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Sen. Hinojosa applauds recommendation to change leadership at Texas Department of Transportation

Edinburg City Councilmember Alma A. Garza, flanked by her parents, Dr. Omar and Dora Garza, took her oath of office on Monday, May 12, for a three-year term on the five-member governing body. Alma Garza, who for the first time in her young political career had faced an opponent, generated 63 percent of the vote, a significant margin of victory.  She was sworn in by Hidalgo County 206th District Court Judge Rose Guerra Reyna. Garza also raised more than $29,000 in campaign funds in the second phase of her campaign to help secure her victory, according to her campaign finance report filed with the City Secretary’s Office. See story later in this posting.

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Gene Espinoza, left, who was reelected to a new three-year term on Saturday, May 10, is congratulated by his uncle, Justice of the Peace Charlie Espinoza, after the city councilmember, who was joined by his immediate family, was sworn in to office on Monday, May 12.  In addition to his own many supporters, Espinoza was helped in his reelection bid by generous contributions for several prominent Edinburg-area business leaders.  The most recent list of his contributors, along with the campaign financial supporters for Councilmember Alma Garza, are featured in a story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Municipal Court Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios, featured left, on Monday, May 12, was sworn in for another three-year term as presiding judge of the local court by  his nephew, Hidalgo County 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr.  Palacios, who is also a partner in the law firm of García, Quintanilla and Palacios in McAllen – which includes former Edinburg Mayor Richard García – serves a key role in the administering of justice in the community. Rodríguez was  a former Edinburg City Councilmember before resigning that post in October 2005 to make his own successful bid for district judge. According to CourtReference.com, municipal courts in Texas have original and exclusive jurisdiction over criminal violations of certain municipal ordinances and airport board rules, orders, or resolutions that do not exceed $2,500 in some instances and $500 in others. Municipal courts also have concurrent jurisdiction with the justice courts in certain misdemeanor criminal cases. In addition to the jurisdiction of a regular municipal court, municipal courts of record also have jurisdiction over criminal cases arising under ordinances authorized by certain provisions of the Texas Local Government Code. The municipality may also provide by ordinance that a municipal court of record have additional jurisdiction in certain civil and criminal matters. Municipal judges also serve in the capacity of a committing magistrate, with the authority to issue warrants for the apprehension and arrest of persons charged with the commission of both felony and misdemeanor offenses. As a magistrate, the municipal judge may hold preliminary hearings, reduce testimony to writing, discharge the accused, or remand the accused to jail and set bail.

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Dr. Scott Cook, one of the world’s expert on Mexican brick culture, has a unique window on Valley’s history, and he will be in Edinburg on Wednesday, June 11, to share those perspectives at the Museum for South Texas History, located at 200 N. Closner, immediately northeast of the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Accompanying him will be local musicologists and “North of the Border” radio show hosts Joe and Rosa Pérez (singing songs of the brick-makers).  The presentations will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and wine and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.  Cook is professor emeritus of anthropology and interim director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. He lives in Willimantic, Connecticut. There is a $5 donation requested, and the event calls for business casual attire. To RSVP or obtain more information, interested persons may call 956/ 776-0100, extension 311.

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Sen. Hinojosa criticizes FEMA for ignoring Valley victims following major wildfires in Hidalgo County

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Work continued on Thursday, March 20 on the southern face of Edinburg City Hall, which is expected to be open by May, although it may not be until mid-summer before an old city hall annex, located north of the new facility, is demolished, and Kuhn Street is extended to serve the new complex. The groundbreaking for the 42,000-square-foot facility, located at 412 West McIntyre, took place in May 2006. It is designed to triple the amount of space utilized by city employees at the current City Hall. The project is expected to cost $6.65 million and will be funded through Certificate of Obligation Bonds. Due to construction, the section of McIntyre Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue will be permanently closed. The existing city hall will be converted into a larger headquarters for the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department.

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An aerial photograph taken on Wednesday, March 19, showed smoke from one of the wildfires that eventually consumed more than 26,000 acres in the ranch country north of Edinburg. Sparks from a utility line are being blamed for starting the initial fire, which was fueled by dry pastures, then spread by sustain winds approaching 50 miles per hour throughout that day and evening. Unofficial estimates predict the cost of the fires will approach $1 million. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Thursday, March 21, criticized the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) for not doing enough to financially help victims of the wildfires. See lead story later in this posting.

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Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, recently presented a $1,800 check to the Raindrop Room, which is sponsored and maintained by the Upper Valley Community Partners Board, Inc. The Raindrop Room in Weslaco was established as part of the Rainbow Room in McAllen, a local charity organization whose mission is to provide Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers the additional resources, products, tools, training and support services necessary to accomplish this goal. The vision of this organization is: “Community partners will initiate, develop, and support projects that enable CPS caseworkers to make the most positive impact possible on the victims of child abuse and neglect in Texas Counties and on those who are at risk”. Martínez organized a charity event in November 2007 to benefit various charity organizations in the Rio Grande Valley. Among those charities that benefited from the event was the Raindrop Room. The donation received will be used to restock the room with all new items for CPS clients such as diapers, baby formula, personal hygiene items, clothing and shoes. Featured, front row from left are: caseworkers Jovita Shives and Angie Romo; Martínez; Alicia de León, Rainbow Room coordinator; and Cynthia Bocanegra of Edinburg, the board president. From left, back row, are: Norma Reyes, caseworker; Rosie López, administrative assistant II; Johnny Rodríguez of Edinburg, a board member; Betsy Sinnett, program director; Junior Cordero and Ene Prado, board members; Georgina Morales, CPS director Region 11; and Marina Yzaguirre, program administrator.

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Judge Criss says Justice Yañez would make Texas history by challenging GOP instead of fellow Democrat in election for state Supreme Court

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The University of Texas-Pan American Wellness and Recreation Sports Complex (WRSC), which was voted on, inspired by, and built for students, was officially dedicated Tuesday, October 30 during a ceremony commemorating the $26 million facility. The goal of the 156,000-square-foot facility, located on the corner of Sugar Road and Schunior Street, is to promote recreation, health, fitness, and interaction among the UTPA community. Featured, from left, during the Student Health Center ribbon cutting, are: Rick Gray, Student Health Services director; Dr. David Prior, UT System executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Dr. UTPA president Blandina Cárdenas; Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr., D-Edinburg; Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services; and Dr. Jerry Price, associate vice president and dean of students. See story later in this posting.

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A little-known state law passed by the Texas Legislature last spring could have a big impact on the length of the terms of Edinburg’s seven school board trustees, but only if the local board acts before the end of this year. Currently, each school board trustee in Edinburg serves a term whose length is for three years. The Edinburg school board, featured in this portrait, has three meetings left this year in which to decide whether to increase the length of their elected terms. Featured, first row, from left: Secretary Ciro Treviño; President Carmen González; and Vice President Omar Palacios. Standing, from left: David Torres; Robert Peña, Jr.; Jaime Chavana; and Greg García. See story later in this posting.

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The Hispanic National Bar Association recently selected Honorable Gina M. Benavides of Texas’ 13th Court of Appeals as their Latina Judge of the Year. Benavides is featured here receiving the award on Friday, October 5, 2007 at the HNBA’s 2007 Annual Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This isn’t the first time the Corpus Christi native has been recognized for her achievements in the courtroom. Benavides was named by Texas Monthly as a Super Lawyer in 2003 and 2004, a distinction bestowed upon her by her peers as being one of the best lawyers in the State of Texas. Less than 10 percent of all lawyers in Texas earn this distinction. The 13th Court of Appeals sits both in Edinburg and Corpus Christi. Benavides hears cases in both courts assigned at random. See story later in this posting.

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Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a native of Edinburg, was recently confirmed by the United States Senate as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court hears appeals from federal trial courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Southwick was confirmed by the Senate on October 24, 2007. He was sworn in on October 30. Southwick is the son of the late Dr. Lloyd M. Southwick, an Edinburg physician, and of the late Ruth Tarpley Southwick Flanagan, whose family first came to the Valley in 1922. His stepfather, the late James M. Flanagan, was a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania who retired to McAllen in the 1960’s. See story later in this posting.

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