Select Page

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and other state leaders on Saturday, March 29, led a tribute to Texas veterans who served or were killed during the Vietnam War with the unveiling and dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument on the Texas State Capitol Grounds. The ceremony was held on Texas Vietnam Veterans Day, which marks the anniversary of the day the last American combat troops left Vietnam. “As a Vietnam veteran for the U.S. Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices that our military families endure on a daily basis,” Hinojosa said. “The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument honors and thanks our fallen Vietnam heroes and their families for their ultimate sacrifice of defending our freedom, and welcomes those who came home and fought with great courage and resilience.It is our hope that this monument will ensure that the memory of our Texas Vietnam Heroes lives on. Semper Fi.” The monument is a 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture featuring five seven-foot tall infantry figures in patrol positions situated atop an eight-sided base. Designed to represent the diversity of Texas Vietnam Veterans, the figures will be Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian, Native-American, and Caucasian. The Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit is a visual representation of the 3,417 Texans who did not survive to come home from Vietnam. It was designed by Excalibur Exhibits and consists of hand-embossed dog tags featuring the name, rank, branch of service, and date of loss and home of record for each veteran. See lead story in this posting.

••••••

Dr. Guy Bailey, the newly-selected president of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, will find that South Texans are determined to see higher education in the Valley reach a world-class level, say Edinburg city and state leaders. Bailey, 63, has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the president of Texas Tech University and the University of Alabama, and provost of The University of Texas at San Antonio. On Monday, April 28, the UT System Board of Regents, which met in Austin, selected Bailey as the sole finalist for the historic position of founding president for UT-Rio Grande Valley. “I am very impressed with his credentials and accomplishments, but it is the people of the Valley who will impress him,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes UT-Pan American, the UT-Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, and a planned major component of the new UT medical school for the Valley. Featured, from left, during a reception on Friday, May 16, at The University of Texas-Pan American, are: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; former Rep. VerónicaGonzáles, D-McAllen, who now serves as Vice President for University Advancement, The University of Texas-Pan American; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Ernest “Ernie” Aliseda, Member, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System; and Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén A. Villarreal. See story later in this posting.

••••••

The majority of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation celebrates in the House of Representatives chamber soon after the final House passage in 2013 of Senate Bill 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which will bring a full-fledged University of Texas medical school to the Rio Grande Valley. The planned UT medical school, which is set to open in the fall of 2016 with an enrollment of 50 students, will have an economic impact to the four-county region of more than $1 billion a year when it grows into a UT health science center. This image, taken on May 23, 2013, features, front row from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission (seated); Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco. Standing, back row, from left: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas; and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City.  See story later in this posting.

••••••

Details of a proposal to donate up to five acres of prime real estate in southwest Edinburg – valued at more than $2 million – to serve as the site of the planned administrative headquarters for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley have been made public by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. of McAllen.The offer, submitted by prominent attorney José E. García on behalf of MVP Partnership, L.T.D., would benefit the UT System, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by placing the key headquarters, with its prestigious economic, academic, and political resources, in the heart of one of the Valley’s most influential, safest, and attractive regions.The site being offered by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is located by the intersection of Trenton Road and McColl Road in Edinburg, immediately north of the campuses of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and adjoining medical offices and businesses. It is within easy access to all major hospitals in Edinburg, including Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas-Pan American, the planned UT-RGV medical school, and minutes away from some of the most distinguished neighborhoods and bustling business, medical, and entertainment corridors in Edinburg and McAllen. Featured on Friday, May 16, at The University of Texas-Pan American, from left: Dr. Miguel Nevárez, former president of the University of Texas-Pan American; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; and Jose E. García. See story later in this posting.

••••••

Leaders for Texas National Bank in Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (RGVHCC) on Thursday, May 22, hosted a summer mixer to educate area residents of the loan packages and other financial services available through Texas National Bank for current and prospective business owners. The event took place at the bank, located at 4809 South Jackson Road. “Are you looking for loan? Learn of all the different loan possibilities that Texas National Bank offers,” noted Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO of the RGVHCC. “Also learn of the award-winning membership benefits that the RGV Hispanic Chamber offers. Anyone can become a member of the chamber.” Individuals do not have to be Hispanic to be a member, she added. The RGVHCC has many services for its membership, including lobbying state and federal leaders on public education, international affairs, and women and health-related issues. Featured during final preparations for the May 22 event are, seated from left: Gina Ayala; Odilia Chaidez; Mayra Woloski; Linda Vera; and Ester Medrano. Standing, from left: Rubén Plata, Executive Vice President, Texas National Bank; Mario Lozano; Omar Rodríguez; Frank Davila; Pete Morales; James Flores; Millie Smith; Laura Galván; Leo Treviño; Connie González; Mary Elizondo; Ernesto López; Navil González; Joe Quiroga, President, Texas National Bank; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

••••••

The Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) has announce that five employees with Edwards Abstract and Title Company, with its headquarters in Edinburg have successfully completed the requirements and passed a rigorous examination to earn the professional certification designations from TLTA. To become TLTA certified, a candidate must meet certain eligibility requirements in work experience, education and professional involvement, and then successfully pass an examination. Each designation represents a measure of achievement and proficiency in the Texas title insurance industry and distinguishes these highly motivated individuals. Edwards Abstract and Title Company associates who have earned professional certification designations from the Texas Land Title Association are, featured from left: Martha (Marty) García, CESA (Sr. Escrow Officer – Mission); Marilyn De Luna, CAEA, CESA, CTIA (Regional Escrow Automation Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer – McAllen); Byron Jay Lewis, CTIA (Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer – Edinburg); Mariana Ragousis-Ramírez, CESA, CTIA (Escrow Officer – McAllen); and Mary A. Barrientos, CESA (Mission Branch Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer). See story later in this posting.

••••••

The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber Women’s Committee is preparing for the RGV Women of Distinction Awards Dinner to be held on Saturday, June 19, at The Social Club in Edinburg. The evening will celebrate women who have excelled in their fields. It will consist of a dinner, shopping, entertainment and the 2014 awards. Individual tickets may be purchased for $10 while a Table for 10 is available for $500. The committee is asking for nominations from the public in the following categories: Professional, Humanitarian, Education, Government, Entrepreneur, Arts and Entertainment; and Rising Star. Qualified nominees are those women who have helped the community and excelled in their field, and who have encouraged other women to succeed. The RGVHCC Women’s Committee will also be scheduling workshops, in the forms of luncheons or evening gathering, relating to women’s issues. “We welcome women to become involved in the Women’s Committee and get to know other successful women who are willing to help women.  The Women’s Committee also has an event at the end of the year called ‘Ladies Night Out’, which includes pampering, shopping, silent auction and a male style show,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President and Chief Executive Officer. Women’s Committee leaders, featured from left, are:,Sharon Almaguer, attorney; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President/CEO;  Brenda Lee Huerta, Chair-Elect, RGVHCC; Hannah Burleson; Connie Huerta, New York Life; and Eve Mullis, Women’s Assistant Basketball Coach, The University of Texas-Pan American. More information on the Women of Distinction and/or the RGVHCC is available by calling 928-0060.

••••••

Edinburg’s retail economy in March 2014 showed an improvement of almost 11 percent over the same month last year, representing one of the best gains among major Valley economies, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Edinburg also registered a rate of growth better than the state average for March 2014, which showed a 5.6 percent increase over the same month in 2013. Based on the amount of local sales taxes collected, which reflects the strength of an economy, Edinburg’s retail sector generated more than $1.7 million in local sales taxes in March 2014, compared with almost $1.6 million in March 2013. For the first three months of 2014, Edinburg’s retail economy also posted a double-digit upswing over the same period last year, generating $8,028,833.80 in local sales taxes, compared with $7,214,163.81 for January through March 2013 – a rise of 11.29 percent. Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, said the March 2014 and January through March 2014 quarterly figures are consistent with the economic goals and strategies of the Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors, and city and EEDC staff. “The greatest measure of a community’s growth, we believe, is the growth in sales tax,” the mayor observed. “This kind of success and growth does not happen without vision, planning, and a very deliberate plan of action. Our City Council and our city staff are a team of professionals whose focus, priority, and responsibility is this, our beloved city.” The positive retail sales figures are helped by dozens of new and planned businesses in the past year, he added. “When it comes to economic development we have more than 50 new businesses that have opened within the last year or are under construction right now aimed at improving our quality of life: Wal-Mart with 360 new jobs and a new planned HEB along with Taco Palenque, two Starbucks, IHop, Two Popeye’s, University Drafthouse, Thirsty Bronc, Kahn’s Grill, Chic-Fil-A, Wingstop, Subway, Pizza Hut, Siempre Natural, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Easy Cuts, Moon Beans, Drunken Clam, Burrito Bar, Lanadees, La Mexicana, Taquería el Zarape, Pizza Patrón, Walgreens, CVS, McDonalds, Las Cazuelas, Big Lots, Party City, Carters, Burkes Outlet, GNC, Melrose, Chopstix, Gorditas Doña Tota, Dairy Queen, Cordons Taste of Chicago, CTC Distributing, Johnny’s True Value,” García noted. Featured from left: Laura Lee Vela, Administrative Assistant, EEDC; Cynthia Contreras Gutiérrez, General Counsel, EEDC; Nelda T. Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director, EEDC; Leticia Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, EEDC; Mayor Richard García; Fred Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Directors, EEDC; and Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, EEDC. See story later in this posting.

••••••

Edinburg’s unemployment rate for April 2014 was 5.5 percent, the best showing in the city for any month since January 2008, and the second-best figure for all cities that month in the Rio Grande Valley, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. This latest positive news comes as Walmart announced the opening of its third major store in Edinburg. Mayor Richard García, featured left, who also serves as president of the five-member Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, noted that the city’s third Wal-Mart (the most among all Valley communities) is taking advantage of one of Edinburg’s key assets: U.S. Expressway 281/I69-Central. Located just south of the Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the new Walmart has created 300 new jobs for the region. It is near the intersection of U.S. 281/I69-Central and Canton Road, an area that in the past few years has become one of busiest in the city, the mayor said. “The region’s Expressway 281/I69-Central is a huge piece of the success today and even greater of what to expect tomorrow: 13.5 miles of U.S. Highway 281/I69-Central from FM 2812 to the Pharr Interchange,” said García. Edinburg has the largest amount of freeway frontage than any other community in the Rio Grande Valley, “to the tune of 18 miles” compared to the three other largest cities with an estimated two miles of frontage each, he added. “This immense opportunity for growth has been discovered by large investors like Bert Ogden with the new Infinity Dealership, Fiesta Chevrolet, Holt Caterpillar, Walmart, HEB, the Shoppes at Rio Grande, the master planned community of La Sienna and our exciting mega-arena development,” García said. The mega-arena project involves a planned $50 million special events center to be built just off U.S. Expressway 281/I69-Central. For the month of April 2014, only McAllen (5.4 percent) had a better figure than Edinburg (5.5 percent), while the other major communities in the Valley had unemployment rates that ranged from 6.3 percent in Harlingen to 8.6 percent in Brownsville. The Valley’s three other most populous cities also had unemployment rates for April 2014 in single-digits: Mission (6.8 percent), Pharr (6.9 percent), and Weslaco (8.6 percent). From left in this image from May 19 at the University of Texas-Pan American are Edinburg Mayor Richard García, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén O. Villarreal. See story later in this posting.

••••••

Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, created by legislation filed by Sen. Hinojosa, is dedicated to honor fallen heroes from that war

By JENNIFER SÁENZ And DAVID A. DÍAZ

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, along with Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and other state leaders on Saturday, March 29, led a tribute to Texas veterans who served or were killed during the Vietnam War with the unveiling and dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument on the Texas State Capitol Grounds.

The ceremony was held on Texas Vietnam Veterans Day, which marks the anniversary of the day the last American combat troops left Vietnam.

Hinojosa co-authored House Concurrent Resolution 36 of the 79th Legislative Session in 2005 authorizing a Vietnam Veterans War monument on the Capitol grounds.

Hinojosa passed legislation in 2009 to declare an official day of recognition specifically for Vietnam Veterans.  On March 29, 1973, the last remaining members of the United States armed forces withdrew from Vietnam; thus, March 29 has been declared “Vietnam Veterans Day.”

Hinojosa then worked to secure funding through a legislative rider in 2011 by obtaining a $500,000 matching grant towards the installment of this historic monument.

The monument, which sits on the northeast side of the Capitol grounds, was approved by the 79th Texas Legislature. Hinojosa and Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, both Vietnam veterans, authored the legislation.

Entombed inside the monument are 3,417 dog tags personalized for the Texans who gave their lives or went unaccounted for in the war.

“As a Vietnam veteran for the U.S. Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices that our military families endure on a daily basis,” Hinojosa said. “The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument honors and thanks our fallen Vietnam heroes and their families for their ultimate sacrifice of defending our freedom, and welcomes those who came home and fought with great courage and resilience.It is our hope that this monument will ensure that the memory of our Texas Vietnam Heroes lives on. Semper Fi.”

Perry also paid tribute to Texas veterans who served or gave their lives in the Vietnam War.

“The monument we dedicate today will stand as an ongoing demonstration of the depth of our appreciation for the sacrifices of our Vietnam veterans, and a reminder of what is noble and good about the human spirit,” Perry said. “It will stand as a declaration that in Texas, we understand how blessed we are to have warriors ready to step forward and draw a line between us and those who would do us harm.”

The governor also highlighted the contributions of the Vietnamese nationals who fought alongside Americans in the war, many of whom went on to pursue U.S. citizenship and settle in Texas.

“Most of our men and women who fought in Vietnam never received a hero’s welcome or recognition for our service to our country and state,” Smith said. “With today’s dedication, we can finally say welcome home, and thanks for your sacrifice.”

According to a Wikipedia:

The monument is a 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture featuring five seven-foot tall infantry figures in patrol positions situated atop an eight-sided base. Designed to represent the diversity of Texas Vietnam Veterans, the figures will be Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian, Native-American, and Caucasian. The estimated cost of the monument is $1.5 million.

The Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit is a visual representation of the 3,417 Texans who did not survive to come home from Vietnam. It was designed by Excalibur Exhibits and consists of hand-embossed dog tags featuring the name, rank, branch of service, and date of loss and home of record for each veteran.

Excalibur Exhibits received two Crystal awards by the American Marketing Association for the design and construction of the Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit in the categories of Fixed Installation and Nonprofit/Cause.

The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Committee oversaw the fundraising, design and production of the monument. It was funded fully through private donations, with more than 600 individual, organization and corporate donors.

For more information about the monument or the committee, please visit: http://buildthemonument.org/.

Hinojosa’s prepared remarks, which he delivered at the dedication ceremony, follow:

I am both honored and humbled to be here today. The dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument is a welcome home to our Texas Vietnam Veterans. We honor the loyalty and the valor of those Texans who served in Vietnam.

Having served in the Marine Corp. 3 Battalion 7 Regiment Mike Co., the emotions that I feel are bittersweet – having lost three high school classmates (Jesús Martínez, Walter Merle Langford, Leonel Buentello) in Vietnam.

Vietnam was a controversial war, an unpopular war, where more than 58,000 American soldiers were killed and many were MIA or POWs.  It was a war that Americans did not understand.  They confused the unpopularity of the war with the courage and valor of our soldiers. Because of this, many of us never felt welcomed upon our return home to our own country.

For us Vietnam Veterans, we remember the rice paddies, jungles, and cities of Chu Lai, Da Nang, Hu?, Khe Sanh, and of course, Saigon, to name a few.

Every day of my life as I smell the flowers, hear the birds sing, feel the wind and enjoy my freedom, I am grateful and remember my fellow Marines in Vietnam – Anzio, an Italiano from the Bronx, New York; two brothers from West Virginia; a blue-eyed son of an Alabama preacher; Shellhorn, a Bronco Rider from New Mexico; Suárez from El Paso; a couple of farmers from West Texas; a corn husker from Nebraska; and several African Americans from Los Angeles and Chicago.

But what was so amazing is how we bonded as a family.  We were all Americans, we were united. We stood together ready to fight and die for our country – our freedom.

Different races, different religions, different backgrounds and cultures, and different states; yet, we were all the same. We understood that we reflected on what makes our country a great nation – The

United States of America!

But who were these soldiers in Vietnam?

Many were volunteers, but many were drafted without a choice – taken away from their families to fight a war in an unknown place called Vietnam. These soldiers were us – our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our neighbors, and our friends.  They courageously answered the call to serve our country and many died for our freedom and the freedom of others.

But Vietnam taught our country a lesson —  and that is — always honor and respect our soldiers, their sacrifice and courage, whether fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam or other wars.  Throughout our nation’s history it is our families who sacrifice and stand committed to defend our country.

This Vietnam Veterans Monument honors our Texas Vietnam Soldiers – the 3,417 Texans who lost their lives and those of us who came back with scarred memories. Let this Monument heal our wounds and bring closure to our hearts. As long as we honor and remember our soldiers’ sacrifice, they will always be with us in memory and spirit.

This is a very personal and emotional day for me.  Seeing the monument unveiled brought chills up my spine. I thank each one of you for the dignity and respect you give not only to those who served in Vietnam but to all our soldiers who have served and continue to serve our country.

Welcome Home, Vietnam Warriors, Welcome Home!

Semper Fi. God bless you all.

••••••

UT-RGV president Guy Bailey will find South Texans ready and able to help create world-class university system, say Edinburg leaders

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Dr. Guy Bailey, the newly-selected president of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, will find that South Texans are determined to see higher education in the Valley reach a world-class level, say Edinburg city and state leaders.

On Monday, April 28, the UT System Board of Regents, which met in Austin, selected Bailey as the sole finalist for the historic position of founding president for UT-Rio Grande Valley.

Bailey, 63, has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the president of Texas Tech University and the University of Alabama, and provost of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I am very impressed with his credentials and accomplishments, but it is the people of the Valley who will impress him,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes UT-Pan American, the UT-Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, and a planned major component of the new UT medical school for the Valley.

UT-RGV will welcome the inaugural class of students in the fall of 2015.

The medical school campus in Edinburg will enroll its first class of students in late summer 2016.

The three existing UT-Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville will become part of the UT-RGV medical school system.

“We, including the outstanding administration, faculty, staff, and students, are going to be his most important partners,” Canales emphasized. “In an equal alliance with the Texas Legislature and the UT System leadership, we shall continue to transform deep South Texas into an economic and academic powerhouse, not only for Texas, but for our nation.”

UT-RGV, including the medical school, is a new institution of higher education made possible by Senate Bill 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and sponsored by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville.

SB 24, approved by the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry in the spring of 2013, also featured Canales, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, as joint sponsors.

“Dr. Guy Bailey will be able to guide our university and communities in physically transforming a dream into a reality,” said Hinojosa. “Just as the name UT-Rio Grande Valley best exemplifies our unity and the many Valley communities and cultures joining together with common focus and

direction, it is our hope that our founding president will exemplify strong and effective leadership while embracing a regional mindset to move us forward to achieve the endless educational and healthcare benefits for our families that UT-RGV envisions.”

Mayor Richard García:  “Mark my words.”

Edinburg Mayor Richard García, who helped unite regional leaders in support of the creation of UT-RGV and the medical school, predicted that this landmark institution of higher education will elevate the Valley into a world-class economy, on par with the largest cities in America.

“Tomorrow brings the most exciting, most significant, most impacting news for our city, our region, and South Texas: our merged university – the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley with the new medical school,” the mayor reflected. “Mark my words, this will change the face of our region for generations to come.”

García also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The EEDC and Edinburg City Council successfully helped lobby the UT System Board of Regents and the Texas Legislature for passage of Senate Bill 24.

Thousands of high-paying jobs are predicted to be created in Edinburg and in the Valley from the establishment of UT-RGV and the medical school.

To help put it into perspective, García used San Antonio, the seventh-most populous city (1,382,951) in the U.S., to illustrate the economic power of a major medical school/health science center.

“In 2009, according to BioMed SA, its economic impact was $18.9 billion measured conservatively – in one year,” he said of the influence of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and the biomedical and medical industries that have been created as a result.

BioMed SA, formally known as The Healthcare Bioscience Development Corporation, was formed by San Antonio community and industry leaders during 2005 to build upon the city’s impressive base of biomedical assets and raise its visibility nationally and beyond.

As a result of the presence of UTHSCSA and the related industries that grew from its creation and expansion, the healthcare and bioscience sector in San Antonio now is credited with generating an annual payroll of $6.5 billion, according to BioMed SA.

One of every six San Antonio employees works in the healthcare and bioscience sector.

“In the past decade, the Health Care and Bioscience industry has added nearly 33,000 net new jobs, fueling San Antonio’s growth, reports BioMed SA,” the Edinburg mayor noted. “We are on the verge of seeing the same results.”

With confidence, he sees the Valley as the next mecca of medical education, health care, and economic development for Texas and the U.S., just like San Antonio has become.

“If we look at San Antonio 25 years ago – before the medical school – we will see a mirror image of the Valley today,” García said. “Since then, and as a result of the medical school, San Antonio became the second largest city in Texas. The positive effects to come will be like a tidal wave to the Rio Grande Valley.”

In addition to the merger of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, Senate Bill 24 provides another historic first: UT-RGV will have access to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), said Augustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

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

“PUF is an endowment valued at about $14 billion which generates money from oil and gas production on state-owned land to finance special higher education projects, such as the construction of a medical school for the Valley,” Gus García noted.

UTPA, UTB presidents, RAHC Dean praised for their roles

Canales and Hinojosa had special praise for Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of UT-Pan American, and Dr. Juliet García, president of UT-Brownsville, for their roles in helping plan for the creation of UT-RGV and its medical school.

“I want to thank UT-Pan American President Robert Nelsen, a finalist in the UT-RGV presidential candidate search, for his many years of tireless dedication and passionate service to our students and our community,” said Hinojosa. “His tremendous accomplishments at UTPA have left a lasting impression as he created a better place for our students to pursue their higher education ambitions.”

Canales said Dr. Leonel Vela, the founding Dean of the Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg and Harlingen, also deserved special credit for building the RAHC in Edinburg and Harlingen into outstanding medical education and medical research components.

Vela also supported the creation of UT-RGV and the full-fledged medical school. As Dean of the UT-RAHC in Edinburg and Harlingen, Vela helped establish and lead the foundation of which will become the UT medical school in the Valley.

Dr. Francisco Fernández, professor and chairman of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, on Friday, February 14, was announced by the UT System as the founding Dean of the School of Medicine at UT-RGV.

Initially, Fernández will report to Dr. Francisco González-Scarano, Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs at UT-Health Science Center at San Antonio as well as the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, Dr. Ray Greenberg. Once UT-RGV becomes an independent entity, he’ll report to the new UT-RGV provost and UT-RGV President Bailey, as well as Dr. Greenberg.

“Imagine the courage, the vision, the integrity that it took these wonderful individuals to work hard and unselfishly on an incredible plan that will literally and physically lift a people into greatness and prosperity, even though they knew it could cost them their leadership roles,” Canales said of Nelsen, García, and Vela. “We have many people from all walks of life who helped make this dream come true. But what President Nelsen, President García, and Dean Vela did for all of us makes them heroes in my eyes.”

Bailey: “The single most exciting educational opportunity in America today.”

According to the UT System:

The UT System Board of Regents announced its selection after interviewing select candidates  Monday, April 28, and considering recommendations from an advisory committee that vetted all applicants.

Witt/Keiffer, an executive search firm, assisted the committee in a national search to identify candidates.

Under state law, regents must name a finalist for a university presidency at least 21 days before making the appointment.

Bailey is a proven leader with extensive experience at the helm of large research institutions.

“I view this role as the single most exciting educational opportunity in America today,” Bailey said after being informed of the decision by the UT System regents. “I look forward to working with everyone as we launch the nation’s first major public university of the 21st century. I am truly honored to be the sole finalist.”

While at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which is home to schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law, Bailey developed an action plan designed to make the institution a model research university. He also developed an innovative construction plan that allowed the institution to build numerous new facilities with minimal state resources.

He led Texas Tech University, a comprehensive research university with an enrollment of more than 32,000 students, for four years, and was instrumental in leading the university on its successful quest to become eligible for the state’s National Research University Fund.

Bailey, a sociolinguist, was most recently president of the University of Alabama. He has also held positions at Emory University, Texas A&M University and Oklahoma State University and served as dean of liberal arts at the University of Nevada at Reno.

He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in English linguistics from the University of Tennessee and is the author of more than 100 books and articles.

• New president begins visits to the Valley

Bailey made his first visits to the Rio Grande Valley on Friday, May 16, including meetings with faculty, staff, and state and city leaders on Friday, May 16, at The University of Texas-Pan American.

“Outstanding leadership is crucial for any institution of higher education,” UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster said. “UT-RGV’s unique and innovative environment, which will integrate next-generation technology and customized learning to increase access and affordability for all students, calls for a visionary leader like Dr. Bailey. We initially saw his tremendous leadership first-hand when he served as provost of UT San Antonio, and we were impressed with continued successes at Texas Tech and Missouri. We are thrilled to welcome him back to the UT System.”

UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., said choosing the right leader for UT-RGV is one of the most important decisions the Board of Regents will make, and he anticipates the new university will have a monumental impact regionally, nationally and even internationally in the generations to come.

“UT-RGV is the fulfillment of the creation of a new model of excellence with the aim of transforming the quality of life, health and economic prosperity in South Texas and beyond,” Cigarroa said. “This new university is poised to be a major academic and economic asset not only to the Rio Grande Valley, but all of Texas. UT-RGV will uphold a mission of global excellence that will transform South Texas into an epicenter for research, world-class education and healthcare.”

Cigarroa said Bailey’s familiarity with Texas and the UT System, along with his experience at the helm of a university with a medical school makes him an ideal candidate.

“Dr. Bailey has had a very impressive career, and we are fortunate to invite such a proven, progressive leader to be a part of this transformational mission in South Texas,” Cigarroa said.

Both Cigarroa, a nationally-renowned pediatric transplant surgeon who was born and raised in South Texas, and Rio Grande Valley native and former Regents’ Chairman Gene Powell were instrumental in the push for legislative approval of the university’s creation in 2013.

Gov. Rick Perry visited the region in July 2013 for a ceremonial signing of the historic legislation.

Per the goals and guiding principles set by the Board of Regents, UT-RGV will have access to resources to become an emerging research university with the long-term goal of becoming a global leader in higher education, producing graduates who are bicultural, bilingual and bi-literate.

It is projected that when it opens, UT-RGV likely will become the second-largest Hispanic-serving institution in the nation.

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, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

UT medical school for Valley projected to have more than $1 billion annual economic benefit

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The planned University of Texas medical school, which is set to open in the fall of 2016 with an enrollment of 50 students, could eventually have an economic impact in the Rio Grande Valley of more than $1 billion a year, a figure based on an eventual 1,000-student enrollment, according to an analysis by the Data and Information Systems Center (DISC) at the University of Texas-Pan American.

Based on the vision of Texas legislators and UT System leaders, the Valley’s medical school will eventually transform into a health science center, which will feature related academic and professional programs such as dentistry, biomedical science, nursing, and research.

Financial projections for the medical school were requested by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Even the inaugural class of 50 students in Edinburg, which will be housed in a planned $54 million medical education building to be built by the UT Regional Academic Health Center next to UT-Pan American, is certain to grow significantly sooner rather than later.

As a result of the state’s urgency to educate more physicians and health professionals, the Valley will be cashing in, both figuratively and literally, through the medical school.

The Texas Legislature and the UT System are being forced to deal with a troubling and growing physician shortage that affects Texas and the Valley, which is being caused by numerous factors, including rapid population growth.

Medical education programs for first- through fourth-year medical students will take place at several locations in both Hidalgo and Cameron counties, including at the existing UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville.

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, says his hometown is poised to reap many of the benefits.

“As we know, with growth comes a better quality of life,” said Mayor García, who helped lobby the Texas Legislature and the UT System for the creation of a full-fledged UT medical school for the Valley. “We will see new developments, from entertainment to restaurants and retail stores, to serve the growth that is going to come from the result of the medical school being in our city.”

The UT medical school will be part of another new major higher education advancement: the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which is a single institution that will span the entire Rio Grande Valley and bring limitless educational, economic and medical opportunities to South Texas.

UT-RGV is being created from the ongoing merger of The University of Texas-Pan American and The University of Texas-Brownsville.

Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said UT-RGV with its medical school and health science center “will be major contributors to the economic vitality of the City of Edinburg, Hidalgo County, and the state of Texas. But we haven’t done it alone. The growth in jobs, spending, and other economic indicators over the last five years show a vibrant university, and a willing and supportive surrounding community.”

Mayor García and Gus” García are not related.

Institutions of higher learning have a direct impact on the economic success of a state and region, the EEDC executive director said.

“There is a direct correlation between higher education and the positive outcomes on quality of life measures. In essence, higher education pays,” Gus García added. “UT-RGV will provide jobs, train future workforces, incubate businesses, create and bolster new industries, enrich the lives of residents through the arts and humanities, and sustain the financial stability of Edinburg and surrounding communities.”

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 will include a major component of the UT medical school system, says he envisions the Valley will become home to a medical education complex comparable, both in quality and size, to existing UT System juggernauts elsewhere in Texas.

“Our goal for the Valley is pretty simple,” Canales said. “What is good enough for Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, which are among the biggest cities in America, is good enough for the Valley. We have the talent, the intelligence, the work ethic, the labor force, and the will to succeed to become an international center for medical education and research of the first-class.”

• Economic impact estimates could be higher

That economic impact projections of the Valley’s planned medical school and health science center are conservative, says Sai Mullapudi, who developed financial estimates for DISC at the request of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The DISC is the one-stop source for data, as well as a variety of products and technical assistance to aid clients from initial project planning through completion, according to UTPA. From population count requests and area income breakdowns to custom GIS services and specialized consulting services, DISC handles the data needs of South Texas in a timely and efficient manner.

“The study takes into consideration the budget and the student enrollment of the existing medical schools in the UT System,” explained Mullapudi. “Other UT System medical schools on an average have 2,000 students in all programs.”

Indeed, the three largest health science centers in the UT System are titans of medical education, employment, and economic development.

As of 2012, The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, which is the medical education complex nearest to the Valley, reported an annual enrollment of 3,310 plus 1,090 medical residents and fellows.

During the same year, The UT Health Science Center at Houston had a student enrollment of 4,489.

Also in 2012, The UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas had an enrollment of about 4,500 students, which included 947 medical students, 1,561 postdoctoral fellows, 1,561 clinical residents, 639 graduate school students, and 327 health professions students.

Plus, thousands of faculty, administrators, professionals and paraprofessionals, and other employees are part of each of those health science centers, representing another major influx of economic prosperity for their home regions.

• Valley medical school needed to help address statewide physician shortage

Texas has about 43,000 physicians engaged in patient care for a population of about 23 million, according to the Texas Medical Association.

The most recent reports show Texas ranking 45th in the nation in the number of physicians per population. Its eight medical schools and their partner organizations educate and train about 5,400 medical students and 6,000 resident physicians.

According to the Texas State Department of Health Services, the ratio of primary care physicians to 100,000 population in the four-county Rio Grande Valley ranges from a low of 24.7 in Starr County to a high of 57.6 in Cameron County.

By comparison, the average primary care physician ratio in the rest of Texas is 69.5, according to the South Texas Medical Foundation, which is based in Harlingen.

The ratio of all physicians to 100,000 population in the Rio Grande Valley is about one-half the national average, the South Texas Medical Foundation added.

“Because the population of the region is growing so rapidly, the relative number of primary care and specialty physicians has actually been steadily decreasing over the last decade,” Randy K. Whittington, President and Trustee of the South Texas Medical Foundation, reported in written testimony he submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on December 11, 2012.

The South Texas Medical Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charitable foundation which exists for the sole purpose of advocating and supporting the creation and expansion of medical education programs and improvement and access to healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.

• How economic impact is determined

When the 1,000-student enrollment benchmark is reached, the Valley’s UT health science center, anchored by its medical school, will generate 9,263 direct jobs, 1,577 indirect jobs, and 1,466 induced jobs, representing a $256 million annual payroll, according to DISC.

In general, direct jobs refer to employment directly related to the production of products or services or when a person is permanently employed in a firm.

Indirect jobs refer to when the business generates employment in other businesses to supply or produce goods and services or when a firm contracts some work to a person.

Induced jobs result from salaries and wages paid to persons employed in direct and indirect jobs turning over in the local economy.

According to DISC, the 1,000-student enrollment medical school system will generate “Direct Output” – an economic term used to describe the dollar volume of a good or service produced or sold – of about $557 million annually. That figure takes into account a predicted $502 million annual operating budget.

Indirect and Induced Output – economic activities influenced by Direct Output – are estimated at $230 million and $164 million, respectively, per year. Combined with Direct Output of $557 million, the 1,000-student enrollment medical school will have a $950 million annual economic impact.

DISC also predicted that the 1,000-student enrollment medical school system will have an additional $435 million annual impact on the Valley as a result of another key economic category known as “Value Added”.

Value Added is the sum of total income and indirect business taxes.

Value Added is the most commonly used measure of the contribution of a region to the national economy, as it avoids double counting of intermediate sales and captures only the “value added” by the region to final products.

• Edinburg to share economic benefits with neighboring cities

In March, the UT System announced the creation of the leadership team – four directors of the residency programs in internal medicine, surgery, family medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology – which will be headquartered out of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg.

Residency programs feature medical school graduates who begin training in their specialty, usually conducted in a hospital or clinic. DHR will serve as a new location for residency programs in internal medicine, surgery, family medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling – who also serves as general counsel for DHR – says Edinburg’s neighboring cities also stand to gain from the medical school and medical residency programs set to launch in Edinburg.

“We think the residency program, with the professions you bring here with the medical school – professors, suppliers, etc. – are going to benefit the surrounding communities, and McAllen happens to be one of them,” Darling said. “We think it is an economic development boom for our area. Certainly, it helps put us on the map. Having a medical school makes us more noticeable, not only for things relating to medicine, but just for overall economic development.”

Regents, meeting in Austin in early February, approved the design development plans as well as the $54 million to fund the construction of the medical school building in Edinburg. They also gave preliminary authority for a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program at UT-RGV.

Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President of South Texas College, had a say in selecting the new dean for the planned medical school in her role with a medical school advisory committee appointed by the UT System leadership. She noted that STC will have its own economic impact on the medical school/health science center and UT-RGV.

“South Texas College plays a critical role in helping provide the talent pipeline to the new medical school by preparing graduates in STEM fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering and medical sciences as well as preparation for nursing, allied health, and medical careers,” said Reed.

Recently, (UT System Chancellor) Francisco Cigarroa had the opportunity to meet three graduates from South Texas College’s Dual Enrollment in Medical Sciences Academy (DEMSA) who are practicing physicians or serving residencies in South Texas.

“All came from South Texas College’s DEMSA program and now there will be even greater opportunities for future graduates,” she added.

Julián Álvarez, President of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership Chamber of Commerce, also put the transformational power of the medical school/health science center into perspective.

“In two rapid-fire, heady days last summer, ceremonies for three landmark accomplishments took place in the Rio Grande Valley, breaking a long drought of going without,” Álvarez said. “It signified new days that most around her thought they would never see.”

On July 15, about 100 Valley and congressional leaders gathered in Pharr and Harlingen for the unveiling of new signs for Interstates 69 and 2, he reflected. These events marked the first time the four-county Rio Grande Valley has had an interstate highway — the only metro area in the country without one until that point.

“The very next day in Edinburg and Brownsville, Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed into law a bill that awarded the Valley a new medical school and combined both of the Valley’s University of Texas campuses into a new school, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley,” Álvarez continued.

“In doing so, the new university was granted full access to the riches of the Permanent University Fund (PUF), which neither Valley campus had ever had access to before.”

The Rio Grande Valley has challenges, he readily acknowledges.

“Education, employment, water and health care just to name a few,” Álvarez said. “But with a new university and PUF money, a new medical school and new interstates and through unity and leadership, the Valley stands ready to unlock its real potential as one region.

• Economic presence to be felt at every stage of development

Like all great endeavors, the Valley’s UT health science center, featuring the medical school, will make its presence felt at every stage of its growth.

When the doors first open at the medical school facility in Edinburg, with its initial enrollment of 50 students, hundreds of new jobs will be tied into that development.

“The economic impact analysis shows the investment in the project will create 1,315 jobs in the region and create a total economic impact of $135 million dollars in the local economy,” Mullapudi estimated. “Excluding construction expenditures, the project will create 393 jobs, and generate an economic output of $36.6 million in the local economy every year.”

He added, “We are not taking into consideration the expenditures by the increased visitors to the area for treatments and the research dollars that will increase due to the existence of the new medical school.”

Mullapudi explained that the regional economic impacts predicted are due to three types of spending:

• Expenditures by the medical school to provide the education program;

• Expenditures by the students aside from tuition expenditures (e.g. room and board, books, etc.); and

• Spending from the increased number of doctors in Rio Grande Valley following their graduation, assuming that 80 percent of the 50 doctors stay back in the region.

Once the medical school complex in Edinburg reaches a 200-student enrollment, the economic impact will be even more dramatic.

Based on a 200-student enrollment, “the economic impact analysis shows the investment in the project will create 2,303 jobs in the region and create a total economic impact of $216 million dollars in the local economy” Mullapudi said.

For Edinburg, at the 200-student enrollment level, other economic figures are equally impressive.

“Excluding construction expenditures, the project will create 1,381 jobs, and generate an economic output of $127 million in the local economy every year,” Mullapudi said.

That impact also does not take into consideration the expenditures by the increased visitors to the area for treatments and the research dollars that will increase due to the existence of the new medical school.

• Gov. Perry: “…create one of the next great universities in America.”

It’s little wonder that Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, did not contain his enthusiasm for the legislation that is resulting in the creation of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and the advent of a UT Health Science Center in the Rio Grande Valley.

Addressing a packed house in the auditorium of the Student Union at UT-Pan American, and flanked by the Valley legislative delegation and the top leaders for the UT System, Perry came to Edinburg in July 2013 for a ceremonial bill-signing of the state law that makes the coming of UT-Rio Grande Valley and its Health Science Center realities.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who shared the stage with Perry at the UTPA gathering last summer, reflected on the magnitude of the dramatic advances in higher education and medical care for deep South Texas.

“It’s been a long-time dream of the Rio Grande Valley to have its own medical school,” Hinojosa said. “Sen. Eddie Lucio (Jr., D-Brownsville) and myself started that about 15 years ago, when he carried the legislation in the Senate, and at that time I was a state representative, and I carried the measure in the House to create the Regional Academic Health Centers. This was the first step in creating a full-fledged medical school.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 24, featured Hinojosa as the primary Senate author and Rep. René Oliveria, D-Brownsville, as the lead House sponsor.

Lucio and Sen. Judith Zafirrini, D-Laredo, were joint authors of SB 24.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission were House cosponsors of SB 24.

The governor, a Republican who in January 2013 called on the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature to approve the creation of UT-RGV and the Valley’s UT medical school, portrayed that legislative accomplishment in unusually personal perspectives.

“I have had some fabulous and wonderful moments as the governor of Texas,” said Perry, who did not seek reelection this year in order to again test the waters for a Republican presidential bid.

“But I’m not sure that I have ever had one that was any more impactful or one that I have enjoyed any more than being able to walk to that table and put my pen to paper, and create one of the next great universities in America,” Perry acknowledged.

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, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

MVP Partnership, L.T.D. of McAllen offers to donate $2+ million propertyto help land UT-RGV headquarters for McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission MSA

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Details of a proposal to donate up to five acres of prime real estate in southwest Edinburg – valued at more than $2 million – to serve as the site of the planned administrative headquarters for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley have been made public by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. of McAllen.

The offer, submitted by prominent attorney José E. García on behalf of MVP Partnership, L.T.D., would benefit the UT System, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by placing the key headquarters, with its prestigious economic, academic, and political resources, in the heart of one of the Valley’s most influential, safest, and attractive regions.

The site being offered by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is located by the intersection of Trenton Road and McColl Road in Edinburg, immediately north of the campuses of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and adjoining medical offices and businesses. It is within easy access to all major hospitals in Edinburg, including Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas-Pan American, the planned UT-RGV medical school, and minutes away from some of the most distinguished neighborhoods and bustling business, medical, and entertainment corridors in Edinburg and McAllen.

MVP Partnership, L.T.D. was one of 14 applicants who submitted offers to the UT System by the 5 p.m. Thursday, May 15 deadline.

García, a UT-Austin alumnus, former Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman, and Senior Partner of García and Villarreal, P.L.L.C., Attorneys at Law, 4311 North McColl Road in McAllen, said it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something so important and historic.” He wants to help the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission MSA have the strongest chance to land the UT-RGV administrative headquarters.

“The cities of Edinburg and McAllen have each submitted their own plans, and our proposal gives the UT System leadership another outstanding reason to build the UT-RGV administrative headquarters in our region,” he said.

“The offer by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is our way of supporting Edinburg, McAllen, Pharr, Mission and other Hidalgo County communities, and the UT System, who have given so much to us,” García added.

In addition to MVP Partnership, L.T.D., the other applicants who submitted proposals of land donation are the cities of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen, McAllen, Mercedes, San Benito, and Weslaco, along with the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, as well as Cielo Realty Partners, Cadence Commercial Real Estate, D&M Ventures LLC, Roberto S. Zamora, and S.E.R.R. Properties Ltd.

The gift of land by MVP Partnership, L.T.D., is a private donation. This would allow Edinburg and McAllen to spend and invest their tax revenues on other important projects.

“I know McAllen has a great interest in building a permanent campus, focusing on Master’s and Ph.D programs, in their community, and Edinburg will continue to be a vital partner in the development of the UT-RGV campus and UT-RGV medical school in their city,” García said. “Our proposal allows both cities to save their valuable resources for those, and other, incredibly important goals.”

The unique strategic location of the property will be of great benefit to McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr and Mission, he noted, but also emphasized some of the many quality-of-life advantages to the people who would work in the headquarters.

“The commercial and residential areas surrounding the property are safe, secure, well-maintained, and aesthetically pleasing, while still affordable,” García said. “The Northeast McAllen/Southwest Edinburg corridor is the most attractive location in an area where people want to live, work, eat, shop, recreate and learn.”

He added the site being offered by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is situated “in the heart of the 78504 zip code, which contains the highest per capita income level in the Rio Grande Valley.”

According to the UT System, the administrative headquarters for UT-RGV 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 UT-RGV’s campuses.

The proposed site submitted by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. would provide the space needed for the construction of a 36,000-square-foot building with 172 parking spaces, in compliance with City of Edinburg ordinances, as required by the UT System.

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

Among the key points included in the 28-page proposal by MVP Partnership, L.T.D., are the following highlights:

• The gift to the UT System by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is from a private, independent entity. It would not be tied to any specific group, business or municipality;

• MVP Partnership L.T.D.’s proposed site is an independent site so the community can recognize it as the headquarters for UT-RGV and the entire region;

• Independence is important. The public perception is important. Safety is important;

• Tax dollars are not being used to pay for the property being gifted to the UT System;

• The MVP Partnership L.T.D. property is prominently located in and near established commercial districts, and the majority of the area’s premier neighborhoods are immediately adjoining the MVP Partnership L.T.D. property;

• The City of McAllen will receive the highest benefit because of the proximity of the site to well-established commercial districts and North McAllen neighborhoods;

• This gift will promote and enhance continued economic growth and development for the cities of McAllen and Edinburg;

• MVP Partnership, L.T.D’s proposed land donation is located in the heart of the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission MSA, which is a hub of economic activity. Many retailers have seized upon this activity, and the MSA has seen marked growth in recent years.  The MSA is poised at a critical juncture for future growth and would benefit enormously from the economic partnerships fostered by UT-RGV and the medical school;

• The property is literally at the crossroads of McAllen and Edinburg, perfectly positioned on the northeastern boundary of McAllen and southwestern boundary  of Edinburg. The majority of the surrounding housing rooftops are of the premier North McAllen neighborhoods;

• Any proposed project will enjoy the significant strength and purchasing power of North McAllen and also benefit from the beautiful North McAllen neighborhoods, jogging trails, and the luxurious Lake James subdivision in Edinburg; and

• By virtue of its location, MVP Partnership L.T.D.’s property fosters access to, and partnerships with, the booming medical corridor in Edinburg, including Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance, Cancer Center at Renaissance, Heart and Vascular Hospital, Renaissance Behavioral Hospital, Edinburg Regional Medical Regional Center, Edinburg Children’s Hospital, Cornerstone Regional Hospital, Edinburg Regional Rehab Center, and South Texas Behavioral Health Center.

According to the UT-System, the request for land donations 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, world-class, 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.

••••••

Edinburg retail economy up almost 11 percent for March 2014, one of the best improvements among major Valley economies

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy in March 2014 showed an improvement of almost 11 percent over the same month last year, representing the second-best gain among major Valley ec0nomies, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

Edinburg also registered a rate of growth better than the state average for March 2014, which showed a 5.6 percent improvement over the same month in 2013.

Based on the amount of local sales taxes collected, which reflects the strength of an economy, Edinburg’s retail sector generated more than $1.7 million in local sales taxes in March 2014, compared with almost $1.6 million in March 2013.

For the first three months of 2014, Edinburg’s retail economy also posted a double-digit upswing over the same period last year, generating $8,028,833.80 in local sales taxes, compared with $7,214,163.81 for January through March 2013 – a rise of 11.29 percent.

The local sales tax figure represents sales made in March 2014 as well as the January, February and March 2014 sales by businesses that report taxes quarterly.

The sales tax, formally known as the State Sales and Use Tax, is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services. 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).

The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the EEDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city.

According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Edinburg’s retail economy in March 2014 generated $1,753,587.06 in local sales taxes, up 10.95 percent over March 2013, which reached $1,580,441.48.

Mission registered the best improvement among Valley cities for March 2014, up 20.54 percent over the same month in 2013, but Edinburg generated more local sales taxes ($1,753,587.06) than Mission ($1,578,820.90) for that month.

Pharr was the only other major retail economy to post a double-digit improvement in its retail economy for March 2014, generating $1,332,227.05 in local sales taxes, representing a 10.36 percent increase over March 2013.

McAllen, historically the retail giant in the Valley, showed a decrease of 2.41 percent for March 2014, and a decrease of almost one percent for the first quarter (January through March) of 2014. But McAllen still held the top ranking in deep South Texas for local sales taxes generated for March ($5,772,494.86) and for the first quarter of 2014 ($27,484,356.46).

Brownsville, the most populous city in the Valley, also reported a drop in its March 2014 local sales tax figures. For March 2014, Brownsville generated $3,234,210.77 in local sales taxes, compared with $3,305,404.35 for the same month last year. Year-to-date, however, Brownsville reported a 3.61 percent improvement ($15,050,910.20 in 2014 compared with $14,525,977.10 in 2013).

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, said the March 2014 and January through March 2014 quarterly figures are consistent with the economic goals and strategies of the Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors, and city and EEDC staff.

“The greatest measure of a community’s growth, we believe, is the growth in sales tax,” the mayor observed. “This kind of success and growth does not happen without vision, planning, and a very deliberate plan of action. Our City Council and our city staff are a team of professionals whose focus, priority, and responsibility is this, our beloved city.”

The positive retail sales figures are helped by dozens of new and planned businesses in the past year, he added.

“When it comes to economic development we have more than 50 new businesses that have opened within the last year or are under construction right now aimed at improving our quality of life: Wal-Mart with 360 new jobs and a new planned HEB along with Taco Palenque, two Starbucks, IHop, Two Popeye’s, University Drafthouse, Thirsty Bronc, Kahn’s Grill, Chic-Fil-A, Wingstop, Subway, Pizza Hut, Siempre Natural, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Easy Cuts, Moon Beans, Drunken Clam, Burrito Bar, Lanadees, La Mexicana, Taquería el Zarape, Pizza Patrón, Walgreens, CVS, McDonalds, Las Cazuelas, Big Lots, Party City, Carters, Burkes Outlet, GNC, Melrose, Chopstix, Gorditas Doña Tota, Dairy Queen, Cordons Taste of Chicago, CTC Distributing, Johnny’s True Value,” García noted.

The economic growth of the city has positive effects beyond job creation and sales tax figures, the mayor reflected. It speaks well of a well-run city government, which helps keep and attract businesses and related prosperity.

“Today, Edinburg is financially sound and our credit rating has been increased to AA from AA-,” the mayor said. “The report announced by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, attributes the (credit) rate increase to how Edinburg manages its Utility System funds and financial debt, how it handled the recent growth, and how it operates on a daily basis.”

The management of the city government, including the EEDC, has allowed Edinburg to keep the same property tax rate at the same level for the last 19 years in a row.

“This credit goes to our Edinburg government administrators and staff who take care of the day-to-day operations of the city. Year after year, they come up with a balanced budget that ensures no reduction of services,” García said. “Our last budget also included $19.4 million in capital improvement projects that are allowing for acquisition of property, drainage improvements, and the completion of the wastewater treatment plant expansion.”

Edinburg’s retail economy compared favorably with other major Valley communities.

According to the state comptroller’s office, the Valley’s major cities reported the following local sales tax figures for March 2014:

• McAllen: $5,772,494.86, down 2.41 percent over March 2013 ($5,915,462.93);

• Brownsville: $3,234,210.77, down 2.15 percent over March 2013 ($3,305,404.35);

• Harlingen: $ 2,041,476.03, up 1.56 percent over March 2013 ($2,010,095.84);

• Edinburg: $1,753,587.06, up 10.95 percent over March 2013 ($1,580,441.48);

• Mission: $1,578,820.90, up 20.54 percent over March 2013 ($1,309,786.21);

• Pharr: $1,332,227.05, up 10.36 percent over March 2013 ($1,207,075.76); and

• Weslaco: $1,143,370.36, up 0.70 percent over March 2013 ($1,135,315.39).

All cities in Hidalgo County generated a combined total of $13,889,398.93 in local sales tax revenue in March 2014, compared with $13,482,106.40 during the same month in 2013, an improvement of 3.02 percent.

All cities in Cameron County generated a combined total of $6,407,400.04 in local sales tax revenue in March 2014, compared with $6,409,143.16 during the same month in 2013, a decrease of 0.02 percent.

On a statewide level, Edinburg’s holiday sales rate of improvement was equally impressive.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said that state sales generated during March 2014 was $2.27 billion, up 5.6 percent compared with March 2013.

“Growth in sales tax revenue was spurred by increases in the telecommunications sector and services sector,” Combs said. “Increased business spending in the wholesale trade sector also contributed to the latest monthly gain. This marks 49 consecutive months of growth in sales tax collections.”

For details of the March 2014 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, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Steven Edward Cruz, II, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

Edinburg unemployment rate for April 2014 drops to 5.5 percent, representing the best showing for any month since January 2008

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s unemployment rate for April 2014 was 5.5 percent, the best showing in the city for any month since January 2008, and the second-best figure for all cities that month in the Rio Grande Valley, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

For the month of April 2014, only McAllen (5.4 percent) had a better figure than Edinburg (5.5 percent), while the other major communities in the Valley had unemployment rates that ranged from 6.3 percent in Harlingen to 8.6 percent in Brownsville. The Valley’s three other most populous cities also had unemployment rates for April 2014 in single-digits: Mission (6.8 percent), Pharr (6.9 percent), and Weslaco (8.6 percent).

The April 2014 rates for the Valley’s seven most populous cities also represented improvements from March 2014.

In addition, Edinburg’s labor force was the third largest in the Valley, with 33,551 persons employed in the city in April 2014. The area’s two most populous cities, Brownsville and McAllen, posted larger numbers with 63,143 and 58,639 individuals, respectively, employed in April 2014.

All cities combined in Hidalgo County averaged an 8.6 percent unemployment rate in April 2014, an improvement from 9.4 percent in March 2014, while all cities combined in Cameron County averaged an 8.1 percent unemployment rate in April 2014, better than the 8.8 percent figure in March 2014.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Texas fell to 5.2 percent in April 2014, down from 5.5 percent in March 2014, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The unemployment rates in Edinburg and in Texas remain below the national rate of 5.9 percent.

The latest figures were released on Friday, May 16, by the Texas Workforce Commission.

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.

• Walmart announces creation of 300 jobs in Edinburg

This latest positive news comes as Walmart announced the opening of its third major store in Edinburg.

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, noted that the city’s third Wal-Mart (the most among all Valley communities), is taking advantage of one of Edinburg’s key assets: U.S. Expressway 281/I69-Central.

Located just south of the Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the new Walmart has created 300 new jobs for the region. It is near the intersection of U.S. 281/I69-Central and Canton Road, an area that in the past few years has become one of busiest in the city, the mayor said.

“The region’s Expressway 281/I69-Central is a huge piece of the success today and even greater of what to expect tomorrow: 13.5 miles of U.S. Highway 281/I69-Central from FM 2812 to the Pharr Interchange,” said García.

Edinburg has the largest amount of freeway frontage than any other community in the Rio Grande Valley, “to the tune of 18 miles” compared to the three other largest cities with an estimated two miles of frontage each, García added.

“This immense opportunity for growth has been discovered by large investors like Bert Ogden with the new Infinity Dealership, Fiesta Chevrolet, Holt Caterpillar, Walmart, HEB, the Shoppes at Rio Grande. the master planned community of La Sienna and our exciting mega-arena development,” the mayor reported.

• Other big developments in the works

The mega-arena project involves a planned $50 million special events center to be built just off U.S. Expressway 281/I-69 Central.

The 115,799 square-foot arena will be constructed on 40 acres of land located on the east side of I-69 Central on Alberta Road. It will feature 8,500 seats and 2,400 parking spaces. The entire property includes nine additional pad sites for the development of a future hotel, restaurants and more parking spaces.

Construction cost for the arena is estimated at $50 million with a boost to the local economy of $96 million during the construction phase and $45 million annually once operational. It is expected to create approximately 150 new jobs.

For its part, the new Walmart will provide residents with one-stop shopping convenience for their grocery and general merchandise needs.  It will also feature organic and natural selections in addition to local favorites.  Like most of their new stores, this one will include energy efficient technology and special features to help reduce energy and water consumption.

The approximately 183,000 square feet facility will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As part of the grand opening,  $6,000 in grants from Walmart and the Walmart Foundation were donated to local community groups.

A big family welcome is scheduled for Saturday, May 24, from noon to 3 p.m. complete with family activities such as face painting, cupcake decorating and free food samples while supplies last.

The other two Walmart stores in Edinburg are located at University Drive and Sugar Road, and Jackson Road and Trenton Road

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

• Number of persons employed, April 2014:

Brownsville: 63,143

McAllen: 58,639

Edinburg: 33,551

Mission: 30,001

Pharr: 25,934

Harlingen: 25,137

Weslaco: 13,506

• Edinburg’s unemployment rates, by year:

April 2014: 5.5 percent

April 2013: 6.7 percent

April 2012: 7.3 percent

April 2011: 8.4 percent

April 2010: 8.3 percent

April 2009: 5.7 percent

April 2008: 4.0 percent

April 2007: 4.2 percent

April 2006: 5.4 percent

April 2005: 4.7 percent

• Edinburg’s April employment, by year:

2014: 33,551

2013: 33,037

2012: 32,740

2011: 31,855

2010: 31,381

2009: 29,990

2008: 29,690

2007: 28,112

2006: 26,798

2005: 25,767

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 national, statewide, and Valleywide figures were compiled by the Texas Workforce Commission, a state agency which 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.

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, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño pleads guilty to money laundering charge

By ANGELA DODGE

Guadalupe Treviño, aka Lupe Treviño, 64, of McAllen, on Monday, April 14, entered a guilty plea a criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Treviño was the former sheriff of Hidalgo County.

The investigation revealed that during 2011 and 2012, Treviño received cash contributions for his election campaign from alleged drug trafficker, Tomás “El Gallo” González.

On April 14, Treviño admitted he accepted the money, knowing it was from illegal activities. He admitted he accepted the monies directly and through others as donations to assist with his 2012 election campaign. Some of the monies received were subsequently deposited into bank accounts Treviño controlled and were co-mingled with other funds.

During and after the transactions, Treviño and others acted to disguise and conceal the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the currency by filing false Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Reports and producing other documents.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Álvarez, accepted the plea on April 14, and has set sentencing for July 17, 2014. At that time, Treviño faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.

On Friday, April 14, 2014, Treviño’s former chief of staff and campaign treasurer, María Patricia Medina, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, admitting she assisted Treviño in the concealment of the donations by falsifying election records. She faces up to three years in federal prison and a potential fine of $250,000.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, Rangers Division and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys James Sturgis and Aníbal Alaniz prosecuted the case.

••••••

Five members of corrupt Panama Unit law enforcement group ordered to federal prison

By ANGELA DODGE

Five defendants, all former law enforcement officers in Hidalgo County, on Tuesday, April 29, were ordered to federal prison for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Jorge Garza, 60, of Edinburg, was convicted in August 2013 after six days of trial, while Fernando Guerra Jr., 24, Claudio Mata, 35, and James Phil Flores, 47, all of Edinburg, and Gerardo Mendoza-Durán, 31, of Pharr, all previously pleaded guilty in relation to the case.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane on April 29 handed Mata a total sentence of 140 months in federal prison. Garza received a sentence of 121 months, while Flores was sentenced to a 120-month term of imprisonment. Mendoza-Durán and Flores both received 96-month terms.

“The prosecution of corrupt law enforcement officers will always be a priority of this office in order to ensure the community’s faith in our judicial system,” said Magidson. “The sentencings today represent part of that continuing effort.”

Fernando Guerra Sr., 48, Jonathan Treviño, 29, Eric Alcantar, 29, Alexis Espinoza, 30, all of McAllen, Salvador Arguello, 34, of Edinburg, and Fabian Rodríguez, 29, of Edcouch, have all also pleaded guilty in the case and were sentenced the following day.

Arguello, Mata, Alcantar and Rodríguez were former members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the now infamous and defunct Panama Unit.

Espinoza was a former Mission Police Officer, as was Treviño, one of three sons of former Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, who on April 14 pled guilty to federal charges of money laundering.

Jonathan Treviño also served on the Panama Unit.

Mendoza-Durán, Flores and Garza were all members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, but not part of the Panama Unit itself. All were convicted of using their positions as law enforcement officers to traffic narcotics.

“Today’s sentencing of law enforcement officials involved in crimes they are sworn to investigate serves as a sobering warning about the consequences of violating the public’s trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. “While HSI is saddened by the circumstances that brought this sentencing to bare, HSI feels justice has been served.”

The investigation revealed that from 2010 through 2012, the defendants used their positions to steal narcotics and currency from local drug traffickers. The stolen narcotics were then re-distributed to Guerra Sr.

In addition, Treviño, Espinoza and Mendoza-Durán attempted to assist narcotics traffickers by escorting loads of cocaine, which travelled through Hidalgo County in exchange for thousands of dollars.

The Guerras, Flores and Garza were also convicted for their roles in the distribution of stolen narcotics. Flores and Garza assisted Guerra Sr. and Jr. by performing false traffic stops utilizing HCSO vehicles in order to assist the Guerras with the theft of the narcotics.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by HSI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility, FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorneys James Sturgis and Aníbal Alaniz prosecuted the case.

••••••

Former Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Commander José A. Padilla enters guilty plea for bribery

By ANGELA DODGE

José A. Padilla, 54, of Weslaco, on Thursday, April 17, entered a plea of guilty for one count of receipt of a bribe, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Padilla was a former deputy commander at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office and served under the leadership of former sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño.

Padilla has admitted that during 2011 and 2012, he received cash from alleged drug trafficker Tomás “El Gallo” González.

In exchange for the cash payments, Padilla performed various tasks for González and provided information to González related to ongoing law enforcement activities.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted Padilla’s plea on April 17, and has set sentencing for July 17, 2104. At that time, he faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a potential maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the amount he received.

He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and Texas Department of Public Safety, Rangers Division. Assistant United States Attorneys James Sturgis and Aníbal Alaniz prosecuted the case.

••••••

Rep. Guerra appointed by Speaker Straus to House Select Committee on Child Protection

By AISA SHOWERY

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, on Thursday, May 15, was appointed by Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to serve on the House Select Committee on Child Protection and the Protect Our Kids Commission.

The purpose of the commission is to study the relationship between child protective services and child welfare services and the rate of child abuse and neglect fatalities. Through its work, the commission will identify promising practices and evidence-based strategies to address and reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect, including the development of recommendations and guidelines for the types of information that should be tracked, as well as identifying pertinent resources.

“The death of even one child due to abuse or neglect is unacceptable,” said Straus. “The Texas House is committed to working with Child Protective Services (CPS) and local communities to prevent senseless tragedies. I am confident that this committee will provide meaningful recommendations to improve outcomes for Texas children.”

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, will chair the committee.

In addition to Guerra and Dukes, the other House members on the House Select Committee on Child Protection are Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale; Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park; Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls; Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas; and Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Temple.

The select committee will also work in concert with the public members of the Protect our Kids Commission, which the Legislature created in 2013. The commission will study the rate of child abuse and neglect fatalities and recommend strategies to prevent and reduce them.

Protecting children from abuse and neglect is one of government’s essential functions and the core mission of Child Protective Services (CPS), Guerra said. In 2013, 156 Texas children died as a result of abuse or neglect.

“Protecting our children is of the utmost importance and a top priority for legislators. Even one case of abuse or neglect is not acceptable,” said Guerra. “We have an obligation to our Texas children in making sure they live in a safe and caring environment.”

The committee will serve to be a key resource to hear from local and state agencies about the emerging issues and concerns with Children Protective Services (CPS).

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and I will strongly advocate for developing core solutions concerning abuse and neglect that will provide the necessary tools towards legislation for the coming session,” said Guerra.

“The Texas House is committed to working with Child Protective Services (CPS) and local communities to prevent senseless tragedies. I am confident that this committee will provide meaningful recommendations to improve outcomes for Texas children,” said Straus.

• Details of work to be performed

The committee shall study the incidence of abuse and neglect fatalities in Texas and make recommendations to protect children. In developing its recommendations, the committee shall:

• Monitor the ongoing efforts of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the work of the Protect Our Kids Commission and the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, and any relevant Sunset Commission recommendations;

• Assess the efficacy of ongoing prevention efforts that target resources to families at risk;

• Examine regulatory policy and contract oversight within the child welfare system;

• Consider ways to encourage consistent, transparent, and timely review of abuse and neglect fatalities;

• Monitor ongoing efforts to stabilize the CPS workforce, placing specific emphasis on improving work environment, enhancing the quality of supervision, and addressing the unique challenges facing different regions of the state;

•  Suggest improvements to the screening, assessment, training, and support of potential foster and kinship families;

• Evaluate the ability of children and youth within the system to report maltreatment;

• Monitor ongoing efforts to enhance the use of data to improve outcomes; and

•  Consider strategies to ensure better coordination and collaboration among local agencies, faith-based organizations, the private sector, non-profits, and law enforcement to reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect fatalities.

••••••

Edwards Abstract and Title Company professionals complete rigorous examination by Texas Land Title Association

By ELVA JACKSON-GARZA

The Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) has announce that five employees with Edwards Abstract and Title Company, with its headquarters in Edinburg have successfully completed the requirements and passed a rigorous examination to earn the professional certification designations from TLTA.

To become TLTA certified, a candidate must meet certain eligibility requirements in work experience, education and professional involvement, and then successfully pass an examination. Each designation represents a measure of achievement and proficiency in the Texas title insurance industry and distinguishes these highly motivated individuals.

TLTA’s certification designations include, CESA: Certified Escrow Settlement Associate, CAEA: Certified Abstract Examination Associate and CTIA: Certified Title Insurance Associate.

The five Edwards Abstract and Title Co. employees who have earned TLTA certification designations include:

• Byron Jay Lewis, CTIA (Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer – Edinburg);

• Marilyn De Luna, CAEA, CESA, CTIA (Regional Escrow Automation Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer –McAllen);

• Mariana Ragousis- Ramírez, CESA, CTIA (Escrow Officer – McAllen);

• Mary Barrientos, CESA (Mission Branch Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer); and

• Martha (Marty) García, CESA (Sr. Escrow Officer – Mission).

“These are very prestigious professional certification designations. Edwards Abstract and Title Company is proud to have several members of the team who are leading the way in the title insurance industry in South Texas.” said Mike Overly, President and Chief Financial Officer.

Byron Jay Lewis is one of four title insurance company owners in Texas who have earned the CTIA designation. Marilyn De Luna is the only escrow officer in Texas to have earned all three certification designations from the Texas Land Title Association.
Founded in 1908, TLTA is a statewide trade association representing the Texas title insurance industry and currently serving more than 13,000 professionals involved in the safe and efficient transfer of real estate.

In the course of their daily work, TLTA membership serves more than one million consumers each year. TLTA members provide certainty, efficiency and security to real estate transactions by conducting title searches, examinations, closings and issuing title insurance to protect real property owners and mortgage lenders against losses from defects in titles.

For more information about TLTA’s certification program, visit: http://www.tlta.com/certification.

••••••

Sen. Zaffirini captures 26 awards in ?Press Women of Texas 2014 Communications Contest

By WILL KRUEGER

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, recently won 26 awards in the Press Women of Texas (PWT) 2014 Communications Contest for work published in 2013, contest officials announced on Wednesday, May 21.

Her winning entries included 10 first place winners, 6 second place winners, 6 third place winners and 4 honorable mentions.

Interestingly, the senator’s four entries in the speech category won all four awards — from first through honorable mention.

Her keynote speech to the Texas Indigent Health Care Association, Stepping into the Future, won first place, and her opening speech at the Texas Higher Education Leadership Conference, Closing the Gaps by 2015 and Beyond, won second.

Her acceptance speech for the Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt Award from Mental Health America of Texas, History as a Source of Strength and Hope for the Future, won third, while her remarks honoring University of Texas students from Mexico and Spain visiting the Texas Capitol won an honorable mention.

Zaffirini’s other first place award winners included her ongoing series of communications to constituents about issues related to growth and development in the Eagle Ford Shale, her statement regarding school finance, a news release about her 50,000th consecutive vote and a podcast interview conducted by Andrew Roush of Alcalde magazine.

Her annual newsletter, Senator Judith Zaffirini Reports to the Families of District 21, won three first place awards: one for the overall publication and two for its layout and headlines.

“These awards reflect my deep commitment to communicating effectively with my constituents via a variety of media,” Zaffirini said. “What’s more, I am grateful to Press Women of Texas for championing freedom of speech and freedom of the press and for providing important resources to women working in the communications arena.”

••••••

Rep. Cuellar votes to enhance U.S. – Mexico cooperation against illegal drug trade

By MIRANDA MARGOWSKY

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, May 22, voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual budget for the Department of Defense, which passed the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Cuellar successfully included language in the NDAA that reiterates and enhances support for United States-Mexico cooperation in the ongoing fight to combat the illegal drug trade.

“The safety and security of the United States cannot be viewed in a vacuum,” said Cuellar.  “Cooperation between the United States and Mexico can lead to a reduction in the flow of drugs to the United States, which threatens children and families, taxes our criminal justice system, and costs billions in law enforcement resources. That is why I fought to include this language, which boosts cooperation between our two nations in this vital effort. More can be done and more must be done to work with our southern neighbor and secure our border.”

Over the past decade, a “balloon effect” has pushed increased violence and instability into Central America and Mexico from South America.

Currently, Mexico is working to reduce violence created by transnational criminal organizations and address issues spurred by the emergence of internal self defense groups. To combat these destabilizing threats, through a variety of authorities, the U.S. Department of Defense advises, trains, educates, and equips vetted troops in Mexico and many of the nations of Central America to build their militaries and police forces, with an emphasis on human rights and building partnership capacity.

Cuellar’s language directs the Department of Defense to focus on combating illicit networking routes in Mexico and Central America.

According to Cuellar’s language, the United States Northern Command and United States Southern Command should continue to work together to combat the transnational nature of these threats and the U.S. Department of Defense should increase its maritime, aerial and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in the region in order to reduce the amount of illicit networking flowing into the United States.

Cuellar is also continuing to monitor the progress of language he included in last year’s NDAA, which directed the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop joint testing and training of unmanned aircraft and systems for use in border security operations.

This provision will better train and equip pilots to operate unmanned aircraft for the purposes of border security. It will more effectively utilize taxpayer dollars to support the activities of Customs and Border Protection so that agents are better trained and equipped.

The ability of these three agencies – DoD, DHS, and FAA – to work jointly will allow for better sharing of knowledge and expertise which will ultimately benefit the residents of the border regions and citizens throughout the country.

Henry Cuellar is a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Vice Chairman of the House Steering and Policy Committee, Senior Whip, and member of the Blue Dog Coalition. Previously, he served as a Texas state representative and Texas Secretary of State.

••••••

Share This

Share this post with your friends!