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Sen. Hinojosa pre-files legislation to freeze tuition rates; Rep. Peña, Sen. Lucio, Jr., Rep. Lucio, III, introduce measures to create UT medical school, UT law school in the Rio Grande Valley

On Monday, November 10 – the first day of pre-filing for the 81st Legislative Session – Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, filed Senate Bill 105, a tuition moratorium bill. Hinojosa’s proposal would establish a two-year moratorium on tuition rate hikes and limit future increases to key economic indices. Hinojosa believes the current tuition rate-setting scheme fails Texas’ college hopefuls. "There is something fundamentally wrong with the current system. We tell high school students that hard work earns them passage to a public university in Texas," he said. "Once these graduates meet that standard, they are priced out of the very opportunity that motivated them in the first place. The ‘work hard and get ahead’ story has become a false promise for Texas high school seniors."  Also on Monday, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, introduced measures to create a University of Texas medical school, UT law school, in the Valley.  See top four stories later in this posting.

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With the Texas Legislature set to convene in January for its five-month regular session, the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a legislative dinner for Tuesday, November 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Club at Cimarron in Mission. Area state lawmakers will get to discuss issues that remained unresolved from the 2007 regular session, as well as address new legislation that they will be presenting. Attendees will get to ask questions and/or inform them of their concerns as well. Individual tickets for the event are available for purchase at $25 each. Major sponsors will get a legislator sitting at their table during dinner. Sponsorships levels are $5,000, $2,000, $1,000 and $500. So far sponsoring the event are CP&L, the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, TXU, McAllen–Hidalgo Bridge, and Coca-Cola. For sponsorship information and/or to buy tickets, call the MHCC office at 928-0060. Featured, from left: McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen  Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; and Carlos J. Gutiérrez, legislative aide representing Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. Not present, but scheduled to attend the legislative affair are: Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Armando Martínez, D-Weslaco; and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

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Two Edinburg physicians – Dr. Ben Garza, a family practice doctor and Dr. Carlos Manrique, an ophthalmologist – are the winners to 2008 Medical Awards bestowed by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The two men, along with other area health professionals, will be honored by the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce during the 2nd Annual Medical Awards Banquet on Saturday, November 15, at The Embassy Suites in McAllen.  “We recognize that the medical community plays a very important part in our lives, thus the McAllen Hispanic Chamber wanted to recognize the leaders in the certain categories as per the community.” noted Rose Ramírez, MHC Vice Chair of Health Issues. “The purpose of the award is to identify and honor the professional or organization who exemplifies the dedication and continued growth of the professional and/or organization in a specialized field and the contributions of that person/organization to the continued good health of the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Seated, from left, are Manrique, named best Specialty Physician of 2008, and Garza, recognized as this year’s top General Physician. Back row, from left, are other winners in their respective categories: José Galaviz, Heart Hospital Director of CV Surgery; Gilda Romero, Heart Hospital Marketing Director; Elmer Esguerra, Heart Hospital, Director of PCCU; Orlando Vázquez, Physician Assistant with Dr. Enrique Griego; Hari Namboodiri, Las Palmas Administrator; Letty López Hernández, Las Palmas Marketing Director; and Cynthia Tucker Wilcox, Las Palmas DON.  Not shown are: Alejandra Ritchie, Las Palmas Assistant Director of Nursing; Leticia Chávez, Las Palmas Rehabilitation Program Manager; and Jean Calvert, Nurse of the Year.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who represents Senate District 21, which includes the western portion of the Valley, on Wednesday, November 5, celebrated her re-election with many of her supporters. The senator carried her home county, Webb, with 78 percent, and reached totals as high as 90 percent in Starr and Zavala counties. Featured, from left, are: Sergio Mora, Webb County Democratic Party chair; her son, Carlos Zaffirini, Jr.; and Zaffirini.  See story later in this posting.

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Flo Prater, featured fourth from left, was named Chamber Champion of the Year at the 2008 Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet held on Thursday, October 30, at the the Echo Hotel and Conference Center. Prater is a co-owner of Rio Valley Realty and has been involved with the Chamber of Commerce for several years. Prater served on the Edinburg Centennial Committee, Chamber Champion Committee, Texas Cook’Em Committee, Fiesta Edinburg Committee, Tourism Committee, and also volunteers her time with other various chamber events. Sharing in the big day for her were, from left: Elva Jackson Garza; Letty González; Cris Torres (outgoing chamber chairman); Flo Prater; Keith Prater; Hayden Prater; and Brandon Prater.  See story later in this posting.

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Where the Ox Does Not Plow, an autobiographical ethnography, consists of twenty-six life episodes that chronicle Manuel Peña’s transformative journey from an impoverished migrant worker to a career in academia. An ethnograpy is the branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures. Inspired by his experiences and those of the people around him in Texas and California, Peña, a Weslaco native, reflects on a wide range of issues arising from the historically marginalized condition of Mexicans and other Latinos in the United States. The narrative will engage readers with a broad range of human experiences, from race relations and economic exploitation to the intimacy of familial and romantic love. See story later in this posting.

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Ciro Treviño, ECISD Place 7 school board trustee, hopes to continue successful school board agenda

Members of the city’s Centennial Committee, who helped organize a series of celebrations commemorating Edinburg’s 100th anniversary, were publicly recognized on Friday, October 10, by city and state officials.  The group participated in a reenactment ribbon cutting with Rio Grande Switching at the Edinburg Depot, where passenger railroad services once played a vital role in the fledgling community’s transportation system. Elected leaders in the photograph include Mayor Joe Ochoa, Mayor Pro Tem Gene Espinoza; Councilmember Alma Garza, and Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr., D-Edinburg.  Also in this photograph were Cynthia Bocanegra; Gus Casas; Elva Jackson Garza; Letty Gonzalez; Maggie Kent; Flo Prater; City Manager J.J. Rodríguez; Johnny Rodríguez; and Cris Torres.

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South Texas College’s Valley Scholars Program, a scholarship program supporting academically gifted students, celebrated STC’s 15th anniversary in stellar style with its annual A Night with the Stars fundraiser on Tuesday, October 7, at the Cimarron Country Club in Mission.  The special event honored Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville (featured left), and former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, for their support of STC from its creation by the Texas Legislature in 1993. Lucio was the author of the legislation that converted the former Texas State Technical College branch campus in McAllen into South Texas Community College.  Gutiérrez was the sponsor of the measure. See story later in this posting.

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Brian Godínez (featured right), Senior Consultant with Godínez Communications, will be the featured speaker before the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, October 28, with his presentation, Bang For The Buck Marketing Strategies!  The session, hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, will focus on low-cost, high-value marketing techniques and their importance in a successful promotional strategy. The seminar, which will be held in the chamber’s headquarters, located at 1200 Ash Ave in McAllen, will run from 11:30 a.m.  to 1:15 p.m., and lunch will be provided for registered attendees. The session carries a $10 fee per attendee. Featured with Godínez  is Steve Ahlenius, President and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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John Taméz, featured left, on Tuesday, October 7, updated the leadership of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association of plans by his group, the UT-Pan American Student Alumni Association, to organize a Rock Out Cancer Marathon at the Edinburg campus on Saturday, October 25. “The intention of hosting this event is to start new traditions that will continue to spread cancer awareness across UTPA and the community for many years to follow,” he said. “The SAA will take an initiative to increase awareness for one of society’s most common and life affecting diseases – cancer. This event is very dear to my heart because I am currently battling cancer and I know that there are many others in this struggle. This marathon will definitely help everyone.” His presentation came before more than two dozen UT-Pan American alumni leaders meeting at the Wells Fargo Bank in Edinburg. Included in that session with Taméz were, from left: David Garza, president of the Houston chapter of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association; Dan Martínez, also with the Houston chapter; and Dr. Anthony Acosta, Ph.D., Multi-Media Program Director for Entravision Communications. The UT-Pan American Alumni Association has a website located at http://www.utpaalumni.com See related story later in this posting.

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For state representative candidate Javier Villalobos, life’s blessings measured by helping others succeed

For McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos (featured right), who is seeking the House District 41 state representative post on November 4, his life’s journey has seen him struggle his way out of the agricultural fields of Texas and Minnesota to achieve personal and professional successes that include raising a loving family, and becoming partner of a law firm which has offices in McAllen, San Antonio, and Houston. However, he firmly believes, good fortune has little meaning if a person doesn’t use his life’s blessings to help others succeed as well. “I want everyone who works hard to have the same opportunities I’ve had,” Villalobos says. “That means we need new leadership in Austin advocating for our values: quality education, support for small businesses, and lower taxes.” Villalobos is seen here with his wife, Annette, and Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick. See lead story in this posting.

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Jeff Corwin, wildlife conservationist and host of the popular Animal Planet shows The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin’s Quest, was the first speaker for the University of Texas-Pan American’s annual Distinguished Speakers Series that kicked off Tuesday, September 30 at the Fine Arts Auditorium. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and the general public packed the auditorium for an opportunity to hear from Corwin and meet some of his animal co-stars.  At the end of the event, Corwin took questions from the audience. Featured far right is Corwin with audience members who participated in the presentation by holding one of several reptiles he brought with him.  The next Distinguished Speakers Series will feature Dr. Jehan Sadat, the widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  She is a lifelong advocated for women and children’s rights.  She will be in Edinburg at the Fine Arts Auditorium on Monday, November 17.  For more information on the series, call 956/316-7989.

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Students at The University of Texas-Pan American got a chance to display some rousing Bronc spirit during noontime on Thursday, September 17, at the inaugural Gladiator Day event organized by the Student Alumni Association (SAA). This new organization, an affiliate of the UTPA Alumni Association, seeks to bring old traditions back to the university while creating new traditions and increased school spirit that will hopefully be cemented within the student population, said SAA President John Taméz, a 2008 UTPA graduate in communications now pursuing a master’s in business administration at the university. “I feel students on campus are hungry for traditions right now. I want them to believe that when they leave this university that they have had the best college experience that they could have ever imagined. Through traditions and school pride I thing we can accomplish that,” he said. Featured left to right at Gladiator Day are Student Alumni Association members Erik Valdéz; Taméz; Félix Rodríguez; Melany Rodríguez; Krissy Martínez; Omar Estrella; and Manny Rivas.  See story later in this posting.

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The city of Edinburg is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with community wide events and celebrations planned for the week of Sunday, October 5 through Saturday, October 11. During the same time, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department will be promoting National Fire Prevention Week, with attention focused on fire safety and preventing home fires. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, recently acknowledged the contributions of the fire department to the city’s past, present and future by creating a special commemorative centennial poster featuring an image of an Edinburg fire truck taken at last year’s fire prevention week activities. Peña presented the framed poster to Chief Shawn Snider and other firefighters at the city’s downtown firehouse. Featured at the main fire station are, from left: Rolland Pursley, deputy fire chief; Snider; Peña; Antonio Salazar, deputy fire chief; and Richard Drewry, fire marshall. See story, along with schedule of other centennial activities, later in this posting.

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Shan Rankin, executive director for the Museum of South Texas History (MOST) in Edinburg, on Sunday, October 5, led the Edinburg Centennial kick-off ceremony with the lighting of the birthday cake by local leaders.  The celebration, which was free and open to the public, was part of a week-long series of events in the three-time All-America City.  It included activities, an historic exhibition including the history of Edinburg, free admission to the museum, and more. The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department Museum was also open free to the public on Sunday, and was available for self-guided tours. From left are: Mayor Joe Ochoa; Melissa Tijerina with MOST; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; City Councilmember Alma Garza; and City Councilmember Noé Garza.

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Gilbert Enríquez, honored by Texas for integrity and public service, seeks return to ECISD board

Gilbert Enríquez, a former Edinburg school board president, also serves as executive vice-president of Enríquez Enterprises, Inc., one of the more renowned construction firms in the region. He said he is running for election to the school board on November 4 in order to continue helping the community which has helped shape his life. “I am here to help, to offer my leadership, skills, experience to everyone, to help everybody prosper, not one individual,” Mr. Enríquez pledged. “I never had any kind of ambition to be in politics or to be an elected official, but I felt I needed to give back to the district that provided me the education that got me to where I am today.” See lead story later in this posting.

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Former longtime Mayor Ronald Case, seen here on the right, passed away on Friday, September 19, Rep. Aaron Peña, a lifelong supporter of the popular city political leader, has announced. Case, who served as mayor from 1973 to 1981, was featured in this recent photo which included three other former Edinburg mayors with the state lawmaker.  Peña characterized the former mayor as being “the epitome of a gentleman public servant stepping forward to serve the community he loved. I am very proud to have been a friend and admirer of Mayor Case.”  From left are: former Mayor Richard Alamia; former Mayor Richard García; Rep. Peña; former Mayor Rudy De la Viña; and former Mayor Case.  See story later in this posting.

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Museum opens The Museum of South Texas History opened its newest exhibit, Edinburg: A Centennial Salute 1908 – 2008, on Wednesday, September 10. A ribbon cutting hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and a private viewing was held for Museum FRIENDS. Installed in the Upper Old Jail Gallery, this exhibit presents a sampling of photographs and artifacts from the museum’s collections and is organized into four themes: education;government; civic life; and commerce. One of the largest artifacts in the exhibit is a mural depicting Edinburg Junior College students and academic subjects.  This mural was painted by Joseph Brennan and Humberto Cavazos and was presented to the college by Emil Fossler, president of the sophomore class. The exhibit coincides with the Edinburg Centennial Committee’s city- wide celebration, October 5-10. Throughout the week, various organizations will host mini-celebrations, including Edinburg’s largest birthday cake, an essay contest, and a fireman’s parade. An open house will be held at the Museum of South Texas History on October 5, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. As a gift to the community, the museum will have free admission. Family activities include Edinburg Trivia, an Edinburg activity book, entertainment, refreshments, and, of course, a few shared words to commemorate the occasion. For a complete listing of the city wide celebrations, visit http://www.edinburg.com, or call 383-6911. Featured, from left: chamber board members Gus Casas; Cynthia Bocanegra; Maggie Kent; Shan Rankin, the museum’s executive director; Lee Cavazos; chairman-elect of the local chamber of commerce; and Willard Moon, chairman-elect of the board of directors for the museum.

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Dan Richards, son of former Gov. Ann Richards, featured left, celebrates with Dr. Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College president, and Othal Brand, Sr., former McAllen mayor, during the Tuesday, September 16 naming of the college’s Pecan Campus Administration Building in honor of the late state leader, who died on September 13, 2006.  The Democratic governor played a large role in the early 1990s in bringing the college to fruition, helping thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents realize their goals of attaining a higher education and a better quality of life.  See story later in this posting.

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Janet Escalante, Pedro de la Fuente and Lucio Torres are just three of the more than 22,000 students who have decided to continue their higher educations at South Texas College this fall. The landmark figure was reached at the two-county community college begins its 15th year anniversary.  See story later in this posting. (more…)

Edinburg prepares for legislative session, EEDC, city government to split lobbyist’s $60,000 annual fee

Valley Land Title and Lone Star National Bank recently contributed monetary donations that will be awarded as scholarship funds to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of an essay contest that will be part of the city’s centennial celebrations scheduled to begin in October. All ECISD 5th graders are encouraged to participate in the contest. The topic is Edinburg. Featured in this photograph are, from left: Paul Rodríguez and Susan Valdéz with Valley Land Title; and Elias Longoria, Jr. with Lone Star National Bank. Longoria is also on the board of directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.  See related story later in this posting.

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The Museum of South Texas History,  with its Upper Old Jail Gallery included in this postage stamp, will celebrate its hometown of Edinburg’s 100th anniversary in October with a week of activities coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce and the Centennial Committee. A special exhibit entitled, Edinburg: A Centennial Salute, 1908-2008, has been created to commemorate the historic event.  Installed in the Upper Old Jail Gallery, this exhibit presents a sampling of photographs and artifacts from the museum’s collections and is organized into four themes.  Those themes are education, government, civic life, and commerce. See related story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Council hosts monthly meetings featuring local elected officials, providing them the opportunity to reach out to McAllen Chamber of Commerce members among their constituents. On Wednesday, September 24, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce will welcome Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, as guest of the Governmental Affairs Council. Guillen will speak about his perspective of the major issues, challenges, and opportunities of the upcoming legislative session.  Featured making preparations for the event are Matt Z. Ruszczak, vice-president of governmental affairs, and Eva-Jean Radle,  vice-chair of the chamber’s Governmental Affairs Council.  See related story later in this posting.

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In Texas alone, more than 7,000 people are on the waiting list for life saving transplants. Knowing that the public has the power to donate life, the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Donate Life Texas Organization are hosting an informative workshop to educate the public and dismiss the myths on being an Organ Donor on Thursday, September 25, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the MHCC Board Room, located at 24 N. 12th Street in McAllen. Texas Health Spring will co-sponsor the workshop and offer light dinner refreshments.  There is limited seating so reservations are required by calling the MHCC office at 928-0060. Featured making preparations for the free workshop are, from left: Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president/CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Trisha Barrera, Donate Life Texas; and Rose Ramírez, MHCC Vice Chair of Health Issues and Texas Health Spring representative.

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