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On Tuesday, March 18, President Barack Obama awarded 24 Army veterans – including a posthumous national recognition for Pedro Cano of Edinburg – the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. One of Cano’s daughters, Dominga Cano Pérez of Reedley, California, accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf from President Obama during the ceremony held in the East Room of the White House. “This is the single largest group of service members to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Second World War,” Obama said, adding that “their courage almost defies imagination.” Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, whose congressional district features Edinburg, reflected on the importance of the national honor, not only to Cano and his family, but for the country. “Many wrongs have finally been made right in the case of Pedro Cano and twenty three other American heroes who have received the highest honor that a military serviceman or woman can earn, the Medal of Honor,” Hinojosa said. “For decades these men were not recognized for their outstanding feats of courage. They were never honored for the American lives they saved. Sadly, they were never honored for their extraordinary patriotism because of their ethnicity, the color of their skin and their religion.” Cano is the second Edinburg man to receive the nation’s highest military honor. On October 31, 1969, Alfredo “Freddy” Cantú González, a U.S. Marine, was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor for his actions, which led to his death in combat, during the Battle of Hu? in 1968, one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War. Cano died in an automobile accident in Edinburg in 1952. Both men are buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Edinburg. See lead story in this posting.

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Major issues affecting juvenile justice in Texas, including protecting the rights of juries to have more options in the punishment and rehabilitation of 17-year-olds accused of serious felonies, was taken up in Austin on Tuesday, March 25, by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, featured left, is the only Valley lawmaker on the nine-member legislative panel, which is chaired by Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Corpus Christi. The committee heard from expert witnesses, as well as allowed verbal and written testimony Texans, during the public hearing the State Capitol. The session focused on studying the classification of 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system of Texas. “Serious concerns nationwide and in Texas have been raised regarding whether placing 17-year-olds, who are still not adults, under the control of the adult criminal justice system, where they are more likely to become hardened criminals, and where they are more vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults than in juvenile justice facilities,” said Canales. Featured during grand opening ceremonies earlier this year at his legislative office in Edinburg are, from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; and Irma Garza, Director of Public Information, City of Edinburg.

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Edinburg’s unemployment rate for January 2014 was 6.6 percent, an improvement over the December 2013 figure of 6.8 percent and the best showing for the month of January since 2009, when the unemployment rate for that month was 6.2 percent, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. For the month of January 2014, only McAllen has a better figure at 6.3 percent, while the other major communities in the Valley ranged from 7.3 percent (Harlingen) to 10.5 percent (Brownsville) for that month. In addition, Edinburg’s labor force was the third largest in the Valley, with 33,363 persons employed in the city for January 2014. The area’s two most populous cities, Brownsville and McAllen posted larger numbers at 62,488 and 58,310 individuals, respectively, employed in January 2014. The latest figures were released on Friday, March 7, by the Texas Workforce Commission. Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the EEDC Board of Directors, said the number of jobs in Edinburg is expected to grow, not only because the city’s population continues increasing, but as a result of Edinburg being a major center of education, government, health care, and retail. “Soon, hundreds of jobs will be added when Walmart opens its third store, located near the intersection of U.S. Expressway 281 (recently renamed I69-Central) and Canton Road just south of The Shoppes at Rio Grande, and that will help lower our unemployment rate,” the mayor noted. “Right across the street from The Shoppes at Rio Grande, HEB has announced its own plans to build a major new store, which will provide even more jobs for our community and region.” The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. EEDC staff, featured from left, are: Laura Lee Vela, Administrative Assistant; Leticia Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director; Nelda T. Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director; Dalila Razo, Business Manager; and Freddie Gómez, Research Analyst.

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The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education honored more than 40 educators at its ninth annual Teacher of the Year Awards on Wednesday, November 20 at the UTPA Community Engagement and Student Success Building. UTPA and College of Education administrators praised the elementary and secondary school teachers of the year for their dedication to educating students and presented plaques and other gifts to them. The College of Education also awarded its Teacher Legend Award to Gloria Judy Saca-Díaz, who taught for 19 years at two elementary schools in the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District. Seated, from left: former Teacher Legend Award recipient Wayne Miller; current Teacher Legend Award recipient Gloria Judy Saca-Díaz; and former Teacher Legend Award recipients Sylvia Alvarado and Criselda J. Guerra. Standing, from left: Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The University of Texas-Pan American; Dr. Velma Menchaca, Department Chair and Professor of Educational Leadership, The University of Texas-Pan American; Dr. Joy Esquierdo, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Texas-Pan American, who nominated Gloria Judy Saca-Díaz; Dr. Salvador Héctor Ochoa, Dean, College of Education, The University of Texas-Pan American; Dr. Verónica Estrada, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Texas-Pan American; and Rachel Arcaute, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Services, McAllen Independent School District.

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Area residents who enjoy poker are invited to purchase tickets for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce’s first annual “Chamber Royale” Texas Hold’Em and Fold’Em Poker Tournament, scheduled for Friday, April 25, at the historical Southern Pacific Depot. The entry fee per person is $100 with a $25 re-buy option. The proceeds will go to help the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, which is located in the Southern Pacific Depot, 602 West University Drive, provide many of its vital services to its membership and the community. The top 10 players will receive prizes, ranging from a trip to Las Vegas to a flat-screen television to a weekend at South Padre Island. No cash prizes are allowed by state law. Participants do not have to be members of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Each ticket includes a seat at the table, open bar, appetizers, and the opportunity to win the table prizes. For individuals who only want to watch the high-skills competition, a spectator pass is available for $25, which also includes a meal and beverage. For tickets or more information, please contact the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 or log on to http://www.edinburg.com. The tournament fundraiser will begin at 6 p.m. and last past midnight. Registration may take place the night of the event, but participants may pre-register at any day before the fundraiser. Featured are Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors members and other leaders, including, first row, from left: Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr. (Texas Regional Bank); Dina Araguz (IBC Bank); Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza(Edwards Abstract and Title Co.); Maggie Kent; and Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Terry Palacios (García, Quintanilla and Palacios). Back row, from left: J.J. Flores (Chorizo De San Manuel); Robert McGurk, Chairman of the Board, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce (Elsa State Bank & Trust Co. of Edinburg); Greg Martin (Martin Farm & Ranch Supply); Jacob De León (Memorial Funeral Home); and Hiren Govind (Best Western-Edinburg Inn & Suites).

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The “Cinco de Mayo Fiesta”, sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Univision Radio, will take place on Sunday, May 4, at the the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes. The event will be bustling with major music entertainment, games, wrestling, food and crafts vendors, a dog costume contest, Bingo, Chihuahua races, jalapeño-eating, a Kiddie Playground, and other entertainment. Gates will be open from noon till 10 p.m. Sponsorships and food and crafts/informative vendors are being sought. More information on the event, including sponsorships, is available by contacting the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 928-0060 or Univision Radio at 631-5499. Featured helping finalize the fiesta details are, front row, from left: César Chapa, Event Director, Univision; Vicky Guerrero, General Manager, Univision; Edna García, RGVHCC; Brenda Lee Huerta, Public Affairs Director, RGVHCC/Univision; and Sarah Sánchez, Editorial Page Editor, The Monitor, and RGVHCC. Back row, from left: Mario Lizcano, RGVHCC; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; and Travis French, RGVHCC.

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Realizing the importance of taking care of our senior community, The City of Pharr will co-sponsor the annual South Texas Senior Summit on Thursday, April 3, at the Pharr Event Center located at 3000 U.S. Expressway 281 in Pharr. The Summit will feature free screenings and information booths that are important to the older South Texans. Glucose, blood pressure, bone density, foot and vein are among the medical screenings that will be available. Various organizations will provide information on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, adult aging, a county services. A “pamper corner” offering free massages and nail polish changes will also be offered to the seniors. In addition, attendees will also get to participate in a light Zumba, Bingo, door prizes and a dance. Lunch and snacks will also be served. “We encourage senior centers, nursing homes, individuals and senior organizations to attend and make a day of this fun, healthy and informative event,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Among the major sponsors for the Senior Summit are Lee’s Pharmacy, Superior HealthPlan and Cigna HealthSpring. Vendors will also be available with services and products to offer the senior community. More information on the Senior Summit, including registration, is available by calling the RGV Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060. Featured meeting to review plans for the event are, front row, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Pharr Mayor Polo Palacios; and Maribel Cárdenas, Senior Summit committee member representing sponsor Cigna Health Spring. Back row, from left: Pharr Commissioner Bobby Calvillo; Mario Lizcano, Vice Chair of Health, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Pharr Commissioner Arturo Cortéz; Pharr Commissioner Erinuondo Maldonado; Phsrr Commissioner Jimmy Garza; and Pharr Mayor Pro Tem Adan Farías.

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Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. (featured center), a nationally renowned leader in higher education and pediatric transplant surgery, announced on Monday, February 10, that he will step down as head of The University of Texas System after a five-year tenure marked by groundbreaking accomplishments. Cigarroa will serve as chancellor until his successor is named, and afterward will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cigarroa will also serve as a special liaison to the Board of Regents to advise on the development of the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and medical school. Cigarroa was also instrumental in the effort to establish a new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The Texas Legislature approved the initiative in 2013, and the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley is scheduled to enroll its first class in the fall of 2015. His leadership was also pivotal in creating the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin – fulfilling a long-held dream of integrating a medical school with UT’s flagship academic university in Austin. Featured during a February visit to UT-Pan American are, from left: Ramiro Garza, Jr., Edinburg City Manager; Leticia Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor of the University of Texas System; Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, Member, The University of Texas System Board of Regents; and Freddie Gómez, Research Analyst, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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The North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI) at South Texas College (STC) on Thursday, March 6, at the STC Technology Campus in McAllen celebrated the announcement of their $500,000 grant from the Wagner-Peyser program administered through the Office of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Local leaders, manufacturing partners and representatives from Houston Community College were present in support of this important grant that will provide training to 675 individuals in areas including robotics, mechatronics, programmable logic controllers and other advanced topics. “Our success rests on our partnerships with manufacturers,” STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed said. “When you are successful, we are successful.” Mike Pérez, who retires as McAllen city manager on March 31, also addressed the crowd in support of this opportunity. “This grant is a cornerstone for developing a stronger labor structure in our region,” he said. Featured, from left: Ernesto Ávila, Training Specialist, South Texas College; Dr. Mataz Alcoutlabi, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, the University of Texas-Pan American; Agustín?“Gus” García, Executive Director, Edinburg Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Dr. Abdel Salan Hamdy Makhlouf, Professor, Department of Manufacturing Engineering, the University of Texas-Pan American; Mike Pérez, City Manager, City of McAllen;?Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President, South Texas College;?Ralph García, Vice President Business Recruitment, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; and?Carlos Margo, Interim Executive Director, STC NAAMREI.

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Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, featured fourth from left, in conjunction with LeFleur Transportation, on Wednesday, March 19, gathered outside the Veterans War Memorial of Texas in McAllen to hand over the keys of a donated van to local veterans and members of the Veterans War Memorial Foundation of Texas. Guerra was able to facilitate this donation through the assistance and continued partnership with Colonel Frank S. Plummer, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), President of the Veterans War Memorial Foundation of Texas, and Dr. Ricardo Chapa, a Marine Corps veteran and board member of the memorial foundation. “Giving back to our local veterans is the least I could do. The Veterans War Memorial Foundation helps remind us all of the ultimate sacrifice our service men and women have made in protecting our freedom,” said Guerra, who represents House District 41 in Hidalgo County. “I commend Col. Plummer and Dr. Chapa for all the good that they do for our veterans in the community. I would like to thank LeFleur Transportation for being instrumental in making this donation possible. It has been an honor working with members of the foundation, and I am very pleased to have fostered such great partnerships with our local veterans,” Guerra said. The state representative is flanked in this image by Chapa, who is featured third from left, and Plummer, who is featured fifth from left. The Veterans War Memorial Foundation depends on donations to help achieve its goal in completing the construction of their historical landmark, the state representative noted. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg City Council on Wednesday, March 5, approved a city resolution calling on South Texas College to establish a site in the Delta Area as part of an ongoing legislative effort to expand higher education opportunities throughout Hidalgo County. The Delta Area features San Carlos, Elsa, Edcouch, La Villa and Monte Alto, communities that are connected by East State Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. The political support came after a presentation before the mayor and city council members by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who has been working with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, to convince STC to establish a physical presence in that region. “South Texas College, which receives significant funding from all property taxpayers in Hidalgo and Starr counties, has an obligation to bring higher education opportunities and invest more of its resources in communities, such as in the Delta Area, which would most benefit from seeing a STC site in its own backyard,” said Canales, the Edinburg lawmaker whose House District 40 includes San Carlos and Elsa. Leaders supporting the expansion of STC into the Delta Area are not requesting any STC tax increase to achieve that goal. Featured from left: Ramiro Garza, Jr., Edinburg City Manager; David Torres, Member, Edinburg School Board; Councilmember Homer Jasso; Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Councilmember Richard Molina; Mayor Richard García; Juan “Sonny” Palacios, President, Edinburg School Board; Carmen González, Member, Edinburg School Board; Councilmember J.R. Betancourt; Dr. Martín Castillo, Vice President, Edinburg School Board; Jaime Solis, Secretary, Edinburg School Board; Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent, Edinburg School District; and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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President Obama posthumously bestows Medal of Honor to World War II hero Pedro Cano of Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

On Tuesday, March 18, President Barack Obama awarded 24 Army veterans – including a posthumous national recognition for Pedro Cano of Edinburg – the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.

Cano is the second Edinburg man to receive the nation’s highest military honor.

On October 31, 1969, Alfredo “Freddy” Cantú González, a U.S. Marine, was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor for his actions, which led to his death in combat, during the Battle of Hu? in 1968, one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War.

Cano died in an automobile accident in Edinburg in 1952.

Both men are buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Edinburg.

One of Cano’s daughters, Dominga Cano Pérez of Reedley, California, accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf from President Obama during the ceremony held in the East Room of the White House.

“This is the single largest group of service members to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Second World War,” Obama said, adding that “their courage almost defies imagination.”

Cano, who was a private, was recognized by the nation for his courageous actions while serving with Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Schevenhutte, Germany on December 3, 1944.

PREJUDICE PLAYED ROLE IN DELAYING HONORS

According to the White House:

Cano and the other veterans received the Medal of Honor in recognition of their valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Each of these soldiers’ bravery was previously recognized by award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award; that award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor in recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

In 2002, Congress, through the Defense Authorization Act, called for a review of Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran war records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.

During the review, records of several soldiers of neither Jewish nor Hispanic descent were also found to display criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor.

The 2002 Act was amended to allow these soldiers to be honored with the upgrade – in addition to the Jewish and Hispanic American soldiers.

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, whose congressional district features Edinburg, reflected on the importance of the national honor, not only to Cano and his family, but for the country.

“Many wrongs have finally been made right in the case of Pedro Cano and twenty three other American heroes who have received the highest honor that a military serviceman or woman can earn, the Medal of Honor,” Hinojosa said. “For decades these men were not recognized for their outstanding feats of courage. They were never honored for the American lives they saved. Sadly, they were never honored for their extraordinary patriotism because of their ethnicity, the color of their skin and their religion.”

• CANO WAS MEXICAN IMMIGRANT TO U.S.

Hinojosa noted that Cano was an immigrant to the U.S whose birthplace was La Morita, Nuevo León, Mexico and was brought to Edinburg as an infant.

“He fought for this country as a citizen of Mexico but made it known that he wanted to become a U.S. citizen,” Hinojosa said. “It wasn’t until after Word War II that Pedro Cano was able to finally become a citizen of the country he fought for so valiantly. Today, President Obama awarded this long overdue Medal of Honor to his family. God bless Private Cano and the other men and all of their families for their sacrifices.”

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:

• Engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
• Engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
• Serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

In 2009, Cano was also posthumously honored by his adopted home state with the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, which is the highest military decoration that may be awarded to a member of the Texas military, including the Texas Air National Guard, the Texas Army National Guard, and Texas State Guard.

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor may only be awarded to federal military personnel, or state military personnel who serve in the Armed Forces of the State of Texas.

Freddy González also was a previous recipient of the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. Gov. Rick Perry came to Edinburg to participate in that event honoring the U.S. Marine.

That state legislative measure for Cano – House Concurrent Resolution, 5 – was authored by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. Gov. Perry, who signed the measure, would later come to Edinburg for a major ceremony to deliver the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Cano’s family.

• CANO LEGACY OF COURAGE

HCR 5 provided key background on Cano’s life and remarkable acts of heroism, including the following highlights:

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor was established to honor gallant and intrepid service by a member of the state or federal military forces, and through his courageous actions in World War II, United States Army Private Pedro Cano distinguished himself as a worthy recipient of this prestigious award; and

Cano was born to Nicholasa González Cano and Secundino Cano on July 7, 1920, in Nuevo León, Mexico. His family moved to Texas when he was an infant and spent the rest of his life, except for his time in the U.S. Army, in the Rio Grande Valley.

After joining the armed forces during World War II, Cano was deployed to Europe, where he fought with the 4th Infantry Division. In December 1944, he was advancing with his company near Schevenhutte, Germany, when they came under withering fire from German machine guns.

With his comrades pinned down, Cano worked his way forward alone, through a hail of fire and over more than 100 yards of heavily mined terrain, until he was within 30 feet of the nearest German emplacement. Firing one round with his hand-held rocket launcher, he destroyed the position and killed its two gunners and five supporting riflemen. He then moved on toward a second emplacement, which he attacked with his rifle and hand grenades, killing several more soldiers; and

With another American company nearby similarly immobilized, Cano crept to within 15 yards of a third emplacement, killed its two gunners with a rocket, and then destroyed yet another emplacement and killed its gunners, enabling that company to also advance.

• DISABLED AMERICAN HERO

The next day, the Americans once more encountered heavy German resistance, and Cano again moved forward alone with his bazooka. Crossing open, fire-swept ground, he succeeded in suppressing three more machine-gun positions and killing their gunners, bringing to nearly 30 the number of German soldiers he killed during that two-day period.

Sometime later, while on patrol, Cano and his platoon were surprised by German soldiers, who inflicted heavy casualties. Cano lay motionless on the ground until the assailants closed in, then tossed a grenade into their midst, wounding or killing all of them.

It was in this engagement, or shortly afterward, that Cano sustained injuries that left him permanently disabled.

In addition to a Purple Heart, he was awarded two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. Of the more than 16,100,000 individuals who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, only 5,059 were recognized with the DSC.

Cano’s most illustrious medal at the time, the Distinguished Service Cross, arrived at his home near Edinburg in the mail, prompting area citizens to plan a formal ceremony, complete with numerous other festivities.

On April 26, 1946, Pedro Cano Day, some 4,000 local residents turned out to witness General Jonathan M. Wainwright present the medal to the former private. Also present on the dais were other high-ranking American and Mexican military officers, as well as civil officials and several other Rio Grande Valley military heroes. In his remarks, General Wainwright declared that he believed Pedro Cano actually deserved the highest recognition of all, the Medal of Honor.

In May 1946, Cano realized a longtime aspiration when he received his American citizenship.

Six years later, on June 24, 1952, he was killed in a traffic accident. He was survived by his wife, Herminia Garza Cano, his daughters, Dominga and María, and his son, Susano.

Pedro Cano was buried with military honors in Edinburg, where today a street and an elementary school both bear his name.

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Sen. Hinojosa praises Texas court ruling that would remove ban on same-sex marriage; Attorney General Abbott, Sen. Davis split on decision as they face off for Texas governor

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has praised a Wednesday, February 26 federal appeals court ruling in Austin that removes the ban on same-sex marriages in Texas, while Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, and Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, split on the decision handed down by the judge who was appointed by President Clinton, a Democrat.

Abbott, who opposes same sex marriage, and Davis, who supports same-sex marriage, will be facing off in the November general election for the office of Texas governor.

The ruling by Judge Orlando García, a former Democratic state representative from San Antonio (1983-1991), came after two gay couples challenged state law that prohibits gay and lesbian marriages in Texas.

García said his order would not go into effect until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the nationwide issue sometime in 2015, when rulings from Texas and other states are expected to be taken up by the nation’s highest court.

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” García stated in his ruling. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”

García was nominated for federal judge by President Bill Clinton on November 19, 1993, was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 10, 1994, and received his commission on March 11, 1994.

The United States District Court For the Western District Of Texas is a Federal district court. The court convenes in San Antonio with divisions in Austin, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, and Waco.

“Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” García wrote in the order. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.”

Hinojosa, who in 2013 filed legislation that legalize civil unions in Texas, said he “wholeheartedly agreed” with the decision by the federal judge.

“There are over 46,000 same-sex couples living in Texas. They live in our communities, work in our communities, attend church in our communities, and volunteer for our military where they fight for our freedom and liberty,” said Hinojosa. “They are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and colleagues and friends. Same-sex couples should be allowed the freedom to form committed relationships and love one another, be treated with dignity and respect, and be given the same equal protections.”

A civil union is a legally recognized union of a same-sex couple, with rights similar to those of marriage.

Abbott said the federal appeals court decision by García is “an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit.”

Abbott contended that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that states have the authority to define and regulate marriage.

“This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides,” Abbott said.

“I believe that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry,” Davis said in a statement.

Hinojosa, who has championed minority rights during his legislative career, said the ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory.

“In 2005, I led the fight against the resolution in the Texas Senate that would ultimately amend the Texas Constitution to recognize only ‘traditional’ one-man and one-woman marriages, effectively banning same-sex marriage,” Hinojosa said. “I argued then for the equal rights of all citizens. The resolution that passed did not empower anybody, but only robbed the rights of certain people.”

During the regular session in 2013, Hinojosa authored Senate Bill 480 to repeal parts of the Texas Defense of Marriage Act to legalize civil unions.

“Although the bill did not pass, I remain committed to the cause of marriage-equality. As a society we should not tolerate acts of discrimination, hate, or violence,” he said.

According to Hinojosa, public opinion has evolved in Texas, as in the rest of the country. A majority of voters now support the legal recognition of same-gender couples. 69% of Texans believe there should be some form of legal recognition of same-gender relationships (civil unions and/or marriage).

A poll conducted by the Respect for Marriage Coalition, 83% of Americans believe full marriage equality will occur within the next ten years. In 2013, Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as one man and one woman was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Hinojosa represents the counties of Nueces, Jim Wells, Brooks, and Hidalgo (part). He serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources, Criminal Justice, Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security as well as the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Sunset Advisory Commission.

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Regional support for STC site in Delta Area increases with Edinburg City Council resolution secured by Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The Edinburg City Council on Wednesday, March 5, approved a city resolution calling on South Texas College to establish a site in the Delta Area as part of an ongoing legislative effort to expand higher education opportunities throughout Hidalgo County.

Leaders supporting the expansion of STC into the Delta Area are not requesting any STC tax increase to achieve that goal.

The political support came after a presentation before the mayor and city council members by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who has been working with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, to convince STC to establish a physical presence in that region.

Longoria’s House District 35 includes Edcouch, La Villa, and Monte Alto.

Hinojosa’s Congressional District 15, which covers Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak, and Wilson counties. includes Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, and Monte Alto.

Both Longoria and Hinojosa have ties to the STC Board of Trustees – Hinojosa was a founding member of the STC Board of Trustees, and Longoria served on the STC Board of Trustees before being elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2012.

“South Texas College, which receives significant funding from all property taxpayers in Hidalgo and Starr counties, has an obligation to bring higher education opportunities and invest more of its resources in communities, such as in the Delta Area, which would most benefit from seeing a STC facility in its own backyard,” said Canales, the Edinburg lawmaker whose House District 40 includes San Carlos and Elsa.

The Delta Area features San Carlos, Elsa, Edcouch, La Villa and Monte Alto, communities that are connected by East State Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco.

Canales echoed sentiments expressed by Edinburg City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, who noted that Delta Area residents are closer to a prison used by the federal government – the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa – than a university or college.

“For many Delta Area residents, it would cost too much for transportation to the main STC campuses in McAllen, and the STC campus in Weslaco is land-locked and won’t be able to grow much more in the future,” the state lawmaker reflected. “But in the Delta Area, we have a talented and growing population which would be successful in a STC site in their home region. All we want is our fair share of the STC resources and opportunities.”

STC covers Hidalgo and Starr counties, with its major campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City. STC is scheduled to build a $4 million site in Pharr to provide education and expert training for the Valley’s police forces.

Mayor Richard García, who has built a statewide reputation for helping unite South Texas on major legislative efforts, such as the establishment of a University of Texas medical school campus in Edinburg, endorsed the lawmakers’ efforts, and the city resolution was unanimously approved.

Canales said he has spoken with members of the Edinburg School Board, reporting they, too, will soon consider a similar resolution to endorse the expansion of STC into the Delta Area.

Canales’ efforts follow action by fellow lawmaker Longoria, who on Tuesday, February 25, secured support by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, which also endorsed the need for an STC site and eventual campus in the Delta Area.

That county proclamation was authored by County Commissioner Precinct 4 Joseph Palacios of Edinburg and County Commissioner Precinct 1 A.C. Cuellar, Jr. of Weslaco.

The campaign to hopefully lead to an STC campus in the Delta Area comes as Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco are about to reap the benefits of a $159 million bond election that was narrowly approved in early November by voters in Hidalgo and Starr counties. STC, which was created in the early 1990s, serves Hidalgo and Starr County.

Canales said the group’s collective hope is that STC could consider using the former Mercado Delta facility, located in Edcouch but now abandoned, for its inaugural academic building. The Mercado Delta, a $3.5 million complex built with federal funding, was originally designed to bring upscale businesses and economic development to the Delta Area. But those high hopes eventually failed to materialize.

The Hidalgo County proclamation took note of the entities and facilities that may be available to bring STC to the Delta Area.

Edcouch-Elsa ISD, along with the Delta Region Revitalization Corporation Board of Directors, are proposing to offer land and buildings in and around the Mercado Delta to South Texas College for the establishment of a site that will offer courses for credit, certificates and training.

The Hidalgo County proclamation also stated “Edcouch-Elsa ISD is committed to collaborate with the cities and school districts of Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto ISD and La Villa ISD, as well as community organizations in the Delta Area, to provide educational, training, and professional development opportunities to students and adults.”

STC would represent a steady, proven source of economic development for the area, Canales noted.

“The Mercado Delta is an example of available facilities and other resources, including land, in the Delta Area for South Texas College,” Canales said. “By working together as a region, we will make the case for STC to invest in these vital communities in Hidalgo County.

South Texas College features the Pecan Campus in McAllen, Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco and Starr County Campus in Rio Grande City, which offer traditional college programs. The Nursing Allied Health Campus and the Technology Campus in McAllen provide specialized training for students entering the workforce. In addition, STC has Workforce Training Centers at the Technology Campus and the Mid-Valley and Starr County campuses.

According to STC, the November 5, 2013 bond election, which featured two propositions, will have the following impact:

Proposition 1 authorized the issuance of $159 million in bonds for construction and equipping of college buildings. It passed with a vote of 11,642 to 9,503.

The $159,028,940 million in bonds will be used to pay for the construction and equipping of 564,548 sq. ft. of new classrooms, science and health care teaching labs, and technical training facilities at all STC locations. Renovation of some existing space, parking lots, roadways and infrastructure are included.

The new funding from the bond election will be used for existing campuses, but also includes $4 million for a public safety facility in Pharr.

Proposition 2 authorized an additional 3 cents maximum increase in the tax rate for the maintenance and operation of STC to accommodate increased student enrollment and expanded facilities. It passed with a vote of 11,167 to 10,118.

The November 5, 2013 vote was the first for the college since September 2001, when voters approved $98.5 million to support continued growth and services through enlarged and improved facilities. Since then the college’s enrollment numbers have increased by more than 18,000 students to over 31,000 students in Fall 2013.

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, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Edinburg unemployment rate for January drops to 6.6 percent, with local workforce totaling 33,363

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s unemployment rate for January 2014 was 6.6 percent, an improvement over the December 2013 figure of 6.8 percent and the best showing for the month of January since 2009, when the unemployment rate for that month was 6.2 percent, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

The unemployment rate is a key indicator of the strength of the local economy.

For the month of January 2014, only McAllen has a better figure at 6.3 percent, while the other major communities in the Valley ranged from 7.3 percent (Harlingen) to 10.5 percent (Brownsville) for that month.

In addition, Edinburg’s labor force was the third largest in the Valley, with 33,363 persons employed in the city in January 2014. The area’s two most populous cities, Brownsville and McAllen posted larger numbers at 62,488 and 58,310 individuals, respectively, employed in January 2014.

All cities in Hidalgo County averaged a 10.5 percent unemployment rate in January 2014, while all cities in Cameron County averaged a 9.7 percent unemployment rate in January 2014.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in January, the lowest since November 2008. It was down from 6.0 percent in December 2013, and remained below the nation’s January unemployment rate of 6.6 percent.

The latest figures were released on Friday, March 7, by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the EEDC Board of Directors, said the number of jobs in Edinburg is expected to grow, not only because the city’s population continues increasing, but as a result of Edinburg being a major center of education, government, health care, and retail.

“Soon, hundreds of jobs will be added when Walmart opens its third store, located near the intersection of U.S. Expressway 281 (recently renamed I69-Central) and Canton Road just south of The Shoppes at Rio Grande, and that will help lower our unemployment rate,” the mayor noted. “Right across the street from The Shoppes at Rio Grande, HEB has announced its own plans to build a major new store, which will provide even more jobs for our community and region.”

Recent Census estimates show that the population in Edinburg has grown by more than four thousand people, representing the largest percentage increase among other major cities in the Rio Grande Valley, the mayor added.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening in Edinburg. It’s not uncommon for people to gravitate to where the action is,” García noted. “A few months down the road, when Walmart and HEB open their newest stores, and a year or so after that, when construction begins on new facilities for UT-RGV and the medical school, hundreds more jobs will be created from those projects alone, and they are only part of the growth we will be experiencing.”

Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., the executive director for the EEDC, said the city’s gains are influenced by the economic and legislative policies put into place by the mayor, city council, EEDC board of directors and staff, and other major elected and appointed leaders in Edinburg.

Mayor Richard García and Agustín “Gus” García are not related.

“The creation of a UT medical school campus in Edinburg, the upcoming growth of UT-Pan American, the planned construction of a new county courthouse, a booming medical and health care sector that features nine hospitals, and other job-creation projects currently in the planning stages significantly help our city’s economy and qualify-of-life,” said Gus García.

“Much of our labor force is young and smart, as evidenced by the fact that our local school district has been recognized by the Texas Education Agency as one of the best in the state, and the Edinburg school board was recognized last fall as the best school board in Texas,” the EEDC executive director continued. “Being the center of county government and higher education, along with highly-qualified city and school district professionals and staff, also means we have a very large number of well-educated and experienced employers and employees in our community.”

UT-Pan American, soon to be renamed UT-Rio Grande Valley, is one of the Valley’s crown jewels, the EEDC executive director emphasized.

“The university, and the soon-to-be built UT medical school – both which will have campuses throughout the Valley – are responsible for thousands of jobs, and thousands more to come. These two higher education institutions will continue to bring South Texas an incredible source of talent, energy, world-class education, and economic prosperity,” said Gus García. “The amazing future that awaits UT-Rio Grande Valley and the regional UT medical school in the next few years will benefit all of us, not only in the Valley, but throughout Texas and our nation.”

The national, statewide, and Valleywide figures were compiled by the Texas Workforce Commission, a state agency that defines the unemployment rate as 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, and to be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working but willing and able to work and actively seeking work, the Texas Workforce Commission noted.

Texas city data is not available prior to 2005 because of substantial methodology changes between 2004 and 2005 in estimating city unemployment statistics,

Throughout 2013, Edinburg’s unemployment rates per month ranged from December’s low of 6.8 percent to a high of 8.1 percent in June – the only month that the jobless numbers for the city went above eight percent.

But also in 2013, the city never experienced monthly unemployment rates in double-digits, such as Brownsville and Weslaco, which reported figures higher than 10 percent every month of the year.

Edinburg’s labor market has always remained strong in deep South Texas, with only one month since 2005 – June 2011 – being the only month when the unemployment rate was in double-figures at 10 percent.

More detailed information about the labor market and unemployment rates in Edinburg and neighboring major communities include:

PERSONS EMPLOYED, JANUARY 2014

Brownsville: 62,488;
McAllen: 58,310;
Edinburg: 33,363;
Mission: 29,833;
Pharr: 25,788;
Harlingen: 24,876; and
Weslaco: 13,430

EDINBURG ANNUAL UNEMPLOYMENT RATES

January 2014: 6.6 percent;
January 2013: 7.7 percent;
January 2012: 8.2 percent;
January 2011: 9.2 percent;
January 2010: 7.6 percent;
January 2009: 6.2 percent;
January 2008: 4.8 percent;
January 2007: 4.9 percent;
January 2006: 4.8 percent; and
January 2005: 5.3 percent;

PERSONS EMPLOYED BY YEAR

2013: 32,112;
2012: 32,012;
2011: 31,696;
2010: 31,128;
2009: 29,848;
2008: 29,458;
2007: 28,057;
2006: 26,791; and
2005: 25,497.

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 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, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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UT System seeks proposals for UT-Rio Grande Valley administrative headquarters

By JENNY LaCOSTE-CAPUTO

The University of Texas System on Friday, March 14, posted a request for proposals (RFP) to seek offers for the most suitable site for the administrative headquarters for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The deadline to submit proposals is 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 15.

The RFP may be downloaded from the UT System by logging on to: http://www.utsystem.edu/reo/RFPs/UTRGV/1725023_5%20UTRGV%20HQ%20RFP.PDF

The administrative headquarters for UTRGV will need to accommodate about 100 employees, including staff, professional level and executive level personnel. Considerations will include a proposed site’s access to amenities and major highways – ideally in or near an established commercial district – and access to UTRGV’s campuses.

The RFP is the first step in selecting a site for the future UT-RGV headquarters.

UT System staff, assisted by a master planner for the new university, will review and evaluate all proposals and select a site or sites for further evaluation and negotiation. The UT System Board of Regents will make the final decision on selecting the location.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature unanimously passed a bill to create UT-Rio Grande Valley, a historic move that will combine the resources and assets of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American and, for the first time, make it possible for residents of the Rio Grande Valley to benefit from the Permanent University Fund.

The institution, which will provide an outstanding education to the students of South Texas, Texas, the United States and the world, will also be home to a school of medicine and will transform Texas and the nation by becoming a leader in student success, teaching, research and healthcare.

“This is yet another step on the incredible journey to establish UT-RGV as a beacon of opportunity and excellence,” said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. “We have come a long way, but there is much work ahead and we are ready for the task. We look forward to seeing the proposals and selecting what will best serve the students, faculty and staff at UTRGV.

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UT System Chancellor Cigarroa announces he is stepping down to return to medicine full time

By JENNY LaCOSTE-CAPUTO

Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., a nationally renowned leader in higher education and pediatric transplant surgery, announced on Monday, February 10, that he will step down as head of The University of Texas System after a five-year tenure marked by groundbreaking accomplishments.

Cigarroa will serve as chancellor until his successor is named, and afterward will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Cigarroa will also serve as a special liaison to the Board of Regents to advise on the development of the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and medical school, Chairman Paul Foster said.

Before being named the first Hispanic chancellor of the UT System in late 2008, Cigarroa served as president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio from 2000 to 2008.

Cigarroa said at a news conference on February 10 that it always had been his plan to return to medicine full time, but he did not know the perfect opportunity at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio would unexpectedly present itself in late 2013.

When Cigarroa decided to step down as president of UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2008, he intended to resume performing surgeries full time. About the same time, former chancellor Mark Yudof left the System to become president of the University of California System, and the UT System Board of Regents launched a search for a new chancellor.

“When initially approached by regents to consider the chancellorship more than five years ago, I was inclined to say no, but I considered the similarities between health and education,” Cigarroa said. “Like surgery, education saves lives on many levels, and I thought I could bring value to the UT System with that perspective in mind.”

But Cigarroa made it clear to the Board of Regents from the beginning that he would return to medicine at some point and made sure that he would be allowed to take surgical call at least once a month at University Hospital in San Antonio.

“I’m completing a circle. It has been such a wonderful privilege to work with countless and exceptional professionals throughout the UT System. Together we have been able to impact many lives through the creation of new and transformational initiatives,” he said. “Now it’s time to return to saving one life at a time.

“Professionally, my plan was to eventually go back to being a full-time transplant surgeon, and I knew there would be a natural time to do so. That time is now,” he added. “The longer I wait to go back full time, the harder it will be to retool.”

Cigarroa said he’s proud of what he’s accomplished over the last five years with the full partnership of the Board of Regents, the System’s 15 presidents, his executive officers at the UT System and UT students, staff and faculty.

During his tenure, Cigarroa has championed student access and success.

In 2011, the Board of Regents unanimously adopted Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence, a strategic action plan to advance the UT System’s 15 academic and health institutions.

Two years later, 95 percent of the Framework has been fully implemented and the plan has received national acclaim.

Cigarroa was also instrumental in the effort to establish a new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The Texas Legislature approved the initiative in 2013, and the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley is scheduled to enroll its first class in the fall of 2015.

His leadership was also pivotal in creating the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin – fulfilling a long-held dream of integrating a medical school with UT’s flagship academic university.

UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said he was disappointed to receive the news but was pleased to hear Cigarroa is staying within the UT family.

“I do not know any leader who has accomplished so much so quickly or been as effective as Chancellor Cigarroa, navigating a complex university system during a time of significant discussion on higher education nationally,” Foster said.

“I have the highest admiration and respect for Chancellor Cigarroa, and his leadership has had a tremendous and profound impact at all of our institutions,” Foster added. “He is fully committed to the success of our students, staff and faculty. He’s both a visionary and a man of action who gave 100 percent of himself each and every day, tirelessly. I know I speak for all regents when I say we will be forever grateful for his service.”

Because Cigarroa has graciously agreed to stay on until his successor is named, it will give the Board of Regents enough time to find a new, permanent chancellor, Foster said.

“It goes without saying that it will be challenging to find a successor for Chancellor Cigarroa, who has such a high level of understanding of how both academic and health institutions function,” Foster said. “But fortunately, Chancellor Cigarroa will be here to provide us counsel and guidance and will stay engaged as the Regents’ special liaison to see the new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley become a reality. And when he does leave for San Antonio, I’ll know where to find him.”

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Public invited to offer nominations for new chancellor of the University of Texas System

By JENNY LaCOSTE-CAPUTO

A contract with an executive search firm that will assist in identifying the next University of Texas System Chancellor has been signed, Board of Regents Chairman Paul L. Foster announced on Wednesday, March 12.

Wheless Partners, a national executive search firm, has been selected to assist a regents’ search committee to find a successor to Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. Mike “J.R.” Wheless, president of Wheless Partners’ Texas operation, will lead the search.

Cigarroa announced his resignation in January. He will remain in his position until a successor is selected and then plans to return to the UT Health Science Center–San Antonio (UTHSC-SA) to serve as director of pediatric transplant surgery. Before serving as chancellor, Cigarroa served for nine years as president of UTHSC-SA.

The firm will immediately begin its part in a national search seeking the best qualified candidates. It will also advise the committee in developing a timeline and interview schedule. Assisting Foster, who will chair the search committee’s efforts, will be Board Vice Chairmen Gene Powell and Steve Hicks.

Foster indicated he expects a new chancellor will be selected this summer, and that he or she will begin duties by the beginning of the 2014 fall semester.

Cigarroa, who has served as the system’s top executive for the last five years, said the decision to leave was a difficult one, but he has accomplished the goals he set for himself and the System and is eager to return to the business of saving lives, one patient at a time.

Foster said Cigarroa will be a tough act to follow, but the board is committed to finding a stellar candidate. “There is no more important role for this board than the selection of a chancellor, the chief executive of one of the nation’s largest and most complex higher education enterprises,” Foster said.

The search for the new chancellor will be thorough, inclusive and open, and as part of that process, the System has created a web page to receive public comment and nominations, as well as to offer updates about the search committee’s progress and timelines.

The web page is accessible at: http://www.utsystem.edu/board-of-regents/chancellor-search

Foster said the committee will also reach out and seek the direct input of UT’s academic and health institution presidents, faculty, students, staff, alumni and supporters to find the best candidate.

“The Board of Regents is fully committed to finding a new chancellor who is worthy of leading one of the finest and most prominent public universities in America and the world. We will not settle until we have the right person for this extraordinary responsibility,” Foster said.

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Texas Veterans Caucus announces new proof of service process, Vietnam Veterans Monument to be dedicated on March 29 at Texas Capitol

By RICHARD SÁNCHEZ

Honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces or Texas National Guard can now show proof of their veteran status on state ID cards, driver licenses, and concealed handgun licenses, Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, has announced.

According to the Texas Veteran’s Caucus, veterans can utilize these forms of identification to show proof of their service history, as well as take advantage of various discounts at stores and restaurants.

Further information about the process can be obtained from the Department of Public Safety website at http://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/vetServices.htm.

“I am very pleased that Texas is able to offer this service to our veterans,” said Muñoz. “It is important that we allow honorably discharged veterans to display their status as efficiently as possible so that they are able to avail themselves of benefits, services, and discounts that they deserve.”

The Texas Capitol will also be hosting a dedication ceremony of the Vietnam Veterans Monument on “Vietnam Veterans Day”, scheduled for Saturday, March 29, on the Capitol grounds.

For more information about the monument and the dedication event, please visit http://www.BuildTheMonument.org.

“Vietnam Veterans will finally have a permanent memorial on the Texas Capitol grounds that will honor their service and sacrifice,” Muñoz said of the monument. “I am proud to have supported this effort for Vietnam veterans and their families.”

Muñoz has been a member of the Texas Veteran’s Caucus since his first term in 2011.

The Texas Veterans Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral group of State legislators who have served in the armed forces or have an interest in issues affecting veterans and their families.

The Texas Veterans Caucus was formed to serve as an educational platform for communication between the legislators and the community.

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Rep. Bobby Guerra facilitates van donation by LeFleur Transportation that will help raise funds for Veterans War Memorial of Texas

By AISA SHOWERY

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, in conjunction with LeFleur Transportation, on Wednesday, March 19, gathered outside the Veterans War Memorial of Texas in McAllen to hand over the keys of a donated van to local veterans and members of the Veterans War Memorial Foundation of Texas.

Guerra was able to facilitate this donation through the assistance and continued partnership with Colonel Frank S. Plummer, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), President of the Veterans War Memorial Foundation of Texas, and Dr. Ricardo Chapa, a Marine Corps veteran and board member of the memorial foundation.

“Giving back to our local veterans is the least I could do. The Veterans War Memorial Foundation helps remind us all of the ultimate sacrifice our service men and women have made in protecting our freedom,” said Guerra, who represents House District 41 in Hidalgo County.

House District 41 features parts or all of Alton, Doffing, Edinburg, La Homa, McAllen, Mission, Palmhurst, Pharr, and Sharyland.

“I commend Col. Plummer and Dr. Chapa for all the good that they do for our veterans in the community. I would like to thank LeFleur Transportation for being instrumental in making this donation possible. It has been an honor working with members of the foundation, and I am very pleased to have fostered such great partnerships with our local veterans,” Guerra said.

The Veterans War Memorial Foundation depends on donations to help achieve its goal in completing the construction of their historical landmark, the state representative noted.

“I am honored to be a part of the memorial that pays tribute to the memory of all those who have fallen to keep us free,” Guerra reflected.

Joe Cura, State Director for Le Fleur Transportation, said his firm was also proud to be part of the donation.

“LeFleur Transportation is grateful for the opportunity to assist the Veterans War Memorial of Texas,” said Cura. “We thank the veterans of South Texas for their service to our country. It would be a great honor to continue to make contributions to an organization such as this.”

The Foundation plans to auction off the van in order to raise funds to help with the continuation of construction of the Veterans War Memorial, located on 29th Street and Galveston Avenue in McAllen.

The mission of the Veterans War Memorial Foundation of Texas is to provide an educational, cultural, and historical facility to assist future generations, especially children, to learn about the sacrifices of those who died in the service of their country, the value of their legacy, and the important lessons that must be learned from those sacrifices.

Events on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Pearl Harbor Day are held each year with the support of the City of McAllen where veterans, teachers, students, and all community members are encouraged to attend to honor all veterans for their service and remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for this country.

More information about the Veterans War Memorial of Texas is available online at: http://www.mcallen.net/veterans/default.aspx

For donations, individuals may contact Plummer at 956/631-2511 or plummerf@att.net for more information.

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Two Hidalgo County developers charged with violating state colonias laws

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday, March 19, charged two Hidalgo County developers with unlawfully subdividing and leasing residential lots in violation of state colonias prevention laws.

Under Texas law, unincorporated residential subdivisions near the U.S.-Mexico border that lack adequate water and sewage services are commonly referred to as colonias. Most colonias lie outside city limits or in isolated areas of a county and lack even basic infrastructure and utilities.

The state’s enforcement action, which was filed in Travis County, names José Pérez and Rosa Hilda Pérez as defendants. Court documents filed by the state charged the defendants with unlawfully subdividing two residential lots in Hidalgo County and leasing one single-family home and up to 10 mobile home units that lacked proper water and wastewater infrastructure.

The Victoria Acres mobile homes are leased to individuals under oral, month-to-month agreements. The defendants are also charged with failing to obtain plat approval from local officials.

According to investigators, the residences created by the defendants are unfit for human habitation and constitute a public health nuisance. The subdivision tenants’ drinking water is distributed in an unsanitary manner via a network of garden hoses attached to a single outdoor water spigot.

Additionally, the Hidalgo County Health Department identified the release of wastewater from one of the lots into a small ditch – creating a public health hazard.

The Office of the Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order that requires the defendants to cease leasing new spaces, and cease accepting rent for the leased spaces. The state is also seeking a temporary injunction that requires defendants to provide alternative sources for drinking water and wastewater services at the subdivision until the court issues a permanent injunction.

The Office of the Attorney General is also seeking a permanent injunction that prohibits the defendants from subdividing, leasing or selling the tracts of land until the necessary platting and infrastructure requirements are met. Additionally, the state is seeking civil penalties of up to $15,000 for each improperly leased lot.

Before purchasing or leasing residential property outside city limits, border area residents should check with county officials to confirm the property was legally subdivided and that the developer has made necessary arrangements to supply required infrastructure.

Texans can file complaints with the Office of the Attorney General against developers or sellers who fail to provide water and wastewater services or who subdivide land without first obtaining necessary county approval.

Complaints can be filed on the Office of the Attorney General’s website at:

http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or by calling (800) 252-8011.

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