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Photograph by MARCO MARTÍNEZ
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Edinburg’s key governments and businesses were among the big winners in the 2014 Monitor’s Readers’ Choice Award, according to the McAllen-based newspaper, which honored all recipients of that honor during a ceremony on Tuesday, September 30, at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “For nearly three decades, Hidalgo County institutions have looked forward to The Monitor’s annual Readers’ Choice Award,” the publication stated in its Wednesday, October 1 edition. “Among the big winners were the City of Edinburg, with many businesses there garnering the endorsements of Monitor readers.” In addition to Edinburg being named the Best City, the Edinburg school district was named best school system, and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce took to top ranking in its respective category. Featured, seated, from left: Imelda Rodríguez, Director of Tourism, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Sonia Marroquín, Edinburg Assistant City Manager; Myra C. García, First Lady, City of Edinburg; Nicole Sosa, Kids’ Kollege Learning Center; and Concepción “Connie” S. Hernández, New York Life Insurance. Standing, from left: Agustín “Augie” Lozano, Bert Ogden Rio Grande Valley; Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina; Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District; Edinburg School Board President Juan “Sonny” Palacios, Jr.; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Alex Ríos, Kids’ Kollege Learning Center; and Velma Sue De León, Memorial Funeral Home. See story later in this posting.

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Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

Amidst the pomp and circumstance of community-wide events on Tuesday, September 16 and Wednesday, September 17, honoring the 100th anniversary of The Edinburg Review, the milestone for the newspaper also provides residents with the opportunity to appreciate a free and independent press, city and state leaders say. “There is a saying that the press can be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad,” said Edinburg Mayor Richard García. “In honoring The Edinburg Review on its centennial, we are also paying respect to the most important right of every American – freedom of speech.” García, who also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, was joined by the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, September 16, to present the leadership of The Edinburg Review a city proclamation honoring the history and impact of newspaper on its hometown and region. Featured at Edinburg City Hall on Tuesday, September 16, are, front row, from left, representing The Edinburg Review: Ricardo De Luna, Account Executive; Pedro Pérez, IV, Editor; Gustavo Díaz, Advertising Director; Laura García, Staff Writer; Linda Medrano (holding framed proclamation), Publisher, The Edinburg Review/Town Crier; Claudia García, Fulfillment Specialist; Javier Silva, Account Executive; and Jimmy Rocha, Production Manager. Back row, from left: Councilmember Richard Molina; Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Mayor Richard García; Councilmember J.R. Betancourt; and Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. See story later in this posting.

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Photograph by DIEGO REYNA
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

If there were ever any doubts, a music video featuring almost 200 Edinburg residents, including the cheerleaders and other key staff for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the NBA-affiliated professional basketball team, shows that the community is optimistic about the present and future – and its people used rhythm, dance and video to let the whole world know. In a first-class production by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, entitled “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY”, the positive and catchy music of Pharrell Williams’ smash hit, Happy, serves as the soundtrack for the five minute and 22 second local music video. By utilizing YouTube, the EEDC is getting their message out on a global level, since the video sharing website, by its own accounting, “allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.” Mayor Richard García, who is no stranger to the spotlight, and who as a younger man performed in a band, praised everyone who volunteered for the music video. “I know a picture tells a thousand words, but this music video goes even further,” the mayor said. “This is an extraordinary and true representation of the people of Edinburg, the Rio Grande Valley, and South Texas. We are energetic, intelligent, confident, diverse, young, strong, successful, accomplished, experienced, wise, beautiful, handsome, and full of hope.” “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” had its “world premiere” on Thursday, July 24, before a packed house of more than 220 area business and community leaders who had gathered at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance for the quarterly Public Affairs Luncheon organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. (The “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” video is available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaApcFHVr3o). More than 2,000 views had been registered of that video as of August 15. Featured on Tuesday, July 29, reenacting their performance for the “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” music video are, kneeling, from left: Nallely Cáceres; Ashley Torres; Sarah Echevarría; and Laura Perales. Middle row, from left: Liana Cisneros; Hondo Candelaria; Rebecca Sweat; and RGV Vipers mascot Fang. Back row, from left: André Burns; Laura Cisneros; and Gabriel Ramírez. See story later in this posting.

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Photograph by JOSUE ESPARZA
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

Five cadets in The University of Texas-Pan American’s U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) were commissioned on Friday, August 22 during a ceremony held at UTPA’s Albert L. Jeffers Theatre. Col. Hugh Davis, adjunct professor at the National Defense University Eisenhower School of National Security Strategy and Resource Management, commissioned the cadets as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army during the ceremony attended by family, friends and university officials. Since its inception in 1981, 272 students in the UTPA ROTC program have transitioned from cadets to commissioned U.S. Army officers serving in active, national guard or reserve duty. Featured from left at the ceremony are: Second Lieutenants Leslie Amaya (Reserves); Manuel Aranda (Active Duty); José Nava López (Reserves); Betty Preciado (National Guard); and Amara Ríos (Reserves). For more information on UTPA’s ROTC program, call 956/665-3600 or 3601.

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Photograph Courtesy of U.S. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
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Hidalgo County is asking for area residents to provide information about women from the region who participated in the “Rosie the Riveter” movement during World War II. “Rosie the Riveter” was the star of a U.S. government campaign aimed at recruiting women for the munitions industry. In movies, newspapers, posters, photographs and articles, the campaign stressed the patriotic need for women to enter the work force and many did. “We are reaching out to everyone for information on women, especially those from the Rio Grande Valley, who answered the call to duty during World War II as widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force,” explained Julie Benítez Sullivan, Director of Public Affairs for Hidalgo County. “Rosies were crucial to the war effort and Hidalgo County would like to help recognize them for their service to our country.” Individuals are asked to contact Sullivan via email at public.affairs@co.hidalgo.tx.us or by phone at 956/292-7026. In this image, provided by the U.S. Library of Congress, a man and a woman riveting team in 1942 work on the cockpit shell of a C-47 transport aircraft at the plant of North American Aviation, Inc. in Inglewood, California. More than six million female workers helped to build planes, bombs, tanks and other weapons that would eventually win World War II. They stepped up to the plate without hesitation and gave up their domestic jobs to accomplish things that only men had done before them. They became streetcar drivers, operated heavy construction machinery, worked in lumber and steel mills, unloaded freight and much more. Proving that they could do the jobs known as “men’s work” created an entirely new image of women in American society, and set the stage for upcoming generations. Every day the women, both young and old, would punch into work at the shipyards, factories and munitions plants across America. During the war the women increased the workforce by 50 percent. Racial barriers were broken as various minority members went to work. Coming from all walks of life, there were those already working who switched to higher-paying defense jobs, those who had lost their jobs due to the Depression, and then of course there were the women who worked at home.

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Photograph By RONNIE LARRALDE
http://www.EDINBURGPOLTICS.com

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Staff are planning the Annual Installation Banquet scheduled for Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 6 p.m. The banquet will take place at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center, located at 1903 S. Closner Boulevard in Edinburg. The banquet will honor Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios as incoming chairman and Robert McGurk, featured in this image, as outgoing chairman for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The banquet will also feature dinner and the announcements of “Man and Woman of the Year”, “Leadership Award” and “Ambassador of the Year”. Tickets to attend the Annual Banquet are $30 per person, or $300 for a table of 8. Attire will be business casual and is open to the public. For more information, please call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Dina Araguz, immediate past chairwoman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, also is featured in this image.

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Photograph by RONNIE LARRALDE
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host its Public Affairs Luncheon on Thursday, October 16, at the Echo Hotel & Conference Center, 1903 S. Closner Boulevard in Edinburg. The topic will be a legislative update, featuring highlights from the regular session of the Texas Legislature held in the spring of 2013, and looking ahead to the upcoming five-month regular session, which begins in early January 2015. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, are the invited speakers. Featured promoting the event are, from left: Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Lucy Canales, partner, Linebarger, Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP; Kelly Rivera Salazar, Linebarger, Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP; and Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Edwards Abstract and Title Company. For more information or to make a reservation for the luncheon, please call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. The October 16 luncheon also allows business professionals to meet, network and create opportunities for the companies they represent. Cost to attend the luncheon is $12 per person or $125 for a table of 8, and includes a hot lunch, beverage and dessert. The Public Affairs Luncheons are an initiative introduced in 2006, and since then have featured popular topics with speakers who cover important community and legislative issues. The vision is to inform, involve and educate chamber members and civic leaders. For 38 years, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP, a nationally-recognized business, has successfully focused on helping local governments ensure that all taxpayers meet their legal obligations. The firm is a major player in public-sector collections, serving more than 2,300 clients from offices in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois,Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

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Photograph by MARTHA E. PEÑA
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

Elected officials and higher education leaders from across America came together at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. Hotel on Tuesday, September 30, to honor the South Texas College Dual Enrollment Academies program as a Finalist among America’s top programs that increase academic opportunities and increase achievement for Latino students. The South Texas Dual Enrollment Academies program was selected from among 217 competitors from 26 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as one of 14 Finalists for the 2014 Examples of Excelencia Award. Conceived and run by Excelencia in Education, this is the only national initiative to systematically identify, recognize, and catalogue evidence-based programs that improve Latino college success. Featured at the STC Pecan Campus in McAllen are, front row, from left: Bianca Peralez, STC Secretary for High School Programs; Rickey Banda, STC Academies Specialist; and Alejandra López, STC Academies Specialist. Back row, from left: Javier González, STC Academies Specialist; Rebecca De León, STC Coordinator for High School Programs; Kimberly Crawford, STC Director of Academies and High School Projects; and Alejandro A. García, STC Training Manager. See story later in this posting.

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Photograph by MARK MONTEMAYOR
http://www.EDINBURGPOLITICS.com

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, featured left, observes as Edinburg Mayor Richard García on Tuesday, August 26, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Texas System and the cities of Edinburg, McAllen, Pharr and Mission, along with Hidalgo County, to provide $47.5 million over the next 10 years to support medical training operations in Hidalgo County. The agreement was part of a groundbreaking ceremony at The University of Texas-Pan American, which will be home to a significant portion of a Valley-wide UT medical school. The gathering was the official kick-off for the beginning of construction of a $54 million medical school academic building in Edinburg. Occupying more than 88,000 square feet, that complex will be a teaching facility that promotes faculty and student interaction at the beginning stages of medical school. The building will include an auditorium, digital library, clinical skills center, pre-clinical laboratories and an anatomy teaching facility. Multiple small classrooms, seminar rooms and other features will offer opportunities for small group problem solving and inter-professional educational experiences. UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, second from left, and Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas, both featured in the background, took part in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. See lead story in this posting.

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Construction begins in Edinburg on first new $54 million building for University of Texas medical school

By JENNY LaCOSTE-CAPUTO

Medical, academic and community leaders from throughout South Texas gathered on Tuesday, August 26, for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $54 million University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Medical Academic Building, the first new construction for the UT-RGV School of Medicine.

As part of the ceremony that highlighted the beginning phase of the long-sought Valley medical school, UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., and leaders from Hidalgo County and the cities of Edinburg, McAllen, Mission and Pharr signed a Memorandum of Understanding, a reflection of support for the medical school by the local governments.

Under the agreement, the cities and county agree to provide $47.5 million over the next 10 years to support medical training operations in Hidalgo County.

Noting the event’s historic nature, Cigarroa, who played a critical role in the effort to secure legislative approval and funding for the medical school and UT-RGV, said that “until this moment, we have been preparing for the journey. And now, today’s groundbreaking is a tangible stepping stone in the journey to bring a medical school to this region of Texas. This has been an amazing journey and one we could not have undertaken without many outstanding leaders who have embraced this plan and contributed greatly to its early success.”

In thanking many for their effort, Cigarroa singled out UT System Board of Regents Vice Chairman Gene Powell, a Weslaco native, who as chairman pushed for the creation of the university and medical school.

“We could not have done this without him…. The people of the Rio Grande Valley have a devoted friend and native son who has returned home with gifts greater than gold,” Cigarroa said. “He has helped open the doors of higher education and medical training that will produce doctors, nurses, health professionals and well educated citizens for generations to come.”

Powell said the medical school will bring world-class medical education and training, scientific research, and state-of-the-art healthcare to the region.

“This new university and medical school will forever transform the lives of our children and grandchildren – and fulfill the dreams of those who have come before us and wanted the best for this magnificent part of Texas,” Powell said.

Other speakers included Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, a principal architect of the legislation to create the new university; Dr. Guy Bailey, founding president of UT-Rio Grande Valley; Francisco Fernández, M.D., founding dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine; William Henrich, president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; and Ken Shine, M.D., special advisor to the chancellor at UT System.

Occupying more than 88,000 square feet, the new building will be a teaching facility that promotes faculty and student interaction at the beginning stages of medical school. The building will include an auditorium, digital library, clinical skills center, pre-clinical laboratories and an anatomy teaching facility. Multiple small classrooms, seminar rooms and other features will offer opportunities for small group problem solving and inter-professional educational experiences.

The region-wide medical school will interact with and complement facilities in Harlingen and Brownsville, including the existing Regional Academic Health Center, and will make extensive use of online and distance learning and will support continuing education in the region.

Construction began in July and is expected to be complete by the time the first medical school classes begin in the fall of 2016.

The institution 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.

UT-RGV will enroll its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine will open in 2016.

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Doctors Hospital at Renaissance unveils plans for $206 million expansion and 530 new full-time jobs from period of 2013 through 2015

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Health care and medical education are key anchors for impressive growth and prosperity in Edinburg, as evidenced by the ongoing and planned expansions at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The EEDC, which is governed by a five-member Board of Director led by Mayor Richard García as president, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

With a local economic impact of $1 billion during the past three years, according to a University of Texas-Pan American analysis, hospital officials on Tuesday, August 19, successfully secured the support of the Edinburg City Council that allows DHR to apply to the governor’s office for up to $2.5 million in state financial incentives.

García expressed the sentiments of his colleagues on the city council by emphasizing the importance of the city’s network of hospitals. In addition to DHR, South Texas Health Systems also
has a major presence in Edinburg, with assets that include Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital.

“I say that the city of Edinburg wears a crown of excellence, and the crown jewels include the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, our public and private schools, Hidalgo County government, the new UT medical school in Edinburg, our retail businesses, and our health and medical care systems,” the mayor said. “Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has become one of the crown jewels because it is important not only to us, but to the entire Valley and Texas.”

Under DHR’s vision, they are planning to invest more than $206 million for expansion as well as create more than 500 new fulltime jobs at its southwest Edinburg sites.

The ongoing and planned construction and jobs creation, which will cover a period between 2013 and 2015, could reach $250 million, DHR officials added, which could result in up to $3.5 million in state financial incentives for the sprawling, state-of-the-art, physician-owned medical care and medical education complex located at 5501 South McColl Road.

As part of its $206 million expansion strategies, DHR is planning to create 530 new full-time jobs, including 250 positions for faculty and medical residents who will be working with DHR as part of the upcoming creation of a the UT medical school, which will have a major campus in Edinburg, said Agustín “Gus” García, EEDC’s Executive Director.

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

A medical resident is a licensed physician who is training, usually though a hospital, in their medical specialty.

• New jobs will result in another $125 million annual payroll

“The EEDC has been working with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in its expansion process,” Gus García said. “The hospital leadership has requested the city council designate DHR as a Texas Enterprise Zone Project for this expansion, retention and creation of full-time jobs in Edinburg.”

According to the Office of the Governor, the Texas Enterprise Zone Program is an economic development tool for local communities to partner with the State of Texas to promote job creation and significant private investment that will assist economically distressed areas of the state.

Approved projects are eligible to apply for state sales and use tax refunds on qualified expenditures. The level and amount of refund is related to the capital investment and jobs created at the qualified business site.

The 530 new jobs also will result an additional annual payroll of $125 million at DHR, which in 2013 generated a payroll and related personnel costs of $180 million, according to data provided by the hospital leadership.

Current employment at DHR numbers 3,755, with an average wage of its non-physician workforce of $24 per hour. DHR also has established its own minimum wage of $11 per hour, significantly higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

DHR pays more than $6.7 million annually in local property and sales taxes, further benefiting the local economy. The expansions and new jobs will add to those figures, which are used by local governments to help provide important services to its citizens.

In nominating DHR as a Texas Enterprise Zone Project, the city is not required to provide any funding from local property or local sales taxes, Gus García noted.

“This designation will not be at any cost to the City of Edinburg nor will the city lose sales taxes,” he emphasized. “The city will benefit with the increase in the tax base and the retention of new jobs.”

Since 1989, Edinburg has qualified as an Enterprise Zone community, allowing it to partner with the state to offer a package of local and state tax and regulatory benefit to new or expanding businesses.

“The Enterprise Zone designation has allowed the City of Edinburg to retain and recruit businesses such as Merkafon Teleperformance, Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Wright III Foods, and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance,” Gus García said.

The Texas Enterprise Zone Program, which has benefited Edinburg and dozens of cities statewide, has deep Valley roots.

The state law that created the Texas Enterprise Zone Program was sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, when he was a state representative, and then-Sen. Héctor Uribe, D-Brownsville, in 1983.

• Highlights of current and planned growth

In seeking the city council’s required support, Israel Rocha, DHR’s Chief Executive Officer, provided highlights of recent and planned growth by the hospital system during his Tuesday, August 19 presentation before the mayor and city councilmembers.

“Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has a great history in working with the city. Together, we have built our company and have been able to grow, and are a great example of what the City of Edinburg offers to companies which are growing in the region,” Rocha said. “We have been able to build a top-tier hospital thanks to your assistance. We are moving from being a hospital to becoming a health system.”

Rocha was joined at the city council session by Sofía Hernández, DHR’s Administrator for Medical Education and Public Affairs.

He said DHR is planning formal public ceremonies to introduce more South Texans to the several construction projects that have opened this year.

“The new Joslin Diabetes Center, the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, and the Urology Institute at Renaissance are all open. We will soon be having a formal welcome for the community to come join us to see our service lines,” Rocha said. “We just broke ground on our Outpatient Surgery Center. The rest we listed (for 2014 and 2015 in the presentation to the city council) are still in planning. We have some additional clinics and programs for our residencies that need to be developed, but will start soon.”

Regarding a proposed hotel, he said DHR leaders “are in discussion with some companies, and (a final plan) is probably further out than 12 months from now.”

To illustrate his points, Rocha provide the following chronology and summary of recent and planned projects by DHR during his presentation to the city council.

2013

• Expansion of Antepartum Unit;
• Remodeling of the 25-bed emergency room;
• Addition of the Café Da Vinci;
• Remodeling of the front lobby at DHR;
• Transitional Care Unit; and
• Renaissance Laboratories.

2014

• DHR Bariatric and Metabolic Institute;
• The Urology Institute at Renaissance;
• Joslin Diabetes Center;
• Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance expansion;
• Outpatient Surgery Center;
• Hotel;
• DHR University; and
• IT Building.

2015

• Geriatric Surgery Center;
• Orthopedic Institute expansion;
• Apply for bed expansion;
• Emergency room expansion; and
• Seek higher level status for Trauma Center.

• History of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

What is now Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) opened its doors in 1997 as an ambulatory surgical center. Today, it is a modern, 530-bed acute care facility that provides a full range of medical services, with over 60 specialties and sub specialties.

It has been ranked among the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals® by Thomson Reuters and as one of the 100 Top Hospitals® for Cardiovascular Care.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is currently ranked number 1 in Hidalgo County and number 25 in the State of Texas by U.S. News and World Report.

“Our vision from the start has been to provide state-of-the-art care of the highest quality for patients at all stages of life and their families,” says Carlos Cárdenas, M.D.

In addition to being chairman of the hospital’s board, Cárdenas is a practicing gastroenterologist and a founder of South Texas Gastroenterology in Edinburg.

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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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Edinburg named Best City in 2014 Monitor’s Readers’ Choice Award as other hometown entities also dominate independent poll

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

If 2014 Monitor’s Readers’ Choice Awards were a sporting event, then the political and business leadership of Edinburg would be credited with more than a dozen “hat tricks”, which are three remarkable successes at the same time, such as when a football player in one game scores a touchdown through a run, a pass, and an interception.

The competition, in its 30th year for the McAllen-based regional newspaper, resulted in amazingly good marks for the local community from the publication’s global audience, with Edinburg chosen as the Best City, the Edinburg Independent Consolidated School District selected as the best school system, and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce named tops in its respective category.

Three other major entities closely associated with Edinburg also were designated number one in their respective categories: The University of Texas-Pan American, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and Los Lagos Golf Course.

At least 38 winners of the annual poll are located, or have a major presence, in Edinburg. They were chosen by more than 2,000 readers of The Monitor, which bestowed the coveted designations on Tuesday, September 30, at a breakfast held at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

“For nearly three decades, Hidalgo County institutions have looked forward to The Monitor’s annual Readers’ Choice Award,” the publication stated in its Wednesday, October 1 edition. “Among the big winners were the City of Edinburg, with many businesses there garnering the endorsements of The Monitor readers.”

Mayor Richard García, along with his wife, First Lady Myra García, were on hand to accept the Best City honor during the morning ceremony in McAllen. Councilmember Richard Molina and Sonia Marroquín, Edinburg Assistant City Manager, also were part of the local delegation for the event, which drew more than 150 people to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

The mayor expressed pride with the strong showing by Edinburg, noting the competition was formidable.

“I’d rather be lucky than good, but based on the other outstanding nominees from our neighboring cities, Edinburg and its people had to be very good to win so impressively,” García said. “I congratulate everyone who was part of this important competition, but of course, I am most proud of our local winners. They bring honor upon themselves, their business and families, and their hometown.”

Agustin “Gus” García (no relation to the mayor), the Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said the strong performances from Edinburg are the latest proverbial feathers in the hat as the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, continues its successful efforts to help encourage businesses to locate or expand in Edinburg.

“In this poll, readers made their honest, independent opinions known, and we are humbled and very appreciative of earning their favor,” Gus García said. “As part of bringing and keeping businesses in our city, we show them that Edinburg is the real deal, that the future of Texas is right here at home and in deep South Texas. This important survey will definitely be part of our marketing strategies to help create more jobs in our city.”

Dr. René Gutiérrez, superintendent for the Edinburg school district, said education in Edinburg was second to none, citing the many achievements of the public and higher education systems in the city.

“The Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District is very grateful for the vote of confidence from The Monitor’s readers and the communities-at-large,” Gutiérrez said. “The Edinburg community wants great schools. Great schools come as a result of high academic standards and goals, top-notch teachers, engaged parents and families, motivated students, safe classrooms and schools, access to technology, and school board support. At Edinburg CISD, all of our schools have these qualities.”

ECISD is recognized by local, regional, state, and national organizations for attaining the highest levels of performance in every facet of the organization.

Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, is part of the partnership of successful leadership that promotes business growth, job-development, and quality-of-life improvements.

“We were excited when we first heard the news. We’re thankful to have this amazing community, and we’re grateful to have a great staff, board of directors, and volunteers,” González said. “The chamber does a lot of good for our community, and it’s nice to be acknowledged. I also want to
thank our members and partners, because without them, this would not be possible.”

Edinburg’s stellar rankings in the poll were so impressive that on Thursday, October 2, the newspaper’s editorial staff again prominently noted that achievement.

“We deem every business, industry and individual who were selected as winners in The Monitor’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Award as crowd favorites,” the newspaper’s editorial observed. “But we can’t help but point out how the City of Edinburg and Edinburg businesses topped this year’s list that was announced on Tuesday (September 30) in our newspaper.”

The list of Edinburg winners, which were chosen from more than 100 categories, includes:

• Bank: IBC Bank
• Bar: Chili’s Bar
• Beauty Salon: E-Z Cuts
• Behavioral Health: South Texas Behavioral Health Center
• Breakfast Place: IHOP
• Chamber of Commerce: Edinburg Chamber of Commerce
• City: City of Edinburg
• Coffee Shop: Starbucks – Trenton Road
• College: University: The University of Texas-Pan American
• Convenience Store: Stripes
• Dry Cleaner: D&M Cleaners
• Fajitas: Taco Palenque
• Fast Food: Whataburger
• Floral/Gift Shop: Rosie’s Flower Shop
• Funeral Home: Memorial Funeral Home
• Furniture Store: Lack’s Furniture
• Golf Course: Los Lagos Golf Course
• Hamburgers: Whataburger
• Hospital: Doctors Hospital at Renaissance
• Insurance Agent: Concepción “Connie” S. Hernández
• Lasik Eye Surgeon: Manrique Custom Vision Center
• Loan Company: EZ Pawn
• Meat Market: Aguilar’s Meat Market
• Medical Equipment Supplier: Rio DME Edinburg
• Museum/Gallery: Museum of South Texas History
• New Car Dealership: Bert Ogden Auto Group
• Pediatrician: Ashley Pediatrics Day & Night Clinic
• Pizza: Pizza Hut
• Place of Worship: Christian Life Church Edinburg
• Plastic Surgeon: Dr. Luis M. Ríos, Jr., MD
• Pre-School Day Care: Kids’ Kollege Learning Center
• Psychiatrist: Dr. César A. Matos, MD
• School District: Edinburg ISD
• Supermarket: H-E-B
• Tire Accessories: Discount Tire
• Urologist: Henry Ruiz, M.D.
• Veterinarian: Four Paws Animal Hospital
• Wings: Wingstop

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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

••••••

100th anniversary of The Edinburg Review reflects importance of a free and independent press in America, say city, legislative leaders

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Amidst the pomp and circumstance of community-wide events on Tuesday, September 16, and Wednesday, September 17, honoring the 100th anniversary of The Edinburg Review, the milestone for the newspaper also provides residents with the opportunity to appreciate a free and independent press, city and state leaders say.

“There is a famous saying that the press can be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad,” said Edinburg Mayor Richard García. “In honoring The Edinburg Review on its centennial, we are also paying respect to the most important right of every American – freedom of speech.”

García, who also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, was joined by the Edinburg City Council on Tuesday, September 16, to present the leadership of The Edinburg Review a city proclamation honoring the history and impact of The Edinburg Review on its hometown and region.

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

The city leadership of Edinburg also shares The Edinburg Review’s commitment to open and transparent government, the mayor added.

“For many years, Edinburg has been a leader among Texas cities in providing its citizens with a full and accurate accounting of what its city government is doing in their name, ranging from televising and archiving video recordings of the meetings of the Edinburg City Council, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, to placing the entire agenda packet of every city council meeting on our city website,” the mayor noted. “We are not required to do that by state law, but we do it because an informed citizenry is what makes a great American city.”

Agustín “Gus” García (no relation to the mayor), Executive Director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said the local news media play important roles in helping the city and EEDC leadership and staff recruit new businesses, or convince existing business to expand.

“First and foremost, having an autonomous newspaper that carries the city’s name sends an important message that there is a local, independent voice that is providing a comprehensive and in-depth look into what is happening in our community,” Gus García said. “Business leaders both here at home and outside of our community, through key news media outlets such as The Edinburg Review, can see for themselves that Edinburg is indeed one of the best cities in Texas in which to live.”

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, said Texans should continue supporting their local news media because they are the most connected to the concerns and vision of individual communities.

“I am excited by the tremendous growth of the so-called social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, and other electronic communications because it allows as few as one person the power to inform and educate the masses,” Canales said. “But the local newspaper, especially one with the longevity of The Edinburg Review, is guaranteed to draw audiences that number in the tens of thousands and higher. In addition, The Edinburg Review also has effectively embraced the use of these social media tools. Their combination of print and the Internet reaches the largest audiences.”

Canales said his commitment to journalistic freedoms extends to open government and open meetings laws in Texas.

“In Texas, one of the strongest principles of our state is that the government shall not have the power to decide what the public may or may not know. That immense authority is the exclusive right of the people, through the Texas Legislature, and in keeping with the Constitution of the United States,” Canales said. “I will continue to work closely with all media, including The Edinburg Review, to make sure we protect that principle when the Texas Legislature begins its five-month regular session in January.”

Canales also offered the following website address for residents who want detailed information and advice on state open meetings and open government laws:

http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/ag_publications/pdfs/publicinfo_hb.pdf

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, along with Canales, presented The Edinburg Review with respective House and Senate resolutions marking the newspaper’s landmark century mark.

“As a U.S. Marine squad leader in Vietnam, I fought to protect the ideals of freedom and liberty, and the most important human right we have is freedom of speech,” Hinojosa said. “It is freedom of speech that makes our democracy possible. It is freedom of speech for which The Edinburg Review has stood for during the past 100 years, and will continue to defend and promote for another 100 years.”

Hinojosa was the House author of sweeping legislation in the mid-1980s that provided major improvements to the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The Texas Open Meetings Act, codified at chapter 551 of the Government Code, provides that meetings of governmental bodies must be open to the public except for expressly authorized executive sessions, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The Act also provides that the public must be given notice of the time, place, and subject matter of meetings of governmental bodies.

Additional background on The Edinburg Review is provided in the House Resolution by Canales presented to the newspaper’s leadership during a luncheon on Wednesday, September 17.

Canales’ resolution follows:

WHEREAS, The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Edinburg Review, and that occasion presents a fitting opportunity to recognize the newspaper for its century of service in the Rio Grande Valley; and

WHEREAS, Founded on February 22, 1914, by Andrés E. Chávez under the name of Revista del Valle, the original Review functioned as a Spanish weekly; it became a daily paper the following year, and remained so until around 1927, when it was purchased by Marshall McIlhenny; Mr. McIlhenny converted the publication to an English-language periodical and based its operations in the 100 block of Closner Boulevard in Edinburg; and

WHEREAS, In February 1965, the paper was acquired by James Mathis, who began to publish it daily, except on Mondays and Saturdays, and it continued to serve its readers as an important community voice; and

WHEREAS, Keeping abreast of changing times, the paper’s editors created a digital edition by 2008, thereby attracting numerous new online consumers; today, the weekly Review reaches more than 24,000 households each Wednesday and is owned by Gatehouse Media; led by publisher Linda Medrano, the expert staff includes advertising director Gus Díaz, editor Pedro Pérez IV, staff writer García, multimedia account executives Javier Sierra, Emmanuel Villa, Pat Young, and Ricardo De Luna, and fulfillment specialist Claudia García; and

WHEREAS, Throughout its 100 years of journalism, The Edinburg Review has provided important local reportage, as well as coverage of life-changing events across the globe, and the newspaper’s talented staff may indeed reflect with pride on their achievements as the paper enters its second century; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the centennial of the founding of The Edinburg Review be commemorated and that the paper’s staff be extended sincere best wishes for continued success.

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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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Edinburg retail economy in July 2014 shows 12.63 percent improvement over July 2013, with annual growth leading all major cities

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg’s retail economy in July 2014 was second-best among all major Valley cities in the rate of improvement over the same month last year, and year-to-date showed the best increase, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

Edinburg’s most recent economic showing is almost double the average for all Texas cities, which came in with a 6.5 percent monthly increase over July 2013, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Based on the amount of local sales taxes collected, which reflects the strength of an economy, Edinburg’s retail sector generated almost $1.5 million in local sales taxes in July 2014, compared with more than $1.3 million in July 2013 – an improvement of 12.63 percent.

For the first seven months of 2014, Edinburg’s retail economy also posted a double-digit upswing over the same period last year, generating $14,285,511.68 in local sales taxes, compared with $12,720,913.59 for January through July 2013 – a rise of 12.29 percent.

The local sales tax figure represents sales made in July, sent to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in August, and returned to the respective local government entities in September.

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 July 2014 generated $1,489,519.36 in local sales taxes, up 12.63 percent over July 2013, which reached $1,322,478.58.

For July 2014, Pharr registered the best improvement among major Valley cities, up 14.42 percent over the same month in 2013, with $1,183,373.39 in local sales taxes being generated.

Year-to-date, Pharr’s local sales tax revenue was 11.20 percent ahead of the pace during the same seven months in 2013.

McAllen – the traditional retail giant of the Valley – reported $4,715,748.68 in local sales taxes in July 2014, down 1.38 percent over July 2013. Year-to-date, McAllen’s local sales taxes were up 1.47 percent over the same seven months in 2013.

Weslaco’s retail economy in July 2014 produced $904,402.81 in local sales taxes, an increase of 4.34 percent over the same month last year. Year-to-date, Weslaco reported a 1.52 percent increase over January through July 2013.

Brownsville generated $2,882,758.71 in local sales taxes in July 2014, up 6.38 percent over July 2013. Year-to-date, Brownsville’s retail economy had improved 4.17 percent over the same period in 2013.

Harlingen’s retail economy in July 2014 registered $1,718,360.73 in local sales taxes, up 1.19 percent over July 2013. From January through July 2014, Harlingen’s retail economy was 1.15 percent better than the same period in 2013.

Mission reported a 3.09 decrease in retail sales for July 2014 as compared to July 2013. In July 2014, Mission generated $1,174,329.21 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,211,853.17 in July 2013. Year-to-date, Mission’s retail economy was 6.35 percent better than during January through July 2013.

According to the state comptroller’s office, which released the data on Wednesday, September 10, the Valley’s major cities reported the following local sales tax figures for July 2014:

• McAllen: $4,715,748.68, down 1.38 percent over July 2013 ($4,782,006.14);
• Brownsville: $2,882,758.71, up 6.38 percent over July 2013 ($2,709,683.40);
• Harlingen: $1,718,360.73, up 1.19 percent from July 2013 ($1,697,999.63);
• Edinburg: $ 1,489,519.36, up 12.63 percent over July 2013 ($1,322,478.58);
• Pharr: $1,183,373.39, up 14.42 percent over July 2013 ($1,034,173.66);
• Mission: $1,174,329.21, down 3.09 percent from July 2013 ($1,211,853.17); and
• Weslaco: $904,402.81, up 4.34 percent over July 2013 ($866,781.81).

All cities in Hidalgo County generated a combined total of $11,457,883.09 in local sales tax revenue in July 2014, compared with $11,102,562.93 during the same month in 2013, an improvement of 3.20 percent.

Year-to-date, all cities in Hidalgo County generated a combined total of $111,091,398.99 in local sales taxes, compared with $ 106,416,891.43 from January through July 2013, an improvement of 4.39 percent.

All cities in Cameron County generated a combined total of $5,858,010.13 in local sales tax revenue in July 2014, compared with $5,610,240.91 during the same month in 2013, an increase of 4.41 percent.

Year-to-date, all cities in Cameron County generated a combined total of $51,515,136.92 in local sales taxes, compared with $49,852,253.27from January through July 2013, an improvement of 3.33 percent.

For details of the July 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, 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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

••••••

Bronc, symbol of UT-Pan American, endorsed by Edinburg City Council for new mascot of UT-Rio Grande Valley

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A measure urging the University of Texas System to preserve local school spirit and regional history by retaining the Bronc, the symbol of UT-Pan American, as the new mascot for UT-Rio Grande Valley was unanimously approved on Tuesday, September 2, by the Edinburg City Council.

A Bronc, short for bronco, is an unbroken or imperfectly broken range horse of western North America, such as a mustang, which is directly descended from horses brought in by the Spaniards, according to merriam-webster.com.

The endorsement, contained in a city resolution, will be presented to UT System leaders, along with Dr. Guy Bailey, the president of the UT-Rio Grande Valley.

The resolution came soon after a committee of students from UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville on August 18 released a list of 10 recommended mascots for UT-RGV.

None of those names included the Bronc.

As part of the naming process, Dr. Guy Bailey, President of UT-Rio Grande Valley, is scheduled to appoint a steering committee that will add faculty, staff, alumni and students from both institutions to make a final recommendation.

The steering committee to be named by Bailey will be co-chaired by Alberto Adame, president of the UTPA Student Government Association, and Erendira Santillana, president of the UTB Student Government Association.

“We cherish our past, and part of our past and part of our families have been Pan American Broncs,” said Mayor Richard García. “We are not trying to get in his business, or tell him how to do his business, but show him our support by suggesting to him why this would be a good thing.”

The Bronc has been the mascot for UT-Pan American since 1927, when UT-Pan American first began as Edinburg Junior College.

But in the fall of 2015, as a result of a new state law, UT-Rio Grande Valley will open its doors as a new, regional UT higher education system. As part of its new identity, it needs a mascot to serve as a powerful symbol of opportunities and success.

UT-RGV is a comprehensive university system being developed from the merger of all assets of UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the UT Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville.

UT-RGV, which will include a UT medical school with a major presence in Edinburg, will become one of the largest public universities in Texas, with an enrollment approaching 30,000 students.

City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt said he asked for the resolution to be placed for action by the city council as a result of strong support throughout the Valley and Texas.

Betancourt noted that a large number of alumni had signed up on an online petition being championed by a Bronc alumnus, Alex Del Barrio of Mission, who is a sportscaster for SportsRadio 610 in Houston.

“He has more than 3,000 signatures on his petition, and has more than 5,000 likes and comments on his FaceBook,” Betancourt said. “I stumbled upon this, and right away, I spoke with our city manager to have this resolution placed on our agenda.”

Del Barrio has two major presences on the Internet where he lays out his reasons for protecting and promoting the Bronc as the mascot for UT-RGV: http://www.facebook.com/Savebucky?fref=nf and http://www.change.org/p/savebucky/u/7965700.

“We know that growing up, the Bronc has been a big symbol, and has been part of the City of Edinburg,” Betancourt said. “I am very happy and appreciative that all of you (mayor and city council members) have stepped up to the plate.”

The decision last December by the UT System Board of Regents to eliminate “Pan American” from the newly-created UT-Rio Grande Valley did not sit well with many alumni.

Holding on to the Bronc as the mascot remains very important, Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr. reflected.

“We lost the name ‘Pan American’, which was near and dear, but we don’t want to eliminate the Bronc, completely make it disappear, and make it feel like this never existed,” Longoria said. “We can see there are proud alumni of UTPA here. We are not doing this for us, but for all the tens of thousand of alumni who are associated with the Bronc.”

Longoria called on the city leadership to “pursue this as strongly as possible, and meet as soon as possible with Dr. Bailey, and anyone else involved, to help us.”

García expressed hope that Bailey, who may have the final say in the matter, will appreciate the value of designating the Bronc as the UT-RGV mascot.

“We cherish our past, and part of our past and part of our families have been Pan American Broncs,” the mayor said. “There has been an excellent choice made for us in leadership with Dr. Bailey, and we will rally behind him, help him, support him, in ensuring that UT-RGV is going to be even better and more successful than what has existed in the past.”

As evidence of that support, García referred to one of the most recent contributions the city government made to continue helping UT-RGV.

“The first thing we are going to do is remind our new president that we just gave him a new ballpark,” the mayor said.

On Tuesday, August 19, the Edinburg City Council agreed to transfer ownership of the Edinburg Baseball Stadium to UTPA/UTRGV.

UTPA has been leasing the stadium from the city for its Spring baseball season since the stadium was built in 2000.

The donation includes approximately 10 acres of land, 4,000 seats, 10 skyboxes, the customary amenities, 635 feet of frontage along Sugar Road and 31 parking spaces.

Meanwhile, the donation will relieve the city of the on-going cost and expense of maintaining the stadium about $225,000 annually.

The transfer of the stadium will become official once the contract has been signed by both parties which should happen no later than September 30th.

The City of Edinburg built the stadium in 2000 to accommodate UTPA and to make room for semi-professional baseball. Since construction it has been home to the UTPA Broncs baseball team, as well as home to the professional minor league baseball squads Edinburg Roadrunners and Edinburg Coyotes.

In a letter posted on July 23 in the UTPA and UTB websites, Bailey offered his views on how the final mascot will be determined.

Highlights of Bailey’s comments follow:

“Dear UT Brownsville and UT-Pan American Communities,

“As we move forward with plans to open the new UT Rio Grande Valley in one short year, many activities are underway by a number of working groups at UTB, UTPA, and the UT System, and I remain grateful to you for your engagement and support of the process.

“Among one of the most high profile and popular processes are the selections of:

“(1) a new institutional wordmark for use in print and digital publications for official academic and administrative purposes, and

“(2) new university colors and a mascot as related to athletics and the broader campus community.

“Allow me to share with you where we are on these efforts.

“With respect to the first process, the development of a new university wordmark and typography has occurred, and two concepts received input from administrators and several working teams from UTPA, UTB and the UT System. The wordmark will be used as we quickly prepare enrollment and recruitment materials for prospective students, parents, high school counselors and more.

“Please note that the wordmark may undergo further changes in design as new, final school colors are selected in the months ahead, but for now, we must concentrate efforts on having a UT-RGV wordmark so we may quickly finalize materials that must go into production soon for pending mailings.

“The second process – the selection of new university colors and a mascot – is one that will involve a much broader participation outside of our established working groups. The ultimate decision for this is delegated to me by the UT System Board of Regents, but I will make this decision through extensive input by all.

“Additionally there will be two new committees, one composed of student leaders from UT-Brownsville and UT Pan American, chaired by student government presidents Eréndira Santillana and Alberto Adame, respectively, and a steering committee I (have appointed), composed of faculty and staff, student leaders and alumni, also chaired by our student government leaders.

“The UT System has engaged a national expert with significant experience in rebranding and the development of logos for universities, professional sports teams, and large corporations.

“This expert, Eric Rickabaugh, will work with the student and steering committees to hear their voices and help us develop our new athletics logos and designs, and he has already met with a number of individuals on both campuses, including students and athletics leaders.

“Eric will receive all of the information that is submitted in the web-based survey, too.

Eric has been instrumental in creating award-winning designs for Coco-Cola, Toyota, the NFL, NBA, Ohio State University, Vanderbilt, and many more organizations.

“I hope this communication is helpful to you as we all share in the equity of the new UT-RGV.

“As always, I look forward to working with you on this extraordinary opportunity.”

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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

••••••

South Texas College Dual Enrollment Academies recognized among most effective in nation at increasing Latino student success in college

By MARTHA E. PEÑA

Elected officials and higher education leaders from across America came together at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. Hotel on Tuesday, September 30, to honor the South Texas College Dual Enrollment Academies program as a Finalist among America’s top programs that increase academic opportunities and increase achievement for Latino students.

The South Texas Dual Enrollment Academies program was selected from among 217 competitors from 26 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as one of 14 Finalists for the 2014 Examples of Excelencia Award.

Conceived and run by Excelencia in Education, this is the only national initiative to systematically identify, recognize, and catalogue evidence-based programs that improve Latino college success.

South Texas College Dual Enrollment Academies are two-year dual enrollment programs for high school juniors interested in earning an associate degree by the end of their senior year in high school. Academy program structure is designed to allow students to take high school courses in the morning and dual credit college courses in the afternoon at South Texas College. The Academies are designed to focus on specific fields of study. They include the Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy (DEMSA), Dual Enrollment Engineering Academy (DEEA), Dual Enrollment Computer Science Academy (DECSA) and the Dual Enrollment Criminal Justice Academy (DECJA).

“The South Texas College Dual Enrollment Academies are increasing our Hispanic students’ degree attainment at the associate’s level. We are honored to receive recognition and will continue encouraging Hispanic students as they pursue higher education pathways,” said Kimberly Crawford, STC Director of Academies and High School Projects.

The September 30 announcement event, Celebraciòn de Excelencia, coincided with the release of the 2014 edition of “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” a compendium of all 29 recognized programs along with the evidence of their success. Through this annual process, Excelencia in Education continues to grow America’s largest inventory of programs and strategies that education leaders, policymakers, and others tap into to accelerate degree completion among Latinos.

This is the ninth annual release of Examples of Excelencia.

Excelencia in Education has systematically reviewed more than 700 programs to identify and recognize 125 programs and departments – including, for the first time this year, community-based organizations – that demonstrate with evidence that they effectively boost Latino enrollment, performance and graduation.

“As one of this year’s Finalists, South Texas College is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “No longer should policymakers and institutional leaders ask how to improve college success for Latinos – we have the largest accumulation of proven examples and tested strategies that show them how. Today’s question is do leaders have the will to put these practices into action?”

To download What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education, which includes detailed information about all of the programs recognized on September 30, visit http://www.EdExcelencia.org.

“By sharing what works we hope to support educators, community leaders, funders, and policymakers to take an asset-based approach to serving Latino students,” said Deborah Santiago, COO and Vice President of Excelencia in Education and author of the publication. “Ultimately, we strive to inspire and support replicating and bringing to scale evidence-based practices that serve Latino students and thus serve the country.”

Examples of Excelencia is the only national initiative to systematically identify and promote evidence-based programs and departments effectively boosting Latino enrollment, performance and graduation. It is presented in collaboration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). The 2014 sponsors are ACT, Univision, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, DeVry University, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014, Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

••••••

EEDC music video, featuring almost 200 residents, sending “extraordinary and true representation of the people of Edinburg”

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

If there were ever any doubts, a music video featuring almost 200 Edinburg residents, including local personalities and politicians, shows that the community is optimistic about the present and future – and its people used rhythm, dance and video to let the whole world know.

In a first-class production by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, entitled “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY”, the positive and catchy music of Pharrell Williams’ smash hit, Happy, serves as the soundtrack for the five minute and 22 second local music video.

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

By utilizing YouTube, the EEDC is getting their message out on a global level, since the video sharing website, by its own accounting, “allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.”

Within a month of being posted on YouTube by the EEDC, more than 2,000 views had been registered, with thousands more sure to follow in the weeks and months to come.

(The “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” video is available online at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaApcFHVr3o)

“Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” had its “world premiere” on Thursday, July 24, before a packed house of more than 220 area business and community leaders who had gathered at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance for the quarterly Public Affairs Luncheon organized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the EEDC, the keynote speaker for the Public Affairs Luncheon, had just finished his hour-long review of the dramatic economic growth going on and projected for the city.

With all the advanced video systems available at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, García had made excellent use of the facility’s technology, including effectively utilizing impressive graphics from his Power Point presentation on the big screens of the conference hall.

He succeeded in keeping the audience’s attention with his facts, figures, and photographs, then surprised the audience by invoking a passage from the song by the musician Williams, leaving them to wonder what was García was up to.

• “These are exciting times in Edinburg, and we couldn’t be happier”

When it was all said and done, the “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” video drew loud cheers and applause from the gathering, not only because the production itself was so professional, but because it was as uplifting as it was enlightening about the great news and honorable people of Edinburg.

Seconds before the video was shown, García addressed his unsuspecting audience.

“In the words of Pharrell Williams,” the EEDC executive director began, then paused for effect. “There may be naysayers, I know…”

Then he invoked several key passages from Williams’ global music hit, reading the following verse:

“Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah”
“Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah”
“Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah”
“No offense to you, don’t waste your time”

As soon as García finished, the two large broadcast screens in the meeting hall came to life with the EEDC video, starting with García, smiling and seated at his desk in his office at the EEDC headquarters, tossing a Rio Grande Valley Vipers basketball, and addressing the video camera.

“Ladies and Gentleman, these are exciting times in Edinburg, and we couldn’t be happier,” García reflected on the video, with all the confidence of a Jimmy Fallon of the Tonight Show. “But you know what? There are a lot of other people who are happy about it, too. So take a little trip with me and let’s just find out who is happy about Edinburg.”

The music soundtrack and video then kicks into action, with Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., who is First Vice President of Texas Regional Bank, showing his dance moves, with fellow staff members clapping to the beat of the song.

The video then cuts to Councilmember Richard Molina doing turns with an Edinburg police parking enforcement vehicle, followed by Hidalgo County Sheriff Department staff members strutting their stuff, and so on.

As more and more residents appeared on the video, exclamations of recognition and excitement came from the audience, who had immediately been swept up by what is being hailed as “Feel Good Anthem” of this generation.

• Diego Reyna, Letty Reyes led production of video

The video was a collaborative effort of Diego Reyna, Research Analyst, and Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, both EEDC staff members, as part of their cutting-edge work that helped prepare García for the Public Affairs Luncheon.

“A lot of team meetings go on at the EEDC, and we do everything as a team. In one of those sessions, we talked about using a video to end the (July 24 Public Affairs Luncheon) presentation – something different, something exciting,” said Reyna. “We knew there were going to be a lot of numbers and statistics discussed, so we wanted to end on something fun.”

As they searched the Internet for ideas, Reyna and Reyes noticed the “Happy” song was being used by increasing number of cities, both small and enormous, nationally and worldwide, to show off their communities and their people.

“Gus really liked the idea of using the “Happy” song,” Reyes recalled. “We showed him other songs used by other communities, but when he saw the cities that used ‘Happy’ in their videos, he said, ‘That’s the one!’ He issued that challenge to Diego and myself to come up with the ‘Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” performance.

And so it was that Edinburg became destined to join El Paso in Texas along with Amsterdam (Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Belfast (Ireland) Berlin (Germany) Dublin (Ireland) and Moscow (Russia), among others, in using the Happy song to create an inspiring video music video of their people.

But coming up with the idea, outstanding as it sounded, still only achieved half of the goal.

Finding the groups and individuals to participate in what will surely become an iconic image of Edinburg was still needed to pull off the feat.

Also, convincing people, particularly captains of industry and other pillars of the community, to groove on video for exposure on YouTube could have been the most challenging issue facing the EEDC.

But a strong desire by citizens to show their pride in their hometown prevailed, and the ability of the EEDC to orchestrate every facet of the project, paid off.

“Whether it was setting up appointments, providing suggestions during the editing process, creative input, or ‘busting a move’, I can honestly say that everyone on the EEDC staff had a big part in this production,” Reyna emphasized.

• Sen. Lucio, Judge García among cameo appearances

Political and public figures, ranging from Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, to Edinburg Police Chief Rolando Castañeda, Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider, and Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr. – no strangers to big audiences –contributed to the effort with cameo appearances.

The younger set – such as members of the local Boys and Girls Club and young women participating in a soccer camp at the University of Texas-Pan American – were more than ready to demonstrate their skills, in some cases performing like future Michael Jacksons or Shakiras.

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers cheerleading squad also was included, showing why fans who will pack the planned $54 million Edinburg arena in a couple of years will admire their skills as much as the NBA-affiliated Vipers basketball players.

But a large contingent of the Edinburg residents on the video were city personnel, and they, too, answered the call to show to proudly represent their hometown, including:

• Debora Melvin, the Texas Department of Transportation 2013 General Aviation Airport Manager of the Year, showcasing Edinburg’s air transportation system while herself moving so gracefully as to be deserving of a shot on “Dancing with the Stars”;

• Steven Edward Cruz, II, a member of the EEDC Board of Directors, illustrating the power of Edinburg’s determination by landing knock-out punches, to the beat of the music, on a leather speed boxing bag;

• Cynthia Contreras-Gutiérrez, the outside counsel for the EEDC, and her staff, symbolizing the successes of women-owned businesses in Edinburg and giving a thumbs-up along with movie star smiles; and

• Alex Ríos, Director of the District Office for State Rep. Terry Canales, showcasing a great James Brown dance rendition outside of their legislative office, a symbol of Edinburg’s influence as a state political power located in the heart of the city’s downtown.

• Calming nervous participants

Even so, in same cases, it took a little bit of convincing for some, Reyna said.

“We just pitched it as Edinburg is at a time when things are going very well, a lot of exciting projects are underway, and from an economic standpoint, Edinburg is in a very happy time. That’s how we sold it to them to participate,” he said.

As in all large organizations, many of the city staff members are outgoing and confident, ready and willing to take part in such a unique public performance. EEDC staff members would reassure their city counterparts that they did not expect them to do anything that would make them uncomfortable.

“We just want to see you happy on the video,” Reyes would explain what the EEDC wanted to project on video. “If you want to show off your smile into the camera, or give a thumbs-up, or if you want to have more fun, you can dance.”

To help soothe willing but nervous performers, Reyna and Reyes came up with strategies to help reduce the “butterflies in the stomach”.

“If one person was uneasy about dancing solo, there is safety in numbers, so we would bring other people into the video,” Reyes said. “Once that spark ignited, it was easier to get into it.”

Plus, Reyna brought a music speaker to play the song for the prospective dancers.

“It didn’t take too much choreography,” he downplayed his stroke of brilliance, “The song made a person want to dance to the music.”

• Mayor García: “Extraordinary and true representation of the people of Edinburg”

Mayor Richard García, who is no stranger to the spotlight, and who as a younger man performed in a band, praised everyone who volunteered for the music video.

“I know a picture tells a thousand words, but this music video goes even further,” the mayor said. “This is an extraordinary and true representation of the people of Edinburg, the Rio Grande Valley, and South Texas. We are energetic, intelligent, confident, diverse, young, strong, successful, accomplished, experienced, wise, beautiful, handsome, and full of hope.”

In order of appearance, the “Edinburg EDC IS HAPPY” video featured the following individuals and organizations:

• Edinburg City Council
• Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department
• Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg
• Edinburg Engineering Department
• Edinburg Utilities Department
• Lone Star National Bank
• Edinburg International Airport
• Edinburg Chamber of Commerce
• Edinburg Finances Department
• Edinburg Economic Development Corporation
• Rubencito
• Edinburg EDC Board of Directors
• Edinburg EDC Staff
• UTPA Women’s Soccer Camp
• Texas Cook’Em
• Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr.
• State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.
• Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García
• Edinburg Police Department
• Edinburg Fire Department
• Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department
• Dustin Sekula Library
• Edinburg City Planning Department
• RGV Vipers Cheerleaders and Staff
• Edinburg Cable Network
• Edinburg CDBG Staff
• Edinburg Human Resources Department
• Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department
• Dustin Sekula Memorial Library
• EEDC Attorney Cynthia Contreras-Gutiérrez
• State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg

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 or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

••••••

Santería follower from Mission and others head to prison on federal drug charges

BY ANGELA DODGE

Francisco Javier Maya, 35, has been ordered to prison following his convictions of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute approximately 1,000 pounds of marijuana, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson has announced.

A jury in Brownsville convicted Maya on January 30, 2014, after two days of trial testimony and approximately six hours of deliberations.

On Tuesday, October 7, U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle of Brownsville, who presided over the trial, handed Maya a sentence of 189 months for the conspiracy charge and 189 months on the possession charge. The sentences will be served concurrently.

At the hearing, additional evidence was presented including that he was a leader and organizer of the conspirators.

Maya will also be required to serve a term of five years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.

Also sentenced today were Phillip Cross, 56, Cade Jobe, 37, and Julio Treto, 56, to respective terms of 58 months, 38 and 47 months in federal prison. Cross, Jobe and Treto had previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy as did seven others – José Ángel Marichalar Jr., 33, Yisnel García González, 30, Ángel Barraza, 34, Jesus González, 35, Delton Hinderliter, 35, Adonys Hurtado-Gutiérrez, 38 – who are set for sentencing at a later date.

Four others were charged in a separate, but related case: Jesús Mauricio Juárez, 28, Rubén González-Cavazos, 30, Adolfo Lozano-Luna, 36, and Alberto Martínez, 51, had also previously pleaded guilty.

Martínez received a sentence of 70 months on October 7, while Lozano-Luna, Juárez and González-Cavazos were sentenced previously to respective terms of 70, 31 and 41 months.

At Maya’s trial, the jury heard evidence that placed him in a conspiracy with the others involving several marijuana loads each totaling between 300 and 1,000 pounds between the summer of 2012 and January 2013.

Maya’s role in the drug trafficking organization was to provide tractor-trailer drivers to drive marijuana loads to locations including Houston and Taylor. Maya would share in the profits of each load, making between $4,000-$5,000 per load.

On one occasion, he provided his wife’s bank account number in order for another conspirator to deposit the drug proceeds. Evidence was presented that $6,500 was deposited Maya’s wife’s account on November 28, 2012, right after a successful 300 pound marijuana delivery to Taylor by the organization.

Evidence showed Maya was a follower of the Santería religion.

According to http://www.U.S. Courts.gov, a web sited maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary:

The Santería religion is considered by some to be a “fusion” between the religion of the Yoruba people of Western Africa, who were brought as slaves to Cuba, and significant elements of Roman Catholicism.

The Cuban Yoruba express their devotion to spirits, called orishas, through the iconography of Catholic saints; Catholic symbols are often present at Santería rights; and Santería devotees attend the Catholic sacraments. One of the principal forms of devotion in Santería is animal sacrifice.

Sacrifices are performed at birth, marriage, and death rites; for the cure of the sick; for the initiation of new members and priests; and during an annual celebration. The sacrificed animal is cooked and eaten at some ceremonies.

The jury saw photos of Maya’s residence in Mission, which depicted numerous images of what were considered to be altars showing glasses of alcohol, knives, a machete, kettles, feathers and substances that appeared to be blood. Testimony also included descriptions of two rituals involving the sacrifice of animals.

In December 2012, Maya had a Santería priest, known as a Padrino, perform rituals with the organization to “bless” a 1,000 pound marijuana load that was destined for Houston.

After meeting with the Padrino, Maya, González-Cavazos and Juárez decided the marijuana load should remain in the Rio Grande Valley. The next day, a second ritual, attended by all five defendants, was performed and the 1,000 pounds of marijuana was to be transported to Houston.

However, the marijuana was stolen from the group by unknown individuals that evening.

After the theft and a subsequent improvised explosive device detonated at Juárez’ residence in Brownsville, law enforcement was able to piece together the events and conspirators involved in this drug trafficking organization.

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

The case was the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation involving agents from Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Brownsville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ángel Castro and Jody Young prosecuted the case.

••••••

Robert Ricardo Maldonado, former Hidalgo County deputy sheriff, sentenced for laundering $40 million in drug proceeds

By ANGELA DODGE

Robert Ricardo Maldonado, 49, of Weslaco, has been sentenced to federal prison following his conviction of conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Maldonado was a former deputy with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. He pleaded guilty on Monday, May 12, 2014.

On Wednesday, October 4, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane of McAllen, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Maldonado a total sentence of 144 months in prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court found the relevant conduct to be $40 million worth of drug proceeds Maldonado laundered over several years.

From 2001 to November 2013, Maldonado transported currency derived from the distribution of narcotics from various destinations including Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham and elsewhere to the Rio Grande Valley. Maldonado was a paid a percentage of the total amount of the currency transported. He then utilized these funds to purchase various properties and assets.

Previously released on bond, Maldonado was permitted to remain on bond and surrender later in October.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorney James Sturgis is prosecuting the case.

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