tax bill.  Over the years, Texas has used this agricultural valuation to encourage other activities on rural property, such as those that help wildlife.  With Proposition 8, landowners could receive this valuation by controlling erosion, conserving well water, and taking other steps to improve water quality and increase the water supply.

This incentive would apply only to landowners who already qualify for the agricultural valuation, meaning Proposition 8 will help meet the state’s needs without costing the state money.  It will provide a market-friendly tool to fortify the water supply by encouraging landowners to be good stewards.

More than 90 percent of Texas is in some form of moderate to severe drought. Some forecasters are predicting it could actually get worse.

Texas has a long-range plan meant to meet our needs for 50 years, though the legislature has yet to actually fund it.  Propositions 2 and 8 will help meet the plan, both by providing for new water projects and helping achieve the state’s conservation goals.

But beyond even that, the state simply needs to get serious about meeting its water needs – both for the people, farms, ranches and businesses that are already here, and especially for future generations of Texans.

Proposition 2 and Proposition 8 will help jump-start that process.  I urge you to vote “yes” on both of them on November 8.

Hinojosa was the Senate author of the joint resolution that placed Proposition 2 on the November statewide election ballot. Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, contributed to this article.

••••••

Congressional panel approves $15.4 million to target southbound cash and weapons meant for illegal uses by Mexican drug cartels

By JOSÉ BORJON

Congressmen Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, and Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, on Wednesday, October 12, passed legislation through the House Homeland Security Committee which would more than double the budget for border security teams that interdict southbound cash and weapons that fund and arm the Mexican drug cartels.

The additional $15.4 million for ICE’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force, better known as BEST Teams, would come at no additional cost to taxpayers. The funding comes from the cancellation of the DHS’s Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Program, which backed off purchasing millions of dollars in radiation detection equipment found to be unreliable.

“I will continue to work together with Congressman McCaul in ensuring we allocate the needed funds for the BEST Teams, which started in Laredo in the 28th District of Texas that I represent,” Cuellar said. “BEST Teams have proven to be effective in cooperating with other law enforcement agencies in securing and protecting the southern border as well as stopping the illegal flow of firearms and money.”

“We are taking a failed program and focusing resources on what we know already works and where we know the problem exists,” added McCaul. “I have been down to the border and seen the direct benefits of the BEST teams interdicting the southbound flow of cash and weapons. What better way to strangle the lifeblood of the cartels by stopping the flow of cash and weapons that fund and arm them.”

BEST Teams have proven successful since their inception. In Fiscal Year 2011, they confiscated more than $17 million dollars in currency, 886 vehicles, more than two million rounds of ammunition, and 2,001 weapons. Additionally, since Fiscal Year 2010 they have accounted for 3,831 criminal arrests, 2,188 indictments and 1,869 convictions.

Other amendments Cuellar and McCaul passed through the DHS markup aimed at operating DHS more efficiently and saving taxpayer dollars would, if approved by the full House and Senate:

  • Secure two (2) additional UAV’s for the Southwest border using funding already within the budget
    of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine;
  • Utilize Department of Defense Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems no longer needed in Iraq and
    Afghanistan for use along the Southwest Border for surveillance;
  • Create the Border Area Security Initiative authorizes Operation Stonegarden Grants for the first
    time at the FY11 appropriated level of $54,890,000. It also guarantees that 80.7% of this money
    goes to the southern border; and
  • Standardize detection, as well as aviation and marine equipment purchases to gain buying power,
    streamline the acquisition process, address procurement issues, and improve control and oversight
    of asset purchases.

••••••

McAllen school district plans to provide iPad2 or iPod Touch for every student and teacher

A small wooden car speeds down a high school hallway as a cluster of teenagers watch, intent on gauging the velocity and strength of impact as it slams against a far wall. They run to pick it up and peer at the iPod Touch strapped atop the car to measure the acceleration, angle, and speed of the object. They then use the data to create a graph on an excel spreadsheet. It’s the beauty of physics and technology, intertwined.

Now, one of those students—sixteen-year-old Joshua Villarreal—listens quietly, his heart hammering in his chest as an announcement is being transmitted live via Internet to all 32 schools across the McAllen Independent School District.

“This is a wonderful day — a game changer that will revolutionize the way we prepare our students for the 21st century,” said McAllen ISD superintendent Dr. James Ponce. He recently spoke at an elementary school library filled with community leaders and other dignitaries, company executives, parents, students, and employees.

The event marked the official launching of TLC3—Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus, and Community — a unique move to place a mobile device in the hands of every student in the district.

It’s a move that puts McAllen ISD out front and center as a leader of instructional technology, coupled with Challenged Based Learning.

To lead the transformation, the district assembled the Instructional Technology Cadre (teams of students, teachers, administrators, parents and community leaders). In a series of meetings that began in March, they developed a vision of 21st century learning and goals that center on teaching and learning.

The transition has already begun. In September, some McAllen ISD students received mobile devices. Then on September 26, the McAllen school board approved the purchase of 5,175 iPad2s and 425 iPod Touch devices. That huge shipment is set to arrive in a few short weeks.

The school district reportedly will spend up to $20 million on this high-technology endeavor, which will provide the equipment for each of the district’s 25,300 students and 1,634 teachers.

This is part of a district-wide revolutionary teaching and learning framework for increased academic achievement. Those devices that arrive in late October/early November will be going to students whose teachers are members of the Instructional Technology Cadres.

Together, these teams of students and teachers will pioneer Challenge Based learning and mobile learning in McAllen ISD. They’ll lead the way with a framework built on 21st Century Learning, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication.

Soon after, all McAllen ISD students will be immersed in this cutting-edge move to infuse technological changes with 21st century standards.

This innovative teaching and learning framework leverages powerful new technologies and merges them with challenge-based learning. It’s an engaging multi-disciplinary approach that fosters higher levels of engagement, innovation, and creativity while integrating the cutting-edge technology that students crave and desperately need.

This unique endeavor involves giants in higher education and the hi-tech corporate world, Abilene Christian University and Apple, Inc. The dialogue began in March when school leaders met with a local minister who serves on the Board of Trustees at Abilene Christian University.

ACU is recognized for its instructional technology. The plan includes assisting the district with finding innovative teaching strategies and funding resources. At the time, the district was immersed in discussions with Apple about the district’s plans for future technology investments.

Dr. Billie McConnel, Director of ACU’s K-12 Digital Learning Institute, put it best when he said, “McAllen ISD gets it, and there is a vision that is really about helping our students prepare for their future.”

The news conference then ended with a sign-off from two high school KMAC news reporters,Lisa Ramón and Joshua Villareal. Visitors were also invited to join demonstration tours in three classrooms. They witnessed some students utilizing iPod touches and others clustering around iPad2s for Facetime conversations with students in California, North Carolina, and other parts of Texas. They also saw other students exploring creative apps on iPad2s.

••••••

Joint legislative panel on higher education launches real-time website to encourage Texas citizens’ online comments and participation

By WILL KRUEGER

A new website to promote transparency and keep Texans informed in real time, launched on Wednesday, September 21, features key hearing dates and agendas of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.

Co-chairs of that state House/Senate legislative committee, are Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. Branch and Zaffirini also chair the standing higher education committees of their respective chambers.

The website, http://www.heget.posterous.com, also allows for real-time posting of written testimony during committee hearings.

The website went online for that panel’s first public hearing, held in Austin on September 21, when state lawmakers heard from six national and state higher education experts and from 20 public witnesses.

“This website is one way the committee is meeting our charge to promote transparency,” Zaffirini said. “The posterous platform is simple, yet effective. It facilitates the quick posting of documents that the public has a right to access. No matter where they live, Texans interested in higher education can use the site to find live and archived video of committee hearings and to download key documents.”

Zaffirini expressed her appreciation to Sen. John Corona, R-Dallas, who implemented a similar system for the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

“The new web platform expands our reach,” said Branch. “As we expect our academic leaders to shine more light on their operations, it’s important that we develop innovative ways to provide a similar level of communication to the public.”

The Joint Oversight Committee was created by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to ensure that governing boards follow best practices when developing and implementing policy; look for major policy decisions to be vetted adequately and discussed transparently; and protect the excellence and high quality of the state’s institutions of higher education.

Other House members appointed to the joint oversight committee by Straus are Rep.  Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio; Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; and Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

Other Senate members appointed by Dewhurst are Carona; Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

The committee held its second legislative hearing on Monday, October 17, and has scheduled its third public hearing for Friday, November 18.

••••••

Edinburg’s 31st elementary school dedicated in honor of educator Macaria De la Garza Gorena

By GILBERT TAGLE

Macaria De La Garza Gorena, longtime Edinburg CISD educator and civic leader, earned the ultimate honor that can be bestowed upon an educator on Saturday, October 15, when the Edinburg school district’s newest elementary school was dedicated and christened as Macaria De La Garza Gorena Elementary.

About 500 family, friends, and fellow educators attended the ceremony to be with Gorena, who was present with her family, as the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees dedicated its 31st elementary school.

Dr. René Gutiérrez, superintendent for the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, called Macaria Gorena a “determinedsoul” whose life made a difference by touching countless individuals for more than six decades as an educator with Edinburg CISD, as a civic leader, and as a Christian educator and a church leader at El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church.

“May Macaria De La Garza Gorena Elementary be a constant reminder to many generations of students not only of a great teacher, but of a woman that always put others firstbefore herself,” said Gutiérrez.

As an educator for 47 years, Gorena was on the “cutting edge of education”, often pioneering techniques that ensured the success  of all students, especially those with physical and emotional limitations. Gorena was one of the pioneers of the Edinburg CISD’s Special Education Program and was associated with Edinburg CISD’s program for more than four decades.

As an educator, Gorena dedicated her life to make sure that all students would have every educational opportunity available to them regardless of their  backgrounds.

She began her teaching career in a small school in Falfurrias, where she was selected to work with a young boy who by today’s standards would be identified  as “mentally retarded.” She devised a modified program and an individualized education plan for him in order to address his level of ability and the possibility of success for him.

After a brief stint in Falfurrias, Gorena came to Edinburg CISD where she taught at Sam Lane Country School, Austin Elementary, Edinburg Junior High, and Edinburg Intermediate School. She worked as a classroom teacher, a Spanish teacher, a Special Education teacher, and retired as a visiting  teacher in 1989.

She has received many awards and recognitions including being named in a book that recognizes 100 Women of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and  honored as a University of Texas–Pan American Library Notable Hispanic in 1998.

In 1983, Gorena was Outstanding Woman of the Year for Edinburg by the Edinburg Daily Review.

In 1984, she was awarded the Delta Kappa  Gamma Society International Achievement Award for outstanding service in education and unselfish contributions to community affairs.

In 1994, Gorena was named Zonta’s Shining Star of Hidalgo County in the area of Youth and Education, and in 1995 she was recognized for her community service by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

Gorena was a member of the board that originated the Edinburg Public Library System and served as the president of the Friends of the Library, which  focused on enhancing children’s interest in books and reading.

She also  was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International and the Hidalgo County Retired Teachers Organization.

Other leadership and community service roles she has fulfilled include:

  • Served on the board of United Way of Hidalgo County;
  • Served as troop leader and Den Mother in the Girl and Boy Scouts of America;
  • Served as a recruiter of young boys to attend the Salvation Army’s summer camps;
  • Served as a member of the Museum of South Texas History;
  • Served on the Pan American Round Table;
  • Served on the board of the Easter Seals Society of Hidalgo County;
  • Served on the Texas Advocacy Council for the Elderly and Disabled; and
  • Served on the Edinburg Senior League.

Macaria De La Garza Gorena Elementary, which opened in August for the 2011-2012 school year, is located at 1801 E. Freddy González Drive. It serves pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade students.

••••••

Atlas & Hall, LLP, Charles Clark Chevrolet Co. honored for helping fund college scholarships

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR

The stars were shinning bright as community leaders gathered at The Club at Cimarron on a breezy October evening for the sixth annual South Texas College Valley Scholars Program’s A Night with The Stars. Attendees enjoyed an evening of dining and entertainment as the college saluted Atlas & Hall, LLP and Charles Clark Chevrolet Co.

“We are thankful for the recognition tonight, but the real thanks comes when we hear the success stories of the students who have succeeded through the program,” said Gary Gurwitz, managing partner with Atlas and Hall. “We elected to support the Valley Scholars because it is a great cause. The program encourages all students to come to college, especially some really fine students who might not otherwise have had the means. It’s been a great success for ST C and our community.”

Gurwitz also serves as chairman of the STC Board of Trustees.

“I have been very impressed with the vision for STC and I think that any good venture really needs the support of the local community,” said Kirk Clark, president and CEO of Charles Clark Chevrolet Co. “I have a heart for the college and I helped develop the GM-Automotive Service Educational Program at STC, and quite frankly 80 percent of the technicians that work for me are graduates of the program. I really do appreciate all the efforts of the STC family and the great job they do to support our students. It’s been a pleasure to be a small part of that.

“It’s a real honor and we are very grateful for the recognition,” added Clark. “The only way the Valley will change some of its patterns is through education. We should help as many young people become college graduates as possible. I am very proud of my associates and am very proud that our organization is being honored for its commitment to education. It would not be possible without the commitment of a great group of team members.”

In total, the college raised more than $90,000 in cash and in-kind through the event. Net proceeds benefit the STC Valley Scholars Program. Founded in 1997, the program provides financial assistance, academic support and leadership development to academically gifted and highly motivated students. More than 600 program students have graduated and gone on to study at premier universities around the nation to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals like program alum and event honoree Alexandro Sarabia.

Sarabia graduated as the valedictorian at Roma High School in 2006 prior to becoming an STC Valley Scholar. He graduated STC and transferred to The University of Texas-Pan American two years later. In spring 2009 he was the top graduate of UTPA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, earning two bachelor’s degrees – one in psychology and one in sociology. In August 2011 he earned his master’s in clinical psychology from the university and is currently serving as a psychology instructor at STC’s Starr County Campus.

“I feel very proud to be selected as this year’s Valley Scholar’s alumni honoree,” said Sarabia. “It’s a great program and I will always be extremely grateful for the opportunities it afforded me like becoming involved in community service, learning about leadership and dreaming bigger. Now as an instructor I hope to serve as a role model for others and give back some of what I was given. Through education and determination anything is possible. I consider STC a home and it’s great to be back helping students achieve their dreams.”

For additional information about the annual event, log on to:

http://nightwithstars.southtexascollege.edu

or call 956/872-2621.

••••••

Sandra Cisneros, renowned Latina author, among renowned presenters during Hispanic Heritage Month at South Texas College

By EDGAR CHRNKO

Young and old alike were left in awe during and after renowned author Sandra Cisneros’ lectures, held at three of South Texas College’s campuses to close out the college’s Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture Series and celebration.

The month-long series was sponsored by STC’s Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Library Services. Cisneros’ appearances were also sponsored by the Education Leadership Series, led by William Serrata, STC Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

“We’re going to remember this one for quite a while. We could not have asked for a better way to close our third annual Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture Series.,” said Center for Mexican American Studies Instructor and event coordinator Víctor Gómez. “In fact, this one may be hard to top. Ms. Cisneros is a prolific writer and the reaction from our students and community put this event over the top.

“We received a lot of support not only from the community, but also internally from folks around campus like Library Specialist Esther García, who has been instrumental in the formation of the Center for Mexican American Studies and in securing top-level speakers, as well as through the leadership of William Serrata, who made Cisneros’ visit possible through the Education Leadership Series,” he added.

Cisneros appeared before packed houses at the Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco on Monday, October 10, and followed up with lectures at the Starr County and Pecan campuses on Tuesday, October 11, where she read excerpts from her upcoming book. Overflow rooms were set up at each campus where her lecture was video streamed.

“I never know who or how many people are coming. I’m delighted that so many came out to see me, and that so many were adults,” said Cisneros. “I was so pleased to see so many women talking to me because sometimes they hold back.”

Among the several hundred STC students were also parents and children, all of which have had a connection in some way with Cisneros since childhood, growing up reading her books such as The House on Mango Street (Vintage 1991).

The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age novel by Cisneros, published in 1984. It deals with a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. Esperanza is determined to “say goodbye” to her impoverished Latino neighborhood. Major themes include her quest for a better life and the importance of her promise to come back for “the ones I left behind.”

Michelle Castillo, who is a college adviser with the PSJA Memorial High School in Alamo, praised Cisneros’ appearance at the STC campuses.

“When my mother told me that Sandra Cisneros was going to be at STC, I said, ‘We have to go. The work she has done is very important,’” said Castillo. “A lot of my students come to STC and I’m very proud that STC has a Center for Mexican American Studies. I studied Mexican American Studies at UT in Austin and it helped me identify myself and my culture.”

“We’re honored to have her here,” added Michelle’s mother, María Castillo, who is a science lab assistant at the college’s Mid-Valley Campus. “We can identify with her and she’s very motivating as a woman.”

As Cisneros’ readers have grown up, so has she, as well as her work. The Latina author discussed how she has undergone changes in her life and made light of them in one of her poems about undergarments for women over 50.

Afterward, Cisneros fielded questions from students, parents and community members on various topics ranging from her life, writings, and the current political climate regarding Latinos in the U.S. At the conclusion of the lectures, she greeted each person individually, signed their books, and even motivated aspiring writers who asked for her advice.

“It’s uplifting when I meet my readers,” Cisneros concluded. “Being a writer can be lonely, but I’m very lucky that I get to meet my public and meet people whose lives have changed.”

Cisneros, who lives in San Antonio, was born in 1954 in Chicago, the third child and only daughter in a family of seven children. She studied at Loyola University of Chicago (B.A. English 1976) and the University of Iowa (M.F.A. Creative Writing 1978).

Cisneros has worked as a teacher and counselor to high-school dropouts, as an artist-in-the schools, where she taught creative writing at every level except first grade and pre-school, a college recruiter, an arts administrator, and as a visiting writer at a number of universities including the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In addition to the novel, The House of Mango Street, her literary work includes a chapbook of poetry, Bad Boys (Mango Press 1980); two full-length poetry books, My Wicked Wicked Ways (Third Woman 1987, Random House 1992) and Loose Woman (Alfred A. Knopf 1994); a collection of stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (Random House l991); a children’s book, Hairs/Pelitos (Alfred A. Knopf 1994); and a second novel, Caramelo (Knopf 2002).

Vintage Cisneros, published in 2003, is a compilation of selections from her works.

••••••

David Rice, author and filmmaker from Edcouch, to address Edinburg students on October 28 at historic Edinburg Depot

By EVANA VLECK

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Friday, October 28, will sponsor “Meet and Greet the Author”, featuring David Rice of Austin, formerly of Edcouch, whose literary works include Crazy Loco, Give a Pig a Chance, and his newest endeavor, Heart Shaped Cookies and Other Stories.

The event, to be hosted at the historic Train Depot, will feature Rice meeting with and reading to students from Stephen F. Austin Elementary School.

Although Rice has lived in Austin for the past 20 years, he always manages to leave his heart in the Valley, still calling Edcouch his home. He  is always happy to return to the RGV to share his work as a writer, educator, and friend to many. As a compulsive story teller, Rice has several published.

Rice has also given his time to film media and recently filmed Gone Hollywood – a romantic comedy – and Scavengers – a family film – both shot in the Rio Grande Valley. On those two projects, Rice worked alongside television star Valente Rodriguez, also from the Delta area.

Rice’s new collection consists of seven short stories from his first book (Give the Pig a Chance, Bilingual Press), three stories reprinted from various anthologies, nine flash fiction pieces, and a play by Mike D. García based on Rice’s short story She Flies.

Rice skillfully balances humor and sensitivity in his writing, and his imaginative tales and colorful characters appeal to young readers on many levels. Culture and place figure prominently in these narratives. Most are set in the Rio Grande Valley and explore issues encountered in contemporary Mexican American life near the border. The author’s distinctive wit and style are apparent throughout the collection and are sure to secure his place in Chicano literature.

Rice was born in Weslaco in 1964 and lived in Edcouch for much of his youth. He later moved to Austin, where he now resides. His bicultural heritage stems from his father’s adoption by an Anglo family. Rice is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.

His second book, Crazy Loco, was published in 2001, and his stories have also appeared in numerous anthologies.

For more information on this and other events sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, residents may call 956/383-4974 or sign on to http://www.edinburg.com

Kanya Lyons with the Austin Public Library contributed to this article.

••••••

Chili, Pan de Campo dishes will be served up November 12 in Market Days Cook-Off contest

By EVANA VLECK

Fall is here, and as the region anticipates cool weather approaching soon, Edinburg will spice things up.

On Saturday, November 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 1st Annual Market Days Cook-Off will take place at the Edinburg Town Square. The event is being hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Edinburg Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and the Edinburg Market Days Committee.

The event is free and open to the public.

However, for cooks who wish to participate in the cook-off – a competition that features cash prizes – there is a $25 entry fee per individual, who will be displaying their skills in Chili and Pan de Campo.

The entry fee to the cook-off is $25 per category, which is Chili and Pan de Campo.

Area residents who attend the cook-off will be able to sample the competitors’ dishes and vote for their favorite recipes.

Interested cook competitors should go online at http://www.Edinburg.com to download an entry form for the competition, or may drop by the chamber’s offices, located in the Edinburg Depot at 602 West University Drive, for more details.

Prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each category.  1st place is worth $100, 2nd place is worth $75, and 3rd place is worth $50, plus there will be an award for “People’s Choice”.

Winners of the cook-off will be announced at 1 p.m., when the winners will be announced and given their awards.

In addition to great food, the Market Days Cook-Off will feature live music and entertainment by Rick Gamboa y Grupo Rikeza and DJ TJ, The Ultimate Club Experience, along with shopping exhibits that will help support local vendors.

Chamber leaders encourage all cooks to call them at 383-4974 to sign up early since there is limited space.

••••••

Air Evan Lifeteam launches air medical services from McAllen Medical Center

By CARI LAMBRECHT

McAllen Medical Center on Friday, October 21, welcomed Air Evac Lifeteam to the community. The largest independently owned air medical provider in the United States has begun servicing the medical needs of Rio Grande Valley residents with their newest base stationed at McAllen Medical Center.

“Air ambulances are vital when speed and accessibility could make a difference between life and death,” said McAllen Medical Center CEO Joe Riley. “McAllen Medical Center is the designated Advanced Level III Trauma Center for the Upper Valley. If the crews for Air Evac Lifeteam can stabilize our patients even before reaching the hospital, we anticipate better outcomes for the most severe medical emergencies. This service will improve access to trauma care for residents in South Texas.”

In a related announcement, Riley confirmed plans by the hospital to achieve Level II Trauma designation by the end of 2012.

“This designation will allow the facility to better serve the community with the provision of more specialty resources available for emergent needs,” he said. “These specialties include 24/7 access to ENT, ophthalmology, thoracic and hand surgery and will reduce the need to transfer patients out of the community allowing them to remain close to home and family.”

Air Evac Lifeteam is an important asset to the medical community. Air Evac does not replace ground emergency services already available in the Rio Grande Valley.  Instead, it is a resource to be called upon when a higher level of care is needed. Situations that may require an air ambulance include major vehicle accidents, incidents where a limb is severed, or heart attacks and strokes taking place in rural areas.

Each Air Evac Lifeteam crew consists of a registered nurse, paramedic and pilot, and crews are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Medical crew members are trained in advanced pre-hospital care and certified in basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and pre-hospital trauma life support, allowing them to administer medical care at the scene of a medical emergency and continue while en route to the hospital. The average flight time for an Air Evac Lifeteam pilot is about 5,700 hours.

Each helicopter base location includes a flight crew, mechanic, helicopter, landing pad, and typically a hangar and crew quarters. Air Evac Lifeteam uses the Bell 206 LongRanger as its primary aircraft, but McAllen will have a Bell 407 aircraft. Each helicopter is equipped with life-saving medical equipment, and safety initiatives include the use of night vision goggles, satellite tracking, training via flight simulators, use of radar altimeters which provide the pilot with accurate altitude above the ground, and an FAA-approved pilot training program.

While the air ambulance is based out of McAllen Medical Center, all hospitals and communities within a 70 mile radius will have access to services. For example, parents of pediatric patients may choose Edinburg Children’s Hospital, which features the only dedicated children’s emergency department in the Rio Grande Valley.

Air Evac Lifeteam is not financially supported by McAllen Medical Center or South Texas Health System. Crews work with a variety of healthcare providers to determine the best care for a patient’s particular medical condition. However, McAllen Medical Center, by virtue of it being the designated trauma center for the Upper Valley, intends to receive the bulk of trauma patients transported by the air ambulance service.

McAllen Medical Center’s trauma center features experience when it counts. The physicians and nurses of the emergency department have years of experience in treating all types of trauma from broken bones to serious wounds. Advanced emergency medicine provided at McAllen Medical Center includes:

  • Management of trauma conditions: falls, motor vehicle accidents, fractures, sprains;
  • Early intervention for strokes;
  • Expertise in lacerations, crush injuries, abrasions;
  • Treatment for common infections: pneumonia, kidney infections, skin infections;
  • Treatment of problems associated with diabetes, obstructive lung disease, heart disease;
  • Chronic medical problems;
  • Evaluation and management of acute abdominal pain;
  • Early intervention of acute back pain;
  • Asthma management;
  • Treatment of migraines; and
  • Acute eye conditions.

“The opening of this base is part of an ever-expanding commitment by Air Evac Lifeteam and the health care community in this region to improve access to trauma care for residents of south Texas,” said Seth Myers, president and CEO of Air Evac Lifeteam. “Our goal is to be an extension of the quality medical services already in place by providing rapid transport in critical medical situations.”

Patients are still asked to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. 9-1-1 dispatchers are trained to get specific details about a medical emergency and can determine the best mode of transportation.

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