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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured third and second from the right, were among several dignitaries who were honored or featured on Friday, June 22, during the third annual Women’s Business Summit, which was held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. Hinojosa received the “Small Business Community Champion Award” while Gonzáles received the “Community Advocacy Award” during the event, which included the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation as a sponsor. “Edinburg is blessed with private and public institutions, such as the Women’s Business Center, which provide our residents with the needed guidance, invaluable knowledge, and proven experience to help our residents provide for a better and more prosperous future for themselves and their families,” said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as the president of the EEDC Board of Directors, which is the jobs-creation of the Edinburg City Council. The mayor added, “Although the Women’s Business Summit is held only once a year, the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg and its outstanding professional staff are available year-round to help any Valley resident learn what it takes to start up and succeed with their own business. The tremendous services provided by the Women’s Business Center have benefited about 6,000 individuals, mostly women, since 2004.” Featured, from left: Sylvia Zamponi, District Director, Lower Rio Grande Valley District, U.S. Small Business Administration; Yvonne Bonnie González, Chief Executive Officer, Workforce Solutions; Dale Winter with Office Furniture USA; Yvonne García Olivarez, Regional Administrator, Region VI, U.S. Small Business Administration; Congressman Hinojosa; Rep. Gonzáles; and María,”Charo” Mann, Executive Director, Women’s Business Center. See lead story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, May 31, welcomed many of the business leaders who have served as former presidents and chairmen of the organization’s board of directors. The gathering, held at the Edinburg Depot, is an annual event hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. They discussed ongoing programs and an update of the Depot Restoration Project. This special group of volunteer leaders have remained active and connected with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce by continued involvement and support of the chamber’s programs long after they have served their terms as president and/or chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Featured, from left, front row: Mike Govind, Best Western Plus; Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Cynthia Bocanegra, Gold Financial Services; Edna Peña, the chamber’s current Chairman of the Board of Directors; Gotta Lovette; Lee Castro, Legacy Chapels Life Events Center; and Bob Gaston, Bob Gaston Realty. Featured, from left, back row: Ted Miller, Jr., Miller & Associates; Robert Gandy III, First National Bank; Byron Jay Lewis, Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Jack McClelland, McClelland Electric; Mitch Roberts, LJ Roberts Family LP; and Jaime A. Rodríguez, JAR Group, who also represents the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on the five-member EEDC Board of Directors. See story later in this posting.

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On Thursday, August 16, starting at 5 p.m., Peace & Coffee “Hookah-Bar Lounge” will host the Live Art Auction benefiting Edinburg’s Rainbow Room. The admission price is $25 and includes wine and cheese hors d’oeuvres. The public is invited to support this important organization while bidding on an array of unique art from local Valley artists. The Rainbow Room is an emergency resource center available to CPS caseworkers to help them meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. Rainbow Rooms provide everyday necessities such as clothing, shoes, baby formula, and school supplies. Featured, front row, from left: Eduardo Juvera; Lorena Paras; Alicia de León, the coordinator for Rainbow Room; Isaura Cisneros; Gilda González; and Camille Rich. Back row, from left: José Alfredo Alaniz; Johnny Rodríguez; and José Borrego. See story later in this posting.

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With the Texas Legislature scheduled to return to work in January 2013, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is hosting their “Legislative Report Card Dinner” at the Cimarron Country Club in Mission on Thursday, July 19. Individual and group tickets/sponsorships are available for purchase from the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce by contacting them at 928-0060. Scheduled to participate are Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Harlingen; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; and Rep.-elect Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya. Officials will report on the legislation they filed and passed in 2011 and how those measures are affecting the Rio Grande Valley.  In addition, the state lawmakers will preview the respective legislative agenda for action by the state legislature during the five-month regular session that begins next January. Following the legislators’ presentations, audience members will be able to share their concerns during an open floor discussion. Sponsors will get to sit with an elected official during the dinner. Featured helping plan the event are, seated, from left: Marti Miller and Yoli González; and standing, from left: Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen – featured here in this file photograph –  on Tuesday, June 12, congratulated Workforce Solutions and the Border Workforce Alliance (BWA) after the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it has awarded a Workforce Innovation Fund Grant in the amount of $5,999,998 to Workforce Solutions of McAllen, as the lead entity for the BWA. The BWA is a consortium of the five workforce boards located along the Texas-Mexico border.  Earlier this year, Cuellar wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates in support of the BWA’s application for this grant. The BWA will use the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant to fund a workforce project called Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (GROW), an ambitious regional workforce and economic development initiative that aims to increase literacy and skills training for lower-skilled workers in the Texas-Mexico border region. See story later in this posting.

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The South Texas Lyric Opera, the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Edinburg Arts on Saturday, July 14, will be presenting A Night at the Opera, featuring extraordinary talent Hannah Urías (featured in this image) and Friends, who is the 2012 Nordan Young Artist Award Winner, under the leadership of General Director and Conductor Maestro Mazias de Oliveira. The performance will be conducted in the historic Edinburg Auditorium, located at 415 West University Drive. Complimentary hours d’ oeuvres and refreshments will be served at 8 p.m. and the show will begin at 8:30 p.m. Tickets to attend the show are $25 apiece. All interested attendees should call 956/872-6478 to purchase tickets. This first show will mark the beginning of several shows, operas and performances with the South Texas Lyric Opera. See story later in this posting.

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With 12 winning entries, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, featured in this file photograph, is the sweepstakes winner in the Press Women of Texas (PWT) 2012 Communications Contest for work published in 2011. Because her multiple winning entries earned her more points than any other entrant, she won the contest’s Sweepstakes Award for the second consecutive year. The senator’s award winners include her news releases regarding higher education issues; Senate floor speeches in opposition to voter ID and sanctuary cities legislation; her annual newsletter to constituents; and the website of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency. See story later in this posting.

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Since 1987, Leadership Edinburg has been introducing its classes to the community to encourage a better Edinburg and help make a long-term impact. On Wednesday, May 23, the twenty-third anniversary of Leadership Edinburg was highlighted with the graduation of 10 participants during a ceremony held at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center. Class XXIII completed several events, including a two-day leadership retreat, and sessions that focused on education, healthcare, history, media, economics and government. This year The Edinburg Leadership Class XXIII presented a check of $20,000 to the Edinburg Police Department for a “shoot house” training facility that was initiated by the class to start Phase 1 of the project. Featured, from left: Aaron I. Vela ( Law Office of Aaron I. Vela), Jason De León (Memorial Funeral Home), Sandra Quintanilla Guzmán (The University of Texas-Pan American), Brenda Almaguer (First National Bank), Martín Rivas (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce), Criselda Ordóñez (Merrill Lynch), Marissa Castañeda (Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance), Samuel Trejo (International Bank of Commerce), and keynote speaker Carlos X. Guerra (La Muñeca Cattle Co.) Not pictured are graduates Felicia Ramirez (IDEA Public Schools) and SJ Sethi (The University of Texas-Pan American). See story later in this posting.

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The successful Friday, June 22 Women’s Business Summit was made possible by the expert planning of the event’s coordinating committee, featured here recently as the finalized details for the gathering. María “Charo” Mann, Executive Director for the Women’s Business Center, noted that “women are playing a central role in rebuilding the middle class and keeping our economy growing. Women represent one of the fastest?growing segments of the economy.  Women continue to start businesses in this country, making it imperative for them to have the right tools to be successful.” Shown from left: Bianca Cantú; Veronica Padilla with the U.S. Small Business Administration; Dale Winter with Office Furniture USA; Sonya Anciso with Ergo Medics; Yolanda Salinas with Wells Fargo Bank; Celine Schulz with New York Life; and María “Charo” Mann with the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg. See lead story later in this posting.

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Women’s Business Summit in Edinburg provides area residents with skills, knowledge to start up their own businesses

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Area residents interested in starting or improving their own business learned from experts in their respective fields, ranging from labor law to identifying sources of funding, during the third annual Women’s Business Summit, which was held Friday, June 22, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

The event was held by the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg, which is administered by the Office of Women’s Business Ownership of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, was a sponsor of the summit.

The goals of the Women’s Business Center are to promote the growth of women-owned businesses by providing business training and technical assistance, helping with access to credit and capital, and identifying federal contract and international trade opportunities.

However, men also are eligible to take advantage of the many services provided, free-of-charge, by the Women’s Business Center.

“Edinburg is blessed with private and public institutions, such as the Women’s Business Center, which provide our residents with the needed guidance, invaluable knowledge, and proven experience to help our residents provide for a better and more prosperous future for themselves and their families,” said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as the president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.

“Although the Women’s Business Summit is held only once a year, the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg and its outstanding professional staff are available year-round to help any Valley resident learn what it takes to start up and succeed with their own business,” the mayor noted. “The tremendous services provided by the Women’s Business Center have benefited about 6,000 individuals, mostly women, since 2004.”

The June 22 summit included three major sessions that featured 18 presenters, plus a keynote speech by Yolanda García Olivarez, Regional Administrator of Region VI for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In addition, five distinguished South Texans were honored during the gathering with the 2012 Summit Awards for their public service and professional achievements in the Rio Grande Valley.

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (Small Business Community Champion Award), Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen (Community Advocacy Award), Alma Ortega-Johnson with Wells Fargo (Community Partnership Award), Pearl Cantú with Pearlized Mathematics (Entrepreneurship Success Award), and Lucia Valdéz with OMA Industries (Entrepreneurial Leadership Award) were saluted at the event.

María “Charo” Mann, Executive Director for the Women’s Business Center, noted that “women are playing a central role in rebuilding the middle class and keeping our economy growing. Women represent one of the fastest?growing segments of the economy.  Women continue to start businesses in this country, making it imperative for them to have the right tools to be successful.”

According to The American Express OPEN: State of Women-Owned Business Report, in 2011 there were an estimated 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million people.

Women owned nearly one in three U.S. businesses, and from 1997 to 2011, the number of women-owned firms increased by 50 percent – a rate one and a half times the national average.

For detailed information on the services provided by the local Women’s Business Center, which is located at 2314 West University Drive, Suite 230 in Edinburg, individuals may reach them by telephone at 956/380-2800.

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, Felipe García and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles begins new role as a University of Texas-Pan American vice president for University Advancement

By JENNIFER BERGHOM

For eight years Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, had represented the Rio Grande Valley in the Texas Legislature. Now, she will represent the Valley’s largest university, The University of Texas-Pan American, as its vice president for University Advancement.

(Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, May 15, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen announced that the McAllen attorney had been selected from among a list of 13 other applicants, according to the McAllenMonitor.)

Nelsen said he was thrilled and excited to have someone of Gonzáles’ caliber joining the university.

“Verónica Gonzáles has been a major ‘mover and shaker’ in the Rio Grande Valley and the State of Texas for years,” Nelsen said. “She is committed to UT-Pan American’s mission of reaching out to the Valley and transforming the Valley through higher education. Verónica is a proven fundraiser with a brilliant mind and will make a difference at the University, just as UT Pan American is making a difference in the Valley.”

Gonzáles, who will join UTPA effective on Sunday, July 1, said she is excited to serve her community in her new role and to tell the impressive story of the university, which is among the top five public universities in this state (Forbes, 2011) and one of the most affordable in the country.

As vice president of University Advancement, Gonzáles will oversee the Office of Development, which is responsible for fund raising for the university, as well as the Department of Marketing and Communications, which comprises the Offices of Alumni Relations, Public Affairs and Studio Twelve01, the University’s marketing office.

Gonzáles said she is looking forward to working with the advancement team to further the university’s current fundraising efforts and its renown.

“The same skills I developed in elected office – networking and fostering relationships to garnish support – will be instrumental in working for the university. The story I want others in our state and nation to know is that we are doing great things here in South Texas, that we are a growing university, one with extremely high rankings and that an investment in this university is a sound one that will reap benefits for generations to come.”

Gonzáles graduated cum laude from her hometown university — Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos — in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish. She earned her law degree from The University of Texas School of Law in 1991.

Upon graduating from law school, Gonzáles moved to McAllen, where she began practicing law at Jarvis & Kittleman, P.C., now Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzáles, LLP. She became a partner in four years and is currently a name partner.

As a first-generation college graduate, Gonzáles said she feels a connection with many UTPA students and alumni.

“I went to my hometown university, in large part because it was convenient, because we did not have the money for me to attend elsewhere and not knowing much about college — being the first in my family to go — it seemed like the right choice, ” Gonzáles said. “I know I have that in common with many students in the Rio Grande Valley, so we want local students to know they do not have to go away to get an affordable and quality education. We also want to appeal to students from all over Texas and the nation. When they learn of the university’s accomplishments and how welcoming the Valley’s residents are, I know they will love it as much as I have.”

Since moving to the Valley, Gonzáles has served her community and the legal profession as a member of numerous professional, civic and charitable organizations, including the Children’s Defense Fund and Texas Rural Legal Aid.

She was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2004, becoming the first woman to represent House District 41, and has gone on to serve four terms in the House, where she authored or co-authored 82 bills, several of which have benefitted higher education, including ones to help curb dropout rates and allow students to pay for their tuition in installments.

During her tenure in the House, Gonzáles distinguished herself by passing the highest percentage of bills by any Democratic legislator in the House and was recognized as Freshman of the Year by the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.

Until her resignation from the Legislature, Gonzáles had been serving as chair of the Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and was a member of the Public Health Committee.

Over the years, Gonzáles has shown her support for UT Pan American, speaking at HESTEC and other events.

Gonzáles has received numerous awards for her work as a public servant. In 2010, she received the Ultimate Latina Award from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her legislative accomplishments. Earlier this year, Gonzáles  was awarded the Texas State University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce Women of Distinction Award.

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Hundreds participate during June 21 job fair sponsored by Edinburg EDC that was held at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Hundreds of area residents and several dozen major employers on Thursday, June 21, participated in the Edinburg Job and Resource Fair, sponsored by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which was held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

The job fair, which was free for prospective employees and employers, is a quarterly event for the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

“In addition to providing a pro-business, low-tax environment to help keep and attract employers to our community, the Edinburg City Council, in partnership with the EEDC, does whatever it takes to help promote a strong and vibrant economy in our community,” said Mayor Richard García. “According to the EEDC, employers featured as many as 700 job vacancies.”

Among the employers represented at the job fair were: AFLAC; Austin Personnel; City of Edinburg; Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Edinburg Police Department; Edinburg Regional Medical Center; Express Professionals; Geo Care-Mid Valley Health; Green Mountain Energy; IBC Bank; Just Energy; Khan’s Grill; Mama Grande Tortillas; Mary Kay, Inc.; New York Life; Region One Education Service Center; Select Staff; Stripes Convenience Stores; Texas Tropical Health Center; Texas Workforce Commission; The University of Texas-Pan American Small Business Development Center; and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Employers wishing to participate in the next job fair, tentatively set for October, may contact Leticia Reyes, EEDC Project Manger, for information on reserving their place at the upcoming event.

“For employers, we will have a six-foot-long table with black linen and two chairs for their representatives to participate in the event. Employers may call me at 383-7124 to sign up for our  future job fairs,” said Reyes.

For those looking for new or different employment, the June 21 Edinburg Job and Resource Fair provided them the opportunity to submit their résumé to one, some, or all of the employers, as well as to fill out applications, Reyes said. In addition to making personal contact with local employers, some of the applicants earned job interviews during the event.

Prospective employees also benefitted from services at the job fair that were provided by the University of Texas-Pan American.

Two 30-minute seminars on how to best prepare résumés and two 30-minute seminars on how to best prepare for job interviews were presented by Geri Escobar with North Hidalgo Workforce Solutions in Edinburg.

A fashion show, coordinated by the Missy’s Modeling Studio and the EEDC, featured models wearing clothes, loaned by The Dress Barn and Bealls, that are appropriate for professional work environments.

The résumé and job interview workshops and fashion shows were free to all residents who attended the workshop.

UTPA’s Small Business Development Center also shared information about its Entrepreneurship Training Project (ETP), which provides in-depth, business training for individuals adversely affected by the national economic downturn, especially those that are unemployed. It works alongside the SBDC, which provides business counseling to ETP attendees after they have completed the comprehensive preparation for entrepreneurship.

The event had other benefits, such as allowing more area residents to get an intimate look at the city’s latest economic development bonanza, the $9 million, 38,000-square-foot Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

“For many residents, the job fair for the first time showcased this tremendous facility, which is a privately-owned component of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance,” the mayor said. “This is the state-of-the-art conference center that enriches the medical community and the city at large with its auditorium and multi-purpose rooms,” García said.

The city government has access to the conference center as a result of a $2 million investment it made into the construction of the facility several years ago. The city government is guaranteed a certain number of events each year that it can hold in the complex, which has ample parking and security for major gatherings such as the EEDC jobs fair.

“In addition, our community reaps other financial benefits, such as the estimated $244,000 paid every year by DHR to the respective tax bases of the city and county,” García noted.

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, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to:  http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Edinburg’s growing manufacturing sector prompts EEDC’s purchase of 100-acre site for development of fifth industrial park

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A fifth industrial park is being planned for Edinburg in anticipation of new manufacturing firms – along with the jobs and payrolls they bring – that are currently negotiating with local leaders to come to the city, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The Board of Directors for the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, on Tuesday, May 22, approved finalizing a contract with Burns Brothers LTD of Edinburg for the EEDC’s purchase of a 100-acre tract of vacant land in north Edinburg.

The property is located just east of North U.S. Expressway 281 with Davis Road serving as its northern boundary.

Burns Brothers LTD is well-known in South Texas for their ongoing development of La Sienna, which is their 726-acre gated master planned community located at 4216 North U.S. Highway 281.

The final purchase price for the new industrial park will not yet be available until the financing for the property is finalized, most likely in the coming few weeks, according to EEDC leaders.

In general, an industrial park is defined as an area, usually located on the outskirts of a city, which is zoned for a group of industries and business. Edinburg’s planned fifth industrial park would be zoned to allow for the presence of manufacturing firms.

Many positive factors led to the decision by the EEDC Board of Directors to move forward with the plan to develop the city’s third industrial park, said Nelda T. Ramírez, Executive Director for the EEDC.

“This purchase had been considered for many months because of the number of international companies, not just from Mexico, and from other parts of the U.S. which have expressed a serious interest in relocating a portion of their manufacturing firms,” she said. “As a result, we are running out of space at the Edinburg North Industrial Park. We have less than 30 acres left, and we are currently negotiating with companies to fill that remaining land at the Edinburg North Industrial Park.”

In addition to allowing the EEDC to set aside the prime land needed to recruit new major employers, the 100-acre purchase for the city’s fifth industrial park will have many other benefits for Edinburg.

“One of the attractive aspects of this land purchase is that it is already fully developed with all the infrastructure in place, plus a point of access to Davis Road,” Ramírez said. “We will not have to put any other investments, other than the purchase price and the cost to subdivide the property, into the buying of these 100 acres.

As a result of the development several years earlier of La Sienna, which is located south of the planned industrial park, the vital infrastructure is in place to make the industrial park that much easier for the EEDC to market to prospective major employers.

“The EEDC doesn’t have to put in any other infrastructure — water, sewer, drainage, utility lines, cable lines,” explained Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors. “That saves us about $8 million to $10 million because of the existing infrastructure, and especially because of the existence of Davis Road, for the successful development of this industrial park.”

For the new industrial park, the EEDC has been targeting manufacturing firms “which are labor-intensive, so they would bring a great number of jobs to Edinburg,” the mayor explained.

“These firms would be considered light industrial in nature, and without revealing their identities prematurely, those companies with which we are recruiting use manufacturing processes that wouldn’t produce air pollution or other negative environmental consequences,” García said.

As for the timetable for the development of the new industrial park, the mayor was optimistic the EEDC’s ongoing negotiations with prospective employers would play out positively.

“We may be able to see something sooner rather than later because we have been working with these companies for numerous months, so we are hoping to finalize contracts in the next year or so to bring those new manufacturers to Edinburg,” García envisioned.

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, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Attorney Ray Román Marchan convicted of paying bribe money to former Judge Limas

By ANGELA DODGE

Ray Román Marchan has been found guilty on all counts in the FBI’s public corruption investigation of former 404th District Court Judge Abel Corral Limas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced on Monday, June 18. Marchan, 56, of Brownsville, was found guilty on seven public corruption related counts after two days of deliberation.

The jury found Marchan, a local attorney, guilty of one count of violation of Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) as well as one count of RICO conspiracy, three counts of aiding and abetting extortion under color of official right and two counts of aiding and abetting honest services mail fraud. Marchan was indicted June 22, 2011, following a three-year investigation of corruption by then sitting judge of the 404th Judicial District Court, Abel Corral Limas.

“The successful prosecution of this case is an example of our strong stand against corruption and dedication to ensure the integrity of our entrusted public officials,” said Magidson. “We respect the jury’s decision and feel the verdict is justified based on the evidence we presented in court.”

During the two-week trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence Marchan paid bribes to Judge Limas. Specifically, the evidence proved he paid bribes or kickbacks to Judge Limas in return for favorable judicial rulings and an appointment as ad litem attorney. An ad litem is appointed to represent the interest of any minor or disabled person in a lawsuit. Evidence proved Marchan received favorable rulings in two cases in which he was appointed as ad litem attorney, Aide Fink vs Sun Valley Dusting and Juan Mancillas vs American General Insurance.

Evidence showed Limas received cash payments totaling $6,200 from Marchan on two occasions shortly after Marchan received ad litem fees on the Mancillas case. On each occasion, evidence showed Marchan had contacted Limas and referenced the transaction. Bank records were also entered as evidence. Limas testified as to the transactions and that the money was in return for having appointed Marchan as the ad litem attorney. He also testified to an earlier incident when he received money from Marchan but he could not recall the specific amount.

In a third incident, Limas received a $5,000 check on June 27, 2008. An FBI agent testified he observed Limas arrive at Marchan’s office and only spending approximately five minutes there before leaving. Prosecutors presented evidence proving Limas deposited the check shortly thereafter. Limas acknowledged though his testimony the payment was in return for having Limas deny a motion for sanctions filed against Marchan by opposing counsel in the Fink case.

Marchan was also convicted of the two mail fraud counts, which prosecutors proved mail use to carry out the bribe or kickback scheme. An attorney representing Sun Valley Dusting testified regarding one of those charges – the motion for sanctions mailing – and to not knowing Marchan had been having improper communications with Limas on the motion. Federal law makes it a crime for anyone to use the mails in carrying out a scheme to defraud.

Jurors also heard testimony of Limas as well as an FBI special agent concerning the broader Limas investigation involving others already arrested and convicted of aiding and abetting Limas in the corruption as well as of others who also received judicial favors from Limas. To date, a total of eight defendants, including former attorneys Jim Solis and Joe Valle, former Cameron County Investigator Jaime Munivez, Limas’ middleman Manuel Longoria, Armando and Karina Peña and former bondsman Francisco Cisneros, have entered guilty pleas in relation to the Limas investigation. Limas himself entered guilty pleas to RICO public corruption-related violations and is scheduled to be sentenced August 27, 2012.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who presided over the Marchan trial, has set sentencing for September 24, 2012, at which time he faces a maximum 20-year prison term and a possible $250,000 fine for each count of conviction. Marchan was allowed to remain on bond pending that sentencing hearing.

The charges in relation to this case are the result of an ongoing three-year investigation being conducted by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Brownsville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Óscar Ponce are prosecuting the case.

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José Manuel “Meme” Longoria, associate of convicted Judge Abel Limas, gets 10 years as part of FBI public corruption investigation

By ANGELA DODGE

José Manuel “Meme” Longoria, 52, has been sentenced for his role in the FBI’s public corruption investigation of former 404th District Court Judge Abel Corral Limas, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson on Tuesday, June 19.

Longoria, a resident alien from Mexico residing in San Benito, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce under color of official right (extortion), two counts of aiding and abetting extortion and one count of aiding and abetting honest services wire fraud by former state Judge Abel Corral Limas of Brownsville.

On June 19, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen handed Longoria a 120-month sentence which will be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Longoria will remain in federal custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

At the time of his plea on November 21, 2011, Longoria admitted to his role in a conspiracy involving the creation of a fraudulent drug money seizure document prepared by former Cameron County District Attorney investigator Jaime Munivez in November 2007; providing information on a pending murder case in return for providing a bicycle to Munivez; and the attempted recovery of  drug proceeds from a truck near Rosenberg, Texas, both in early 2008.

The recitation of evidence to the court indicated that as part of the public corruption investigation on Judge Limas, agents learned Longoria was involved in other criminal activity including the creation of fraudulent documents.

In the first drug-related incident which was charged as part of the conspiracy by Longoria, agents conducted an undercover operation where ultimately Munivez met with Longoria and provided a document, titled, “Article 59.03 Statement of Seized Property,” indicating $200,000 was seized on “11/20/07” by an investigator with the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office. The document was provided in return for payment of money.

In a second drug-related incident, Longoria assisted a drug trafficking organization in early 2008 in an attempt to recover a Georgia truck containing drug proceeds that was reported to be missing on the outskirts of the Houston area. Longoria enlisted the help of Munivez and another person to locate the truck with the possibility of receiving up to $90,000 for recovering it. Ultimately, the truck was found by the Rosenberg Police Department and a total $289,290 in drug proceeds were seized.

In a third incident, evidence proved Longoria and Munivez traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, where Munivez, at Longoria’s urging, provided information to a defendant who had a pending murder case in Cameron County. Ultimately, Munivez received a bicycle valued at $274 with Longoria’s assistance.

Longoria also admitted to his role in arranging a $1,500 payment to Limas in April 2008. Evidence showed Longoria, acting as middleman for Armando and Karina Peña, arranged for Limas to issue a court order allowing Armando Peña to report to the state probation by mail rather than in person.

Peña, who had left Texas without authorization to reside in Arkansas, was subject to arrest and revocation of his deferred adjudication probationary term for violating a condition of his eight-year probationary term imposed for aggravated robbery in March 2006. Karina Pena, Armando’s wife, contacted Longoria on April 22, 2008, seeking his assistance to arrange for her husband to be permitted to report by mail from Arkansas. Two days later, according to court documents, Karina Pena was told Limas wanted $1,500; Longoria sought $300 for himself for arranging the deal.

On April 24, 2008, Armando Peña finalized the arrangements with Longoria and wire transferred $1,800 to Harlingen. FBI agents later reviewed the Armando Peña state court case file and located a progress report written by Peña’s probation officer indicating that, “On April 23, 2008, the Honorable Court (Limas) contacted our office in reference to allowing the defendant to report by mail.” On May 13, 2008, Judge Limas signed an order allowing Peña to report by mail.

Munivez and Armando and Karina Peña have previously entered guilty pleas to related charges on the extortion and wire fraud violation and have been sentenced. To date, a total of eight defendants have entered guilty pleas as a result of the three-year public corruption investigation conducted by local agents of the FBI with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Brownsville Police Department.

Attorney Ray Roman Marchan was found guilty on Monday, June 18, after a two-week jury trial of public corruption-related charges involving his association with Limas.

Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Wynne and Óscar Ponce prosecuted this case.

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$6 million federal workforce innovation grant approved for region, says Congressman Cuellar

By DANIELLA MARTÍNEZ

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Tuesday, June 12, congratulated Workforce Solutions and the Border Workforce Alliance (BWA) after the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it has awarded a Workforce Innovation Fund Grant in the amount of $5,999,998 to Workforce Solutions of McAllen, as the lead entity for the BWA.

The BWA is a consortium of the five workforce boards located along the Texas-Mexico border.

Earlier this year, Cuellar wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates in support of the BWA’s application for this grant.

“As we emerge from this economic recession, the government’s number one priority should be getting people back to work, and I’m confident that Workforce Solutions and the Border Workforce Alliance will leverage this federal money to help lower unemployment and poverty rates in the Texas-Mexico area,” said Cuellar.  “I’m glad that the Department of Labor recognizes BWA’s potential to play a critical role in developing the workforce along the Texas-Mexico border and that it will support BWA’s efforts with this grant.”

The BWA will use the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant to fund a workforce project called Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (GROW), an ambitious regional workforce and economic development initiative that aims to increase literacy and skills training for lower-skilled workers in the Texas-Mexico border region.

The project design consists of a multi-stakeholder initiative to fundamentally change the services delivered as part of the public workforce system to employ and advance lower-skilled adults.

“This is wonderful news, not just for the communities we serve but the entire state of Texas. With these funds, Project GROW will serve specific populations that face many of the same barriers and provide them with the necessary resources and tools to succeed in the workforce,” said Yvonne ‘Bonnie’ González, CEO of Workforce Solutions. “I would be remiss if I did not mention our many partners that helped make this possible, including our congressional offices, and workforce development boards that represent the BWA, along the Texas/Mexico border spanning from El Paso to Brownsville, Jobs for the Future, and business and community partners.”

Project GROW responds to a critical need in the Texas-Mexico border population, which continues to trail behind the general population in education attainment, per capita income and basic literacy skills.  The Educational Needs Index ranks Texas as having the most critical level of educational needs in the country.

“I extend my sincere congratulations to the executive directors of each of the workforce boards in the BWA — Bonnie González, Rogelio Treviño, Lorenzo Reyes, Ricky McNiel and Stanley Pat Hobbs — and thank them for the important work they do on behalf of our community and its workers,” said Cuellar.

The BWA was formed in December 2012 when the five workforce boards located along the Texas-Mexico border convened to propose a plan of action to improve border literacy and skills training.  Comprised of workforce development boards in El Paso, Uvalde, Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, the BWA works to expand and initiate evidence-based practices to increase the literacy and training of workers in the border region and strengthen the local economy.  The 22 counties in the BWA’s service area have a joint population of 2,419,388.

This grant was one of 26 Workforce Innovation Fund grants totaling $146.9 million announced on June 12 by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solís. The grants are aimed at developing and expanding innovative strategies to help Americans return to work.

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Edinburg City Council reinstates Ramiro Garza, Jr. as city manager following the conclusion of his Valley District 34 congressional campaign

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Ramiro Garza, Jr., who on May 29 came within one-half percent of qualifying for a Congressional runoff election, on Tuesday, June 5, was reinstated as city manager with a unanimous vote by the Edinburg City Council.

Garza had been on an unpaid leave of absence as city manager since last December in order to campaign for the open seat in the newly-created Congressional District 34, which was anchored in Cameron County.

Although he missed qualifying for the upcoming July 31 Democratic Party primary runoff – it was his first run for elected office – the Edinburg City Council received him back with open arms.

“Ramiro, congratulations and welcome home,” Mayor Richard García said following the vote to bring Garza back as leader of the city government. “You have done an amazing and wonderful job for us as the city manager for our city. We are looking forward to great and wonderful things in the future with you as part of our team.”

Garza was first named Edinburg City Manager in 2009, where he managed a $100 million budget and was responsible for more than 700 employees. During his tenure, city services have been streamlined, presented balanced budgets and has helped secure more than $5 million in federal and state grants for the continued operation and enhancements of services and projects.

Prior to his first stint as Edinburg City Manager, Garza was the longtime executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the city council. As EEDC executive director, Garza was credited with helping dozens of companies invest more than $650 million and create more than 10,000 jobs in Edinburg since 2000.

The city council met with Garza in closed session late Tuesday evening, then reconvened in open session, where they cast the unanimous vote for his reinstatement.

The city council also announced that Acting City Manager Shawn Snider would return to his longtime leadership post as Edinburg Fire Chiefl.

City Councilmember Elias Longoria, Jr. praised Snider’s key role while Garza was on the congressional campaign trail.

“This a great time to say ‘Thank you’ to Shawn Snider for everything he has done for us over the last six months, taking over the helm and righting the ship, keeping things going the whole time,” Longoria said.

The mayor agreed with Longoria’s assessment of Snider.

“He (Snider) has done an amazing job, no question, above and beyond the call of duty,” García said. “We’re not going to let him go far.”

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, Felipe García and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on towww.EdbgCityLimits.com

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RGV Stonewall Democrats celebrate Pride 2012, including upcoming June 30 event in McAllen, and appointment of Eli Olivarez to lead the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus

By RICARDO CONTRERAS

The Rio Grande Valley Stonewall Democrats kicked-off their 2012 PRIDE Festivities with a meet-and greet on Sunday, June 3, and have conducted and scheduled other recruitment and celebratory events throughout the month of June.

2012 Pride is observed nationwide by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community during the month of June as an affirmation and celebration of oneself and the community as a whole.  The word Pride is used in this case as an antonym for shame which has been used to oppress LGBT persons throughout history.

“This year’s theme ‘Show Your True Colors’ correlates perfectly with the idea and purpose of Pride which serves to promote equality, diversity and build community,” said Eli Olivarez, RGV Stonewall President. “Pride month is an opportunity for us to educate and enlighten our community to who we are as contributing members of society and help eliminate the social stigma that we are too many times associated with.”

The RGV Stonewall Chapter also celebrated Olivarez’s appointment as the new President of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus. Olivarez was elected during the Texas Democratic Convention held in Houston held from Thursday, June 7, through Saturday, June 9.

Olivarez will take office in July.

“I am honored to serve as the State Caucus President and I look forward to the opportunities to help organize our LGBT community as we work to promote pro-equality policies and positions in the great State of Texas,” said Olivarez. “It is only fitting that we celebrate this huge accomplishment during the heart of Pride month.”

Locally, the 2012 Pride included and will include the following celebrations:

• June 3: Pride Kick-Off, Jackie O’s, McAllen;

• June 14: Pride Meet-and-Greet, Peppers, McAllen; and

• June 30: Show Your True Colors Celebration, Art Village, McAllen, beginning at 7 p.m.

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Edinburg Chamber of Commerce welcomes prestigious group of former presidents

By RONNIE LARRALDE

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, May 31, welcomed many of the business leaders who have served as former presidents and chairmen of the organization’s board of directors.

The gathering, held at the Edinburg Depot, is an annual event hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The business organization has more than 400 members.

They discussed ongoing programs and an update of the Depot Restoration Project. This special group of volunteer leaders have remained active and connected with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce by continued involvement and support of the chamber’s programs long after they have served their terms as president and/or chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

As volunteer leaders of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, they have had an impact in creating programs that allows the organization to grow and adapt to the challenges of the business climate, offer quality of life programs and attracting tourism.

The leadership title had been designated as president for much of the chamber’s history, but following changes in some of its bylaws, the name was changed to chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Many of these individuals were also instrumental in working with other leaders on a wide range of community and public service endeavors, such as the merger of Pan American University with the University of Texas System, the creation of the UT Regional Academic Health Center at Edinburg,

spearheading the purchase, fundraising efforts and renovation of the historic Southern Pacific Train Depot; and introducing the half-cent sales tax and creation of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Under the bylaws governing the EEDC, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce always has one representative serving on the EEDC’s five-member governing board.

Local business leader Jaime A. Rodríguez is currently serving as the chamber’s representative on the EEDC Board of Directors. The Edinburg City Council approves the chamber’s nominee for the EEDC Board of Directors.

The Depot is presently the home of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the Edinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The facility is currently undergoing exterior renovations thanks to the efforts of the Depot Restoration Committee and many members of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce who supported the Hobo Hap’nin Reunion fundraising efforts held in September 2011.

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South Texas Lyric Opera to present A Night at the Opera on July 14 at Edinburg Auditorium

By EVANA VLECK

The South Texas Lyric Opera, the City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Edinburg Arts on Saturday, July 14, will be presenting A Night at the Opera, featuring extraordinary talent Hannah Urías and Friends, the 2012 Nordan Young Artist Award Winner, under the leadership of General Director and Conductor Maestro Mazias de Oliveira.

The performance will be conducted in the historic Edinburg Auditorium, located at 415 West University Drive. Complimentary hours d’ oeuvres and refreshments will be served at 8 p.m. and the show will begin at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets to attend the show are $25 apiece. All interested attendees should call 956/872-6478 to purchase tickets. This first show will mark the beginning of several shows, operas and performances with the South Texas Lyric Opera.

“We invite everyone from the community to come out and enjoy a lovely evening of Opera and refreshments,” noted Nelda Ramírez, Executive Director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. “We’re excited to have a joint venture with the South Texas Lyric Opera and look forward to this and future shows.”

Urías has participated in seven major productions with the South Texas Lyric Opera during the past four years.  She performed the role of Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors (2008), Anninain La Traviata (2011) and covered the roles of Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana (2009), Musetta in LaBoheme (2010), the soprano in Elijah pt. 2 (2010), and Violetta in La Traviata (2011) as well as singing  in the opera chorus for each production.

Urías recently graduated from McAllen Memorial High School, where she performed the roles of Cinderella in Into the Woods (2010) and Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress (2011).

She has also been a member of the Chamber and Show Choirs at Memorial High School the past two years, as well as, a member of the 2011 and 2012 Texas All-State Choirs.

In the summer of 2011, she attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artist Vocal Program, where she was chosen to audition for the producers of National Public Radio’s From the Top program in which highly accomplished young classical musicians are highlighted.

She was selected for the show and subsequently performed in their Ogden Utah production in March of 2012.

Urías auditioned for and was accepted and offered scholarships to some top music schools around the country such as Eastman School of Music in New York and Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. She is currently preparing to attend TCU’s School of Music in the Fall, where she won the prestigious Nordan Young Artist Scholarship Award.

Urías has had the privilege of studying with Dr. Mazias de Oliveira, the General and Artistic Director of the South Texas Lyric Opera, for four years.

South Texas Lyric Opera, formerly know as ProCantus Lyric Opera, Inc. was founded in 2005 through the visionary leadership of  de Oliveira, his wife Edinir de Oliveira, and a strong and committed board of trustees who are themselves residents and working professionals from across the Rio Grande Valley.

This community-based, locally funded non-profit organization, underwritten by South Texas College, is dedicated to producing the highest quality of opera, oratorios, musicals and concert performances.

Since its founding, STLO has successfully produced operas such as La Traviata, La Bohème, Tosca, Rigoletto, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Cavalleria Rusticana. On the education front, during the past two years STLO has hosted matinees performances of Amahl to a crowd of more than 4,000 school children from across the Valley.

On the philanthropic front, STLO has participated in different community events and on February, 20, 2011, together with Faithful Path organization, they sponsored the “Give Love to HaitiFundraising Gala event.

The mission of Edinburg’s Cultural Activities Board (CAB) is to preserve, promote, develop and encourage the community’s cultural expression and enhance the quality of life in the City of Edinburg.

Edinburg’s CAB will promote a nurturing environment to advance the knowledge, discovery and engagement in visual/performing arts, creative writing, music, dance and other forms of self-expression.

Area residents may stay tuned for more information on these events and future events in the City of Edinburg by Edinburg Arts by following it on Facebook or by visiting http://www.edinburgarts.com

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Edinburg Leadership Class XXIII honored for completing program while helping community

By RONNIE LARRALDE

Since 1987, Leadership Edinburg has been introducing its classes to the community to encourage a better Edinburg and help make a long-term impact. On Wednesday, May 23, the twenty-third anniversary of Leadership Edinburg was highlighted with the graduation of 10 participants during a ceremony held at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center.

The class featured Jason De León (Memorial Funeral Home); Sandra Quintanilla (The University of Texas-Pan American); Aaron I. Vela (Law Office of Aaron I. Vela); Criselda Ordóñez (Merrill Lynch); Martín Rivas (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce); Marissa Castañeda (Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance); Felicia Ramírez (IDEA Public Schools); SJ Sethi (The University of Texas-Pan American); Samuel Trejo (International Bank of Commerce); and Brenda Almaguer (First National Bank).

Carlos X. Guerra, one of the area’s most successful cattle rancher, businessman and community supporters, presented the keynote address.

“To always give and to give for the right reasons and you will always get something better in return,” Guerra advised the audience.

He also emphasized the importance of community involvement and encouraged everyone to contribute back the Edinburg Leadership program.

Class XXIII completed several events, including a two-day leadership retreat, and sessions that focused on education, healthcare, history, media, economics and government. This year The Edinburg Leadership Class XXIII presented a check of $20,000 to the Edinburg Police Department for a “shoot house” training facility that was initiated by the class to start Phase 1 of the project.

“Congratulations to the staff, the Leadership Edinburg steering committee, and especially the members of Leadership Edinburg Class XXIII for your accomplishments and fundraising efforts for the “shoot house” project,” said Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

“This class has set the bar in completing the program’s biggest project to date,” she added. “It’s been wonderful to see all of our class members stand proudly due to the success of their project and complete the nine-month program.”

Leadership Edinburg is a program of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. It is a successful organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, and quality of life.

For more information on Leadership Edinburg, area residents may contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 or visit them online at http://www.edinburg.com.

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Live Art Auction on August 15 to help benefit Edinburg’s Rainbow Room for abused children

On Thursday, August 16, starting at 5 p.m., Peace & Coffee “Hookah-Bar Lounge” will host the Live Art Auction benefiting Edinburg’s Rainbow Room.

The admission price is $25 and includes wine and cheese hors d’oeuvres. The public is invited to support this important organization while bidding on an array of unique art from local Valley artists.

The Rainbow Room is an emergency resource center available to CPS caseworkers to help them meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. Rainbow Rooms provide everyday necessities such as clothing, shoes, baby formula, and school supplies.

“We are currently accepting paintings and photography for this wonderful event. In return for the donated art, select pieces will be displayed and marked for sale without consignment or charge at Peace & Coffee for one month,” said Lorena Paras, owner of Peace & Coffee. “It is my pleasure to support Edinburg’s Rainbow Room while also showcasing the talent of Valley artists.”

Artists who have generously accepted donate their pieces so far include Cristina Joyce, Paul Valadez, Esmer Olvera, Frank Miller, Raquel Hinojosa, Claudia Berenice Garza, Ramiro “Rocky” Lozano, Luis Fernando Hernández, Irma Garza García, Imelda Rivera, Aldo Biglione and Ramón Ramírez. All the collected pieces are currently available to view.

Peace and Coffee is located at 2405 W. University Dr. Ste. E in Edinburg.  For more information regarding the Live Art Auction, please contact Lorena Paras at 965/429-6810 lorena.paras@gmail.com, Daniela Domínguez at 956/563-9892 or email carola641826@gmail.com

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Sen. Zaffirin wins Sweepstakes, 12 other constituent communication awards from Press Women of Texas

By WILL KRUEGER

With 12 winning entries, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is the sweepstakes winner in the Press Women of Texas (PWT) 2012 Communications Contest for work published in 2011. Because her multiple winning entries earned her more points than any other entrant, she won the contest’s Sweepstakes Award for the second consecutive year.

The senator’s award winners include her news releases regarding higher education issues; Senate floor speeches in opposition to voter ID and sanctuary cities legislation; her annual newsletter to constituents; and the website of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.

Zaffirini’s annual newsletter, Senator Judith Zaffirini Reports to the Families of District 21, won two first place awards: one for the publication as a whole and a second for its layout. Also winning first place honors were two news releases regarding outcomes-based funding in higher education and the senator’s legislation creating the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) Challenge Scholarship program.

Other first place winners included a feature release marking Zaffirini’s 47,550th consecutive vote in the Texas Senate and http://heget.posterous.com, the blog of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, which Zaffirini co-chairs. The senator’s floor speeches in opposition to voter ID legislation, sanctuary cities legislation and the state budget won, respectively, second place, third place and honorable mention in the speech category.

“Winning the Sweepstakes Award not only is a great honor, but also reflects my commitment to communicating with constituents via all available news and social media,” Zaffirini said. “What’s more, I am grateful to Press Women of Texas for championing First Amendment Rights and professional development in communication.”

The senator has won more than 670 awards for her professional and public service work, including more than 130 for communication projects. Second in seniority in the 31-member Texas Senate, she is the namesake of Texas A&M International University’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center, United ISD’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Elementary School, Laredo Community College’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Library, Lake Casa Blanca International State Park’s Senator Judith Zaffirini Road and Edinburg’s Judith Zaffirini Residential Treatment Center that focuses on fighting drug addiction.

Founded in 1893, PWT champions First Amendment rights, promotes awareness of professional standards in journalism and communications and provides valuable resources for women working in the communications arena.

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