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Rep. Flores wants AG opinion on whether tax freezes also protect homeowners with cancer, diabetes

STS-128 Mission Specialist José Hernández, a former migrant farm worker who as a boy toiled with his parents in the California vegetable fields, was part of the 13-day space shuttle Discovery mission in late August that delivered a new crew member and 33,000 pounds of equipment to the International Space Station. Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, who on Wednesday, September 16, participated in a press conference in Edinburg promoting issues to protect children who are farm workers, praised Hernández as a role model for all Americans. “Like many of us, Mission Specialist José Hernández came from humble beginnings,” Martínez said. “He tells everyone that if he could do this, anyone can achieve their dream – just stay in school, work hard, and never give up.” Hernández was also part of the first shuttle crew which included two Mexican Americans. Astronaut Danny Olivas, born and raised in El Paso, joined Hernández during the shuttle mission, which featured seven astronauts.

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Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, featured right, and Carlos Gutiérrez, legislative assistant for Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen featured second from right, on Wednesday, September 16, participated in a press conference in Edinburg to announce local support for the passage of federal legislation designed to help protect children who are farm workers. The 3 p.m. event, held in the 3rd floor of the Wells Fargo Building, represented the national campaign kick-off for The Children in the Fields campaign, which is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). AFOP is the national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. For more information, please visit http://www.afop.org. See story on The Children in the Fields campaign later in this posting.

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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has been honored by CASA of Nueces County, a nonprofit corporation whose volunteer members speak out during legal hearings on behalf of abused and neglected foster children. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Those advocates speak out in court representing the sole interest of the child. CASA of Nueces County is one of more than 60 local programs in Texas. Their goals focus on placing these children in safe, nurturing environments as quickly as possible. CASA of the Coastal Bend serves Nueces, San Patricio and Aransas counties. Hinojosa was recognized for his role in budgeting state money – about $7 million, according to CASA officials – during last spring’s regular session of the Texas Legislature to recruit and train more volunteers. Featured, seated, from left: Diana Booth; Vicki Hale; Sandra Strub; Noe Ortiz; and Drusilla Knight. Standing, from left: Mary Breen; Samanth Koepp; Anne Carelton; Don Melampy; Belinda Villarreal; Kathy Coker; Andrea Sparks; Sen. Hinojosa; Page Hall; Elia Gutiérrez; René Ramírez. See story later in this posting.

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Cynthia Bocanegra, featured left, and Lee Castro, center, will be recognized by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, October 8, for their leadership roles on behalf of the local group. At the local chamber’s upcoming annual banquet, Lee Castro will be honored as outgoing chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Cynthia Bocanegra will be welcomed as the incoming chairwoman. The banquet also will represent the first time that the local chamber announces its Man and Woman of the Year, Fireman of the Year, Edinburg’s City Employee of the Year, and Elementary and Secondary Teacher of the Year. The price to attend the banquet is $40 per person or $500 per table, and the fee will include dinner and entertainment. Featured, from left: Cynthia Bocanegra; Lee Castro; and Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.

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The City of McAllen has proclaimed September as Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Over the last 20 years, National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month has inspired millions of people to raise awareness about addiction, share their stories of recovery, and assist others who are still struggling. Palmer Drug Abuse Program will be opening its doors at 115 N. 9th Street in McAllen to the general public on Friday, September 25, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Area residents who, are or have someone close to them, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, or have lost someone to addiction, are welcomed to PDAP’s open house on Friday to honor and celebrate their strength while on their journey to sobriety. For more information on how to celebrate Recovery Month or need further information on the programs that Palmer Drug Abuse Program has, please, call (956) 687-7714. Featured, displaying the proclamation, are, from left: Fito Mercado, PDAP program director; Myssie Cárdenas-Barajas, PDAP executive director; Pam Watson, PDAP financial manager; and Amanda Quintanilla, PDAP “Special People” counselor.

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Edinburg 2008 construction drops $45 million from 2007, with new homes down by more than 50 percent

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured second from left, on Wednesday, March 4, presented legislation that would create a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.  His measure, along with similar, but separate plans by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, were considered by the House Committee on Higher Education. Peña’s measure, House Bill 110, would transform the Regional Academic Health Center, located in Edinburg and Harlingen, into a stand-alone, four-year medical school and health science center. The key legislative panel, which has no Valley lawmakers, heard testimony in support of the medical school idea, but no vote was taken. Featured during a break during the panel hearing to review the legislation are, from left: Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chair of the House Higher Education Committee; Peña; Martínez; and Lucio, III. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presents a Texas flag to Edinburg native Captain Leonel A. Peña after honoring him on Tuesday, March 3, with a Senate resolution on the Senate floor at the Texas Capitol. Peña is the youngest person and first and only Hispanic to become conductor for the United States Army Band program. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, not featured in this portrait, also was a co-author of the Senate resolution. See story later in this posting. 

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More than 200 educators from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the nation gathered in early March to discuss methods to accelerate students through the education pipeline and into the workforce. Hosted by South Texas College, 2009 marks the fourth year for the event. During the day-long summit, attendees looked at student access and success through a variety of lenses, including issues related to the Latino student population, issues faced by migrant and impoverished students, and how technology and the global marketplace have changed the education pipeline. Featured, from left: Pricilla Hinojosa, MISD project manager for STC; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Jessica Ray Rincones, a student in STC’s MCCTI Program with her parents Nancy and Ruben Rincones. See story later in this posting. 

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An intriguing list of presenters, events and activities will delight the community – young and old – at the third annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) scheduled for March 22-28 at The University of Texas-Pan American. FESTIBA is a weeklong celebration of the arts and humanities and promotes literacy and cultural awareness by providing students and the Rio Grande Valley community interactive, hands-on opportunities to experience books, theatre, storytelling, music, art, dance, and performance competitions. Participants in a February 20 press conference to announce FESTIBA 2009 activities were, from left: Dr. Peter Dabrowski, associate director, UTPA Department of Music and Dance; Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County Clerk and president of the South Texas Literacy Coalition; Stephen Leach, director of Government Relations and Community Outreach, Reading is Fundamental; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, UTPA dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and FESTIBA coordinator; and Dr. Steven Schneider, UTPA English professor, director of New Programs and Special Projects in the College of Arts and Humanities and Big Read project director. 

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Southwest Workers Union plans 5:45 p.m. Tuesday rally in Edinburg to help organize ECISD workers

Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III (with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured left) will present the 2009 State of the County Address on Tuesday, February 24, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Knapp Medical Center Conference Center, located at 1401 E. 8th Street, one block west of the hospital. "This event is for us to come together to publicly evaluate where we’ve been as a community and where we are going," said Salinas. “No Boundaries” is the theme of this event, and Salinas will focus on efforts working together to improve the quality of life for all residents. Dinner will be served, and the event also includes a live auction to benefit the Hidalgo County Scholarship Program. This program was unveiled at last year’s State the County Address, and since, Hidalgo County has awarded four scholarships for up to six hours of tuition and fees to four employees and their dependents. The event is free and open to the public. However, seating is limited, so organizers are asking residents to arrive early to allow ample time for auction registration. For those who cannot attend, this event will be webcasted live on http://www.krgv.com and broadcast on digital channel 5.4.

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On Saturday, February 7, 2009, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presented the Most Reverend Raymundo J. Peña, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, a Senate Resolution in celebration of his 75th birthday. Featured, from left: Sister Norma Pimentel; Ms. Linda McKamie, CEO, Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi Diocese; Mr. Steve Saldaña, CEO, Catholic Charities of San Antonio; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Bishop Peña; and Sen. Lucio. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, February 19, welcomed the members of the Association of Public Administrators from the Master of Public Administration program at The University of Texas-Pan American on the House floor commending the members for their dedication to the field of public administration. "UTPA has made great strides since the inception of the Master of Public Administration Program and I am honored to have welcomed their visit to our State Capitol," said Peña. "I look forward to working with these outstanding individuals in the near future in shaping our government." Some of those delegation members are featured here, in the Speakers Committee Room at the Capitol, from left: Víctor M. de León, Dr. Aziza Zemrani, APA Advisor; Rep. Peña; Maricela De León, APA President; Adán Nieto, APA Vice President; and Edgar Cantú. Not shown are: Dr. Tom Lynch, Executive Director, UTPA at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Dr. Cynthia Lynch MPA Professor; Sylvia Quiñones; and Esteban Sánchez. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen’s city legislative agenda to include proposal for new, 100,000-square-foot, postgraduate higher education complex, says Rep. Gonzáles

Ciro Treviño, featured right, takes his oath of office on Wednesday, November 12, as he is sworn in for a new, four-year term on the Edinburg school board. Treviño, who faced two challengers – Carlos Ramos and Roger C. Bunch – earned more than 55 percent of the vote during the November 4 general election, accumulating 9,648 votes, compared with Ramos’ 6,059 (almost 36 percent) and Bunch’s 1,486 (almost nine percent) turnout. It was the first campaign race for both Ramos and Bunch against Treviño, a veteran political figure in the city and Hidalgo County. Extending a peace offering to his two challengers and their supporters, Treviño gave them credit for running a good race. “I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I am glad I did,” he said. “I think this was my hardest election, really, and I have had few. But we will do the best we can. I know we are all going to be working towards the same goals.” Justice of the Peace Charlie Espinoza administered the oath of office with Armando Barrera, the Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector who served as Treviño’s campaign treasurer, holding the Bible for Treviño. See related story later in this posting.

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Carmen González picked up almost 60 percent of the vote in her November 4 reelection bid for a second term against challenger – and former veteran ECISD board president – Gilbert Enríquez with 9,981 votes compared with 6,782 votes for her rival. González’ match with Enríquez was the most visible, through the use hard-hitting advertisements featured in the McAllen Monitor, and personal attacks on local, anonymous blogs on the Internet. “I know I am perceived by some that I am as a threat to their personal goals,” she said. “Believe me when I say that I know who I am, and that you know who I am, and why I am the way I am. I make no apologies.” González was sworn in by Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios, with González’ husband, Edward, holding the Bible upon which his wife placed her hand while taking her oath of office.  See story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Center have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to help small businesses. In October, the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding which pledged both entities to work together to provide technical and training assistance to women-owned businesses in South Texas. For more information about the Women’s Business Center, call (956) 618-2828 or to reach the MHCC, call (956) 928-0060. Featured during the signing ceremony are, seated, from left:  María “Charo” Mann, chief executive officer and executive director for the Women’s Business Center, which is located in Edinburg, and Cynthia Sakulenzki, the president and chief executive officer for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Standing, from left: José Leal, business advisor for the Women’s Business Center; Pam Garza, special events coordinator for the Women’s Business Center; and Elizabeth Martínez, managing editor for the South Texas Business Times and vice chair of membership for the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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South Texas College studying expansion; could result in new campuses for region, possibly in Edinburg

The Edinburg school district on Wednesday, October 8, celebrated the Edinburg Centennial by hosting a special program and an essay contest detailing the city and school district’s history. The fifth grade finalists are shown from left: Brianna C. McCormick, Freddy González Elementary (honorable mention); Jean Almonte, Guerra Elementary (honorable mention); Brooke Baus, Canterbury Elementary (1st place); Julissa Alexandra Mendoza (2nd place), Esparza Elementary (2nd place); and Kiana Ramírez, Travis Elementary (3rd place). Also featured, from left: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Paul Rodríguez; Patricia Galindo; Shirley Clancey; ECISD School Board President Omar Palacios; and Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa.

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will hold its 54th Annual Banquet on Friday, November 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the McAllen Convention Center. The event also will include the prestigious Man & Woman of the Year awards program. The Man & Woman of the Year awards are presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond routine civic service activities to promote the McAllen community and its residents.  Organizing the event are, from left: Edna De Saro; Tammie Risica; Dora Brown; Ricardo Portillo; Blanca Cárdenas; and Andreina Milpaca.  See story later in this posting.

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With area leaders gathered in Mission on October 7 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of South Texas College, the STC Board of Trustees has commissioned a major study which could lead to the creation of one or several new campuses in the coming years. STC President Shirley Reed, featured first row, third from left, says the study could come up with preliminary projections at the beginning of 2009, with the final report due by mid-2009. Featured with Reed during STC’s 15th anniversary celebration were, from left: Sylvia Bernal from STC’s Office of Academic Excellence; former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, the House sponsor of the legislation that created STC in 1993; Reed; George McCaleb; and Jenny Cummings. Standing, from left, were: Valley Scholar students Adrian Rivera and Melanie Silva; Program Coordinator Marie Olivarez; Anahid Petrosian, assistant to the vice president of instructional services; and Valley Scholars Raymond Manguera, Delilah Castillo and Isaac Pérez. See lead story on STC expansion plans later in this posting.

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