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Edinburg’s retail economy in December 2008 up more than 21 percent over same month in 2007

Mayor Joe Ochoa, who earlier this year announced he would not be seeking reelection in May, on Tuesday, February 10, was honored by the Texas House of Representatives for leading Edinburg through an unprecedented period of economic development and improvements in the quality-of-life during his 13 years as one of South Texas’ most effective political leaders. The high praise was contained in House Concurrent Resolution 39, authored by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, whose House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg. The measure, which was approved unanimously by the 150-member House of Representatives, was publicly endorsed by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes most of the three-time All-America City. Ochoa was credited for heavily influencing the city’s "dramatic growth and prosperity," noting that during his tenure as mayor, Edinburg has seen the number of all properties in Edinburg increase dramatically, from $500 million in assessed valuations when he first took office in 1993, to $3 billion today. See story later in this posting. 

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Roland Arriola, Ph.D., president of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, was one of 15 members appointed on Monday, February 16, by the University of Texas System Board of Regents to serve on a presidential search committee to advise regents on the selection of a president for UT-Pan American. Arriola, a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, was selected because of his role as president of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association. The UT System appointed Charles A. Sorber as interim president last month. Sorber assumed the interim presidency on Monday, February 16. The advisory committee will be asked to present the names of no more than 10 candidates – unranked – to the board, which will make the final decision. Featured, from left, during a major conference in Harlingen last fall, are Kelli Rod, Vice President of Community Relations with TXU Energy; Arriola; and Courtney P. Suhr, Senior Strategic Communications Specialist with the OneStar Foundation.  See story on the presidential advisory panel later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured right, on Tuesday, February 10, presented a Senate Resolution to members of Amigos Del Valle celebrating Senior Day at the State Capitol. Lucio paid tribute to the organization’s 2008-2009 King Luis Barrientos and Queen Eva Martínez, featured center, both representing Casa Del Mar in Brownsville. The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 Royal Courts were also honored and included members from senior centers throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Amigos Del Valle is a consortium of county and city governmental entities working to provide nutrition, transportation and housing services to senior citizens of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.  Helping senior citizens live healthy, productive and self-sufficient lives is the group’s primary goal. The Executive Director of Amigos Del Valle, Inc., located in Mission, is José Garza.  

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Former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, is back in action at the Texas Capitol, working on key measures designed to help millions of Texans. But he is not a registered lobbyist nor a state lawmaker. Instead of providing public service in either of those two influential roles, he is serving the state as a member of the nation’s most powerful political entity – the American citizen. In that role, Gutiérrez and his wife, Cecilia, along with Delia Oropez of Weslaco and Estella Lane Treviño of Edinburg, are members of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, a powerful coalition of influential Texans who work on measures to help older residents. Featured in this portrait taken in the chamber of the House of Representatives are, from left: Delia Oropez; former Rep. Gutiérrez; and Cecilia Gutiérrez. See story later in this posting. 

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Congratulations to Maureen F. McClain, associate director of Disability Services at The University of Texas-Pan American, who was recently appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain was one of five individuals in the state, whose terms will expire February 1, 2010, to be chosen for the committee that works to ensure Texans with disabilities may live their lives with integrity, independence and productivity. Pictured is McClain being sworn in by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa in late January in McAllen to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain, who has been employed with UTPA for more three years, earned her bachelor’s degree in rehabilitative services and a master’s in rehabilitative counseling from UTPA. She is a member of the Association of Higher Education and Disabilities, and was appointed to the Academic Advisement Council. To learn more about UTPA’s Disability Services department and the services offered, visit http://www.utpa.edu/disability or for more information on the committee, visit http://www.governor.state.tx.us/disabilities/. 

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Criminals don’t take a day off and they are always on at the top of their games. So why shouldn’t the rest of society be just as prepared to trump their aces, especially when it comes to cyber security? That’s why South Texas College is hosting a Cyber Security Workshop on Thursday, February 19 and Friday, February 20 at its Pecan Campus in McAllen. Offered in conjunction with Texas A&M University, the National Science Foundation and TEEX, the free workshop offers business owners and technology professionals the latest information about cyber terrorism and cyber security issues. “We are very excited to host this workshop because the developments in technology occurring every day mean that we must be extremely vigilant in learning about the lat est innovations and how criminals are using them to try and damage our identities,” said Raquel Peña, assistant professor of computer science for STC, featured in this photograph. “But we don’t have to be victims, as long as we stay ahead of the curve and use the tools available to keep the cyber world safe.” Space for the workshop is limited to 80 participants and is filling up quickly. For more information or to reserve a spot, call 956/872-2056. 

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Several South Texas College students had the unique opportunity to meet recently with Texas lawmakers in Austin to share their views about higher education, as well as their hopes for current and future generations of Hidalgo and Starr county students. Karina Cerda, Darien Fernández, Miguel García, Lizette Muñoz, Cassandra Orozco, Ronald Tanamachi and Esther Ybarra, who are members of STC’s Student Government Association, represented the student body at Community College Day at the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, February 4. Community College Day was sponsored and organized by the Texas Junior College Student Government Association. The students toured the capitol building, attended a rally and had the opportunity to network with students from across the state. The STC students, who were chaperoned by a delegation of STC administrators, met with: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Roma; Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan.  The meetings allowed students to share their experiences and expectations with lawmakers to help them understand the continually growing role community colleges play in the economic growth and vitality of the districts they serve.  In a related matter, STC leaders have announced that enrollment at the two-county higher education institution approached 22,000 for the spring 2009 semester. See story on enrollment later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is going on a “SAFARI” from Thursday, February 26 through Sunday, March 1, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. The Heart of America Carnival will be featured during that week; with a $5 "All-You-Can-Ride" special on February 26. Musical headliners “Little Rob” will perform Friday evening and “DUELO” will perform on Saturday at 7 p.m. Fiesta Edinburg will also feature food, carnival, various music and entertainment. Also, check out the  free “SAFARI” Kidz Zone on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. ($5 parking fee required). Edinburg residents also will be treated to the IBC Bank Fiesta Edinburg “SAFARI” Parade, scheduled for Saturday, February 28, beginning at 10 a.m.  The parade will start at the Hidalgo County Court House. Dedicated IBC Bank employees, as part of the IBC Employee Advisory Board, have contributed to making Fiesta Edinburg a great success for the community, noted Dina Araguz, Edinburg 107 IBC Bank branch manager. For more information on Fiesta Edinburg, please call 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Enrique García, Salvador Martínez, Josue Ramírez, Aaron Ramírez, Judith Cantú, Dina Araguz, Lizette Cano, Ashley Herrera, Griselda Zambrano, Aaron Galván , and Robert Alaniz. 

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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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Gov. Perry orders flags at half-staff in memory of Lena Guerrero of Mission, who was first woman and first minority to serve on Texas Railroad Commission

Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, will be honored on Wednesday, April 30 by South Texas College at its Pecan Campus in McAllen. The event, which is free and open to the public, represents a major coup for the community college because as speaker, Craddick is one of the three most powerful men in the Texas Legislature, along with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also both Republicans. Craddick’s visit also represents his first public venture into South Texas after he helped significantly fund the successful reelection bids in March by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview. Both South Texas Democrats were roundly criticized for being loyal to Craddick and some of his policies, including a controversial plan which was blamed for costing the Rio Grande Valley an additional congressional seat, and with it, hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal funds. However, Peña and Flores opposed Craddick’s congressional redistricting efforts, and countered that by being loyal to Craddick, South Texas has picked up large increases in state funding and programs at higher levels than many other regions of the state.

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In a spirited ceremony “a la Bobcat-style,” Edinburg High School was honored on Wednesday, April 22, by the College Board with a 2008 College Board Inspiration Award and a check for $25,000 at a special assembly. EHS is one of three schools in the nation to receive the coveted 2008 award. Featured accepting the 2008 College Board Inspiration Award at the event, from left, are: ECISD Trustee Robert Peña; Gabriel Luna, Jarrod Salaiz, and Cassandra Sáenz, EHS student leaders; Peter Negroni, College Board Senior Vice president; ECISD Trustee David Torres; and ECISD Trustee and Vice President Omar Palacios. See story later in this posting.

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Small business owners from not only South Texas but from as far away as Georgia joined faculty and staff members at The University of Texas-Pan American April 16-17 to learn how to successfully identify and pursue government contract opportunities with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participating in the workshop hosted by UT-Pan American, and co-sponsored by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which contracted with RGF Consulting Corporation (RGFCC) to conduct the workshop were, from left: Cassandra Ford, presenter, RGFCC; Clarence Randall Jr., OSDBU; Teneshia G. Alston, HSS; Deborah Walker-Sewell, RGFCC; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, UTPA vice president for Research and Sponsored Projects; Felicia Gaston, presenter, F.M. Gaston Associates; Theresa Bailey, UTPA director of Sponsored Projects; and Robert Flowers Jr., presenter and RGFCC president/CEO. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, recently addressed the membership of Us Too – McAllen Chapter, a prostrate cancer support group, as a guest speaker to deliver her message of hope for advancing cancer research in Texas at the Edinburg Regional Medical Center. “Statistics are well known, but they are no less shocking,” said Gonzáles. “These men and their families are the lucky ones.” Among the most shocking statistics state that in Texas; one in four deaths is caused by cancer. A new case of prostate cancer occurs ever 2.5 minutes and a man dies from prostrate cancer every 19 minutes. The estimated total cost of cancer in Texas is $30 billion a year. Gonzáles shared with the audience of cancer survivors her hope with the success of Texans’ efforts to approve the landmark creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Gonzáles picks up at least $46,000, key endorsements, during fund raiser

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 Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, thanks several hundred supporters on Friday, August 24, as she participates as a model for her unique fund raiser, which featured her and other lawmakers in a fashion style show at the Embassy Suites in McAllen.  She picked up almost $50,000 for her campaign war chest, along with endorsements from key political figures. She is facing at least one opponent in 2008: Republican Javier Villalobos.  Both of them are McAllen-based attorneys.  See story later in this posting. 

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Estella Treviño, longtime executive director for the Edinburg Housing Authority, beamed with pride on Monday, August 20, as she posed with the Edinburg City Council, which presented her a proclamation chronicling many of her achievements on behalf of the community. Among her accomplishments are helping provide affordable housing to thousands of residents, creating opportunities for property owners to rent homes to qualified families, and fighting the negative image of public housing.  “Ms. Treviño and the agency have received a host of awards for her diligent efforts including the Outstanding Services Award in 1975; the Specific Activity Award for outstanding programs offered through the Drug Elimination Program in 1994; the Award for Excellence in Youth Sports in 1995; the Family Self-Sufficiency Program Award in 1996; the Texas NAHRO Member of the Year Award in 1998; and the 2005 Texas NAHRO Hall of Fame Award,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza. “Widely known as an advocate of public housing and the elderly Ms. Treviño has changed the agency from merely providing assisted housing to helping residents achieve self-sufficiency and marketable skills enabling many of them to move beyond subsidized housing to homeownership.”   

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South Texas College’s Valley Scholars Program is celebrating its 10th anniversary at its annual Night with the Stars this October. The special event is designed to celebrate 10 years of academic excellence and pay tribute to ten outstanding Valley Scholar students, who have continued on to successful careers and have made positive changes in their communities. The celebration will take place on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at the Cimarron Country Club and will be an evening of celebration, recognition and entertainment. All proceeds from the event will benefit future South Texas College Valley Scholars Program students. As a result of the 2006 event, more than $40,000 was raised for the program. The coordinating team for the event includes, from left, seated: Sora Yañez, graphic designer; Marie Olivárez, STC Valley Scholars coordinator, Anahid Petrosian STC Assistant to the Vice President for Instructional Services , and  Sylvia Bernal, administrative assistant. From left, standing, are:  Roberto Gutiérrez, STC Fundraising Development Associate; George McCaleb, STC Director of Operations; and Ginna Gutiérrez, secretary. 

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