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Republican Miriam Martínez, featured here in Edinburg on Thursday, December 6, with Valley legislative and University of Texas System leaders, is calling on fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry to make a proposal to create a new UT Valley university system and medical school as an emergency item when lawmakers return to work in Austin in January. The far-reaching measure would merge UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville into one, new UT comprehensive university system. “Such a proposal will require approval by the Texas Legislature, but state lawmakers can’t consider any measures during the first 60 days of a regular session unless those proposals are declared emergencies by the governor,” said Martínez, the hostess of KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez, which airs Monday and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. “By designating that legislation as an emergency item, Gov. Perry sends the clear message that he supports the creation of this new university system for deep South Texas, and the Republican Party, which Perry leads, controls the House of Representatives and the Senate.” Martínez is also working with Valley and UT leaders to make sure that when the new university system is created, “The University of Texas”, “Pan American”, and “UT-Brownsville” are featured prominently in the yet-to-be named Valley-wide university and medical school system. “We cannot allow these honored names to be removed because it would devalue the diplomas of tens of thousands of alumni whose diplomas proudly feature “The University of Texas”, “Pan American” and “UT-Brownsville,” Martínez said. Featured, from left: Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Miriam Martínez; UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell of Weslaco; and Rep.-elect Óscar Longoria, Jr. See lead story in this posting.

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Almost two dozen legislative priorities, including efforts to allow South Texas College to offer additional Bachelor of Applied Technology degree programs, create a state-of-the-art Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, and to oppose allowing Texans with licenses to carry concealed weapons to be allowed to bring those weapons on campus, are being proposed by the STC Board of Trustees and top administrators. The two-county community college system’s legislative agenda was unveiled on Thursday, December 13, during an 8:30 a.m. breakfast session between the seven-member board of trustees and their top administrators with members of the Valley’s state Senate and state House of Representatives delegation. Featured, seated, from left: STC Board Trustee Paul R. Rodríguez; STC Board Trustee Gary Gurwitz; STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed; STC Board Chair Rose Benavidez; and STC Board Secretary Graciela Farias. Standing, from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission; Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Sharyland; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Class XXIV recently completed their second session for Leadership Edinburg. On Wednesday, November 4, the class visited the Edinburg school district’s newly renovated Robert Vela High School for the Education segment of its sessions. Leadership Edinburg is a program designed by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to allow the class members to interact with one another and members of the community to encourage a better Edinburg. The nine-month program is structured to help class members understand the problems and opportunities faced through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, history, education, healthcare and quality of life. See story later in this posting.

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Six young ladies from the Edinburg school district were recently honored for their achievements and for agreeing to represent the school district and the community in the coming year. Featured, front row, from left: Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Robbie Reyna, Miss Teen Edinburg 2013, a junior at Robert Vela High School and daughter of Robert and Sandra Palacios Flores; Karina Eliza Rodríguez, Little Miss Edinburg 2013, a sixth grader at Longoria Middle School and daughter of Raúl and Cynthia Salas Rodriguez; Victoria Savannah Cantú, Miss Edinburg Pre-Teen 2013, an eighth grader at South Middle School and daughter of Daniel and Claudia Cantú; and  Juan “Sonny” Palacios, President of the Edinburg school board. Middle row, from left: Dr. Martín Castillo, vice-president of the Edinburg school board; Clarissa Laura Rodríguez, Miss Edinburg 2013, a senior at Edinburg North High School and daughter of Raúl and Cynthia Salas Rodríguez; Kassandra Renée Garza, Miss Junior Teen 2013, an eighth grader at South Middle School and daughter of Alberto R. and Leticia I. Garza; and Robert Peña, school board member. Back row, from left: Jaime Chavana and David Torres, school board trustees. Not pictured is Annika Karina Palacios, Miss Edinburg Princess 2013, a first grader at St. Joseph Catholic Schools and daughter of Terry and Hope Palacios. As Beauty Pageant winners, the six will represent the City of Edinburg at functions that include socials, luncheons, ribbon cuttings and banquets.

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The University of Texas-Pan American Business Development and Innovation Group recently issued its annual Productivity and Impact Report of Service for its Affiliate Partners, including The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helped bring more than $1 million in investments and helped increase sales by more than $12 million, according to the report. Featured discussing the report are, seated left to right:  Esperanza Delgado, SBDC Marketing Director; María Juárez, SBDC Director; and Janie Caballero, Senior Business Advisor. Back row are:  Anthony Covacevich, Vice Chair of Small Business; Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Committee; Dr. Robert Nelsen, President of the University of Texas-Pan American and Vice Chair of Education; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Ronnie Bernal, Chair Elect. See story later in this posting.

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The Women’s Business Center (WBC) held an Open House event to celebrate National Women in Small Business Month on Friday, October 26, in Edinburg. The community was invited to see its offices, located at 2314 W. University Drive, Suite 230, in the Compass Bank Building, as well as to become acquainted with the services offered by the WBC. The event was a huge success, very-well attended, and featured keynote speakers Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Ramiro Garza, City Manager for the City of Edinburg, and Celine Rodríguez Schultz, financial professional with New York Life. “Women-owned and controlled small businesses in this region made up 60 percent of all new businesses that were created and helped bring down the unemployment rate that had hovered in Hidalgo County for three decades with a double-digit of 22 percent in January 1997 to six percent at the beginning of 2008. This could not have happened without women entrepreneurs,” Hinojosa said. Featured from left: ?Celine Schulz, Financial Professional for New York Life; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and María “Charro” Mann, Executive Director for the Women’s Business Center. See story later in this posting.

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Following the swearing-in ceremonies based on the Tuesday, November 6 elections – in which Carmen González and Robert Peña were reelected, and Jaime Solis was elected to his first four-year term, the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees was re-organized with newly-elected members. The 2012-2013 board consists of, seated from left: Dr. Martín Castillo, Vice-President; Juan “Sonny” Palacios, President; and Jaime Solis, Secretary. Standing from left: David Torres, Member; Jaime R. Chavana, Member; Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Carmen González, Member; and Robert Peña, Jr., Member.

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Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, the Chair-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Friday, November 30, met with Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, featured left, Chair-elect of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Chair-elect of the Congressional Black Caucus, to discuss plans to collaborate in the upcoming Congress. "I am very encouraged by a sense of community as we prepare to begin the 113th Congress,” said Hinojosa. “Together, my colleagues, Chairwoman-elect Fudge and Chairwoman Chu and I renewed our commitment to developing solutions to overcome the challenges in our communities. I believe by working in conjunction with other House Caucuses, we will be able to build a strong base in Congress that will focus on the most pressing needs of our constituents across the United States of America." The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce recently announced the 2012 Edinburg Night of Lights Parade winners in the following categories: School Division and Business/Civic Division.  On Saturday, December 1, more than 60 entries lined up inside the University of Texas-Pan American parking lot to participate in the festive parade. The City of Edinburg sponsored $5,000 in award money and trophies to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. First Place School Division was awarded to Monte Cristo Elementary Cheer & Dance Team, 2nd to Robert Vela High School HOSA, and 3rd place to Dr. Thomas Esparza Elementary. First Place Business/Civic division was awarded to Jammer DJ Service, 2nd to Edinburg Folklorico Dance Team, and 3rd place to San Juan Bears Little League Baseball. Judges for the event featured in this photograph, from left, were, from left: Kelly Rivera Salazar with Libebarger Googan Blair Sampson; Naomi Perales with Texas Gas Services; and Stephanie Ozuna with the University of Texas-Pan American.

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Juanita G. Treviño, featured left, and Viviana Ozuna, featured right, recently posed with Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García in Edinburg as part of the two women’s local marketing efforts announcing the establishment in deep South Texas of Mi Familia, a Spanish-language, Houston-based print magazine that is also published online (http://www.MiFamilia.net), and which features articles and photographs of Valley families. Ozuna, who is the magazine’s Director for the Rio Grande Valley, said the print version of the magazine, which is being circulated throughout the region, was first introduced into the area in September. “We began to notice a lot of subscribers from the Valley and northern Mexico, and so it was natural to begin expanding down here,” said Ozuna, a business consultant with ties to the Valley, including the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, and who is member of the family who publishes Mi Familia Magazine. “The long-time goal is to have a a separate Mi Familia Magazine that focuses on deep South Texas.” The online version, which includes articles and photographs from previous magazines, has an audience of between 30,000 and 40,000 viewers per month. More information is available by contacting Ozuna at 956/227-1044 or via email at viviana@mifamiliamagazine.net

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Republican Miriam Martínez and Democrat David A. Díaz on Monday, November 26, launched Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez, a dynamic radio talk show on KIRT-1580 AM that will provide high-powered and well-connected news, analyses, and opinion on the Texas Legislature and statewide and Valley politics. Martínez, a successful small business owner and the 2012 Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41, and Díaz, a Democratic legislative consultant and publisher of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com, bring more than 50 years of combined experiences in Texas, local, and Mexican politics and news media. “For the Rio Grande Valley to prosper, area Democrats and Republicans must put aside their rivalries,” Martínez said. “With our show, David and I want to set aside party politics and unite for the greater good of the region.” The show airs on Mondays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. See story later in this posting.

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Planned Valley medical school, new university system must include University of Texas, Pan American, and UT-Brownsville in its name, says Miriam Martínez

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

While praising a legislative measure that would help bring $100 million over the next 10 years to help build a University of Texas medical school in the Rio Grande Valley, Miriam Martínez, hostess of KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez, says taking the “University of Texas”, “Pan American”, and “UT-Brownsville” out of the name for the proposed new university system in the Valley would be “a slap in the face” to alumni and the region.

KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez features news, opinion, and audience call-ins on local, state and federal issues, is broadcast Mondays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Although a new name has not been formally decided, UT System leaders and some news media accounts are referring to the proposed new higher education system, which would merge UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville as well as make a medical school part of that new higher education system, as the “University of the Americas.”

The “University of the Americas in the Rio Grande Valley” is the name that was used by UT System leaders on Thursday, December 6, as part of their power point video presentation on the proposal. That “University of the Americas in the Rio Grande Valley” was prominently featured during the live broadcast on the Internet of the regents’ meeting in Austin.

“The University of Texas name, which is recognized worldwide for a superior education, is a very important symbol for our South Texas universities,” said Martínez. “It makes no sense to do away with such a powerful brand identity for the Valley, and replace it with a name no one has ever heard about.”

A brand identity is what people think about a person, product, service, and in this case, of a university. A successful brand identity, which can take years to create, sends positive images that make people proud to be associated with a university, and make other people desire to work at or attend that university.

On Thursday, December 6, the UT System Board of Regents in Austin approved a far-reaching proposal that would combine UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, along with the UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville, into a new university system that would eventually include a full-fledged medical school and related health care education.

Martínez also said eliminating “Pan American” and “Brownsville” from the proposed new name “would reduce the value of the diplomas of tens of thousands of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville graduates, whose successes and achievements have made ‘Pan American’ and ‘UT-Brownsville’ recognized and honored names throughout the world.”

Martínez said she would be working closely with the South Texas legislative leadership to keep “The University of Texas”, “Pan American”, and “UT-Brownsville” in the new name for the proposed comprehensive university system.

The proposal for the new Valley university system would require action by the Texas Legislature, and that will provide alumni and citizens the opportunities to protect the names of their respective universities.

“It’s really quite simple,” Martínez explained. “As long as we have the name ‘University of Texas’ in the name of this new higher education system, the Board of Regents will have to continue pouring money into South Texas because UT has to protect its image as a world-class public university system. But if we lose the name ‘University of Texas’, they won’t care what happens down here because they no longer would have to protect their name and brand image.”

The proposal for the new university system and medical school, according to the UT System, is detailed in the following news release issued by the UT System.

The plan would result in a single institution that spans the entire Rio Grande Valley, with a presence in each of the major metropolitan areas of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen and McAllen.

The Board of Regents also approved the allocation of $100 million over the next 10 years to accelerate the pace of transitioning the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen to a school of medicine.

“This is a bold plan that, if accomplished, will put our Rio Grande Valley campuses on equal footing with other UT institutions,” said Regents Chairman Gene Powell. “This is an opportunity to create a new emerging research university that has the potential to become a Tier One university in the next decade. It creates incredible opportunities to capitalize on the bicultural heritage of the Rio Grande Valley and build a university for the Americas.”

UT Brownsville and UT Pan American are not eligible for revenue from the Permanent University Fund, a public endowment created by the Texas Constitution. A new university would be eligible for PUF funding – a major catalyst for building a world-class research university, complete with a school of medicine. As an emerging research university, the new institution would also be eligible for more funding sources such as the National Research University Fund, the Texas Research Incentive Plan and matching UT System money.

UT Pan American President Robert Nelsen said the new university is for a generation of Valley children who will transform the region if they are given the opportunity and the education to do so.

“If we don’t get this right in the Valley, we won’t get it right anywhere,” Nelsen said, alluding to the nation’s changing demographics which are beginning to mirror those of South Texas. “This is literally about saving lives. This is literally about the future of America. I’m honored to be here at this historic moment.”

The new university’s overall size and portfolio would be similar to other existing UT emerging research universities with a student population of 28,000, research expenditures of $11 million, an endowment of $70.5 million and a total operating budget of $419 million.

Jon Hockenyos, founder and president of the economic analysis and public policy consulting firm TXP, estimated that the new university and school of medicine would likely account for 7,000 new jobs in the Rio Grande Valley – 10,000 if economic development impact of the new university is factored in.

“The ability to access and manage knowledge is really the key to success for the modern economy,” Hockenyos said. “I think this could very well be, if not the largest, one of the largest economic development opportunities for the Rio Grande Valley.”

The new university would also be one of the two largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the nation, both for total Hispanics enrolled and number of bachelor’s degrees awarded.

Cigarroa, who gave a presentation to the board outlining the request to move forward, said there are challenges and opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley and taking advantage of UT campuses with a bi-national presence on the border of Mexico in one of the fastest-growing regions in Texas has been part of his vision since becoming chancellor in 2009.

“We have to think globally, not regionally,” Cigarroa said. “We have an opportunity to make the Rio Grande Valley a center for bicultural programs in economics, business, medicine, biomedical sciences, energy, environmental studies, Latin American studies and a host of other areas.

“If we focus our attention on this crucial region of Texas, we can create new jobs, attract new federal and private funding, launch new facilities construction and, most importantly, provide higher education and training – and a stronger future – for this generation and generations to come.”

UT Brownsville President Juliet García said the new university will be strategically positioned to become the epicenter of and the gateway to the Americas.

“While we did not invent the global economy, we need to take advantage of it,” García said. “Once in a great while, we have the profound opportunity to make a difference in the world. Your action today is one of those opportunities.”

Miriam Martínez and David A. Díaz are partners in International Legislative and News Media Services, which produces “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez”. Permission is granted for portions or all of this article to be used, at no cost, by news media and Internet news outlets. Credit provided to “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez” would be appreciated.

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Edinburg power plant part of solution to avoid rolling blackouts during extreme weather cycles, says Rep.-elect Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A planned $650 million electricity producing power plant to be built in Edinburg is a rare, but badly-needed boost for the state’s hopes to avoid rolling blackouts during periods of blazing heat or freezing cold, says Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

According to EnergyVortex.com, a rolling blackout is an electrical power shutdown, announced in advance and deliberately produced by utility companies, in order to cope with peak power demands that cannot be met from existing supply. They are a last-resort measure used to avoid a total blackout of the power system. Rolling blackouts are usually intended to affect only a specific service area, and the energy provider will typically spread these blackouts among several service areas to insure that no specific area suffers substantially more than any other.

“Everyone remembers the statewide power outages that were blamed for more than 80 generation stations in Texas going down on February 2, 2011, causing periodic blackouts around the state due to the loss of capacity,” Canales reflected. “Texas needs new power plants by 2014, when state regulators warn that power reserves will drop under 10 percent, increasing the risk of rolling outages.

“It is essential that we continue to upgrade our aging power grid so that we reduce power outages which are not merely an inconvenience, but are often life threatening to the elderly and incapacitated,” Canales added.

Canales praised the Tuesday, November 20 announcement by the Edinburg City Council, which in partnership with Hidalgo County, had landed the deal with Coronado Ventures (Edinburg Power, L.L.C.), which will construct a 700-megawatt electric generating facility that can run 350,000 homes.

The natural gas-fueled combine cycle power plant will utilize advanced combustion turbine and emissions-control technology.

"But not for the leadership of Mayor Richard García, major advancements such as this would not be transpiring,” said Canales. “He is a tremendous asset to the community and deserves to be recognized.”

The construction of a natural gas power plant that will infuse $1.4 billion into the local economy, according to an economic impact analysis from Impact Data Source of Austin, the mayor added.

“This is huge for the entire area. Not only will it bring high-paying jobs, but the money that Edinburg Power will add to our city coffers will allow us to reinvest it in the community in the form of improved roads, infrastructure, and keeping up with the demand for services,” García told reporters during the November 20 announcement.

Canales said that the plant – which according to city officials will take three years to build – “will not only be a source of electric power, but it will bring economic power to not only my district but the entire Rio Grande Valley."

As state representative, Canales said he will work with local city leaders, fellow lawmakers and state agencies to help ensure the success of the project, which he and city officials hail as an economic bonanza for Edinburg and the surrounding region.

"The profound effects of this new source of economic energy will be so far reaching that they are hard to quantify and even contemplate,” Canales noted. “However one thing is certain: Edinburg, Hidalgo County, and my District 40 only stand to benefit from this truly monumental project."

Building the sophisticated power plant will create 500 construction jobs, García revealed. Once operational, the facility will employ 30 full time workers with an average salary of $75,000.

The City of Edinburg and Hidalgo County partnered to provide an incentives package to secure the project over a ten-year period.

The mayor added that the incentives being provided to the power plant are minimal compared to the return that Edinburg and the county will receive in the long run. Once complete, the power plant will be one of the largest taxpayers in Hidalgo County.

“I’m very proud that once again, we are leading the way to economic development and job creation,” García added.

The City of Edinburg, Hidalgo County, and Edinburg Power, L.L.C. will hold a press conference in the coming weeks to make the formal announcement.

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Four officers, including son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Treviño, and son of Hidalgo Police Chief Espinoza, charged with escorting loads of drugs

By ANGELA DODGE

Two complaints were filed on Friday, December 13, charging two deputies with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and two Mission Police Department (MPD) officers in a drug conspiracy, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced.

MPD officer Alexis Espinoza, 29, of Alamo, was arrested on Thursday night, December 12, and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos on Friday morning, December 13.

A second complaint was filed later Friday morning, December 13, charging McAllen resident Jonathan Treviño, 28, also from MPD, and Fabián Rodríguez, 28, of Edinburg, and Gerardo Durán, 30, of Pharr, both with the HCSO.

Treviño is a son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño. Espinoza the son of City of Hidalgo Chief Rudy Espinoza. Both men have been terminated from their law enforcement jobs with the Mission police department.

Earlier this year, agents learned that members of the HCSO Panama Unit were involved in the distribution of narcotics, according to the court documents. The Panama Unit is a task force designed to target narcotics trafficking in Hidalgo County and is comprised of law enforcement officers from HCSO and MPD.

The investigation revealed that members of the Panama Unit, including Treviño, Espinoza, Rodríguez and Durán, allegedly utilized their positions as law enforcement personnel to escort and protect loads of narcotics and were paid for their services.

The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility, the Texas Rangers and Department of Justice – Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Ánibal Alanis and James Sturgis are prosecuting the case.

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South Texas College votes for possible November 2013 bond election for expansion; could approach $150 million level

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A bond election that could approach $150 million for the expansion of South Texas College could go before voters in Hidalgo County and Starr County in November 2013, according to KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez.

Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez is a bilingual, one-hour live presentation that is broadcast from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. Developed by Miriam Martínez and David A. Díaz –  who are partners with International Legislative and News Media Services – Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez is designed to let people know how state and local politics, including the news media, really work, and how the average person can make government, politics, and the media work for their causes.

The call for the possible bond election took place on Tuesday, December 11, during the monthly meeting of the South Texas College Board of Trustees at the Pecan Campus in McAllen.

Trustees approved a recommendation by STC Board Member Gary Gurwitz, who motioned that the elected leadership “direct administration to begin preparations for a possible bond election in November 2013.”

Chuy Ramírez, legal counsel for STC, later noted that the action does not yet mean the Board of Trustees has called for the bond election.

“The action was for staff to proceed to work toward a bond program. But that is still a far cry from calling an election. Calling an election is a formality that requires certain notices and orders,” Ramírez explained. “Just for the record, the board may call for a bond election. But it has not formally done so.”

But Rose Benavidez, chair of the seven-member STC Board of Trustees, left little doubt where she believes the elected leadership is heading.

“We have spent two years preparing for this moment, knowing that at any given time, it was necessary for us to find a way to meet the needs and address the challenges the college has with regard to its growth,” Benavidez said. “Today what we have done is taken into consideration a lot of work and energy to develop a plan that essentially is telling us this is the right time to move forward. What the board decided earlier this evening is that come November 2013, we will go out for a bond election.”

Benavidez said STC’s leadership has been updating a preliminary master plan, commissioned by the STC Board of Trustees in 2008 and developed by Freese & Nichols, Inc., a consulting firm based in Ft. Worth. Freese & Nichols, Inc. was paid a reported $557,802 fee to develop the draft, which details the process, planning principles, and recommendations that could lead to what would be major growth of STC’s campuses.

Asked if the bond election could be in the $150 million range, Benavidez responded, “I think that is not out of scope, but at this point it would be difficult to narrow it down. Within the next 30 to 60 days, we will have a much better idea where we are. Up to this point, those are probably numbers ($150 million) we know get us to meet the challenge that we have as of today.”

More details on the bond election – which could raise property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 by about $30 (thirty dollars) per year – will come in the next 30 to 60 days, Benavidez added.

Miriam Martínez and David A. Díaz are partners in International Legislative and News Media Services, which produces “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez”. Permission is granted for all or portions of this article to be used by news media outlets and Internet news sites. Credit to “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez” would be appreciated.

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South Texas College lobbies Valley legislators on 23 priorities during December 13 briefing

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Almost two dozen legislative priorities, including efforts to allow South Texas College to offer additional Bachelor of Applied Technology degree programs, create a state-of-the-art Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, and to oppose allowing Texans with licenses to carry concealed weapons to be allowed to bring those weapons on campus, are being proposed by the STC Board of Trustees and top administration, according to KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez.

Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez is a bilingual, one-hour live presentation that is broadcast from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. Developed by Miriam Martínez and David A. Díaz – who are partners with International Legislative and News Media Services – Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez is designed to let people know how state and local politics, including the news media, really work, and how the average person can make government, politics, and the media work for their causes.

The two-county community college system’s legislative agenda was unveiled on Thursday, December 13, during an 8:30 a.m. breakfast session between the seven-member board of trustees and their top administrators with the Valley’s state Senate and state House of Representatives delegation.

The meeting, open to the public, was held at the STC Pecan Campus’ Cooper Center for Communication Arts, located across the street from the main campus at 3200 West Pecan Boulevard in McAllen.

Although not on the list of priorities, STC board trustees have instructed Shirley A. Reed, M.B.A., Ed.D, the president of the college system, to explain to lawmakers how the various health-related programs of the college system, which serves Hidalgo and Starr counties, can be part of the legislative efforts to build a University of Texas medical school.

Board members are also expected to add other priorities to the initial list in the coming weeks.

The Texas Legislature returns to work for its five-month regular session on Tuesday, January 8.

Miriam Martínez and David A. Díaz are partners in International Legislative and News Media Services, which produces “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez”. Permission is granted for all or portions of this article to be used by news media outlets and Internet news sites. Credit to “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez” would be appreciated.

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Powerful Republican/Democrat partnership launches “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez” on KIRT-1580 AM Radio in Valley

A trailblazing partnership between two South Texans – a Republican international journalist and a Democrat legislative consultant – on Monday, November 26, launched a dynamic radio talk show on KIRT-1580 AM that will provide high-powered and well-connected opinion and news on the Texas Legislature and statewide and Valley politics.

“Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez”, a bilingual, one-hour live presentation that will be broadcast from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, is designed to let people know how state and local politics, including the news media, really work, and how the average person can make government, politics, and the media work for their causes.

In addition, “Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez”, through its comprehensive and insightful coverage of the actions of the Texas Legislature, statewide officeholders, and major state boards and commissions, will champion the priorities of South Texans and Mexican Americans, such as the push for a full-service Veterans Administration Hospital, the creation of a health science center and a medical school for deep South Texas, and the expansion of The University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College – among many other major issues.

As innovative as its news and editorial coverage will be, the bold alliance between Republican Miriam Martínez, a renowned television news anchor and correspondent, and Democrat David A. Díaz, an expert legislative consultant, demonstrates the potential for South Texans to set aside party politics and unite for the greater good of the region.

Martínez, a successful small business owner and the 2012 Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41, and Díaz, a former journalist and publisher of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com, and who has a distinguished record of working with Democratic statewide leaders and Valley legislators, bring more than 50 years of combined experiences in statewide and local politics and news media.

“He has proven himself to me with his courage, with his encouragement, with his extraordinary skills, and in his political battles on my behalf,” Martínez said of Díaz. “He is helping me because of my life story, my struggles and achievements, my vision for our people, and because we share the same goals for South Texas.”

Both realize that for the Rio Grande Valley to prosper, area Democrats and Republicans must put aside their rivalries – and the powerful bond Martínez and Díaz have forged through previous shared endeavors allows them to lead by example.

“David has a strong faith in God, strong values, and is my mentor in the political field. I trust him. We have plans for other groundbreaking projects,” Martínez confided. “My family and I value his friendship. He is very important in our lives.”

Díaz said Martínez, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, is an inspirational symbol for Texans because she has overcome hurdles and obstacles, including being a survivor of family violence, to become a role model for all Americans.

“In her almost year-long campaign for the Texas Legislature, Miriam 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,” Díaz reflected.

“Yet, Miriam 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,” he added.

Díaz said it was important for women such as Martínez to reach for high political office because women represent half of the population.

“It is such an honor for me to have what will be an enduring partnership with Miriam Martínez because of who she is, what she stands for, and what she wants to do for Texas,” Díaz said. “I am so proud of her. The best is still to come.”

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Edinburg’s unemployment rate in November drops to 6.6 percent; latest figure represents fifth consecutive monthly improvement

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg posted a 6.6 percent unemployment rate in November 2012, the second-best showing among the Valley’s major cities, and the fifth consecutive month that the local unemployment rate has improved, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

That rate is the best showing for Edinburg so far this year. The previous lowest unemployment rate in 2012 was registered in April (7.2 percent).

Only McAllen, with a 6.5 percent unemployment rate, had a better month for jobs in November 2012, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The unemployment rates in November for the other major cities in the Valley featured

Mission (7.2 percent), Harlingen (8.1 percent), Pharr (8.4 percent), Weslaco (9.6 percent) and Brownsville (9.9 percent).

The November unemployment rates for all Texas cities, metropolitan regions, and counties were released by the Texas Workforce Commission on Friday, December 21, and they follow an earlier positive economic indicator for Edinburg, reported by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which shows another key improvement for the local economy.

Edinburg’s retail economy in October continued to show improvement over the same period last year, with the latest local monthly sales tax figure – which reflects the strength of the economy – up more than eight percent over the same month in 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.

In addition, year-to-date, Edinburg’s retail economy was up more than four percent in 2012 as compared with January through October 2011, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The sales tax figures represent October 2012 sales reported by monthly tax filers.

On the jobs front, Edinburg’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate for November was an improvement over October (7.3 percent), September (7.4 percent), August (8.6 percent), and July (9.2 percent).

For November 2012, there were 34,901 residents employed in Edinburg, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, which is the state agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers of Texas

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the unemployment rate is the number of persons unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force. The civilian labor force is that portion of the population age 16 and older employed or unemployed. To be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working and actively seeking work.

The Texas Workforce Commission maintains a detailed accounting of employment trends for Edinburg and all other cities in the state on its website, located at:

http://www.tracer2.com/cgi/ dataanalysis/AreaSelection. asp?tableName=Labforce

The October 2012 showing for Edinburg’s retail economy follows a successful monthly report for September 2012, which showed a more than 16 percent improvement over September 2011. The city’s economy in August 2012 was also positive, showing a more than six percent improvement over the same month last year.

For the month of October 2012, Edinburg generated $1,270,843.10 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,174,004.11 for the month of October 2011, resulting in the 8.24 percent improvement.

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.

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.

From January 2012 through October 2012, Edinburg’s retail economy has generated $16,425,337.21 in local sales taxes, compared with $15,780,978.65 during the same period last year, representing an improvement of 4.08 percent.

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

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

The state comptroller’s office reported that the following amounts of local sales tax revenue have been raised between January 1 and October 31 of this year:

• McAllen: $ 59,167,296.36;

• Edinburg: $16,425,337.21;

• Mission: $14,523,057.78;

• Pharr: $13,102,483.55; and

• Weslaco: $10,697,701.49.

All cities in Hidalgo County have generated a combined total of $135,351,762.08 from January through October 2012, a 7.36 percent improvement over the same period last year, which totaled $126,072,437.89

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populous city, saw its retail economy generate $33,311,895.81 in local sales tax from January through October, an improvement of 4.28 percent over the same period in 2011. Harlingen reports $ 20,534,083.74 raised in local sales taxes from January through October 2012, an improvement of 10.51 percent over the same 10 months last year, according to the comptroller’s office.

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 October 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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Proposed UT Law School for Valley could represent $80 million UT investment over five years into area economy, says Rep.-elect Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Like a vision determined to become reality, Valley state lawmakers this spring will once again push for legislation to create a University of Texas Law School in deep South Texas, and Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, says he will support that effort.

Currently, the closest law schools to the Rio Grande Valley are in San Antonio (approximately 260 miles way), Austin (approximately 305 miles away), and Houston (approximately 340 miles away).

“First and foremost, a law school is about empowering a region with the tools and knowledge to seek and obtain legal and social justice,” said Canales, himself an attorney and graduate of St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio. “In addition, a law school creates jobs through construction of facilities, the hiring of administrators, faculty and staff, and securing government and private grants for everything from financial aid to legal clinics that help local nonprofit organizations, community groups, small businesses, and low-income residents that deal the complexities of the legal system.”

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which is a state agency with great influence over public higher education in the Lone Star State, the cost, over five years, of beginning a brand new law school is $80.4 million. Canales sees that as in investment that would benefit the Valley economy.

Equally important, the state, especially the wealthy UT System, has an obligation to provide minorities and women equal access to higher educational resources, such as a public law school, Canales emphasizes.

“The current system of public legal education in Texas continues to fail women and minorities, who just are not able to get into our existing public law schools,” Canales said. “In addition, Texas Tech University School of Law is located in Lubbock County, which has about 285,00o residents, compared with Hidalgo County, which has almost 800,000 residents. We certainly deserve our own law school.”

In October 2010, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, under orders from the Texas Legislature, issued a 46-page analysis, entitled The Feasibility of Establishing a Public Law School in Texas, Including the Texas-Mexico Border Region.

The report found that Texas does not need any new law schools.

Canales disagrees, noting that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, while it is a major player in higher education in Texas, does not have the final say on the matter. The Texas Legislature has the final authority, he notes.

“According to its own findings, Hispanic students are the most dramatically under-represented group in the state’s public and independent law schools,” Canales reflected, quoting the report. “While census projections have Hispanics at 37 percent of the population, only 16 percent of law school graduates and 7 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership is Hispanic.”

Other key information from the report includes that when the number of law school students is compared to the total population of a given region, the Gulf Coast region (Houston) has the highest ratios and the South Texas region has the lowest ratios.

Women and African American lawyers are also under-represented in Texas, the report also concluded. Women account for 32 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership, yet they comprise 49.9 percent of the Texas population and 41.2 percent of Texas law school graduates.

African Americans are 12 percent of the 2008 Texas population, and they make up 12 percent of the law school graduates and 4 percent of the Texas State Bar’s membership.

Regarding the costs to build and operate a law school, Canales says Texas would benefit economically from bringing a law school to the Valley, just as it would by expanding professional schools in medicine, pharmacy, and other health-related professional fields.

“We can never go wrong by investing in education, and the Valley would be easily able to fill a UT law school with both home-grown talent and with students and faculty from other regions of the state and nation,” Canales said.

Efforts to bring a state-supported law school to deep South Texas began in earnest as early as 1997, when then-Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, secured funding for an innovative program that would have allowed students at UT-Pan American to take law school classes, through the use of video technology, being conducted at the Texas Tech University School of Law.

However, those plans were dashed when Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, blocked the implementation of the program, fearing it would devalue the prestige of the Texas Tech University School of Law, which is located in his legislative district.

The latest attempt to bring such a prestigious higher education institution to deep South Texas was launched on November 12, when Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, pre-filed House Bill 67, which proposes the creation of a UT law school that would be located in either Hidalgo County or Cameron County.

The UT System Board of Regents, if HB 67 is signed into law next spring, would determine the location of the law school.

Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also plans to introduce similar legislation in the coming weeks.

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Opinions of Texan politicians split on toll roads

By EVE PEARCE

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has expressed concern that the approach to road tolls in Texas has changed from only including them if they are a necessity to using them as the default for major road projects. The senator recently told a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival that it is important to remember that a toll is just another tax.

He predicts a day when the toll situation will become so severe that in order to get from one place to another, citizens will have no choice but to use a toll road.

Others point out that Texans are already paying much higher than average state and federal gas taxes. Despite the improving fuel efficiency of cars, residents of the state pay the same 38.4 cents in state and federal taxes per gallon of gas that they did nearly two decades ago. If the number of toll roads continues to increase, there is a danger that the combination of toll fees and high gas tax rates could mean that some of the bigger cars in Texas will become completely impractical to own due to the cost of running them and remain confined to garages as a result.

Hidalgo County Residents Prefer Tolls to Taxes

There are also concerns that some of the poorer parts of South Texas such as Brownsville, which was the most economically deprived city in American at one point, are not suited to these toll roads because citizens simply cannot afford to pay the tolls. However Hidalgo County residents have claimed that road tolls are preferable to raising taxes, as they allow people the choice to pay to use the roads if they can afford to and avoid using them and save their money if they can’t.

McAllen City Manager Mike Pérez says residents resent paying towards roads that only twenty percent of the population might actually end up using.

Road Tolls a Necessary Tool

Other Texans claim that the current toll boom in the state is a symptom of the fact that Texas’ transportation financing system is falling far short of road users’ needs. A report issued in 2009 by a volunteer committee of twelve respected and experienced business leaders appointed by the Texas Transportation Committee advised that Texas was going to have to invest an extra four billion dollars per year in its road system just to prevent congestion from getting worse.

Proposals to raise more transportation revenue have drawn insufficient political support, meaning that many now see charging a toll as one of the few viable options for developing major routes.

When asked about the issue, Phil Wilson, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation, responded that road tolls are a tool that needs to be utilized in today’s economic climate. Other government officials have expressed similar sentiments, pointing out that the population in the region is growing at a rapid rate of knots and that drastic measures need to be taken in order for the transportation system to be able to effectively accommodate this growth.

Some hold the view that in order to build more major routes as opposed to just maintaining pre-existing ones, it is essential for more money to be generated via tolls.

More Tolls Predicted for the Future

The issue of toll roads divides the opinions of politicians and regular citizens alike. On one hand, Texans are hesitant about being charged a fee for traveling on roads that they need to go down in order to get from A to B but on the other, many residents recognize that there is a need to gain additional funding for transportation from somewhere.

As public officials across the state search for ways to build new roads despite the lack of public financing, toll revenue continues to emerge as a solution. Some hold the view that it is a fairer means of financing roads than raising taxes because only those who use toll roads have to pay for them but others believe that they should not have to pay a fee simply to travel along a stretch of road.

South Texas contains some of America’s poorest areas and the fact that those with more money can use roads that more economically deprived citizens might avoid using for financial reasons does not sit well with many. However until a viable alternative arrives, the amount of toll roads is looking set to continue to increase.

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Congressman Hinojosa, Chair-elect of Congressional Hispanic Caucus, meets with leaders of Asian, Black House Caucuses

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO

Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, the Chair-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Friday, November 30, met with Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, Chair-elect of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Chair-elect of the Congressional Black Caucus, to discuss plans to collaborate in the upcoming Congress.

"I am very encouraged by a sense of community as we prepare to begin the 113th Congress,” said Hinojosa. “Together, my colleagues, Chairwoman-elect Fudge and Chairwoman Chu and I renewed our commitment to developing solutions to overcome the challenges in our communities. I believe by working in conjunction with other House Caucuses, we will be able to build a strong base in Congress that will focus on the most pressing needs of our constituents across the United States of America."

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.

“I am excited to be working with Congresswoman Fudge and Congressman Hinojosa as Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucuses in the 113th Congress,” said Chu. “Our organizations have a proud tradition of coming together to address the needs of minority communities.  I’m proud to have such proven leaders as partners as we work together to tackle the challenges facing the American people in the next Congress.”

According to Wikipedia, the 113th United States Congress will be the next meeting of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It will be composed of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, based on the results of the 2012 Senate elections and the 2012 House elections. It is scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C. from January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015, during the fifth and sixth years of Barack Obama’s Presidency.

“It was an honor to meet with my colleagues, Chair-elect Hinojosa and Chair-elect Chu this morning as we discussed our commitment to working together during the 113th Congress,” said Fudge. “As we continue advocating for the communities we serve, the voices within our Caucuses are much stronger together than they could ever be apart. I look forward to working with both Chair-elect Hinojosa and Chair-elect Chu next year on ways to ensure no one in our communities is forgotten or left out.”

••••••

David Villanueva, 21, of Edinburg, receives nine-year federal prison sentence for receiving weapons with intent to assault

By ANGELA DODGE

David Villanueva, 21, of Edinburg, will be serving an nearly nine years in prison following his conviction for receiving firearms with the intent to commit a felony, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Melvin King Jr., special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have announced.

Villanueva pleaded guilty on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.

On Thursday, December 12, U.S. District Judge Micaela Álvarez, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Villanueva a prison term of 105 months with no parole. She further ordered him to serve a three-year-term of supervised release following completion of his prison term. In handing down the sentence, Alvarez noted, based on the evidence presented in the case, that Villanueva’s intent in receiving the firearms was not just to commit assault, but murder.

Villanueva admitted that on Friday, July 13, 2012, he accepted delivery and signed for a package containing three Glock handguns. He further acknowledged he intended to use at least one of them to commit assault with a deadly weapon – using a deadly weapon to threaten or cause imminent bodily injury to another person.

According to court records, ATF agents arrested Villanueva when they found the three Glocks at his Edinburg residence while executing a search warrant. Villanueva had threatened some people and subsequently requested that three Glocks be shipped to him from Indiana and that one of them be small and easily concealable.

Villanueva will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

ATF investigated this case with the assistance of the Edinburg Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Sully prosecuted the case.

••••••

Leadership Edinburg Class XXIV completes their second Leadership Session at Vela High

By RONNIE LARRALDE

Edinburg Class XXIV recently completed their second session for Leadership Edinburg. On Wednesday, November 4, the class visited the Edinburg school district’s newly renovated Robert Vela High School for the Education segment of its sessions.

Leadership Edinburg is a program designed by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to allow the class members to interact with one another and members of the community to encourage a better Edinburg. The nine-month program is structured to help class members understand the problems and opportunities faced through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, history, education, healthcare and quality of life.

The class was welcomed with heart, soul, students and staff plus mariachis to kick off the session.

The session offered insights and knowledge on the different avenues of education that impact the community and the Rio Grande Valley. The session agenda include a presentation and discussion with leaders from the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, South Texas Independent School District, Hidalgo County Head Start and University of Texas Pan American.

Leadership Edinburg class members also met with the school’s Ambassadors for Change committee for a question and answer sitting. Class XXIV also had lunch with students, toured the campus, and completed class room observations.

Speakers included Dr. René Gutiérrez, ECISD Superintendent; David Torres, ECISD School Board trustee; Becky Morrison, ECISD Assistant Superintendent Finance and Operations; María Luisa Guerra, ECISD Assistant Superintendent; Eva Torres, Principal, Robert Vela High School; Janie Navarro, Area Education Director, Hidalgo County Head Start Program; and S.J. Sethi, Executive Diredtor, UTPA’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness.

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WBC celebrates National Women’s Small Business Week with Open House, announces membership program for all businesses

By CLAUDIA PÉREZ RIVAS

The Women’s Business Center hosted an Open House on Friday, October 26, to coincide with National Women’s Small Business Month. The group’s mission statement is to assist Rio Grande Valley entrepreneurs in expanding or launching their businesses.

María “Charo” Mann, executive director of the WBC, said the purpose of the Open House was to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, allow potential entrepreneurs to “learn about the services WBC offers while mingling with existing business owners and community leaders.”

Ramiro Garza, city manager for Edinburg, Celine Rodríguez Schultz, financial professional with New York Life, and U.S.  Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, were featured speakers at the event, which also celebrated National Women’s Small Business Month.

The WBC serves the business community within Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties. A non-profit entity, the WBC is also an affiliate of the Southwest Community Investment Corporation (SCI) and specializes in bilingual business counseling services to women entrepreneurs, Mann said.

“Our main goal is to be able to help individuals who want to start or expand their business,” Mann said. “We do this through one-on-one business counseling or we do it through training. Trainings are customized depending on the need of small businesses.

“If it wasn’t for partnerships, I don’t know if we could service the community,” Mann added. “Throughout the year, the WBC hosts several events which are sponsored by partnerships that range from the federal, state or corporate levels.”

There is an increase nationwide of women entrepreneurs.

According to the American Express Open Report, out of 27 million small businesses in the United States, 8.1 million are owned by women. There has also been a 20.1 percent increase in women-owned businesses since 2002. Also, where women owned 51 percent of the businesses, there were $1.2 trillion in sales and seven million in jobs.

“We are very strong job creators,” Mann said.

Hinojosa praised the Edinburg-based WBC.

“Women-owned and controlled small businesses in this region made up 60 percent of all new businesses that were created and helped bring down the unemployment rate that had hovered in Hidalgo County for three decades with a double-digit of 22 percent in January 1997 to six percent at the beginning of 2008. This could not have happened without women entrepreneurs,” Hinojosa said.

The WBC is ranked 102 in the nation.

“Our focus is on women but we don’t discriminate against men,” added Mann.

Since 2004, WBC has assisted more than 6,500 individuals. In the Valley, within the four-county area, women-owned businesses have doubled from 1997 to 2007, according to the latest numbers available. In Hidalgo County, the numbers have tripled, from 6,710 in 1997 to 20,058 in 2007, Mann said.

Women entrepreneurs are making a difference, added Hinojosa. Small businesses are the back-bone of every community.

“One reason why the Rio Grande Valley has grown so fast is that we have so many creative and hard-working women willing to take the leap and go into business for themselves,” said Hinojosa.

“When you empower women, you empower the community. If you see a strong and empowered woman, get out of the way.”

Celine R. Shulz of New York Life said  her  company  is  committed  to  empowering  women.

“Whether it is helping women build their business or by providing financial literacy programs, New York Life is a true advocate for today’s woman,” she said.

The WBC also unveiled its new membership program during the event. Membership to the Women’s? Business Center is $35 and includes benefits such as: entrance to the WB Summit (a value of? $25), a local discount card that offers up to $100 in savings, notification of future WBC events ?before the general public, priority enrollment to future workshops and seminars held by the ?WBC, as well as opportunities to network with individuals from a cross-section of the community, ?including business owners, local lenders, and elected officials.

This allows the Women’s Business Center to continue to expand its services to the business ?community. Success in this membership drive will show that the economy of the Rio Grande ?Valley is worth investing in, and that local entrepreneurs care about having programs such as ?the WBC at their disposal.

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Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce credited for creating jobs, sparking business growth

The University of Texas-Pan American Business Development and Innovation Group recently issued its annual Productivity and Impact Report of Service for its Affiliate Partners. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as an Affiliate Partner, co-hosted and marketed business workshops targeted to small businesses.

The report covers the time period from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012.

The report highlights the efforts of the RGV Hispanic Chamber in the area of productivity and the impact that productivity had on the community. The chamber hosted 11 seminars that were attended by 73 individuals. The impact of the chamber activities resulted in the creation of 12 businesses and the expansion of one business. More than 46 jobs were created and two retained. Owner’s investment in the business ventures exceeded more than $1 million, with an estimated increase in sales of more than $12 million.

Some of the free workshops that the RGVHCC hosted were:

• Introduction to Social Media;

• Cómo Iniciar Su Negocio;

• Financing Options for Small Businesses;

• Tax tips for Small Businesses;

• Basics of Insurance for Small Businesses;

• Legal Tips for Small Businesses;

• Financial Bootcamp;

• Intelectual Property; and

• Pasaporte al Éxito.

Cynthia Sakulenzki, presidet and CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber, was pleased with the report.

“This is the Hispanic chamber’s priority – to assist small businesses who are responsible for the largest increase in jobs creation over the last 10 years in the United States,” she said. “We are extremely proud of our association with the UTPA Small Business Development Center.  With their and our efforts, we hope to increase the economic impact of the Rio Grande Valley in 2013.”

For more information on the workshops or becoming a member of the RGV Hispanic Chamber, individuals may call 956/928-0060.

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Texas ties for third highest high school graduation rate in country, Hispanic students place second-best in nation behind Maine

Texas tied for the third highest high school graduation rate in the country for all students and ranks number one in graduation rates for Asian and white students, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Education.

“This state-by-state comparison confirms what Texas educators have been saying for a long time. Our public schools are delivering a high quality education and our students are having great success,” said Texas Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams.

This marks the first time all states have used a uniform method for calculating graduation rates.

The USDE data for the Class of 2011 shows Texas:

• Number 1 with Asian students with a graduation rate of 95 percent;

• Number 1 for white students with a graduation rate of 92 percent;

• Number 1 by tying with Montana with a graduation rate of 81 percent for African-American students;

• Has the third highest graduation rate for all students, tying with Tennessee, New Hampshire, Indiana, Nebraska and North Dakota with a rate of 86 percent. Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin exceed Texas by one to two percentage points;

• Number 2 for Hispanic students with a graduation rate of 82 percent, behind only Maine;

• Number 2 for children with disabilities who graduate at a rate of 77 percent. Only South Dakota had a higher rate;

• In a tie for second place with Missouri for multi-racial students who have a graduation rate of 92 percent, with only Delaware students graduating at a higher rate;

• In a tie for second place with New Jersey with an American-Indian graduate rate of 87 percent. Only Tennessee has a higher rate;

• Number 2 for economically-disadvantaged students who graduate at a rate of 84 percent, behind only South Dakota; and

• Number 26 for limited English proficient students who have a graduation rate of 58 percent. Those who become proficient in English are removed from the limited English proficient category.

“We think, in part, the state’s school accountability system has helped shine a light on this issue over the past 15 years and focused greater attention on raising the graduation rate” Williams said.

“Of course, there is more work to be done to raise the rates even higher. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Thanks to hard work from teachers, administrators, students and parents, more Texas students are earning a high school diploma than ever before,” he said.

The state-by-state comparison is available on the U.S. Department of Education website at http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/state-2010-11-graduation-rate-data.pdf.

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