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Edinburg economy expected to grow, predicts Standard & Poor’s, one of nation’s top rating firms

Thousands of Edinburg residents, including political, business, and community leaders featured in the background, showed up at the University of Texas-Pan American on Friday, February 22, to rally support for the presidential bid by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, featured center, shown greeting inspired UTPA students. Only a handful of Rio Grande Valley elected leaders showed up to support Obama, who was dueling with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, a South Texas favorite, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Mayor Joe Ochoa and Councilmember Gus García, Jr., along with Edinburg school board trustee Robert Peña, Jr., bucked conventional political wisdom and threw their public support behind Obama, who will be sworn into office on the front steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 20. 

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Dr. Beverly Fridie, Ph.D., and her husband, Dr. David Fridie, II, DPM, from Edinburg shared their joy and pride with a Chicago Tribune newspaper distributor in the Windy City on Wednesday, November 5, following the historic election of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and the first black president in the nation’s history. The Fridie family traveled to Illinois to be part of what they hoped would be a monumental transformation in U.S. politics. Mrs. Fridie, who along with her husband are longtime community and business leaders in Edinburg, recently reflected on their visit to Chicago to help rally support for Obama. "Weeks after David and I visited Grant Park in Chicago to see and hear Barack Obama’s victory speech, I still feel a since of elation, pride and joy to be present at the historical presidential announcement of the first African American president. Standing amongst millions of enthusiastic people of all ethnic backgrounds who were holding hangs, crying and chanting, "Yes we can” and “Change has come” was an experience, I will cherish for a lifetime. Not a day has passed since that night, November 4, that I have not reflected on that event. As grand as Barack Obama’s victory rally was portrayed in the media, it was certainly an ‘out of body’ experience in person. As we share our history with our future generations, I can say, “I was there” when the first African American was elected as our president of the United States." 

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Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, featured center in this file photo last year with Hollis Rutledge (left), the chairman of the  Hidalgo County Republican Party, and Pharr Mayor Polo Palacios, announced on Sunday, January 4, that he will not seek a fourth two-year term as leader of the 150-member legislative chamber.  Instead, a relative newcomer, Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday, January 5, said he has more than enough votes to be elected Speaker when the Texas Legislature returns to Austin on January 13 for its five-month regular session. The Speaker of the House, who has the power of life and death over all legislation, is elected every two years if he or she can secure 76 votes from fellow lawmakers. If Straus is able to hold on to his support until the official vote is taken, he will owe his election to House Democrats, including all the Valley state representatives, who represented the majority of the votes needed to become Speaker. See story later in this posting. 

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Mayor Joe Ochoa, center, flanked by Gov. Rick Perry, right, and former Mayor Richard García left, addressed a July 2 gathering at the University of Texas-Pan American to announce that a South American textile company will build a $180 million denim-manufacturing plant in Edinburg, which, when completed, will create 800 new jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. In December, the city continued to receive some more good news, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, when Standard and Poor’s, one of the nation’s top three credit rating firms, gave a positive report about the health of the city’s economy, predicting it will continue to grow. See lead story in this posting. 

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Flagship newspaper of Freedom Communications, owner of McAllen Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, agrees to pay as much as $42 million in a settlement with newspaper carriers and carriers’ attorneys over employment lawsuit

Edwards Abstract and Title Company, headquartered in Edinburg, was recently recognized as the 2008 Affiliate of the Year by the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors (GMAR) during its Annual Installation Banquet, held at the McAllen Convention Center. More than 300 of the region’s leading real estate professionals attended the Saturday, November 22 banquet and the installation of the officers who will serve their terms during 2009. Roxanne Rydell-González, the outgoing GMAR president, announced the honor, which is bestowed upon a non-realtor member of the organization in appreciation for outstanding service and commitment to the organization during the past year. “The Greater McAllen Association of Realtors shines year after year because of the incredible volunteers and leadership that give of themselves and their time to face the challenges and tasks necessary to carry this great association forward and service buyers and sellers in the real estate industry,” said Rydell-González. Several members of the Edwards team were on hand at the installation banquet and they were honored to receive the award. Featured, seated, from left: Marilyn De Luna, McAllen branch manager; Mary Arce, Weslaco branch manager; Elva Jackson Garza, vice president/marketing manager and Mary Barrientos, Mission branch manager. Standing, from left: Clarissa Basaldúa, escrow officer; Lydia Gámez, examiner; Dick Henry, 2009 GMAR president; Roxanne Rydell-González, 2008 GMAR president; Vickey Terveen, escrow officer; Clay Sánchez, examiner; Norma Cano, escrow officer; Libby Luis, escrow assistant, and Miriam Lozano, escrow officer.

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Santa Claus is shown passing out one of the 24 bicycles donated to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary during a pre-Christmas event celebrating family literacy. Also present was keynote speaker, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, along with Principal Nelda Gaytán, Eddie Gonzáles, Operations Manager, and Paul Arrendondo, Assistant Manager, of Edinburg’s Academy Sports and Outdoors.

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An American soldier bravely stands at his post during this holiday season, protecting America from the forces of tyranny while bringing closer the dream of freedom to oppressed people throughout the rest of the world. A poem, featured later in this posting, captures the courage and sacrifice of tens of thousands of U.S. military veterans overseas, who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way, which ensured a safe Christmas 2008 for millions of Americans here at home.

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Christmas inspires precious memories, divine hope for Dolia González, others who have lost loved ones

Hidalgo County leaders have joined forces recently on several projects of mutual concern, including pushing for environmental planning for the eastern portion of the Hidalgo County loop project and urging President Bush to wave any associated costs local governments incurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly. In this photograph, taken during the December 6 meeting at Mission City Hall of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia S. Handy, and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, successfully encouraged the RMA Board of Directors to speed up plans for the eastern portion of the proposed county roadway loop. See stories on Hurricane Dolly recovery requests and on a successful prescription discount card that recently went into effect in Hidalgo County.

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South Texas College has been selected to participate in the Community Colleges CAN Mentoring Program, which is a national program to link community colleges across the country in unique ways for the betterment and continued pervasiveness of higher education. Through the program, STC will work closely with El Paso Community College to develop an outreach program tying together all higher education institutions and school districts across Hidalgo and Starr counties to address the college readiness needs of all current and future students in the counties. Ultimately, STC hopes to facilitate increased college-going rates, increased college readiness rates, and increased degree attainment rates by creating a seamless system to transition students from high school to college. Featured in this shot, taken during the fall 2008 orientation at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen, are high school students from McAllen who are part of the South Texas College McAllen I.S.D. Achieve Early College High School program, one of the many initiatives the college has created with Valley school districts to create a seamless path to college. See story later in this posting.

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“I heard my song while I was watching Fox News the other day,” said Christopher Holloway, South Texas College history instructor. “Who would have known that more than 20 years later it would still be a hit? I think you can say it’s become a Christmas classic!” Holloway, a man of many talents, has not only taught history for more than half a century, but also had a prosperous career in singing and songwriting. A natural vocal talent and composer, he was signed by Playback Records. He wrote several songs, including Man From Galilee, which caught the attention of Christian singer Cristy Lane. Eight years after the song’s birth, Lane released a Christmas CD in 1985 featuring her version of the song, which sold 250,000 copies in the first year. Holloway poses with a record of his songs and the songs of Cristy Lane. See story later in this posting.

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This year will mark the 40th Christmas that Dolia González of Edinburg has spent without her only child, American war hero Freddy González. But instead of sitting alone with her memories, she reaches out and is like a star shining for those around her. That is her sense of decency, honor, and civic duty, says John Flores, author of a book about the Edinburg family. Last February, Dolia González and her son were the center of attention in Edinburg, when Gov. Rick Perry, to her left, came to the three-time All-America City to bestow Texas’ highest honor in memory on her son’s courage in battle. From left, are: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Edinburg City Councilmember Noé Garza (back row); Dolia González; Edinburg City Councilmember Alma Garza (back row); Gov. Perry; and Edinburg school board president Omar Palacios. See lead story later in this posting.

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Rep. Peña defeats Eddie Sáenz in Democratic Party rematch, but remains coy about voting for reelection of Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, a Republican

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Former President Bill Clinton, flanked by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes (left) and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen (no relation), drives a point about his wife’s (Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York) deep roots with Valley voters. The former president addressed hundreds of area residents during a campaign rally on Monday, March 3, in the University of Texas-Pan American Fieldhouse. He portrayed the Republican Party as the party of the wealthy and that President Bush is out-of-touch with average Americans. His wife, though, was nothing like the ruling class, he said. “You want a president…who every single day won’t get carried away driving around in a bulletproof vehicle, flying around on Air Force One and being told you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Clinton said. “All you are as president is the most fortunate hired hand on the face of the earth. She (Hillary) knows that.” Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, are in a tight race to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president later this summer. See story later in this posting.

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Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, including Edinburg school board member Robert Peña, Jr., seen here with the presidential candidate in Edinburg on February 22, remain confident about the Illinois Democrat’s showing in Texas on Tuesday, March 4. According to the Obama campaign, their projections show that Obama will take the majority of party delegates in Texas, which are just as important as the popular vote, which was won by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York. The Texans for Obama website on Thursday, March 6, stated that the organization “strategically focused our resources on building a massive grassroots operation that would win the caucuses overwhelmingly, and our gamble apparently has paid off. The current projections show us winning the caucuses 55 percent to 45 percent.”

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, points with joy to a television monitor Tuesday night, March 4, that showed news accounts confirming his victory over Eddie Sáenz for a fourth two-year term as state representative for House District 40, which includes most of Edinburg. Peña and his many supporters were gathered at Treviño’s Restaurant in north Edinburg for the victory party. According to unofficial totals posted Wednesday, March 5, by the Hidalgo County Elections Department, Peña received 9,839 votes compared with 8,761 votes for Sáenz – or 52.9 percent of the vote for Peña compared with 47.10 percent of the vote for Sáenz. There is no Republican opponent, so Peña’s party primary victory sealed his reelection. See lead story later in this posting.

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Elva Jackson Garza, an Edinburg community and business leader, was recently inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame in recognition of her achievements and major contributions to deep South Texas. Two highlights of her distinguished work on behalf of the region include her service as board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs-creation arm of t he Edinburg City Council – and her leadership as chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Jackson Garza, featured left, receives the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame commemorative award from Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sánchez as her mother, María Sidia Gracia Jackson, proudly looks on. See story later in this posting.

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Author of Tejano Roots Dan Arellano meets with South Texas College student Jessica Mirelez during the NACCS Tejas Regional Conference Cultural Night recently held at the McAllen Convention Center. With more than 400 attendees from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the nation, the event offered a forum for the open exchange of ideas about the status and future opportunities for Mexican-Americans, focusing sharply on the need for expanded Mexican-American history and education opportunities. “This event has been highly energizing,” said María Ramírez, an instructor with Ohlone Community College out of California. “It has been terrific to connect with people from different generations. I know that younger Mexican-Americans will keep the missing chapters of our history alive and that is very exciting. I have been so impressed with the energy and interest in Mexican-American heritage and history from this community. It has been a remarkable experience.” See story later in this posting.

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Judge Susan Criss raises $317,000 in her Democratic campaign for Texas Supreme Court, Place 8

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The University of Texas Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, will hold their next regular meeting at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7. The regents, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, wield tremendous influence over how and where the UT System’s $10.7 billion, two-year budget is spent. District Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, a candidate for Texas Supreme Court, has called on the UT System to bring a law school to the Rio Grande Valley, which is predominantly Hispanic. “Of the more than 77,000 lawyers in Texas, only 14 percent are from minority populations, according to a report produced last spring by the State Bar of Texas,” said Criss. “Yet more than 59 percent of Texas schoolchildren are considered to be from minority populations, and Mexican Americans make up one-third of our state’s population. We need to encourage more minority students to pursue careers in the law.” Featured in this group portrait taken in November are: standing from left: James D. Dannenbaum; Colleen McHugh; Robert A. Estrada; Paul Foster; John W. Barnhill, Jr.; Printice L. Gary; and student regent Randal Matthew Camarillo. Seated from left: Vice Chairman James R. Huffines; Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr.; and Vice Chairman Robert B. Rowling. The UT Board of Regents is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on February 1 of odd-numbered years. In addition, the governor appoints a student regent for a one-year term that expires on May 31.

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Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg, featured right with La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, who has endorsed his bid for state representative, House District 40, continues to build momentum – and financial support – in his bid to unseat Rep. Aaron Peña in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz has raised more than $140,000 between July and December 2007, according to his campaign finance report released on Tuesday, January 15. Sáenz’ report for the period ending December 31 shows that he has raised $140,835 since launching his campaign last September, with an average donation of $800 from 45 individual contributors and including a $105,000 loan from the candidate. See story featured later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who is facing a challenge from Eddie Sáenz, also of Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary, displays what he hopes is a good omen – a dice that he drew containing the number 1, which placed his name first on the election ballot for the House District 40 legislative district, which includes most of Edinburg. He was among dozens of elected officials, candidates, family members, and Democratic Party activists who showed up at the auditorium in the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, January 10, to draw for places on the ballot for contested state and local offices in Hidalgo County. “Local political lore maintains that the first poll position is to be desired and can be advantageous,” Peña said after the drawing. “I am not quite sure if this is true but most of the candidates in the room this night seem to share the belief that it does.” Also celebrating what they hope is a lucky pick by the local legislator were his daughter, Adrienne Peña Garza, and his son Aaron. A list of the contested races in Hidalgo County, with the order in which the names will appear on the ballot, is featured later in this posting.

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To help celebrate Fiesta Edinburg’s 40th Anniversary, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Fiesta Edinburg is going “retro”. On Thursday, February 21, the community is invited to participate in Fiesta Hidalgo’s first Disco Dance Party to help kick off the annual event’s fourth decade. The festivities will be held in the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 Palm Drive. The Fiesta Edinburg Committee, featured in this promotional photograph, are hosting the Disco Dance Party, featuring the popular Deejay, “Johnny Joe”. The dance will take place from 7-11 p.m., and everyone is invited to come out and take part in reliving the 70’s. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in their flashy “retro” attire, as there will be a costume contest with $100 prize money, and $100 also will be awarded to the best dancer. The fee is $5 per person. For more information, contact the local chamber at 956-383-4974.

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