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Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, November 6, celebrated with his supporters and local news media reporters outside his law office in McAllen following his victory over Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi. Hinojosa earned more than 60 percent of the vote for the right to serve as the District 20 state senator. District 20 includes a large portion of Hidalgo County, Nueces County, Jim Wells County, and Brooks County. "I would like to thank the voters for returning me to the Texas Senate to continue defending District 20’s fast-growing and distinct slice of Texas," Hinojosa following his victory. "I also want to thank my supporters, volunteers and campaign staff for their very hard work on the ground this election season."

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Mayor Richard García, Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, who is the General Manager for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, on Friday, October 19, were joined by other area business and community leaders for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the positive economic impact of the 440,000 square-foot retail shopping complex, which is scheduled to expand to more than 1.1 million square-feet in the coming few years. Since it first opened for business in the fall of 2008, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, located at Trenton Road and U.S. Expressway/Business 281, has generated $4.6 million in local sales taxes and employs more than 220 full-time professionals, according to the mayor. Featured, from left: Martín Rivas, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elizabeth Rocha, General Manager, Melrose Family Fashions; Letty Reyes, Project Manager, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Ramiro Garza, Edinburg City Manager; Rep.-Elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Mayor Richard García, president, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, General Manager, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley; Chris Fuentes, General Manager, JC Penney; Agustín Lozano, Public Relations, Bert Ogden Motors; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Marty Martin, Rio Valley Realty; Melissa Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services; and Johnny Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services.

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Robert R. Vela High School was formally dedicated on Saturday, October 13, during a grand opening ceremony that brought together hundreds of guests from throughout the Valley. There were local, state, and national dignitaries, former students, and people from all walks of life whose lives were touched by Vela. Vela was a teacher who firmly believed that academics and athletics worked hand-in-hand to mold well-rounded student-athletes into productive citizens in our community. Vela was one of South Texas’ greatest football coaches. He lived his life helping students see the potential of greatness within them. Robert R. Vela High School is home of the SaberCats. Featured, from left: His widow, Dominga Vela; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Eva Torres, Principal of Vela High School; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of the Edinburg School District.

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South Texas College Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy was one of only three programs that were honored on Thursday, October 4 with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Star Award at the 2012 THECB Leadership Conference in Austin. "The Coordinating Board’s recognition of South Texas College’s exemplary Dual Enrollment Academy for Medical Sciences as a Star Award winner is long overdue," said STC President Shirley A. Reed. "The program has a sterling track record of success and helping hundreds of young people get a jump start on pursuing a professional degree in medical sciences by earning an associate degree from STC, tuition free." Featured, from left: Nick González, STC High School Programs and Services Liaison; Ali Esmaeili, STC Dean of Bachelor Programs and University Relations; Lupe Chávez, STC High School Programs Director; Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Mark Murray, President of STC Faculty Senate; and Juan E. Mejía, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs. See story later in this posting.

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Silver Ribbon Community Partners, First Choice Power and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are asking the community to "Share the Warmth" with the elderly and disabled this winter season. Silver Ribbon is a non-profit United Way Agency that assists the elderly 65+ and the disabled 18+ who have been referred to them by Adult Protective Services due to abuse, neglect or exploitation. Many of these elderly clients fall into the "low-to moderate income" bracket and may receive $10,000 a year or less from Social Security. Every year the county of Hidalgo receives over 2,500 calls of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation of the elderly and disabled. Area residents can help the less fortunate by donating new or gently used blankets, warm stretch gloves, non-skid socks, or winter caps and scarf’s that will be distributed to the elderly or disabled of Hidalgo County who meet the income criteria. Monetary donations will also be accepted. Please make checks out to Silver Ribbon Community Partners. Residents also may drop off donations now until December 17 at Silver Ribbon Community Partners located at 1919 Austin Avenue in McAllen, at First Choice Power located at 2423 E. Expressway 83, Suite 400, in Mission, or at the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located at 3313 N. McColl in McAllen, Please call Rose Ramírez, Program Director with Silver Ribbon at 956/664-4892 for more information and remember your donation is tax deductible. Featured, from left: Cynthia Sakulenzki, RGVHCC Pres/CEO; Rose Ramírez, Program Director Silver Ribbon Community Partners, and Moníca Rodríguez, Area Manager for First Choice Power.

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First National Bank on Friday, November 9, announced that Saúl Ortega, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has been named the honoree for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV 6th Annual "Steak" in Your Community Event. Ortega and the 2013 Youth of the Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at the Legacy Center@Boys & Girls Clubs, 702 Cullen Street (Rogers & Expway 281). Ortega has been with First National Bank for 25 years, formerly as Accounting Officer, Controller, and Chief Financial Officer. He assumed the role of Chairman and CEO in late 2011. Ortega’s focus is on strong, conservative lending practices and maintaining FNB’s long history of the best customer service in banking. Featured, first row, from left: Amaya Hernández; Tomás Espinoza; Brianna Espinoza; Mallory Espinoza; Adam López; Abel López; and Alex Castillo. Back row: Saúl Ortega and Sabrina Walker-Hernández, Chief Professional Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV. See story later in this posting.

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A scholarship for South Texas students at The University of Texas at Austin has been named for Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the Texas Exes announced on Tuesday, October 30. The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship will be presented annually by the Texas Exes to deserving students from South Texas who need assistance paying for college. The scholarship was endowed by the senator’s son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., an attorney and businessman. Because of his contribution, the Texas Exes will create a permanent endowment that can fund scholarships for years to come. Featured, from left: Carlos Zaffirini Jr.; Leslie Cedar, Texas Exes Executive Director; Bill Powers, UT President; and Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Chancellor. Not shown: John Beckworth, Texas Exes President. See story later in this posting.

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León and Velma Sue De León, owners of Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg, among other area businesses, on Saturday, November 3, were recognized as 2012 Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The honor was bestowed during the Annual Chamber Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg. The Man and Woman of the Year selection was based on a community-driven committee process that selected a man and woman that exceeds in professional and civic commitment and avid volunteerism within the community of Edinburg. Featurd, from left: son Jason De León; León and Velma Sue De León; and son Jacob De León. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured seated, center, on Saturday, October 13, help lead a delegation of Valley mayors who met at Pepper’s Restaurant in McAllen with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to begin building an alliance with San Antonio on legislative issues of mutual concern to that city and the Rio Grande Valley. They addressed shared challenges and strategies needed to develop a partnership between the two regions of South Texas in advance of the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which begins in January. Featured, front row, from left, are: Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén Villarreal; Granjeño Mayor Yvette Cabrera; Mayor Castro’s twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García; San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; San Juan Mayor San Juanita Sánchez; and Laguna Vista Mayor Susie Houston. Standing, from left: Gilbert Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party Chair; Rio Hondo Mayor Alonzo Garza; La Feria Mayor Steve Brewer; Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega; Alamo Mayor Diana Martínez; Alamo Commissioner María del Pilar Garza; Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell.

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On November 28, 2011, Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, who only the year before had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, gave back to her beloved America with her remarkable first entry into U.S. democracy, which ended for her on Tuesday, November 6, as the Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41. In her almost year-long campaign, she has endured, as so aptly put in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" – dealing with political attacks on her honorable reputation, plus all the complications and problems that life throws at her. Yet, Martínez has never wavered in her bold vision, integrity, and willingness to "speak truth to power" – the highest standards of U.S. democracy – in order to drive her message that anyone can run for high office in America, not just the privileged few.
"The promise of America and Texas is that if you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, pray for guidance, work with people, listen to the wisdom of others, and do what is right and just, you can accomplish just about anything," she said. "My campaign is symbolic of the humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans." See lead story in this posting.

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Miriam Martínez’ campaign symbolic of humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

On November 28, 2011, Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, who only the year before had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, gave back to her beloved America with her remarkable first entry into U.S. democracy, which ended for her on Tuesday, November 6, as the Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41.

In her almost year-long campaign, she has endured, as so aptly put in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" – dealing with political attacks on her honorable reputation, plus all the complications and problems that life throws at her.

Yet, Martínez has never wavered in her bold vision, integrity, and willingness to "speak truth to power" – the highest standards of U.S. democracy – in order to drive her message that anyone can run for high office in America, not just the privileged few.

"The promise of America and Texas is that if you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, pray for guidance, work with people, listen to the wisdom of others, and do what is right and just, you can accomplish just about anything," she said. "My campaign is symbolic of the humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans."

Martínez, 40, a small business owner and international journalist, faced Democrat Robert "Bobby" Guerra, 59, a McAllen attorney, in the November 6 general election. The winner, Guerra, will begin a two-year term in mid-January.

House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg, north, central, southeast and portions of west McAllen, Palmhurst, Sharyland, Alton, and a portion of Mission and northwest Pharr.

Throughout her campaign, Martínez championed more than a dozen legislative priorities, from improving the state highway system, to promoting state policies that help small businesses, to bringing major new employers from Mexico – which is Texas’ largest trading partner – into the Valley.

All her initiatives, she contends, are solid plans, and would help create thousands of new jobs in her district and in deep South Texas.

But it has been her character, based on her deep-rooted values, which has been the anchor for her life and the driving force for her vision for South Texas, which is home to her family, including her three precious children.

A survivor of family violence, Martínez – who divorced an abusive spouse in order to protect herself and her children – knows first-hand what it takes to achieve salvation from a life of darkness.

As such, Martínez has not been discouraged by the combat of state politics – thanks in part to rescuing herself from the depths of despair – but also by trying at all times to conduct herself as a disciple of Christ.

"All faiths are important, and I draw my strength and direction from the Bible, especially now, in seeking high elected office," she said.

"I am overwhelmed by one particular passage, in Mark 10:45, where Christ perfectly defines the role of leadership," Martínez recalls. "Christ reminds us that the so-called important leaders love to use all their authority over the people, but it should not be that way. If one of us wants to be great, then we must serve the people like a servant."

By any measure, her campaign became one of the most visible in South Texas, and according to her, upset the powers-that-be because of her relentless news releases that took some of the area’s most powerful figures and institutions to task for what she perceives as abuses of power.

But next to her Bible, which shields her soul, Martínez carries an almost equally-cherished document: the Constitution of the United States.

She says that her personal and political principles are strongly based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which serve to promote and protect "our God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

When I decided to run for state representative, I knew that my public life would be an open book. People would say whatever they want about me – and that is fine by me," she acknowledges. "I know that the most powerful protection we have in America is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom to require government to listen to our concerns, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.

"In other words, in this wonderful country, we have the right to ‘Speak Truth to Power,’" Martínez invokes a famous American political rallying call, as she inspired her growing legion of supporters. "Because you see, the Truth always wins out."

Her willingness to criticize some of the ruling classes in deep South Texas generated resentment and ridicule against her, she claims.

But then – true to her form as a journalist and American citizen – she continued to bravely stand her ground.

"I am just like the courageous people of House District 41," she proudly proclaims. "I don’t go looking for a fight, but I don’t run away from one, either."

Regardless of the political outcome on Election Day, she offered a piece of advice to South Texans from all walks of life.

"People who I have been blessed to meet in my campaign have shared their dreams with me, and in their dreams are tremendous ideas ready to change our world for the better," Martínez said. "I tell them that no matter what other people say, always pursue your dreams, because there is no army in the world powerful enough to stop an idea whose time has come."

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Employees’ Internet privacy, access by a divorced spouse to former home, pro-veteran measure among bills pre-filed by Sen. Hinojosa

By JENNIFER SÁENZ

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Monday, November 12, introduced three pieces of legislation on the first day of early filing for the 83rd Legislative Session that begins in January.

Hinojosa pre-filed Senate Bill 118, a bill that prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting unrestricted access of an employee’s or applicant’s personal email and social media accounts.

With the recent rise in social media use, many employers have begun reviewing prospective and current employees by viewing what the content on their public Facebook, Twitter or other social media profiles.

"It is important to protect personal privacy. Although it may seem reasonable for employers to want to see what kind of people they are hiring or employing by looking at their public social media profiles, this does not mean they have the right to gain unrestricted access to personal social media accounts. I look forward to working with stakeholders on this issue to ensure that privacy," said Hinojosa.

A growing number of states are considering similar legislation, and Texas needs to keep pace with the protection of an individual’s personal privacy. Under the legislation, an employer will still be allowed to view the information a user determines to be "public," however, they will no longer be allowed to request access to information not shared publicly and meant to be personal.

Hinojosa also filed Senate Bill 117, a bill relating to the right of a spouse to enter the marital residence accompanied by a peace officer under certain circumstances.

"I have had several constituents in my district come to me with concerns that a spouse will effectively ‘lock out’ their partner during a separation or divorce proceeding. In situations like this, personal items such as medical records, medical supplies, legal and financial documents, and items pertaining to personal safety cannot be obtained. The purpose of this legislation is to establish a procedure whereby a spouse can request a justice court to have a peace officer escort them to their house in order to get these vital items," Hinojosa explained.

Additionally, Hinojosa filed Senate Bill 116, which, if passed, will consider businesses owned by veterans who have a service-connected disability to be considered for Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Certification.

"The State of Texas owes those veterans who not only fought for our freedom in times of war and conflict and incurred a disability, but through all that, continued to have the strength and perseverance to start their own business. Veterans should be able to get recognition for this," said Hinojosa.

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Rep. Muñoz selected to play major roles in strengthening manufacturing in South Texas following key appointment by House Speaker

By RICHARD SÁNCHEZ

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, has been appointed by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to serve on the Interim Committee on Manufacturing, which will recommend ways that the Texas Legislature can strengthen the manufacturing sector in Texas.

Muñoz’ appointment was announced by Straus on Monday, October 22. The South Texas lawmaker was the only state representative from the Rio Grande Valley selected to serve on the 15-member legislative panel.

"This appointment will allow me to include deep South Texas in the state’s major plans to expand manufacturing in Texas," said Muñoz. "The Rio Grande Valley has an established manufacturing sector, three international ports of entry within District 36 with the capacity to handle billions of dollars worth of raw materials, and a ready workforce which is being trained by second to none educational institutions such as South Texas College."

Combining those assets with the know-how of the economic development corporations and chambers of commerce, boosted by a culture of innovation and hard work in the Valley, Muñoz predicted "we will be at the forefront of increased manufacturing capacity and job creation. This committee will help develop a plan to put Texans to work and should emphasize the facilitation of partnerships between the business community and educational institutions."

Manufacturing is a $192 billion industry in Texas, accounting for 15 percent of the Gross State Product. More than 800,000 Texans work in manufacturing, and on average they earn significantly more than workers in other sectors.

Last year, Straus directed every House committee to make recommendations for significantly improving the state’s manufacturing capability. The Interim Committee on Manufacturing will compile and summarize those findings and make its own recommendations about how to encourage manufacturing in the state.

"Our strong workforce, friendly business climate and natural resources give Texas the opportunity to lead the nation in manufacturing," Straus said. "Manufacturing jobs are among the best our state has to offer, and this committee will give the House important guidance on how to spur growth and encourage manufacturers to put more Texans to work."

The committee will report its findings and recommendations, including drafts of legislation necessary to implement the recommendations, to Straus by January 7, 2013. The committee will expire at the start of the 83rd Legislature.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, will serve as Chairman of the Committee on Manufacturing, and Rep. Eddie Rodríguez, D-Austin, will be Vice Chairman.

In addition to Muñoz, Murphy, and Rodríguez, the other members of the committee are: Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston; Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson; Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs; Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville; Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin; Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio; Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana; Rep. Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso; Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas.

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iShop Edinburg campaign helps provide Thanksgiving food contributions to the needy with November 9 Feast of Sharing

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

iShopEdinburg, which is designed to encourage residents to trade with local merchants, provided the community the opportunity to contribute non-perishable food items and other financial contributions on Friday, November 9, as part of an effort in helping needy local families have a blessed Thanksgiving, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

iShop Edinburg is a joint effort of the EEDC and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The food drive, dubbed the Feast of Sharing, was a combined effort of the EEDC, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and the Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department.

The Feast of Sharing, which was and open to the public, took place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Edinburg Depot, located at 602 West University Drive. The November 9 gathering featured door prizes, food, and local vendors showcasing their goods and services.

At the Feast of Sharing, residents were encouraged to bring their donations of non-perishable foods, such as ready-to-eat canned meats, dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, beans, nuts, unsalted crackers, non-perishable pasteurized milk, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, canned juices, food for infants, high-energy foods, and comfort stress foods.

"We know that the people of Edinburg are among the most generous and compassionate people in the world, always looking for ways to help the neediest and most deserving among us," said Mayor Richard García. "iShop Edinburg has a proven track record of promoting business growth in our city, but it also has a growing legacy of reaching out to the community to help people in need. The Feast of Sharing was the latest example of how iShopEdinburg serves our city."

García also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

"With the Thanksgiving season just beginning, iShopEdinburg’s tradition of helping local non-profits continues," said Letty Reyes, EEDC Project Manager. "The November 9 luncheon encouraged the donation of these food items to benefit the families of Edinburg’s Parks and Recreation Center participants."

Organizers of the event hoped to prepare bags of donated food to share with up to 100 area families. They also were optimistic that enough financial donations would come in to pay for 10 or more cooked turkey dinners, with all the trimmings, for the neediest families, said Martín Martínez, Recreation Senior Supervisor, Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department.

"Many of the families who receive these generous donations of food are overwhelmed and even cry," said Martínez. "They did not know anyone cared about them and their families. It is an honor for us, who have so much compared to these families, to do the right thing. We are so proud of helping our neighbors that we feel tall as a mountain. By donating food for this Feast of Sharing, we know other people will feel wonderful, too."

Martínez added that many people are unaware that the Salvation Army has an office in Edinburg where need families may go for help. The Salvation Army Edinburg Outpost, located at 500 East Cano, is open from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch). Contact telephone numbers are 386-1880 and 447-4635 (Armando Reséndez and Norma Reséndez).

Residents may always drop off donated food products at the Salvation Army Edinburg Outpost thoughout the year, he added.

Martínez emphasized that families who need help can go to the Salvation Army Edinburg Outpost to receive food products or clothing. For information on receiving food products or clothing, local residents may call the Reséndez family at 386-1880 or at 447-4635.

For the Feast of Sharing, residents also dropped off donations of non-perishable food items at the following two sites:

• Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department, located at 315 East Palm Drive, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact telephone number is 381-5631 (Martín Martínez, Recreation Senior Supervisor, Lauriano Aguirre, Recreation Program Supervisor, and David Molina, Recreation Program Coordinator); and

• Edinburg Economic Development Corporation/Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Edinburg Depot, 602 West University Drive.

The mission of iShop Edinburg is "to promote economic growth in Edinburg resulting in improved city services by encouraging our residents to trade with local merchants, who will provide quality goods and services, thus securing a better future for our Edinburg community.

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.EdinburgCityLimits.com

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Edinburg’s retail economy for September 2012 up more than 16 percent over September 2011

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Fueled by back-to-school sales, and reflecting the impact of the recent 90,000-square-foot expansion of The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg’s retail economy, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, for the month of September 2012 showed a more than 16 percent improvement over the same month in 2011, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

This latest economic indicator, which represented the best percentage improvement among all major Valley cities, was released by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts on Tuesday, November 7.

The sales tax figures represent September sales reported by monthly tax filers and July, August and September sales reported by quarterly filers.

For the month of September 2012, Edinburg generated $1,454,322.51 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,244,342.59 for the month of September 2011, resulting in a 16.87 percent improvement.

The latest positive showing comes after Edinburg, for the month of August 2012, p0sted a 6.03 percent improvement in retail sales 0ver the same month last year. For the month of August 2012, Edinburg generated $1,372,003.87 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,293,859.44 for the month of August 2011.

The local sales taxes are used statewide by local governments to help fund their operating budgets. In the case of Edinburg, a portion of the local sales tax revenue is used by the EEDC to help pay for vital economic development projects.

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

Year-to-date, from January through September, Edinburg’s sales tax collections are more 3.74 percent better than for the same nine months in 2011.

The monthly and year-to-date figures represent combined money from Edinburg’s 1.5 cent local sales tax and the half-cent economic development sales tax, which is administered by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Between January and September 2012, Edinburg generated $15,154,494.11 in local sales taxes, compared with $14,606,974.54 between January and September 2011.

Also year-to-date, Edinburg’s local sales tax total represents the second-best showing among all cities in Hidalgo County.

The state comptroller’s office reported that the following amounts of local sales tax revenue have been raised between January 1 and September 30 of this year:

• McAllen: $54,544,937.86
• Edinburg: $15,154,494.11
• Mission: $13,356,648.24;
• Pharr: $12,036,807.50; and
• Weslaco: $9,874,047.01.

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populous city, saw its retail economy generate more almost $31 million in local sales tax from January through September, while Harlingen reports more than $18.8 million raised in local sales taxes during the same period, according to the comptroller’s office.

At the state level, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs noted that the latest figures throughout Texas represented continuing positive economic news.

Combs announced on November 7 that state sales taxes generated in September was $2.o3 billion, up 8.2 percent compared to September 2011.

"The state’s growth in sales tax revenue continued to be led by collections from the oil and natural gas-related sectors," said Combs. "We also saw strong consumer spending drive gains in retail trade and the restaurant sector as well."

From the sales taxes generated in September, Combs will be sending November local sales tax allocations totaling $611.5 million to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, up 5.4 percent compared to the same month in 2011.

The State Sales and Use Tax is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services, according to the comptroller’s office. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825)

For details of the September 2012 local sales tax figures for all cities, counties, transit systems, and special purpose taxing districts, located the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports at the comptroller’s website, log on to:

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, 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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León and Velma Sue De León named 2012 Man and Woman of the Year by Edinburg chamber

By RONNIE LARRALDE

León and Velma Sue De León, owners of Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg, among other area businesses, on Saturday, November 3, were recognized as 2012 Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

The honor was bestowed during the Annual Chamber Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg.

The Man and Woman of the Year selection was based on a community-driven committee process that selected a man and woman that exceeds in professional and civic commitment and avid volunteerism within the community of Edinburg.

Individually, Velma and León De León have undoubtedly had their personal share of accomplishments, but as a couple, they have been able to combine their time and talent and give back to their community which they serve. In 1994, Velma and Leon, along with her parents, Donaciano "Chano" Garza and the late Consuelo Garza, established Memorial Funeral Home in San Juan. In 2003, they opened Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg.

Together, they have been actively involved in the local community as well as serving their professional associations. They have attended several NFDA Leadership Conferences and several NFDA Advocacy Summits in Washington, DC.

In 2008, they represented the State of Texas when they attended the NFDA Asia Funeral Expo and Conference which took place in Hong Kong and Macau. That same year, Memorial Funeral Home earned membership by invitation only in Selected Independent Funeral Homes, an international association of premier, independently owned and operated funeral homes. In 2010, they were
inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame, which celebrates the life, the achievements, and the significant civic contributions of individuals who have made a difference in the Rio Grande Valley.

In 2001, Memorial Funeral Home of San Juan began its participation in the National Funeral Directors Association Pursuit of Excellence program. In 2011, upon receiving their 10th Pursuit of Excellence Award, Memorial Funeral Home of San Juan became inducted into NFDA’s Hall of Excellence, a distinction bestowed upon firms to recognize their long-term participation and consistent display of service excellence. Memorial Funeral Home of Edinburg has participated in the program since it was established in 2003.

This past October, both firms were honored with the 2012 Pursuit of Excellence Award, an honor bestowed upon only 164 funeral homes from around the world, placing them in an elite group of funeral service providers.

Ultimately, serving the community is what Velma and León are all about. They recognize the importance of community involvement and giving back to the community that they serve. Both funeral homes have a program in which they present a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior from each high school in the P-SJ-A and Edinburg school districts. They are often seen participating in various chamber functions such as the Night of Lights Parade, Fiesta Edinburg, and Texas Cook’Em.

The Chamber of Commerce encourages everyone to nominate someone they may know who fits the criteria. For more information on the Edinburg Chamber Man and Woman of the Year, please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974.

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STC honored October 4 with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Star Award

By EDGAR CHRNKO

After the smoke cleared and all was said and done, South Texas College on Thursday, October 4, was selected as one of three Texas colleges and universities to be were honored with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Star Award, during the State of Higher Education in Texas Leadership Conference in Austin.

While STC is known for numerous successful programs and initiatives, this recent award was presented to celebrate the success of the college’s Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy.

"The Coordinating Board’s recognition of South Texas College’s exemplary Dual Enrollment Academy for Medical Sciences as a Star Award winner is long overdue," said STC President Shirley A. Reed. "The program has a sterling track record of success and helping hundreds of young people get a jump start on pursuing a professional degree in medical sciences by earning an associate degree from STC, tuition free."

STC’s DEMSA Program was among 50 applicants from around Texas and one of eight finalists selected to compete for the Star Awards before being named one of the elite three that were honored with the award.

The Star Award recognizes exceptional contributions toward meeting one or more goals of the Texas Higher Education’s Closing the Gaps by 2015 educational initiative, adopted by the THECB in Oct. 2000.

The college’s DEMSA Program was selected for the award by contributing to the Closing the Gaps’ goals of participation, success, and excellence.

"We are proud of the academies program and in particular DEMSA, which provides a challenge and an opportunity to aspiring medical students to get started on this career track by completing an associate degree before graduating from high school," said Nick González, STC High School Programs and Services Liaison. "Thanks to the great faculty and staff at STC, we know that many students have gone on to be successful at the university level and many more will follow."

STC’s DEMSA was established in 2005 as a two year-round dual enrollment program developed for Hidalgo and Starr County high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing a career in healthcare with the purpose of increasing the amount of rural area students committed to careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and allied health, among others.

The program ensures students are able to participate and succeed in higher education by waiving 100 percent of all tuition for DEMSA students, and it has grown from 17 students in 2005 to 385 in fall 2011.

DEMSA graduated its first cohort with an Associate of Science degree in Biology before they received their high school diploma in 2007, and has graduated five more cohorts since then.

During that time span, half a dozen DEMSA students have received Gates Millennium scholarships and program students have been offered over $8.8 million in overall scholarships, while 100 percent of academy graduates have transferred to four-year institutions.

For more information about STC’s Dual Enrollment Academies, contact (956) 872-6443 or visit http://academicaffairs.southtexascollege.edu/highschool/academies/index.html.

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Saúl Ortega, Chairman and CEO of First National Bank, to be honored by Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg RGV on January 12

First National Bank on Friday, November 9, announced that Saúl Ortega, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has been named the honoree for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV 6th Annual "Steak" in Your Community Event.

Ortega and the 2013 Youth of the Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at the Legacy Center@Boys & Girls Clubs, 702 Cullen Street (Rogers & Expway 281).

Ortega has been with First National Bank for 25 years, formerly as Accounting Officer, Controller, and Chief Financial Officer. He assumed the role of Chairman and CEO in late 2011. Ortega’s focus is on strong, conservative lending practices and maintaining FNB’s long history of the best customer service in banking.

"The Boys & Girls Club is an outstanding organization that improves the lives of children right here in our local community, and we are proud to be a supporter of its programs and kids," said Ortega. "This is a terrific honor, which I share with all First National Bank employees and directors, and our bank remains dedicated to continuing our contributions to the Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg RGV in order to help strengthen the communities we serve."

For individuals who would like to join in the celebration, tickets are $100 per person with a limited numbers of tables available for $1,000 (seats 10). Tickets can be purchased by calling 956/383-2582 or logging on to http://www.edinburgkids.com. Individuals can also use their smart phone to purchase tickets by visiting m.edinburgkids.com.

The Boys & Girls Club has played an integral role in the Edinburg community for 40 years, providing daily programs and services to over 16,000 young people. During the school year, the Club is open Monday through Friday, from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and during the summer the hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Club has moved its main site and administration to its new building the Legacy Center located at 702 Cullen Street (Rogers & 281). The Club offers programs that emphasize character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sport, fitness and recreation. For more information about its scheduled activities is available on its website, http://www.edinburgkids.com.

Supporters who would like to make a contribution may contact Sabrina Walker-Hernández, Chief Professional Officer, at 956/383-2582 or email swalker@edinburgkids.com.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg Rio Grande Valley is a proud City of Edinburg partner and a United South Way of South Texas Agency.

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Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship for South Texas students announced by Texas Exes

By WILL KRUEGER

A scholarship for South Texas students at The University of Texas at Austin has been named for Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the Texas Exes announced on Tuesday, October 30.

The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship will be presented annually by the Texas Exes to deserving students from South Texas who need assistance paying for college.

The scholarship was endowed by the senator’s son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., an attorney and businessman. Because of his contribution, the Texas Exes will create a permanent endowment that can fund scholarships for years to come.

The Zaffirini Scholarship was announced at a reception hosted by UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UT President Bill Powers and the Texas Exes. Guests included UT Distinguished Alumni, academic deans and student leaders.

John Beckworth, Texas Exes president, Cigarroa, Powers and Zaffirini Jr. spoke about the senator’s passion and leadership for higher education in general and UT-Austin in particular.

"Promoting access to higher education is my passion and long has been the cornerstone of my service in the Texas Senate," Zaffirini said. "Accordingly, I am tremendously grateful and proud that Carlos Jr. has created a scholarship in my name at our beloved alma mater."

A life member of the Texas Exes, Zaffirini is Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency and served three terms as Chair of Higher Education in the Texas Senate.

A communication specialist, she holds B.S., M.A. and PhD degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, each with a 3.9 grade-point average.

Carlos Jr. also earned his B.B.A. and J.D. at UT-Austin.

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Beatriz Ramos, 28, of Edinburg, convicted for her role in defrauding Medicare and Medicaid

Beatriz Ramos, 28, of Edinburg, a former biller for RGV DME, a now defunct McAllen area durable medical equipment (DME) business, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, October 17, for her role in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid through fraudulent billings, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced, along with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.??

Ramos, a former biller for Marcelo Herrera, who did business as RGV DME, was charged along with Herrera, 39, his wife Carla Cantú Herrera, 31, and Ramón De La Garza, 51, all of Mission, in a 22-count federal indictment on June 26, 2012.

The charges included one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, six counts of health care fraud, five counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of aggravated identity theft.??

Ramos appeared in front of United States District Judge Micaela Álvarez on October 17 and entered a plea of guilty to conspiring with Marcelo Herrera, his wife, and De La Garza to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

Ramos admitted bills were sent to Medicare and to Medicaid for DME that was never prescribed, never delivered and not needed. Ramos also admitted that to conceal their fraud, she and her co-defendants forged and falsified documents and illegally used the identities of beneficiaries and doctors on their unlawful billings.?

?The indictment alleges Marcelo Herrera, doing business as RGV DME, submitted approximately 25,000 claims totaling approximately $11 million to Medicare and Texas Medicaid for services that DME allegedly provided to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and was paid more than $7.1 million.

Ramos admitted that 80 to 90 percent of the billings were fraudulent and that the fraudulent claims to Medicare were sent by wire transmissions in interstate commerce.??

Ramos faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Ramos remains free on bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for January 16, 2013.

??Jury selection for the trial of the remaining defendants was set for November 6.

Marcelo Herrera and De La Garza remain in custody pending trial, while Carla Cantú Herrera was permitted to remain on bond.??

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.??

Special Assistant United States Attorney Rex Beasley and Assistant United States Attorney Grady Leupold are prosecuting the case.

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President Obama receives highest support from Hispanics since President Clinton’s election

By RUSS OATES

Latinos voted for President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney 71% to 27%, according to an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Obama’s national vote share among Hispanic voters is the highest seen by a Democratic candidate since 1996, when President Bill Clinton won 72% of the Hispanic vote.

The Center’s analysis also finds that Latinos made up 10% of the electorate, as indicated by the national exit poll, up from 9% in 2008 and 8% in 2004. The Center’s exit poll analysis also shows that as a group, non-white voters made up 28% of the nation’s electorate, up from 26% in 2008.

Hispanics made up a growing share of voters in three of the key battleground states in yesterday’s election—-Florida, Colorado and Nevada. Hispanics made up 17% of the electorate in Florida, up from 14% in 2008. Obama carried Florida’s Hispanic vote 60% to 39%. In Colorado, Hispanics made up 14% of voters, up from 13% in 2008. Obama carried the Hispanic vote there 75% to 23%. Among voters in Nevada, the Hispanic share was 18%, up from 15% in 2008. Obama won Nevada’s Hispanic vote 70% to 25%. Obama’s Hispanic vote was up from 2008 in Florida and Colorado, but down in Nevada.

Among Latino voters, support for Obama was strong among all major demographic sub-groups. However, there was a gender gap among Hispanics as there was among the electorate as a whole. Obama carried Hispanic women with 76% of the vote and Hispanic males with 65%.

The analysis of exit polls in this report is limited to 12 states. These states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The report, Latino Voters in the 2012 Election, authored by Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director, and Paul Taylor, director, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center’s website, http://www.pewhispanic.org.

For more on the changing demographics in the United States, see a new commentary released on Wednesday, November 7, by the Pew Social & Demographics Trends project. The commentary, A Milestone En Route to a Majority Minority Nation, notes that by 2050 the minority groups that carried President Obama to victory yesterday are on track to become a majority of the nation’s population, and that the Hispanic share of the U.S. population could be as high as 29%, up from 17% now.

The Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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